Sunday, March 11, 2018

An Appreciation for Cultivation

I have taken on a side project for my postal history hobby that allows me to write about the hobby without necessarily inflicting it on persons who are looking for farming related posts.  I hope to periodically put things out on my own postal history blog (with concentration in winter months - I wonder why?).   The intent is to give me a forum to collect my thoughts on what I know (or think I know) and work on arranging them in a way that I like.  The following was in response to an interesting idea another philatelist suggested.  I felt that it actually might give insight to some of the things I like when I work outside on our farm.  The base text was written in December of 2017 and it has since been edited.
The wind came howling through Iowa today and I decided it was not a good day to be working outside.  While I am glad that I am entering the 'off-season' on the farm, there are days when I actually miss walking behind the wheel hoe.

For those who do not know, a wheel hoe is a two-handled tool that has some sort of cultivating blade.  The back of the top cover shows five people using two-wheeled wheel hoes to cultivate on either side of a crop.  The front of the cover shows a farmer with a seeder that has a similar configuration to the wheel hoes.  The lower cover shows a 'walk-behind' tractor.  We actually use both types of cultivation tools on the farm.  The machine powered tool certainly has its uses, but it's a combustion engine, so it makes its share of noise.  And, before you start thinking the powered tool is easier to use, I can tell you that it will work a fair share of your muscles.  If you would like to view these items more closely, you can click on the picture below.

Some of my best days on the farm have been those where the weather was not too windy and the soil was JUST RIGHT for cultivation.  If you pick up the right amount of speed, the soil just rolls over the top of the cultivating blade, easily exposing the roots of the weeds I am targeting.  Wheel hoe work can be mildly strenuous, but not so much that it can't also be pleasant.   You can listen to nature - or listen to music - or just be alone with your thoughts.  All the while, you're getting real work done.

The soil and steel have a sound and a feel on days like this that is soothing.  That sound confirms that progress is being made without drowning out the goldfinches exclaiming over the gift of sunflower seeds ("For meeeee?!")  Sometimes you walk close enough to the crop that your leg brushes against its leaves.  If you're lucky, that crop is basil (ok, you're lucky if you LIKE the smell of basil).  Maybe a butterfly will land on the bill of your cap.  The iced tea in the thermos tastes especially good when you stop at the end of a row and a little bit of sweat tells you that you're earning your keep.

The wheel hoe is your companion as you take a tour of the world that is the Genuine Faux Farm fields.  The 'cucumber frog' jumps out just in time to startle you a little bit and you notice a new hatching of lady beetles.  You remind yourself to trust that they will find enough of the aphids to make a difference for your peas and lettuce.  It looks like one of the tomatoes was broken by the storm a few days ago and it is not going to make it.  Well, that happens.  The other three hundred plants in this field look pretty good.

The sunlight's angle this time of day allows you to see the world in a different way, with the contrast of light and shadow.  The zinnia flowers can still dazzle, but the cool blue flowers on the borage love the way the light shows off their beauty this time of day.  A light evening breeze actually reminds you that the weather isn't always as hot as it was just a little while ago.

It looks like the green beans will have their first picking by next week - our favorite veggie.  Lightly steamed with some real butter.  The sun is telling me it must be about time for a break to have dinner.  Maybe we'll just pick a pot full of beans, even if they're a little small, and go cook them up now.

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