Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gardening and Parenting

Mollie writes:

Sometimes, it just seems like my brain is full.  I went outside to weed my front yard last week; it took me four sessions of four hours each.  Times past, I didn't have this kind of time to focus on pulling each and every weed in my yard so I'd head out with my hula hoe and just whack everything I saw that wasn't easily identifiable as something I bought at nursery.  But once my kids were raised, I started to find snippets of time where the weather was willing, my flesh was willing and I had a little time.

So I became a weed meister.

I used to weed as a cover for listening to my young'uns  playing in the yard.  You can overhear so much that you can lose track of the job at hand.  My kids had wild imaginations and sometimes I'd laugh so hard they'd look up from their play.  But now I can focus on weeds, their identification, and deal with them individually.  Most weeds I eradicate by hand, but the occasional few I resort to chemical warfare.

Example, today, 10:45 am.  John comes in from the deep dark environs of the only shady place in our yard, under the gunnera plant.  The gunnera plant is one of John's little (BIG?) experiments in the back yard (for specifics on gunnera go to ).  It's his pride and joy, a plant that dates back to prehistoric times with huge leaves.  He was checking out the status of his gunnera when he found, underneath, a suspicious looking weed growing.

It resembled marijuana to him (don't ask - we are both pure) but he wasn't sure.  I wasn't sure either, so I went to my "Weeds of the West" book and ultimately identified it as conium maculatum, a weed common to the Pacific Northwest, tolerating poorly draining soil, streams and ditch banks.  It's no surprise it started on this hill that slopes to our pond.  It has purple green stems and pinnate leaves that are segmented.  I also googled marijuana plant identification and ruled it out as the dreaded weed.  Even though we live on an island that seems to have pot growing anywhere there is an expanse of shady, moist, dark areas, the random seed hadn't found its way into my garden, despite the efforts of local birds to "poop" it everywhere.

Its common name is poison hemlock.  Now, if I had to choose what popped up in my yard, marijuana or hemlock, I'd ultimately choose marijuana.  It's a relief to know I don't have to choose.  But this hemlock is extremely poisonous, so we went at it with all guns blazing.  Someday, we'll have grandkids and I don't want a bunch of poisonous plants invading my back yard.  Ditto to controlled substances.

When all was said and done, the hemlock was removed and I placed a leaf in my book on the page that describes conium maculatum.  I probably won't forget this little gardening factoid, but it will be nice to have a sample for future reference.

My point here (and, ala Ellen, I do have a point), learning to identify plants is a good thing for a parent.  I'm trying to imagine raising kids without a few domestic hobbies and it boggles my mind.  For me, it's been a sanity saver; something that challenges my mind while the kids are building forts in the back yard.  But it has also prepared me to identify the random 'weed' that can crop up anywhere!


  1. What a brilliant idea, adding a leaf to the pertinent page. I'm always trying to explain to the kids the difference between wild morning glory and bittersweet nightshade (we have both), and that would be a LOT quicker than having to go over segmented vs. non-segmented heart-shaped leaves!

  2. you would probably enjoy I get their newsletter and am learning all sorts of things about plants.


    Went to the page, and it's uber cool. I have an herb garden and manage to grow the more common herbs. Of all of them, I use rosemary the most, followed by parsley, etc. I'm still waiting for enough growth on my bay leaf plant to justify using a leaf - and I seem to have terrible luck with basil.

    Thanks for the link.


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