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Mentors (and work) help with successful tillage project

Where there’s a will there’s a way

Our farm has always done the impossible. Most of the time, the motivation of being told we cannot do something is all that’s needed. Added to that is a whole lot of faith that it needs to be done.

This spring my daughter and I presented my son with a need. We needed a sizeable patch of soil turned black. Apparently, there are rules to fieldwork that state a field has to be worked in the fall and then sit turned for the winter so the roots decompose. Our problem was we didn’t know we needed it last fall. Sometimes not knowing the rules is actually a good thing. “Could he just try?” He rose to the challenge.

These last few weeks have brought a lot of smiles to my face… and a few tears. Funny how time goes so quickly and how many times in this life mourning is really never complete. The day my son walked into the house for lunch was one of those moments. Thankfully the man he reminded me of is still with us, even though he is well past 80 now.

There was this young man coming in for lunch and looking very much like a Q-tip. Between the suntan and the dust, his face was black until he took off the cap. Then the white forehead showed.

As a girl growing up, that was my uncle coming in from working summerfallow. I would dash to pump him water and sit and listen to stories of killdeers protecting their nest by pretending to have broken wings, how well it was going and how we were provided with just the right moisture for the cultivator to pull through. So history would repeat.

As we sat for lunch and tea and listened to the young man tell of how perfectly we had been provided for, the tears just streamed. Growing up all I dreamt of was farming one day. Everyone said it couldn’t be done, but here we are making soil black. There are so many promises in that dirt.

The learning experience

Failure might not be an accurate description when it comes to our attempts at working ground. We have managed to turn small tracts of land black with pigs and then upgrade the vegetation by hand-spreading seed, but never managed a very large area. A few years ago we renovated a 10-acre plot to start our hayfield with our John Deere 3020. That was the year the tractor died and a lot of things happened here — the project just never got finished.

What did happen though was a lot of learning. The replacement tractor, a John Deere 4030, is capable of so much more than the 3020. One of the problems with the hayfield experiment was trying to downsize the field equipment so the tractor could work with them. By the time enough sections were removed for the tractor to handle, the equipment was not very successful at breaking the ground. This small project showed that the 4030 will be able to happily work with the equipment size.

Mentorship in agriculture is very much alive. The field machinery being used was gifted to a young man by yet another older man because it was small and they needed larger. The discs are a set of 14-foot Cockshutt 252s and the cultivator is a Glencoe, serial number 65160, that is about 20 feet. They work. The pleasure it gave that man to see it still being used was very encouraging. This also means our yellow alfalfa, once we find the seed, can be planted this fall too.

People are not born knowing how to use this equipment. A few years ago our son was able to do field and haying work for a neighbour. That work experience has been a valuable asset. Again, mentorship was also provided. To this day when there are questions these are the people that are called up.

Renovating the only field seeder we own is going to be a project. We did manage to seed our hay field originally but the seeder has become very seized. The projects will continue and hopefully more mentors will be found along the way.

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