June 17, 2013

The portable electric, car battery-powered fence needs to be stretched down Pasture #2(north)–the last of the growing grass blades of winter’s “small cereal” graze should be eaten down by the newly enlarged herd or it will be wasted, and the live fenceline will keep them in there (if I rub a lamp) until that’s accomplished. As I set up posts and string the single wire on them, I come along to the broad patch of Yellow Sweetclover in the center of the field, blooming and sweet-smelling all right, and find it pressed in here and there with the bed grounds of the deer that visit occasionally. There must still be quite a few. Stretching out from that side of the electric fence, too, are the older plantings of the winter grasses, now not much more than straw crowned with nodding heads of leftover grains. It is glittering with Blue Grosbeaks, feasting on the seeds.

Something new appears in Pasture #3, a single plant of a pretty composite, with small pink flowers on thin and ghostly stems. I take a sample to study at home, and over the course of a few hours that cut and dying sample in a panic revs up the production of seeds with little fluffy parachutes that become airborne in the manner of the world’s worst weeds, as buoyant and uncatchable as dust. By this time I’m jumpy about new weeds appearing, though this one turns out to be a native, at least elsewhere in The West: Lygodesmia juncea, “Rushpink”. The species has been moving this way for years down from¬†far to the north of us. All this kind of stuff is just plain old evolution and natural change in¬†phytogeography, though I even include humankind’s role in that as “natural” when a plant comes from across the world and then goes into takeover mode. Some references mention possibile toxicity to livestock, but information is minimal. I’ll write to the County Ag Agent, Kim, and ask if she’s heard of the plant becoming a problem or if it is even being recorded elsewhere in Cochise.