I’ve been battling with the Pokeweed growing in our barnyard before I even knew its name. I usually cut it down at least once a year, if not more, hoping that will help stop its spread.
Last year, I thought of the Nettles that used to grew rampant on Old Bedlam Farm. No matter how I tried to avoid them, too often I came back to the house with those painful, itching bumps on my arms or legs. Years later, I started drinking nettle tea, an anti-inflammatory, for my yearly spring and fall allergies.
Instead of cursing the Nettles I could have harvested them and dried them for tea.
So instead of fighting the Pokeweek, I decided to see if we could work together somehow.
That’s when found out the berries can be made into a dye. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, to use my own dye, made from the pokeweed on my wool. Then I also found out how poisonous the berries are, especially to people with diabetes.
Not that I would have actually done it anyway.
There is enough to do around the farm without making natural dyes. I do believe staying focused on my work and limiting what that work is, is essential to doing it well.
This year I cut the plants back when they first started to grow in the spring. Being invasive, they quickly grew back. I decided to deal with them by letting them grow in a certain area.
Thought poisonous to humans, the berries are food for 30 different kinds of birds, and important nourishment for migrating birds. Hummingbirds and bees love them and Leopard Moths eat the leaves.
When I see a small Pokeweed plant sprouting anyplace else on the farm, I immediately pull it up, trying to get the whole root. Just as someone who’s brushed up against Poison Ivy, I can recognize pokeweed a mile away. It’s one of the few plants I throw in the garbage, not wanting to take any chances.
Luckily like other poisonous plants that grow in the pasture, the sheep and donkeys have no interest in it.
Before I knew what Pokeweed was, I found it interesting and beautiful. Once I saw how it would take over the barnyard if I let it, I began to see it as a menace that needed to go.
But this morning, dew was sparkling on the leaves and the sun was shining through the small pink stems that the flowers and berries grow on. I took some close up pictures and marveled at the beauty of the tiny white flowers and puckered green berries.
For the first time in a long time, I was able to look at the Pokeweed, and instead of cursing it, see its beauty.
I’m sure at some point, maybe as I try to dig up the long taproots to keep it in check, I won’t be feeling as kind towards it. But I know I’ll never get rid of it completely, so we will have to figure out how to live together.
And seeing Pokeweed as a complex plant, that benefits so many animals instead of just being invasive, will help.