We are incredibly dry right now. The last week or so I have been planting rye and turnips for fall grazing. Since then, I have revised my plan to say that I am planting rye for spring grazing. I did have one friend tell me that if you dust it in, you will break the bin. If that is the case, then this rye crop will be a record setting one. Without a doubt it was planted in dust.
I would guess that the current dry spell will last a week or so more and break right as I am attempting to harvest fall crops. It has been perfect harvest weather for the past month while my crops were maturing but as soon as we can get a combine in my prediction is that the rainy season will start. Well, I guess the bright spot is that my rye and turnips should come up.
Then again, I am not sure how much good they will do if I am behind on harvest and can’t get the cows worked so they can go out on fall pasture. The other side of that argument is that if we don’t get rain there will be no grazing and my pastures are dry and brown now. Furthermore, I am getting fall calves right now and soon will be weaning my spring calves. The dust will cause a lot of respiratory problems.
All of this whining is just to prove a point. No, not the point that I am hard to please and never satisfied but the point that it is hard to find the perfect weather if you are a diversified farmer or rancher. No matter what the weather is doing it is both good and bad at the same time. Is it possible to be feast and famine at the same time?
I am just sure that there are times that God is messing with us. I like to think he has a sense of humor – at least I hope he does. I can just see that he puts a 30% chance of rain in the forecast for Thursday just to give me hope and make me work harder to get the rye planted. Then Thursday comes around and the sky clouds up, the wind picks up and nothing.
I just imagine God sitting back and chuckling and saying, “So you think you can do this on your own? Better start talking to me, farmer, because I can do this all month long.”
Then if that wasn’t funny enough, I am picturing that on the first day of the harvest season, boom suddenly it’s monsoon season. That isn’t thunder you hear, it’s God laughing at my human fragility.
There is more than an ounce of truth in my line of thinking. The first thing I should do when faced with adversity like a dry spell is to get on my knees and schedule a meeting with the one who controls the rain. However, I fall victim to my own feeling of invincibility and decide that if I just work harder good things will come to me and it will start raining again. I am not very smart, but I am also not alone in this line of thinking.
I guess that brings me back to one of the things I love most about farming and ranching. You can’t do this year after year without realizing that you are just a small part in the process. We are a caretaker and nothing more, we can be as smart and educated as we want. We can adapt new techniques and be on the cutting edge and many times that makes little or no difference. We simply facilitate a process that we are not in control of, no matter how much we might think we are.
We know from watching that small seed sprout in the spring or that little helpless calf born on a cold gray day, we are spectators. We have been given the greatest technology and the most knowledge mankind has ever gotten and yet so much is out of our hands. I don’t know about you, but I find that incredibly humbling.
I also find this revelation comforting. No matter what I do, most of this is not in my hands and that is a good thing. What I really should say is that no matter how many mistakes I make, God will take care of me in the end. It usually takes something bad to remind me that the most important thing I can do is to ask for help. It’s funny, if I would remember to ask for help before I need it, maybe things would go easier.
It’s a lot for my little brain to ponder and way more than I can comprehend. The bottom line is that I need to take a few minutes out of my busy fall work schedule for a chat with the one who is really in control. It won’t take long. I know he is busy. I read the news and I know there are a lot of people out there who cause a lot more problems. I also find that kind of comforting.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.