Monday, January 7, 2013

Bohemian Shrubbery

Its the silvery-green thing eating the chicken coop from the front right side.
Its been a great year for the absinthe bush - it must have tripled in size over the last few months.

As the name might suggest, absinthe wormwood is the ingredient infamously included in the bohemian drink of the same name. Living in a country that almost banned hundreds of common and native plants because they contained even a trace of DMT (more notably found in cannabis), it blew my mind that I could buy a wormwood, packed full of its own usual suspect - Thujone. But in trying to determine its legitimacy, I soon learned that the drink's reputation as a psychoactive drug has been greatly overstated and misrepresented through history, and that it's never really been illegal to distill or sell absinthe in Australia, provided there's a limited amount of thujone. Still, figuring that we're only ever one minority lobby group away from the next law based on moral outrage and anecdotal evidence, I acted swiftly - and $3.95 later I had some tube-stock riding the postal system to my front doorstep.

Aside from the novelty value, the main reason I picked up the wormwood is that it is reportedly a great thing to be planted near chickens. Supposedly, it will deter mites and fleas, and will take care of intestinal worms if ingested. It's very hard to find any empirical evidence of this - just a lot of chatter between gardeners, which makes me slightly suspicious it could be the kind of complete and utter rubbish that often gets passed down through the generations. Suspicions aside, I've always kept it near the coop since the great mite invasion of '09, and I often offer my chooks the pruning, which they dutifully ignore like a child would with any medicine not flavoured like chocolate ice-cream.

It perilously lived in a pot for a long time (for portability), surviving "localised drought" and marauding chickens until I finally planted it in a new bed at the front of the coop last summer. Wormwood loves a good feed of nitrogen, so the fact that it's suddenly taken off makes me think its roots have finally found the golden eggs my gooses lay.

It's also said that wormwood secretes a hormone that will inhibit growth in other plants, and thus is good for suppressing weeds. I don't want to draw any conclusions - but I've pulled plenty of  weeds (and cherry tomato, should you make a distinction) right out of the middle of the bush - so I'll let you judge for yourself on that one.

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