I weeded for an hour or two last night. I didn’t mean to, it wasn’t what I had gone out in the garden for. But there were lots of weeds, and my pants were washable (they’re work pants, in that I wear them to work occasionally, but they’re really jeans), and my beautiful plants needed some air. So I pulled and I yanked, and I scrabbled and I dug. I know what purslane looks like now, and that I’ve only got two bean plants in my green bean plot. What gives?

After the garden had been pretty well cleaned up, I went to the side yard to survey what space I have for herbs and, I’ve decided, greens next year. I’m trying to decide whether I should put down some plastic and kill all the grass now so that I have an easier time in fall, or…well, the other alternative is to continue to let Eric mow it and then spray Round-Up on everything, I guess. I guess I’m getting some plastic.

Anyway, after that, I went to the driveway beds to pull up more weeds, especially atrocious there. “I love what you did with your yard,” I said to my neighbors, who happened to be out. “Thanks!” said the woman. “It only took us seven years.”

It had gone up in two days–removal of the sparse grass, a brick-lined gravel patio, mulched beds with new plants and trees all around. They explained they had tried for years to get the grass to grow, but with their dog and now the new one, my house’s old owners’ (they had two dogs and decided to take only one when they moved), it never worked, so they gave up. They have a lot of company and spend a lot of time in their backyard, so it makes sense, and it does look very nice.

“You seem to be quite the gardener yourself,” she said to me. I laughed and disclaimed, saying this was my first year, and they gave me a couple of tips–mainly ones I already knew, sadly–that bindweed is impossible to get rid of and the little trees (bamboo, he said) should be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

“Also, you know the summer concerts at the zoo?” she said. (This is the Toledo Zoo. My house is about half a block away from it.) “If you sit on your front porch you can hear it. Steely Dan is playing tonight.”

At some point they noticed that their tomatoes were falling prey to the bindweed, and so were the two (or at least one) I planted near that fence we share. “It covers the fence in the summer, and that’s pretty at least,” she said, but I yanked out all the plants I found anyway.

“Well, I need to take a shower,” she said after a few minutes’ further chatting. “Scrub the dirt from under my fingernails.”

I glanced down at my own fingernails. My fingers were gray. They went inside, and I went back to my garden (which is also along the fence we share with those neighbors, but it’s a privacy fence at that point in the yard) and sat for a while, pulling the occasional weed with my filthy fingers, and listening to Steely Dan.

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