Hand : Tool

My favorite tools are the two I was born with: my hands. One of the great things about hand work is that you don’t have to restrict yourself to a single task, as you are almost forced to with a manufactured tool. Your hand is adaptable. Consider weeding: You can pull your fingers through the top inch or so of soil, breaking up the rain-compacted surface, and then, with the same movement of the wrist, but a slight realignment of the fingers, smooth it out again. If, in your haste, you bump a newly set transplant, your hand, unlike the fast-moving, sharp-edged hoe—which would shear off a tomato or pepper seedling as if it were merely another weed—recognizes it as …

ShepherdHand : Tool

Why I Hate Roto-Tillers

Statistically, one of the most dangerous occupations in this country is agriculture, and the reason (if you forget the pesticide exposure many farmers must endure) is the machinery. To work safely with power machinery requires that one’s attention be on safety—on the machine, that is—as much as on the work itself. This is—no surprise—the same basic, humane argument I have against pesticides: When your thoughts have to dwell on protecting yourself and others (including the plants) from accidental injury rather than on the task at hand—on that task’s meaning and context, and on new ways that it could be done better—you have sold your human birthright and become merely an extension of the technology. For me, that is a cosmic …

ShepherdWhy I Hate Roto-Tillers

Parsleyworm

That’s what I call it, though if you look it up on the Internet – boy do I love the Internet — the citizen science site Bug Guide calls it the Black Swallowtail after its mature form. Whatever you want to call it, I was out watering the celery roots today, and the hose got tangled up in the end of the bed. I am very distracted these days by putting the finishing touches on the new Seed 2 Table Network site so I have not been giving the garden the attention it deserves (yes, a contradiction!) but I noticed as I was untangling the hose the underside of a celeriac leaf, and the enormous number of eggs it had …

ShepherdParsleyworm

What’s Happening Here?

Here it is mid-August in the Mid-Atlantic United States, and at sunrise it is 48F…that is 20-25 degrees below what we would normally expect, and it looks like we are in for a spell of this weather. I’m not complaining, mind you. This is excellent planting weather for fall crops, and most years it is painfully hard to come by. The cool weather crops don’t like the heat (lettuce for example, won’t sprout above 80F) so just getting them to germinate requires tricks like setting the trays on a cool corner of the cement slab of the garage. What really triggered this post was the flock of geese that just went over. When I lived in Vermont, mornings in the …

ShepherdWhat’s Happening Here?