Today my sisters and I, great niece London, niece Ashley, her husband Jon and their boys, Ethan and Kaleb, met at my Uncle Rex’s farm to help out cousin Mike with planting. Mike works so hard every day on the farm, after putting in long hours at his day job. For us city girls, it is not only fun to help out on the farm but beneficial to Mike, as it shortens the time he has to spend out working the ground or harvesting. Today, for my first, I helped to plant corn.
I’ve had small vegetable gardens before. I think once I even planted corn but it didn’t do well. I don’t think I harvested a single ear of corn. Today, I understood better why. There is a process to planting corn. Mike showed us the steps and then we got busy. The only step we did not try was tilling the rows for planting. Mike expertly guides the tiller along, making straight rows. He walks off to the side as he guides the churning machine and I feared I couldn’t maintain enough control as I lack the arm strength Mike has. However, we performed every other step and by the last row, we had a good working system.
After the row is tilled, plant food is scattered over the freshly turned earth and two of us used rakes to work the food into the soil and smooth. Mike showed us how to attach each end of a long cord to short pieces of rebar that stand at either end of the row. Then a metal tape measure is also attached to one rebar and held in place at the other end by a bucket full of dirt…or something. I never actually looked in the bucket! We would move down the row then, poking a hole in the warm soil with our finger, up to the second knuckle, at one foot intervals, dropping a single corn kernel in each hole. After the next row was prepared and the string and tape measure moved, one of us would move down the planted row with a yard rake, shallowly covering the corn.
Planting corn is not hard, but it is wearing on the body. We stretched our backs often and we were very grateful for a large tree to the side of the field which graciously offered its shade. Although the day was the warmest of the past week, there was a good breeze to cool us. We drank ample amounts of water. Work shared goes faster and also gives opportunity for chatting and laughing. Mike supervised us patiently and couldn’t resist grabbing a handful of the precious kernels and helping to plant. I had a new appreciation for the word “cornhole” after poking holes in the earth today and dropping a kernel in! I recently played the lawn game by the same name and understood where the name is derived from.
After planting corn we moved to a long row of bushy green plants and grabbing buckets, picked green beans. The children, who had been splashing in a pool, and Jon, who had been watching them, joined us. Ethan made a game of picking, seeing who could pick the most. I think he won. Mike showed us the maturing eggplant, okra, squash and tomato plants. I can see that there is always planting, harvesting or preparing to do here.
We also celebrated Uncle Rex today, as his birthday is the 22nd. He seemed to enjoy the company today, and the children made him laugh. We brought lunch in and Uncle Rex enjoyed the peach pie especially. He is a sweet and joyful man with a wonderful sense of humor. I look at his handsome face and I catch a glimpse of my dad as well, who was Uncle Rex’s younger brother. My dad has passed but being with my uncle is a bit like being with my dad. It is bittersweet, the familiarity and yet the missing of him.
Next weekend, my sisters and I will once again meet at the farm and assist Mike in planting watermelons and cantaloupe. It will be a plentiful harvest this fall.