This morning I found myself bent over in the field, pulling tall grasses out of a sea of tall grasses with my own two hands. Ludicrous? Absolutely.
We’ve got a big work day scheduled for next week, and I went by the farm this morning to walk around, look at the land, and take some pictures. A little more than half of our field is plowed, and next week we hope to attack the other half with scythes, weed whackers, and a walk-behind tiller. Afterward, we’ll spread the wetter part of the field with winter rye, which will help suppress weeds through the fall and winter, and then act as a green manure in the spring.
So this morning, after taking some pictures on this gorgeous fall day, I walked out into the midst of the grasses, where we will plant vegetables next summer, and began to pull out clumps of weeds: asters, more grasses than I know the names for, some rather tenacious prickly shrubs…I grabbed it all eagerly in a short frenzy of enthusiasm. After a good ten minutes, I was out of breath, but had made a rather impressive pile of weeds in the middle of the field.
Although a part of me wanted to, I didn’t stay there for hours, hand-pulling every piece of grass. But I was reassured by the knowledge that I could have. In a time when we’re told the bigger the machinery, the better, when our whole agricultural system runs on huge tractors and mechanized equipment, it is good to remind ourselves that the old-fashioned methods still work. There is a satisfaction that comes from doing work with your hands that cannot be replaced by any tool.
Next week, we’ll use all the tools available to us to mow, till, and prepare our field for winter: scythes, loppers, weed whackers (both manual and gas-powered), a walk-behind rototiller and plow, and yes, our hands. No matter how much we rave about modern labor-saving devices, there is no way to replace the moment when you plunge your hands into the soil to plant a tomato seedling, dig up a potato plant, or tear up a particularly large clump of nut sedge. I’ll be glad as anyone to be churning through the soil with a well-oiled rototiller, but I’ll never give up the inherent pleasure in work done with my own hands.