Two days of contentment.
That’s what the farmers in our area have had this year - about two days of contentment.
That’s not as bad as it sounds . . . I remember a decade when I was disgruntled pretty much every day, but that had something to do with buying two quarters of land and then three years later having it be worth half what I paid for it, while still paying 18% interest on the loan. I think I could be excused for being a little whiny.
Last year, we had a big rain in June followed by nine months of not much of anything. Going into this spring, everyone was praying for rain. We got about 4 inches in April and every drop soaked in and the farmers were well content.
For about two days.
And then it kept raining, and stayed cold. There was some hail and even a little snow, and then it rained some more. At our place in April, May, and June, we’ve tracked a little over 17 inches, and our average for a year is about 24 inches. This week on the way to church I said, “Look at that. Pelicans in the bean field.”
My wife said, “Yeah, that’s not a good omen.”
The grass is growing about 3 inches an hour and mowing is a hazardous enterprise, what with the swamps and hordes of malarial mosquitos. If you did get your crops planted, you were very hard working or very lucky - or both. I have a friend who has two sump pumps running full-time and he lives 2 miles from the continental divide. Theoretically, every drop of water in America runs away from his house. And now, with the amount of standing water killing what was planted, it’s difficult to tell if getting a crop in the ground was good or bad.
I farmed for 30 years and in that time I lost two crops to floods. I also lost two crops to hailstorms and two to droughts. The flood years were hard, but I think the droughts were the worst. A hailstorm is like getting mugged – a sudden hard punch that knocks the wind out of you. A drought is a long drawn-out ordeal that slowly drains your hopes and your bank account. The flood years were awful in their own way – washed out roads, eroded fields, and a long drawn-out crop year. I spent a fortune on propane to dry wet crops, and we got the combine stuck so often that I finally attached a tow rope to our big tractor and left it at the end of the field. Some of the most frustrating times in my life were those wet years, mornings when I’d stare at my muddy work boots as I listened to rain outside the house, wishing with all my heart that I didn’t need to put those boots on and try to get something done.
But even in the midst of the misery and frustration, you could see more hope in the wet than you could ever see in the dry. A drought doesn’t sow seeds for the future, doesn’t replenish lakes and groundwater, doesn’t make the trees grow and the flowers bloom.
It is hard and frustrating and expensive, and it could get worse before it gets better.
But it will get better. I’ve spent far more time in my life praying for rain than I’ve spent praying for it to stop.
I drive around the countryside and see a lot of unplanted fields and a lot of drowned-out crops. Some parts of the country are considerably worse off, and a few places are approaching catastrophic. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a summer of contentment if you’re a farmer.
Some years two days are all you get.
Copyright 2013 Brent Olson
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