Sunday, July 30, 2023

all weeds, no hope

Well, it's July. The end of July even. And if you make it to Soltice in June with hope, you are doing well. By now it is obviously the time of all weeds and no hope. Which is just the juxtaposition to that time early in the year when things are cleaned off and beginning to be planted and growing and you can stay ahead of the weeds and we call that time "all hope and no weeds". And if you are a *real* farmer/gardener and you have "farmed" the soil and not the plants or the harvest or the profit, then the weeds are going to grow as enthusiastically (or more so) than the intentional plants.

And that is not a bad thing, all in all. It's all carbon: sequester it. It's all pulling nutrients up out of the subsoil: they are helping you to "farm" your soil. Weeds can tell you a lot about your soil: is it wet, nitrogen deficient, acidic?

But it's not all a good thing either. Weeds can smother out your intentional plants, out-competing them for sunlight, water, and nutrients. Weeds can make it so you don't want to even go in your garden.

There is a middle path, tho, between my grandfather's weedless rows and an old friend's three carrots lost in the weeds. And that is, doing the best you can.

One, plant things close and they'll shade out a lot of weeds. Cabbage is the poster child for this strategy. Realize that sometimes things fail, or get too far out of hand, and it's ok to abandon them (and sometimes later you'll find three surprise carrots like our friend did). But the biggest thing, really, is to give the plants that you mean to grow a little advantage and forgive yourself for the rest.
That's a kale patch with some black palm kale and ragged jack kale and I took that photo after I'd weeded the right half and before I went to weed the other side of that bed. It's had some cabbage moth damage, and probably some snail damage from being deep in the weeds, but it's plenty healthy really. It probably had a pretty good start before the weeds got so thick (meaning we probably weeded it pretty well when it was still little), and now it will probably have a pretty good "finish". We'll spray a little Bt on it and be glad for a mix of sun and rain to encourage it to flourish. I foresee big batches of kale salad and maybe some frozen for winter greens.
Here's what else: It may nearly be August but it's still time to plant stuff! This patch is either October or Jacob's Cattle beans -- beans that should mature about the time of frost. Soup beans are another thing to grow if you are serious about feeding yourself.

Let me tell you about one year! It was the early '90s. One infant and us in a tiny trailer. All weeds and no hope had hit in early June and there wasn't much for it with town jobs and everything else going on, but during it, the husband had taken a not yet developed section of the circle garden and mounded up some beds and planted some October beans. October beans are the soup beans of choice in our culture (what momma always fixed), and the thing about beans is what you eat is also what you plant so you just go to the store, buy a pound of beans, and plant them!

So he planted these beans, not a very big patch. And October came and things died back and there were ALL THESE BEANS! We had a 3/4 ton Ford as a farm truck at that time so the husband took that down, pulled those bean vines, and filled the bed of that truck up. Literally. You could not see out the back window for the piled-up bean vines. He drove it up and parked it near our little old unheated, uncooled, 5-gallon water heater trailer and we'd bring in an armload of vines and strip the pods off (feeding the haulms to the rabbits) then shell out the green October beans and can them. There is nothing better than a green (matured but not dried), home-canned October bean!

A few years later he worked with someone whose family lived in Maine and was given a pound of a Maine staple, Jacob's Cattle Beans. We grew some of those, canned them, and gave the giver a few jars. She asked for the recipe: beans, water, salt. That's all. So that's how we got started growing Jacob's Cattle beans.

It's time to start seeds for fall cabbages, and get a lettuce bed started in a shady area, and process something every day.


Kathryn said...

Hello, very long-time reader, first time commenter. Actually, I have what might seem a strange question, since it doesn't have anything to do with this post.

Years ago, I read Eleutheros' blog regularly, and before it was taken down I copied all the posts and comments so I could re-read it at my leisure. SO many fascinating things to think about. So anyway, I'm rereading through it again, and I've come to the part where he discussed culture and the loss of it. Specifically, I was fascinated to learn that there is a specific way of offering and accepting tea in your culture. As a person of no-culture, I am curious to know how one politely offers and accepts or refuses tea in your house?

I understand if you're too busy to answer, but I really am dying to learn more.

Thank you,

CG said...

I'll see if I can round up the odd fellow to answer you. I'm a bit shocked anyone but me is still here. I know part of elutheros' work made it to the wayback machine but not all of it. Sad about that.

Anonymous said...

As to how tea is offered, in the Appalachian culture directness is an affront. Most interactions are handled indirectly. For example, when it comes time to pay someone, just handing them the money is dismissive. After talking and coming to an agreement, the payer will lay the money down on the table or counter fanned out so what is there can be seen at a glance and look away. The payee, seeing at a glance the amount, will pick it up, shuffle it together, and put it away.

So within the household one does not say "I want some tea." Rather "Some tea would be nice."

But when a visitor is in the house they can be asked and it goes like this:

"Would you like a cup of tea?"
"Thank you! But I wouldn't want to be a bother."
"Oh, it's no bother. The kettle is almost hot."
"Really, don't got to the trouble."
"Why no trouble, in fact I was thinking about having a cup myself."
"Oh, well seeing as you were going to have some yourself, why yes, I'd love a cup of tea."

Directness is never a virtue. It conveys a sense of anger, impatience, and disrespect.

Kathryn said...

His blog definitely should have been more widely read. I miss it.

Thank you, Kathryn

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Eleutheros. That clears things up. My south Georgia relatives would handle things in a similar way.