May 25, 2015

It's a Jungle Out There

Most people in Oklahoma consume poke weed. Here on Oak Hill, I think the poke weed is trying to consume us.

Poke weed, also called poke salad and polk salat, is a wild plant with poison berries. When the plant is small, folks around here gather the young leaves and go through a certain process to render it edible as a pot green. I'm told that the best way to eat it is a springtime dish that combines poke weed, wild onions and eggs.

We're transplanted northerners so we didn't grow up eating poke, and the poisonous nature of the plant is enough to keep me from giving it a try. So we consider it a weed to be controlled. This year the grass and the weeds have gone wild with all the rain we've had. The population of poke has exploded, and it and the curly dock plants are nearly as tall as I am. Hubby realized the other day that we can no longer see down the hill because of this wall of monster vegetation on the hillside.

Let's face it, when it rains for six days out of seven, there are things that have to be done on that one dry day: mowing the grass, repairing fences and shelter roofs, digging out the drain ditches that are supposed to divert water out of animal pens. Digging up the weeds is lower on the list. Then, to add insult to injury, all that rain just makes it all grow even faster.

So I've been pulling up the curly dock plants with their long spikes of seed clusters and feeding them to the goats and the pigs. The goats like the seeds; the pigs eat the whole plant. The weeds come up pretty easily after all the rain. Every weed I pull right now is one I won't have to battle later when the ground is dry and as hard as a rock, hanging on to those wild roots. I pull a variety of weeds, enough to fill the wheelbarrow a couple of times, and the pigs squeal as I push it over to their fence and dole out the goodies. They've long ago eaten all the vegetation in their pen so they are happy to see me.

I'm not sure that poke is safe for the livestock to eat though, so I haven't added it to the daily menu. Plus they aren't easy to pull no matter how much rain we've had. The thick red stalks are attached to large tuber-like roots. To truly eradicate them, I'd have to dig them out, root and all. For now I'm using my giant loppers to cut them down. If I let them go to seed we'll have even more of them next year.

Saturday between rain storms I worked on the forest behind the house. Besides the poke weed there are curly dock plants, ragweed, bitterweed, Virginia creeper, and vines that weave through the poke and reach from the ground up into the trees. Birds resting in the trees have deposited the seeds below and the rain has encouraged them to grow like crazy. While I worked on this patch, hubby worked on a newly-formed blackberry thicket that threatens to swallow several pieces of farm equipment. This must be what it's like to live in a rain forest. You can almost watch things grow.

I saved these plants though. It's ironweed, which will bloom with purple flowers later this summer. The bees and butterflies love the flowers.

If this area was fenced appropriately, I'd definitely be letting the goats do the work for me, but it's surrounded by barbed wire which won't keep them in. On days that the weather is on my side, I've taken them on walks so that they can at least help me in the war against the giant weeds. Still, the poke weed needs to be removed before the goats have access to the jungle, so I keep working on that.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. What an enormous amount of work, Kathi. Wise not to feed the poke to the livestock at this point. I don't know about it being safe or not for them, but better to err on the safe side. What a cute picture "taking the goats on walks..." construes ;). Good thinking!
    Have a good Memorial Day and I hope the weather gets better soon.

  2. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead12:21 PM

    A hard day's work is a good way to sleep well at night. :-) I enjoy walking my goats but I sure wish they behaved as well as my dogs. Getting them back to their pen when I think they're done can be a daunting task; for some reason they're not ready to quit yet.

  3. Hi Kathi!
    Wise to keep the goats from eating the poke! It's toxic to pretty much all of the rest of the farm animals, so I think it's a reasonable assumption that it would also be toxic for goats. In case you need to get in touch with them (goats get into everything, so...) here is the pet poison hotline link:
    Don't forget to rest, yourself!
    God bless!

  4. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead7:22 AM

    Hi Carla! Thank you for the link to the pet poison hotline; it's good to have that on hand. As for rest, that's for rainy days. ;-)

  5. It's the same at our place, we've gotten so much rain, that the weeds on the back of our property seem as tall as trees! We tried to keep them mowed down, but they grew to fast to keep up with. My husband has decided to just use his backhoe and bulldoze them down as soon as the ground dries up. I'm not complaining though, because all that rain has been great for our garden. Have a great week. :)

  6. It looks kind of pretty actually! Now I'm going have that Elvis song in my head all day "Polk Salad Annie."

  7. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead12:45 PM

    April, that's it exactly, they grew so fast we couldn't stay on top of it. It sounds like your garden has greatly benefitted from all the rain; I bet you'll have a great harvest.

  8. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead12:46 PM

    Kelly, I've never heard of that Elvis song, I'll have to go look it up. I agree that all that green sure looks pretty, even if it is a jungle.

  9. Oh my gosh, I'm tired just looking at what you have to pull. We have poke weed here too, and I've heard that some "old-timers" use it in their salads. I remember a song called "Poke Salad Annie" from long ago.
    Thanks for stopping by The Maple Hill Hop!

  10. It really is green where you live! I'm so sorry that much of it is weeds - they can be such a pain to pull. I totally understand what you mean about not eating a plant that you have to 'make edible' - anything that is poisonous in any form doesn't get near our table! We get a lot of rain here too in the UK - let's hope we both get some sunshine soon! Thank you for sharing this post with us at the Hearth and Soul hop.

  11. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead2:12 PM

    April, it usually isn't this green; we've had a huge amount of rainfall this spring. This week is dry and I'm trying to play catch-up - hope you get some dry weather soon too!

  12. You've definitely got your work cut out for you! Good luck!

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday! I hope you'll stop back again this week!


  13. We are also battling weeds... and there is a lot of poke kplants this year that are very healthy-looking. sigh. I have experimented w/ poke berries... after finding an obscure article about an old woman in the mountains who swallowed a poke berry every day... and 2 if she didn't feel well. She attributed her long life and good health to that. I found a little substantiating info (very difficult to find), so I timidly tried it myself. She said you SWALLOW the berry, but do NOT chew it, so that is what I did. I asked my husband if he wanted to try it after I did (he wasn't happy I experimented that way)... he said he wanted to wait to see how I felt the next day (like if I lived through it!!!! ). I did and did it for several days w/ no adverse effects. It was a good experiment, but am not doing it now. (By the way, my husband DID try it too. :) I haven't eaten the young greens yet although I probably will some time. :) I am NOT advocating others to try this! Do your own research before you try things like this. I love seeing your info on wild edibles. :)

    1. Joy, oh the battle against the weeds! With all the rain this year they have mounted an enormous attack! I'm going to take heart in the fact that they will die of natural causes later this year!

  14. This year's rain certainly has most of us in the area feeling like we live in the rain forest which is a welcome change from the past year's of drought. I too have noticed plants that seem to be going crazy and taking over everywhere. Good luck with your war on the polk plants! Maybe you could take it to the Farmer's Market and sell it. ;) Thanks for linking up to the Country Fair Blog Party this month. I do hope you will come back and join us again next month!


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