Sunday, March 21, 2010

Harvesting Weeds --Thing One is Growing Up.

Weeds have a bad rep. Some folks see a "weed" and move straight to strategies aimed at "getting rid" of what are really just native plants, or sometimes garden escapes, or accidental imports, without considering the properties of the actual plant in question. What can it tell us about itself, or about the habitat it occupies? Is it edible? Does it serve a purpose in relation to other plants or insects, or wildlife? Separated from its reputation can it be appreciated for its determination, brilliance of colour, sweetness of scent?

There's a connection here to parenting and to home schooling that is sometimes not any more obvious to me as a home schooling parent than the beauty of a dandelion is to someone who wants a perfect green lawn. I've never wanted a perfect green lawn, but I have had the experience of imagining how things would be if they were "perfect". Just check back to my original post if you wonder how often "perfect" is imagined around here. Or see this one to see how much faith I put in things like schedules to achieve the perfect life of learning and growing.

Are you laughing yet? Because if you have been touching base here in Nowhere at all this term, you know that no dioramas have been made, we haven't raved about our days speaking French to each other and the thing I view as the absolute basic first step to a perfect day, getting out the door at 7:15 am for an invigorating, healthful, enjoyable walk filled with great Mother and Daughter moments, fell by the wayside right after the wonderful green dress episode.

Here it is, almost the end of term and although we've been learning like crazy, it hasn't been much about our predictions. So much for the lawn seed of life. Now on to the invasive species. Years ago when the nuclear family I was learning the role of mother in moved to Nowhere and I started poring over the seed catalogue, I was thrilled by the description of tansy as a plant which was grown around houses to deter ants.

At the time this area was entirely tansy free and I had never laid eyes on the plant. I had, however, heard my mother's views on ants. She did not discuss their versatility or their wide distribution on the planet, although I will credit her with some statements of wonder regarding their social organization. Most of her views were of the same type as our hypothetical dandelion hater, focused on human/ant conflict. She worried about ants in the pantry. She worried about ants turning the house into a pile of sawdust. I looked forward to pleasing her by rendering her summer home ant free. I ordered tansy seed.

Tansy seeds are a bit like dust, not the bunny kind under the big chair, the mote kind you see floating in sunlight. They don't look at all like the promise of a sunflower seed or a bean. Definitely not the seed you sprout in cups with a room full of kids in primary. As far as gardening went, at that point in my life I was a kid in primary. I barely knew my alphabet. I was reading, but not necessarily comprehending that in some contexts "easy to grow" is code for "will out compete anything". When the tansy sprouted I was delighted. Something so totally unseedlike, so fragile in appearance, had actually turned into a plant! I rejoiced.

I continued to rejoice for so many seasons, transplanting clumps of tansy here and there, giving clumps away, for so long that I can now, without a shadow of a doubt, give myself the slow learner award. Tansy grows and spreads so easily that some thirty years later, I can at last recognize that it is invasive. It has taught me a lot. Sadly, I didn't learn my lesson about invasive plants quite quickly enough. Angelica and I are currently doing battle in an area in front of the house, and some sort of mint family plant with a rather pretty pink blossom is threatening to out compete the tansy in the upper garden. I'm properly worried about both of them. And, I admit to having introduced both of them to my domain. Having the slow learner award seems to be challenging me to keep my standing.

There is more to tell, both about the positive qualities of tansy, and my progress in harmonious relations with Thing Two. Stay tuned. I'll be back, but now, it is spring. I'm going outside to harvest more tansy stalks. They are hollow and raked into heaps make good bases for compost heaps. They break down slowly and are useful between beds to provide dry footing and long lasting mulch. There's plenty of it, and it's free. Such abundance! I feel rich!

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