Weed Wars: The Dirty Life 2: CSA Summer ’14 ” Week #5
Mike is on day 9. All work. No days off. The dry weather coincided with the holidays. He’s been able to have dinner with the family, but the fourth of July festivities of swimming pools, beaches, fireworks, and festivals went by mostly without him. I wish I could help, but kids and tractors don’t mix. Besides – Mike and I are resolute that one of us be with our kids outside normal working hours.
In the earlier years it would have been very upsetting to me to be surrounded by family with him missing. But over time you learn to adjust, to expect, to anticipate the onslaught of weeds during the weeks before and after the solstice – and its related work requirements.
Once again Kristin Kimball, in her book, The Dirty Life, describes this part of farming perfectly:My existence, from daybreak to dark, became focused on the assassination of weeds. Before that first year, I’d filed €œagriculture,€ in the card catalog of my head, in the same general places as €œnature.€ As in many tings, I was so wrong. Farming, I discovered, is a great and ongoing war. The farmers are continually fighting to keep nature behind the hedgerow, and nature is continually fighting to overtake the field. Inside the ramparts are the sativas, the cultivated plants, soft and vulnerable, too highbred and civilized for fighting. Aligned with nature, there are the weeds, tough foot soldiers, evolved for battle. As we approached the solstice, both sides were at full tilt, stoked by rain and the abundance of sun. Every morning, Mark and I [or Mike and I!] would look out over the fields at first light and see a fresh haze of green. For every one of ours, there were a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand of theirs, wave after wave, unending. If you ever wonder why organic vegetables cost more, blame weeds. The work on a conventional farm that can be done with one pass of the sprayer must, on an organic farm, be done continually, from germination to harvest, by physically disrupting the weeds. When they have just emerged from the ground ” the infant stage called a white thread, for the appearance of the first thin taproot ” they are easy to kill by barely nudging them, exposing that delicate root to the drying air or burying the new leaves so that they are starved of sun. If allowed to become bigger ” the taproot expanding out into a fine white web, the leaves unfolding on a thickening stem ” they require increasingly more effort to kill. page 201
The vast majority of our weed killing is done via mechanical cultivation. We use tractors with a variety of different implements to rough up the soil between our plant rows and expose those little root threads. We then do some manual weeding in the rows, between the plants, with hoes.
If we can stay on top of it, our fields stay pretty clean. Clean breeds clean. Underneath the soil there are millions of seeds laying dormant, just waiting to germinate. Our goal is to cut away at that seed bank, with continual cultivation. Rain, however, is the weeds’ best ally. Not only does it give them the water they need to grow, but it keeps our equipment out of the fields. So as we wait for the fields to dry, the weeds keep growing and some of them are lucky enough to go to seed, adding back to the bank.
The weeds are having their winningest season in a long while, with weather conditions highly favoring their side. Vegetables will still be plentiful, but for now the weeds are keeping Mike on the tractor.
Have a wonderful week and enjoy your veggies!
Cassie and family
In the Box
- Garlic Scapes
- Head Lettuce
- Kale, Red Russian
- Snow Peas
- Spring Onions
REGs only = Broccoli, Sugar Snap Peas
EOs only = Beets
This Week’s Recipes
Summer Week #5: Wednesday, July 9th” Group A EOs