No matter how many buckets of discards I fill and haul to the compost pile, more weeds stretch before me, and I just keep going ... and going. Until other responsibilities call or the sun sets. (I much prefer the latter.)
And, at this time of year, I can do this for days on end. Before work. After work. On my lunch break. On weekends. On holidays.
Bucket after bucket of dandelions, goutweed, thistles, clover, grasses, creeping Charlie, plantain, dock, purslane, quickweed, black medic, lamb’s quarters, wild violet, smartweed, sticky weed.
I’m sure there are plenty of others that I don’t easily recognize.
Some we know are edible: Dandelion, lamb’s quarters and purslane chief among them.
Some are just bothersome, stealing nutrients from nearby fruits and vegetables.
And some are downright invasive — especially our own personal bane, goutweed.
When the soil’s just right — not too moist; not too dry — the long taproots come out clean and the runner rhizomes snake free, often a foot or more from the original plant. A quick shake to loosen the dirt and then it’s on to the next.
It’s under those conditions that I find the hours spent pulling undesirables from the garden to be therapeutic.
Sure, weeding can be repetitive. Mindless even. And, yet, it’s oh, so satisfying.
Sisyphean by its very nature, ripping out plants that don’t “belong” in favor of ones that “do” is quintessential to gardening. We could just spend hours gathering edible plants — in a forest or in a grocery store. Instead, we carve out a chunk of land and play God: You stay. You go.
Weeding is the gardeners’ way of saying: “I’m in charge here.”
No wonder it’s so gratifying, especially in 2013 when that sense of control is hard to come by in other aspects of life.
But it’s certainly not a new phenomenon.
We’re wired to control our environment. It’s what humanity has done for eons.
Without power tools, we built pyramids and temples and grand walls of stone. We dug canals and re-routed rivers. We perfected the use of fire to alter the land, clearing forests for prairie or agriculture.
We have put our stamp to varying degrees on virtually every part of the globe.
When I’m weeding, I’m simply tapping into that age-old compulsion to shape my own corner of the world.
One weed at a time.