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The Most Important Tool on the Farm

Senior Reader
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rain guage cover.png


Our farm shop is full of tools.  All our trucks have tools in the toolbox.  But in my mind, the most important tool we have is nailed to the mailbox post.


The rain guage.


It's a simple and inexpensive tool, but in my mind it is the most essential tool we have.  It measures rainfall down to the tenth.  It's a tool I didn't appreciate fully until I became a farmer's wife.


In my pre-agriculture career days, I thought farmers were happy to see it rain, no matter what time of year it was.  That is still true as we realize Mother Nature could turn off the spigot at any time.  


We have had wet years when we weren't sure if we'd be able to get the crops out of the field before they would rot and we have had dry years when we've dragged irriagation pipe for what seemed like miles.


What I didn't fully understand until farming became my life was, while we appreciate rain when it comes, sometimes we would prefer it rained at a different time of the year.


Take this year, for example.  There are years we would be done ridging land (done before we plant tobacco) in February.  Bedding sweet potatoes in the field should have been started around May 1.  But here in North Carolina we have had a pattern of several dry days followed by several rainy days for more than the last month.  


When the rain guage shows we've had to much rain, we can't get in the fields.  Oh, we can, but then we end up like this:


stuck sprayer.jpg



My Farmer sent me this picture earlier in the week.  When the ground is to wet, the tires sink.  


It's not just tractor tires that sink.  Last Sunday we were checking on a section of land that is recovering after having been flooded by beavers.  We pulled just a little to far down the hill nearby.  It took a tractor to pull my Explorer out.


So many decisions hinge on how much rain is in that guage.  


      Is it to wet/dry to plant?  (We'll find out in a few weeks.)


      Can we get in the field to apply fertilzer?  (We were late getting it on the wheat this year)


      When can we get get land ready for planting?  (We are late this year)


      Can we harvest with machines or will we be harvesting by hand?  (Last year some of our  

      tobacco was harvested by hand when we usually use a machine.)


These are just a few decisions we make on our farm based on the amount of water in the rain guage.  Decisions that can change based on one-tenth of an inch.  


How is the weather guiding your farm decisions right now?