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Down pressure

By Staff | Jun 25, 2019

Spring planting. It’s probably the best time of year next to the fall harvest for most farmers. They are tired of moving snow by then, and when the last of the lambs and calves are born and the warmth of the sun tells them it’s time to get out and get machinery ready to go, they leave the screen door swinging behind them in their race to jump start the new crop year.

At least I think that’s why they scamper out so quickly; the fact that they can do that is testament to the notion that my cooking at least gives them the strength to run away.

I don’t understand why they love that time of year, really – the work is never done, they’re always on the run, their phones ring constantly, they eat most of their meals on the go, and graduation parties and planting time butt heads every year, even for their own children.

Looking at the bigger picture, the calendar chases them all year long with a laundry list of things to do each and every season. When day turns to night, they just turn on the lights and keep working, no matter how long they have been at it – often well past bed time.

This Iowa spring showed no sign of normalcy here. But then, neither did Mother Nature. She blew in scopious amounts of rain just in time to bring planting to a halt before it ever began.

This year the unforgiving weather was not the only trouble. Here at the Schwallers’, we had all kinds of experience in long suffering. The field cultivator had recurring issues and the roller showed up with unexplainable damage, which was not the worst thing in general. But when my husband can’t fix something himself, it changes from an unfortunate situation into something that completely rocks his world. He does like to fix things himself.

The sprayer, which has worked like a dream since he’s had it, experienced issues with flow and speed, keeping him from spraying one valuable weather day that would have allowed him to cover some serious acres while my brother (who drove 90 miles here) ran the planter in a frantic effort just to try to help us get done.

The pressure was turned up when planting plans changed because of late dates; the planter became stuck a time or two in wet holes; the extreme heat and humidity took the blame for complicating planting, spraying and rolling schedules; the hay ground was looking like it was getting ready to be cut-even before the planting had been finished-and we had precious little help to make it all happen.

All while the grain prices became smaller and the royal family became larger.

My husband would have had some explaining to do if our pastor had sprung up unannounced here this spring.

Farming is a lot of pressure in good years, but especially in years like this one, at least for farmers in our corner of the world. The down pressure was constant not only on the planter, but on the one running it, too.

I liken farming to a river. It may seem calm on the surface, but the undercurrents of weather, markets, timeliness and financial pressures can pull us in unexpected directions. This year’s relentless undercurrents created a strong test of patience and wills even for the most dedicated of farmers, but especially for those who have been unable to plant their crops at all.

A little humor helps, along with a splash of math sense. Farmers here needed both to configure the number of gallons of coping whiskey per acre it took just to get the crops planted.

Thank God for auto steer. It’s rough out there.

Karen Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net and www.karenschwaller.com.

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