Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Welcoming Weeds

     Within hours of returning home I was welcomed by a friendly honk as a former family from my childcare center drove by and noticed me weeding the edge of the front driveway.  Good feeling.  The weeds however preceded their welcome waving gaily as I drove into the wide graveled drive.  

     I’m not sure that everyone would spend two hours on the first day back from a seven month trip weeding, but for me there was no better way of saying to the world, I’m back!  When I have company in the summer, we sit outside.  We balance plates, cups and silverware as we head out to the stream under the willow and walnut trees.  Or we sit on the front porch rocking.  Right now the hammock is still stored in the garage waiting for the space under the walnut trees to be cleared and watered.  Waiting to welcome the first round of friends and laughing children.

Notice the fringe of weeds to the right.  Waiting.
      My second day here I squeezed in another three hours of weeding, raking and watering out by the stream with pup watching me.  The work was enhanced by the sound of the stream, a nesting warbler and ducks quacking as they passed by.  Weeding for me is as joyous as visiting a museum.  The result is aesthetically pleasing and there are always discoveries.  Yesterday the angle of my sight from near the ground, where I was pulling up dry weeds, brought me to the attention of white osage orange blossoms.  There is a history to these blossoms.  Walking woods ages ago I came across a huge bush of sweet smelling flowers.  I didn’t know what they were, but I went home and looked them up.  Coincidently I was intending to plant a screen between the new hammock and the sight of the neighbor’s car and garbage cans.  Osage orange seemed to be a delightful choice.  A tiny foot high bush was planted along with pussy willows and some other nondescript bush.  Years went by and the osage orange crept higher, no blossoms to scent the air.  But this year, because I was weeding, I spotted the three low-hanging blossoms from the angle of my work. 


     Coming back to the house I unpacked one of the few gifts that I bought on the trip for myself, a hand blown green vase from Fort Necessity, where my fifth great uncle fought with George Washington.  Returning to the bush I looked for just the right spray.  Looking up towards the back side of the bush I discovered dozens of high blossoms!  Likely this has been blooming year after year and I simply didn’t see the flowers.  Thank you my weeds, for calling them to my attention.  This osage orange discovery was not unlike coming across a particularly stunning pot at the Mesa Verde Museum of cliff dwellings.  

Sara Stein’s father in “My Weeds: A Gardener’s Botany” lived on a couple of acres of orchards, gardens and lawn.  As he grew older he was only capable of weeding an area that each year became a smaller circle around his house; the weeds filling in the spaces he left untended.  “My Weeds..” is a charmingly-written book about individual weeds and how they have developed propagation success stories.  Even as I weed I have to admire the tenacity and boastful attitude of my weeds.  Some try to charm me with their blooms and others just appear lush, as though lush will earn them the right to stay. 

   I have been here in this home for nineteen years.  At a glance I know what weeds to tackle first and which can wait a little longer.  Living near a stream means that I don’t broadcast weed killer that could slip into the stream.  Last spring I deadheaded every dandelion in the yard.  This was no mean task.  Daily I had to walk the yard bending over countless times to pick every flower head that I could spot.  A neighbor of mine had neglected her yard and her dandelions had moved into my yard.  Last year was the year to see what I could do about them.  The neighbor had moved and her yard had been bulldozed and replanted.  Along with deadheading, I slowly began spraying each plant with a mixture of vinegar and water.  I would spray small sections of the yard at a time.  The vinegary spray left behind little patches of yellow ringed with dead grass.  Appropriate grave markers for yellow dandelions.  As I got closer to home from my trip, I began wondering if despite my efforts, the dandelions had returned to mock me.  Happily there are hardly any!  I walked the yard for some minutes before finding this one back in the cactus garden.

     My weeds.  They provide me with a gym under the sky, a focus at arm’s length and a reflective time for my mind.   I’m glad to be home and welcomed by my weeds.




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