Sunday, October 07, 2012

THE ANSWER MAN: Family Gardening

The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (10/1/2012)

          Question:  I’ve a secret I’ve kept from my children.  I don’t like to pick weeds, not even as a boy.  Once, I was sent to bed without my supper for refusing to pick weeds.  Now, I want my sons to pick weeds.  Should I tell them about my behavior as a boy, or should I keep it a secret?  My wife doesn’t even know.  She’s a Master Gardener and an enthusiastic weed picker.  What’s your opinion on full disclosure, like weeds and income taxes.

         Answer:  Well, full disclosure is always the right thing, unless you want to keep a secret, like smoking pot in the boy’s restroom at high school or cheating on your income taxes.  Then you keep secrets.

          The problem isn’t so much honesty as it is a division of labor, and that would allow you to be honest with your sons.  Deceit, denial, evasion, and obfuscation never work.  As politicians find out, cover-ups often bite them in the butt. 

A friend of mine told me about picking weeds as a boy in California.  The weeds were geraniums.  His father sent him with a hoe and shovel to chop geraniums.  They exuded a sticky, whitish gunk that got all over his skin and itched something fierce.  His father got in there with him, and together they hacked geraniums.  Often, he took him on expeditions along back country roads all over Southern California looking for oak leaf mold.  They’d come back home with large gunny sacks filled with the stuff.  He loved those trips.   Don’t use your boys to do just the scut work of gardening, or your daughters, for that matter, if you have any.  Include them in the fun times of gardening.  They’re not your employees.


          Question:  That’s all well and good, but my wife, Doris, is a speed demon at spotting weeds.  She even uses their Latin scientific names.  When she spies some cheat grass, she’ll say, “Harry, pick those Bromus tectorum over by the sidewalk” or “Get Centaurea diffusa before it goes to seed.”  It’s like I’m some kind of employee.  If she really loved me, she’d know about my aversion to weed picking without me having to tell her.   I don’t know what to do.  I feel so alone and confused.


          Answer:  Buck up!  Don’t be a weed wimp.  It sounds like Doris runs your family.  You’re probably resisting her.  I doubt she really likes to pick weeds but does it because it’s the right thing to do.  She sounds like “a-right-thing-to-do” personality.  Never ask your children to do something you’re unwilling to do yourself.  In short, confess your sins and pick weeds with your sons, even making a game of it, like giving them the names of people you and they dislike.  I give my weeds the names of several plutocratic politicians.  That way you can dig out the weeds, roots and all, with gusto.


Question:  But what about Doris?  What should I tell her?  I mean this whole feminist thing has really taken hold of her.  It’s almost like she’s possessed.  She’s so assertive.  I don’t know what’s happened to her.


Answer:  Look, buddy, Doris has found her voice.  Be grateful that she’s got some gumption and stop whining.  What do you want?  A woman who thinks she’s an assistant male?   Tell Doris first.  She’ll want to hear it from you, not second-hand from them.  I can tell you one thing, “if mamma ain’t happy, nobody ain’t gonna be happy.”  You could tell her about your childhood trauma of missing dinner.  She might even sympathize with you.  Then you can use her considerable energy to get in there and pick the damned weeds.  Never resist someone else’s power.  Always use it.  The only way to get over your aversion to picking weeds is to pick weeds, even the dreaded Scotch thistle or as Doris would say,"Onopordum acanthium."  Cowboy up.  Doris might fall in love with you all over again.  If you want a happy wife, smiling children, and a beautiful garden, you need to pick weeds.  A famous horticultural shrink told me: “Families that garden together stay together.”  Well, bucko, picking weeds is just the shadow side of gardening.        

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2012

Dana Prom Smith along with Freddi Steele edits Gardening Etcetera and emails at  This article appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun, 10/13/2012.




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