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I'm sitting here in new shoes. Nothing like a pair of new dress shoes. I guess they are not new really but they feel new. I just got them back from Fred's Shoe Repair in The Heights. He put new leather soles and heels on them and re-sewed some stitches that came loose on the tops and buffed the leather and shined it. Now it looks like I have new shoes and feels like it too. These are a pair of deep burgundy colored Florshiem leather wingtips. I bought them for $125 four years ago so I really didn't want to have to get rid of them and buy a new pair. I'm hard on shoes but with Florshiems you get what you pay for and they hung in there with me through 12 job interviews and 2 jobs plus countless weddings and funerals. I just love these shoes...can you tell.

So OK, time to recount the misadventures of my weekend.

Saturday, I spent almost the whole day helping my cousins the farmers.
I guess technically I'm a farmer too since I live on a farm my family owns and I do some farm chores and such but it's not like I was raised around it or rely on the income for a living. Gene and Alan are the two cousins who do all our farming for us. We like many people in Central Illinois own the land and contract the work out to others. We provide 50% of the funds for the seed and fertilizer and insecticides and all that. They in turn provide the other 50% plus they do the actual preparing of the soil and planting and harvesting. It's not at all profitable for us to maintain tractors that cost $250,000 each for our little farm of 100 acres. On the other hand, they contract to farm 1700 acres all over the county, so it is profitable for them. Since I was a little kid I've always enjoyed riding along on the tractor. I still do so whenever the farmers are out at my place I try to ride along. In the spring I rode along during the anhydrous application as well as the planting of the corn. Sometimes I'll give the farmers breaks and they let me operate the machinery while they have lunch or what have you. I'm like a kid in a candy store then and they are more than willing to teach me which I really appreciate.

The anhydrous application I was referring to is Anhydrous Ammonia. A big tank of this stuff gets hauled behind the tractor and these hollow tines are lowered into the earth and this stuff is basically injected into the soil. The gaseous material is generally released as a fairly harmless though really awful smelling gas but it leaves behind a lot of nitrogen for the soil.

Saturday we were harvesting the last corn from the last two farms they have. Mine and one about 10 miles across the county. So I got to drive the combine some to give them a break. And I helped Gene take some of the grain trucks down to the elevator to be sold. Gene is Alan's father. He's about 72 years old and still going strong. He's also intelligent as all get out. He's always quizzing me about types of trees or plants or telling me about how that train over there comes from Wyoming with tons of coal bound for Arkansas and within five minutes of the train leaving the station, they can tell how long it will take for it to get to Illinois. One of my uncles used to be a Mechanical Engineer for Burlington and Northern Railroad and was responsible for the microwave communication towers they use so I really already knew all this but it's fun to listen to Gene talk. Gene grew up in a farming family and he taught Alan everything he knows. Luckily Alan wanted to become a farmer. It doesn't happen all that much anymore. While I was riding with Alan, I asked him what effect it would have when his Dad has to give up farming. He said he thought he could do most of the planting and all on his own. He would just have to hire another hand to help with the harvest. Alan is my age and we get along pretty well for cousins who never knew each other until 8 years ago.

Farmers seldom retire around here. They either get to old or sick to do it anymore or they just die doing it. And either a younger family member takes it over or they end up selling the land if they own it or the bank takes it over. Luckily Gene has Alan so in a few years when Gene's health gets the better of him, he can just sort of bow out gracefully and let Alan take everything over.

I got a couple rolls of great photos while I was helping the farmers. I'll get them developed and post them this week.
I have about 40 acres tillable on my farm. That is to say, 40 acres we are able to plant. The rest of the 100 acres is woods, pasture and barnyard. The corn this year made about 125 bushels per acre or about 5,000 bushels. Corn is selling for around $1.87 a bushel right now so we will make around $9,350 for our little 40 acres. Of that we will get half and Gene and Alan will take half for their efforts. Still not too bad a profit but you can see why farmers don't get rich.

I think Alan is supposed to come over today and chisel plow the fields which will turn all the corn stalks and cobs into the soil. Next year we will plant soybeans and hope for the best with that.

When Alan was combining our corn, he noticed a couple trees leaning over into the field and asked me to go take care of them before today so he wouldn't have to avoid them with the tractor. So yesterday after changing oil in all of our tractors and cars and equipment, I headed out to the fields in my rusty old pickup with my trusty ladder and chainsaw to conquer some trees.

I was able to get to the branches from the ash and the honey locust fairly easily despite the thorns on the latter. But the hedge tree I could see was going to give me problems. For starters, the base of the tree was behind the field fence which meant getting impaled on the barb wire trying to get over it with a chainsaw and a ladder. After evaluating the situation, I decided to just cut the offending branches off rather than cut the whole tree down. There was one limb that came off the main trunk and went up in an arch the bottom of which hung branches down about ten feet above the surface of the field. This would put them right about windshield level for the tractor. Not a good thing at all. So I extended the ladder and climbed up with the chainsaw running. I was about 20 feet in the air at this point. I cut the main part of the limb and of course it started to break in half before I got all the way through. So I tried to cut a chunk out of the bottom but couldn't get the right angle on it from where I stood. So I cut another wedge out just beside the main cut so I could see it better. An of course, every time I did this I got sprayed with the sticky yellow sap and sawdust that hedge trees are famous for.

Now I could see what I was doing. I had a piece of wood about four inches across that was holding the whole limb up. So I cut straight down hoping to free it. This did not happen. Instead the limb twisted and bound the chainsaw so the chain could no spin. Not only that, I couldn't free the chainsaw. So I started trying to figure out how I was going to get the chainsaw free and get the limb down. I figured I could either go down and grab the branches on the bottom and try to shake it down or I could go back and get one of the tractors, hook a chain to the limb and pull it free. Of course both of these options meant the chainsaw would take a drop of 20 feet out of the tree and probably end it's career. And seeing how it was a $300 chainsaw, I didn't relish that option. So using my blazing wit and intelligence, I took my belt off and belted the chainsaw to the part of the limb I was not cutting. That way at least it would not fall.

I climbed down and leaving the ladder standing, I grabed the lower branches and started shaking them. Well something good and something bad became of this. The good thing was the limb broke and freed the chainsaw. The bad thing was as the limb fell, it hit the ladder and bent it almost in two. Had I been standing on the ladder when that happened, I'd probably be in the hospital right now having fallen 20 feet from a tree onto a barb wire fence and a pile of honey locust thorns. And since there was no one else around, it might have taken some time for help to come. Someone was watching out for me yesterday, though not for the poor ladder. Now I had another problem on my hands. 20 feet up in the tree, the chainsaw swung helplessly attached to my belt. So I drove back to the house and got the other ladder and positioned it against the ruined body of the first ladder, climbed up and retrieved the chainsaw. Then I proceeded to cut up the limb. We can't use it for firewood because of the high sap content but I know some woodcarvers who I might be able to trade with so I cut it into usable lengths with that in mind. I was also able to get three fairly straight branches I'll be able to carve and turn into fairly nice walking sticks. Finally I was able to load up the good ladder, the bent ladder and the chainsaw and head to the house about dark. Had some dinner and set out for the city again.

I miss the farm already.




Wander aka StoneBear
Bear Dancer Studios

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