War of the weeds is a ‘hum-dinger’


Oh, the lowly weed. Kick it, hoe it, spray it, pull it. It seems to thrive on our hard work, popping up in another spot just inches away the very next day.

It doesn’t matter if you are a farmer or a hobbyist, mention the heartiest weed you’ve ever fought, and the sympathy and empathy abounds from others who have walked this aggravating path before you.

Armed. I can remember being sent out on search-and-destroy missions on the farm with a hoe and a small shovel. Being careful not to disturb the growing corn, we were told to stomp out the weedy offenders trying to take over the fields.

Dad seemed to know the names of all of those wretched weeds – shepherd’s purse, quack grass, morning glory vines, burdock, Johnson grass, crab grass, dog fennel, Queen Ann’s Lace, and oh, so many more. Some of the names would indicate something pretty, something worth cultivating, I always thought.

A weedy one. This spring and summer has been an incredibly weedy one. The rains have been favorable to quick overgrowth of the offending greens.

The dandelions were fed so well that they grew as if on steroids, all turning in to what my friend’s father called “hum-dingers.” He said it often enough that the children in the family called all dandelions that.

Thistles. I knew a thistle when I saw one, and grew to see them with utter disdain. No matter how steamy hot the day was, thistles required heavy gloves after digging them up, root and all, and throwing them out of the way so they didn’t somehow manage to take root and grow again.

But a thistle seemed a mild-mannered pet compared to the nettles lurking in the weed world. One highly memorable encounter with the petulant nettle and a fellow would pray that it be his last!

The middle of a cornfield could be a hot and lonely place to be on a sunny summer morning. It prompted thoughts of friends who discussed their own summer plans, which sure seemed loads more fun than this.

Sometimes just finding a shade tree was enough to lift the mood and bring that needed surge of energy to continue the war on weeds.

Keeping cows in. Walking the fence on the dairy farm in search of too-tall weeds was another fun event.

The instructions were very clear – the weeds needed to be kept away from the electric fence so they didn’t cause it to short out. If we weren’t thorough and persistent, it would mean the possibility of cattle getting out.

The main motivation behind doing a very good job was this: If the cattle got out, it would mean we would be the ones rounding them up.

Poison ivy seemed to thrive on the edge of pastures, and it could take root and grow in abundance practically overnight, it would appear.

Walking the fence required steady determination, and we were evidently pretty good at it, because it was incredibly rare for our cattle to even attempt to get through the electric fence.

Cash crop. I used to think it was a shame we couldn’t figure out a way to turn those weeds in to a cash crop. I found some proof in the following quote that I’m not the first person to contemplate that one.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.”


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.