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Margaret Hartley's Greenpoint
by Margaret Hartley


A Daily Gazette community blog
Ideas on greener living

I'd rather be weeding

When summer house guests were due to arrive midweek, we took a quick look around, trying to gauge the state of our home from an outsider’s perspective.

I believe our decorating style is called Unmitigated Disaster. From anyone’s perspective.

As poor as our housekeeping skills are under the best of conditions, this time of year they get even worse. Who wants to stay inside?

So in addition to laundry and dishes waiting to be put away and floors that — no matter how often we sweep — are dotted with tracked-in garden soil and pieces of hay, there’s all that food from the garden lying around. A peck of cucumbers. A blueberry box full of baby zucchini and summer squash. A bushel basket overflowing with chard and kale to freeze. A counter full of cabbage waiting to become sauerkraut.

I think it’s all very attractive, but others might have another point of view.

But I’d rather spend my time away from work in the garden or the woods, or just about anywhere that’s not indoors.

Last weekend I spent an entire day in the garden — a full eight hours, most of it weeding. My plan was to spend the next day working inside the house, but by then I was pretty sore. So I needed a good long walk.

On the garden day, I had a leisurely early morning, walking the dog, feeding the animals, reading the paper, drinking coffee.

I headed to the garden around 9 with a basket, garden shears in one back pocket and a spade in the other, and a flat of young lettuce plants. My plan was to transplant into all the spaces where big lettuces had already been harvested.

But in the next row were the cucumbers, spreading into the lettuce on one side and the garlic on the other. I started moving vines back to their row, uncovering weeds and ripe cucumbers as I went. Soon I had a big pile of weeds and a basket full of cucumbers.

At the end of the row, I moved into the garlic, then into the row of herbs.

Three hours later, I had made it through the tomatoes, carrots and beets, and had changed my mind about where to plant the new lettuces. Clearly the cucumbers were planning to move into the former lettuce row, and the new transplants would have to go where the onions had been harvested a few days earlier.

I find weeding meditative, in a way that house cleaning never is. So I can keep at it, letting my mind wander.

And even before I started weeding, the garden was in much better order than the house. My husband cultivates — with a wheel hoe or a tiller — in between rows, and the baby chicks clean up bugs and turned up weeds as well.

So there were no weeds in the aisles, but in between the plants themselves there were plenty. A lot of it was purslane and that related creeping weed I don’t know the name of, which have to be hand-pulled and removed from the garden in a bucket.

The goats, the chickens and the ox lads find them tasty, and I made deliveries whenever the bucket got full. That gave me a chance to stand and stretch after all that squatting and bending.

I must say the garden looks very orderly, much neater than the house. Maybe I should put our house guests there.

They are old friends, and certainly used to our particular housekeeping style. And they’ll help us eat all those baskets full of vegetables, and maybe help me with the sauerkraut.

I know they’ll want to hike and swim while they’re visiting, and I’ll have to go with them.

That’s what summer’s about.

Margaret Hartley is the Gazette’s Sunday and features editor. Greenpoint appears in the Gazette’s print edition Sundays on the Environment page.

Have a question or a topic you’d like addressed on Greenpoint? Contact or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter.

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