I gleaned 500 miles of harvest on Tuesday, traveling the green-to-gold plains of Nebraska and fields of Iowa. Nothing matches a solo drive for tugging memories off the back shelves of the brain. And what I recalled, passing dust-clouded harvesters traversing long rows of soybeans, was a moment clearly captured but never considered.
It’s a snapshot of my overalled and chambrayed dad sitting at the breakfast bar in our kitchen, talking with my Uncle Tom, in dress shirt and trousers, heading for town. They’re examining a single soybean plant. Pulled, roots and all, from the Chariton River bottomlands earlier that morning, it leaves a sifting of black soil on the white Formica.
I asked my mom over coffee yesterday what, exactly, the two brothers who farmed together for 40 years were seeing that morning. By counting the total pods and beans per, she said, they could estimate production that fall. Beans to bushels. Season after season. They also were discussing the root system, she thought. The tap root of a soybean plant can descend eight feet, drawing moisture from deeper and deeper sources as the late summer turns drier and drier. So they were projecting what the weather forecasts might mean for maturation.
Now, corn, Mom said, is different. And several ag sites confirm this life-long farm woman knows her field facts. A member of the grass family, corn sends its roots more horizontally, stretching out to absorb more surface moisture.
Roots. Horizontal and vertical. Complex systems that hold the life form secure for the precise time it needs to grow tall, catch light and yield results. Grounding networks, divinely designed to absorb and enrich, simply by their presence. Not so different from our extended families and our personal experiences, I think.
It’s so good to be home.
Photo: silo scultpure, Woodbine, Iowa