Wednesday, 23 December 2009

when our choice of vocabulary changes our thinking

I used to hate weeding the garden. Now I don't mind, because I think of it as harvesting the weeds.

My attitude to this task alters with the use of a different verb.

I made this change in my vocabulary, and thus in my thinking, when I read a couple of books by Jackie French: Soil Food and Organic Control of Common Weeds. She believes weeds have a place in our gardens, because they stabilise disturbed ground and prepare it for other species to grow there when the time is ripe. In Organic Control of Common Weeds she writes that they are plants 'in conflict with human wishes... Deep rooted weeds can bring up leached elements from deep in the soil where shallower-rooted plants can't reach. As their leaves break down these nutrients are returned to the top soil where shallow-rooted plants can use them.'

In Soil Food she explains how to sink weeds into a bucket of water (with a lid so mosquitoes don't colonise) and wait for them to decompose. The liquid can then be watered down as a light fertiliser and the gunk in the bottom can be used as mulch.

Here are some weeds I happily collected today, ready to be plunged into water and covered.

And here are some that are ready to go back into the soil.

And here are more.

I now see my weeds as a resource and not a nuisance, all because of changing the words I use in thinking about them.

So what is the origin of the associated noun, weed? According to Linguistic Wonder Series in, originally in Old English we:od meant 'grass, herb, weed'.

So, I don't have to be frightened of the enormous task of pulling out the weeds in my garden. I can see it as an opportunity to return their nutrients to the soil.
If I persevere...


theregatha said...

wow, thank you for that... I was struggling with pulling some weeds this morning. I had just finished meditating and my mind was consumed with the precept of "Do no harm" and I was quite puzzled by the incongruity of this in relation to gardening and determining which plant was to live and which was to be terminated. I now feel much clearer about how this can be a positive action.
Happy New year!

parlance said...

theregatha, almost any weed will return its nutrients to the soil if you wait long enough. For couch you have to wait months rather than weeks, in my opinion.

I find it amazingly different to see a weed and say to myself, if I pull this out and it has no seedheads, I'll lay it on the soil to rot. If it is one that needs to be soaked, I say to myself, I'll harvest that one when I have a bin available. I don't even take care to get all the roots out, now, because if one reshoots I'll harvest it again.