Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beautiful (noxious invasive) weeds

When I post pictures of my yard and the empty lot next to us, they almost always show at least one species of invasive weed.  The former owners of our house kept that acre to build on later, and our weeds mostly occur adjacent to that lot, as it has just about every local problem weed species. 

When we were considering buying the house, the owners said they would be maintianing thier lot and that we could play on it whenever we wanted.  Unfortunately, it has only been maintained by other neighbors who were willing to help her out and/or thought they were helping us out (which they were, I just wasn't happy because it felt like they were being taken advantage of, given that they all had major health problems while the former owner made six figures on her un-kept promise to maintain the property). 

I don't mind the tall grass (except for all of the extra mice we get when it goes unmowed all summer) but the property is full of invasive weeds.  Pretty terrible ones that we would be actively abating if we found them on national forest lands (I even got grants in three areas to help get rid of some of these same species).  The hawkweed was beautiful the first year we lived here (orange-red flower in the photo above), but this is a LOT of hawkweed. 

I have absolutely no beef with the dandelions.  Every couple/few years our neighborhood has a HUGE dandelion year, and with several empty or large grassy lots and a small county park down the road, the area becomes a beautiful sea of yellow.  These pictures don't nearly do it justice, but these are also from the first year we lived here.

I hoped she (the ex wife that owns the lot now) wouldn't mow until after we had enjoyed the dandelions for a while, but I soon learned that wouldn't be an issue.  I also make Greg wait to mow when the yard is looking partiularly beautiful.

So, it may just sound picky that I want her to mow, but the issue is that no matter how hard we work to keep the noxious weeds down in our yard (especially thistle and hawkweed), our efforts won't make much difference unless she treats her property.  Most of these weeds are costly to remove with the added cost of fines if the county notices. 

We need to stay on top of it so we can garden and so we don't become the vector for neighbors on the other side of us that don't have any of these weeds yet.  If we let it get really bad on our yard and keep gardening and planting fruit trees and such anyway, we could eventually have to kill everything to get rid of the weeds (especially hawkweed) and start over.

Additionally, hawkweed spreads easily enough that seeds on my boots and tires could come with me to work, spreading hawkweed to remote and semi-remote forest lands not currently infested.  This may sound paranoid, but remote areas are harder and more expensive to tax payers to treat.  The yard of a friend and neighbor that has done most of the mowing now has hawkweed from her lot brought over on his mower.

The area in the pictures below is Fielding meadows on national forest land adjacent to national park, railroad, and private lands.  Thes meadows would be much better grazing for elk without knapweed and multiple other species present, but there have been a lot of sources of infestation over the years and it will be very difficult to treat.  But the upper meadows are somewhat clear of many weed species and are heavily used by ungulates and bears, so it is worth trying. 

The aspens stands make these meadows magnificent, even without the specatacular views into Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness.  There is really neat elk sign high up on the aspen and bear sign all over the place.  I made a large male grizzly bear angry once in one of these stands, and although I have encountered multiple bears in the past few years, that is one of two encounters in my life that really had me nervous.  My point, though, is that fantasitcally valuable areas can become marginally valuable when weed populations get out of hand.

So, while I enjoy the view as the grasses grow tall in our adjacent lot, I don't love the mice invasions and noxious weeds that go hand in hand.  If the weeds were treated, I could handle little or no other maintenance occuring.  Good stewardship really does start in our own back yards.  The deer grazing in the pictures in my last post before this one graze daily in various areas of my yard, but spend very little time in the weed infested lot next door.  We have good 'yard habitat' so its a safe place to graze, though I don't want to perpetuate the unwariness of the mom and fawns that are here most this year, so we often chase them off in the day time when we see them.


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