Today was a weed pulling day. I spent 3 hours pulling out every thistle and spotted knapweed I could find. Luckily it had rained 2 days ago, and the soil was still moist so the roots would yield. But it still the larger plants required considerable force. These plants are almost as tall as I am, and I need to wrap them several times around my gloved hand and pull with the full force of my weight with both hands. Sweat is pouring down my face and I can feel the prickles from the plants through the cowhide. Several times i need to rest and drink water. I hope these efforts will result in my neighbors allowing my property to grow trees and not be mowed.
But there is compensation for my efforts. There are bumble bees buzzing on the clovers and birds chirping in the trees of my neighbors. There are hundreds of small trees growing in the grasses, mostly Manitoba maples, but there are oaks...at least 5 and some other trees or shrubs. Some of my apple trees have made it as well as the alders. But the most wonderful thing of all was seeing frogs jump as I walked. Frogs are an indicator of ecological wellness. Their thin skins absorb toxins and they often are the first to disappear when water has been polluted. Their presence on my property gave me joy. I feel it is a sign from our creator that my efforts are not in vain. That there is great hope
photo credit By SriMesh (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Manitoba Maple (Acer Negundo) Box Elder
it is critical and in many ways the “GREAT WORK “ of our time to find ways to restore ecological function on a planetary scale John Liu
This tree is a member of the maple tree family and is native to North America
Because it is a moisture loving plant, in the prairie biome, it grows on flood plains, in riparian zones, by rivers and where the ground water is high. It can grow i a wide variety of soil types and tolerate light shade especially when being established.
The Manitoba Maple tree supports a variety of insects such as the Box Elder gall midge and the Box Elder bug. Gall insects provide vital protein insects during the harshness of winter to birds like the Ruffled grouse that overwinter. The seeds persist on the tree during the winter providing winter food to many birds and small mammals. This is an important tree for the finch, the Evening Grosbeak. It is believed that the planting of the Manitoba Maples has caused the range of this bird to extend far east of its original range. Large Manitoba Maples provide nesting sites for songbirds especially for the Cerulean Warbler. Deer and rabbits browse on leaves and twigs. Even turtles feed on fallen leaves where trees overhang bodies of water.
This tree was used by native Americans. The Sioux and the Cree tapped its sap to make syrup. The Cheyenne used the wood to make bowls and the Dakota and Omaha people made the wood into charcoal
The wood of this tree breaks easily so it is not used for building or for furniture. It is a fast growing tree and is grown for shelter belts where it prevents soil erosion and protects livestock from wind and snow. It is being considered for use as fiberboard
Trees play a vital ecological role on earth. Not only do they provide habitat and food for wildlife, but they provide the oxygen we breathe. Through transpiration, they play a major role in the formation of clouds. Clouds are vital for production of rainfall. The loss of trees and forests is one the reasons deserts are forming. Trees sequester carbon and the clouds they produce, reflect back some of the sun’s rays, cooling the earth and protecting it from global warming.
Growing trees beside a ditch, stream or water body protects that water from agricultural pollutants such as chemical pesticides,herbicides, nitrogen and phosphorus. A forest buffer beside a water body has been shown to be the most effective and cheapest way to keep nitrogen and phosphorus out of major water bodies. Understanding the vital roles that trees play, help us to treasure and revere trees. For what can be more valuable that the air we breathe and the water we drink
The story of the Manitoba Maple
Several years ago, I bought a 7 acre property about 15 minutes drive from where I live, just north of Winnipeg, hoping to start an organic permaculture tree farm there. There have been a lot of challenges with this project....first and foremost my enthusiasm greatly exceeds my knowledge. I did not notice how wet the low lying spots were, or how many trees dislike wet feet. Or know how hungry the deer and other wildlife are, and how much they love to browse young trees. Several hundred dollars spent, lots of hard work and after planting hundreds of little trees over the last 3 years and some larger ones, very few survive.
But another foe of the tree seedling survival, is whoever has been mowing my tree plantation. Is it one of the neighbors or the municipality or the farmer who is tilling most of the acreage for planting crops? I don’t know and when I question each of the suspects...nobody knows. Truly I feel so annoyed, because I know that in a few years, as the normal succession occurs on this formerly river bottom land, the thistles and dandelions will disappear and give way to shrubs and trees. No thistle or dandelion lives in dense shrubs or forest,
Manitoba has a Noxious Weed Act and I do have lots of dandelions and thistles, some wild mustard and few others as well. So it is likely that there is someone who does not like my thistles and dandelions. I want to be a good neighbor. So I have been spending a lot of time hand pulling thistles(the dandelions have already flowered)
And I have noticed something extraordinary.....when there is a patch of thistles, growing in the midst, is a little Manitoba Maple tree. Could the thistles be protecting the little tree from being eaten by deer? Or are the deep roots of the thistle helping the maple tree get through the compacted clay soil? Or are the many beneficial insects attracted to the thistle helping protect the tree from insect predators? Maybe all of these. It struck me how amazing and perfect are the partnerships in nature! How little we know and understand of all of this.
Instead of poisoning and destroying the many plants on the Noxious Weed Act, we need to learn about and respect the ecological role these plants play. We need to understand and respect Nature ‘s wisdom.
Manitoba is where I was born and where I have spent most of the five and one half decades of my life. I lived on the outskirts of the town of Portage La Prairie at a time when tadpoles and frogs inhabited the ditches and ponds, when there were many Monarch butterflies each summer along with dragon flies and grasshoppers. Redwing blackbirds perched the cattails of the ditches. As children we picked dandelions for bouquets and made wishes before blowing dandelion seed heads. We searched clover for lucky four leaves and rolled on the grass…there was no concern of poisonous herbicides. The grass was thick. Wherever we dug…there were earthworms