On the Farm by Glenn Ells: Family farming traditions

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I was thinking about changes in farming over the years since my grandfather was running the show. He had a stroke and passed on when I was 13 years old, but in many of my childhood memories, he was there.

There are many examples that come to mind, but his sweet corn enterprise is a good one. I used to wonder why there was a wire above the old wood furnace with cobs of corn hanging there all winter, so one day, I asked him about it. He promised to show me during the coming growing season how it all happened and cobs were selected for the wire and the next crop.

One day, along towards spring, grandfather invited me down in the cellar and we shelled the corn kernels from cobs and had seed to plant Later on, after he and Prince had prepared the early plot of land east of the woodpile, he invited me to help make the rows and drop the seeds that we had prepared earlier. I realize now that there was a lot of instruction and supervision because the seeds had to be at a proper depth and have the correct distance between seeds. I don’t remember for sure, but maybe we planted close and thinned later, after germination had occurred and the corn plants were big enough to survive crow attacks.

There was lots of opportunity to learn about proper hoe use, especially after school was out for the summer.

Then came my favourite sport of the process – the trip to Boggs Brothers in Kentville in the 1930s Chev car, loaded with feedbags full of Golden Bantam sweet corn. I don’t remember being asked to help pick the corn – a job that required careful selection and good quality control beyond the ability of a small boy. The front seat in the old Chev folded twice and ended up under the dashboard and the back seat was removed, so there was a fair number of bags there, with a small boy on top, for the trips to market. The trip home was the absolute highlight of the corn deal because I got to sit beside grandfather on the retrieved bucket seat with a big bag of humbugs – my pay for the “help” I had been.

Later on, when the remaining corn ears had dried down, grandfather invited me to the corn patch and showed me the big ears that he had left for next year’s seed. We picked the best of them and tied the ends of the husks together so we could hang pairs on the wire over the furnace.

With this kind of attention by grandfather to passing on farming and family traditions to coming generations, could I do anything but farm?

Geographic location: Kentville

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