The Wisdom of Farmers
Growing up on the farm allowed me to learn all sorts of lessons nearly daily. Lee owned the farm east of Dad's, raising sheep, corn, oats, and alfalfa to feed his animals. It was always fun to help him move the sheep, especially when the lambs were born. Maybe that's where I learned the enjoyment of hugging animals. One sorrowful day, Lee's wife passed away, temporarily ending the visits to his farm. A few months later, I went with my mom to Lee's to check on him as she had heard that Lee's Sister Lydia was moving in with him. Lydia was thrilled to see us, greeting me with a plate of homemade cookies. As a young lad, I knew this would be an adventure of a lifetime.
Over the coming months, I enjoyed Lydia's cookies and Lee's stories. As you can only imagine, he was in his seventies, had lived long, and was somewhat lonely. Nevertheless, I gladly filled his time with attentive ears and hundreds of questions. Finally, one spring day, he told me the following:
Folklore that's at least a hundred years old:
Plant your corn when the oak leaves are the size of squirrels' ears!
As a young lad, that made a lot of sense to me, oak trees have leaves; squirrels have ears, and there it is, a simple guideline on planting corn. I couldn't wait to tell dad, as he almost always fretted over when to plant his corn, probably my viewpoint, not his.
I explained it to dad; he said it made sense, then he said, but I have some questions. As it turns out, this folklore appeared in the farmers' almanac nearly every spring and had been for maybe a hundred years. Dad, being a consistent user of the almanac, had seen it and had the wisdom to apply it when he wanted to. His secret was he knew how big squirrels' ears were, and I did not! And then there was the issue of the oak tree. Which one, as there are at least five different varieties?
With a grin, Dad sent me back to Lee for more details. Years later, I realized that my parents had both recognized the loneliness Lee was experiencing and the potential impact I could make on the situation.
The oak tree referred to was a white oak commonly found in the area. It was one of at least five varieties, with their leaves all growing at a similar pace.
The real secret is that the oak tree doesn't start to grow until the ground warms up, which is generally around sixty degrees. Every tree seems to have its temperature tolerances, some popping buds well before the frost is out of the ground. The mighty oak tree, however, is steadfastly consistent.
Over the years, I have had many conversations with farmers, working in the "time to plant corn" folklore whenever possible. But, unfortunately, they consistently tell me the tale no longer applies as they have modern technology. I know they do, but at what cost?
Like millions, I yearn for life to be simpler; if you are a farmer, here is simplicity at its best.
Take it one step further and go online and order a Farmer's almanac. You will be delighted with what you read and much calmer in your approach to life.
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