Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

Finding Roses among the Weeds

garlic field springAs we gingerly pulled the garlics from their long winter holding spring slumber and growth, we encountered some weeds. Even though there was plenty of straw to keep the garlic warm and prevent weeds from growing, many weeds did grow. The garlic, planted back in November, on most accounts, grew well at schools and at the Farm and now is either for sale, known as green garlic due to its freshness or the majority of the bulbs are drying in the barn at the Farm. This late July time is ideal for pulling garlic before the heads start to split. Now I will hopefully not need to face any supermarket garlic until next March. But the weeds I encountered continue to present themselves. Weeds wish to grow too and do, in all places. Weeds are in the wheel rows where the tractor tires go round and round. Weeds are in amongst the hilled potato plants that now have flowers on their leaves. Weeds snake and sneak amongst the tightly planted clusters of scallions. Weeds, weeds everywhere and plenty of sun, rain and healthy soil for them to drink. Where to begin? Oh, a kingdom for a garden bed or farm field that does not have a weed with which to contend.

One bed at a time and oh the joy! When faced with all these weeds (and production too, mind you, as cucumbers, chard and tomatoes thrive too!), I find it best to pull them one at a time. Often first thing in the morning, or after the heat of the day, I will set to weed a patch. The farmers and I will head to a forty or eighty foot section of crops to see what difference we can make. Perhaps we have a hand-scratcher or stand-up hoe, a cultivator or just the tools at the end of our wrists. With these hands, most weeds come out quite easily, especially if the soil is loose. My hands often twist as I pull, making sure to extract the root and all. I think about the time I watched a crepe maker in France turn his tool to disperse, in a circular fashion, the batter that would become a crepe, savory or sweet. If left in the soil, the root will send out a new shoot or hardy weeds to continue its growth and sought after domination of space. Weed by weed, sometimes two at once, the growing bed is left full of the desired crop. If the seedlings are just beginning, like early carrots or rows of arugula, one must be more precise and careful so as not to disturb the early crop.  If the plants are more mature and established, then it is easier to see and thus the weeds are easier to pull. After setting out on the task, often inspired by the person across the row from me, then one can proceed and see the difference quite quickly. It is so satisfying to occasionally look back and admire the liberated kale and sunflowers, leeks and feverfew .  Any freed plant will be happy once the competition has been pulled and organically removed. There is also marvelous conversation that can arise when weeding. Sports, ballet and drama news from kids, accounts of a good book, a sliver of poetry perhaps. Even silence can be golden, leaving instead the conversation for the birds. Many farmers sow seeds, weed weeds and sing songs too.

Then the row or the patch or the section is complete…until next time. Weeds will return. So shall we. The heat of the day will come on and we’ll move to a shady area activity. But the songs may continue, along with conversations and thoughts, whistling while we work, growing organic food and thinking of our next crepe manger.

© 2015, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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