One of the many important jobs on the farm is weed mitigation. From the chill of early season to the heat of the summer, the battle between our crops and weeds is full on. Weeds like Mallow, Vine Weed, Thistle, and Dock Root sprout up everywhere. There are some weeds that are edible like Purslane and Wild Amaranth and then some alien-looking ones, like Dodder, that is a parasitic weed that looks like strange yellow spaghetti. Edible or not, they are weeds and enemy to any farmer. If the they win out, our crops struggle to compete.
Weeding takes many forms on the farm. Much of the work is done by hand. This is slow, but effective if executed properly. Early in the season, full days are devoted to pulling out these pesky weeds. Knee pads and thin gloves ease the pain of being crouched over all day. When I am weeding, I find I have three positions I alternate through to help the repetitive stress. Bending at the waste, kneeling, and crouched on one knee.
Then, there are some tools that aid the weeding- bludgeon hoes, long skinny shovels, pitch forks. Of all these, my favorite is something we call a scuffle hoe. Like any other tool, it has a long wooden handle, but on the end, instead of the normal spade-type blade, it has a thin looping blade 1 1/2 inches wide. Instead of hacking away at the weeds with a large swooping motion from the shoulder, with the scuffle hoe, you place the blade on the ground and push it under the surface of the soil and pull back and forth. This cuts the roots and is quick and effective on young tender weeds.
With this tool, I get into a rhythm that comes with muscle memory. Push and pull, watch for the garlic or pumpkin plant, get as close as possible. Take a step forward and repeat. My mind can wonder, but, because of my competitive streak, I always keep one eye on those working beside me, being sure not to fall behind or even better just ahead of them.
The fields are looking clean this year, no small task with a small work crew. We are winning out, it seems.