April 27, 2010 by
It’s been an early planting season this year. We are not yet at the end of April and our fields are fully planted! This past week we have had a flurry of activity on our farm and as always is the case at this time of year, I got called upon to help out. I became a tractor driver and seed cleaner and was responsible for many other things that all have spring time lines so that the whole growing season works.
As I was driving tractor the other day with very little to do other than to contemplate life, the noisy rumble soon became a dull roar to the full orchestra of my thoughts. I got to thinking about what I was actually doing to the ground. My job was to rip up the earth and break up all the big chunks, so that the tractor following along behind me could plant the mixed grain from the seed that I’d cleaned a week earlier. That seed had been saved from the harvest of last year.
It all works together in perfect harmony -- the breaking up and preparing of the ground, the planting and the harvesting. The harvesting leaves some organic matter in the field and when you add composting and turn it up again next year you are ready to start all over again. Equally as important is the planning of the crops. Decisions such as what to plant in each field must be made every year so that the soil isn’t constantly supplying one culture of plant, thereby depleting it of important nutrients and allowing weeds to gain stronghold and dominance. I’ve always known that the soil is the source of our nutrients, but I really became aware of how much attention to detail, and focus it takes to have all of this come off with out a hitch!
This year we are doing some fields in pasture as well. Seeing the third tractor coming around after the mixed grain was planted, I learned that you plant the pasture (which is a combination of grasses) OVER top of the mixed grain and that together this fosters a great growing environment. Understanding and working in harmony with nature is a farmer’s true expertise.
I was reminded of a year a while back when we had some mustard seed growing in our fields. Dad and I were making fences which I find is a bonding experience on the farm as you spend a lot of time together with no one else around. I asked Dad, “What do you do to get rid of the mustard?” He said “well, I’m learning that there is a reason for it being there, that something in the soil is not balanced, and it is actually giving something back to the soil that it needs…you’ll notice, that from year to year the dominant ‘weed’ will change.” I was shocked at first because I thought the goal was to rid the fields (and garden) of weeds! I guess it goes back to a more philosophical idea that everything happens for a reason.
As I finished up on the tractor, I drove past all our cows with their new baby calves kicking their heels up, as they do. I got a sense of pleasure knowing that they seemed happy and not just content -- that they were full of energy and had a vivaciousness about them. I was happy to know that those cows would get to eat the grass from the soil that I had just worked. Even though I have been around it all my life, I was impressed once again by the interconnectedness of life on the farm. Keeping the soil healthy ultimately keeps the cows healthy and ‘kicking up their heels’.
I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that I’ve played a part in seeing some of my friends and family ‘kick their heels up’. We ensure that the meat and the spelt that they purchase from our farm come from healthy, well-nourished and vivacious plants and animals.
Lucky for us, we got all the seed in the ground just in time for Saturday night's rain fall... aaah perfect timing. It's kind of cool to see the satisfied look on my Dad's face knowing he got done what needed to get done. He's one happy farmer when that happens!