Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mission Impossible

posted Thu, 22 Jul 2004

I just returned from a seek and destroy mission in my back yard. My first such sortie was when I was ten when we were getting ready to move from Spain back to the US. We were in base housing and the house had to pass inspection before we moved out. My dad gave me a rag and a bottle of 409. “Your objective,” he explained, “is to seek and destroy any and all smudges and dirt on the walls.” His serious tone didn’t fool me, though. I knew it was just housework.

My latest mission is to destroy the weeds in my back yard and the grass in the flowerbeds. Have I mentioned that there is almost no grass in the yard, which is where one would traditionally expect to find it? No! It prefers to grow in the flowerbeds, despite my attempts to keep it out. It stands there, green and tall and mocking, thumbing its nose at me.

I tried all the nice, organic ways of getting rid of the flowerbed interlopers. I pulled weeds. I hoed. I pulled weeds again. I hoed again. The same weeds kept growing back, stronger and nastier all the time, kind of like when you don’t shave your legs for a while because it’s winter and you don’t have to, really, as long as you don’t care what the people at the gym think which I do not.

Finally, I decided it was time to stop being Ms Nice Guy. I bought Roundup. I bought a bottle of it and aimed the nozzle at each clump of weeds and grass and squeezed.

Nothing. The bottle promises that weeds will turn yellow and wilt within a few hours, with full kill, including roots, mind you, in two weeks. Well, I sprayed Friday night (yes, we singletons have a wild and crazy social life, even when we have Harpo), and on Saturday morning, those weeds greeted me with a huge smile and an extended middle finger.

“Same to you,” I muttered as I gave them each another shot. Still no yellowing or wilting.

Last night, I surrendered. I went to the nursery and asked what I needed to do to kill those darn things dead. After some questioning, the garden consultant determined that I was trying to kill nut grass, which apparently is sui generis in the weed world. “It’s real hard to kill,” he said. The stuff he showed me that is supposed to get rid of nutgrass cost $21. Roundup is $3. Of course, Roundup did not appear to be doing the job, so the fact that it was cheaper is like saying tap water would be cheaper than the good stuff.

But still, I demurred. He got another garden consultant, who said that maybe a few extra doses of Roundup on the nutgrass might do the trick. I was going to grab a bottle of Roundup concentrate when I realized it was $18. Well, heck, for just a few dollars more, I would get the really good stuff. Then I started reading labels. There was a bottle of Pronto killer concentrate for $13. It contained isopropylamine salt of glyphosate. Roundup is glyphosate, isopropylamine salt.

To the untrained eye, these might appear to be completely different products. But to one who got an ‘A’ in high school chemistry, it was clear that they were indeed the same chemical combination.

Not only that, but the Pronto was 25% isopro – that stuff – and the Roundup was only 5%. Guess which one was going to make more killer dilute?

I mixed a bottle of it tonight and went out determined to get those weeds. Guess what! Even though the garden grass and weeds (actually, they are all weeds because by definition, a weed is something you do not want in your garden, so the grass is a weed) had not yellowed and wilted within hours as promised on the Roundup bottle, they had at last started to die! Ha! I win!

I gave ‘em each another shot for luck, then started seeking the nutgrass in the yard, which, despite the lack of real grass and the huge presence of dirt, was harder than it sounds because to see nutgrass, you have to be at almost eye level with it. Maybe someone with better vision than mine could see the nutgrass from 5’5” above ground, but not me. Well, maybe me if I’d been wearing my watching the movies and driving glasses instead of my working on the computer glasses.

But that wasn’t the really hard part of it. The really hard part was the squatting to get to eye level. Now, I do squats at the gym. I have worked my way up to real squats, the kind where you balance the bar across your shoulders and then lower your butt as far as it will go. And I don’t mean in the Smith cage, either. So you’d think that I would be able to apply that workout strength to an actual practical use. The main purpose of squats is to lift a saggy butt, but after that, there should be some real-life applications. But no, this is not the case. I didn’t stop spraying because it got dark or the mosquitos got too heavy or because I got all the nutgrass. I stopped because my butt and leg muscles were hurting too much.

So now I am inside, resting from my gardening workout. I have sort of accomplished my mission and think I deserve a reward. I’ll meet you at the medicinal chocolate drawer.

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