Her word choice caught my ear as I hand-weeded lambs-quarter beside her. It struck me as an odd use of the word, and when I hear older country people bend meaning, I start paying closer attention.
Colette next questioned the value of clearing the scraggly twin rows of peas that were all that remained in our garden citizen outreach. I had pointed out that the cottontail rabbit that frequents the garden had made some inroads on the unfenced peapods, and she pondered the poor rate of germination.
"Those peas aren't very frugal," she said, adding that if we cleared the weeds, the rabbit would have an easier time of it.
Sitting here tonight at my desk with an open volume of the Oxford English Dictionary, that attention has turned to delight. For while the word now implies parsimony or the sparing use of a resource, her use of the term hearkens back to the word's root in Latin and French, "fruit."
Those weeds were certainly fruitful in the absence of the holder of the community gardener assigned the double plot we were clearing. Colette's observation was dead on, as was the impulse that set us to weeding our neighbor's soil.
"When I had a heart attack a few years ago," she said, as she began to attack the pigweed sprouting in the onions growing on the opposite end from the peas, "some of the other gardeners ook care my plants until I could get back here."
She paused. "Of course, it wasn't quite what I'd do for myself, but I was surely grateful they'd pitched in like that."
A friend and DFL activist from the Worthington area talks about traditional rural values on the prairie: cooperation, tolerance and diversity. People out on the prairies either got along and helped each other, she says, or they died in the winters or other attendant natural calamities.
As it turned out, the absent gardener had injured her hand. And while Colette's standards for weeding are somewhat more exacting than her own (we'll have to work on this before the pigweed blossoms), she was happy some neighbors had pitched in.
Image: Pigweed, from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Weed Identification pages.