Daddy kept up with the latest trends in farming. He was friendly with the County Agent and his staff and the Soil Conservation guy and his staff, and even the Ag teacher, although Daddy didn’t have any kids of high school age then.
When they came up with a new plant or product or way of doing things, as suggested by Auburn, he was ready to try it.
For instance, we had an old privy down on the hillside, just like everybody else’s. We had no running water, no inside plumbing, but we put up as nice a privy as could be built, all according to Auburn specifications. Cement base over the hole, and a toilet seat just like the indoor plumbing kind. It kept a body safe and secure from the winter winds. Always plenty of reading matter, too. It was (and is) out there where the daffodils grow.
When they said we should make new terraces, not the old bench kind where the sassafras bushes always needed cutting, we made them.
When they said crotalaria would be beneficial to the soil, we planted a patch. However, we gave it up when we learned that just a single crotalaria seed would ruin a whole load of soy bean seeds. However, crotolaria volunteers came up for years.
The whole area was scarred with gulleys, some of them deep and dangerous. Not to fear, kudzu would save is. Up ‘til then, kudzu had just been an ornamental plant, growing on trellises by the front porch. But the Extension or Soil Conservation folks started giving out crowns of kudzu to be planted. I remember putting them out in the big gulley near the road and the house. We’d show that gulley who was boss.
It worked! I stopped erosion in many gulleys in the area. Kudzu was not all bad. We just didn’t know at the time that its motto was, “Today der big gulley, tomorrow, der vorld!
We learned about vetch: planted it at laying-by time and plowed it under in the spring to enrich the soil. It(the soil) needed all the help it could get. It did make plowing more difficult, but if you had your rolling coulter properly adjusted under the beam of your Chattanooga turning plow, it would slice through the rich greenness and make plowing much easier.
The motto of the old Progressive Farmer magazine was, “The South Will Come Into Its Own When Its Fields Are Green In Winter.” Vetch did it. There were still some farmers who not only didn’t plant vetch, they carefully raked up and burned all stalks, so that not a hint of organic matter went back into the hungry dirt. Made plowing easier, they said.
We had, I reckon, the first real pasture in the area. Remember? Every inch that was not swamp or vertical or absolutely too rocky was cultivated. What was left, we called pasture and said “Eat ‘til you bust.” And wondered why the cows kept trying to get into the corn field.
We did it to Auburn specs. The recommended mixture was Dallas grass and Dutch white clover. We petted it, kept the weeds cut–first with hoes, then with a sickle bar mule-drawn mower, one of the most dangerous implements that could be had, but it did the job, yellow jackets, stumps and stump holes and all.
We even tried to put some recommended lime on it, but the truck got stuck.
Then there was the egg period. Our yard chickens had been Brown Leghorns, almost like wild chickens. They’d lay eggs in remarkably innovative places, like in the bank of the gulley. Don’t know why snakes and possums didn’t get them, but there they’d be. Or some other well-hidden place. “Listen for the cackle. Listen for the cackle!” And Brown Leghorn roosters are the prettiest of all roosters.
Now, Daddy built a small brooder house and a larger laying house. We had switched to White Leghorns now; no doubt, they were recommended. That lasted a while, then petered out.
What will happen next at the Sanders plantation? Don’t miss a thrilling moment. Tune in next week at this same time.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.