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The Shepherdsville Times: Oak Leaves Big As Squirrels' Ears

Jerry Selby recalls farming as it was way back then.

That’s the time to plant corn. Everybody used to know that. I suppose most country people still do. But the weather doesn’t always cooperate. And if I ever met a squirrel with ears the size of the leaves on my oak trees, I’d call 911.

Avie and I have about given up vegetable gardening. Even if we got it planted, weeded, watered, and otherwise nurtured, we’d be hard put to bend over long enough to pick our produce.

Now if we could plant an acetaminophen bush, or maybe a dwarf multivitamin tree, we’d be tempted. But our family, friends, and neighbors drop by with good things occasionally, and there is plenty of reasonably priced fresh produce for a pair of sedentary old folks — usually more than we need.

Canes

Seems as if a cane comes in pretty handy these days. At least for the first few minutes after I’ve been sitting for a while. Good canes are not cheap. And they need to be the right length, and the right weight for your size and shape.

Thanks to the State Forestry, and their nursery which sells windbreak trees and shrubs at truly low prices, I am well supplied, not to say oversupplied, with shrub honeysuckle, which they are now considering listing as a Noxious Weed. I keep trying to stay ahead of it. Consequently I am well supplied with the raw material for more good, strong, and good looking canes than anyone could use.

A couple of weeks ago I was sawing a volunteer down with my hand pruning saw, and I happened to notice a straight branch, about an inch in diameter at one end, and maybe an inch-and-a-half at the other.

I cut it out, a little longer than I needed, peeled the bark with my trusty $2 pocket knife, marked and cut it again, custom fit to my body, and put it to use. Several people have admired it, some total strangers. They seemed surprised when I told them it still had leaves a few days ago. Maybe they were just being polite. Now that it has dried a little, and darkened, it does look quite nice, in a primitive sort of way.

And using my pocketknife and a shoe rasp, I’ve touched up some rough spots. I bought a couple of rubber cane tips at Parkside Pharmacy, for this one and a lighter weight one I made a couple of years ago. Makes them look a little more civilized, and doesn’t leave marks on the floor, or make a racket on a hard surface.

Maybe I’ll get into the custom cane business, and start working on my second million.

Spring planting

Thinking about this late planting season reminds me how different farm work has become since I was a kid. Fitting a field to plant corn back then was a lot different.

Using crop rotations, as almost everyone did, the field had almost surely been in hay or pasture for a year, or maybe two or more. So first you plowed it with a moldboard plow. Depending on the size and power available, that meant anything from two 14-inch plowshares to three 16-inchers. A long, slow, time-consuming process.

Once the field was plowed, you disked it. Most people double disked, which meant pulling two rows of disks, from 12 to 16 feet across. There were metal boxes on each disk gang which could be loaded with boulders or cement blocks for added weight.

Depending on the type of soil and the weather, you might have to disk a field twice, at right angles, to get the soil chopped up fine enough for a good seedbed. Then you went over it with a spike-toothed harrow or maybe a cultipacker, to pack the soil down for a better seedbed.

Now you were ready to plant. A two row or four row, depending on the power of your tractor. Some farmers used a check row planter. If the field was level enough, you were good enough, and you could find a sturdy kid to ‘throw wire.’ Check rowing, if properly done, planted the seed in each row evenly spaced, so that you could cultivate across the field as well as along the rows.

No mention of putting down pesticides or herbicides. They hadn’t been invented yet. And any fertilizer, other than manure applied over winter, was carried in boxes on the planter — 100 lbs per acre of 10-6-4 was a common application.

Weeds were controlled by cultivation. It wasn’t unusual to see someone out in a field with a hoe, chopping weeds in the row, where the cultivator couldn’t reach them.

In rich farmland like we have here in Perry Township, yields as high as 60 bushels per acre were not uncommon. Statewide, 40 was more like it.

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