Saturday, October 10, 2009

Handling your hoe (rural version, ch. 1)

A couple days ago I was out weeding our two remaining beds of leeks. It was an odd weeding job because the deer had been grazing on the weeds they like to eat, leaving shortish weeds with fairly stout roots (hard to hoe and pull because of the deep-set roots, hard to pull, also, because of the lack of grip space to yank 'em up). Deer don't like to eat leeks (at least these don't), and most of the rest of the field has just recently been put into a cover crop of rye, vetch, and clover (all of which are mere seedlings), leaving the nightly congregation of deer in that field to munch on nothing but weeds. The main weed was a yellow-flowering fast grower (whose name escapes me) that just absolutely dominates our farm throughout most of the year; deer seem to love it, but they left others, like dock (deep, stubborn roots), to grow unabated. So, hoeing was rough. And the inevitable hand weeding that left many broken roots in the ground was discouraging . It was slow going.

I find that when you have such a weeding job in front of you, it's nice to slap on a pair of earbuds and let music help you along. For instance, Modest Mouse assisted me in the leek-weeding endeavor. The schizophrenic vocals over a steady funk-like beat helped rhythmize and energize my hoe strokes to efficiently uproot (or at least chop off sufficiently until the first frost comes) those pesky bastards. Neko Case helped me slow it down a little--let me feel the cool, pleasant breeze under the completely blue and sunny Carolina sky, helping me find some odd grace in my hoeing technique. Because, what's weeding without a bit of contemplative, sensual pleasure? And then Paul Simon brought me back to the rhythm, giving me that final push of energy to get the job done. Plus, there's no not liking weeding when Simon inquires about the 50 ways.

Sometimes I don't need music to accompany me. Often just being outside, doing real, meaningful work to survive is enough. But there are days when you'd rather be doing nothing, or else something easy. Though it's tempting to just give in to laziness (which happens sometimes), certain things just have to get done. And I really wouldn't want it any other way.


The trees are really coloring up now in the higher elevations. The reds are out. But yesterday our high temperature hit 80, which was, um, perfect. Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, they're expecting snow and freezing temps. Love it here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


It has gotten a bit cold here. Smells like fall. One night we go from the fan sucking cool, sweet mountain air into our room, to the next night having the whole apartment closed down--us draped in sweaters, smothered nightly in a heavy comforter, me cursing my lack of a good pair of boots for farm work (thus relying on the old trusty sandals in the 40-degree dewy morning). But don't get me wrong, it feels good.

Basil and pepper plants are pissed. Basil hates the cold; sweet peppers also hate the deluge we've been getting of late. Even some of the lettuce, the cool-moisture lover that it is, is rotting in the field. But arugula is happy. Napas and bok choi are trying hard. Kale would probably be happy if not for the plague of harlequin bugs. But we can take heart that the flea beetles have seemingly left us for the year. And we haven't gotten flooded like some of our unfortunate WNC neighbors.

We've got a bit over a month left at this farm, where we'll keep tending our fall/winter crops for market and, most importantly, CSA members. It's a bit of an unwinding time, at least in my mind, despite all that's left to do.

In other news, the blueberries are still plentiful up on Max Patch, as of last weekend. We were picking amongst the roaring wind and the cries of the haint (or a flying kite; or a creaking tree--I'm not sure).

The near future brings visitors from afar and, maybe, if things fall right, a trip into the backcountry (our last camping excursion near Mt. Mitchell left us soaked, a couple additional inches of rain away from being devoured by a rising river, and within several hundred feet of being crushed by a toppled tree--which is what I call an adventure).

In the meantime I'll be happy to watch the trees slowly transform as the cold sets in and daylight contracts. Already we see the 4,000+ foot peaks that poke into the sky around our cove hueing toward orangish-yellow. The vegetation on the creek banks is thinning to the point where we can see the road again for the first time since May. The ragweed has pretty much done its thing (ahhhh... relief). Sumacs everywhere are blushing mightily.  They're calling for a less than stellar fall color show this year because of all the rain we've had. But I wouldn't heed what "they" say. Because, well, the spring leafing was beyond words, in it's spectacularly subtle green gradient, and hardly anyone even touches on how beautiful that is--ever.

How's fall on everyone else's land? Fruits and veggies still going by you?