Clearing Out Invasives Opens Up Space for Desirable Natives

Removing invasive species isn't what I'd call fun farm work, but the labor refreshes my spirit and leaves me hopeful for our land's future.

by Rachael Dupree
PHOTO: Is This Portland, Oregon???/Flickr

We’ve had an unseasonably warm autumn here in the Bluegrass State, so I feared that the season wouldn’t truly show itself this year. But, lo and behold, fall’s golden hues have finally set in.

We’ve basked in the crisp mornings and beautiful warm afternoons. And, as comes with a changing landscape, a new season of chores awaits us.

As they say, for everything there is a season. Now that the ticks and chiggers of summer have died off, we can finally head out to the deep woods.

Taming Invasives

This week, I took to the forest with a naturalist friend to tame some of the invasive plants, namely autumn olive and honeysuckle, that have made themselves a little too cozy on our land.

A main goal for our property is to foster ecological diversity. While we’re prone to cultivating the life of most plants, though, we’ve decided that the bullies have got to go. However, having no experience with invasives removal, figuring out where to start was a little daunting.

I’m immensely grateful that I had a mentor by my side.

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I’m constantly blown away by the support we’ve received from friends and neighbors who have spent decades on the land. It’s a rare type of connection, and one I hadn’t found in city life.

Honestly speaking, I’m not accustomed to accepting help and advice. But I’ve particularly enjoyed getting to know this friend because she used to own our property and has offered us some interesting insights into its evolution.

It’s been fun to walk the trails together and see the fruits of her labor from more than 10 years ago. I  envision with her how Mr. B and I can take that baton and continue to be stewards of the land.

An Invigorating Experience

The work we did on invasives together this week was refreshing, physically and emotionally. With most of my time spent walking the land at the pace of a 1-year-old, it simply felt good to use my body to move heavy things.

Plus, as with any type of work on the land, getting into the thick of things offered me a new perspective, which shined a light on some native plants I didn’t know we had. As we cleared away autumn olives, we found tiny spicebushes sprouting up. And near a honeysuckle we took down, we found some pawpaw trees reaching up for the sun.

These two plants are ones I’ve hoped to bring to our farm. Knowing that they are already here was super exciting.

We’ve really just scratched the surface on a project that will take years of work, but I came away from that time in the woods changed just a little bit. It’s funny how the land can do that.

Sometimes the life can be so frustrating: the long commutes leaving you weary, the invasive plants leaving you feeling helpless, unfinished to-do lists making you feel like a failure. You get the picture.

But when you work beside someone, realizing you’re part of something more than that little space of place and time you inhabit, the anxieties dissipate and the chores no longer seem like such. You become a little more free.

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