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IMG_7509 nettles on the laneRecently a man and woman came down to the farmhouse to tell my cousin’s wife that a woman was on the farm lane pulling up nettles.  They’d seen her up there for the past several days.  The tone in their voices was, “Who is this crazy nettle lady?”

IMG_7921 a nettleThat would be, er, me.

I hate nettles.  With a passion.

Not only are they a blight upon the landscape, but anyone who has been stung by a nettle will avoid the experience in the future.  It is like being stuck by hundreds of hypodermic needles at the same time.  Here’s a look at an arm that has been stung:

Version 2

That arm is mine.  Despite wearing rubber gloves halfway up my forearms, I got stung.  Nettles are vicious, unless nicely tucked up out of the way where no one will be hurt.  Even cattle avoid them.

But the worst part of nettles is that where they grow, nothing else can, because they completely take over with their awful sting-y selves and their miles and miles of roots.

IMG_7506 nettle root

When I was a child, there was hardly a single nettle on the lane and on the farm because my grandfather pulled up every one he saw.  Now, without his singlemindedness, nettles have a field day (bad joke).

Here’s a look at some nettles near a stone shed:

IMG_7451farmyard pre nettles

And without nettles:

IMG_7454 farmyard post nettles

Better, yes?

Last summer, I rid the lane of over 6,500 nettles (and yes, I did count).  I found it very relaxing and satisfying. I don’t know of anyone else who shares my obsession passion, though please be in touch if you do!

Here’s one of the piles of nettles I amassed, with a six-year-old next to them to give a sense of scale.IMG_7988 nettles and 6-year-oldTo give nettles their due, they are useful to a number of butterflies and moths, and have medicinal value, and so are fine in moderation.  But when they take over, they squeeze out all the wildflowers, and they must be eradicated.

I hope to help the lane return to its former diversity so that it’s not mostly nettles, goose grass (also called sticky weed) and bracken.  Where I clear out the nettles, I’ll be scattering seeds for  more local wildflowers which will provide an ecosystem for more bees and insects.

I think I’ll be at it for years.

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