I’m sitting in the front room looking through the blinds at the plant beds in the yard, filled with all kinds of bushes that tolerate Idaho’s alkaline soil: rosy Barberry, dwarf Blue Spruce, and variegated Euonymus. Seeing all this green in a desert climate is wonderful, and I feel like I’m living in an oasis paradise until I spot all these scraggly weeds evilly wending their way up and around my other plants.
For me “Idaho weed” is not a psychedelic experience, but a psychotic one. Idaho weeds can be crazy-making if you’re a gardener. My mother-in-law told me once you have to be tough to live in Idaho’s desert. At first I thought she was trying to discourage me from marrying her son. But now I think she was being genuine about how harsh the desert is: the drought, the wildfires, and all these horrific weeds that are not bothered in the slightest by our dry climate.
The big tip-off on weeds in Idaho should have come at that memorable Thanksgiving dinner I had with my husband’s family after I first moved here. There was a problem at dinner, but it wasn’t the typical family gathering snafus: an aunt farting at the table or a cousin telling a naughty joke over the mashed potatoes. The problem was grandpa, who as a farmer, found an objection to the table centerpiece. He started yelling and throwing his arms, pointing accusingly at the center of the table like the devil was standing there with a pitch fork. Aunt Maxine, creative muse that she was, had gathered all these interesting stalks of Indian tobacco, dried Kochia, and Russian thistle weeds to make an attractive holiday centerpiece.
“Get those weeds out of here! I spent all summer long out in the fields fighting them. I’m not thankful for them at all!” shouted Grandpa.