What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

– styrofoam peanuts in the treehouse

Casa de WIST came with a treehouse out back, which was really cool.

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Except the 3/4”-plywood floor had rotted before we took posession, which was a sore trial to my inner child’s spirit. Making the treehouse safe will require demolishing the superstructure and building back something more resilient and useful. My superego keeps saying, “Other projects have higher priorities.”

(Inner child heaves long-suffering sigh.)

You’d think at least that I would have, after all these years, removed the styrofoam peanuts that, inexplicably, covered the still-semi-solid parts of the treehouse’s floor to a depth of about two inches. I recently made a list of “ten itches to scratch,” and peanut extraction was at the top. But that was going to require hauling the shop-vac out there, lifting it into the treehouse, snaking an extension cord out to it, and sucking up styrofoam while balancing precariously on the joists. One of my earliest childhood memories is of the two holes in the ceiling my father’s legs made when he fell through while working in the attic. I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps.

But a couple days ago I finally said, “Okay, I’ll at least start by grubbing out a bag to put the peanuts into.” And the rest followed, step by step.

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Ah, (skritch skrich), that feels good.

shedding style: remove and throw away
destination: landfill (unfortunately)

Comments welcome … have you a list of itches to scratch? What might go on it?

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back to the garden

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden

—Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock”

Due to a crowded calendar and abundant rains, I haven’t been able to spend much time lately developing our front-yard terraced garden. We got the lower and upper beds planted and mulched, but the middle terrace still needs the hand cultivation and weeding that will eventually manage the outbreak of bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus), and purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus).

Georgia red clay ... sometimes it would rather be a brick than grow a garden, but I love it.

Georgia red clay … sometimes it would rather be a brick than grow a garden, but I love it.

“Ten more linear feet,” I told myself this evening. (I got its first ten cleared three weeks ago.) “Ten feet a day, and it’s done in four days.” It took about an hour. I loosen the soil with a digging fork, then grasp each stem between finger and thumb and carefully pull, taking care to remove as much of the roots as I can. If the middle bed responds like the upper and lower beds, a few individuals will survive, but I’ll get them with ordinary attention to weeding.

“Aren’t there chemicals for that?” someone asked me. Yeah, Big Ag will cheerfully sell you those. Never mind they’re only “moderately effective” on these species. Never mind they’re hardly selective in their effects, don’t stay where you put them, may persist for years, and combine with other compounds in ways no one expects—though they should. I’d rather shed my weeds by the sweat of my brow.

shedding style: remove, refuse
destination: a segregated compost pile

Comments welcome … what shortcuts do Big Ag, Big Pharma, and Big Oil offer that you’d just as soon refuse?

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yellow nutsedge

My little break from WIST lasted longer than I thought because, in my spare hours over the last three days, I’ve relentlessly shed yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). A vigorous stand of it has exploded in my front-yard vegetable garden beds. I should have expected so … the infection arrived in a load of compost I bought and applied in the spring of 2013. I noticed (and pulled) the characteristic triangular stems and pale rhizomes when they sprouted in the pile, but I neglected to do enough research to learn that nutsedge grows from very persistent tubers. So now they’re in my garden and we’re struggling for control of the space. If I cultivate and remove the stems enough times (six or more, the sustainable agriculture literature suggests), I can starve most of the tubers out. And I have to try, because the network of roots, rhizomes, tubers, and foliage nutsedge produces will otherwise out-compete my food crops.

I don’t dare try to dispose of the plant matter I’m pulling in my own compost piles; they don’t get hot enough to kill the hardy tubers and rhizomes of nutsedge. Instead I plan to dry them and then make use of the ancient agricultural practice of purification by fire. The carpenter of Nazareth said something about grass that’s thrown into the oven and burned (recorded in Matthew 6:30 and Luke 23:28) that’s always baffled me, till now. Why burn grass? I wondered. Now I know.

yellow nutsedge with tubers

yellow nutsedge with tubers

Other than that it wants total world domination, nutsedge is an interesting neighbor. In some regions and cultures, the tubers, called tiger nuts or chufa, are an important crop. (They’re the key ingredient of the Spanish beverage horchata.) I don’t plan to try to harvest mine, but I’m glad to remember there’s likely some good in everything, even in what I desperately want to shed.

shedding style: remove
destination: fire and ashes 

Comments welcome … got weeds?

Update: ’cause baby, I was born this way, my curiosity provoked me to try one. Raw, my test tiger nut was bitter, but had an agreeable peppery-minty taste, over a foundation like almonds. Interesting, but not enough to propel me into cultivating them.

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