By Rick Houser –
When we get near the end of February and head into March, all I can see is just how stark the world looks. We really have been through the dead of winter.
The trees no longer have their foliage and the grass is a lovely shade of brown. This is the time of year that a farmer looks at his fields and buildings and wonders just why he ever wanted to be a caretaker of the land. At this time of year, Mother Earth appears to have nothing to offer in the way of productivity. Even the livestock trudge around as they make their way across the barnyard, splashing water with each step and leaving marks in what is now never-ending mud.
As I mentioned last week, the arrival of seed catalogs give a reminder that even though it feels very doubtful at the moment, the world will return to its growing ways. I know as a boy and as I grew older, this time of year still needed for us to make preparations for our tobacco beds. On days when we could get out on the land without sinking, we were busy collecting wood to burn our beds with. But even before tobacco lost it use around here the plants began being grown on water, but without tobacco to plan for a lot of people were left looking for something to do at this time of year.
Also, this is the time to head to the Farm Bureau to buy seed for the garden and the corn fields. We would pay a visit to George Thomas Shinkle and place our annual order for fertilizer and Ammonium Nitrate that we were going to use in the growing seasons. Today those things are delivered and spread in bulk and the day of the 50-pound bags has almost totally disappeared. Still, we would take inventory on what equipment replacement parts should be stocked, so when we did get to work, we didn’t have to stop. That meant at least one trip to Harlow Tractor Supply and maybe Bannock’s.
Even though the days are becoming a bit longer and the nights just a little shorter, it still feels like a useless time of the year. You sit down and make lists for all the items I mentioned and plan to go buy them, and just as you head for the truck along comes a heavy rain. As you stand at the window or door watching it rain, you can’t ignore the water running off the roofs and down the driveway or roads. At that moment it is easy to feel the world will never be dry again. Just look at the fields and see the marks left from the past years and see clusters of leaves all wet and limp and showing signs of decay from the long winter. It just seems that there isn’t a positive sign to be seen.
All that has been said are the things that make up the end of the winter and even though we can’t really see it yet, we are viewing the coming of spring. I said it! I said the word we are all waiting to hear- spring! Even though the ponds and creeks are running somewhat swollen out of their banks and the water appears only as churned up mud, we are day by day leaving this depressing mess.
I know as I was a young man I would spend many hours playing Euchre or penny ante poker with some other guys who were kept indoors the same as me. I would watch a lot of television even though there were a lot of reruns. Why I would even try to shoot pool? (I stink at pool.) Also during this time I would be adding pounds on so I went into the fall looking in pretty good shape and my muscles were toned, but not so much now.
Even if you don’t farm, there is nothing that can be done even if you just want to trim fruit trees or try to get a jump on improving the lawn. I guess it is safe to say that I have more than made my point that this is a bad time of year. I am sorry for all the pessimism but cold rain and idle days can do that to a feller. It always did in the past and continues to cast its spell on me. It won’t be long before you quit asking how high did the Ohio River get and then the waterways begin changing color from mud brown to a little green.
You begin to give the tractors oil changes and pull the ground-breaking equipment out to prepare it for use. If you take a look you will notice the livestock are walking much smoother and trudging less and have stopped leaving hoof prints in the ground. Of course you are still wearing a coat and budding of trees and shrubs have yet to begin, but inside you can feel a little more positive that maybe we will somehow make it to spring.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He also can be read in his two book publications now out for sale. “There are Places I Remember” and the newest “Memories are From the Heart”. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.