Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

More from a Weekend Weed Whacking Warrior

A year has passed since I became a weekend weed whacking warrior. The wilderness experience in my backyard has been, if nothing else, humbling.

dandelion seedingAfter sustained whacking, it remains hard to tell whether the weeds are winning or I am. They have been whacked, mowed and plucked, but haven’t receded or vanished. If anything, weeds hold a tighter, more menacing grip on my backyard – and my conscience.

I have neighbors. On one side, my neighbor solved his weed problem by covering his yard with pavers that form paths leading to a charming little fire pit. On the other side, my neighbor is engaged in big-time organic farming, producing bumper crops of vegetables. When they peer over the fence into my yard, they shake their heads and click their tongues.

I dreamed the other night that one of my neighbors threw a Round-Up pesticide bomb that exploded my backyard. The idea has occurred to me in waking hours, except I don’t want my dog to develop deformities while pawing the dirt or grazing on a random remaining weed.

So, to maintain some semblance of good neighborliness, I devote a couple hours per weekend with the weed whacker in hand. This is no toy. This is a 40-volt wonder that can topple the sturdy stem of a stubborn weed.

After some initial trial by fire learning, I have more or less mastered how to wield the weed whacker. I use the rhythm method to plow under tall grass-like weeds and the top-down-to-the-stem technique to reduce mammoth, prickly dandelions to stubs. I have figured out how to tip the weed whacker so it acts like an edger, clearing out tight spots and weeds cropping out of the concrete foundation of our house.

weed-whacking-2-800-x-598pxNow that I have leveled most of the backyard weeds, I’m adding more sophisticated management techniques, such as mowing. There once was an actual patch of grass, but it has been overwhelmed by hordes of weeds, which now cover pretty much the entire backyard. It dawned on me that I should just treat the weed cover like a lawn full of ugly grass.

The mowing, at least in my imagination, keeps the existing weeds from seeding. I’m fighting, like President Obama, a war of attrition. Every little victory is matched with an equal or greater setback. I’m happy to win a little bit and lose a little bit more.

My other “advanced” approach is to declare certain areas as weed-free zones. This requires getting on my hands and knees to pull out weeds. This requires more will than skill, but it can be satisfying when you liberate, for example, the rose bed. Freed from competition with weeds, the rose bushes are suddenly blooming. Imagine that.

I have employed other tools in my gardening arsenal – clippers, weed uprooters, shovels and rakes – to attack the bumpy blanket of weeds in my backyard.  Note to self: Buy a machete and face paint.

Oh yeah, I have tried shouting at the weeds, which if nothing else has a therapeutic effect.

No field report would be complete without a summary of injuries. So far, the only injury has been to my ego.

Tiki-torches-lineThere is some good news to report. My dog now is willing to venture gingerly down the stairs from the backyard deck to sniff around. This is definitely an improvement from her resistance to wandering in a wilderness of tall weeds.

It is too soon to buy tiki torches for a backyard luau, featuring homegrown edible weeds. It would be safer to lease my backyard as a setting for “Survivor.”

But there is progress. I can see my fence.

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