Write Field: Listen To Your Elders

Oldtimers might not have had an app with precise weather information and soil temperature data, but there may have been wisdom in their beliefs and theories about planting timing.

thermometer in soil.png
Probes in the soil can give you precise temperatures, but sometimes the theories of past generations still seems to hold true.
Agweek file photo
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Old guys sitting on benches, often pictured whittling or playing checkers. Perhaps in a farmyard putzing around with an old tractor, a faithful dog by their side. If they are lucky there is a small child watching who appears anxious to get their hands on a wrench to help, but the look on the child’s face is of deep respect for the wisdom that radiates from the obvious grandfather.

After visiting the Terry Redlin museum in Watertown, South Dakota, I came away with that sort of dream for my retirement. Reality is a little closer to anyone who wants wisdom, opens an app or Googles the question.

Spring, if it should ever come,
I’m sure will welcome be,
I know that there are early signs,
That I would like to see.

I had an uncle long ago,
Who said you never should,
While snow is still in the ditch,
Pull drills out from the wood.

Now I can measure temperature,
To parts of a degree,
I poke the probe into the ground,
And it is telling me,


That germination temps are reached,
Within a half a day,
Of when the snow in uncle's ditch,
Did finally melt away.

A friend told me that in the ground,
The frost will still be there,
Until there is a storm that features,
Thunder in the air.

He said the thunder shakes the ground,
And breaks the frost up good,
Some things about that theory,
I just never understood.

But it is true that thunderstorms,
Do need warm air to start,
Warm rain falling on the ground,
Might be the missing part.

There are theories on cold springs,
Dry summers and wet fall,
Old timers get together,
And they gladly share them all.

They may not have an app,
Or colored maps from drones in flight,
But listen, it’s amazing,
Those old guys are often right.

Be safe out there as you rush to plant. — Kragnes

David Kragnes farms near Felton, Minn. He is a former board member and chairman of American Crystal Sugar Company, he currently serves on the CoBank Board of Directors.

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