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"Summer Weeding" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, June 2012

We can take a deep breath. Garden fork in hand, harvest basket ready and waiting, food is emerging where once there were weeds. Our myriad of annual beds have been forked, weeded, seeded, transplanted into, edged, mulched, and watered. As the solstice passes, the urgency of spring has finally been satiated.

Weeds still abound, mind you (indeed, nature's persistent biology is the ultimate job security), but our focus has shifted. With the final bed weeded out last week, and the last of our seeds and starts in the ground, weeding has taken on a new purpose: maintenance.

This is the pulse of the summer. Weeds continue to grow at an overwhelming pace, and our rapid work is now directed at staying ahead of these undesirable invaders in our garden space. To this end we take to the fields each day, our many hands maintaining our growing number of agricultural beds, patches, and rows so that our food crops flourish. Each meal is a testament to the work that dirties our nails and calluses our hands. As garlic scapes, peas, broccoli, herbs, berries, and a plethora of greens now fill our bowls, the vital nature of our work is continually demonstrated.

Annual food crops, however, haven't garnered our exclusive attention. The perennials have our interest as well. Flowers and groundcovers abound, as do herbals and medicinals; these favored species are encouraged to hold the weeds at bay. They don't maintain themselves, however, and our efforts must be directed to these understory perennials, as well as the larger species. Even with weeds encroaching, fruit and nut trees have begun to form fruit, offering the first glimpse of the abundance that will be upon us come fall. Berries are swelling and gaining color – mulberries will likely be the first for pickin', with blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries, and currants close behind. As we watch insects humming about the valerian, and notice birds evaluating the coloring of berries, we must work quickly to maintain such valuable rootstock against the competition of persistent, weedy colonizers. While perennials require less constant consideration than annuals, they do require maintenance, especially as younger crops.

So there is no shortage of tasks to rapidly fill our hours, our days, and our weeks. From summer solstice to autumn equinox, we bask in the longest, warmest days of the year. With our hands in the dirt, we pull weeds…may our food prosper.

Bethann Weick lives and works at D Acres Permaculture Farm & Education Center, a non-profit education organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 and now focuses her work on gardening, animal husbandry, and writing. Check out her recent articles published in Small Farmer's Journal and Permaculture Activist. Learn more about the programs at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org.

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