The Nature of Seeing ... Weeds

| 8/22/2011 4:32:12 PM

 Sunflower and bee 

Paula Ebert headshotAs I’ve gardened, I’ve thought a lot about the nature of seeing. Let me try to explain. When I first arrive at the flower garden that is up by the sign by the road, I often see lots of weeds, even though I go out daily. I pull the weeds, then bit by bit, I begin to see beyond the weeds.

I see the snapdragons that need to be dead-headed. What a disturbing term. Dead-heading. But if you don’t do it, they bloom once and then you’re done. When you dead-head, the snapdragons branch out, and grow multiple blossoms. Like they are saying … Hah! You can’t defeat me. I’ll grow no matter what! This year, I put them out early in the spring, and it was a warm sunny day, then it turned cold and miserable and windy (reminded me of Wyoming), and I thought I’d lose several. Ironically, it turned out I only lost the one I stepped on by accident, while trying to weed. Although it was touch and go for a bit. Because of the Wyoming experience and the desiccating winds, I went out every day and watered the poor little plants.

But back to the seeing. It’s like the big stuff has to get out of the way first. First the weeds need to go, then I can see the rest of what must be done. There are rather bland parallel’s to real life – something like clear out the bad in order to appreciate the good, or first things first. Of course, the weeds have to go, they block the enjoyable things. I have discovered that I need to look two or three times to really see what has to be done, and I think that is the lesson, not to hurry when you look.

But what is a weed? We’ve had that discussion around here, trust me. I’ve gone by the old standard that a weed is a plant where you don’t want it. But see, I really like the sunflowers, and my husband sees them as an indication a lazy person letting the weeds grow. The same with the Flannel Mullen that I like and he calls “wild tobacco” for reasons unknown to me. Even though we never get ear infections around here, I had to restrain myself from gathering mullen blossoms to experiment with making the decoction when he sent my son out to chop down the mullen. My photo of the bee on a sunflower that took a purple at the county fair is an embarrassment to him, because it is on a – gasp… sunflower! Kansas is the sunflower state, right?

In any event, we will continue to fuss over the nature of what constitutes weeds, although we all agree on the thistles, crab grass and Bermuda grass. I won’t mention the photo I took of the butterfly on a thistle …

Laura Marie
10/10/2011 2:21:23 PM

Hello! I was very excited to find another Wyoming transplant! We just moved across the river from Portland, but I was born and raised in the NE of WY. What part of WY do you come from? (Yes, I completely understand the WY comments in your post!)

Hans Quistorff
9/1/2011 2:45:30 AM

My favorite greens is Lambs Quarters. My wife cringes when I brag about eating my weeds. My neighbor farmer that also supplies to the local co-op CSA, put one hand on my shoulder and the other on the large bush in one of my planters and said: Hans, surely you know this is a weed. I replied: Yes I am saving the seed for a friend that dose not have any on her farm. They stopped laughing when I weeded my corn and sold the weeds for $6 through the co-op.

8/30/2011 2:30:03 AM

What a great photo, Paula - congradulations! Our Western Oregon town had a 'self-guided Veggie garden tour' last weekend, co-sponsored by our Soil & Water Dept (which is 'usually' more focused on commercial farm soil). One HUGE garden (they've been on that several acre city property 18 years) had very few flowers in the veggie gardens, as the hubby is very purpose driven. A few have crept in - I loved the bells of Ireland among the Asparagus - & saw a few herbs here & there. In contrast, a garden more similar to mine on a normal city lot had purslane in the paths, & orach in several beds. The gardener commented that while his spinach gets leaf miners, the orach never does - & sent me home with a seed stock! I was married to a botanist for 18 years, & we ate LOTS of weeds - only well-identified weeds ... nettles, dandelions (yes, I have some in my garden, & have young leaves almost daily in salads), lambs quarters - now Quinoa is VERY popular, & I have that 'tame' lambs quarters growing, along with it's 'pigweed' relative, amaranth! And a plant of the perennial, Good King Henry. I harvest yarrow flowers all summer, to use during fall/winter cold season - yarrow tea knocks the socks off the common cold! I love Susun Weed's attitude of enhancing health by daily use of common 'weedy' plants, & only occasionally resorting to bigger guns of the more medicinal herbs.

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