Pulling Lion’s Teeth

May 1st, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

grubberMy beloved biscuit lady humbly shared the many techniques and tools she had learned in a well observed life. Evelyn Justice traveled a bit, read much, and above all listened actively. Coupled with her willingness to try the new, she ended up a master in both the kitchen and the garden.

She provided me the essential information on proper control of dandelions. After we moved from a downtown Boston apartment to our first house with a lawn in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood, we sought advice on the subject. Evelyn had the best and right answer, although not the lazy-person’s one.

I thought of her again today as I was out for my third yard policing with my British daisy grubber from Spear & Jackson. I had to track this down in a specialty garden supply those decades ago, but see now that Target, Amazon and so forth stock several variations. As you can see, ours had given us a lot of service, but it should outlast us. It is the old heavy steel one.

I became intimate with dent-de-lion, lion’s tooth, as the French taxonimized the beautiful-in-yard-of-someone-else-not-too-close weeds at around eight. Summering with my maternal grandparents in an Eastern panhandle West Virginia town for about a decade, I worked. They had been raised county folk after all. One of my tasks was to keep the front and backyards all green, all narrow blades.

The fecundity of that plateau in apple and peach country was astonishing. I suspect you could have spit out a cherry pit and found a seedling the next week. Dandelions there were like the invading critters from sci-fi movies that appeared overnight by the hundreds.

My grandparents didn’t believe in poisoning lawns or flowers. They’d pick off Japanese beetles and send their wee grandson out with a miniature trowel to uproot the dandelions.

I was amused by a aged woman across the street and down two houses, who watched and waited. The only time I heard from her was when she saw that I was finishing and had a big wooden basket (half bushel, as I remember it) jammed with dandelions ripped from their homes. She’d shuffle over and asked whether I was going to use them.

The first time, I asked my grandmother, who said something like what passed for swear words in my family, “Lord, no!” The woman told her that she fried up the greens or had them in salads. She made wine from the flowers, which she said she’d share with my grandmother. Without making too big a point of it, my grandmother said she did not drink, although as I learned from watching, her two nearby children had better not forget to bring a quart of kosher blackberry wine each and every holiday, a cloying syrup that somehow disappeared mysteriously over the holidays.

Then being an apartment dweller in school and adulthood until that JP house, I had little to do with dandelions until my first spring on Bournedale Road. Damn! Hundreds of them!

I had learned organic gardening working with my grandfather, and as a hippie sort, was not a toxin using lawn worshiper. Evelyn had answers from her homes in the South and New Jersey.

There is no secret or magic to non-poisonous removal. Dig. Get the whole root. Repeat. In a few years, you’ll have manageable numbers blown in from less diligent neighbors, but again, the word is manageable.

So, with front and back lawn with dandelions every few inches, I worked with the grubber from one it was new. She was right, and that comes with the hippie-style self-satisfaction of accomplishing the task without deadly chemicals.

So, here I am again, in a new house with a similar, but much less severe problem. This year is nasty though. Our absurd levels of snow and rain were dandelion delights.

They shall be no match for me and my grubber.

Tags: harrumphharrumpherdandelionsgrubberpoisons


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