My father is a farmer. His father was a farmer. My family roots as far back as I can trace have been farmers. Perhaps the original immigrants who first came across the sea from where abouts still unknown to me were farmers. I tell people I was born with dirt beneath my finger nails and that my favorite smell of spring is that of freshly turned dirt. Some people suspect that dirt is what runs in my veins. Yet a few ask why I am an engineer and I have no ready answer other than I happened to grow up during one of the worst decades to be a farmer here in the Midwest. Some call that decade the Farm Crisis of the 80's. Yet this year is another reason that I chose to leave farming behind. I couldn't deal with the uncertainty.
It is just barely past four in the morning as I begin this post, my wife has just left for her day in residency in the urban jungle and my daughter is still in bed and will be for another three hours. Yet I am awake and can't get back to sleep because of the sound of what seems like the eternal rain. My rain gauge is broke, victim of another cheap plastic part that just wasn't meant to sit outside in the sun for very long and yet has weathered through three or four seasons replacing the last cheap plastic part that broke the same way. I have yet to device a holder out of something metal that will last my lifetime and so the rain gauge itself lays on the piano in the back room. Long story short, I don't know how much rain we have received this last three days but it is safe to say that feet might be the better way to measure it. You wouldn't have to count so high.
This is the third year in a row, that we have had an exceptionally wet spring.
My parents planted the corn crop in good shape earlier this spring. It was too early to plant the soybeans and so they waited but not for long. The rains came and essentially have never stopped. That was two months ago. Since that time, they had about one week of dry weather in which they were able to replant over 5oo acres of their corn that had been drowned out by the rain and put in 700 acres of soybeans, still a few hundred acres short of a full crop. Then the rains came again. Those 500 acres of corn and most of the 700 acres of soybeans went the way of the others which is to say they drowned. Now here it is just shy of midway through June, it is now 4:30 in the morning and it is raining. In fact, the ten day forecast is nothing but rain. Give four or five days to get things dried out once it stops raining and suddenly we are now in July and there is still no crop in the ground. What little has been planted and happened to be on hillsides where it didn't get drowned out, it sickly and yellow and way behind schedule. At best, it will make a half crop but even that is reducing with every inch of rain.
My parents are taking it well. They built a tree house of sorts for my daughter whenever she visits the farm. It is really nothing more than a platform on a decapitated Chinese Elm stump some ten feet in the air in the side yard. There, they have spent many an evening, in-between rains, watching the western horizon and sipping some wine. There isn't much else to do. As I mentioned in the comments of I believe Beau's blog, I much prefer a drought to a wet year. In a drought, you can do things while your crop suffers without moisture and you may end up with a fraction of a crop but you still have a lot of other things done around the farm. It a wet year like the last three, especially this year, you have nothing but acres of mud. You can't do anything because you get stuck or you simply get exhausted of trying to lift your feet and you still get a fraction of a crop or perhaps none as this year is shaping up.
So back to my original point. I'm an engineer. I was more than a student of the farm crisis in the 1980's. I hate uncertainty. I gave up farming and instead decided that a job in manufacturing was more certain than farming. I've lost two jobs to a migration of manufacturing to foreign countries but thankfully, still have one during the worst recessions in almost a century. So thus far, I can still go to work everyday, just like today, rain or shine. I'm thankful for that. But a large part of my heart is still buried in the mud on a farm less than an hour's drive from here and it feels like it keeps getting buried deeper with every deluge we get. To quote a song from John Prine, "I'm praying for some sunny countryside."
It is currently pouring rain.