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Farm lessons learned at my expense

Larry McDermott

Life on the farm


Sometimes I think even remedial training would not help me learn the fundamentals of farming.

I’m not talking about the depth seeds should be planted or how to control weeds. That’s easy. It’s the hard stuff that trips me up. The unwritten rules of befuddlement. Like these.

WATER HOSES: If you connect a water hose to a faucet, take the business end and pull it 75 yards to your parched plants, you will get no water without first walking back to fix the kink located 74 yards away. Did you know that at the water hose factory they have a big machine that makes water hoses? If you look closely at the machine there is a button marked, “Kink Maker.” This is true.

SUNGLASSES: If you are working outside, place your sunglasses on top of your hat or cap so when they fall off your head you won’t know it. Then later when you discover them missing, you can retrace your steps in some ridiculously futile hope that you will find them, knowing full well they will appear before your eyes in a thousand pieces when you are mowing. This is true.

BUNGEE MADNESS: A bungee is a piece of rubber with a hook at each end. It is a must-have tool used for holding things together, keeping gates closed, tarps on coops. But picking up one bungee is a mind game because it is impossible to retrieve just one bungee from a place where two or more bungees gather. Bungees are animate. They work together as a team to drive users crazy by latching onto each other like snakes in a snake pit. Grab one, pull out 50. This is true.

BUCKETS: First and foremost, the 5-gallon bucket is the most valuable tool a farmer can have. I have been known to pull off the road and retrieve them. “Nice bucket,” is the ultimate compliment. But—and this is key—buckets can work against you if you let them. If you have ever placed one inside another only to find later that they cannot be separated, you know what I’m talking about. A suction meter will reveal that the force holding bucket #2 inside bucket #1 is equivalent to the force field that keeps earth from crashing into the moon. Those electromagnets used to lift 70,000-pound loaded shipping containers come to mind. This is true.

CAROLINA RED CLAY: Books could be written about this stuff. It sticks to and stains everything. Dogs. Horses. Cats. Goats. People. Houses. I believe it is the main ingredient in those exploding dye packs the bank tellers slip into the bag when robbers show up to make an illegal withdrawal. It should be a required ingredient when mixing concrete because it’s going to wind up staining it anyway. When wet, it sticks to your boots like a dirt dauber’s nest in a pile of bungees. I know one person who claims a power washer will get the red stains out of jeans. I’d have to see it. This is true.

I have to go now. I have frustrations to vent and new lessons to learn.

Larry McDermott, a retired journalist, owns a 40-acre organic farm in Rutherfordton, where he grows blueberries, keeps bees and raises horses, dairy goats, and chickens. Email: hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com or see farm happenings at www.facebook.com/hardscrabblehollowfarmllc