Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

Spot the ragwort

Spot the ragwort

I’ve written about ragwort here before but I make no apologies for doing it again. There’s a lot of stuff in life that is as good as you make it and pulling ragwort is one, although I would definitely add – as long as you’re not doing it for too long.

Our hay crop is looking good this year. Never fantastic as we don’t feed it but the mild then warm weather and plentiful rain has made the grass growing rapidly. Unfortunately it’s also been lovely weather for ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). This pretty but pretty poisonous member of the Asteraceae is tasteless in hay so cattle will eat it. In quantity it can be lethal (although there is some rather dubious information about it out there). Just looked it up to check some spelling and thought I’d include some Wikipedia gems. “Common names include ragwort, benweed, tansy ragwort, St. James-wort, ragweed, Stinking Nanny/Ninny/Willy, staggerwort, Dog Standard, cankerwort, stammerwort, mare’s fart and cushag” Marvellous!

Walking forwards and backwards through a field of long grass is surprisingly hard work. Just enough concentration is required to prevent total daydreaming and that’s mainly to remind yourself to look for ragwort rather than bees or skylarks or butterflies or wonder what’s for tea. It could be gruesome and it is if there’s a lot of ragwort to pull – that requires bending  and pulling. Otherwise it can be meditative.

I had hoped to ponder on a new plan for coppice-based world domination, but  found myself wondering about the capacity of the human brain to pick out ragwort in a field full not only of grass, but also other broad-leaved plants like creeping thistle and knapweed, both of which bear a passing resemblance to ragwort – a green needle in a huge green haystack. Not only is the brain capable of achieving this quite surprising feat, but even mine can also cope with doing a bit of pondering at the same time.

Although having said that, three hours of pondering resulted in these 300 odd words so I can’t claim that it’s a highly productive way to develop new ideas. And I’m still no further forward with the coppice scheme. Imagine what the next couple of hours might achieve.



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