Tuesday, April 19, 2016


This is the view from our South facing sliding glass door.
 The mass of flowering Fringe Cups are splendid to behold
in the early morning sunlight.
Fringe Cups (Tellima grandiflora) flowers close up.

Weeding is a “close up and personal” activity which is simple but not easy. Weeds are what a gardener does not want in her or his garden, so the gardener considers the best way to get rid of them. For the Earth conscientious gardener the choice to weed, a simple but not easy activity, is a no brainer when one considers the alternative of spraying weeds with an herbicide. From where do herbicides spring? From factories that produced nerve gas used in World War II is the answer. If one is spraying with a chemical designed to kill a plant that is a living BEing, one might consider what else besides the weeds the spray will affect and realize that there is no such thing as a “safe” and/or “organic” herbicide.  In California now RoundUp must carry a warning that it can produce cancer.

This year with the several months of El Nino rains which meant warmer than usual temperatures for the rainy months here in Northern California there is now a plethora of weeds. Really we had only a month (December) during which we had frost or freezing temperatures. With the warm, abundant rains the seeds in their bank (aka soil) sprouted everywhere and roots of weeds not removed in previous seasons flourished.

Talking with a friend during our walk and his bike ride, he shared he goes out a couple hours in the morning because that is as long as his knees last then rests until after his midday meal then another couple of hours of weeding again on his knees which is followed by another rest until late afternoon when he spends another couple of hours amidst the weeds digging them out on his knees.

My daily weeding routine differs from our friend’s but is done on my knees nonetheless. In this position one is close to the soil and can clearly experience the soil as a living organism pulsating with life giving energy. In most areas of MuRefuge everything goes except the native plants. The most prevalent weeds seem to be an invasive geranium and an equally invasive salvia + of course, the invasive European grasses which crowd out the native bunch grasses.

Let me share: the carbon production from the weeds this season is huge!!!! Wheel barrows after wheel barrows laden with freshly dug out, not only weeds, but their entire root system as well,

are making their way to our very large, and growing every day, compost pile beneath a composting fleece blanket.

Last year all of MuRefuge’s weeds went into a green bin and were picked up by the “garbage company.” At the time all the green waste went to Sonoma Compost where it was composted and then could be purchased for use by anyone in the county wanting to feed their soil. Sonoma Compost has been closed by the Board of Supervisors. And now the green waste from the county is trucked some 300 miles. YIKES! was my reaction when I heard this, and I set out to find an alternative to green bins picked up weekly for MuRefuge’s “green waste.” In Permaculture’s way of viewing weeds, grass clippings, pruning remnants and the like, these are a rich carbon source for feeding the soil and her inhabitants. 

Thus weeding and mulching (this topic is for a later post) is once again in the forefront of activities here at MuRefuge. And for those interested in learning more about the process using the composting blanket here is a link to an article written by the owner of the company from whom we purchased our blankets.

And in the early morning as the sun rises when I am sitting, I often see a hummingbird sipping nectar from the diminutive flowers on this figwort. I have seen insect pollinators on the flowers but I had not observed hummingbirds. 

Bee Plant, so named because bees, native or nonnative, 
adore this vigorous native plant with small maroon flowers
or, in other arenas, called Figwort (Scrophularia californica).

During this glorious Spring may we all weed and 

1 comment:

  1. Here's an email I received: "Cathie – I am so pleased you are educating people about herbicides! I think the vast majority of people, who don’t read conservation journals, have no idea where today's herbicides originated. And of course, the same goes for pesticides, and I have often wondered over time whether pesticides and herbicides are contributing to the neurological diseases around us. They probably have more than one cause, (after all, at least some of them have been around since before the advent of modern pesticides) but I am willing to put my money on the "'cides" being a contributing culprit. After all, it does seem to me that a neurotoxin used to kill insects is sooner or later going to have a neurotoxic effect on people, as well as carcinogenic. It gives me the creeps to think of those poor agricultural workers in less developed countries, getting sprayed and drenched with the stuff. I would love to know what your own thoughts are on pesticides and neuro-toxicity.

    Also – looking at your compost-makings. I am wondering what sort of compost set-up you have. Mine is enlosed in a slatted sided box and open at the top, and I have several visiting rats, which I don't mind in principle (since I actually like rats), but they also avail themselves of my bird feeder and won't let the birds in. They are also chomping and pruning my native elder. Do you have a problem with rats? This is of course, the ordinary Norwegian rat.

    Anyway, thank you,
    Kate Weinberger"