A Riot of Vetch, Knapweed, and Tansy

By Marylyn Cork

Weeds, I have ‘em. Thanks to the Panhandle’s wet, cool spring, such a crop of grasses and weeds as I have never beheld previously in my life has established itself in my yard. I hardly exaggerate. It seems as though every variety of clover that’s ever flourished on the face of the earth has invaded my lawn. Blue blooming vetch grows as tall as I am wherever I don’t pull it. There’s nothing around to eat it, so it climbs the fences, and coils itself in thick rolls that grab at your ankles if you try to walk through it. Not just on my property, but everywhere.

“What is that stuff?” a bewildered granddaughter asked me the other day. “It grows all over where I live.”

I tell her rabbits love it, and it’s good cattle graze. Otherwise, it’s just a nuisance.

Spotted knapweed, where the knapweed bugs have either missed it or haven’t gotten to it yet, grows over my head alongside a shed where a weed-whacker can’t be employed. Tansy blooms yellow along the creek and advances like an army on the move. Grasses grow tall along the roads.

Any plant that grows where it’s not wanted is a weed, ‘tis said. I’ve got a lot of unwanted plants and so does the population at large.

The upside is that it’s a great hay year, and because of all the rain that continued through June, the farmers are busy with it now. Better yet, no forest fires have threatened anybody or smoked up the skies. But we’ve been told to look out for August, when all the green stuff dries out and summer really settles in. The forests are stuffed with combustibles that will be tinder-dry.

It’s not that the long rainy season brought us so terribly much precipitation—it’s that it came nearly every day in sporadic showers, sometimes very heavy for about ten minutes, but often light, also for ten minutes. This made it almost impossible for gardeners like me to keep up with the weeds that sprouted a new crop every day or two. I have a big yard with many flowers, shrubs, and trees to take care of—not so much lawn. Age has forced me to hire someone to mow that. I was lucky enough to make contact the first try with a fifteen-year-old who does an excellent job. He’s very faithful.

However, I can’t afford anyone to help with the weeding, and probably couldn’t find anyone if I could. Every year I start the job as early as I can get outside to do it—usually in early or mid-April, but I think this year I actually started raking the lawn in late February, dodging rainstorms. I finish the first go-through usually around the first of June, not working every day, of course, and hardly ever longer than two or three hours a day. This year I finished just before the Fourth of July, and there’s not going to be a thorough second weeding.
It’s too late.

My son and daughter-in-law want me to downsize my flowers. I suppose the day will come when I will have to. But not yet. I don’t mind weeding, I actually kind of enjoy it. It’s so peaceful out there, so lovely. Weeding gets me outside into fresh air, and it’s about the only real exercise I get any more. I survey my handiwork, and what I see is beauty all around me. It makes me feel like a queen of the mountain. I want to carry on yet for a while.

Age (and the pandemic) have circumscribed my life. I can’t spend all my time at the computer—too much of that gives me muscle spasm. I can’t read any more than I already do. Thanks to a workaholic mother, this makes me feel guilty. Just let me carry on for a while yet, I think.  Mom would approve of that.


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Marylyn Cork

About Marylyn Cork

Marylyn Cork has lived in Priest River more than fifty years and in Bonner County more than sixty years. Writing since she was nine years old, she retired as editor of the Priest River Times in 2001. She enjoys reading, gardening, hiking, camping, and traveling.

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