The Alleged Farm News — 25 August, 2016

This week’s share: Lemon basil, Celery, Chives, Garlic, Endive, Lettuce, Melon, Walla Wall onions, Blue Gold potatoes, Squash, Tomatoes


That part of the season has arrived when I really start to wonder if I know what I am doing. Our work has become not so much a well rehearsed operation as triage. The weeds have had time to contemplate the shortening day length and come to the conclusion that they had better grow like crazy before it is too late. In a matter of days, crops that looked like they might eventually need a bit of weeding have vanished in a thicket of pig weed, lambs quarters, galinsoga and grass. Spots that might successfully have been hoed last week now just need to be mowed.

In fact, the mower is looking like the most useful tool on the farm right now. I am fighting down the urge to go out there and mow everything. It would look so neat when I had finished, and I do like a neat farm. Not that I have ever had one, but I have seen them, and they look great.

And depress me a little too. They remind me how messy things can look in my own fields. Do look in my fields. The whole crew could–probably should–weed full time right now. But we don’t have time. We have all that other farming to do too. Only, the longer we wait, the worse the weeds get, and the worse they get the longer it takes to deal with them. It feels like we are stuck in some downward weed spiral, and soon enough the weeds will have taken over entirely and the whole farm–crops, barns, house, donkeys, even the silo–will have vanished in the mess.

Not that it is actually that bad. Well, parts of the farm might be. But there are some crops that look quite good–and that you can see look good because there are no weeds in the way. The eggplants, for instance, which we mulched heavily early on, and the last two planting of zucchini, which I have managed to cultivate several times. And we have made inroads into some of the weed patches. We recently excavated part of two carrot beds, which actually seem to be thriving (though we have made it easier for the deer to find the carrots). And then there are some spots where we really don’t care about the weeds at this point. We are pulling the last of the onions now so we can just plow down the whole patch in a few days.

And even the weedy parts are not necessarily a mess. Sure, there are practical reasons to want to get rid of the weeds. They compete (successfully) with the crops for nutrients and water and light, and a spot that is weedy this year will be weedy next year, meaning we will have the same problems all over again. If we somehow–presumably with the use of powerful magic–managed to get rid of all the weeds in our fields for several years we could reduce the weed load to the point that weeding became easy.

But my objection is not purely practical. There’s an aesthetic component. It looks bad. Note that I keep going on about the weeds, not the crops. Maybe because that is mostly what I see when I look out over the fields, but maybe that is mostly what I see because that is what catches my eye. I crave order, but the weeds insist on disturbing the order I strive to impose out there. A bunch of hooligans.

Except that they are just doing what they do. For a weed, this is the order of things. The days get shorter and they buckle down, get to work producing as much seed as they can before the frost comes. It is actually fairly neat, the process going on out there, time and energy focussed on a simple task rooted in the basic rhythm of the year and this strange urge life has to go on. Like my crops, only more effectively, the weeds are just taking advantage of all the remarkable opportunities I offer, the open space, the loose earth, the enhanced fertility. Take a look from a weed’s perspective, and I am the problem, the plant dictator, the madman trying to force everyone to live by my misguided rules, brutally punishing the disobedient.

Well, tough. This is my realm, and I say the weeds must go. Begone. Vamoose, Scat. Shoo. Go.

But no, they are still there. Damn weed, they never listen. It is my fault. I should have dealt with them when they were young. Now I have lost control of them and all my dreams of a neat farm will have to wait for another season. Such as winter. Everything looks a lot more orderly buried in snow.


Vegetable notes: I usually don’t grow stalk (as opposed to root) celery. In fact, I can only think of one other time I have tried, and there was nothing about that experience that suggested I should try again. To grow well, celery needs extremely rich soil–black dirt–and plenty of regular moisture. Plus it is susceptible to various diseases and deer like it. But I have rarely met a vegetable I can resist planting at once in a while. So here is some celery. It is a little lacking aesthetically, but I think you will find that it actually tastes good. Which is to say, it has a distinct flavor, something that the more attractive celery one finds in grocery stores often lacks. You can also use the leaves as a herb. They will add good flavor to stock, or you could just mince a few and toss them in a potato salad or a marinade for chicken or, for that matter, anything you want to toss them in.

I figured at some point at least one of the tomato plantings would actually start producing. For the greenhouse tomatoes, that point came this week. It is about time. In fact, it is about three weeks past time. But in this case certainly better late than never.

The Blue Gold potatoes have firm flesh and good flavor and you cook them just about any way you want.