The First Adventure of Roundup Man!

May 7, 2007

Today was the day. Even my horoscope insisted today was for action, not talk. So off I went to the feed store to go nuclear. With some pride I produced my card, certifying my membership in the pesticides club, those few members of our society empowered to spread wholesale death and destruction as a part of their daily working lives. A simple swipe of my consumer=s card and I was in possession of enough bad stuff to kill every living thing in a thirty acre field. Cool! As soon as I had the 10 litre jug and its complimentary cardboard box home in my kitchen, I started in reading the label. ALabel@ is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to pesticides. In this case the information came in a 59 page pamphlet, the back side containing another 59 pages in French. Stuck to the label, of course. ARoundup-tolerant soybeans@ didn=t do anything for me, so I confined my reading to chapters relating to safety, mixing, and walnut and nursery crops. What I was unable to find in the pamphlet B sorry, on the label B was clear instructions on how much of the blue stuff in the jug to put into my backpack sprayer, currently sitting empty. The clearest instruction I could decipher called for a .67% solution. Uh, in 15 litres that would be a tablespoon, then, right? I ran the numbers and it all seemed right, so I mixed it up and off I went, fashionably clothed in disposable white coveralls, blue plastic gloves and a faded green Stetson. Getting a loaded backpack sprayer onto one=s shoulders is an awkward process for someone of my girth and inexperience, so I built a shelf on the trailer to hold the sprayer at the right height until I could slide into it and walk away. It worked fine the first time I tried it. The second time the shelf slipped and nearly took my shoulder off when the sprayer tank dropped. Today=s effort had the shelf securely fastened. No more ambushes from the tank, tank you. The purpose of today=s mission was to nuke the vegetation threatening new hills of walnut seeds planted last Christmas between the other yearling walnuts in the field. The new crop would take the grid from 20′ by 20′ to 10′ by 20′, if you get my drift. I had thoughtfully sprayed fluorescent orange dots on the new hills as soon as the snow went and I could locate the spots where I had shoved the walnuts into the soft ground.

Turns out the sprayer works fine. After a lengthy but pleasant session, I ran out of spray and headed back to the house. Over lunch my mother asked, AHow much concentrate did you put in the tank?@ AOne tablespoon, or 15 ml.@ She hooted with laughter. A15 ml is way too little. It must be 150 ml that you are supposed to use!@ Mom always was way better than me at math and common sense. Why would anyone write a manual calling for a .67% solution? Isn=t there a better way to express that? Shamefacedly I found my error. 150 ml. is, in fact, the correct answer. Oh, well, all I have to do is retrace the route and apply the missing 135 ml in some more water. The worst thing was that I had read the 400 page Pesticides Safety textbook and pulled a 98% on the exam. The multiple choice test is one thing; the field is another. There=s nothing simple about farmer math.

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