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Navigating Weeds

Spring was warm in New England. Much to my delight, I was able to plant early in my large garden at Dusty Dog Farm. Here I feel earth under bare feet, I see life "come to life," I witness miracles, I see resilience and this year I was met with a challenge. Completely unexpected.

Placing tiny seeds into dark, rich soil is a constant joy for me. While and after planting, the garden has an organized look. And slowly (or slowly to me) things start to appear. Rows of tiny sunflowers already tilting towards the sun, soft dill shoots reaching up, generous amounts of carrots in—this year, 8 rows—and weeds, plenty of weeds.

I like the look of a garden free of weeds. I like to feel I can SEE the sunflowers follow the sun or the zinnias paint their amazing colors, with no weeds hindering the picture.

The "no weed" part takes work. Not huge amounts of work, if you stay on top of it. Generally, I will spend 3-4 hours weekly tending the garden. I am fortunate enough to have a small rototiller, a hoe and a love for the work. It feels like creativity and mindfulness wrapped in a good stretch, light exercise and carefree joyous awe.

Not a week after the garden was planted almost in entirety, the unexpected appeared in the form of two very active birds in one quarter of the garden. I pulled out my dusty and minor education on birds, recognizing the pair as Killdeer. They nest on the ground. And wouldn't you know it, this pair of Killdeer chose to set up homemaking right smack in the middle of my 8 rows of carrots.

a small brown and white bird runs along the grass
A Kildeer running along the ground.

Initially I noticed the birds going through great enactments to get my attention when I got anywhere near the carrots. A fascination took hold, and I began to research. Mated pairs have close bonds. They take turns sitting on the "nest" (a dirt hole). It takes 22-28 days for the eggs to hatch. Instead of weeding, I began to sit and watch the birds. I "found" the nest. I began to worry that I would stress them. So, I stopped weeding in the carrot section...about one quarter of the garden space. Weeds began to win. But I was content, figuring the reward of seeing baby Killdeer would be worth the weed battle I would face after the bird family departed.

four black speckled white eggs in a ground-based nest
Kildeer eggs in a nest on the ground.

My bedroom overlooks the garden. I love wide open windows in the summer, listening to the sounds of night settling in or of the morning birds waking the rest of us. One morning in the wee hours, I woke with a start, hearing the Killdeer sounding seriously alarmed. I felt a nagging worry as I drifted back to sleep. The next morning my family was gone. The dirt basin empty, no eggs, no birds.

Days later, when I accepted that they were gone, I began to resurrect the carrot section. The section had gone wild. My job: to free the carrots.

As I worked to free the carrots in a meditative state, I made a carrot section became choked with weeds and with work I am was able to cultivate despite the early hindrance. Well, I think our minds can get easily "choked with weeds" media, endless video games, internet misuse.

two hands separate weeds from carrot fronds
Christina weeding carrots.

So, we know how to free carrots with work, but how do we free our minds from the impact of social media consumption and misuse?

The work is to divert yourself from your device, set boundaries for use and stop use an hour prior to bed. What you gain in doing this is the opportunity to keep your mind free to learn, laugh and love. Our job: to free our minds.

So despite the sadness and curiosity surrounding the Killdeer disappearance, I am grateful to be freeing my carrots and freeing my mind.

The Killdeers' presence enabled me to pause, to wonder, to learn, to laugh, to feel sadness and to get to work restoring my garden. I hope you find yourself in a summer story that is not choked with weeds, whether it is weeds of the world or weeds of nature.

Enjoy every minute of summer

All my best,

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