J.C. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

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June 14, 2013
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Farmers, Part 4


The one certainty in farming is that things will never be perfect.

I finally realized this after 42 years in the field, going back and forth (then round and round after center pivots took over) covering a distance equal to several circumferences of the earth without going anywhere.

Or driving from field to field in a pickup truck that registered over 100,000 miles a year and never went out of state.

It can be frustrating to do so much traveling in the same place.

Then, the weather is seldom just right.

If you’re making hay or cutting beans or digging beets, or doing an operation that requires a nice stretch of hot days, this is when it usually decides to stay cloudy and humid, and produce small showers — not a good rain that would help the country or the watershed.

No, these are the small showers — the ones that soak exactly the depth of a windrow, and no more.

On the other hand, when you are trying to grow a crop and could use days with humid showers, this is when the sun will beat down unrelentingly without a cloud in the sky.

Then, to top it off, the wind will blow.

On those few occasions when the weather actually is perfect for a given farming operation, a farmer can depend on this peculiar weather outcome to somehow communicate to the machines that this is the time to break down.

Usually on a Saturday shortly afternoon, after the parts houses have closed, and requiring a part that must be special ordered.

This is when most farmers become either machinists, or inventive mechanics and manage to patch the machine up so it can limp along until arrival of the key part.

Of course, doing so usually leads to further breakdowns, as machines understand that they are being over used and will respond with additional breakdowns.

There are times, in the course of a farmer’s lifetime, when both weather and machines might cooperate for a seamlessly easy planting, cultivation, harvest or other critical operation. On those occasions, the farmer will find that his hired help has become sick, or otherwise unable to come to work, meaning the farmer has only to work 24 hours a day for four straight days, resulting in a backache that requires an operation, but will be treated in the meantime with medication.

In the course of 42 years, there was one time I recall when the weather was perfect, the machines performed without hesitation, the hired help was there on time and worked late.

But, unfortunately, this was a year when, due to various government misconducts, the market was so low that it raised doubts as to whether the crop was even worth harvesting.

I am exaggerating here, and freely admit it.

However, it is true that to hear many farmers talk, life is always coming at them the wrong way. But you must forgive us our hyperbole and excesses of rhetoric, because we spend a lot of time out standing in our fields, and this places us in a somewhat unique position relative to Mother Nature.

Few businesses have their entire livelihood outside, under the open sky. This is one of the great virtues of farming, in that it is truly enjoyable to be in a profession, in which you are outside and you get to see the day start and finish while working with the most basic element of the planet itself.

But, because the fate of a farmer’s work is so open to forces beyond personal control, farmers must start each day with very high standards of expectation.

Starting with low expectations, or failing to try for the very best you can do, often results in a lesser job being done in the end. So, the next time you hear a farmer complaining, just nod your head and smile. ❖




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The Fence Post Updated Oct 16, 2013 03:55PM Published Jun 19, 2013 11:28AM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.