|Agaleah at work on spring’s first poison oak.|
There is an old practice, I am told, for building immunity to poison oak. You are to eat a leaf of the plant each day for two weeks, starting when the leaves are tiny and first unfurling from their buds. In this way, you get progressively larger doses of the oil that causes the allergic reaction in most of us.
I have not tried this, nor do I plan to, but our goats eat it regularly. The alpines love poison oak. The pygmies don’t, being suspicious of anything too brushy. Clearing poison oak is on the alpines’ job description. Being browsers, they are not particularly thorough, a little here, a little there, but they eat it, just the same!
I might add, goats are more effective in the long run than herbicides. In our early, pre-biodynamic certification years, we used herbicides on poison oak along our pathways. It didn’t work! Poison oak is such a strong plant that, although the sprayed foliage died, the plant pushed new leaves from buds farther down the stem and the roots sent up new shoots. The only way to really get rid of poison oak is to pull it out, which Donald does, having natural immunity. Personally, I consider this risqué, given the personality of the plant we are dealing with, but he has no trouble with the practice. The next best practice is to have a herd of goats eat it to the ground, year in and year out.