I guess the most common definition of a weed is a plant growing where you don’t want it to grow. We pull many of them from our vegetable garden with annoying regularity. However, we often forget to overlook the natural beauty of many so-called “weeds,” as they brighten our landscape with vibrant colors and fill the fresh country air with their pleasing scents. That is why I consider spring to be the most fragrant season of the year. We also casually ignore their importance to the honeybees we rely upon to pollinate the plants in our vegetable garden that we depend upon to survive. Our early ancestors learned the medicinal value of many common weeds from the Native Americans who preceded them. Some weeds can even help keep unwanted bugs away, many of which are also underappreciated and misunderstood. The truth of the matter is that we rely on all these tiny living things to keep our environment in balance and to make our lives more pleasant. After all, it’s the flowering roadside weeds that the Highway Department routinely mows that make a casual drive on our country roads such a pleasure to enjoy.
Although we do remove competing plants from our garden, we try to appreciate the weeds that grow on our farm and work to give them a place of their own. We do this despite vociferous objections from one of our newest neighbors who feels our farm property detracts from his because we don’t mow our lawns to a manicured, regulation golf course height as often as he does. I guess we just don’t feel the need to maintain four acres of manicured lawns merely for him to admire. We try to maintain a neat homestead farm environment, which is typical of our rural working landscape. We simply appreciate nature for what it is and try to work with it rather than transform it.
It never ceases to amaze me to learn how former city people—who are attracted to life in the country because of its natural and scenic beauty—vainly seek to mold it into their own city-inspired model of suburban order and tidiness. Where they see only tall grass (weeds), we see a natural carpet in our field, through which waves of soft summer breezes gently sweep during the day and that provides a nightly stage for tens of thousands of fireflies that twinkle softy like stars throughout the night. Besides, they don’t seem to realize that our hayfield contains a number of rock outcrops that would suddenly transform their zero-turn radius riding lawnmower into a worthless pile of scrap metal. Just ask Scott Kimble, a local farmer who harvested hay from our field for many years how many times he had to repair his haying equipment from the damage those rocks caused.
As I’ve said many times before and still adamantly contend, it’s the little things in life that we fail to appreciate that often make our lives more rewarding and that make nature function according to its design. Even with all their self-proclaimed education and sophistication, city people often don’t seem to understand or value the true nature of rural areas. In my mind, many of them suffer from a multi-generational gap in their knowledge and understanding of the natural world. Having experienced life in both worlds (urban and rural), I feel that urban dwellers seek, by necessity, to adapt the natural world to serve their needs, while rural people work harder to adapt their living to fit the constraints of the natural environment that sustains them. While that is not a firm, mutually exclusive dividing line, it does reflect the different ways of thinking that distinguish between urban and rural values.
For us, weeds are not unsightly, useless, or undesirable intruders on our lives. They are simply part of the inspiring diversity of our natural world that enhances its beauty and teaches us how we should live within it. We enjoy all the delicate flowers and plants that abound on our farm and try to give them the space they need to exist. While we do try to control the invasive, non-native species that our modern, global economy has introduced and the plants that were poisonous to our dairy goats, we manage our property to maintain a proper balance between our essential living needs and theirs. I feel that is the best and proper way to live compatibly with nature, which is something more and more people today feel we should do. It is how I was taught to live by my childhood upbringing on a small, family dairy farm, and it remains a fundamental guiding principle of our homestead farming mission here at Peeper Pond Farm.