Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weeding the Asparagus Bed

Three-pronged claw tool in hand, the task seemed both daunting and necessary as I faced the asparagus bed choked with field grass, milkweed, vetch and everything else. This has been going on all of 14 years, a continuous process of returning the asparagus bed back into wild field. My part of this is to turn the tide every spring, reminding the asparagus bed that for the next few months its asparagus production will take priority over its field-meadow production.

I am not in conflict with the weeds. I turn the earth to the depth I must, careful not to disturb the dormant asparagus, in order to pull out the roots and extract the majority of the visible volunteer weeds out of the bed. This process aerates the soil and integrates the compost and manure, reveals the health of the earth full of worms, and loosens up the top layer so that the soon-to-be growing asparagus will find its way to the light. The pile of weeds goes into the compost to return in a few months to enrich the soil from which it came.

Mostly I focus on the few inches of earth around where my tool has scraped. When I look up I see the expanse of the bed and all the weeds yet to come. In the same moment that the thought pops up, "this is going to take forever and I am already tired," I smile and acknowledge that as I go, the distance is covered, the bed is weeded, one handful at a time. I do not need to defeat myself by imagining the size of the task as too big, nor spur myself as an endurance test to work beyond my strength. I see how much there is to do, and know that it is this moment and this handful of earth, this grass root in my fingers that are my life, not the beating around the head feeling of how much more there is to do, nor an eventual patting on the back feeling of accomplishing the task.

Does this make life dreary, taking out challenge, motivation and accomplishment from the job? Not for me. I accept that my goal is to be happy in this moment. I can acknowledge my tired fingers and appreciate the depth of the root I am struggling to pull. When I stand by the compost bin to catch my breath and see the fullness of material I have just dumped in there, I can see the asparagus bed too, clear of weeds for the moment, rich earth ripe and ready for asparagus and weed alike. What I know is that the sun is still shining, the wind is pulling at my hair, and I'm ready for a drink of water. I'll be thrilled to see those asparagus tips come up, even though there are sure to be a young crop of new weeds right along with them.

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