Spring was a time of new life and preparation. There were newborn calves, lambs, pigs, and horses to care for. To prepare the soil in the spring, farmers burned the corn stalks left from last year’s crop, spread manure on the fields as fertilizer, and plowed the soil. Dean Buller said when you plowed with the horses, you could plow about two and a half or three acres a day. Each farm usually had no more than 30 acres of corn.
Today, an average farmer in Nebraska will plant around 150 acres of corn, and the average is even higher in York County. The county had 800 farmers in the year 2000, and ag statistical services recorded around 200,000 acres of corn planted. That puts the average number of acres of corn per farm at 250 acres, a huge increase.
Spring was the time that all this corn and most other crops was (and still is) planted. Spring is also a time of unpredictable weather — rain, hail, a late snowstorm, strong winds and even a tornado could make planting difficult. Hollis Miller remembers how his family would prepare to plant:
“In those days when they got ready to plant in the spring … they’d cut the cornstalks and then they’d … rake them into a row and set them afire …They had more fires in those days than they do now. And of course if they had a fire that got to your farmstead it was usually final because nobody could get to you fast enough to help you. So we had to be awfully, awfully careful … I can remember helping as a young kid, fight fires in the pastures.” —
Written by Claudia Reinhardt.