Albert Einstein and Knapweed


Albert Einstein said that our problems cannot be solved by using the same type of thinking that created the problem in the first place.

So here we are, faced with a problem. A full square acre of our property is covered with invasive, prolific, antagonistic, and all around jerk-faced Knapweed.

Knapweed is a nearly useless weed that grows in really terrible, nutrient deprived, tortured and dying soil. Nothing else is able to thrive in such poor soil, and so the knapweed dominates any competition.  But why does this one entire acre have terrible soil?

This acre was poisoned with chemical pellets in an effort to eradicate an over-population of gophers that had suddenly appeared. Along with killing (some) gophers, the poison also killed micro-organisms and macro-organisms that were vital to the health of the soil. But why did the gophers suddenly take up residence in this acre of land?

Before the gophers moved in, this acre was a thriving area of forest, full of evergreen trees, pines, larches, firs, Oregon grapes, and a whole lot of little worms, mosses, ants, grubs, birds, and all of the other living things that contribute to a big, healthy, harmonious, eco-system. This little pine forest had its own wind barriers, moisture regulation, pH balance, root systems, sun and shade zones and more.

Then someone wanted to make a few bucks off the lumber, and had this acre “clear-cut”. In other words, every single tree was cut down to the ground and the lumber was sold to a logging company. This decimated the micro climate and eco-system of the acre. The result?

Gophers moved in to this now “unobstructed” ground. But, the people that clear cut the land didn’t like the gophers – so they used poison to kill. The result?

The soil was dealt a death blow along with some (but not all) of the gopher population.

The result? Knapweed invaded and flourished in a barren field of the poorest soil. The result?

The people that didn’t like the gophers also didn’t like the knapweed. What were they going to do to get rid of this knapweed – a weed that is nearly impossible to defeat?

You guessed it, they were going to spray poison chemical weed killer on the knapweed field. Well, you can’t fix ‘stupid’. Thankfully we purchased this property shortly before they executed phase 3 of Project: Idiocracy.

Never mind that there is a year-round creek that runs the entire western border of this tortured acre and how much poison that water supply – and its own eco-system – would have absorbed from the weed killer; never mind that the property gets its drinking water from a well that pulls ground water not 100 feet away; but would trying to solve the problem by using the same thinking have even worked?

Maybe the knapweed would have been effectively nuked by the weed killer, but then what problem would move in next? Hoards of locusts? Sandstorms and tumbleweeds? If you really hate the land that much why not just pave it with asphalt and be done?

So let’s look at the problem with different thinking.

First, is the knapweed even the problem? It looks to me like it was given a written invitation to move in and thrive on dying soil that was robbed of all protection and nutrition.

Second, all of the attempted solutions were looking for results “now”. Want the trees gone and money in your pocket now? Cut them down. Want the gophers gone now because the mounds are ugly on this barren acre? Poison them. Want the knapweed gone now because it’s ugly and spreading like wildfire? Chemical spray it. Now, now, now.

So we have devised our own strategy and tactics in this warfare against the knapweed that is overtaking the dying soil.

Strategy: Rehabilitate – Turn this piece of land into a thriving area of living forest.

Primary Objective: Good Dirt – Give nature what it needs to make healthy soil. Healthy soil makes good forestation; good forest eliminates knapweed on its own.

Secondary Objective: Silver Lining – Make use of the knapweed for as long as nature leaves it there.

That’s right in this battle against knapweed we WILL NOT CUT, PULL, OR SPRAY, one single stem of knapweed. This is a long-term strategy with a permanent outcome.

Our Tactics: Give nature what it needs to make healthy soil. Harvest any benefits from knapweed for as long as it’s there.

If I had to summarize the game plan in two words: Bees and Compost.

Bees: So, one living creature on this planet that loves knapweed is the gentle honey-bee. It turns out they can make one of the most delicious honey varieties known to man from the pollen of knapweed. We are standing up three honey-bee hives this spring at the edge of this knapweed kingdom. This will also give the new hives a great source of pollen since knapweed blooms in the late fall when there’s slim pickin’s for our little pollenating friends.

Compost: We are going to pump life back into this soil through every kind of nutrient dense compost, manure, and plantings one small area at a time. If we let the soil heal, nature will do the rest of the work to establish its own abundance of trees and plants. Massive root systems will take hold and, rebalance the soil’s moisture and pH while rebuilding its own corrosion resisting wind barrier and shade, and a spawn a whole lot of micro and macro-organisms.

How long will it take? That’s up to nature. The best thing we can do is to stop compounding the problem with human thinking, and give nature the resources it needs to heal itself.

Do you have any uses for knapweed? Please let us know!

In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted of how to get rid of invasive knapweed for good.

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One thought on “Albert Einstein and Knapweed

  1. I would also recommend frost-seeding a number of hay legumes, at first just to find out if any will grow there, then on a larger scale. This could speed the healing process greatly, getting the soil into a better condition to allow you to transplant some fast-growing tree species into the space. It would be acceptable for the first trees to die a terrible death, their root systems would at least begin reintroducing forest microorganisms to the soil. Cheers on your timely interruption of the modern land-use philosophy on this piece of ground, especially considering its watershed repercussions.

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