Saturday, June 11, 2011


When I was a kid, my parents made us weed the yard and garden by hand. We got small tools like trowels, but for the most part the job was done by grabbing the weed and pulling straight out of the ground. I hated this chore. It sucked. I'd see commercials for weed killers on TV and ask my mom, why we couldn't just buy some of that? Now, of course, with all the news about how bad pesticides and herbicides are (such as the fact that Roundup causes birth defects, and regulators have known about this for years) I am very happy that she didn't buy those products.
I've come to appreciate weeding now that I'm older. Not that it's my favorite chore (which is why I still label it a chore) but it's not so bad. A little weeding here, a little weeding there, and I can keep my garden going. Other things help to space out the need for weeding. Mulching is one of those things. Layers of hay or grass clippings interspersed with layers of newspaper (not the glossy ads--those can have toxic chemicals) work very well at keeping the weeds down while allowing my plants to thrive.
And weeds do have their place. I'm letting part of the garden grow fallow this year so that it can replace lost nutrients and my plants will grow better next year. Since all plants use different nutrients from the soil, planting the same type of plant in the same place year after year depletes the soil. (One of the reasons our system of mono-cropping is so bad--the soil can't replenish itself and so all sorts of extreme measures are taken that actually deplete the topsoil.) The places where I let the grass and weeds grow up are actually healthier in the end because they don't require the same nutrients as my food crops. This is also one of the reasons I planted my potatoes in a tire this year, to give the actual ground a chance to rest.
We can also re-think what is a weed. Dandelions, an invasive plant (more on them later), were originally brought to America as a food crop. Any part of the dandelion can be eaten and made into different stored products such as jam and dandelion wine or dandelion 'honey'. (I don't have a recipe for that last one, but a friend of Shane's family makes it.) It would have been so much nicer when I was a kid if, instead of weeding the dandelions (which are hard to pull!) we instead picked their leaves for salads, their yellow tops for jam, etc. I won't try to say that they're the best tasting plant ever (the leaves tend to be quite bitter) but they're very nutritious and mixed in with regular lettuce, you won't taste them.
We went frisbee golfing or frolfing last night with friends. I don't play (I'm terrible, and competitive enough that I just get upset) but I walk the dog around and hang out. (And get hit in the face--bruised, swollen jaw today!) I didn't realize there were so many wild roses on campus! They're very pretty, of course, but they also make a great found-food source: rose hips. Mmmm. Rose hips are about as versatile as any berry, as well as being both nutritious and yummy. As soon as they ripen, I'm insisting that Shane go frolfing so that I can follow the group and collect rose hips. We have a book in my office (it wasn't quite something for our collection, but we all liked it so we just keep it in the office for everyone to use) that has recipes for pretty much any Alaska berry and fruit, like rose hips. So I'll definitely be able to find some tasty uses for them.

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