day fourteen: all about weeds

January 13, 2017 @ 3:41 pm | Filed under: , , ,



A bonus post for today! But this one’s mostly for me: another little addition to our family collection of All About Weeds stories.

Strangely, I can’t find the first All About Weeds story in my archives. I’m sure I must have written about it here! But maybe not. Maybe it was pre-Bonny Glen, a tale posted to a homeschooling message board instead. I suppose it must have been, now I think about it: my Amazon history tells me I purchased the book on July 13, 2002. And it entered our lives as a library book some time before that. Which fact (its being a library book) provides the drama of the first anecdote, actually.


We’d moved to Virginia only a few months earlier (on New Year’s Day, 2002, as a matter of fact). When spring arrived, O glorious mid-Atlantic spring with its abundance of dogwood and redbud blossoms, I was in a mania to know every single plant growing in our yard. Among the books I checked out from the adorable train-depot-turned-library in our little town was a rather dusty tome about weeds. I did say every plant.

I flipped through the weed book but I found it rather dry, and besides, I was sidetracked by what would become a years-long obsession with Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards. (Chip, meet block.) All About Weeds sat neglected (so I thought) on a table for a day or two, and then I returned it to the library.

Soon after, Jane (age sevenish, I think? heavens, that was a long time ago) came to me, came to me all in a dither. Where, she begged most earnestly to know, WHERE was that fascinating weeds book?

When I told her I’d returned it to the library, she was crushed. It was the BEST BOOK EVER, I was informed (in tones conveying, yes, both capitals and italics). Full of the MOST INTERESTING information. 

And as my shopping history testifies, so persuaded was I of the merits of this superior tome that I purchased a copy for keeps.


The best and perfect weed book makes a number of appearances on this blog, even if its origin story has been lost to the archives of some distant Yahoogroup. “Bonny Glen Firsts” (published in 2011) tells me it was in fact the second book I ever mentioned here:

Second book mentioned (though not by name): All About Weeds, a Jane favorite for years. Seriously.

(Ah, there you go. Not mentioned by name. I’ll have to dig up that post.)

I find it mentioned in a March, 2006 post called “The Tide Is Going Out“—an early exploration of my tidal homeschooling concept.

The other day a neighbor asked me if we take a spring break. I laughed and said, “Yes—the whole spring!”

We’ve had such a pleasant time the last couple of months, immersing ourselves in some good books and other forms of study. Now the outdoors is beckoning, and our daily rhythms are shifting. Spring is calling us, urging us out of the house. We are a bunch of Mary Lennoxes, unable to resist the rustlings and chirpings, the spikes of green, the gypsy winds.

I keep finding cups of water on the counter with tiny blossoms floating like fairy lily pads: the first bluets and starry white chickweed flowers. Chickweed, so Jane tells me, is an edible plant and quite tasty. (“Like sugar snap pea pods, Mom.”) She has begged me not to uproot the vast patch of it that has taken over a stretch of our backyard mulch bed, just uphill from the strawberries. Another weed, a purple-flowered plant the children call “cow parsley,” is popping up all over the lawn, much to their delight: they suck the nectar from the itty bitty orchid-like blossoms and proclaim it better than the honeysuckle they’ll seek out later in the summer.

Jane, who had been binging on math during the past three weeks, seems to have shifted her attentions to botany. I find myself tripping over her tattered copy of All About Weeds everywhere I go, and upstairs, the microscope is much in demand for the viewing of leaf cross sections. An experiment involving scarlet runner beans has become the centerpiece on the kitchen table.

So there we are, four years later, and Weeds is still in constant use. It seems wee 2002 Jane hadn’t been overstating her affections.

A month after that, April 2006: “Things to Do While Your Mother Is in the Hospital” (delivering your baby sister). This one—which is the post that sparked today’s story and this entire trip down memory lane—made me laugh pretty hard. (Not at poor Rose’s plight. At The Book’s role in her recovery.)

If you are seven…

…get stung under the chin by a wasp.

If you are ten…

…recall a passage from that scintillating classic, All About Weeds, describing the sting-soothing properties of yarrow, and concoct a poultice of newly emerging yarrow leaves with which to soothe your little sister’s wasp sting.

Well done, young Jane!


Which brings me to today. Huck’s birthday post keeps turning up melt-my-heart tidbits in the “related posts” widget at the bottom of the page. I was clicking along a little baby-picture rabbit trail when I happened upon the “things to do” post above. Rilla, who was aww-ing over my shoulder at her adorable baby brother’s toddler antics, was transfixed by this glimpse at what her big sisters were up to on the day she was born. She read the post breathlessly, pausing only to interject “Oh, I love that book!” at the bit about “that scintillating classic.”

The chip doesn’t fall far from, er, the older chip.


We found the book, you know, during last week’s grand shelf-cleaning. It has been returned to its permanent spot on Jane’s bookcase.

    Related Posts


18 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Rachel says:

    Actually, I remember that story, so it must be in here somewhere (the origin story)

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      Jane found it! From a post written on Day 4 of this blog’s existence. 🙂

      “Two summers ago I wanted to know what was growing in our unlandscaped side yard, so I checked a book on weeds out of the library. I glanced at it but decided this book was too dry to make it worth the effort and tossed it onto the kitchen table. The next day I returned it to the library. The next day, then-7-year-old Jane summoned me with an anguished wail. “Mommy, where’s that great book I was reading? The one about weeds? It was SO interesting!” She’d found it lying on the table and naturally assumed that it was meant for her. I admitted I’d returned it, and she was crushed. I had to promise to schedule a special trip to re-check it out. Apparently what is one person’s giant yawn is another person’s heart-pounder.”

  2. Tabatha says:

    I LOVE weeds. Very cool to hear about All about Weeds’ lofty standing in your household (and Jane’s yarrow poultice). What’s another name for your cow parsley? When I just looked it up, I saw Queen Anne’s lace, which I am sure you don’t mean.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      Tabatha, funny you should ask! Later (as a result of that post, I think), we discovered we’d been using the wrong name all along.

      “I don’t know where they came up with the name in reference to this particular plant, but it’s been in use around here for years. They rejoice at its arrival in our lawn every spring, for they love to suck the nectar honeysuckle-fashion from its tiny orchid-like flowers.
      Dawn’s mystery wildflower appears to be the same plant, but when I looked up what I thought was its name this morning, I discovered that cow parsley is an altogether different plant (also called wild chervil).”

      And a BG reader ID’d our not-cow-parsley as henbit. 🙂

  3. Melanie Bettinelli says:

    Yes. I definitely remember that story. In fact, at some point I got that book from the library but alas it wasn’t the proper season and it languished unread for a while. I picked it up few times but kept getting interrupted, and then went back to the library. But you know it is the kind of book that will get read so I really should buy a copy so it’s on the shelf when the fancy strikes me. Though Bella has declared that she really vastly prefers animals to plants, which makes me a little sad, I have high hopes for Anthony who has been a rather enthusiastic plant explorer with me.

  4. Louise says:

    On a whim, I put a pocket guide to rocks and minerals on my 9yo’s Christmas wish list this year, and her grandmother purchased it for her. She’s been absorbed in it ever since (“this is SO COOL” she gushes on every single page), and I suspect All About Weeds would enthrall her just as much (and probably her 7yo sister as well). In fact, we’ll probably never be able to take another walk without it. Adding it to my ever-growing list of books I have to check out thanks to your recommendations! (Housekeeping Vs the Dirt is on hold for me at the library; I get to pick it up tomorrow.)

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      I think we have that same pocket rocks & minerals guide. At least, ours is the Golden one. Much treasured by my horde. Almost as popular as the butterfly guide by the same publisher.

  5. Alice Gunther says:

    Love this, Lissa! Every word. So many memories. How is it possible I neved procured the Weed Book?

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      I really don’t know!! How is it possible I never gave it as a birthday present to anyone??? My usual M.O. was to give you one of whatever Kate was smitten with. 😉

      • Alice Gunther says:

        Hahaha, come to think of it, I do have a pretty sizable Peterson book library! Imagine how many books I would have amassed if you hadn’t left NY in 2002!

  6. tee+d says:


    I have got to get me a copy of this book. I mean, it’s OBVIOUSLY a heart-pounder, right?!!

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    I’m astonished at how many of you remember the original post! Y’all, we’ve been together a long time, haven’t we? 🙂 🙂 🙂

  8. Haley says:

    Hi!!! I was wondering if you have saw that there is going to be a YA novel on Lucy Maud Montgomery as a teenager and if so what are your thoughts on it.

  9. Jamie says:

    Love this post!