Friday, 11 June 2010

Weeds or Wildflowers, and the Eye of the Beholder

It is gardening season, which brings with it, for me at least, the eternal question, what is a weed anyhow?

A friend of mine defines weeds as any plants that grow where you don't want them. Others seem to consider anything that grows naturally, especially native plants, weeds. A third definition identifies weeds as plants that become invasive or detrimental to the local flora and fauna.

As you may have guessed, I find the last definition to be the most acceptable.

Local native plants are well adapted to the area as they have evolved here for thousands of years along with the local fauna. Some plants, such as milkweed (even its common name belies the prejudices we hold!) are crucial to various insects, including pollinators. We rely on pollinators for our fruits and vegetables, so it is important to take their needs seriously. Planting (or letting nature plant) the species that actually really belong in an area is a huge step in helping the local environment.

And before you raise the "native plants are allergens" argument, you need to remember that many introduced species including roses, lilacs and even fruit tree blossoms are also allergens. Killing off all things that have pollen (that would be anything that flowers) because of seasonal allergies is not a viable or practical solution.

garlic mustard
In light of this, I have taken it upon myself to rid my property of garlic mustard, many of the dandelions (but not all--see my much earlier post!), a strange thin viny plant the name of which I do not know but it's one that grows quickly and chokes out everything it encounters, purple loostrife, much of the plantain, and any grasses that find their way into my veggie plot.
There is a pattern here--the plants I'm pulling are all invaders that are not part of the native ecosystem.

I also consider Kentucky bluegrass to be a weed. Why? Because it grows incredibly quickly, takes over other grasses, is a water hog, and spreads well, esp. into my veggie garden. It does not tolerate pets particularly well either. Even though we use a push mower, we need to mow every week with bluegrass, but with low maintenance varieties, we could go for three weeks and see the same (or even less) growth. We never watered our low-maintenance lawn, and only once did it go dormant during the summer in the 10 years we were there.

In our new place, the entire back lawn is bluegrass. I have started overseeding it with deep-rooted, drought-resistant, slow-growing seed varieties, but I suspect it will take a few years to overcome. I am debating picking up white clover, which worked very well at our last house, but comes in large packages--way too large for our property! Anyone want to split a bag?

For some fun plant projects to try with the kids, check out the Lemonade plants page here.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Invisible sources of waste

I have said for a long time that the only true "evil" in the world is waste, whether that be the waste of material goods, resources, life (as in murder or negligence), trust (lies, theft and other types of deceit), self-worth, dignity, faith, honour, reputation, time--all the things that are undesireable in our world that I can think of can be labeled under the heading of "waste".

A couple of months ago, the glass jar for our blender broke. A quick look online showed that replacing just this part would not be easy. There are replacement jars available, but they come from a different country and the shipping costs more than the entire blender. I could replace it with plastic, which would be easier to get, but would not last as long or, IMO, be as healthy a choice as glass.
I like the blender. It's not perfect, but worked well enough. We replaced the fuse about a year ago, but other than that, plus the ordeal of having to scoop out stuff that gets stuck in the bottom under the blades (a dilemma common to every blender I've used), it's worked well for us.

Being without a blender (or chopper, food processor, etc.) has made it nearly impossible to prepare some of our family favourites.
So I went online to the Canadian Tire website to see what my options would be for replacement. I was astonished to read how people replaced it after "burning out the motor". Sounds to me more like a burnt-out fuse by the descriptions given.

This reminded me of the family I know (that shall remain unnamed) that replaced their entire cordless phone when their rechargeable phone battery died. The batteries are quite common and easy to replace, but they opted instead to replace the whole thing--and not just once either!

So now I wonder how many perfectly good items are thrown out because the owners either didn't know they could easily replace a part, couldn't be bothered replacing it, or, in the case of the glass jar, couldn't find a necessary replacement part.

BTW, anyone happen to have a spare glass jar for an Oster blender that they no longer need? OR, does anyone want or need the bottom part (motor) of one?

Monday, 7 June 2010

Little Things

So often in our busy lives we overlook the little things in life. There is nothing like the joy of a child to bring it all back into perspective.
A couple of years ago we armed our kids with inexpensive digital cameras and let them show us the world from their perspective. I never cease to be amazed by what my children can teach me!

From the activities of a colony of ants, the leg movements of a caterpillar, the striped pattern on a dragonfly's abdomen, to the fine weave of a spider's web, the kids have reminded me to look to the small things. And not just in nature either--but also in our relationships with each other. How just sitting and being can be much more meaningful than rushing to a multitude of planned trips, outings and even planned activities at home. How just goofing around and relaxing together, being there, truly in the moment without distractions is what true "quality time" is really all about.

Bees come to mind. Once taken for granted, their sudden decline has reminded us of the crucial role they play in our own well-being. We rely on them to pollinate many food crops for ourselves as well as for livestock. A tiny, inconsequential bee has the power to help feed us.
Likewise, small things can be devastating, such as the bubonic plague that wiped out a quarter of the European population in one fell swoop.

In many ways, we would be wise to remember the small things. From viruses, to seeds, to a smile from a loved one, the small things often carry the most power and potential.