My farming roots

Grampa Deakins tending his field corn

Grampa Deakins tending his field corn (mid-to-late 1920’s). The farm was located just south of the Ft. Smith Junction of I-35 and I-40. Of course, that junction wasn’t there until some time after 1957. He used a five-row Van Brunt (John Deere) corn drill, pulled by a team of horses, to plant that corn.  I don’t think he ever planted sweet corn, as he needed a cash crop as well as feed for his livestock.  He leased the right-of-way on Grand Boulevard all the way from Reno to Southeast fifteenth street, a mile south, and planted corn all the way up and down on both sides.  This was in addition to his own ten acres.

After Grampa died in 1930, my father, thirteen at the time, tried to hitch the horses to the plow to continue the work, but he lacked the strength. At that point, Granny realized she would have to hire someone to help.

My father was the last generation of a long line of farmers. Although he left the farm in his early twenties, he tried his best to “inflict” the art of agriculture upon me. Perhaps that has something to do with the reason I still have the plow and the corn drill, and why it was so hard on me when finally we were forced to sell the old farm.

I have but two pieces of advice for you: Plow with the contours, and rotate your crops.  Oh, yes, and don’t prune your grapes back too far.  And use a can of kerosene to collect your potato bugs.  Also, plant several rows of corn together to get it to pollinate, and after it comes up thin it to one foot between stalks.  Peanut hay is good for feeding your rabbits.  Keep your hoe sharp, and clean it after every use.  Plant your corn far enough away from the fence that the horses don’t eat it.  Don’t plant your onions with your beans.  Consult the almanac to find the best time to plant your okra.  Despite what your teachers will tell you, gourds will cross with and mess up the flavor of cantaloupes.  There’s nothing better than a mess of Kentucky Wonder green beans and an new golden potatoes, unless it’s fresh, ripe tomatoes.

I used to hate working in the garden, but now I’d give anything to relive some of those experiences, with the chance to ask more questions… and to taste those fresh vegetables once again.

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