Weeds, Weeds and More Weeds

[Previous Rural Farmgirl, June 2010 – January 2012]
Weeds. We’ve all got ’em. Around the farm, the month of June is spent dealing with them – either pulling and tossing them into the compost pile, pulling them and letting them lie where they fall for mulch or, for the especially ugly ones, throwing them away. But wait – there’s one more option – and I’m willing to bet you can find it in your very own yard. Oh – and did I mention that they can be found indoors, too?

It’s finally first hay cutting time here – and this morning I can hear a baler across the “street” picking up the hay that’s been down for almost a week. I love that sound. Somehow it’s really comforting to know what comes next around you – whether it’s the seasons, or the surrounding farms’ haying schedules, or, for that matter, that lunch comes after breakfast (except some places, right? Isn’t it supper? Or dinner?). Anyhoo – the current state of our farm requires that I discuss one subject right now, and I believe I’ve spent most of the past two weeks dealing with it in one form or another. Those fast-growing, green-as-Ireland, drought-tolerant…

… Weeds. Ah – weeds. The bane of farmwork. I know we all have them – and I know they get complained about all the time, but this year because of our strangely wet and cool spring we have a bumper crop. So, off to weed we go – let’s start with the out-of-doors varieties…

Around here, field bindweed is indeed enemy number one. I secretly (or not so secretly, now!) believe that the stuff has the magical ability to reproduce and relocate at will – and it takes advantage of that power. We’ve been battling this one for years, now, and I’ve come to the resolution that my best is just going to have to be good enough. The most disappointing thing about this particular weed is that since it’s like morning glory in it’s tendency to climb other plants, it can make a little vineyard of dry grapevines look so lush and leafed-out at first glance, then there’s the sinking realization that all of last year’s growth is simply wrapped in bindweed – not leafed out. Thankfully, by now, the grapes themselves are doing well. Oh,the lament of  bindweed, thistle and foxtail – anyone out there with success stories about any of these?

Next on the weedy roster are things that I’ll just call “regular ol’ weeds.” Now, these I actually don’t mind pulling at all. There is such satisfaction in weeding something. When I’m harried or unfocused or just somehow feeling “behind” in housework, farmwork or any other work there is to do, I know that I can weed and within about half an hour, I will have something real that I can see and feel and be proud of. Sometimes it takes looking at actual progress – not checking things off a list or making phone calls (although I do plenty of those, too!) – for me to boost up my motivation and energy. These regular old weeds are just the ticket. They make a great layer to the compost pile – I feed my kitchen scraps to the chickens so I’m often at a loss for green material – and I actually found myself feeling pretty lucky that my garden area can “feed” the compost pile as well as the family. One tip for weeding – make sure you water the area the day before. Not too much, but enough to soften the soil. That way, you’ll be able to pull the roots out instead of just breaking the tops off of the weeds. This greatly extends the time between weedings!

So, on to my “good” weed of the year – lamb’s quarters. This year, I decided to find one wild, edible plant that grows on our land and learn how to use it. We have lambs quarters here in abundance, and I was used to just pulling them out, composting them and being glad the job was done. This year, however, I decided to do a little research and see how we could use it. The leaves and stems are edible, and I’ve been able to harvest them for about the past month or so. You can steam them like you would spinach, or even saute them in butter with bacon bits (YUM!), but my favorite is to just have the leaves loose in salad. Their whitey-green look adds such a nice texture to a salad, and the taste is sort of, well, like if you put a fresh spinach leaf and a pea pod (withouth the peas in it) in your mouth and chewed them at the same time. So – a summer challenge? Pick an edible weed around you and turn it into something good – just think! One less plant to pull!!!

Looking for a good book on weeds? I’d like to recommend the book, “Weeds of the West,” if you are in the Central to Western part of the United States. It’s an amazing compendium of weedy photos and knowledge to help you identify what’s growing around your place. While it doesn’t specify the edibility of the weeds, at least you’ll know which one to look up and check out! I sure wish I knew comparable books for the East/South/North. If YOU do, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments – I’ll bet they’re just what someone out there is looking for!

All of this outdoor weeding made me want to tackle a little bit of indoor “weeding,” too. “Weeding” through things that have accumulated in our home that are no longer useful, beautiful or loved (or any combination of the three). A spring cleaning of sorts that is lasting through summer, but sometimes that’s just what it takes. I’ve managed the kitchen – and I’m about to apply for the “Get it Together” “Farm Kitchen” merit badge!!! YAY!!! As an aside, my neighbor taught me to sharpen my kitchen knives using a round steel. It’s really cool – definitely a good skill – ‘ever try to cut a tomato with a dull knife? Never again! Okay – so back to the indoor weeds. I’ve also ploughed through the mudroom, which was very much living up to its name, the bathroom and the boys’ bedroom, and today, it’s the front room that needs attention.

Let me share with you my tried-and-true formula for weeding, inside and out:

  1. Pick a manageable area – a garden bed, a room, a certain area.
  2. Give yourself a time limit – now, this is a general one, like “today,” and if you don’t make it, well, you’ll have made good progress and you always have tomorrow…
  3. Start at one corner (for some probably neurotic reason, I start at the doorway of a room and move around to the right), or if you’re weeding, an end of the area.
  4. As you move through, use the time to think about how you really want your life/garden/home to be. One of the coolest things about this life is that we really CAN make it how we want. That sounds pretty Pollyanna-ish, I know, but I’ve found it to be so true – If I go around lamenting about how out-of-control things can get, I’m sure not spending that time making it better. Once I start “making things better,” it’s so much easier to gain and maintain momentum!
  5. When you finish, sit back, have some lemonade – LOVE what you’ve done. Even if you’ve weeded a container garden or simply thrown away empty shampoo bottles, you’re on the way in the right direction. Be proud of yourself! Give yourself a reward! What about a soothing peppermint and basil essential oil foot bath? Okay, so that’s MY reward, but it’s a good one – give it a try – your feet will be so happy…

So, farmgirl sisters, it’s weeding time all over the place. Let’s do it together, shall we? Just imagine – dinner with some things from the garden on a table cleared off and setboth simply and beautifully…I can almost see it now…Can you?

  1. Karla says:

    How true! Just do a small section & all of a sudden you are finished! We have had so much rain it has been hard to even get out a do a small section. We use grass clippings between the rows in the garden to keep down the bulk of the weeds. Then it is just right in the row where you have to weed. It makes it easier for me!

  2. Denise says:

    Bindweed is the bane of our lives. We live in the foothills outside of Colorado Springs, and that rotten bindweed has taken hold throughout our property. Pulling does no good, of course, and we really don’t want to poison it as we want to keep things organic. I’d LOVE to hear any suggestions regarding that pesky weed.

  3. Terrye Lenzini says:

    I’ve just finally finished "weeding" my craft/computer/sewing room. You can see from it’s multi-purpose that in a very small actual bedroom area that I might have a problem. With over 10 years of accumulating scrapbook items alone, not to mention anything else I had a big task ahead of me. I even rearranged pictures and other wall art so that I now feel like it’s a new fresh room without spending a cent. It took me about 4 days but will last a good long time and will be much easier to find things and it’s a much more enjoyable room.

  4. traceyg says:

    Hi Libbie! What a great post! I had never thought of indoor weeding before but it’s so true! I also didn’t realize that there was a badge for "Getting it Together" … that will be my goal. I’m off to weed my living and dining rooms, they’ve become overgrown. Thank you for the inspiration! XOXO

  5. Molly says:

    Perfect timing for this subject in my life! We just moved into our new home, complete with weeds in front that need to be yanked up. Weeds have been on my mind the past few days, and yes, all I have done is THINK about getting out there, but that’s a start, right?! You inspired me to go pluck some weeds today, thank you 🙂

  6. Susie says:

    I, also like to water the night before I weed or I wait till after a rain. I weed a little some where everyday when I am gathering herbs/veggies and then get some help from someone about once every 2 weeks or so. I do the beds and my helper stays in walk ways. The rains here have lighten up as have the mosquitoes, so I am a happy weeder. Thanks for the article!

  7. Bambi says:

    Your blog couldn’t have come at a better time! I was feeling overwhelmed with all my weeds, 4 acres of market garden with no end in sight. I am still waiting for my husband to "fix" the cultivator for our tractor, however, weeds don’t wait, they just keep on growing. Interestingly enough, I actually do harvest Lambs Quarters and sell them at our local farmers market. Now, on to weeding inside – never thought of cleaning house that way. Love your blog, keep it coming.

  8. Hi Libbie, I love your Blog and I like the way you started off your weeding project. So many times I look at the big picture, if you know what I mean and it becomes over whelming. Like my sewing room, I have accumulated so much stuff and then I inherited my Mothers and I have quite a few things and I guess I’ll never live long enough to do all that I want to do, I really need to weed that room. you gave me a wonderful Idea. Thanks for all you do and It helps to read you message. Farm Sister 1020 Juanita

  9. This year I have both my two year old and six year old helping with the weeding – they are actually asking to help.
    I actually really enjoy it too.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

  10. Reba says:

    You are so right about weeding what you can "today." I started in March and worked room by room until May, even in the attic. It has been so much easier to clean house. It leaves more time for vacation, etc. As for the garden, it’s 100+ degrees with 100+ humidity here, so a little at a time has to be done. But no matter how hot, it clears the mind and helps release the concerns in life to work in the garden. Just simplicity and back to nature helps me! I guess I am a little Pollyanna-ish too. Thanks for a great blog.

  11. KimberlyD says:

    I have been told not to put weeds in your compost for they will grow where you use your compost. I never thought of eating lambs quaters, do sound good, might just try it myself.

  12. Debbie says:

    What a timely post for our household! Weeding is good for the soul inside or out no doubt about it! Last week, I participated in a blog party called Where Bloggers Create. ( maybe some of you heard about it ?) I had been daydreaming about using a portion of our unfinished basement for our daughter for several years. And somehow, the more I planned and dreamed the more packed that space became with this and that and things that really needed to be WEEDED OUT in the worst way. ( meanwhile we’ve been using the dining room table for our art projects ) I decided at the last minute to participate in the party giving myself only 4 solid days to finish the space to the point that I would feel inspired enough to share it with 4 or 5 hundred other bloggers right away. The rules were, you had to do a post about your space on a specific day. A studio show and tell of sorts. It’s been a week and I was just thinking today about how much I got done this week and how good it felt. My little piddly have too’s got checked off quickly, my mind felt clearer, my heart and spirit are lighter, and I feel like I can tackle things again with a happier heart, not an overwhelmed one… Lots of folks perform better under pressure. I guess I’ve become one of them! I agree that the weeding doesn’t have to be a big job, even little tasks like clearing the junk drawer or tidying the cleanser closet do wonders for making a farmgirl on top of the world again!
    Thanks for a great post!

  13. Martha Cook says:

    Liked this blog – esp. about the "indoor weeding". (This may be a bit off track but wanted to let Juanita Massey know that "ancestor.com" has a lot of Massey & Massay family history/photos – I also come from the Massey/ay group. I love that site because so many people are getting in touch with offspring of their ancestors.) Lambs-quarters are very nutritional. Dandelion leaves are also good, very packed with calcium, but rather bitter. Sheep sorrel is another very good herb, has a surprising taste, like the sharpness of a Sweetart, but not sweet. This herb is one of the main 4 herbs in the compound "Essaic", used to fight cancer.

  14. carolj says:


    I was really inspired by your three H’s: hard work, heart work, and handwork. May I use those headings to categorize the activities of my day?

    Weeding is non-stop here in Georgia. Here’s a tip I learned from my mom. When there isn’t time to do a proper job and you see a few seed heads forming on dandelions and thistles, just lop off the heads. At least the seed won’t spread before you have time to grab a hoe and dig out the roots.

    I’m looking forward to reading more from you.


  15. Nikki says:

    I just love your blog so much! Great ideas in this one! Keep up the good work – can’t wait for your next entry!

  16. Jan says:

    Wo. I can’t believe how that simple idea of "weeding" has taken root! Yesterday my husband said, "Hey! What happened to your desk!?" Without thinking, I said, "I weeded it!"
    Of course, the drawers are still overgrown, but….at least the top looks great! I keep catching myself stepping into the room just to look at it! Amazing that such a little thing makes me feel so accomplished, and like maybe I DO still have a little control in my very busy life! A little weeding at a time every day! My new favorite developing habit! Yay!

  17. Catherine says:

    Great post, Libbie!
    Bindweed is the most abundant thing growing at our spot in the community garden. The more I pull up, the more sprouts elsewhere. Very frustrating.

    I love other weeds, especially those wild edibles. Here is a great website for learning about edible wild plants: http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/

    I’m working on some indoor weeding myself, tackling those spots that are most annoying to me … just like that bindweed!

    Catherine 🙂

  18. bullsbaby says:

    Thanks for the …..inspiration! I am in a weeding MOOOOOOD!!!! ha ha! I have weeded out my office for the coming school year, I have weeded out several places in my home and all my "courtyard garden" in between the cobblestones. I don’t mind weeds too much outside, it keeps the dirt down, the dust from flyin’ and its green! ( not much of that around here) weeds and weeding is a part of life…. shoulda had my name…."weeder"" hahha!Thanks for all the ideas!!!!

  19. estelle says:

    The best way to work out how to get rid of a weed is to try to grow it. put it in a pot and use all your gardening skill to grow the best weed possible. when you have worked out what it needs to grow well you will know what will hurt it most. The bane of our lives is butter cup and i followed this method and discovered it loves potash and hates sulpher and coppersulphate so i added both to our annual fert programme and bingo lovely grass no buttercup. maybe bind weed has a simple dislike as well. you can also try testing soil samples from the places it grows best and the places it wont grow to find the element you need. you could also research the things that eat it bugs ainimals etc maybe all you need is an mongoos or a herd of green shield beetles ;0 lol

  20. Linda says:

    bindweed. we have several small patches of it here on our organic farm. Horrible stuff. When I make my tea in the morning I take the excess boiling water and pour it on the patch near my mudroom door. The patch that is out in the garden area next to one of our fields of hay we covered with a heavy black plastic which we will leave in place at least this summer. I just want to see if we can fry it out. I don’t have much hope except for a temporary fix for either spot. I’ve read that the only way to get rid of bindweed is…..to move 🙁


  21. Denise says:

    Sorry to say the weed situation is no better in N.E.Best I can do is attack on a daily basis.Our worst weed seems to be false rhubarb not sure about the bindweed.Roots go down about 3-4 feet and they are a @#%# to get rid of.

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