First Spring Flush Of Weeds

Weed Excerpts — Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works

We go through the motions, planting like we expect a good soaker, but it is too dry even for weeds to germinate. The first corn sets tassels on two-feet-tall stalks. We keep plants alive with water from a tank, but only the watermelons and tomatoes grow—nothing else thrives. Irrigation is a meager substitute for the real thing. I offer deals to the rain gods: “Just give us enough to sprout weeds and I’ll never complain again about hoeing.” But nothing changes.


Life returns! Last night rain and lightning. Today the first flush of weeds. Good-bye winter, hello spring.


The morning comes in cleared out and screaming fresh. In the melons I find thick green vines covered with a third set of tight blossoms—a testimony to the importance of crop diversity. Before the day is over, it rains again. A few days later every field has a flush of weeds. Spring flowers in the desert, glorious sight—weeds. The world is green again—just like that. The magic of a good shower sprinkles life through its drops. It is too late to save the rest of the crops. But at least it can rain.
First, the mighty soil builders, with long taproots digging deep and bringing minerals up from the subsoil, the annual weeds with their short and simple life cycles busting the clods and plow pan. Then the perennial grasses, the soil coverers, the verdant guardians and protectors. The soil would grow a complex system of multiple species. There would be no straight rows or naked soil. But we humans interrupt this natural process—we want to control what is grown here. We name the crop. Choose the cultivar. Add the fertility.
Farm soil is a wild animal held in captivity. Living in the soil are more undomesticated species than can be found aboveground on the entire planet. This soil life has simple needs: food, air, water, and shelter. Just like every other species. Prevented from caring for itself, it lies at our mercy, dependent on our long-term vision and integrity. Its future capacity is determined by our judgment. Anytime we open up the land—when we remove its protective cover of grass and forb, brush and tree, when we lay the soil bare, exposed to the elements— we embezzle its ability to command its own wellness.
Opening land is a covenant.
That’s close to never. I gotta spray today. These weeds are getting away on me.”
“It’s illegal to drift.” Minnesota has a strict liability legal standard for enforcement of cases involving pesticide drift: if drift occurs, the applicator is responsible, and no showing of negligence, carelessness, or intent is required to bring an enforcement action against the applicator.
“Oh ya. Well it’s illegal to piss behind a bar.
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© Atina Diffley 2012

Turn Here Sweet Corn

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