Revenge of the mint

I love all the mints: lemon, orange, spear, chocolate, pepper and pineapple. I love them when the hot sun warms them up and the air is filled with their scent.
I’ve allowed them free rein in most areas of my yard, especially in a little bark mound in the back.
It’s there that they took full advantage of my fondness for them and began sending scouts out, into the surrounding rockbeds, and bark, and planters. Their adorable little flowers smiled at me when I walked by and when I was asked by my gardener if he should clear them away I said “No!”

Because I loved them.

The little scouts became larger tufts of cream-edged greenery, growing cautiously taller and spreading out to begin covering part of the walkway. Soon, there were more than just one or two large shrubberies. Emboldened, those sent out their own emissaries to establish new colonies farther and farther away from the original pant, and certainly in places they had no business being in. I promised to have the gardener address the misfit plantlings at his next opportunity.
So that opportunity has been pending for awhile now. The gardener was not available on one weekend in August, and then he didn’t show up for the next one, and then he was on vacation…..well it’s September now and he still is unavailable and the mint has taken up audacious residence all over. Did they not realize their precarious position? Were they relying on the impatience of a human to not actually pick each tiny stem in order to restore order? Suddenly, I felt taunted and very taken advantage of.

I usually use a five-gallon Home Depot bucket when I weed; it’s just the right size so that, when full, I’ve done about 30-45 minutes of weeding. And that’s enough for anyone.

This job was well beyond a five-gallon bucket.

I got a dump cart, a spade, gloves and started at one end of the walkway. Mint is so weak, with just one little taproot and short sidesprouts. I had the dumpcart filled in no time and of to the compost pile. The bigger shrubs still pulled easily and smelled so good whizzing through the air to the cart. I didn’t even bother shaking off the clumps of dirt and gravel, since I would have to move it anyway for a planned sidewalk extension. The plants on the edge of the rockery had more tenacity, winding their root down and around small boulders. I prevailed, levering the rocks out of the way and using the spade to loosen the soil. Lots of dead leaves here from seasons past. There were so many sprouts! So many more than what I initially thought. Perhaps the larger shrubs were attempting to  shield the little ones to promote the species. No worries, I bent down and pulled all the single-stem plantlings and off they went to the compost pile.

I was down to an empty wheelbarrow and just about one more wheelbarrow of mint to go before I could call it done. I had found a couple of plants that were surprisingly resistant to being moved to the compost pile, almost as if they belonged there. And the scent was fading; perhaps I was not receptive anymore because of the amount of work I had to do to in order to smell the minty-citrusy freshness, or maybe as older plants, mint just gets tired of being so minty all the time. But it all went onto the cart and with the exception of a few dozen really tiny plants (that I would either leave to winter’s cruelty or get in a few weeks when they were big enough to bother with), I felt a new sense of spartanness and order. A good end to a few hours of work.

The next day, I realized how the mint had drawn me in. “Pick me! Pick me!” each one whispered to me. And I did. I picked them all, bending low, grabbing and pulling, and shuffling forward to more easy-to-pull plants. I rarely straightened up, because there was just one more a finger’s length away. And that fading mint scent? By that time, of course I wouldn’t need any scent, lovely or not, to make me want to be close to it. I was clearing the black gravel of invading green plant life, and they stood out so clearly on that matte background.

The place in my back where I pulled a muscle long ago doing deadlifts came to life again: I could not roll over in bed, could not move my leg without excruciating pain, and could not imagine even trying to sit up. Eventually, I did though and then I learned the new pains that the mint had fashioned for me. The rest of my back and shoulders, having been made to perform under strain for hours the day before, now refused to move into any position. Stand up? No way. Stretch? LoL. And don’t even think about walking.
I carefully slid along the carpet to my closet, trying not to lift my left leg off the floor, because the hip flexor was the insertion point for the nerve bundle in my spine. I made it to the Tylenol bottle and chewed 2000 milligrams.

I thought about how easy pulling all that mint was, how lightly I had taken this pleasant herb. I knew those sprigs were still out there, probably smirking at the thought that they would not be compost-fodder this week. How could they be? Their tormentor could not move. Their brethren had given their lives for them. it was up to them to live fast, to throw out new sprigs, to scatter and spread.

In the end, the largest targets paid the heaviest price. Only I know that the juvenile plants (who must believe I somehow overlooked them) now enjoying more sunshine will eventually fall victim to a slab of concrete when the sidewalk gets widened. I am happy to allow them to grow until then, because after all, I do need to be able to move.



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