Sunday, August 1, 2010

Farm Journal: A Developing Philosophy on Weeding

I have spent a lot of time talking about weeding over these past couple months. Now I feel compelled to be more philosophical.

* First of all, Donna taught me that there’s another more romantic word for this dirty job that can make it seem more important and thus stimulate my doing it. That word is: cultivate. I don’t know what I thought the word meant before I started gardening last year. Most likely, I never thought about it. However, cultivating a garden also means making sure the plant gets more of the nutrients from the soil rather than waste it on weeds. So cultivation has a lot to do with caring for and nurturing the plants, which then moves me toward having a relationship with the plants and the garden in general. I know people who talk to their plants so this is another aspect involved in cultivation, which involves coaxing them to grow and produce nice, healthy fruit. Cultivating plants also inspires thoughts and meditations, which is what happened to me in the onion patch (see June 21 – “Meditation Over the Onions”). Long live cultivation!

* Even though I have a field of plants, to care for them I must pay attention to each individual plant to make sure it is clear of weeds and properly propped up with dirt. This individuality of the plant reminds me of the way the Church treats people with the sacraments. Every person gets the same personal message, like “the body of Christ” when the Eucharist is distributed.

* Weeds are wimps. They don’t hold the ground like the vegetable plants do so they come out fairly easily. Of course, if I let them go too long, they will grab the soil, thicken their stems, and be more difficult to pull out.

* I finally experienced the joy of the garden that Ron promised. By the end of the month I had done two full loads of weeds and now after just a week away, there were hardly any weeds in the potatoes and onions. I had hilled each plant, too, and so the individual plants weren’t intertwinng with each other as much. That means the rows between the plants were distinct and beautiful. Ah, the marvels of gardening and what it means to care about it.

* In the expanse of the garden, I find that different parts of it have different kinds of weeds that I can expect to see. Purslane grows in the southwestern corner while lambs quarters are more popular in the northeastern corner. Ron had planted amaranth (quinoa) one year in the northern corner and volunteers were still coming up. Knowing the land helps me come to expect certain weeds and spot them more easily.

* I became so obsessed with weeding that I began to dream about them. This was a peculiar experience. It’s as though I were training myself to see the little buggers more easily and distinguish them from the potato plants, especially those plants that became very bushy and spread themselves over the ground more extensively. Some of the weeds actually intertwined themselves with the plant as though they thought they could hide so I had to untangle some of them and dispose of them.

* While the weeds are not good for my plants, some of them are good for the animals. At times I have thrown the weeds over the fence for the goats to graze them. And they love it. Of course, some weeds, like milkweed, is not good for the goats so I have to be careful not to include them.

1 comment:

  1. Agree about the weeds. I have some weeds that I tolerate, as they attract bees, especially in the autumn. Not sure of the names of these weeds, but they are doing something functional for the environment. Of course, they have to be contained, and I end up pulling some.