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To Spray, Or Not To Spray...


So young...so weak...so vulnerable...


...That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to endure the slings and arrows of... (Apologies to Hamlet and attribution to William Shakespeare).

Anything but fleet of foot, small and weak, skunks are quick to spray. The affect is immediate and unpleasant. Although I am growing to share the skunk's slow step, I do not share its more noted predilection. (I must admit that my mother used to call me a stinker, though...)

When it comes to lawn maintenance, I am more than reluctant to spray. Herbicides and pesticides are prohibited by rule at Greenwood Cemetery. We see a natural progression of native vegetation on the grounds. Even before the last frost, before the grass starts to grow, indeed, sometimes before their own leaves appear, the grounds will be dotted with splashes of yellow. True dandelions bloom on stems so short the blossoms appear to spring from the ground, and only rise to the lofty height of half a foot when the yellow has given way to the familiar fuzzball of the seed head. Spring rains and warmer nights start the growth of the grasses, tinged red by sour dock, with intermingled purple of heals-all. After the second or third mowing, the grasses surrender, but yield their place to forbs and legumes. White clovers, more purple heals-all, yellow false dandelions, cheerful daisies, and the low carpet of lotus and Japanese clover color the grounds. Weeds, some call them, issuing an edict for their execution. Imagine the chant: “Spray them! Spray them!” If you listen closely, you might imagine as well the clickety-click of knitting needles as the chanters await the rattle of the guillotine. (Classical allusion, students...)

Pesticide. Herbicide. That –cide on the end means killer. They are toxins. Poisons. Unlike the skunk, their affect is not immediate, but it is more than unpleasant. The impact of these chemical concoctions on our health is insidious and cumulative. The most widely used broad leaf herbicide, 2,4-D, was one of two major ingredients in Agent Orange, the herbicide used in Viet Nam that has caused various cancers in military personnel from that era, and birth defects, such as spina bifida in their children. My brother, a Viet Nam veteran, died of bladder cancer at age 62.



It is not just the very young who are vulnerable...

These herbicides have the capacity to debilitate and to kill unintended victims. Manufacturers give assurances of product safety based on carefully limited testing. Government regulators add their endorsements based on those manufacturers' tests, or duplicate tests. Only when the true dangers show themselves in their victims do regulators raise a caution flag. Modern testing has cast a revealing light on the active ingredients in so-called safe herbicides and pesticides and their impact on human cells.

The testing itself is deceptive, whether by ignorance or design. Labels list active ingredients and inert ingredients. Marketers count on an erroneous mind leap on the part of consumers, trusting they will equate inert with harmless. Recent testing, however, has found the inert ingredients even more harmful than the active ingredients that are the focus of approval testing.

The active ingredients are bad. The inert ingredients are more harmful. But, the formulation, or mixing of the two is even more harmful to our health. https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/lawn-care-chemicals-how-toxic-are-they/

https://www.livestrong.com/article/181758-health-effects-of-weed-killers/

These are only two of many warnings. If the links do not work, I would encourage you to copy and paste them in your browser, and you will understand why we at Greenwood do not and will not use herbicides or pesticides on the grounds, and why we prohibit visitors to the cemetery from bringing their own chemicals.

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