THE FUNNY FARMER: An astonishingly boring, painful, humorous and occasionally insightful approach to gardening and life as amom, a former psychotherapist, and apparently a life-long patient.


My name is Cherie and I live in Southern Maine with my husband and two young children. I have a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and still have about 10k in remaining student loans to prove it. I left the field of practice three years ago, so this is not the place to be posting any suicide notes, okay? But if you want to hear about my garden and my gremlins, my pests and my problems, well then you just sit right down and read on!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Weeding Plants and People

I hated weeding as a child.  It was a chore that required completion in order to not only receive my weekly allowance, but to also avoid punishment from my erratic father (the latter of which was ALWAYS a priority in our house).  I recall many a summer day weeding in the garden when all I really wanted to be doing is riding my bike, building a treehouse, or playing kickball.  Weeding was tedious and boring and interfered with fun with my neighborhood friends.

At times weeding was even difficult, especially in the rows of early corn.  It was hard to differentiate between the weeds and the seedlings.  One time my father was weeding a few yards behind me and pulled out all of the weeds I had not pulled, at risk of them being corn seedlings.  Very sternly my father commanded my attention, pointed out the lookalike weeds on the ground, and claimed that they were corn.  My heart sunk, believing that I had pulled out these precious seedlings.  Then my heart began to race, fearing the ensuing punishment from this erratic grown-up.  But instead he began to laugh and fessed up.  My heart still lodged fimly in my throat, I attempted to laugh as well.  This was his idea of a joke.  It's my idea of anxiety.

Perhaps this is why I like to weed when I am anxious and/or angry.  Instead of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, I scold the weeds with severe displeasure at their very existence.  I reprimand them for daring take up precious nutrients and space in my garden.  And finally I pull them, trying to pull up as much of their subterranean evidence as possible, leaving their roots to dry in the sun before moving their withered carcasses to an undiclosed location. 

In addition to becoming sociopathic while weeding, I also become philosophic.  I can't help but ponder things liked, "What is a weed, anyway?"  Seriously!  Think about it!  I loved dandelions as a child and was utterly baffled by my father's insistance that they were evil.  Now I understand why.  And how about invasives like evening primrose or wild morning glory?  They are beautiful yes, but they will crowd out your other precious babies.  I took some evening primrose from my MIL's "wild area" and put some in my tiny 0.21 acre lot.  Big mistake.  They are lovely to begin with, then they began crowding out my lillies, my sage, and overtaking my lawn.  Like a total chucklehead I even shared some with my neighbors (sorry guys...). 

So what is a weed, anyway?  The omniscient Wiki says:

A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-made settings such as gardens, lawns or agricultural areas, but also in parks, woods and other natural areas. More specifically, the term is often used to describe native or nonnative plants that grow and reproduce aggressively.[1] Generally, a weed is a plant in an undesired place.

Hmmm... which gets me all philosophical again.  I start thinking about some of the people in my life as weeds that need uprooting or that I have uprooted, somtimes angrily, sometimes by accident, and sometimes without even realizing it.  Do you have any of these people-weeds in your life?  Pretty perhaps, but invasive?  Aggressive?  Sun stealing?  Nutient robbing?  A general nuisance?

Yes, uprooting undesirable plants was definitely a boring chore as a child and a teenager.  Weeding out peers sometimes came naturally, but I often did it with too much venom, much like my family.  Cut off your nose to spite your face sort of stuff.  Weeding out grown-ups was a whole different story.  It was not possible.  They were always there to contend with.  I lived on their turf.  I attended their schools.  I was born into their world.  Many of them I liked, but some of the ones closest to me were pretty toxic.  You know, like the seed packets that warn you not to use around children.  Some parents should come with such labels.

As an adult, weeding out people still comes with a lot of confusion and frustration.  "But he's pretty." "But she smells good."  "But dammit she's strangling me and sucking the nurtients from my soil!"  And when is enough enough?  I guess that it varies from person to person, plot to plot, season to season.  It can depend on how much nutrients you have available to share.  It can depend upon your definition of a weed.  After all, one person's weed is another person's rose.  So do you put up with the invasive despite your mounting frustration?  When and how do make the decision that they have to go?  And what method do you choose?  Do you attack violently with a hoe?  Cathartic perhaps, but you may not get all of the roots.  Do you go all Round-Up on them and risk the organic nature what you have been cultivating? 

I am trying ever so hard to be thoughtful about the weeds I pull and how I pull them.  If I do it correctly, I can do it with compassion and effectiveness.  Difficult, no?  As a child, I could not weed out my family.  They met many of the criteria of weeds, but I was not a full-fledged-farmer yet.  All my siblings and I had learned about weeding people involved bulk quantities of Rouind-Up.  For example, out of four siblings, I don't think that any of us are on good terms with another at present.  It's all hoes, pitchforks, arsenic, and lighter fluid.  Not much thoughtful or empathic about it.  At this point I have a respectful relationship with my father and mother, but I certainly do not expect it to bloom into a gorgeous bouquet.  I have not weeded them out thoroughly like my sibs have at various points in their lives.  But I visit them sparingly.  This limits the amount of "aggressiveness" I am exposed to, the amount of nutrients they can take, and the amount of sun they may block.

Although I was not handed tools to weed thoughtfully and effectively, I am trying.  Honest, I am.  Deep down inside, I still just want to build a clubhouse with my good friends.  A good resource that I have used for weeding people and drawing/maintaining boundaries is a book called "Emotional Blackmail" by Susan Forward and Donna Frazier.  It is especially relevent when dealing with weeds of an especially toxic, substance abusing, invasive, personality disordered, nutrient sucking nature.  And of course a classic is definitely "The Dance of Anger" by Harriet Lerner.  She eloquently guides women through "weeding" in an effective yet environmentally friendly, non Round-Up manner.  And of course there's always therapy.  It's so helpful to lay it all down and look critically at the relationships in your life.

These are the contents of my brain while weeding my gardens.

May your gardens be free of weeds and may your methods of extraction be effective and compassionate.

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