The sweet smell of lilacs is almost overwhelming as I type away at my computer this morning. I’ve set up shop at the large dining table in my old farmhouse where yesterday afternoon my husband placed a Mason jar filled with my one of my favorite spring flowers.

Morel mushroom hunting has thus far been successful, thanks to plenty of rain and soil temperatures warming in a timely manner. Jim pointed out last week that we have a much better stand of grass in pastures and our hayfields than we did on Mother’s Day last year.

After the hay shortage we experienced last year, it’s nice to be that much ahead on forage growth. We look for bright spots where we can get them in this challenging economic environment in agriculture.

I checked social media on my phone one morning a couple of weeks ago before going out to mix up a batch of glyphosate. I needed to spray winter annuals before tilling gardens and a couple of flower beds. It was almost as if Facebook knew my planned task, as my feed was rife with “non-chemical weed killer” posts and anti-glyphosate comments.

Here’s the thing: exposure at some level to many weeds can cause health problems. If you Google “poisonous plants” you’ll find that many plants commonly used as food have toxic parts, are toxic unless they are processed, or are toxic at certain stages of development.

An apple, for instance, contains seeds that are mildly poisonous, containing a small amount of something called amygdalin, which is a cyanogenic glycoside.

The quantity is not usually enough to endanger a person, but it is possible to ingest enough seeds to kill you. The leaves and seeds of cherries, peaches, plums, apricots and almonds contain the same thing.

Don’t be fooled by the beautiful green leaves of the rhubarb plants. The leaf stalks, or petioles, are edible, of course, but the leaves themselves contain oxalic acid, which is a nephrotoxic and corrosive acid present in many plants. Symptoms of poisoning include kidney disorders, convulsion and coma, although rarely does it kill a person.

You might have seen the recipe for a “non-chemical” weed killer containing white vinegar, Epsom salt and Dawn dishwashing liquid. I got a pretty good chuckle out of a post I saw on Facebook this morning suggesting the solution is certainly not non-chemical in its make-up.

Vinegar consists of acetic acid, water and trace amounts of other chemicals. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate.

The ingredients in Dawn dishwashing liquid are water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Lauramine Oxide, Alcohol Denat, Sodium Chloride, PPG-26, PEG-8 Propylheptyl Ether, PEU-14 PEG-10/PPG-7 Copolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Triclosan, Methylisothiazolinone and Fragrance.

Poison hemlock killed Socrates, castor beans contain the poison ricin, and white snakeroot is responsible for the death of Abraham Lincoln’s mother. We’ve all heard of deadly nightshade, and, of course, tobacco is a poisonous plant.

Just because something is “natural” does not mean it is 100% non-toxic. Just like you aren’t going to eat a peck of apple seeds, you aren’t going to take a bath in glyphosate, or drink it for breakfast.


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