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Joys of Hand Weeding: Part 1 [Farming
Posted on August 25, 2014 @ 09:04:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I'm at the farm this week doing some work in my startup vineyard. I have 1, 2, and 3 yr old grape vines growing. My 3 yr olds should produce some juice this year so I'm hoping to make some wine from scratch with my own grape juice this fall. My current project, however, is weeding my 1 yr old grape vines. I rooted the grape vine plants in my small greenhouse at my main residence. In the spring and early summer I drove down to the farm on multiple occasions and transplanted them into strip tills that I prepared in the previous fall (plowing) and spring (rototilling). Just before planting them out, I rototill the soil one last time to delay the emergence of weeds. I spent little time weeding my 1 yr old grape vines this year - about 1 hr walking beside each of my 7 rows (about 750 plants) and removing some of the big obvious weeds that were starting to take off. This is the first time that I am doing a full hand weeding of the rows and I suspect it will be the last time this season as temperatures start to cool and hopefully slow down weed growth.

In the video below I'm demonstrating the fine art of hand weeding 1 yr old grape vines. In many vineyards there might be a machine for this but oftentimes a herbicide is used to keep the row of vines completely clear of any weed pressure. I don't run such a large operation that I can afford any mechanical weeder and I'll stay small enough for awhile (not expanding my vineyard much next year) so I can get by with hand weeding and mulching (with rotted hay). I want to keep things as organic as I can.

Generally when I'm weeding I wear hearing protectors that include a radio that I listen to while weeding. I'm listening to the radio as I'm talking and weeding in the video - you may notice me bobbing my head as I work because a good tune is playing. I'm obviously not wearing a suit and tie and that suits me just fine :-) I do wear a pair of blue jeans that has good thick material so the knees don't wear out right away. I also wear a long sleeve shirt to keep bugs from biting me and to protect me from the sun. Also, sunglasses and a golfing hat to collect sweat from my brow as I'm working and release heat. My headphones fit over a golfing hat nicely.

Hand weeding for 1.5 hrs is comparable to running 10 kms when you are not in that great a shape. You weed faster at the beginning and may forget that you are even weeding/running, but as you continue on and start to notice your muscles working more, you begin to set mini-goals to get you to the finish line. There is a mental game of weeding that you also have to master. Most people cannot master the mental game. They view the work as beneath them. I don't mind that the work is literally beneath me and that it can become so mindless that your mind wanders to ideas for blogs, ideas for short YouTube videos on grape growing, enjoying tunes, and generally losing contact with the world outside of the microcosm of nature I'm working in.

This type of work might be viewed as an example of "green exercise" (see my Nature Smart Entrepreneurs blog for further discussion) where you are out in nature and engaging in meaningful work that requires physical strength and stamina for an extended period of time. You would be hard pressed to find exercise that can work your hands and upper body in the way that hand weeding does. It can be a real drag hand weeding in hot temperatures so do it as early in the morning as you can. Hand weeding gets easier later in the summer when temperatures get cooler. If you do this work for many days for as long as you can go, you start to feel like the hulk after you finish working. Your hands, forearms, biceps, shoulders, chest and upper back are tired after a days work but as they start to recover you start to feel strong and wanting to move heavy objects. Making square bales of hay on a farm also gives you this feeling. Hopefully I will get this feeling as I accumulate hand weeding time in the vineyard.




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