Staring Out Across The Fields


Now at the beginning of December, we midwestern country people on our flatlands can see our whole world again. The corn harvest is over, mostly, and surprise, surprise, the neighboring farmsteads are still there on the horizon where they always have been, and the courthouse off in the distance, and the grain elevators, and the church spires. It is as if we had been living in a forest the past three months, with the corn just high enough so that we could not see over it, and suddenly all the trees were stripped away. There was a comfort in that summer snugness, a kind of intimacy with one’s own place that all country people love, but it is reassuring and comforting to know, now as winter comes on, that we are not alone.

Also, I can go back to my favorite pastime,— staring out across the fields. Farmers are poor car drivers because we are always looking to see how the crops are growing. Now with the corn off, we can see as far as the eye can focus and so are an absolute menace on the roads. The only thing that saves us are spouses who insist, in fear of their lives, on taking over the driving chores.

The fact that there are no crops to watch now does not mean that there is not plenty for farmer eyes to see. What in the world is “Tom” doing over there ? — oh, I see, he’s chiseling corn stubble for next year’s beans. And there’s “Mary” disking bean ground for next year’s corn. And, oh yes, we all know what “Harry” is doing. That liquid pig manure he’s spreading has a smell that will go for a mile or two with the right wind.

Because we have had a fairly dry November, almost all the fields have been fall-cultivated whether they need to be or not. Agronomists like to call it “recreational tillage.” Farmers so love to drive their big rigs over the land while listening to football games, that they will use any excuse for doing so. Working up the soil in the fall means it will dry out on top a few days sooner in spring, which might be critical to getting the planting done on time. One of my many mystifications about human nature is how tilled bare acres are still referred to as “no till.” They will be planted with no till planters next spring, don’t you see. The only thing that saves these fields is that they are fairly level and, with the heavy residue of corn stalks incorporated into the soil surface, will not erode much. The bared soybean stubble ground on sloping land is a different story. .

Even when I am at home, I spend inordinate amounts of time just staring across the fields. I have stared across the same ones for seventy years now and still delight in it. I guess that’s why I never seem to have time for the leisure activities that other people engage in. Too busy just loafing. But after the endless acres of bare soil I see on trips to town, it is comforting to look out over my and my siblings’ fields of grass rolling down to the creek. The bluegrass is still so green this year on the last day of November that if I stare only at it and shield my eyes from the bordering brown woodland, I can almost imagine that it is May. Not to mention the red clover and alfalfa which must think it is still October. If the weather stays above freezing another week or so, the grass could remain green for grazing almost to Christmas. I can stare forever at these fields because I know that farmed this way, they could last forever.
Image credit: Thanks to Susan Thomas at Farmgirl Fare


December-March in Western Maine is white and cold. For a snap (a week) the temperature was a high of 10 degrees. Yay. I spend my time trying to write down seed orders and working farmers markets (not much produce this time of year but we still have jams and jellies). Also good time of year to get work done on the inside of the house. (work is never done on a 180 year old farmhouse).

Teresa Sue Hoke-House December 4, 2009 at 9:22 am

*Chuckle* I love to look over the fields also, and while my husband has yet to hand over the driving chores (thank goodness, I hate to drive), I have to ever be on my toes to his inquiries; “What is that planted there, beans?” I grew up in towns, not cities, as I grew up in Nevada and Wyoming and “cities” are pretty much non-existant, even if their their Chamber of Commerces object, lol. I have come to love the country life and staring at fields, listening to the birds, or enjoying the wind through the trees are some of my favorite things….Farmer Meditation, if you will.
….and heyercapital that is one of our favorite lines also, as in; “what a waste of grass, they should put a milk cow in there”, haha. If it were up to us we would be over run with grass eatin’ creatures!

I know I’m making progress. For the past couple of years every open stretch of green grass of a industrial campus or large lawn that we’d drive by I’d comment, “They ought to fence that in and put some cattle and sheep on that.” Now the young kids see my gaze linger a bit too long out the window and they’ll say it for me, “Dad, is THAT lawn is big enough to put some sheep on?” or to lighten my heart, “Dad could we buy that old farm place and put sheep there?” Someday kids, someday.

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