Tumbleweed farm

Just beneath the sandy soil of my new yard lurked a bounty of weeds waiting to sprout.

Nicole Fruge/San Antonio Express-News/ZUMA Press/Newscom/File
Dangling in the wind: A tumbleweed hangs from a fence near an oil refinery in Sunray, Texas.

I own a tumbleweed farm in Rimrock, Ariz. After the first glow of romantic homeownership I found that in addition to the star-filled nights, the chirp of birds and buzz of bees – I had also become caretaker of one-third of an acre of weeds.

I see my transition from city girl to country girl very much akin to the transition of a bride into the world of marriage. I fell in love with my home at first sight: It sat on a hillside looking directly toward the red rocks of Sedona, with sweeping views of the Verde Valley. Life would be sweet here, especially so for a girl fresh from the freeways and smog of Los Angeles.

Then, slowly, over time, I began to notice more and more as my home began to uncurl its onion layers of mystery – to present its true face, which was worlds apart from the picturesque facade that had attracted me. They say love is blind – so, too, is the homeowner who falls in love with a dream.

How could I have not seen that my lot was harboring a bounty of tumbleweed? Well, it had been bulldozed clear before I first saw it. The lot looked rough, but that I thought was due to the rocks and sandy soil. It wasn't until two months after I moved in that the yearly monsoon rains caused the tumbleweed to peek through the sand and rock and soar toward the sky – a veritable sea of green!

At first, I felt fortunate to see the wealth of greenery. But as summer and then winter wore on, my lovely green harvest began to dry and crack and tumble in the wind. The tumbleweed was now brittle, sharp, and difficult to handle – it began to accumulate in huge clumps on my doorstep.

Soon after that, I discovered I owned two rabbits. This happened cosmically one morning as I backed my car out of my driveway. I saw one black and one brown bunny who had been sitting contentedly under my car. They hadn't even interrupted their weed chomping as my car passed over them. Ever since, they have appeared to be very happy to stretch their legs, sunbathe, and thoroughly enjoy their very own private condo right on my patio. Unfortunately, they must have been someone's abandoned Easter gift.

At first they were satisfied with my weeds, but eventually they began to recognize my legs, and whenever I alighted from my car they ran to my feet and sneakily trained me to feed them small, organic carrots.

Houses have their own voices – and they usually become apparent after dark when you are curled up in bed and ready to slip into delicious slumber. So it was on my first night of residence at "Tumbleweed Farm." Out of the dark night came the most terrorizing sound of metal clanking and clattering. I was already nervous – this being my first foray into living alone in a rural setting.

I reasoned a cat had jumped on the roof, but no, the sound was much too loud for that. I could only deduce that a person had jumped onto the roof. I lay perfectly still, straining my ears to hear the back door opening, and waiting to face an intruder. Eventually, the noise abated and I fell asleep. In the morning I found that the wind had torn across my patio and wrenched off part of my carport roof – my intruder was the metal banging in the wind!

But back to my tumbleweed. In a magazine, I happened to read a story about an artist in New Mexico. This artist scours the desert for dried-up, spent tumbleweed. She then paints them psychedelic colors and sells them at art fairs for $40 to $65 apiece. Now I am looking to purchase approximately 100 gallons of paint!

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