Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Magical Weed Wand

Sometimes, you know exactly how a situation is going to turn out before you get to the end. But sometimes, when you get to the end of the story, while it turns out exactly as you had predicted it would, there's occasionally an aspect that you hadn't predicted which interests you as much, sometimes more than, the story itself. This story is one of those.

From the fine folks across the pond at The Telegraph, we learn about a 79-year old scientist named Robert Gailey who accidentally burned down his neighbor's front yard while he was removing weeds from his driveway. That won't seem SO impossible when I tell you that he was removing the weeds with a blowtorch. (Aaahhh. See? Another piece of the puzzle falls into place.)

Mr. Gailey said that it only took seconds before the manicured lawn and evergreen trees of his neighbors, Stuart and Phyllis McLean, were aflame. The shrubbery soon followed suit. The Fire Brigade was called and the fire was extinguished without damage to any homes. The spokesman for the Fire Brigade offered up these words of wisdom, "People should be extremely careful when they use blowtorch devices such as these in their gardens."

OK, so what is this "blowtorch device" that Mr. Gailey was using and that the Fire Brigade is apparently aware of? It sounds ridiculous. A flame thrower to eliminate weeds. (See, the thing about weeds is that, while they most likely DO burn, they're usually around a bunch of other things that will burn ALSO. Why fire is a preferred alternative to, say, pulling the weed out has escaped me.) Behold! The Weed Wand!

Oh, what the hell is that? Well, the Weed Wand is an actual product (sometimes marketed under different names and/or styles, but all with the same basic operating principle) which consists of a metal shaft about 2 feet long which is attached to a tank via a propane hose. The shaft has a handle and a control knob and some models sport a very handy one-touch ignition button. Basically, the Weed Wand emits a flame that is approximately 6 inches long and is about 2000 degrees. You can even get a backpack kit for this bad boy so that you're not stuck in whichever area your fuel tank is. You can attach it to smaller fuel tanks and then put those on your back. This set-up allows you the freedom to move about your yard and property with the equivalent of a small bomb on your back (a scenario which adds excitement to "weed killing" like never before!).

I read several descriptions of the Weed Wand and what it can be used for (aside from burning down things that burn ) and I'm sure that you'll be excited (if not surprised) at the multitude of uses that a 2,000 degree flame thrower has around the home. The Weed Wand can be used for:
  • Clearing patios, paths, gravel areas, rockeries and around ponds. (Rockeries? Who am I? Mr. Slate?)

  • It can also be used to de-ice slippery frozen drives and paths.

  • Cleaning gardens, sidewalks, driveways, retaining walls and shorelines (Shorelines?! The Weed Wand is apparently not for the mildly ambitious.)

  • Also used for de-icing driveways and sidewalks, melting pond ice and thawing pipes. (Why is it that I'm in such a hurry for my pond ice to melt?)

Apparently, the benefits that outweigh the obvious and immediate danger of burning down everything which surrounds you and your weeds is that "the high temperature flame disrupts the cell structure of weeds, causing them to wither and die within a day or two without using expensive toxic chemicals" But wait! There's more! "Flame weeders are also useful to kill disease and pests and reduce the number of viable weeds seeds. Some gardeners and farmers periodically burn whole strips of land with fires fuelled by dry vegetation." Now they're killing disease AND burning down your neighbor's yard. Huh. Diverse.

I found it more than a little amusing that one of the product descriptions included this reminder at the end: "Always take care not to start a brush fire!" Will do!

This thing seems like it has been available to the public for general home and garden arson purposes for at least three or four years. While I don't find that to be overly amazing, what I do find amazing is that this is the first instance I've read of someone burning something down other than their weeds. I mean, come on, people are idiots. Why are there not more fires?

I'm sure that men love this tool. I'm sure that men would be perfectly willing to tackle any household chore as long as it involved the Weed Wand and it's 6-inch Flame o' Death. Removing weeds, removing siding, doing the dishes, whatever it is, if the Weed Wand is involved, they'll be there. I'm sure that women would enjoy this tool also, but I doubt that it would be with the same "Tim, the Tool Man, Taylor" sort of joy that men probably exhibit. I'm also thinking that when the guy brings home the Weed Wand (as he will purchase one within 2 weeks of either a) learning of it's existence through store display or media advertisement, or b) watching the neighbor strap his onto his back and incinerating the dandelions by the porch), his first words will be, "Isn't this cool?" And his wife's first words will be, "I don't know if this is such a good idea." (She will continue to utter that phrase until she actually tries it out herself. Then she will realize the power of the propane torch and become one with it.)

So I thought this was just going to be a story about a moron who burned down his neighbor's yard. And while it was sort of that (though the guy didn't sound like a moron), I became more interested in the side story: The Weed Wand. Who knew? (I might need one of these though. Stay tuned, won't ye?)

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minachica said...

Hey Mare - Just wanted to let you know that I now depend on you for my daily dose of hysterical laughter. Thanks, and pleeease keep it up!

Mare said...

Well, with a compliment like that, I can't stop now! Thanks a lot. And no worries, my friends would kill me if I ever stopped doing this and forced them to endure listening to my daily diatribes again. (And that really would be a shame. They've seemed so rested since I've started doing this.) Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I was a farmer in the seventies when we had real winters and pipes became frozen depriving the indoor animals of water. So we had a paraffin weed wand which worked well on the copper piping and with additional skill on the lead piping. Frequently the pipes were at head hight and and then the fun started. the wand would become a flame gun emitting a stream of burning paraffin which set fireto the bedding straw. when the wand was lowered the flame went out and smoke and fumes were every where. Re ignite the fumes on the burning straw and extinguish the straw and return to the job in hand...thawing the pipes.
then we progressed to the black plastic pipes once again at head hight. this had all the problems as before only now the plastic would melt if you hesitated. The pipes now had loops where they stretched and became so thin they had fine sprays soaking every thing around, including the operator and the wand if you didn't move along rapidly.
After that the wand was transported to the various pens and field to thaw the water troughs. It had to be on the trailer because even sitting on the back of my landrover the operator had no hands to hang on as he kept control of the wand.
there was, in those days, H&SAW and unions but they only became a fact of life after breakfast say 9:00am.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHA Robert Gailey is my grandfather..!