Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Hoeing

We hoed our early brassicas yesterday. It was a perfect afternoon, warm, but not too hot, clear and sunny, a little breeze, birches and a few maples budding out already, tinting the field-edges with the sweetest lightest green. We hoed six or seven 370-ish foot beds of cabbage, kale, collards, and broccoli. I don't know what it is about hoeing, but it is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. I could spend all day out in the field with a hoe, alone or with a friend, moving down the field in a pattern that's a dance, killing weeds, breathing in the geen scents of early summer. There's something sacred about the feel of the long handle in my hands, the deep rhythm of it, the sound of the blade scuffling thorugh soil, the easy, familiar movement of it, bed after bed after bed.

I spent the second half of the afternon using how to use the disc and the chiesel plow on our big John Deere. It was neat to drag a big implement through the field, lossening the soil and incoporating last year's cover crop. But though I'm glad to learn how to operate tractors, sitting up on top of the John Deere, the chisel plow tunneling behind me, the bue sky overhead - it simply isn't the same. Some people love it, but not me. Every day, I'm realizing how much I love doing things - as much as possible - on a hand scale. I love having my feet on the earth and a simple, effective tool in my hands. I love being able to hear my breath and the breath of the woods around me. I love listening to the sounds of dirt aganist metal and watching the light change on the young plants as clouds move across the sky. I love using my muscles, feeling the ache in my calves and shoulders and upper arms, falling into the rhythm of constant movement, my step in sync with my hoe, never having to stop walking as I slide my blade around each plant.

Hoeing is one of the most basic acts of farming. It reminds me to pay attention, it reminds me why I love growing vegetabes, and it reminds me that it is the details I love most - the color of the sky, the thin lines of green in the field, a sharp blad. When it comes down to it, this is why I've chosen a life of farming. Just because I love this, this blessedly simple act, this walking up and down a field of young brassicas with a hoe in my hands.

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