Seven years ago, Allen made a small pile of manure compost for me outside a corner of the south pasture. I always meant to do something with it, but in the way of things, that chore fell down the list.
Six years ago, while working on another project, Allen tossed the pile with the excavator bucket to kill the giant weeds overtaking it.
Five years ago, I had a dozen six-inch balsam seedlings and stuck them there “temporarily,” some extra daylilies, ditto. The small pile grew tall again with weeds (and the balsams are now five feet high).
Two years ago, finally prodded into action, I waded into the weeds with a weedwhacker — and thought I’d waded into a nest of yellow jackets. I was being stung all over. Oddly, there were no flying insects at all.
Stinging nettles! They must be! I had never seen them before, but I grew up on English novels in which poor little girls were always picking nettles with blistered hands.
Yes, picking nettles. This, to me, is a testament to the amazing creativity of the human mind. Or at least, some human minds. Never in a million years, after being attacked by a plant, would it occur to me: Gee, I wonder if I can eat it? Or, when my hands and arms were lumpy with oozing blisters: Gosh, do you think we could weave cloth out of this? Yet that is exactly what humans did. There are apparently dozens of uses for this wild plant. Just the other day, I informed a country friend of mine that I had stinging nettles. She wrote back: “Make tea!”
Not this girl. Two years ago, I put kill stinging nettles on my list. However, as frequently happens with items deemed less urgent, I did not get to it. The patch of nettles on the compost pile flourished and spread. This spring they are marching down the farm. Last week I found stinging nettles in my daylily beds near the barn. A few days ago I noticed nettles growing at the edge of the pond.
I do not intend to spend my sunset years gardening alongside pitbulls.
Today it is cloudy and 53°, a break from temperatures in the 80s. I will put on gloves and foul-weather gear and pull nettles.