Quilting, Farming, Variety

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Lowly Bitterweed

 
If you are a city gal, you probably won't be interested in this:

I grew up with bitterweeds.  They were around our barn and even in the yard.  Maybe you aren't familiar with this plant, so I'll give a brief description of it.  The bitterweed is a low growing plant, 6-20 inches tall, with bright yellow flowers and a very strong oder.  They are aggressive in their growth in overgrazed pastures, along roadsides, and waste areas.  Where tame grasses grow thicker the weed is usually not a problem.

The bitter weed contains a toxic substance to livestock, especially horses and mules.  Most animals won't eat it because of the foul, bitter taste.  Allowing animals to graze bitterweed, even in small quantities, can cause a cow's milk to taste bitter.  And maybe that was my first encounter with the lowly bitterweed.  Whenever the hot sun dried up the grass, the weed thrived, and Mama's milk cow ate it, making our milk and butter taste bad.

As two little children playing in the barn, my cousin and I found a perfect use for those yellow blooms.  With the sand he brought to me, I made mud cakes and pies in little tin pans, and decorated them with the flowers.  But that wasn't the only use we found for the weed.

During the day, Mama's hens roamed the yard where we played and it was nothing uncommon for us to step barefooted in a hen's droppings and have the wet stuff ooze between our toes.  There was no hose with a nozzle, in those days, connected to an outside faucet for us to wash them, so we found a bitterweed, put the stem between our toes, and pulled up our foot, letting the green foliage swipe off the mess.  It might have taken more than one swipe, but hey, it worked!

I never see a bitterweed without remembering those days, and if this makes me a redneck hillbilly, then I wear the color and the name with pride.

Charlotte

13 comments:

  1. I'm right there with you . I've had to do the same thing before but I am trying my best to recall this weed and can't for the life of me.. I know if cows get in the wild onions you can't stand to drink the milk. We had a lot of that experience but I just wonder if that weed even grows around here. Thanks for the memories.

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  2. I didn't know the name but love the yellow flowers!

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  3. You made me smile. I grew up on the farm but never encountered the bitterweed. That was interesting to read about it. Nancy

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  4. I remember drinking milk from Grandma and Grandpa R's house and you and Daddy said it was bitterweed that made it taste bad. It really wasn't very good milk, weas it. But I enjoyed reading about the things you all did with it when you were kids.

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  5. Loved visiting and reading your experiences with the bitter weed. I was born and raised on a farm and know all about them. Had to be careful the cows did not get to any as it made the milk bad.

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  6. Are you sure you and I did not grow up on the same farm! I declare I was unable to drink the milk when the cows got into the bitter weed. I'm not sure why we kept it unless there was no more to use. My husband and I talk about the taste often for in Mississippi they experienced the same.

    Here's to memories from the farm,

    Grammyof13
    Doris

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  7. I'm not familiar with this plant, but I like the pretty yellow flowers. Your story made me smile. :-)

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  8. Thanks for sharing your memories and your sweet comment on mine. I wish we lived closer too. It would be wonderful..Hope you're enjoying the weekend.. Hugs

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  9. Charlotte,
    These a wonderful memories about the good old days. I enjoyed reading your posting very much. It brought back a lot of memories to me, too. This is such a great essay, you should submit it to "The Good Old Days," magazine.

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  10. I have ton of bitterweed growing here! I loved to hear you memory of this! It's no fun to step in chicken poo with bare feet!

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  11. There is so much of this that grows across the prairie here. I love the dainty blossoms. I enjoyed reading your memories of this most of all.

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  12. Awww... that is such a sweet memory, Charlotte. I love stories like that because I can relate to another bare-footed country girl. :)

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