Yes, it’s grand work hoeing turnips. The hoe comes easily to hand, and the blade rubbles up the weeds something rotten. You can do a good job or a perfect one; it’s your decision. So you work away beneath the sun as if the world was nothing more than your own shadow on a rig of shaws. Sometimes you can hear sandmartins up from the burn, but mostly it’s just the glit and shiver of steel on loose ground.
A hare lies in the back corner and she thinks I can’t see her. It’s only in the last week that this crop’s grown tall enough to hide her. Until then she’d been coming in like a burglar and lifting her share under the moon. But now she can lounge around at her leisure and peel the greenery from her bed in broad daylight. I work closer to her, and at length she comes up like a stolen shirt and rides away along the furrow with her lugs trailing behind her.
There are weeds all through this crop. There’s mouse-ear and fat hen and creeping buttercup coiling around knives of dead nettle and spoons of sun spurge. Some of it’s hellish bad for docks, and other bits are just a bank of deep-rooted thistles. Everything wants to grow in that bare soil, and I rake it out with a turn of the hoe leaving only turnips and dampness in my wake.
And I sometimes find oats coming up from last year. They’re stocky and short, and they need more than rubbing out. I hack the stems and lift the roots to let them crisp in the wind. Last year’s crop is little more than a problem now, and then there’s a storm of finches over the dyke and the bull is tolling again, blowing streamers into the long grass.