By Evan Rees, For the Weed Crew
|2014 Weed Crew from left to right: Zack Pockrose, Alice Fristrom, Evan Rees, and Laura Stone|
There are four of us proud to hold the position of "weed crew" this summer but in truth, we are many. Virtually everyone on the farm has jumped in with us at one time or another. We had been joined by two interns from the Forest Foundation until their tenures each ended last week (they will be missed). We have also had several regular volunteers contributing multiple days of their free time each week for no incentive other than to further the mission of the farm. Fridays and Saturdays are drop-in days, and we often host larger volunteer groups as well, including on more than one occasion students from an urban agriculture class at Boston University. Graced with their own (arguably cooler) moniker, these "crop mobs" have nonetheless contributed enormously to the weed crew. As we squat over beds of cabbage and kale swapping stories and debating movies, each one of these people has helped to make weeding a wonderfully engaging and enriching experience, exemplifying the very definition of community.
This is not to say that the task of weeding is in itself unenjoyable or tedious. It is, in fact, a hugely variable and surprisingly nuanced job, the nature of which is subject to a number of factors. Soil conditions, and size of the weeds as well as that of the crop we aim to bolster are all to be considered. Carrots are a great example of this, and upon tackling our sixth generation this week, one might consider us somewhat to be experts at carrot-weeding. The first few generations were tough to tackle. Chickweed had surged ahead of the sprouting carrots, knotting itself around them, and wet conditions made the process of untangling them slow and dirty, occupying us for the better part of a week. This latest generation was relatively easy. With dry conditions and it being too late in the season for chickweed, we tore through the beds in a day despite having fewer hands to help. This time, the carrots also benefited from a thorough flame weeding-which is every bit as cool as it sounds. There's a very small window, about a week after carrots have been seeded, when flame-weeding can be effective. Just before the seeds germinate, a propane-fueled flamethrower is run over the bed, torching any eager weeds and giving the carrots a jump on the weeds without disturbing the soil to expose new weed seeds. So far this task has been left to farm manager Zannah, but we're holding out hope for our turn!
For the first time all summer this Wednesday, the weed crew each received a 7am phone call telling us to stay home. The day's forecast, a vital utility for those spending all day outdoors, had waxed ominous. With a one-hundred percent chance of rain and thunderstorms for the morning, we all got the day off while the land got a much needed soaking. Coming back to the farm the next day it was amazing to see the verdant growth that follows such a storm. Unfortunately, nature is indiscriminate in its watering; the weeds too received this boost. Some might find it discouraging to weed a field one day and return two days later to find it once again inundated, but one must accept that the process is endless, and the cycle perpetual. This is the beauty of a farm: Plants grow, their fruits, seeds and leaves are harvested, they die and are turned back into the soil to rot and feed the next generation. We are not masters of the cycle but gardeners tending it so that both of our needs are met. It would be easier to liberally apply some awful chemical to keep the weeds at bay, but instead we kneel in the dirt, hunched over, scuffling our fingers between the rows, sorting good sprout from bad, relying on each other to pass the time. By doing so, we nurture our food, our farm, our community and our world. This is what Waltham Fields does best.