A lot of big farmers today use GPS technology to plant by, they use tractors that turn themselves around, and they plant as soon as the frost is out of the ground. On our farm, we do things a little different, but with a lot of family tradition.
Ralph Westaby (my husband’s grandfather, born in 1902), always told my husband that you don’t plant in the spring until the ground is warm to the touch. Every spring you now will see my two sons out in the fields with hands, and a thermometer to make sure it’s 55 degrees minimum before we plant. Science says seeds don’t sprout well before 55 degrees, organic seeds don’t need any treatments on them because they sprout within a few days, they don’t sit in the ground for weeks on end.
Ralph also said, “It’s great for the oats to get a snow on them.” Well, science has proven that the snow offers of course, moisture, but also nitrogen to kick start growth.
Ralph’s corn planting advice was “Wait until the oak tree leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear.” Well, oak tree leaves don’t come out until the air is warm enough, thus the ground is warm enough.
General advice from Ralph was “Don’t start any fieldwork or projects on a Friday.” Not sure of any scientific facts of that, but we never, ever, start anything here on a Friday. Many times we are not quite ready to go on a Thursday, but the boys will go out Thursday night, before midnight, and just put the piece of equipment in the soil and run it. That way we didn’t start on Friday!
Large farmers around us think we are crazy, of course, but in a way, it means more to us to say “Great Grandpa Ralph said” each year we say it. It brings in his memory, his hard work, and love for this farm. It reconnects us to our farm’s past and of the struggles to survive and thrive. It reminds us to stay connected to the earth, to nature’s knowledge, and to man’s ability to be a partner in it, not to conquer it.
Thanks, Great Grandpa Ralph, we still feel you, your father Charles, and your grandfather William here, and we remember your words!