May 29, 2012
An irrigation ditch runs along the west side of the farm. Diverted from the Yakima River, the ditchwater has visited a hundred farms and ranches by the time it reaches the JustLiving Farm. Flowing past farms and homesteads means the seeds and plants of others get caught up in the water and then, sometimes, settle along the ditch bank.
Folks take care of the smaller ditch banks that run through their farm by burning the ditch in the spring and/or using Roundup through the summer. When it comes to larger ditches, such as this one, both the irrigation district and the local farmer care for the ditch bank. Because the ditch is for water conveyance, the irrigation district and many farmers consider the plants along the ditch as weeds. Weeds though, as often said, are plants out of place—or what humans have decided are not desirable, even in their natural landscape. In this ditch’s case, the district comes through each spring and burns out any buildup of vegetation along the ditch bank. Then we care for one side of the ditch and our neighbor for the other.
Our care for the ditch bank is to leave it alone. We mow a walking path along it. Neighbors, folks who come to the farm for retreat, and us, walk the path year-round. By leaving the bank alone, we have the opportunity to see and experience little unexpected gifts. This last weekend, a walk bestowed irises upon us. Irises who made their way here from some homestead somewhere on the reservation. Gifts such as this not only questions what is a weed, but also in some odd way creates a relationship with someone, somewhere, who also enjoys a bit of yellow in the late spring.
© David B. Bell 2012