Saturday, May 17, 2008

Good vs. Evil

Once when I was writing a paper for a botany class in college, I defined a weed as 'a plant growing where you don't want it to grow.' So, a rose bush in the middle of a wheat field is a weed, as is a grapevine in an apple orchard.

Other people define weeds in other ways. Actually, every state maintains a listing of official weeds. In rural areas, counties have 'weed inspectors' that go around and make sure people don't have lots of weeds in their fields. I guess if you have a lot of weeds in your field, then your neighbor gets nervous about weed seeds blowing onto his field. If the weed inspector tells you to control your weeds, and you don't, you get in big trouble.

It's spring. My garden is starting to grow -- little rutabaga cloverettes, asparagas spears, potato sprouts and pea shoots all poking through the soil. But way ahead of all of these delights is the dandelion. The dandelions in my garden have already flowered and are beginning to seed. Thousands upon thousands of them in my yard, some sneaking out into the alfalfa field around our homestead.

The line between good and evil is blurred when it comes to dandelions. Are they good or evil? Thankfully they're not officially listed as a state noxious weed in Minnesota, otherwise I'd be in big trouble.

Pesticide companies have convinced millions of people that dandelions are evil, and that we need to spend lots of money on chemicals to remove them. Frankly I think the chemicals used to kill dandelions are far more evil than the dandelions are. But try convincing a homeowners' association of that.

In my garden they take up valuable vegetable space and no matter how many you pull out, ten times that amount will sprout back up the following week. Yet they are beautiful, turning a empty green sky of lawn into a starlit expanse of yellow. If I had more time and motivation, I might even try picking the young greens for salad, or collecting the flowers for wine.

Perhaps the turning point in the argument for me is what happens at about 4 o-clock in the afternoon on a school day in the spring. My seven-year-old gets dropped off the bus, walks into our yard and kneels down on the grass. He then comes into the house gripping a handful of yellow flowers picked for his mom.

Dandelions are most definitely good.

P.S. Minnesota's official noxious weed list can be seen here:

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