B is for Beginnings…and Burdock

The first day in the hop yard-to-be was a scratchy, prickly walk down memory lane. The field we chose to plant the first half acre of rhizomes had the benefit of being spitting distance from my parents’ house – easy watering, easy access. However, the former pasture had sat fallow for a  number of years, allowing space for its new occupant—burdock—to take over.


The hop yard-to-be, before clearing the burdock and other such inhabitants.

How many times my sisters and I as little girls came home from a day playing in the fields with wads of burdock dug deep into our golden locks. My poor mother. Even after warning us to stay away from the weeds’ claws, a brush against the course pods might give us pause but never stopped our imagination from adventuring further into the surrounding fields and forest. A number of Mom’s evenings in the late summer were spent gently and meticulously combing through the hair of her three young daughters.

While I battled the burdock with gloves and brush cutters on this first day in the hop yard, Dad was taking the more high-powered machinery route to tackle the largest vines and plants. For most of the clearing, he simply pushed through on the bucket tractor saving the toughest stalks/plants/roots to yank out using a chain on the back of the tractor. I couldn’t help think how different our solutions to the problem were. I sought the least mechanized option—a set of hand clippers and wheelbarrow—to deal with the unruly burdock, while he pulled out the big guns immediately. I’m not sure if it’s a man thing, a farm boy thing, or a combination of both, but the bigger the tools the better. But I’m not complaining. The bucket tractor barrelled through much more than my clippers would ever manage.

We took down most of the toughest corner of brush that first day, full of bittersweet vine and prickly weeds. Next would be back to the burdock. As Mom noted, my hands would start looking like a farmers, with nics and cuts and bruises. I suppose that is ok. But I wonder how the little prickers in my fingertips will feel when I’m back typing at my desk at work.


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