Thistle vs. the Dragon, Part 1 (He Flamed, She Flamed)

Posted on Posted in Farm Life, Managing the Orchard

Warning: the story below is a bit melodramatic but when you’re battling weeds as pernicious as thistle, that’s just how life feels. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s part two, in which I promise to relay our experiences in a more clinical and less-biased fashion.

The thistle has started to bloom and go to seed, so we’ve been paying particular attention to getting rid of it during the past week on the theory that eradication is most effective now that each plant has put so much of its resources into reproduction. But last week it was so wet that I didn’t want to go into the garden and since just a few thistle were starting to go to seed, I cut off their heads into a bucket and brought them back to the driveway to burn.

Sowthistle (WSU)
Image from Washington State University

Last year we had gotten a Weed Dragon, a consumer product used for flame weeding and while I was the go-to person of the household for hands-and-knees weeding, Mike was the guy for lugging around the propane tank and the flamer. So Mike burned them with the Weed Dragon and that task was done. But a few hours later when I was playing on the driveway with Audrey (who knew gravel was so fascinating), I noticed these little white puffs sitting on the remnants of charred thistle. Odd, I thought. I took a closer look and saw all of these puffy, white thistle seed heads, just waiting to be dispersed by the breeze. Obviously Mike didn’t burn them sufficiently, so I pulled out the ol’ dragon and did a thorough job myself. Thistle burned, I resumed our day.

That night, Mike came into the house after finishing up with work and asked if I knew that “my thistle” out there had seed heads on them. “Sure,” I said, “that’s why I flamed them again,” subtly adding, “I guess they needed a really good dose of flaming, huh?” knowing that I had obliterated them with my amateur’s scorched earth flaming technique as opposed to Mike’s more . . .sophisticated approach. “No,” he said, “I mean they’re out there now!” “No!” I exclaimed, “that can’t be!”

I rushed out of the house to look at the driveway and sure enough — thistle seed heads. “How can this be?” I said. “I flamed the bejeezus out of those things!” Mike gave me a look that clearly indicated he was sure I couldn’t possibly have done the job right, especially since to his knowledge I had never used the flamer before, and said, “here. I’ll take care of it right now.” As our baby slumbered sweetly inside the cool calm of the house, we stood in the driveway, vendetta-driven, watching Mike burn and burn and burn that thistle. Satisfied that there’s no way the thistle could’ve survived that hellish apocalypse, we turned around and went inside for the night.

The next morning, still smug with last night’s flaming victory, I walked over to the charred thistle pile to feel satisfied about a job well done for just a little while longer.

They were back.

At least this time, Mike and I had both witnessed a more-than-adequate flaming job. We ¬†either had zombie thistle on our hands or . . .we weren’t quite sure. We decided to conduct a bit of a thistle burning experiment under more controlled circumstances with both of us as witnesses. Results tomorrow . . .

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