When is a weed a weed? Midsummer abundance

We’re liberating the strawberries,” my sister reported, using the verb our mother chose long ago and that the whole family now uses instead of the more pedestrian term: weeding.

Every farming year has its unique music, composed by temperature, rainfall, and the interactions of a huge orchestra of natural, human, and mechanical parts. This year the dominant motif on my sister’s organic fruit farm and my brother’s organic vegetable farm has been the brassy, boisterous, fast and furious allegro con brio of weeds.

Liberation, never easy, becomes a Sisyphean task for a number of reasons. First, around the summer solstice every green thing’s chloroplasts go into overdrive, working for 18 hours straight, from the first rays of dawn until the solar power gives out at dusk. Because everything is growing at peak speed, if we are not planting or harvesting, then we need to be weeding. Second, this summer we’ve had weeks of frequent gentle rains followed by sunny skies—perfect conditions for accelerated growth of plant life. And finally, my brother Henry is once again farming the fertile bottom field after letting it lie fallow for four years—twice as long as usual.