Last fall I told about having 11-year-old Graham ride with me in the combine one afternoon in late November and that I turned over the steering wheel to him as we worked our way across the field. Graham was all smiles and a quick learner as I explained how to guide the combine with the steering wheel and operate the controls while watching the rows of corn disappear into the head.
Previous visits have had Graham participating in cleaning out a bin and delivering corn in the semi to the ethanol plant. For Graham, who lives in town about three hours away, and to me, it was a great afternoon last November.
Six months later, he is 12-year-old Graham and on Memorial Day, I told Graham we should measure the corn stand. Graham was more than ready to add to his corn-growing knowledge and away we went, equipped with a 25-foot tape and a clipboard with a map of the farm fields.
I told Graham we would take the diesel pickup, a 1990 model with 215,000 miles, to where we would take our measurements. Graham was all in favor of that and said he liked going places in the old truck. The noise of the diesel and the layer of dust in the cab seem to suit Graham as part of the adventure.
Graham was told about what population the corn planter was set to plant and that we were going to measure 1/1000th of an acre to tell us how well the seeds emerged. Graham was shown the importance of preplant herbicide and told about grasses and broadleaves.
Once the tape was stretched so we could start counting, Graham was introduced to button weed, iron weed and lambs quarters – things we do not count. Closer inspection of the corn showed the variability even in a few feet of row where some plants were taller or there were skips in the row.
By this time, I was not sure who was enjoying this more, Graham or me. So much of planting a crop seems to be a routine, to explain it out loud to an attentive boy who was growing up quickly reminded me how important each growing day is in the days and months that lead to harvest.
Graham and I made several measurements, first in the same field and then moving to another field. We measured where the soil was black and on higher ground where the topsoil was thinner.
We took a hula-hoop along to measure the drilled soybean stand. Before we left home, we measured the area in the hula-hoop and determined it was very close to 1/1000th of an acre.
The result of our measurements told us that it had been a very good year for emergence. I was hoping for emergence around 30,000 and we measured corn populations of 32,000 to 34,000. It looked like almost every seed planted had sprouted.
We have had some ideal weather in recent days with warm temperatures and passing showers. On one occasion, my wife said to me, “What a lovely day.”
My reply to her was, “It’s a good day to be a corn plant standing in a corn field.”
On Memorial Day, it was a good day for a 63-year-old farmer and a 12-year-old grandson to be standing in a cornfield counting corn plants as those of us with legs and those with roots all soaked up the sun – both Graham and the corn growing up quickly.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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