Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Week on the Farm: Wednesday

Wednesday: Pond Cleaning

When they got pond cleaning for their work assignment on Wednesday one of the Guest Students was a little apprehensive about going out on a boat so we swapped she went to help out in the kitchen while I went with the rest of the gang down to the pond to pull up some weeds. To accomplish this we used a small aluminum boat, a raft and some rakes that we borrowed from the Farm Crew. I remembered that there was rain gear in my car (where was that yesterday?) and went to grab it even though the weather was much better and it really wasn't necessary.

Pretty quickly we had a bit of an informal competition going between boats, to see who could rake in more weeds. The recommended technique is to put the rake down in the water and swirl it around, like you're trying to pickup a fork full of spaghetti. After comparing our respective loads at lunch time we were all determined to do better in the afternoon and out harvest the other team. As a Guest Practice Retreatant, I wasn't on the hook to go back and work in the afternoon but they would have been one short to crew the boats and the teams would have been split so there really wasn't much choice, it was for the benefit of all beings, except maybe the weeds.

Rake Overboard

My partner and I were in the small boat, besides the rakes we had oars for getting around, the raft used a bamboo punt stick to navigate and hold it's position. Over the course of the afternoon we drifted apart a bit and worked on different parts of the pond, going where the weeding looked most productive. At one point one of our rakes stuck in the mud and was sticking up out of the muck, we had to paddle over to it to get it back into the boat, bit of a close call.

A few minutes later we heard a commotion from across the pond, so we paddled over to discover that the raft crew had lost a rake in deeper water, and it was nowhere to be found. Remember, these are the farms rakes and we were working with a member of the garden crew, so loosing one was a bit of a big deal, the farmers weren't going to let us forget it if we lost one of their rakes. There was a lot of searching, we pulled up all the weeds in the general area and tried to locate the submerged rake, after about ten minutes the raft crew decided to head back so that one of them could change into something more suitable for swimming.

While they were over at the bank my partner in the boat and I continued to search around, and finally I hit it! Leaning over the front of the boat and probing around with my rake I found the submerged one, it's wooden handle floating off the bottom and the iron rake head keeping it on the pond floor. I tried to reach over, almost flooding the boat in the process, after a few minutes of poking at it the course of action was pretty clear. I stripped out of my rain gear and handed my glasses over to my co-pilot, and with a quick "Shikata ga nai" was over the side and into the pond.

The pond is cold and the water is a bit murky, especially after having been stirred up by all the weed pulling. I hopped in and it was way over my head, after coming back up for air I held onto the boat and searched around with my feet until I had the rake between them and could pull it up. Rake retrieved we paddled back over to the cheering raft crew, not only did we save them a swim the farm crew wouldn't have anything to hold over our heads afterwords.

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