© Another Day in the Country
I teethed on Scripture, as many of you know, being the daughter of a preacher. I know the Bible stories well, and one of the stories that particularly resonated with me was the parable of the “wheat and the tares.”
“Wheat,” being good Kansans, we all know as the good stuff, and “tares,” being weeds and in that story, the trouble-makers, the problem neighbors, the law breakers, and sinners.
I’ve never been fond of weeds, especially in my garden, and admire the gardens that have none.
I can’t understand when other folks seem not to fret, letting weeds and veggies grow happily together, hunting through grass for the cucumbers. I’m too fussy. The joy is removed from gardening if the rows aren’t straight and the weeds gone.
Much later in life, I learned another definition of weeds. The naturalists tell us that weeds (a plant we just don’t know the name of) can be very useful. They could be the salvation of bare ground as they come up quickly and flourish, holding down the dirt so it doesn’t blow away.
These hardy plants stay just long enough to let something better, something a little higher up the plant food chain, take root and grow — like trees, for instance.
Depending on your point of view, weeds could be salvation, or they could be plant life that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In someone else’s garden they could be wild flowers. In another time and place they could be considered food. That weed could be medicinal, like dandelions, and maybe save your life.
So now I approach my garden and my flower beds with a heavy hand, albeit an enlightened mind.
“Sorry,” I say to that weed, be it bind weed or errant morning glory seed, “you’ve gotta go. You are making a mess of my garden.”
In this particular space, cabbages and tomatoes are growing for kraut and salsa, so, “back off.”
Weeds are smart! Even plants that you buy in the greenhouse can turn into weeds just like people from a good solid farm family can become trouble-makers.
My neighbor gave me a start of something called “chocolate mint” one time. It smells wonderful.
“You’ve gotta watch it,” he said.
Brother, did I have to watch it! Mint was so happy beside my pond that it took over. I come back, every summer from visiting California to find the pond overtaken by the smell of mint.
Once I’ve hacked through the sunflower forest, I come to the mint meadow and find the plant I intended to be fringe has become a field.
And for those who really don’t know plant life, the weeds play tricks.
Right now there is something in my garden pretending to be penstemon.
The trick is that some of these plants grow to look just like whatever they are standing next to, and they do it on purpose, for survival reasons.
I’m onto their tricks so I was watching them and sure enough—they aren’t really part of the ever-increasing penstemon family. They are weeds, pretending.
Beside the chives, the grass sneaks in tall and willowy. Every spring what I call fake 4 o’clocks try to fool me, coming up earlier than the real thing. They look something alike but the end result is very different.
That Biblical parable was teaching something important: Sometimes you have to wait for someone to show their true colors to know if they are good or bad.
Oh dear, that worried me when I was a child.
“Why couldn’t God pull the weeds?” I wondered. “Why did the tares take nourishment from the soil just like the good stuff? “
Ah, it was puzzling. Still is.
As I approach the flower beds and the gardens, I have to be discerning.
As old as I am I’ve learned something about the trickiness of weeds. I’d like to be able to explain this to my sister who watches over things whenever I’m in California, but she really doesn’t have time.
Whatever I don’t eradicate will just have to grow, until the judgment day when I return, just like the second coming in the Scripture story, only with a hoe in my hand. It’ll be reckoning day.
Meanwhile, it’s harvest time in Kansas. There are few weeds in the wheat fields these days, thanks to the miracle of Monsanto.
It’s another day in the country and not only has the wheat seed been improved; supposedly, so are we! But, as much as I like the tidiness of it all, I’m concerned about the environment. As much as I like a neat neighborhood, there’s something about diversity that makes us a better breed.