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Past and present

Lead Summary

HCP columnist

We hauled the old seed drill out of the barn, and Greg carefully greased every fitting.

As he worked his way from fitting to fitting, I wondered how many dusty hands had faithfully done the same before him. The old machine still worked like clockwork.

I knew that it had been well cared for over the years. We then retrieved the three 50-pound bags of buckwheat seed that I had ordered a while back.

We had learned that the buckwheat crop would allow our fall winter wheat better access to the soil’s calcium and phosphorous, and when we turned the buckwheat back into the ground, it would also add organic matter to our clay soil.

We also knew that our bees would happily harvest pollen and nectar from the small white buckwheat flowers and make a wonderful dark summer honey.

We hefted up the 50-pound bags of seed and dumped them into the drill’s long bin.

I was amazed at how heavy a 50-pound bag has recently become. My 50-pound grandchildren still settle quite easily on my hip, but not so the bags of seed or animal feed. (Perhaps I just need to lift them more often.)

I ran my hand across the small triangular seeds so that they were evenly spread across the width of the drill, and then we were off. We had the drill set to seed about 32 quarts per acre. Greg drove the tractor and pulled the rope to stop or start the flow of seeds.

I rode the drill’s back-board to look at the sky, watch the neat furrows as they stretched out behind us, listen to the clinking chains that ran over the ground and share the day with my husband. It was an important job.

I stood on the drill’s well-worn back-board and held onto the front of the seed bin.

I knew that the back-board was a necessary part of the machine.

We had climbed up onto it to dump in the seeds.

Greg stood on it when he arranged the covers of the cups at the bottom of the bin, depending on the particular seed we were planting. But as we rode across the ground, I wondered how many wives had ridden this board behind their husbands, as I was doing.

The board was as old as the machine, but was still strong. It was sanded smooth from years of dirt-encrusted boots stepping up onto it. It was the perfect place to be.

The sky overhead was a bright electric blue. Perfectly white clouds floated across the creek’s horizon.

Several buzzards circled majestically between the clouds as only buzzards can do.

The green of the creek hillsides was a brilliant patch work of many hues.

The juniper wore a dark green, while the leaves of the walnut trees were a young and tender just-emerged green. The tops of the sycamore shone bright white in the sunshine.

A gentle breeze blew, keeping us comfortably cool.

In time, I sat up on the seed bin, facing backward. I wrapped my feet around a solid support bar and watched the field stretch out behind us.

Tendrils of dust were kicked up by the passing drill. They quickly swirled away to nothing, leaving behind the dark furrows of planted buckwheat.

The soil could not have been more perfect. Just below the surface it still retained moisture from last week’s rain.

I felt as though I could have ridden the drill forever, but in time, our planting was done.

As we headed back down the road to the barn, I felt as though the past and the present had perfectly met in a perfect day.

I felt a part of the creek valley, I had shared a wonderful partnership with my husband, and I knew that we were both an ever so small part of a tradition that we have only just begun to learn.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at

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