Planting in the storm

Staff writer

Lightning skittered between the clouds, gusts of wind carried hints of the smell of rain, and gritty dust swirled up from the tractor tires into my teeth and eyes last Tuesday night as my husband and I planted wheat.

The adrenaline of the moment erased earlier disasters of the day. Tuesday is my day to work late at the newspaper office and things were not coming together in an orderly fashion. My cell phone continued to jingle as my husband called about the myriad of things that were going wrong back at the farm.

The pigs got out. One got put back in the pen, the other ended up on the barbecue grill. It took forever to complete the final disking to smooth the seedbed. The fertilizer cost way more than we had to invest. The electrical wiring on the tractor had some good and some bad moments. And worst of all, in the rush to get the seed in the ground, my husband stepped on the hitch of the tractor, which was covered with slippery oil and fell hard, landing on his face and chest, smack down on the gravel driveway. Ouch.

The last I heard from him while I was still at the office and before his cell phone went dead was a mumbled bunch of groans. I could make out only that “I’m lying on the ground and I’m not getting up.”

OK, so it was a stormy night in more ways than one, but through it all the heart of a farmer perseveres, right?

Never mind that the old-timers at McDonalds at coffee hour said it was too early to plant. With rain forecast for the coming three days, we wanted to get our wheat in the ground, no matter what it took.

It was exciting to finally get everything rolling at 9 p.m. The storm seemed to be holding off as we made the first few rounds together.

There is something special about planting time. Putting seed in the ground is like knowing there is hope for the future. It is comparable to hay in the barn, a retirement fund, groceries in the cupboard, that kind of thing.

Our wheat planting experience is nothing like the upscale version of GPS system farming our wealthier neighbors enjoy. In fact, we know it will be a miracle if we managed to get in any straight rows at all.

About halfway through our 40-acre field goal, the storm broke. I was driving the planting tractor while my husband ran to move the equipment holding the seed off the field. It was pitch black except for occasional lightning strikes.

Suddenly the wind came up so strong that dust billowed around and into the tractor, reducing visibility to nil.

I couldn’t see the tracks from the previous pass; in fact, I had no idea where I even was in the field. I just drove on.

I could not see through the front window of the tractor so I stood up and wiped off what I could while driving. The greasy rag I used didn’t help matters much.

When it started to rain, I knew I needed to get off the field, but how and where? I just kept going.

Good thing the old Minnie was straight and true. I love our Minneapolis-Moline tractor. She is like a loyal dog. Put her in gear and point her in the right direction and she just goes.

That is what I did, just kept her pointed in what I hoped was the right direction. Finally I saw the end of the field and whipped her around to go back home.

By the time I got back across from the barn and pulled over to the side of the field, mud was caking the planter tires and rain was pouring from heaven.

It was wonderful and insane at the same time. Lightning flashed all around and thunder boomed as my husband and I stood at the edge of the field enjoying the moment.

There is nothing better than planting in a storm to make one realize that circle of life goes on, no matter what the complications of the day bring. A little darkness, a little dirt, a little hurt, a little rain, a big storm, they all end eventually, and a few days later the wheat comes up. Nice.

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