Monday’s are slow and begin tepidly. Their arrival can be unwelcomed as we feign a response to the brunt of work ahead. A reaction like this seemed inevitable, as likely and predictable as any farm task. To think about the week in any other respect would seem antithetical to the body’s exasperation after calmoring away in the fields. Work is hard. Persistent physical labor syphons away the body’s ability to recover. Each day takes another bite and does so mercilessly. And yet, the small, often times subliminal, offerings a day in the fields presents to the farmer give back the life necessary to do it all again.
So the need to observe these givings pours over with urgency. Our car rolls up to the northern edge of our farm and out beyond the gaggle of trees and shrubbery lies an deep and open space. With patience and fraught with a sense of stillness, we watch the margins of the horizon brim with hues of campfire orange and a ferocious yellow. Sunrise does occur before we step foot on the farm, but if we are lucky and early enough we view the changing of the guard happening above our heads. In little time the intensity we witnessed takes a precipitous change. Above us now is the majesty of blue skies, the color of infinity, the indefinite sprawl that blankets our existence. An awakening of all forest and farm species, including and especially the farmer, happens accordingly.
When I think about the day ahead, I think of our restless pursuit of makeshift perfection. You’ll understand the premise when you look out to the secession fields, or the the sloping fields near the western terminus of our property. You’ll see it as pigweed, ragweed, thistle and clover take advantage of minimum space and light and occupy any last parcel of soil they can sever away from our crops. You’ll see it as a cabbage plant is ostensibly succumbing to unrelenting pests. You might think that their persistent is ignored, if not an unavoidable consequence of quelling our dependence on chemical inputs. We are chary to believe that there is any other method more beneficial and regenerative to land than having a dependence on human ambition and ingenuity. That organic farming accepts that human power, in the face of mechanization and a peddled narrative that farming can be done cheaply and still procure a sustainable ethic, bolsters the idea of having a undisturbed landscape.
The weed, at times caustic and unruly, embitters us. They are a determined bunch. They disturb whatever crop bed they infiltrate. Their presence is almost universally unaccepted. When they root up from the top layer of the soil, it is already a day too late to cut them loose. The old saying on the farm is to weed before it gets weedy, yet the farmer will only know of their weeds when it becomes weedy. So we undertake the task of evisceration. With scuffle hoes and backhoes we glide across the surface of our beds to remove the weeds wholesale. After while, shoulder muscles begin to ache and yearn for respite but are greeted with the reality: there is more to weed. So much more, even in fields where we believe we have done a masterful job, where the plants look untainted and the soil appears resplendently clear. It’s this guessing game that presumes us to be imperfectionists.
It is in pursuit of makeshift perfection that lays the ground for a beautiful day. The mere presence of these weeds underscores how the fields we work - once layered in foreign, destructive sprays - have matured back to health, able to support life in all its forms. The soil we till is no longer a bygone in the eyes of the landowner - it is as sacred as the glimmering morning sun. The crops we have planted surely take a beating by many unassuming insects and pests, but they are resilient because of it, as are we. We wonder the grounds in the morning with all of this on our minds. The invasion of flea beetles, the uprising of weeds once believed to be an afterthought, a casual stroll maligned by the feeling that things are out of control - all of this prods and saturates our apprehension out of dormancy. To battle back, we believe that makeshift perfection is in our best interests. The formula for such a practice to believe in the self as the pile of tasks reaches skyward. It is to believe that hard work and determination will only get you so far, but get you so far as to notice a sizeable and meaningful change in the landscape. It is to view the land as a work in progress, that appearances don’t matter as much as ethics and principle, that whatever becomes of the final product is much more than a day’s worth of harvesting.
So walk around the fields and view all that we have planted, all the life that is supported by a system that pushes a standard far beyond conventional wisdom would tell you. Makeshift perfection seems like an odd phrase to use, and indeed it is. It is the best attempt we have at nurturing the land, and subsequently our food, to a resounding level of ecological health - an endeavour worth fighting with, not against.