Life on the Farm

Winter’s Workings

January started gray, stayed gray, and ended gray. Worse, it wasn’t a shining silver gray or an inviting blue gray. It was the flat, disengaging gray of used dishwater that seemed to whisper, “Don’t bother.”
The one-colored weather wasn’t cold weather, though. Early in the month, a few days of Arctic temperatures did thicken the lake […]

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Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

Originally written on December 25, 1994, this column is now reprinted annually by Alan’s editors across the country to celebrate the season of giving.
The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered our farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby woodstove. Yellowed […]

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Elections Come and Go; We Stay

The cold, gray drizzle of November finally found central Illinois on Election Day. No one complained, however, because the warm, dry harvest season had ended weeks before.
Fifty or more years ago, that was never the case on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. In fact, if we were half-done with harvest on Election […]

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In Search of “Community”

Recently, a baker’s dozen of old farm and food friends got together with a group of young farm and food friends to discuss everything from yesterday’s disappointments to tomorrow’s hopes.
The differences in our age (mid-20s to early 80s), vocation (farmers to poets), education (undergraduates to Ph.Ds.), and experience (beekeeper to university dean) fueled warm—and, sometimes, […]

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Life in the Slow Lane

September arrived on a bright, beautiful sunbeam after one of the soggiest Augusts central Illinois ever muddled through.
The wet month was a quiet month, though. Not even the ever-cheerful wrens could find anything to sing about during the monsoon. One bird-based benefit, however, was that our lake’s always honked-off Canada geese moved on to, I […]

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“Your Arrogance is Unbelievable”

Recently, my pastor, a former U.S. Army chaplain, noted that the only thing with a higher rank than a chaplain on any Army helicopter is the mail. “I could bump a general off a flight—not that I ever did—but the mail flies before either of us,” he related.
That makes perfect sense; no amount of striped, […]

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Like a Good Neighbor

It’s hard to think of summer without thinking of the many neighbors we shared the southern Illinois heat, humidity, and mosquitoes with on the dairy farm of my youth.
Back then, in the mid-1960s, we’d often see neighbors across the table-flat Mississippi River Bottoms as they cultivated corn or soybeans and we baled straw or raked […]

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A Good Life at “Home”

Night has day, up has down, and Hugh Grant has Gene Logsdon.
Monsanto’s Hugh Grant, as almost everyone in Big Ag knows, is chairman and CEO of the world’s premier agricultural seed company now hotly pursued by German chemical giant Bayer AG.
Writer and journalist Gene Logsdon, as almost no one in Big Ag knows, was the […]

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A Spring With Little Bounce

Hints of spring arrived early this year but the season itself seemed to be in the slow lane because rare was the week when back-to-back sunny days warmed the tired winter soul.
The daffodils and jonquils did arrive in mid-March and then waved away for almost a month before a quick burst of late April heat […]

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They Never Stopped Making It

Forty-five years ago, anyone hoping to be someone in American agriculture was offered the same, free advice: “Buy land; they’re not making it anymore.”
But “they” were making it. In fact, lots and lots of it.
According to data reported by the United Nations, the world’s farmable land base grew by about 240 million acres between 1971 […]

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