News from Vermont #272 - Autumn Snowfall

October 3rd, 2012

It's harvest season again in Vermont and to a farmer, it's not all just hauling in heaping loads of punkins n' squash. We've got other tasks to do to insure that we'll have a harvest season next year; namely, get out there and figure out what "food" the soil needs to be healthy. Often times here in on our side-hill farm, the soil becomes too acidic and needs a dose of lime to "sweeten" it up.

Once one fall when I was young, my dad had ordered lime to be spread on all our hayfields. It was a big day for me, partly because of the change of pace but mostly because lime was spread by huge ten-wheel trucks and I was a real "truck" boy. We'd just finished up the morning chores when the first one came droning up the hill from Montpelier, pulled into our yard, and halted with the loud hiss of air brakes. It sat there idling as the driver, instant hero to me, climbed down from the cab and approached my father. As the two men discussed areas to be covered and wet places to avoid, I stood listening to the truck's throaty grumble and hoping for a ride.
I couldn't hide my disappointment when the conversation ended and my "hero" climbed back into the cab and slowly headed into the field across the road. The huge thing stopped momentarily and stood against the distant hardwoods, now clothed in brilliant autumn colors. When it started forward again, it suddenly disappeared into a massive cloud of white...to a nine-year-old, a snowstorm in late September! Soon other trucks appeared and made it snow all around our farm.
 
By mid-day, all our lower fields had been covered and Dad, looking at me with a wink, said that someone would have to ride with the next driver to show him the big field up on North Street. When that truck pulled up, my excitement waned as I climbed up into the passenger seat and took one look at the driver: he was a massive, fat guy with an underbite and hanging jowls. He looked to me more like a cartoon bulldog than a "hero" truck driver. He offered me a huge "paw", asked my name, and ground the truck into gear. I squeaked directions as we headed up the hill toward the field. The guy grew fatter and fatter with every sideward glance and all I could think of was that big rig tipping over on the North Street field's steep side hills and me being crushed under his four-hundred pounds.
 
Even though I remained scared to death until the truck was empty, Mr. Bulldog became very friendly and wise to my plight: "I can see you're wicked scat Burr but I've drove truck all m'life n' never tipped ovah yit." He was not only proficient at defying gravity with a Mack truck but he rounded out my cartoon theme by laughing just like Walt Disney's Goofy..."ah-hyuck, ah-hyuck, ah-hyuck". When he dropped me off, Mr. Bulldog was my hero.
Another thing modern farmers spread from trucks is quite the opposite of snow-white lime...we're talkin' brown here, smelly brown, the bane of every country neighbor...liquid manure! I once heard a story about a couple brothers, Clyde and Cy, down Randolph way that had a near miss one time with their huge "honey wagon". It seems one of 'em had pumped the tank full and headed up Route 12 toward their ten-acre field across the tracks. As he crept across, the truck bottomed out going over the railroad tracks and there he sat, knowing only two things for certain: there was no machine in the neighborhood big enough to move that truck and the train was due in about a half hour!
 
Clyde, a slow-talkin' and laid-back Vermontah, rang up Cy on his cell..."Gosh, hate t'bother ya brothah but have a little problem...truck's hung up on th'tracks...y'might bring th'big tractah n' torches ovah to th'crossin'....yup...yup...bye". Cy, carbon copy of his brother, finished up what he was doing, lashed the acetylene torches into the bucket loader of their biggest tractor, and headed on over. Once there, the two crawled down in under the massive truck, fired up the torches, and, with an "all in a day's work" attitude, cut it in half! This done, they hitched the tractor on the cab end and pulled it off the tracks and then did the same with the truck's "business end". This, I might add, was completed only minutes before Amtrak's "Washingtonian" screamed through that same crossing!
 
Yup, there's a lot more to those picturesque loads of "punkins n' squash" than the eye can see. We farmers face "crap-loads" of challenges every day but we always get the job done. I'm sure the two brothers down Randolph way got that truck welded back together and spread their load before the start of evening chores. And I, nine-year-old, survived my ride in a Mack truck with a "bulldog" at the wheel. The best news though...our soil's healthy, vibrant, and ready for next year's planting.
Thought you folks would want to know, my third book, "Sugar Words, Musings from an Old Vermonter" is fresh off the press. We're selling a pile of them here in the store. We want to encourage you folks to get one, too, so we're only charging $2.50 for shipping  and handling. Just go to www.morsefarm.com and you'll see it. Thanks so much for your support and remember, the Holidays are coming right up...it's a great time for Maple Syrup! 

Happy Autumn,