The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

What will we do when we run out of honeysuckle?

Honeysuckle on an ironwood

For the last month or so, I've been taking the goats out for a half-hour honeysuckle walk after my own lunch. As a result, our woods are becoming considerably less green.

Not long ago, Mom emailed me to share her concern that I might denude our forest of honeysuckle. She's right --- I probably will. Whether that will actually be a bad thing, though, remains to be seen.

Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive species here in the U.S., and it can actually strangle trees when the vine's growth is particularly luxuriant. The photo at the top of this post shows an ironwood that was sturdy enough to handle several thick honeysuckle vines, but for every tree like this, there are two or three that I end up just cutting down rather than pulling the vines out of their canopies --- the tree is simply too mangled to survive.

Honeysuckle eater

Of course, that's just looking at the forest --- what about the goats? Our girls do seem to be thriving on a diet rich in honeysuckle (although, when given the choice, Abigail still makes a beeline for the garden to munch on half-dead oat stalks). In fact, when I look back at photos from two months ago, our girls look like entirely different goats, and I don't think all of their new bulk is due to their thick winter coats.

So what will we do once we run out of honeysuckle? I have various thoughts in mind for next winter, and they mostly revolve around cover crops. This fall, our girls liked oilseed radishes okay and loved oats, and they currently like rye pretty well. Since those cover crops have prime green periods that span October, November, and December, that would be a good start for providing our girls with some early to mid-winter fodder, as long as I plant quite a bit more of the last two. I suspect it would be thinking too big to say that I'll replace most or all of this winter's store-bought hay with homegrown cover crops for next year, but we should definitely be able to provide our goats with that essential half-hour nibble of green!

And, in the meantime, I'll keep pulling honeysuckle out of the trees. I suspect that both trees and goats will appreciate the gesture.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Bring those goats right over here to my place. They can eat all the honeysuckle and brambles they want!
Comment by Nayan Mon Dec 22 15:46:46 2014

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