Start making excuses for dandelions — begin to say that it’s not the crabgrass’s fault, it simply can’t help itself — and the terrorists will have won.

Events conspired to give me a late start on this year’s garden."/>
Start making excuses for dandelions — begin to say that it’s not the crabgrass’s fault, it simply can’t help itself — and the terrorists will have won.

Events conspired to give me a late start on this year’s garden."/> COUNTY AGENT GUY | News, Sports, Jobs - Farm News
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COUNTY AGENT GUY

By Staff | May 28, 2010

It’s time for we Americans to gird our metaphorical loins and wage war against a relentless army of evildoers. Yes, it’s weed season once again.

They say that a weed is just a plant that has no apparent purpose. Well “they” are full of hooey. That’s the type of effete rationalization which will enable the enemy to gain the upper hand.

Start making excuses for dandelions – begin to say that it’s not the crabgrass’s fault, it simply can’t help itself – and the terrorists will have won.

Events conspired to give me a late start on this year’s garden. By the time I got around to tilling our plot, the weeds were running riot, partying like there was no tomorrow. Which, for them, there wasn’t.

Roto-tilling is a good way to become intimately acquainted with your soil. In some areas, the dirt was hard as a cow path; in others, it was fluffy as a featherbed. It occurred that the cow path areas had been packed last summer by my personal footfalls. Cows, it seems, aren’t the only creatures of habit.

Rank after rank of the enemy fell before the tiller’s merciless tines. Take that, you pernicious pennycress? Liquidate those loathsome lambsquarters! Quash that quack grass! Terminate those thistles!

Yep, there’s nothing like massacring a mess of weeds to help a guy work through his anger issues.

Tilling the garden was a huge event when I was a kid. Dad would hook our John Deere “B” to the two-bottom Case plow and pull onto the garden. As we kids gathered to watch, he would yank the trip rope and the plow would bite into the earth.

We would amble along behind it, marveling at how cleanly the plow flipped the dirt, playing with the shiny slabs that had just rolled off the moldboard.

The remaining furrow was ready-made for planting potatoes. Simply toss in the seed spuds, rake some dirt and presto! You might call that lazy, but I say we were efficient.

Planting potatoes brings to mind a story I once heard. An elderly farmer claimed that one year, during the Dirty Thirties, he and his father planted 10 bushels of spuds. They slaved and sweated and hoed and carried water throughout that scorching summer and in the fall they harvested 10 bushels of potatoes.

“But it was our own dumb fault,” lamented the old sodbuster. “We should have planted more!”

Legend has it that Paul Bunyan sowed a mess of potatoes one spring. A drought set in, but Paul labored so furiously in his potato patch that his sweat effectively irrigated the field. He was thus able to harvest a bumper crop of potatoes, saving the loggers from starvation.

I like fresh veggies as much as the next person, but there’s no way I’m going to work that hard.

The other day I was out driving when I spotted something in the ditch. Investigation revealed it to be a white straw fedora, and in pretty good shape. This was a first for me! I’ve never found anything of value.

I’m not a hat wearer. I won’t put on headgear until the wind chill has plummeted to the point where it would cause the ears to instantly crystallize.

But the fedora fit perfectly, which I took as a sign. It’s also nifty-looking, the sort of chapeau Don Draper of “Mad Men” might wear. Or maybe Indiana Jones would sport such a lid if he were a gardener.

His leather satchel would be full of sweet corn seed; instead of a bullwhip, a coiled garden hose would hang from his belt. He would still cut a striking figure even though his holster contains a garden trowel instead of a revolver.

Grandpa Nelson always wore a straw fedora in the summertime, a topper that cost perhaps $1.29 at our local store. He generally chose the model that had a green cellophane visor in the brim.

Grandpa often took me to task for going bareheaded in the hot summer sun. Pointing at his shaded brow, he would declare with fevered conviction, “Ten degrees cooler! It’s been proven!”

He would then doff his fedora to display his sweat-free forehead. I was young and thought I knew everything and saw Grandpa’s advice as annoying at best, ill-informed at worst.

But now I’m wearing that found fedora while working in the garden and have discovered that covering one’s head indeed keeps the head cooler. Plus the hat looks cool. It’s the type of topper Dick Tracy might have worn had he’d been drawn to horticulture instead of becoming a comic strip constable.

And so, for the next several months I’ll be locked in a pitched battle with those wicked weeds. The good guys always wear white hats.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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