You come to fetch me from my work tonight
When supper's on the table, and we'll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinked pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.
My first ever Garden Muse Day post, and I am late. Late because we have had so many rainy days. Some days it is a soft, gentle rain welcomed by the flowers and the seeds just planted. Other days it comes down in torrents, rushing through gullies and filling up the ditches and waterways. As gardeners, we may become impatient when the rain confounds our plans to weed or when the tomato plants have to sit on the patio for days before being planted in the vegetable garden. But imagine if your livelihood depended on the whims of the weather. That is exactly the plight of the farmer.
I live in the heartland of agriculture, and I have been trying all week to get a picture for this post of a tractor and planter planting soybeans in the fields. But there have been no tractors in the fields this week, and farmers have begun to get worried. Normally by this time of year the fields would be green with foot-tall corn and small soybean plants in perfectly straight rows stretching toward the horizon. Instead, the corn is just a few inches high, and the bean fields look as they did in December.
According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, only 75% of the corn and 15% of the soybeans in the state have been planted. A late planting can create problems with pollination and yield, and it also means a late harvest, which can mean more problems with the weather. Ironically, this comes in a year when farmers are receiving high prices for their crops because of increased demand.
While my garden dries out fairly quickly from the rain, it takes much longer for a field like this one to dry out enough for the heavy equipment needed to till it. You'll notice in the picture the remaining corn stalks from the previous year's crop. This is an example of a conservation practice used for at least the past 20 years, called no-till planting. Gone are the days, for the most part, when farmers plowed their fields in the fall, leaving the rich black soil exposed to the elements. On windy days in the fall the plowing would create a mini-dust storm, causing a driving hazard on the country roads. I can remember my father often saying as we drove through such clouds of dust, "There goes some of the richest soil in the country just blowing away." Instead, farmers leave their fields alone after picking the corn, and in the spring they may run some kind of cultivating implement over the fields to break up the debris or simply plant soybeans directly into the untilled field. Over the growing season, the corn residue breaks down, much like compost in the garden. Obviously, this practice helps to prevent wind and water erosion; it also helps to reduce fuel consumption and soil compaction. Today's farmer practices many conservation techniques to preserve the integrity of the land.
Although I was raised on a farm, I am certainly no expert on farming. But if you live in this part of the country you can't help being aware of the concerns of farmers. Today is the third straight day of sunshine. I can only hope that the fields dry out soon so that this week we will see once again the tractors going through the fields putting in the seed.
Garden Muse Day is brought to you by Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home and Garden in Chicago.