Nemesis, and recompense.

This plant and I are currently not on speaking terms. We’re in that stand-offish, close-mouthed stage where each of us stands her ground and stares at the other, willing her to back down.

I don’t know what it is, except that despite its fresh, soft, innocent look, it is not a pelargonium (Geranium). It can’t be. Because I like geraniums, and this plant comes straight from gardener Hell. It spreads via woody underground runners, some of which – I kid you not – were five feet long!!! It had utterly taken over the vegetable patch. I was surprised, when I first went in there to check the place out, how few weeds there were – what I didn’t know was that this monster had strangled them and was feasting on their corpses with its freakishly hypertrophic root systems. It looked nice at first, this soft carpet of shin-high greenery. Surely it would be an easy matter to rip them out of the ground and put in new beds! Well let me tell you how wrong I was.

I rented a rototiller Saturday morning and merrily set to work. After overcoming some issues with the choke, the machine sounded like it was ready to go. I set it into the ground – and after a few strained-sounding pulls, it died. Oooookay, I reasoned, the beds had lain fallow for a couple years, I should perhaps break up the earth. So I shoveled around extensively, leaving no single patch of unbroken earth larger than 6″ square. And again I set the rototiller down. This time it leapt like a bucking bronco, made it through half a row, and again sputtered to a stop. I had only to look down at its tines to see what the problem was: they were swathed, strangled, and helplessly entangled in the sinews of this nemesis devil-weed. I had to use a pair of garden shears, my leather gloves, and a pair of pliers to cut the stuff off from between the tines.

That’s right. Not only did the plants not break, but they killed the rototiller. Twice.

And more fun was yet to come. Eventually I got into the routine of going a few paces, killing the engine, and cutting it free, but man I could have used that time in so many better ways.

(Fortunately Josh was at home when I got back. I was too sore for any kind of footrub or backrub – perhaps the first time I’ve ever refused one – so instead he made me a huge cup of “Man Cocoa” complete with hand-shaved chocolate and whipped cream and yes, just a touch of booze. Ahhhhh. )

So now the nemesis-weed and I are at a stand-off. True, I now have my six neat beds: but the nemesis devil-weed surrounds them, perched just on the edges as if ready to spring. We stare at each other. I clench my pointy trowel and think nervously about springtime and how big weeds can grow in a day. I wonder who will blink first.

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