Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Indiana State Fairgrounds are buzzing

My favorite color of tractors and the Normandy Barn

The Indiana State Fairgrounds are buzzing with activity. 

It is a real thrill for me to get to wander the grounds before the Fair starts. The Pioneer Village folks are pulling wagons and tractors and displays out of storage. The vendors are starting to setup and hire their helpers. The contestants are entering pies and cakes and quilts and photographs. 

The excitement is palatable. 

It's a great time to be a Hoosier.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

To a farm kid the word beans means, soybeans. Plain and simple.

Green beans and baked beans and kidney beans were called by their full names. The name beans was reserved for soybeans.  As farm kids, we spent a lot of the summer thinking about beans. And not always in a good way.

Those cute little, you-can-swear-that-you-can-see-them grow beans,  turned in to the hottest, longest, most-likely-to-make-you-want-to-take-a-swipe-at-your-little-brother-with-a-hoe summertime task.

Our family called the chore pulling weeds but I've also heard it called walking the beans or hoeing beans. 

Whatever you called it, it was a hot and sweaty task.

In retrospect, I can't believe how much we complained about the job. In the time we spent dragging our feet and doing the math of how many rows apart we could walk and still reach the weeds with our hoes we could have finished for the day before the sun was blindingly hot and we weren't speaking to each other.

The goal was to kill the weeds in the field that competed with the beans for sunshine and nutrients and choked out the beans and attracted bugs and reduced the yield. A byproduct of pulling weeds was seeing the beautiful rows of beans with nary an offending weed peaking over the top of the beautiful rows of soybeans.

Weed control has changed dramatically since the 1970s,  with the help of chemicals and more sophisticated equipment, but that doesn't stop me from judging a bean field by its weeds when I pass by.

A field of beans is one of the prettiest sights in Indiana - as long as you're not standing in them with a hoe.

Monday, July 4, 2011

knee high by the fourth of july

Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

Dad - July 4, 2011. Boone County.

I'm not sure how the "knee high by the fourth of July" idiom started, but as a kid I loved showing off our corn fields to our urban friends that celebrated Independence Day on our farm.

I can't remember a time when the corn was not taller than not only my knobby knees, but the knees of the adults. I remember feeling quite smug that our corn was so tall - that clearly we had done something above and beyond to make it so. As an adult, I know that sunshine and rain and hard work and the bank were responsible for how tall it was.

As any farmer can tell you, a good deal of growing crops is in the preparation - being ready to plant when the time is right - equipment ready to roll,  the right mix of seed corn and fertilizer and labor. And weather. It's always about the weather.

While we kiddos had plenty of chores and responsibilities around the farm, our involvement in planting was typically minimal. I remember stacking the precious bags of seed and driving them to the waiting planter. In retrospect I'm glad that I didn't have the chance to goof up sowing seeds.

Planting season is where the farm fiscal year starts. All of the cash literally goes in to the ground in seed costs, fertilizer and equipment. There is a small window to get the seeds in the ground and start praying for rain - not too much rain, of course. My farm friends and family visibly relax when the planting is done. 

As you can see from the photo this field has not tasseled yet,  which is the real July 4th goal - but that doesn't quite roll off the tongue, does it? This Spring was particularly wet (the rainiest April since 1895), and planting was late. Only 30% of the corn crop was planted by mid-May. 

The director of agronomic research for Weatherbill Insurance Co., Jeff Hamlin, estimates Indiana could see yield losses this year of between 137 million and 203 million bushels of corn. He tells The Indianapolis Star that would amount to a financial loss for farmers of between $960 million and $1.42 billion.