Pulling Tansy

I’m pretty sure I’ve found what must be my least favorite thing in the world.

Pulling tansy kind of comes with the territory. It’s a job that has to be done every few years, like it or not. Typically I’ll avoid having to pull it by cutting the stuff off below the lowest leaves so the root just starves out and the plant dies. However in my upper meadow the stuff has had a chance to get a foothold; mostly because I just don’t walk around up there or drive the tractor up there much at all. I leave the meadow alone to allow the wild things in the area to have a quiet, undisturbed patch of forest and meadow because in so many other places (mine included) there are fences.

This time the County came by and cited everybody on the whole road for having tansy ragwort growing on various properties. Oops. At least they were undiscriminating in their citations. So I worked all afternoon and was able to pull two big carts’ worth of the stuff, and that got all of it.

For the uninitiated, what the Google doesn’t tell you right away is that the stuff has several qualities of the inseminator from Alien has: it’s tenacious, prolific, won’t give up easily, and it secretes a sap that burns skin, especially sensitive skin, on contact. My wife can’t be around the stuff because it makes her physically sick. The worst thing about it is that when you’re done, the pile you end up with looks like nothing. 

Least favorite part: working in the hot sun, with nitrile-faced gloves on, sweating (especially my hands); look up and there always seems to be more to do.

Second least favorite part: how uneven the meadow is and how hard it is to pull the cart around up there.

Third least favorite part: Taking the shovel (I recommend a long-handled shovel with a very small head – I think they call them ‘bulb shovels’ – and digging under the root to crack it loose from the hard, dry ground. Tansy which goes undiscovered and therefore has been left to grow several seasons will grow in the configuration of a SAM site: the central large stalks surrounded by a circle of smaller stalks. When the plant gets that big, it is difficult to pull without some help.

Most satisfying part: the wicked pleasure from taking several plants in a bunch as big around as your arm, and cracking them in half across your leg. Multiple times. All the while saying, “Take THAT, you SOB. Make me work my butt off out here in the hot sun, willya?” Then you crack those parts in half again just to be mean.

Most favorite part: the smell. It smells like really good hay, and that’s probably why it’s so dangerous around cattle and other livestock.

Here’s a shot of the upper meadow, all done. The yellow stuff is what we used to call ‘flax Goldenrod’; now people just call it Goldenrod. It’s just a weed, and it’s not under required control the way tansy is. 

I’ve finally stopped hurting (thanks to a night and a day of Naprosin) and can finally type again. My arthritic hands were hurting more than anything else, and I think if I could invent some kind of tool that could grip the whole plant and pull it, I’d be an overnight millionaire.

Something I really don’t want to see: My lower neighbor has his house out for rental, and his old garden space is full of tansy. That old garden space is about 30 feet by about 150 feet. Most of it is tansy, although there’s a lot of flax Goldenrod in there. Normally I’m a nice guy, but right now I still  hurt a bit too much to offer to help…

And an update as of Monday morning:
The County had sent formal notice (as mentioned above) but I’d conveniently left it on my desk at work in a concerted effort to forget about it. In it, it says, “Please notify our office as to your intention of controlling this problem.” My wife had remembered this especially well but her great memory for such things went under-appreciated.

So I gave the County a call this morning, and it turns out that in this particular county, they’re only interested in controlling seed production. I could have got by with just clipping off the flower heads; which is what I do when I’m on the tractor and mowing. Leaving the plants feeds the Cinnabar moth caterpillars, a good thing.

But I didn’t need to do …all … that … work…. <long sigh>


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