Baby Nettles, Too Cute to Weed?



Gardening is upon us. Even us lax folks must make the effort.  An effort involving heartless cruelty to all the uninvited little plants thrusting themselves up so joyfully from the earth.

After a long, long winter of cold and snow and blizzards howling about the chimney, after the snows receded to leave us in the midst of a sere brown landscape of bare trees and dead leaves, how we hungered for the first hint of green. This sepia period of spring seems to last and last, freezing at night, leaving black pools of water in the ditches during the day.

At first, only the most discerning of eyes spot the swelling of tree buds in the increasing sun.  Then, after warm enough days, the tough county grass comes through, poking up little new blades even through frost on top.  One day, a glance outside turns into a double take.  The beige yard, the dun pasture are suddenly altered by a wash of green.  Green that grows stronger almost before your eyes and spreads around the feet of the glum cedar trees and all the way to the waters of the beaver pond.

That grassy resurgence is the true signal for spring to begin.  The tree buds expand and burst, first into spare tree blooms. then into a thickening mass of new leaves.  At this time in the season, there is enough water in our droughty region to keep the earth moist and give the year’s best chance for all the sleeping seeds and dormant roots to leap into action. Some newly released life force runs riot through the soil, leaving no bare patch empty.  All the plants respond, putting their everything into pushing up soft new leaves that open wide to greet the beaming sun and dewy air.

Nettles do it in the midst of my flower bed.  Nettles, dandelions, crab grass, creeping Charlie, even rogue offspring of my Manitoba maple. They have all the freshly minted innocence of wonder-eyed babies or curly faced newborn calves just learning that their awkward legs can jump and cavort. All are  miniature and perfect, complex, brimming with youthful vigor. All are utterly unaware of their situation — straight in the path of my trowel.

Yes, how I hate to snuff out their infant lives before they’ve even got nicely started. But I’m not a hunter gatherer.  I am from farming folk.  Farming folk nurture plants that feed and pay or at least decorate the homestead, not merry interlopers who care not whit about serving human purposes.

Sorry darling adorable little nettle with plans for spikes that sting me.  Slash! Whack! You’re a goner!


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