Spring is in the air, mulch is on our minds

Mary Mertz

By A Contributor

We have all made it to March. This is the month that brings us slowly out of the monochromatic landscape of tans and splashes us awake with Kelly green fields of winter wheat.

The earth is on the brink of birthing new life. The green fields and sun-kissed daffodils tease us with the vibrant colors we are ready to have explode in our own gardens. The buds forming on stark bushes make our hearts pump with anticipation. The shades of the iris that you barely remember planting last fall will be revealed in time by the beauty of their blooms.

Aren’t we all ready to begin getting our hands dirty again? The Manhattan Garden Show provided visitors with free work gloves and landscaping advice. The horticultural nurseries are trucking in carts of pansies and impatiens. Though we are not quite certain we can put our winter coats away for good, spring is definitely in the air and mulch is on our minds. 

Magnify that thrill of expectation by miles of rich soil and you get a small sense of the emotions filling the Kaw River Valley at the verge of crop planting season. The time is fast-approaching and your farming neighbors are getting as restless as you to get out there and sow some seeds. As they watch to see who among them will get out into their fields first, they fine-tune and rev up their engines as though positioned at the starting gate waiting for the bell to ring. 

The first thing we will plant out here in the valley is corn. For this endeavor, I have learned that weather and straight rows are imperative. The former we have no control over, the latter we are obsessed with. Farmers take pride in things being perfectly square with the world. I once mowed our front lawn in a random free-spirited manner. My husband was not amused. There is a discipline and skill to planting straight rows and an unspoken admiration for those proficient at it.

Today auto-steering in our machines guarantees beautifully symmetrical rows. Other welcome advances include computerized engines that reduce fuel usage, as well as wider interior seating. With the average age of the farmer hovering around 57, it is a good thing that the inside of the cab has become a bit more cushy. Eight hours of bouncing through a field can take its toll on a body.

There is always room for a passenger in any of the farm vehicles, and you are invited to take a ride anytime. Countless farm moms have appreciated that gift as they lifted their youngsters onto the side ladder of the tractor or combine. I remember watching mine climb up toward their waiting father, sun capturing his silhouette like a superhero. Their glee is as priceless as the two hours of kid-reprieve time just granted.

It is March in Kansas, and time to celebrate agriculture whether your garden is a 10-foot x 10-foot plot or a 40-acre field, and whether you use a garden trowel or a 16-row planter. We can all envision what’s to come -— ripe tomatoes, stunning roses, lush cornstalks — Kansas produce at its finest. It’s just so hard to wait for the starting bell.

Mary Mertz was born and raised in Chicago and has lived a happily married life growing up on a farm east of Manhattan.

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