A little over a week ago we planted pumpkin seedlings at Scott Montgomery Elementary School. Since then school has started, the seedlings have grown and so has the grass that we attempted to remove from the bed before we started planting. During the last week or so I have learned lots about this grass which I believe is Bermuda Grass. It is an intensely strong and invasive variety of grass that has a rhizome structure that is difficult to pull up.
Internet research generally advocates using an herbicide to remove it. However this is not something we would consider doing anywhere let alone at a school where we are trying to grow food. We have been trying to keep up with the new growth by weeding but yesterday it became apparent that unless we were planning on recruiting a large group of people hand weeding was not the answer. Furthermore, with this grass it is nearly impossible to remove the roots so you get the feeling that by weeding you might actually be strengthening the grass.
Early this morning when I went to visit the pumpkin patch I remembered the weeding tools that were introduced to me at a SPIN Gardening Class that Martin-Lane and I attended last winter. At the class people from Purple Mountain Organics demonstrated a variety of hand tools used to efficiently remove weeds in between rows of plants.
This morning I found Purple Mountain Organics on the Internet and called. The woman who answered said they were busy preparing for a Raw Food Festival but would be happy to meet us if we could get there within the hour. She ended the telephone conversation with "look for the large purple house on Carrol" and wished me "Peace".
When we arrived at the large purple house in Takoma Park and drove into the driveway, a woman in a long beautiful purple robe followed by two gorgeous kids dressed in purple greeted us. "Did you call for the tools?" We followed her into the side door and there was an elaborate display of internationally made hoes, rakes, shovels, tillers and weed pluckers of various sorts. In fact, these guys had anything you needed to wreak havoc on the industrial food system philosophy of growing vegetables with herbicides and chemicals. I mean the "brothers and sisters" as I was asked to refer to the people of Purple Mountain as. Which sort of confused me because from then on I had trouble putting together a request–not feeling comfortable with second person personal pronouns being banned as well as not wanting to seem unwilling to fulfill their request. "Do you–I mean the brothers and sisters lend out tillers?"
The sister was a great help we chatted about everything from vegan and raw food to bio-diesel hand held tillers. We took her advise and purchased her favorite weeder, the cobra head as well as a hoe from Germany. The children wished us peace as we left. I look forward to returning for a rain barrel later this month.
We left thinking about how exciting and somewhat unnerving the experience was of visiting these openly devout followers of Nahziryah Monastic Meditation and Wholistic Living Community. We left also thinking about ritual and culture and what the connection is between the spiritual and organic farming–we buy most of our organic produce from Amish Farmers in Pennsylvania. We chatted about this and I immediately thought of reading about New Yorkers freaking out upon visiting Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm and seeing a Jesus fish on the door. Joel is an Openly Libertarian Christian and an amazing organic farmer practicing permaculture. Maybe involving oneself in a spiritual practice lends itself to the discipline of Organic Farming as does the simple gratitude and respect of some secular practices?
Ultimately what I find interesting here is that if the secular ecological movement and the long standing spiritual ecological practices, with their cultures and traditions ever allow for an alliance we could actually see real change in the way food is grown and distributed. Anyone interested in Organic Gardening should checkout the Bothers and Sisters of Purple Mountain Organics.