Dad explains the Corn Plow
November 14, 2006
Still at my dad's house. We spent three hours on the web the other night. We visited this blog, and he read a bit of what I write for the Chroncle (at sfgate.com). Then we researched some famous relatives of the last generation and just browsed about again. His caregiver was astonished that he stayed awake and alert for so long. I think he truly understood the breadth and scope of the internet and declared it a fine library.
I think one of the values of my visits to him is that I remind him of the names of plants and other info that no one else here would know. I mention the genus name of a plant, and he tells me the species, or he mentions the traits of one of his fruit trees, and I remind him of the cultivar. He looks joyful when he remembers the names. Good for his memory and feelings of connection.
Dad taught me the scientific names of many plants when I was quite young. By the time I was 10 I was the go to kid in the school for 25 or 50 tree leaf collections with common and scientific names. Dad gave me this wonderful gift, and one I encourage my adult students to give to kids they may have or know. Even if you only teach a few scientific names or plants or animals to a child, I am convinced that it will make it easier for them to begin to learn them later.
Yes, I agree with the person who has commented that gardening and farming can be good for one's health, although farming can also be dangerous due to danger from animals, machines, and chemicals. Dad farmed before the machines and chemicals, so he had only the animals to fear. He doesn't have any stories to tell about his own relationships with animals however. He seems, on the contrary, to have been exceptionally good with animals. He tells of taming a particularly fractious heifer and getting her to let them milk her. Before he began, the cow tried to gore people and other animals, afterwards, Dad could lead her around by the horns.
His father did have a close encounter with a pig. A full-grown pig is a huge animal. The pig got angry and chased grandpa. Grandpa went across the pigpen and over the fence faster than he would have thought possible, but escaped injury.
Another story he told was about plowing the corn. He said that a team of 2 horses pulled the "corn plow." I asked him to tell me what a corn plow was. He replied that it was used to keep weeds down when the corn was very young. It ran between the rows and piled a bit of earth on the rows. This killed the weeds between the rows by uprooting them, and the ones in the row by smothering. "Well, I said, that wouldn't work for, say, carrots, because they would grow slower than the weeds. You would just bury them. It works for the corn because it grows so fast." He agreed, saying that you had to be more careful with fragile garden crops. (I think that covering the base of the corn would probably be a help because corn has adventitious roots at its base, and covering them probably would make the corn stronger and less likely to blow over in a storm.)
Well, tomorrow it is back to the Bay Area, where I hear it has been raining. The better to get our radishes to grow.