Hoe, Hoe, Weed & Mow

The onset of summer-like weather has jump-started the growing season–and the weeds. Last weekend, John, Martin, and I put in the tomatoes, peppers, and most of the rest of the onions and leeks.

This morning, before the real heat set in (I think it might’ve hit 90!) I hoed that whole new tomato garden to wipe out the first post-planting flush of weeds. They never look very menacing at that tiny “white thread” stage (named for their single thin taproot), but they are a lot easier to take out at that stage and in this hot weather, when any little soil disturbance makes them wither and die.

The Red Ranger broiler chickens are growing like the weeds, too. John took to calling them the “Drumsticks,” so I’m now referring to them as “Drummies.” They’re only three weeks old now, but I swear some of their legs are as thick as a full-grown laying hen.

I grabbed one up particularly recalcitrant one up in my hands this evening as I was trying to herd them into their kennel, and was amazed at how “meaty” it felt. Just solid and pulsing with heat and energy. I’ve never raised the typical Cornish Cross broilers, which some farmers I know are repulsed by for their tendency to do nothing but sit by the feeder and eat ’til their legs give out, but I’m impressed by the zip of these Rangers.

In the morning when I release them from their secure quarters, they all race out into the grass pen, flapping their wings and checking out anything that might’ve changed in the night. That’s not to say they don’t like their ration: I’ve taken to calling feeder-filling time, the “Drummie Scrum,” and I’ve also taken to filling a third feeder because fifty rapidly growing chickens at two feeders got to be a little too crazy for me to find amusing anymore.

The guys headed off to camp tonight, and I hope they have good weather for it (or at least that Martin is not scared, and the tent doesn’t leak–in that order). We have seen dark clouds roll through a few times today, and now there is lightning flashing in a few different directions. I got the raised bed garden watered early this morning, but I didn’t have time to water the tomato garden before work–I did water it yesterday, so it should be fine.

Instead of watering this evening, I stayed out ’til 9:30 or so weeding garden beds and cleaning things up with the gas trimmer–taking the cages off the rugosa roses and serviceberry and hazelnuts and trimming around them and the edges of border beds and around the buffalo berry bushes. We’ve got a couple of cattle panels leaning up against our power poles, and I pulled those out and trimmed underneath them, too. I think grass loves cattle panels more than anything–if you leave one sitting along a fenceline or in the yard for any length of time, it becomes a real project to pull it out.

I also took a hint from my friend and colleague Robin Moore, who is this amazing blacksmithing, flower-growing, skill-having woman I’m blessed to know. We were at a Women Caring for the Land gathering that Land Stewardship Project hosts in Glenwood, and she started talking about this guy who buys up all the old seed from garden centers and where-have-you and plants it all together in a big, crazy mix.

I got to thinking about all the one or two year-old flower and herb seed I have just sitting around, waiting for the perfect place to put it. Except there is no perfect place, and there is no time to individually plant every last thing I want to grow (or even that I have seed for). But what I did have is this kind of bare, ugly place along the west side of the goat barn that used to have a big pile of goat manure on it, and was sprouting a bunch of weeds.

There were plans for that spot–I was going to transplant the “secret stash” of hollyhocks that John has so far managed not to mow (my dear husband is a hollyhock-hater, but I will let him tell that story!), but with the weather so hot and the spot so remote from my normal watering route, that probably would’ve just led to more hollyhock demise. So instead I mixed up a great, big batch of flower and herb seed–from amaranth to cilantro to Thai basil to zinnias and everything in between–and I hoed up the area, kicked some soil over it, and we’ll see what grows. Oh, and dare I say the mix contains my mother’s special “no-mow” hollyhocks? Shhhhh!

Then I cracked a cold beer and sat on the corner of a garden bed in the deepening dusk–when all the bird calls sound as if they’re coming from far away, watching lightning play across the southern sky and the rain clouds curtain around the farm. The breeze was light, the mosquitoes were somehow absent, and I spent some well-earned time just enjoying the view of the work we’ve accomplished.


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