Monday, June 12, 2017

The Thistles of the Field

It's been six weeks since we planted the pumpkin patch.  We haven't visited for a few weeks and before that the weather wasn't great so I had big plans this weekend.  I was going to weed those rows, and weed them good.  Justin has been gone on a trip to Alaska since last Monday (another post for that later) so my dad stepped in and did the cultivating but the rows were up to me. 

This is what I looked upon on Friday night when I arrived. I was planning to start hoeing Saturday morning but it rained in the night so I had to wait for the mud to dry.  The cultivating happened before lunch on Saturday morning.  Just that act made a huge difference, as you can see from the picture below.

But, the hard part was still ahead of me.  My grandma and aunt were visiting on Saturday and we celebrated my nephew's first birthday so I couldn't get any hoeing done.  Around nine p.m. on Saturday my dad headed out to the field with a full tank in the sprayer and I headed out to the patch (because that's what farm people do!).  No one could find the hoe so I took a small garden fork tool.  The fork didn't work nearly as well as a hoe so I pulled weeds my hand until dark. 

On Saturday morning I was ready to go but Milo was acting really strange and whiny.  My weeding hours were slipping away when he sat up straight in my lap and puked all over me.  Yep, that happened.  So, around 10:30 I finally was ready to go to the pumpkin patch.  And still, we couldn't find a hoe.  My dad produced a metal rake which was really old and it shattered into multiple pieces as soon as I took my first hack at a thistle.  So I started weeding by hand again, knowing I wouldn't get nearly enough accomplished and that next time I came the rows would be overcome with weeds up to my knees.  Finally, my mom showed up with the mystery hoe (yes, I do feel strange saying "hoe" so many times...if only it only had one meaning as a garden tool!) and I was able to focus my energy and clear some rows.  It still doesn't look the way I hoped but each pumpkin plant I was able to clear will make a difference.  I can say with certainty that I would like to never see the following again:

Image result for lambs quarter weed

This little plant is a lambsquarter (this is an internet photo not my own).  It looks innocent but oh my word...they grow like crazy and they are everywhere.  You can see them growing but when you kneel down where each one is there are probably twenty little sprouts ready to pop up around larger one.  They grow right up against the pumpkin plants.  Their seeds seem to live forever and I still find them in my planters even though we haven't brought new field soil here from Eastern ND for three years now and I mix in new potting soil every year.  They were by far the most common weed in the patch.  There was also the occasional mustard, which most people don't need to see a picture of because those of us of a certain age who were kids before Roundup ready beans existed probably were given a job of pulling them from a field at some point in their youth.  According to my quick research while looking for a picture they are considered weeds almost everywhere but they are popular for eating in India. 

Then...there was the big one..the demon weed of the pumpkin patch.  Thistle.  These things are so nasty.  I tried to pull a few with gloves and they poked right through.  Even the base of the roots (or should I say singular root, a deep, long taproot that is very hard to pull up) is prickly.  And they grow so huge.  These ones in the picture were almost to my knees.

Apparently, thistles submit to herbicides just as easily as the other weeds although it's hard to imagine that these things and lambsquarters and grasses are on the same level.  None of that matters because pumpkins are not bred to withstand any herbicide and they would die with the weeds if we sprayed them so hoeing and pulling are the available options.  I guess we could cover the plant and spray around it but that would also be pretty time consuming...

Hopefully we can get the rest of the patch weeded sufficiently  before some plants get overtaken.  The first year we didn't weed and the pumpkin vines had to climb the weeds to get to the sun.  It gets out of control so fast.  I need a week of recovery anyway.  The physical motion of hoeing is really good exercise and my arms are very stiff as are the backs of my thighs.  If I had shoveled some grain and lugged around some bales or sacks I would have completed a traditional farm daily exercise program.

1 comment:

Ashley Strukel said...

I'm picturing Tim ceremoniously presenting you with a rusty rake. Hilarious.