Steve Hartman: Weed addict on the road to recovery

CATSKILL, New York -- You may remember a couple years ago I confessed to a weed addiction.

I only did it at my place in upstate New York, after the kids were in bed, but the fact was, I could not stop pulling the things.

Mugwort, Canada thistle and leafy goldenrod were some of my favorites.

hartmanweeds081415en-transferframe3845.jpg

Andrea Hartman

CBS News

I realized the extent of my addiction only after my cameraman interviewed my wife Andrea about it.

"He goes out at 7 o'clock at night and weeds until dark. I mean, sometimes he's out there past dark," she said.

And her point is?

"It's not weeding a garden. It's weeding 5 acres."

Four and a half -- technically.

hartman-otr-0721en4.jpg

Steve working on his prairie

CBS News

See, a few years earlier, I had this idea to turn a weedy hillside into beautiful prairie full of native wildflowers and grasses. I contacted Neil Diboll, who would eventually become my dealer.

Neil owns the Prairie Nursery in Westfield, Wisconsin. He got me hooked on weeds through gateway plants like purple coneflower, compass plant and smooth aster.

hartman-otr-0721en2.jpg

  Neil Diboll

CBS News

"I was trying to get you hooked. Yes, my product is highly addictive. It's called love of nature," he said.

But here's the problem: Before you see those flowers in the magazine, you often need to spend a great deal of time weeding a new prairie meadow, and Neil made no mention of how addicting that can be.

I would come out here every night and dread it. And then a switch flipped, and I started coming out here and loving it.

"Weeding can induce a meditative state," Neil said. "And that is therapy for all of us in this crazy world we live in when you can just tune everything out and focus on one single-minded purpose."

hartman-otr-0721en3.jpg

Steve pulling weeds

CBS News

Also, just as a practical matter, after investing hundreds of hours out here, what else can you do? Just give up on the whole project?

"I could live without it," Andrea said.

"You want your husband back, don't you?" my cameraman asked.

"No, I don't know if I could live with how defeated my husband would feel if we gave it up," she said.

After this story first aired in 2015, I thought a lot about her hesitation. I realized you can take a hobby too seriously.

hartman-otr-0721en.jpg

Steve and his kids

Hartman family

Which is why I'm happy to report that I am now a recovering weedaholic. Oh, I'll still clip the occasional spotted knapweed, but I don't obsess like I used to, choosing instead to focus more on three other blossoms, my kids -- growing like weeds in the only garden we tend that truly matters.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.