Rogene "Jeannie" McPherson, Country Notebook
Country Notebook: Farm talk
Updated: Oct 20, 2022
When a group of farmers are sitting around the table in the Fellowship Hall at church and I, for whatever reason, find myself as part of the group, I can usually hold my own. My experiences growing up on a farm and later as the proprietor of tillable soil, grassland, and many native trees for nearly 35 years, I may have some credibility.
When I say “hold my own” I am not necessarily sharing my knowledge, unless I’m telling the group how I spotted an otter in Big Sugar Creek. My curiosity is my strength as I have just enough knowledge about how something works to know to ask the right questions.
Realistically, I likely approach the table asking a question about chemicals to eliminate Sericea lespedeza. Johnson grass and/or sumac, all invasive species wanting to take over my grassland. Perhaps I ask if anyone knows of an individual buying black walnut wood. Or, I inquire, “Is it too late to do a control burn of the prairie grass.”
Fortunately, I have a brother who farms the homestead where I lived as a child and teen. This is the same half-section my great-grandfather bought from a homesteader. He and I have a lot of farm talks. Since it’s more than 300 miles from my farm, we are frequently comparing rain totals, when the corn started tasseling, and the hybrid seed corn he recommends. Surely there is a genetic strain in me much like those in seed corn, making it is impossible for me not to dig in the soil.
My Dad loved tilling the soil, turning it over with his Farmall tractor and plow. We had a lot of farm talks and he would tell me being a farmer was not easy or predictable, but very satisfying. He would be disappointed that much of the crop production is done using non-tillable methods, now becoming predominant in Linn County, too. By avoiding so much turn-over, the soil retains more of its moisture.
Some corn hybrids have been developed for water optimization, and after a summer like this one, water conservation is becoming more and more important. Now I can look on my smart phone and know day by day, even hour by hour if rain is forecasted. My Dad would just look upward for clouds and pray that the heavens would let loose. I knew Dad would be pleased his little girl, now a grandmother, could hold her own.
I’m not clinically crazy, though I do some crazy things like talking to myself when no one else is available to talk farm. I also listen to the birds and believe they know how to talk farm, too. There’s one out there singing, “I’m right, I’m right, I’m right!” I don’t know why she thinks she is right, but I tend to identify with an independent spirit, a much needed trait in the country.
So, there you have it. If you move to the country, take a course in farm talk. It’s like learning a new language.