Weeding time (416)

by Max Akroyd

Just a dose of some sort of selective herbicide and this job would be over in minutes. Instead this one man is bent over a long parsnip bed for most of the afternoon, trying to select the right seedling to pull out.

For the first hour or so he’s fine: there’s something meditative about this weeding process. He can listen to the birds sing (if the geese aren’t honking) and feel the sun on the back of his neck.  The contents of his bucket, barely edible to him, will delight the hens and confer their nutritional benefits to him through their eggs. Anything the hens don’t want will come back, composted with the rest of their waste, and help feed next year’s crop. Everything feels more or less connected and, well, as it should be.

The local farmers trundle past every now and again, doing big jobs, in big fields in big tractors.

After the second hour, with the job still not completed and feet bored of being contorted into strange positions in their boots, heretical thoughts about the use of chemicals start to form in his mind: after all, it’s their industrial scale application that matters. If everyone farmed like him – he tells himself – perhaps small-scale application wouldn’t be so harmful to the environment? 

Maybe he’d look kind of important in a spacesuit lugging a preparation of chemicals around on his back… Or is their a machine that could mangle the weeds for him? A specialist bit of kit that would deafen the bloody geese and could work down the rows so he didn’t have to… He would only have to produce about 300 parsnips a year for the next 175 years to offset the cost… 

It seems the exchange for saving time on this job would be hungry hens, possible destitution and tainted parsnips that he wouldn’t feed to himself, let alone his family.

Back to the weeding. Barefoot.