As Farmer John and I pulled weeds from around the green onions over the weekend, the truth came out: we both enjoy weeding. For the most part, anyway. It depends on what kinds of weeds we’re working on. In this case, we were yanking out thick stands of wild sunflowers, which pull out easily. (Other weeds, like the dreaded bull nettle, have tap roots that I feel sure burrow through the Earth’s core and stop only when they reach the other side of the globe.) Wild sunflowers aren’t technically weeds, I suppose, but they can crowd out our food crops if we don’t keep them in check.

After only about 30 minutes, we’d finished the task and were able admire our accomplishment. That’s the thing. Weeding, especially easy weeding, rewards you with almost instant gratification. Job well done; pat yourself on the back.

Weeds have all but taken over the farm. It’s the price we pay for a wet winter and early spring. We’re overjoyed that the lake is full again – we don’t relish drought conditions – but in drier times, there’s no doubt our job is less stressful, at least as far as weeds are concerned.

Not so this year. Take the snow peas, for example.

We could barely find the pea plants through all the weeds. Although these rows had already been weeded and cultivated once in the earlier stages of growth, you never would have guessed it. Mary and Vicky got a great start at clearing the weeds away, but this is a tedious, painstaking chore. Not only do they have to work around and within the wire cages supporting the flowering plants, but they have to take special care to pull only the weeds, without uprooting the peas too.

It’s a matter now of priorities. When everything on the farm is in need of a good weeding, we have to decide which crops are hurting the worst at any one time. The peas, obviously, were right up there, as were the beets. Both the golden beets…

…and the purples…

…had become engulfed in weeds. The roots themselves are still small, but in order to have any hope of full-sized beets in the near future, we need to clear out all the riff-raff from around them.

We’re over halfway finished.

And though the weed-freed plants look beautiful, so far it’s been anything but fun.

On a recent afternoon, as everyone was loading up their cars and getting ready to head home after that day’s work, I went to one of the 400-foot rows of onions and started to pull pigweed and immature sunflowers. John was busy at the other end of the farm readying some rows for planting, and my intention was to just pull a few weeds until it was time to start dinner.

It became an obsession. The first time Farmer John pushed a wheelbarrow full of fertilizer past me, he asked what I was doing. Without looking up, I spat out, “Pulling weeds!” all the while tossing aside fistfuls of thick sunflower stalks.

Later, as he passed by again toting irrigation equipment, he shouted, “You’re over halfway there!” My own personal cheerleader. At that point, there was no stopping – dinner be darned, I was a driven woman. Was it the allure of positive reinforcement that kept me going? A manic need for fulfillment, for affirmation, for a sense of purpose?

Whatever it was, after an hour or so, I found myself at the end of the line. Thanks to a sudden half-crazed diligence, I’d almost completely liberated a 400-foot bed of Yellow Granex onions.

I say “almost,” because I had traversed just one side of the row, stretching across to pull only what I could reach. Once at the opposite end, it was apparent that I’d not cleared the far side of all its weeds.

Yet it was good enough. Satisfied with the result of my labor, and convinced once again that it can indeed be enjoyable to pull weeds, my obsession was quelled. I was able to walk away. There was still the matter of getting dinner on the table, after all.

Besides, a person can handle only so much bliss.

* * *
Here’s what we’ll have at the farm stand for you this week:

Garlic scapes (cut the stalks into ½” pieces, cut the flower heads in half, saute it all in butter and serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese…yum!); the first of the new crop of carrots; sweet white turnips; spinach; lettuce mix (not a lot of lettuce this week — but the new crop of head lettuces will be ready by next Wed.!); bags of arugula; bunches of kohlrabi (use the beautiful greens for cooking!); escarole (delicious in soups and perfect for Italian cooking); green onions; green garlic; young leeks; bunches of chard; Brussels greens; Dinosaur kale; and bunches of mixed Asian greens.

***This weekend, April 23-25, the Austin Green Living Expo is taking place at the Austin Convention Center. On Saturday afternoon there will be a special screening of the documentary FRESH, after which Edible Austin Magazine is hosting a panel made up of egg and pastured poultry farmer Jeremiah Cunningham (of Coyote Creek Farm), Elizabeth Winslow of Farmhouse Delivery, Mason Arnold of Greenling Delivery, and…well…me!

FRESH is an excellent documentary about the state of the country’s food system, and what we can do to try to correct some of the wrongs, like “concentration camp” chicken houses and cattle feedlots, that continue to happen. I’d love to see you there! For more information, click here.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm