Saturday, June 14, 2008

Getting to know the "shuffle hoe"

Today was my first day working solo at our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. My job, along with three other people, is to spend four hours a week weeding the cutting garden.

As I parked my car and walked over to the garden I felt a wave of discomfort realizing that I really don't actually know how to weed a garden. I mean I generally have an idea that involves picking out plants that you don't want to be growing in the garden so that the plants you do want to be growing in the garden have less competition for water and sunlight and nutrients.

But the flower fields are pretty large and the thought of hand-plucking stray grasses and other unwelcome shoots was pretty daunting.

After surveying the fields (and thinking that they really didn't look all that bad) I went over to the adjoining field where the farmer's market was taking shape. I located Pat, the farm manager, and told him I was there to work but not quite sure where to begin.

I actually felt really bad doing that. I really didn't want to bother him when he was obviously busy but I really wasn't sure what needed to be done.

But just like Rae, the assistant farm manager who I met two weeks ago, Pat seems to have a very deep well of patience for all the little questions farm-hands, volunteers, market customers, CSA members, field-tripping students and teachers, and visitors to the farm must throw at him every day.

He gave me a friendly welcome and noted that the weeds were already "getting pretty bad" (so much for my assessment). He asked me if I had ever used a "shuffle hoe", which I didn't know because I had no idea what a shuffle hoe was.

Once Megan, the other assistant farm manager, explained that it looks like the stirrup at the end of a long pole, I remembered one of my fellow weeders waxing poetic about the wonders of this hoe.

During a pre-season meeting where we set up a loose schedule of who would be weeding when, she told me that she loved this tool so much that last year she asked for one for Mother's Day.

So now that I knew what tool I was to use, I set off to find one in the tool barn, and returned to the market tent for a very quick tutorial.

Megan, who I was meeting for the first time, showed me the basic motion, which looks something like sweeping with a big push broom (the big institutional size ones).

Once I got back to the field and gave it a go, I learned that the shuffle hoe (which a later Google search told me is sometimes called a scuttle hoe, a scuffle hoe or a double edged action hoe) is a LOT of fun to use!

As I read on numerous blogs and gardening forums, the shuffle hoe really does glide through the dirt and as you move it back and forth the double edge blades chop the weeds at the roots.

Because the weeds were still pretty small, I was able to mostly just pull and occasionally push a little, which made it even easier, and I'm really not kidding, lots of fun!

Here's a before/after picture of the second field. The left side of the picture is before and the right side of the picture is after a once-over with the shuffle hoe.

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