Monday, July 12

Subduing the Earth

Today my hands look like working man hands. The fingernails are short, but there is a little line of garden dirt that hasn't yet been scrubbed out rimming them. I have been attacking the chickweed in the vegetable garden that sits in the rear portion of my back yard.

I've been told that before we moved in here, the back third of our back yard was used as a corral for horses. The horses were left free to graze in the bush for much of the time, but coralled when they might be needed for riding or packing. There are still a couple of remnants of the wooden corral fencing remaining in the fence system, so I imagine that's true, although we live right in town, on a city street, with neighbors close on either side, and it's hard to imagine what it was like to be living so close to a few fenced-in horses. But things were a little wilder and a little woolier back then, and I suppose any inconvenience would have been chalked up to the fact that this is not downtown Toronto.

That this is not downtown Toronto used to be the excuse for a lot of inconvenience and unpleasantness: gravel streets, roaming dogs, blowing litter, and trashed vehicles left to rot in a parcel of green space. Lately though (and lately, for someone my age, means "in the last 20 years or so"), the general attitude has changed, and I attribute that to the influx of downtowners--from Toronto and Vancouver and various other cities--and now we have dog licensing and mandatory leash laws, and cat licensing and leash laws, a recycling centre and compost pick up. Paved streets, too. Everything a proper city ought to have, we have. But no horses. Not in the city.

This brings me back to the point I was planning to make about those horses before I got sidetracked: the horses coralled where my vegie garden is now must have done a lot of grazing on chickweed, because I have chickweed in spades. No wild grasses or tasty fireweed popping up between the plants, just chickweed. The lady that used to be our neighbor gave me a big yellow plastic bucket--probably 3 times the size of a 3 gallon bucket--and I have filled that with chickweed pulled from the garden 10 times or so, dumping each load into the back ravine. (I probably shouldn't admit this. There's probably a bylaw forbidding it.) Ten buckets full, and I'm still less than half way toward dechicking the whole garden.

I'm trying to get at it before it flowers and goes to seed, but I might be fighting a losing battle, and next year I might have twice as much chickweed, although it's hard to imagine that this would be possible. I'm tempted to go with the strategy behind the parable of the wheat and the tares--leave the tares be, and then harvest them along with the vegies and destroy them. But chickweed isn't a growing alongside sort of weed; it's a choke the life out of everything else sort of weed.

So that's where I'll be this afternoon. Getting dirt under my fingernails and staining my knees. Out in the beautiful sunshine, subduing my portion of the earth.