Thursday, June 17, 2010

Work 'Till You Can't

I'm too tired to work anymore today.  There's plenty more to do...and it's all mine.

I'm planting and cultivating and weeding as fast as I can.  And it's hard work.  This city boy is finding his limits and the clock is ticking.  We do most of our tilling and some cultivating by small tractor.  But now I'm down to hand work in the rows.  Transplanting, cultivating, weeding.  I just don't have short cuts for that.  Partly because we don't have the tools/technique down and partly because we can't spray away our problems.

I walk the ground.  I hand weed and cultivate the rows and I learn what's going on in the field.  The potato bugs have made an arrival.  They are eating leaves and laying their bright orange eggs on the new plants. We beat the bugs last year by moving rows and scattering plantings, then staying on top of their cycle by hand picking them off and squishing the eggs. But they're onto our plants now and I've got to stay on them.

The weeds are coming in too.  Cultivating the rows loosens and aerates the soil around plants and tears up the small weeds.  It's important to get them before they overtake the corn, beans and greens.  I'm on that too.

I walk the farm every day and check the trees and the plants and the ground.  I learned to do that from one of our mentors. You see what's really happening that way - with weeds, with plants, with fertility, with soil moisture and texture.  And it reminded me of something...about me, about human nature and about machines.

When I was a lot younger I worked on a cattle ranch.  I mention that once in a while because I learned a lot from the men who ran cattle on 2400 acres of grass covered hills - the old way.  Some days I worked with the experienced men, moving the herd out of the foothills on horse back...just like in the cowboy movies.  And I learned that cowboys don't do ground work if they can help it.  They trained their horses so they could do almost any task in the saddle. The only ground work we liked was on the dirt in the corral during spring roundup.  Branding was done with an iron on a wood fire, with the sorting, and vaccinations. Even then the head man stayed on his cutting horse and sorted the cows and calves at the gate. That's the way it was done for 150 years and it was something to be part of. 

I watch the men here drive the big rigs that plant grain and potatoes and spray for bugs and till fields.  Big fields.  And they know their business.  I'm as impressed watching some of these tractor jockeys move through a field as I was watching an old cowman sidle his bridle horse up to a gate to open the fence for the herd, without touching the ground. 

So there it is.  Cowboys and tractor jockeys don't like to do ground work.  And I guess I know why.
But I don't have the luxury of being mounted for my work because I cant afford to skip the lessons I'm learning on the dirt.

There's a retired fellow down the road who puts in a beautiful garden every spring.  I watch his work because I like what he does - a clever mixture of traditional farming with a lot of good common sense use of  found materials.  He's shy about it, but he has a master's touch. And I'm pretty sure that skills like his come from the ground up. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi really enjoyed your website and your way of living, from the land that is.

With regard to the potatoe bettle...try horseradish planted by your crop. I have read that this works and will try this next season.

Om Shanti