The push toward maturity requires rain for crops, and patience and discipline for humans

"Gardening on a small scale or growing thousands of acres of corn, soybeans and wheat teaches patience. It also teaches faith that God will provide rain when its dry and sunshine to push both crops and humankind toward maturity."

A raindrop on a young corn plant, with wet soil beneath.
Rain helps drive maturity in crops, just as experiences propel it in humans.
Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC
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Lightning danced in the morning darkness as June gave way to July. A soaking rain is needed to fuel corn and soybean growth. We are not in a drought of the sort that broke the backs and hearts of many in the 1930s.

Dad discovered that cattle could eat the leaves from tree branches and swine survived on cow pumpkins. Dust invaded the house and settled on Mom's best plates, towels, and clothing. Sleeping outside to escape the heat was as uncomfortable as it was necessary.

Spoiled child that I am, Kathy and I fight over thermostat control. She wants the house kept comfortably cool while I fret over the electric bill. Dad’s opinion was that air conditioning made one unwilling to work.

The thermostat battle lost, and the outside provides a nongraceful retreat.

Several milkweeds in the overgrown flower bed are welcome mats for Monarch butterflies. Years ago, milk from milkweed stalks was used on cuts, burns, and bruises. It could — if applied in large amounts — keep mosquitoes away.


Its milk was thought to cure warts and reduce fever. Native Americans used its milk to make a tea-like drink and to treat poisons in the body. During World War II researchers looked at tough milkweed stalks as a possible replacement for rubber, twine, and ropes. The fluff inside a ripe milkweed pod is even stuffed in expensive pillows

It couldn’t — as a playmate claimed — eliminate the pain caused by contact with an electric fence.

Kathy — despite knowing that bees are multi-billion-dollar contributors to agriculture — does not appreciate the pollinators who work among the flowers. Unless disturbed, the bees are much too busy to bite and not nearly as mean as the wasps who built nests in the hay baler’s twin compartment or the round twine container on the side of the grain binder.

A wasp sting hurt worse than any other, a fact that made opening the binder box to see what lived inside silly.

Dad frequently said that time and seasons move faster when you grow older. Time has proven this to be true. The broccoli and zucchini are ready for harvest, the lettuce has bolted, green tomatoes hang from the vines, and peppers are flowering.

However, it’s frustrating that I can’t get grass to grow on a few patches of the lawn that were dug this spring. Daily watering has only produced a bumper crop of weeds that towered above the mess until they were chopped down.

It is good exercise — especially when frustrations need to be worked out. Dad understood, which is why he sometimes took us to scythe weeds on field edges on hot July days. Weed removal as punishment was appropriate following a 4th of July when I ruined a stock tank with a cherry bomb.

No harm was intended — the attempt was made to see how powerful a cherry bomb might be. I did not know or consider what a new tank cost, but it was far more costly than I thought.


Such horrible offenses prompted Dad to threaten a good whipping with his belt. However, after raising 11 other children, he no longer had the energy to carry out the threat. Mother said as parents they had seen the worst of misbehavior (even worse than ruining a stock tank) and that it was a waste of energy to overreact to yet another.

Weeding on a hot and humid July day proved worse than any welts left by a belt.

Grandson Elliot, whose interest in gardening I intend to cultivate, is growing impatient because his pepper plants are so slow growing. Gardening on a small scale or growing thousands of acres of corn, soybeans and wheat teaches patience. It also teaches faith that God will provide rain when its dry and sunshine to push both crops and humankind toward maturity.

Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.

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