First Summer Here

Now that Fall has arrived I realize how much I have been observing and soaking in my surroundings.

I’m learning new roads and new places to shop; establishing new routines and favorite routes.

Driving along these back roads in the midst of this gorgeous and productive farmland I realize how out of touch most of us are about where our food comes from. I know! We hear that all the time but when you watch the corn grow on a daily basis and you see the labor put into caring for the earth and the food growing on it, I really feel grateful about how easy we have access to good food. I appreciate the incredible amount of labor that goes into growing it.

One of my observations was how quickly the corn grew making the roads feel more like tunnels. Everyplace felt closed in. I missed some of the beautiful views. In the last few weeks the roads have been slowly opening up again. Row by row the Amish harvest the corn. And row by row the drive feels more open. Some of the fields are left with nothing but a few inches of stalks sticking up from the ground. When you look at a whole field, it reminds me of whiskers on a man’s face.

I hope in time to see a pattern to the planting. Corn, wheat, soybeans, squash, onions, tobacco. None of the fields stay empty for long. Once one crop is harvested another is soon planted. Sometimes cover crops to keep the soil rich and productive.

Oh, and I have to mention the ‘spreading’. This is probably the biggest drawback to living in this area. Manure and a manure sludge are spread and sprayed on the fields continuously until they are all planted. Let’s just say that the smell has a physical substance to it! Ugh! I overheard one woman complaining about the smell in a parking lot one day only to hear another woman proclaim that it was the smell of money. That is an interesting perspective!

The various techniques are fascinating too. In the spring I saw families planting field after field all day. There was one piece of farm equipment that was pulled by one horse or mule. One person, usually a man, steering the horse. Down in front two people, usually women or girls sat on narrow wooden seats with boxes of plugs or tiny plants and leaned down planting them one after the other as the whole thing moved down the row. As I drove to work and back I saw the fields fill up with these plants. I also had to wonder how it felt to do that work all day for days at a time.

In the tobacco fields I saw bundles of sticks ready to hold up mini tepees of tobacco leaves in the fields. I assume it’s one way to let the leaves dry. Sometimes they take all the leaves and hang them in ventilated buildings, hanging them upside down to dry.

Once all the fields were growing the smell of the earth has been amazing. I know we all get that real earthy, loamy smell of good soil every now and then but that aroma is ever-present. With the high humidity and heat this year, smells get amplified and that is a good one.

When we get storms, it pours hard here. I’ve learned which roads to avoid in case of flash flooding and have decided my next car may need to sit higher. Then the sun comes out again with amazing clouds off in the distance.

Now there are wagons and stands full of pumpkins, squashes and gourds everywhere. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of these crops! They come in every shape, size and color. I’ve learned that if nobody is there to take your money when buying some, you leave the money in a box or plastic containers. The local economy relies on the honor system and it works beautifully here.

I feel like I have spent this summer filling up on the way life is here. There are families here who have lived here for decades if not a century. I feel like I am settling in and growing into a feeling of being home.

I know I have rambled a bit in this post and I apologize for that. As you have read, there was a lot to share and this is what happens when I don’t post more often. Thanks for reading!

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6 thoughts on “First Summer Here

  1. I know what you mean about the spreading. My last job was in a more rural area. I’d drive there, get out to go in to the building, and all I could smell was the surrounding farms. It was so heavy in the air it was nauseating. No one else even seemed to notice! I couldn’t get away from it! I’d step outside and that was the first thing that hit me.

  2. Dad says:

    Super recap of life in Amish country! You describe all the hard work and cover crops and spreading to achieve great crops; no GMOs there! It can be done right but big corporation greed puts our food supply in jeopardy! You are fortunate that you have access to “real” food!

  3. Phyllis Connors says:

    great description of living and driving in Amish famr land…My Mom would have loved the manure smell as she grew up on a farm in Canada. I remember being there as a child and have the cow’s milk sprayed directly into my mouth….anyway…thanks for a great post. Phyllis

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