Old Guys Still Know A Few Things

Hoosier Perspectives

It's doing the actual work that causes problems!

Published on: June 14, 2010

Anyone who doesn't think it takes a blend of youth and old gray-haired people to get the job done these days needs to keep reading. Youth has brawn, the spring in their step, and they have access to all kinds of technology, from Facebook to texting to twitter, whatever all that stuff is. But ask them to mulitply 12 by 8 in their head, and many look at you with a dumb stare. They have to pull out some calculator, usually on their cell phone.

So when you're doing farm work, especially a test plot, it helps to have both sources available. On the one hand, you need the people who are strong enough and who don't tire easily to do the work. Some test plot work, like measuring things or walking through tall corn, is rigorous. Then you need people with gray at he edges, or maybe no hair at all, who grew up calculating yields and square footage in their head.

Just the other day, Dave Nanda, Jeff Phillips and I did our first stand count and rating of a test we planted May 27. You'll be reading and hearing about it here on the Web and in Indiana Prairie Farmer. With support from Precision Planting, Tremont, Illinois, the test is comparing three variables, planting down force on the seed openers, planting depth, and speed, and all combinations of those. All in all there are 27 treatments in each replication of the test, and there are four replications. Plots are 100 feet long. With borders and such, the plot covers nearly six acres. It's located at the Meigs farm, part of the Throckmorton Ag Research Center located north of Romney.

Dave and I have looked at plots, walked plots, and more recently worked on plots together for nearly 20 years. I'm 57, Dave is well, easily past retirement. Phillips, the Tippecanoe County Extension ag educator helping us won't tell us how old he is, but I'm guessing I've got a few years on him.

Dave and I started counting the other day, dragging two poles with a string across every plot. We covered half of the 108 plots, then Phillips showed up - no, he wasn't just getting out of bed - he had farmer calls to make, or at least that's what he told us. At any rate, he helped me run the poles and count the last half, while Nanda did ratings and recorded our numbers. At least Dave no longer had to walk up and down the rows counting plots.

About a year ago Dave had minor surgery on his knees. What doctors tell you it will be like once you recover and what it's really like aren't always the same thing. Besides, there's no such thing as 'minor' surgery.

He slapped on a knee brace before we started. "They'll hurt tonight, but I'm going to do this anyway," he said. Later he assured me this legs and knees both hurt that evening.

Sometime during the morning, Dave found great examples of differences side by side. I had a camera - imagine that! He knelt down to get a better picture. That meant I had to kneel down to get the right angle with him in the picture. I told him it was hard on his knees, but he brushed me off. Later, he did it again.

Finally, he found a third spot, and dropped to his knees.

"Dave, you don't have to get down every time," I said. "It's tough on you. We can get a decent picture with you standing."

"Oh, it's OK,' he says. "I want to get the best shot."

"Yes," I protested. "But you don't' get it. If you get down, I have to get down. And it hurts my old knees too! No more kneeling for pictures!"

Phillips, the young buck in the trio, just stood and laughed. That's OK, Jeff, your day will come!