Weed it and Reap

I am somewhat addicted to weeding, rising with the larks to pull up crabgrass, finding solace in time alone with the puslane. Now I know why. In the July issue of Discover magazine, I read here that inhaling a bacteria called M. vaccae found in the dirt, could "help elicit a jolly state of mind" (p. 18). In a stress response test, "Control mice swam for an average fo two and a half minutes, while the M. vaccae-injected animals paddled for four." Now I know why I am still paddling...Incidentally, the same issue of Discover has a fascinating computerized map of 18 months of hookups at a mid western high school, perhaps useful to those writing YA novels.

Back to weeding: Here's a Weeding Quiz I compiled a few years ago (for the Girls Own yahoo list) of quotes from children's/girl's books, mostly English, but a few Australian and American, mostly from the early to mid 20th century. Rather an obscure collection of source material, but possibly of some interest. I'll post the answers as an addendum to this post next week.

A Girls Own Weed quiz: please give book, author, and
names of unidentified weeders!

1. They made a start on the brambles, but it was
harder work than they had anticipated. Still, they
cleared a little patch, and Rachel dug up quantities
of thistles. As they pushed the brambles away, they
uncovered more litter and the pile grew higher and

2. Someone (Mrs Reed, they later discovered) had cut
the grass, but that was all that had been done. Weed
[sic] and flower seedlings fought for space in the
boarders, dandelions flowered along the path, and the
old apple tree, in full blossom, bent even lower over
the garden shed.

3. Dr. Mowbray waged a constant war in the garden
against couch grass, a hardy and abundant weed which
he had inherited, along with the lupins, from old Miss
Russell of Birkenshaw. It grew everywhere, it had
creeping, tenacious roots, and it had proved, so far,
impossible to get rid of. Dr. Mowbray had told Fanny
- who had already known, being at least as skilled a
gardener as he was-that there was no point in pulling
at the grass, which merely snapped off....

4. The knife in his hand was a scythe with which he
was trying to clear a path through the mass of grass
and docks and nettles in which he stood knee deep. N.
held out her hand to him.

5. ...I longed to work quietly in the walled garden.
I weeded the paths and hoed the vegetables; then, as
the morning grew really hot, I crawled under the
asparagus, drawing a big basket after me.

6. It wasn't long before they were tugging at the
long strands of convolvulus that were obliterating
several large shrubs and a hydrangea bush. They
crawled into the undergrowth searching for its roots.
"What you need to do," said D., "is throw the
weeds into a pile and make a compost heap out of
(Hint: D. is a boy)

7. The front lawns were kept cut, and the hedges
trimmed, but out of sight of the house the celandine
reigned supreme; and later on in the year the daisies
flourished, and the dandelions bloomed in golden

8. Tommy's six weeks' beans were a failure; for a dry
spell early in the season hurt them, because he gave
them no water; and after that he was so sure that they
could take care of themselves, he let the poor things
struggle with bugs and weeds till they were exhausted,
and died a lingering death.

9. Inspecting the flower-beds, she found dandelions
and groundsel, which she knew weren't proper flowers
for a garden, and she resolved to weed for half an
hour, cut grass for half an hour, and in the remaining
time do odd jobs.

10. Weeds....He knew plenty about them by now. There
was one called purslane, with a lot of fat, pink
tentacles, that grew up overnight in countless
numbers. There was quack grass, coarse and hardy, its
roots stretching under the earth in endless nets.
There were yellow dock, and lamb's quarters, and
velvetleaf...such stubborn boring little enemies.

11. C. kept giving clear and earnest instructions
about digging deep and turning the weeds in 'like me';
that was all right for C. who loved gardening and
really seemed to enjoy making hard work for himself,
but D. decided her style was more to remove the
weeds and smooth the top nicely--like a bed when you
hadn't turned the mattress.

12. "Now take those weeds down to the rubbish heap,
Geordie, and tip them right on. You made a very
pretty little mess on the path there yesterday, and I
can't have Sandy compalining to me every day, you

13. "Why from five o'clock all these boys was doin' a
bit o' weedin in my patch...."

14. She searched about until she found a rather sharp
piece of wood and knelt down and dug and weeded out
the weeds and grass until she made nice little clear
places around them.
"Now they look as if they could breathe," she said...

15. "I couldn't tell the difference between a pea
vine and a weed at the end of a hoe..."

16. "What are these with the thick roots?" she
inquired innocently. "There are lots of them, and they
look so like radishes."

17. ...their legs had already been bound tightly in
long creepers without their noticing.


  1. Okay. (8) is from Little Men, by Louisa May "Christmas Won't be Christmas Without Any Food" Alcott.

    (14) I think is from The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. And the weeder of course is Mary.

    The others I don't know, though I swear I've seen (15) somewhere. Your quizzes are hard!

  2. Yep, those are the right answers for 8 and 14...I don't expect the majority of them to be recognized by the American reader of kid lit blogs, but the last one is from a book that just about everyone has read.


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