Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's Been A Charles Dickens Year

The following was written for the Midwest Producer Magazine which covers Kansas as well as Nebraska. That explains the mention of both states in the column.
It has finally come and gone. The long awaited day, the very object of our dreams, the goal has arrived for those in drought ravaged southern Kansas and the flooded parts of Nebraska and Iowa and beyond. What day am I speaking of, you ask? It's Christmas, or better yet the end of a long wearisome year. If this was a piece of music the word 'fine' would be in small letters on the calendar signifying the end or as one of my brothers likes to put it, "We finally wore it out."
It started as consequence of a particularly hard fall years back. It seemed that every day another big problem arose. We'd have to figure out how to get a loaded grain cart out of the mud when it had already sunk to its frame. The next day would lead to having to take the duals off of a tractor to clean the mud from between the wheels. Every day was a challenge and my older sibling answered my whiny question about when this is ever going to end by saying, "We're just going to have to wear the year out. Someday we'll wake up and it'll be Christmas and this will finally be behind us.
Well, it's Christmastime and 2011 is behind us and none too soon. It has been a Charles Dickens year in farming - It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I've talked to farmers from both states who expressed frustration at watching most all of American agriculture enjoying the best of times while others are, or were, hoping for the best from crop insurance companies to give legs to their hope that there indeed will be a next year for them.
The drought continues in Kansas. For those farmers, the drought isn't over, but there might be a bit of a respite while they wait for the hope of next year. Optimism reigns supreme if you're a farmer. As I type this, maybe the snow that is falling in Kansas will start the winter wheat crop.
Without being optimistic and having faith, farmers would be fairly reticent to hide several hundred dollars worth of inputs in the soil on each acre, each spring, without being sent to the loony bin.
We know the plants will spring from the ground in straight, neat little rows. They always have. It's simply too much work to believe otherwise.
The flood is the other story and I'll be the first to admit that I've avoided much mention of what has been the elephant in the room for us. As I've traveled, I am reminded that I have a connection to many folks across our great states of Kansas and Nebraska. It's a connection that is easy to overlook when the product is sent from my computer here on the farm to Terry Anderson's computer and then, well I don't know how it works from there.
I do know magic is involved to a certain extent. But the point is, I continually run in to readers who say something to this effect, "I've been reading about the river in the newspapers but how are you and Marilyn doing on your farm, you never say."
Happy New Years From The Morrows
The short answer is that it is one of those "best and worst" years for us also. The Missouri River has drained back into its banks and we were mostly left with few structural problems except for the trash that was left along the edges. The exception is one field that had 40 acres that was carved pretty badly. About the top 5 feet was washed away. We were able to hire a dozer to smooth it a bit and have worked it four times in four different directions and think the planter will be okay next spring.
Most of the ground I farm is flat. I've never farmed "gently rolling" before but now I have some. We lost another 40 to cutting by the river and sand deposits too deep to do anything with. We were the fortunate ones however. We have good friends who have lost their homes and buildings and some very large fields have hundreds of acres with sand deposits that have rendered the ground of no further use.
In small communities we know the people and the struggles that each one faces. The thing that really amazes me is that these are the same folks who greet you with a smile, a handshake, a question about your own well being as well as an offer to help. Yes, they want to help you when they are the ones who lost their home. The belief is always that it could be worse. Eternal optimists are everywhere in rural America. That's why we live here. It's not for the weather or the excitement of raging flood waters. It's for the people.
I talked to "Bill" at the big farm show in Lincoln. He came up to the Midwest Messenger/-Midwest Producer booth that I was in and looked at me for a bit and then tipped his cowboy hat back and said, "So, you're Cliff?" I admitted that I was. He continued, "I always read your article in the Midwest Producer." I thanked him. He continued, "That is if I don't fall asleep while I'm reading it."
I chuckled a little. He had a good belly laugh about it.
Yeah, it is the people.


Midlife Mom said...

My heart goes out to those affected by the floods. I have never experienced it myself but did go to see a house a few years back that slid right into the ocean due to erosion and high water marks. It was a sight that just floored me and my heart broke for the owners who weren't allowed to go in and retrieve anything due to safety issues. Having grown up next door to my grandparents farm I have always had a love for farms and the people that run them. They are some of the nicest people around and would give you the shirt off their back even as you stated they may have just lost their own home. I chuckled about what Bill said to you, sounds like something my Dad would say! ha! I live in rural America too, just about everywhere in Maine is rural. We certainly don't live here for the economy, business is hard here. We live here because we love this way of life and the people, so I know just what you mean! :o)

Granny Annie said...

Oh "those people" do keep us all humble, don't they. And I loved your statement about being optimistic, "It's simply too much work to believe otherwise."

LZ Blogger said...

Cliff ~ And a VERY Happy New Year to you and Marilyn too. It will be nice to get this year behind us (for many reasons!)
I read your post on my blog to Sher... she wants to know what woman you are talking about? :-)
Take care my friend! ~ j///b

Jim said...

I generally read your blogs too, Cliff. Except when I fall asleep reading them! I'll have to remember that one.

This was a nice article and I'm glad you brought it here too. I didn't realize that the drought extended to the Kansas wheat areas.

Happy New Year to y'all up there!


Too many of us out here take what you all do for granted. You've been through so much over the 2011 year. Here's hoping that 2012 will bring you peace and joy and that you'll be blessed with prosperity to recoup any losses you suffered last year. Have fun watching all those FOOTBALL games. I'm getting ready for that BIG parade tomorrow. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours.

Rachel said...

Great post Cliff. I do hope the new year is a better one for you, but with farming you never know!

I love that picture of you and Marilyn. You two look great!!

Happy New Year!!!

Peter said...

Good to see the back end of 2011 just hope that 2012 turns out a lot better,
Happy New Year to you and the family.

Ralph said...

Yeah, it's the people. Thanks for everything the past couple of weeks.

EV said...

Nature and folks sure can keep us humble. All the best to the Morrow's for a spectacular 2012.

Shannon said...

Happy new year! We farmers are eternal optimists, right? Next year will be better. ;)

gel said...

Happy New Year, Cliffers and Marilyn!

Enjoyed this down home article. I'm also happy to read that you're still writing for the paper.