23 May 2012

gallant soldier

 I'm a bit eccentric when it comes to my yard. I don't use poisons, and that's weird enough for some people, but what's really strange is so familiar to me it's part of who I am. I've always pulled weeds out by their roots, and most often I concentrate on one weed at a time. I don't remember a time I didn't do this. Maybe it dates back to being nearsighted as a child; I called it having "microscope vision," looked at the tiniest flowers and recognized them, identified them.

  Not just flowers; grasses and insects too. After my years-long love affair with the Rand McNally Road Atlas and maps in general (roughly 1971 - 1991), in the late 1980s I began collecting the National Audubon Society field guides (wildflowers, insects, trees, birds, etc) and other plant books (Someone borrowed my NAS tree field guide and didn't return it; I've been meaning to replace it but haven't yet), concentrating mainly, but not exclusively, on medicinal herbs.

  So nowadays I plant a vegetable garden out back, and flowers along my fenced yard, and battle weeds one at a time, by getting to know them first. My biggest "enemy" these days is Galinsoga, also known as quickweed, gallant soldier, and mistakenly as chickweed (which is something else entirely). It is hard to control. Bob claims it arrived in the county in a load of mushroom mulch, spread rapidly, played a part in his parents moving to Indiana, and certainly contributed to their discontinuing their vegetable gardening here in Kentucky. There doesn't seem to be any way to get rid of it, other than not disturbing the ground for a while... how long? Five years isn't long enough! Ten might be, but I'm not willing to wait. So I've been trying different methods of eradication.


  "Tilling often" was my previous strategy, and pulling them up as they sprouted, or before they flowered, or before they went to seed. I never managed to keep up; it's not called QUICKweed for nothing. Rumor has it that a galinsoga seed will sprout while it's on its way from ripe flower to ground. This year I'm trying to choke it out, by pulling only the galinsoga and leaving the other weeds. So far, so good. Good enough, in fact, that today I began pulling broad-leaf plantain too.

  It never gets old, never bores me. I could spend hours every day just walking around the yarden, looking at the tiny plants sprouting out of the ground. The new neighbor asked me a couple weeks ago what that is, that he sees me pulling up. I told him about the other plant that seems to have a symbiotic relationship with the apple trees: a tiny red bug feeds on it, which later turns into an orange-winged bug, which feeds on the apple tree's bark and causes the leaves and apples to be twisted and deformed. He understood right away. Most people don't.

  I could have told him what I pull up depends on where I am and what else is growing there. I'm really not sure what I want, what my ideal end result would be, just that it's a never-ending journey. I think, right now, I'd be happy if my entire lawn was white clover (but I'd be bored then! Would continue up into the woods, into the neighbors' yards, into the rest of the world... it's a mission, an obsession, yeah, an eccentricity). I've been neglecting to learn all their names, my weeds. I wish I had a degree (or several) in botany. Wish there were a way to make a living at what obsesses me.


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