Playing Farmer With the Old Man

Dad and I got to play farmer Sunday. We aired up the tires on the old disc and pulled it out to the corn field to do some real farm work while dodging raindrops. We are in for a week of hard rains so it was important that we got this done…though it wasn’t on my list of chores for Sunday. I was focused on cutting firewood and cleaning up around the farm. We are also plugging away at removing fences that have been stomped into the soil. Not easy work. So dad rode the tractor all day to plant 9 acres of pasture while the kids and I kept busy elsewhere. I may have also taken a nap at some point.


Now, I feel that I have to justify ripping soil since I’m normally against it. First, this wasn’t my idea…it was all dad. But he’s not wrong. I have cows to cycle nutrients, shape the soil and spread seeds (speeding biological time). I have chickens to clean up behind the cows and speed up biological time. I have pigs to speed up biological time. We used the disc yesterday to speed up biological time. There is plenty of green growing out there but these are pioneer species…not dense, high-quality forages. In a few years, with a little help from the cows, we would have a nice, diverse stand of forages covering this field but by doing this work now we’ll have a diverse stand this year. And time is important to poor, hungry cows.


We just skimmed the surface of the soil with the disk, in most cases going only an inch into the soil. This allowed us to cut up the corn residue and expose additional soil, bringing seeds to the surface for quick germination. This also made a good bed for seeds of our own choosing.


This was enough of a cut to expose a few worms and grubs but as I looked around I was pleasantly surprised by the good condition of the worms I was finding…what few worms there were. But there weren’t enough worms. At all. That will be another way we can measure our success at increasing soil health over time. Healthy soil has lots of worms. This soil has very few. Few grubs too.


We broadcast a pasture mix of clovers, vernal alfalfa and a few grasses…but mostly clovers with the old seed spreader. The wind was blowing pretty hard so seeds scattered about a bit but the important work was done. The stalks are chopped, the soil is exposed to the coming rain and seeds are in place. It would have been nice if we could have used a drill but we didn’t happen to have a drill handy. We had an antique box with an electric motor to broadcast seeds.

SeederSo, yes. I ripped soil on 9 acres. It would have been better, I think, to have planned ahead and asked my neighbor to do this for us while he was tilling his field next door for a small fee. But we didn’t do that. Better yet would have been to feed seedy hay to the cows over the whole field little by little over the winter but his cows were on the corn stubble all winter. So we didn’t do that. So now, on April 27, hours in advance of a week of monsoon season, we gently ripped and seeded the field. Maybe for the last time.

The kids were along. I treasure moments like this, knowing it won’t last much longer. The kids working and playing nearby, helping when they can, wanting to be close.


While we were helping grandpa keep the seeder filled the younger boy found a baby snapping turtle in the stream. It was about the size of a half-dollar. It’s not all work on the farm but it is full-time learning.

TurtleNow to remove those pesky, unwanted interior fence lines.

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