In Gene Logsdon Blog on March 5, 2014 at 7:21 am
From GENE LOGSDON
With all the talk about robotic farming and robotic everything else, I like to tell how one of my many uncles, on my mother’s (Rall) side of the family, invented a self-driving tractor back in the 1940s. Uncle Lawrence was plowing with his tractor, a Ford 8N, I think, that had a wide front end. He noticed that with one front wheel and one back wheel in the furrow, the plow sort of held the tractor against the side of the furrow and he did not have to do much guiding except to turn around when he came to the end of the field. He thought about how nice it would be to have a field with no ends. Well, riddle me a riddle, how could you manage that? With a round field, of course. Those were the days well before western plains farmers resorted to circle irrigators and planting rigs but since the field where my uncle was plowing was quite a large, fenceless area for those times, he decided to see what would happen. He struck a circle with the plow in the center of the field and round and round he went. Moving along that way, the plow held the tractor in the furrow even more firmly. Finally, Uncle worked up enough nerve to get off the tractor completely, stand by his pickup in case something went awry, and whoop with laughter. Though but a child, I remember that awesome sight of a Ford tractor doing what Mr. Ford never intended it to do. Plowing this way, of course, resulted in quite a mess. The outer corners of the field and the center had to be plowed or disked separately.
Grandfather Rall was still in charge if I remember correctly and he put an end to robot farming for the time being.
After I told that story in my local newspaper column More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on February 26, 2014 at 9:07 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Our son just installed a new mailbox post for us. The old one was crippled after being wounded repeatedly by Halloweeners and snow plows over the years. What with email and cell phones I wonder if mailbox posts will go the way of hitching posts. The Postal Service says it is going broke but it seems to me all they have to do is make “free” market advertisers and political pollsters pay more for that trash they send our way without our consent and it would be rolling in dough.
Over the years, my favorite daily chore has been walking out the driveway and seeing if salvation has come my way in the mail. I mean that almost literally because before email, I depended on the mail to send out writing I was trying to sell. Then I’d wait hopefully, day after day, for letters of acceptance. And the post office never lost a single rejection slip or payment check in all those years which shows that socialized mail delivery works quite well. Also I lived in 15 different places in six different states in the first half of my life and I looked forward so much to letters from home. People will tell you things in a letter they won’t tell you in person or on Google-surveyed email.
I have been reading old Farm Journal magazines from the late 1800s and they had a lot to say about rural mail and mailboxes and Rural Free Delivery. I would have thought that nothing would have been more welcomed by farmers than to get the mail delivered to their homes free instead of having to go to the post office to pick it up. But no. There is nothing more contrary than country people today or yesterday. They bitched against socialized mailboxes just like they bitch now against socialized medicine. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on February 19, 2014 at 7:32 am
From GENE LOGSDON
I just ran into more evidence that farmers who took a deep breath and became certified organic growers a few years ago made a smart move. I attended a meeting of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Grain Growers Chapter, a group seeking to improve and strengthen certified organic agriculture. I think the meeting was held here (in Upper Sandusky) because it is sort of centrally located, not because there is as yet a lot of local interest in commercial organic farming. Only a few years ago, the general view in my neighborhood was that an organic farmer might have a tinge of commie pink in his or her veins not appropriate for red-blooded Americans.
The farmers at this meeting were sophisticated and articulate and extremely aware of how influential supply and demand can be in farming. One of the main topics of conversation was the high price of certified organic hay and grain. Some prices I heard included oats at $6.88 a bushel, barley $8.60, corn around $12 a bushel, wheat even higher, and spelt at 30 cents a pound. Good quality organic hay was just not to be had. “The phone doesn’t ring anymore,” one buyer said. Prices quoted for good organic alfalfa hay at the farm gate were around $300 a ton which is high but non-organic high quality hay is expensive right now too. Organic alfalfa is almost bound to go higher because of the alarming news circulating about how GMO alfalfa is causing problems in cows. Farmers at the meeting went out of their way to tell me that all livestock producers, not just organic ones, are concerned. They say maybe GMO grain for ethanol might continue, but they are convinced that GMO feeds for livestock are not going to last. One certified organic farmer told me More…