At this point in the farming season Roy is doing a lot of spraying in the fields. I've recently learned the importance of spraying, especially in Northeast Colorado. While growing up, the only thing I sprayed was a massive amount of hairspray (Aquanet was the preferred brand, of course) for the desired high-haired look of the 80’s. I will try to dig up a picture so you can see how skilled I was at defying gravity when it came to my hair. Anyway, when Roy was telling me that he was going spraying, I was curious as to what that was, why it was done, and what the benefits were in sustainably growing quality crops on the farm.
Without getting too technical, I learned that spraying is mainly done to treat ground for weed control where there aren't any crops to prepare it for seeding. Occasionally, Roy will spray growing crops to control weeds and sometimes apply small amounts of fertilizer, but if he does a good job spraying prior to seeding, then there is not a lot of need for spraying later on while crops are growing. The alternative to spraying to kill weeds is to till the soil which means the soil is turned over and broken up. The problem is that it is not sustainable to till the soil in Northeast Colorado because we don't get enough moisture and tillage destroys soil structure. By spraying we are able to conserve moisture in the soil and the weeds are less likely to sprout because they don't get mixed in the soil. It also reduces erosion, water pollution, and also reduces fuel use significantly which all fits into our philosophy of sustainable farming.
The fun part is that I had an opportunity to drive the tractor and spray the wheat field a few months back. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. I didn't really know what I was doing and why, but I did it. I was tentative at first because I was in a piece of equipment that was attached to another piece of equipment both of which cost more money than all of the vehicles I have ever owed in my lifetime combined – talk about pressure for a city girl! What if I broke the equipment? What if I ran into something? What if I messed up the crops? And most importantly, what was I going to wear? I couldn't really wear the frilly top and high-heeled shoes that I brought with me. I mean, I was relatively new at this farming thing so I didn't really have the right wardrobe for all of this yet.
So, I rode around in the tractor for a bit with Roy as he showed me all of the things I needed to know to drive the tractor to spray the crops. Then it was my turn …
We switched seats and I took the wheel. It was easy to drive the tractor, but there was a lot going on. I had to pay attention to steering the tractor, the GPS, lowering and raising the booms on both sides, turning, and generally getting used to what I was trying to accomplish on the field. It wasn't so bad once I got the hang of it and I did not single-handedly destroy the equipment – phew! Then Roy asked me to drive down the road to another field. I was so nervous driving on the road because the steering is so loose it is hard to keep the tractor going straight not to mention the tractor was going so fast! I asked, “How do I slow this thing down; we are going so fast!” He said in an amused tone, “But honey, you are only going 20 miles per hour!” I tell you honestly, it felt as if we were going 50 miles per hour down that road! I guess I need to continue to practice driving the tractor to get comfortable with it, so hopefully Roy lets me have another go at it. We will see – but maybe I will wait until next year.