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He Walked On Water

With more than forty-four years on the job, which kept me in an automobile much of the time, I have spent a lot of time on our Tennessee roads, and when that sort of time involves interstate driving, you find yourself quite often looking at the double doors of the rear end of an eighteen-wheeler. Over the years, I have found a lot of verbiage on these rolling billboards that was both entertaining and educational, plus some that make me want to pass just to get the verbiage out of my sight. You know the ones like, “I may be slow, but I’m ahead of you,” and “Your mama is so fat that blankety blank-blank-blank and unmentionable.” Those I don’t appreciate, and freedom of speech may be pushed to the limit.
One Monday, I saw one on the back of a Wright’s Farm hay and straw truck that really got my week started right. Across the back doors in large blue letters, the owners had placed this quote, “If you want to walk on water, you have got to get out of the boat.” That bit of inspiration stuck with me all that day and continues to make me think. Christ, in Matthew 14: 22-33, came to the aid of his disciples from the nearby shore where he had been praying during a storm, by walking on the water. If you remember, Peter was the only one who got out of the boat to meet him, but took his eye off Jesus and began to sink until he asked Jesus for help and Christ took his hand to save him. When they got in the boat the storm ceased. That is the way life is for us. When we take our eye off of what is important, we may begin to sink, but reaching out to Jesus in tough times and keeping him “in our boat” during the storms of life, those storms can be calmed. But you do have to get out of the boat every so often whether you want to or not.
 Over the years, I have known people who quite often got out of the boat to help others and made walking on water look easy. My first encounter with such a person was my grandfather who farmed on the very farm that I live on today. He went off to war during WWI, ending up a messenger and bugler on the frontlines in France. There he moved among the troops getting shot at during the conflict in the Argonne Forest and had to spend six months waiting for the next ship to arrive to bring him home after the war was over.
 He returned to his native Rutherford County where he farmed all his life until he left us at the age of 97. His favorite reading was U.S. News and World Report and politics always became the subject of discussion around the fireplace. I never knew if he was an R or a D because he usually took the opposite opinion of the person he was debating, just to keep the discussion going. His dog was named Ike, but he liked Harry Truman.
 P.G. was a community leader if I had to describe him. When the school needed a gym, he donated the lumber. He helped bring electricity to our area, as well as got folks to put phones in their homes. If it involved community service, he thought you should be involved.
 For more than 25 years, he served as the county squire in our area on the county’s quarterly court. That was today’s county commission and commissioners back then. I’ve been run out of the living room on several Sunday afternoons as a kid so he could marry some bashful young couple, which squires could do back then. They were true public servants back then.
 I’ll never forget the opportunity I had to go and see him as he served on the court one time at the county courthouse. The crowd of people, the dark colored wooden desk, men in their Sunday best and MY grandfather leading the discussion as I watched from the balcony. It was a very impressive image for a small boy from out on the farm and rural countryside to see. An image that still remains in my thoughts today as a grandfather myself.
 Guess that is why I decided this year to get out of the boat myself and run for county commissioner in the very same district that my grandfather did over 50 years ago. I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I’m getting into politics after retiring and supposedly having it made after all these years of working. I’ve even been called a little crazy for doing so. Maybe so…
 The truth is one time I saw a man very special to me seem to “walk on water” and I want to do it too. He helped his community and gave back a lot of hope to some whose hope was all that they had. If I can just be half that good of a walker on water as he was, I think it will be worth my getting out of the boat.
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at
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Purple Hues of Henbit Return Again to Add to Spring’s Arrival

As I have been driving the back roads of Tennessee the last few days, I have noticed an interesting purple hue forming across the landscape of our state’s countryside. A purple flower that has taken over fields, yards and spaces that once contained vegetation of some type in months past is forming this amazing early spring hue and it is not going unnoticed.  It is starting to cause a lot of talk around gathering places that often have been used for other conversation rather than purple flowers on weeds. But, sure enough, grown men have started questioning why Henbit is taking over just as it did back in 2006, when it appeared in mass numbers on acreage, covering it like a huge quilt on your grandmother’s featherbed.

I have seen this plant all of my life, but until that spring in ‘06 and now this spring, I have never seen it cover almost everything around the homestead and it's even showing up statewide. Whenever I have major weed questions to occur, I go to a book given to me and autographed by Edward W. Chester back in 1997.  Mr. Chester and William H. Ellis are the creators of “Wildflowers of the Land Between the Lakes Region, Kentucky and Tennessee” and the book is a must to help identify growing wildflowers in our state. The book was created for the Center for Field Biology at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville. But before you start calling me, asking where you can get this book, I suggest you contact APSU in Clarksville and I know they would be glad to help you. My copy is a treasured item used by myself around the farm and I sure wouldn’t part with it.
I wrote about this purple take over back in 2006, and think maybe I should say something about it again, since it looks like it may be the flower of choice this spring. The book says that Henbit is a member of the mint family and its name is really Lamium.  If you want the full Latin name it is Lamium amplexicaule L., but for my purpose of usage, it will be plain old Henbit.  The book suggests that it got its common name due to chickens liking the early spring foliage that normally appears in April through early summer, but may also appear in March, which it has accomplished this year. It germinates in the fall, and because of the warm, dry weather we experienced late last year, we are seeing it in abundance this spring. We also had a chance to harvest most fields early last fall, allowing for a perfect place for all the Henbit seed to germinate in abundance. This is one reason you see fields of the flowers blooming.  It is a plant that has been with us for sometime with its origin in Eurasis and Africa.
Being very aggressive, it has spread throughout Tennessee and most of North America. It is almost a perfect plant when it comes to survival.  The University of Missouri reports that the plant is tolerant of sun or shade, heat or cold. From a report I found on the Internet, they seem to echo what we are seeing here in the Volunteer State.  They said, “In cultivated areas that get tilled regularly, the plant can form large ‘seas of pink’ in the spring. The plant can grow from small pieces of its stem, so chopping the plant only helps it spread. It also grows well from seed.”
This purple aggressor has more than a few names. Besides Henbit, it also goes by chickweed, which I guess the example quoted earlier here about the chickens liking it, helps to verify those two names. Whichever name you use, if you ever have to pull it out of a garden or flowerbed by hand, you may also give it a few names of your own.
The good news I found out in my Henbit facts search, is that as a winter annual, they are more noticeable in the year of their establishment. As grasses grow, fields are planted, and turf density increases after being worked and renovated, Henbit will not persist after the following spring.  Back in 2006, I suggested that this could be one of our most noticeable years of the purple hue plaque. However, that was my speculation and not from a real weed professional, so I guess that I proved you have to take what I say with a grain of salt.  I do have a degree in plant and soil science, but I do have the ability to kill helpless plants at times, not really meaning to, so my opinion is just as good as anyone's.
 If you like the color purple, enjoy the “seas of purple and pink” this spring and just use it as a sign of spring making its return. Hopefully, Henbit will not be a major problem and by summer its presence will only be in a photograph or our memory.         
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at
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How Much Corn Can You Harvest In A Day

The only marketing concern that Tennessee farmers had in past years, when selling his crop or livestock, was the price he would receive down at the local sale barn or grain elevator. He didn’t concern himself with what is being exported overseas, the need for soybeans in Asia, or even what is being bought on the west and east coasts. His primary concern was what is being paid for his product in his own hometown and at his farm’s gate.  
Today that has all changed. Tennessee farmers are constantly checking their smartphones or iPads for current markets around the world. I even rode with a farmer the other day who was listening to Rural Radio on satellite radio in his truck, catching up on the latest news on the corn markets. The farming world has changed from listening to the farm report at dinner time coming from the radio as the field crew ate their lunch before hurrying back to the fields, to a modern day of computerized tractors planting from satellite beams based on current world conditions. It is no longer your grandfather’s agriculture.  
With the world population at 7.2 billion and expected to reach 9.7 billion by the year 2050, the Tennessee farmer has to focus on the global challenges, as well as the local agricultural concerns. With exports from our state of raw agricultural products totaling in the millions, international trade and continued changes in farming technology worldwide, trade issues have major impacts on Tennessee farms.  A world event thousands of miles away from a Tennessee farm can change a farmer's commodity prices immediately.  
With the global nature of agriculture today, along with the smaller number of growers and livestock producers, it is necessary for rural America and Tennessee to take a more active role in trade issues, while also improving the amount and quality of the food and fiber the farmer produces. And now, fuel has also been added to the list of farm products produced.  
Technology is allowing farms to get larger.  Fewer farmers are producing more, and the trend has no visible end. Less than two percent of our population today produces the food we eat. More than three million people farm or ranch in the United States. More than 76,000 farms are located in Tennessee alone, with 41 percent of the state's total land area used for farmland. Agriculture and agri-business employ more than 502,000 individuals, or almost 14 percent of Tennessee’s workforce.  
The way farmers grow their livestock has even changed to support the modern day world.  Meat is now produced with lower fat and cholesterol.  This has resulted in retail cuts that are 15 percent leaner, giving consumers better value for their dollar.  For example, a pork tenderloin now has only one more gram of fat than a skinless chicken breast, one of the true fat “lightweights.”  
Farm equipment has evolved dramatically from the team of horses used in the early 1900s.  A new technique called “precision farming” boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellites and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protector applications to local soil conditions. Today’s four-wheel drive tractors have the power of 40 to 300 horses. This makes for a large capital investment, as farmers pay anywhere from $97,000 for an average 160 horsepower tractor to over $200,000 for a four-wheel drive model.  
As the amount of mechanization and horsepower in farm machinery has continued to increase, the time needed to complete tasks has decreased. Combines, huge machines used to harvest grains such as corn, soybeans and wheat, have dramatically changed farming. A Tennessee farmer in the 1930s and ‘40s, before the machines were available, could harvest an average of 100 bushels of corn by hand in a nine-hour day.  With today’s high-tech farming equipment, a recent report suggests that combines can harvest 900 bushels of corn per hour or 100 bushels of corn in under seven minutes with others doing even more! With modern methods, one acre of land in the U.S. (about the size of a football field) can produce: 42,000 pounds of strawberries; 11,000 heads of lettuce; 25,400 pounds of potatoes; 8,900 pounds of sweet corn; or 640 pounds of cotton lint.  
The efficiency of U.S. farmers benefits the Tennessee consumer in the pocketbook. Americans spend less on food than any other developed nation in the world. Americans spend only six percent of their disposable income on food, which is half the amount spent by people in Germany.                                    
The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that sums up the importance of a Tennessee farmer very well. It said, “If you don’t eat, don’t worry about farmers going out of business.”  
March 26 is National Agriculture Day.  Take time to celebrate America’s agricultural industry. Remember, no farmers - no food.      
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Keeping Time Down On The Farm

As everyone was “springing forward” recently, our state legislature was debating whether or not to take Tennessee out of the Daylight Saving Time routine, and come this fall, let us just stay “sprung forward” forever. We would become one of maybe three other states in the nation that would make changes in that national time change, and as I write this column, the legislation was still locked up in committee debate, with the possibility of it not seeing daylight at all this go around in the capital city of our state.  
I’m not getting in on this discussion where it seems everyone has an opinion. I did hear on the NBC Today show one morning, now being retired I can watch things like that, where they were discussing this piece of lawmaking from our Volunteer State and quoted someone down this way saying that it would help the farmers. I’m still trying to figure out that one, due to the fact that most real farmers I know work from sunup to sunset, and with most of them having tractors equipped with GPS along with some powerful lighting systems, most don’t even come in the house now when it gets dark.  
I did hear Jack Compose, who does a lot of truck crops, say he was concerned that the extra hour being added may burn up his crops come summer, but Jack never has been one you wanted on your side in a trivia contest. Of course, you may look at DST like the Native-American chief who said when someone told him about the first time Washington made the time change, “Just like government men. They think by cutting foot off top of blanket and adding to bottom makes blanket longer.”  
In the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., there is a new agriculture exhibit being worked on, and one thing in it that has caught my attention, is a display that shows children what has been in farmers’ pockets over years. Of course, every generation of farmers has had the pocketknife, string, nails and seed. Today, you have the smart phone along with a hand held calculator.  
One item that was around for many years, up until modern day, was the windup pocket watch. I can still see my grandfather pull his out and wind the stem around noontime when we were working in the fields. He carried it in the bib of his overalls and he only pulled it out at that time of day, because most of the time he operated by the sun or the dinner bell at the house. I still have the dinner bell on our farm and it was only rung at noontime or in an emergency.  
We have so many things today that keep us on time compared to about 50 years ago in rural Tennessee. In those days, it was the dinner bells, the clocks at the courthouses around our county seats, the mailman, the passing of the school bus and the position of the sun in the sky. And it seemed like we were on time a lot more often back then.  
John Rickman from the Normandy community who grew up in Chapel Hill, Tenn., is a good friend of mine. He is an accomplished songwriter, as well as a composer about events of days gone by, and recently sent me something he had written about how folks around the Chapel Hill area kept up with time in that small community many years ago. Located on the railroad tracks that the town once depended on for commerce and travel, it also was the farmer’s answer to the atomic clock. I would like to share with you John’s poem titled “Eleven-Seventeen.”  
I remember long ago when smoke clouds filled the sky
It was a sign to us the old Pan-Am was passing by.
We would drop what we were doin’ when we heard the whistle scream
And we’d all set our watches, ELEVEN-SEVENTEEN.  
Not much in life was certain then or at least it seemed that way
But that old train from Nashville told us the time of day
Just as sure as there’s a sunrise or when you hear the rooster crow
We knew it was “dinner-time” when we heard the whistle blow  
I remember in the fields, plowing with the team
And in the distance we could hear the whistle and the steam
Those mules would stop right in their tracks once they heard the whistle blow
And you’d nearly have to whip’em to finish out the row.  
I remember long ago when smoke clouds filled the sky
It was a sign to us the old Pan-Am was passing by.
We drop what we were doin’ when we heard the whistle scream
And we’d all set our watches, ELEVEN-SEVENTEEN.  
John’s words bring back a lot of memories to a few, but also a lot of wishes to many who would want a chance to live back in those times. Who needs a smartphone or daylight saving time anyway? What I would give just to hear a dinner bell ring or the whistle blow from the ELEVEN-SEVENTEEN.         
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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True That There Are No GMOs In Cheerios

Sure will be glad to see nice weather come back to the Volunteer State. These up and down polar vortex changes have just about taken a toll on a body’s constitution and it allows too much time for folks to sit around and think too much. Down at the store they were back on the discussion of GMOs, with the majority sitting around the stove not even knowing what it stood for, and the others telling what they had heard on the Today show. We have got to get this crowd back in the field!    
It seems General Mills is advertising that they have no GMOs in their Cheerios, which they claim is a good thing. The only thing is that Cheerios is a toasted whole grain oat cereal, and as far as I know, there has not been any oat grain ever produced with GMOs in the first place. It was determined down at the store that some companies use current debates to help promote their products when they should learn more about what the ruckus is all about in the first place.     
It’s amazing how some folks think they know everything about everything when they know nothing about most things. That reminds me of a ag day visit on Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm a couple years ago when some city ladies came to call. I think I may have told this story before, but it is so good, that I would like to tell it again, since it goes so well with Cheerios and the lack of GMOs.     
One day in March a few years ago, I stopped by to see folks out on the farm and they had just had a visit from a group of ladies from town. Aunt Sadie, while wiping her hands on her apron, began the story by saying, “We had an ag day visit here at the farm last week. Cousin Pity, you know, Patty’s sister who lives in town, brought her ladies club out for a day on the farm. I served them teacakes and spiced tea here in the farmhouse. We had a wonderful time. None of those ladies had ever been on a real Tennessee farm before. Sid hid out in the barn and said he really wasn’t much into socializing.”     
Uncle Sid was sitting in front of the TV at the time, watching commercials as Aunt Sadie talked. I knew what she meant about his socializing with a group of city ladies. “After we had our refreshments and talked a while, the ladies wanted to see the farm animals and I took them to the barn where Sid was,” Aunt Sadie said while winking at me.    
With that bit of information, Uncle Sid turned and looked at both of us as Aunt Sadie went on explaining the tour of the farm. “I showed them the chickens, the goats, the pigs, the sheep and the cows, which most of them were just carried away with,” Aunt Sadie said. “I even showed them your Uncle Sid as the farmer when we walked in the barn and all the ladies really laughed at that.”    
That was the last straw that got Uncle Sid’s goat. “Yeah, and that Myrtle lady who was with them was a laugh a minute herself,” Uncle Sid answered with a frown on his face.    
Seeing my chance, I asked, “What was Myrtle’s problem, Uncle Sid?”    
“Well, Boy,” he said (still calling me Boy at 65 years old), “She didn’t like the way we took care of any of our animals. She wanted the chickens to run free, the pigs to wallow in the mud and the cows, she thought, looked unhappy. She had never been on a farm, but had all the answers.”    
However, a smile came over his face and he said, “But while they were walking back to their cars, Myrtle stopped at one of my sheds and called for me to come immediately. I didn’t know what was wrong, so I almost ran up there, and when I got there she asked me while pointing in the shed, ‘Mr. Sid, why doesn't this cow have any horns?’”    
“Trying to be patient with her, I answered by saying that cattle can do a lot of damage with horns. Sometimes we keep them trimmed down. Other times we can fix up the calves by putting a couple drops of special medicine where their horns would grow in, and that stops them from growing. Still, there are some breeds of cows that just don’t grow horns. But Ms. Myrtle, the reason this cow here doesn’t have any horns is the fact that it's a horse.”    
I just hope Cousin Pity is still a member of her city ladies club, because Aunt Sadie said all the ladies were really carrying Myrtle pretty high about not recognizing a horse when they left the farm, and I understand Myrtle is chairman of the membership committee. Maybe next, Aunt Sadie can serve them Cheerios and Uncle Sid can explain why they are not eating GMOs.                   
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at  
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Olympic Withdrawal

The other night as I sat down to enjoy some TV, I realized that I really miss not being able to see the Olympic Winter Games any longer. I have to say, I sort of enjoyed the two weeks of winter sports coming from over in Russia, and I even had figured out what in the world some of them were doing. I still wonder about the sport of curling, where you heave a teakettle looking object down the ice and sweep the path clear for it to make it down the track. You have to wonder who came up with the idea the first time to do such a thing. Did someone’s kettle get slung out in the snow and they thought it would be fun to see how far it would go before it stopped or what? Strange game, but I’m still trying to figure out golf, so I guess it takes something for all of us.  
I must admit, I’m not fully trustworthy of this year’s host and feel they may have messed with Shaun White’s snow and his halfpipe snowboarding. That young man gave it all he had and if they hadn’t been fooling around with global warming tricks he may have won. His Double McTwist 1260 and the two-flip, three-and-a-half spin gyroscopic marvel move reminded me a lot of myself. Why? Because I did the same move the other morning while coming off my back porch after our somewhat of a snow and ice storm. The only difference was I performed those moves without a board and with no plans to do it in the first place.  Thanks to a good bit of snow, my landing was one without injury. There was no gold medal at the end either. Purple and blue were the only colors I received for my run.  
But now, I have to find a cure for Olympic Winter Games withdrawal and I think I have the answer if you are in the same shape I’m in. It is called spring and it is just around the corner. I saw the first sign the other day that it is on its way. A trailer truck loaded with lawnmowers passed me on my way headed into town, which means warmer weather is ahead.  Plus, the first day of spring is March 20, which is also an important date for Tennessee agriculture and you. National Ag Day is celebrated that day and the celebration of our agrarian culture and industry has appropriately occurred on the first day of spring for years and is often overlooked by many of us.  
All across America and here in Tennessee, farmers will be recognized for their true professionalism and contribution to all of our daily lives, just like the athletes at the Olympics. Or will they?  
Do you ever think about how farmers are necessary for your daily food, clothing and shelter or do you just take it for granted?  Like most of us, when you reach into your refrigerator for food, or open your closet for a fresh shirt, you are confident that they will be there. But, will that always be the case? Did you know that this country only has a two to three week supply of food? Something to think about and it is only there because some farmer gets up every morning and goes to the field or barn to feed us.         
No other industry affects each and every American with more impact every day than agriculture. From the foods we eat and the clothes we wear, to the papers we write on and the fuels we burn, almost everything we use starts with agriculture.  
Twenty-two million American workers produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber. But only 4.6 million of those people live on farms - slightly less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population. Today, individuals, family partnerships or family corporations own 96 percent of America’s farms with fewer than 10 stockholders. There is no such thing as an industrial farm in my opinion, only large farms operated by families.  
There are 76,000 farms in Tennessee, with an estimated 10,800,000 acres being used for farming. That compares to 10,900,000 million acres in 2008. Farm acres decreased at the rate of 20,000 acres a year over the last five years, but Tennessee's farmers are still feeding our nation and the world every day.  
Whether you’re talking about cosmetics, football or pizza, it starts on the farm. And whether you produce the food and fiber, or just consume them, you can take pride in American agriculture. On March 20, remember Tennessee and America’s farmers and what they do for us each and every day. They are always in training to produce “gold medal” quality products each day, and you don’t have to wait four years to enjoy them like you do waiting on the next Olympic Winter Games.                
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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From a Pole Wired to a Fence Post

I have to admit that during the winter months I am a TV watcher addict. Yes, it is true that I enjoy settling down in a comfortable chair and watching a really good western every now and then. I really like the older western movies and the cheesier, the better. Every since we put that Zenith black and white television in my parent's house in 1956, I have had a problem passing by this modern day marvel without running through the channels to see what is on. I’m also a stop-and-looker as well. Never been one to skim. Skimming doesn’t work with me in books and it also has its limits in the TV channel-hunting arena as well. I have to digest what I’m looking at. I do admit there are some things that I can tell really quickly I do not need to digest and move on to my G-rated viewing choices.
The addictive qualities of TV are hard to overcome, at least for me. It all began with something as simple as Ding Dong School, Winky Dink, Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob. After getting hooked on the fairly soft shows, my habit then called for harder programming, like Roy Rogers, Fury and Sky King. Today, I am now hooked on old movies, The Walton’s and the History Channel. You never know what will set a habit off until it is too late.
In the early days of my addiction, local programming was all right, until one day, I discovered cable. From three major channels, I was up to over 50 channels a day. Also, I went from getting up out of my chair to change the channels, to using a super dooper remote control device. I could now surf the channels and change the channels as fast as I could push the button. It is amazing how you can get caught on the hard stuff so fast.
I do remember a time back in the late ‘90s and on into the early turn of the century, when I went into TV withdrawal. We moved to an area that did not have cable. I had to go cold turkey on watching TV. It was terrible. I tried everything to get cable. I called the cable company and found out that the cable lines were only three tenths of a mile from my home. They agreed to do a study to see what it would take to get me back into my old habit.
I waited the required days for their study.  With excitement, I called the cable company to see how long it would be before I would be back to watching the Weather Channel for hours. When I called to find out about the study, the lady on the phone told me, in a pleasant voice, that they would be glad to run cable to my house and it would only cost $8,654.
After being reassured that she was not joking, and telling her that for $8,654 I could start my own cable company, I thanked her for her time and went into deep withdrawal after hearing this news. I was once again back to three major channels, PBS and an antenna outside. Thinking the cable would be coming to my house, I had placed the antenna temporarily on a fence post near the house. Every time the wind would blow, I would lose a channel, requiring me to go outside during commercials to adjust the pole. Since I was not going to get cable, I decided I would have to place the antenna more securely on the house.
One afternoon I began the task of placing a six-foot long antenna on the eave of the house. It required me to climb a ladder more than twenty feet off of the ground, and to carry the antenna to the top. I had seen acts like this in the circus, but my desire for TV had now gone beyond common sense.
After moving the antenna around twenty-plus feet in the air to locate a signal that didn’t leave my television looking like a January snowstorm, I discovered that the best place for it was back on the fence post. I couldn’t believe that after three hours of performing a circus act on the top of the house, with neighbors driving by and pointing, I had to move the antenna back to where it had been.
For months it stood wired to two metal fence posts, about fifty feet from the house. I got seven channels and took up reading as one of my major past times. Though living a more productive life, I still had the drive for more channels. I soon discovered satellite TV and have now gone through my second dish on our house and can now get over 200 channels! It came with a remote you can fly the space shuttle with. Better yet, I can watch RFD-TV and see our Farm Bureau programming also.
One problem. So often after scrolling through all those channels, including satellite radio, I end up watching PBS, which I could have gotten on the fence post set up. And now, after all these years of satellite, the cable company is finally running their lines in front of my house.
Maybe we’ll have an early spring and I can deal with the temptation of TV watching come winter. At least while being outside, I am not tempted to change the channel on the scenery.
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at
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Don’t forget the little things

Winter attempted to make a swipe into the hills and valleys of Tennessee during the week of Valentine’s, and the people of the Volunteer State, once again, took up residence in their homes. But their thoughts and dreams were about a future spring pilgrimage to their yards and fields out back, hoping to cure the cabin fever disease now in epidemic proportions around the state.  
The local Farmers Coops are already getting fertilizer price checks and farmers are thinking about planting and hoping for another successful year of production at harvest time. Oh, there will still be cold snaps for dogwood winter, blackberry winter, locust winter and cotton britches winter, but everyone is ready for this “barren winter” to end.  
On one of those cold afternoons recently, I stopped by to see Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie on their farm. As I pulled into their gravel drive, I saw both of them getting out of their old pickup parked near Uncle Sid's tool shed containing his H-Farmall tractor. He bought that tractor brand new and it has always been kept in the tool shed except when it was being used on the farm. Next to Aunt Sadie, Uncle Sid loves that tractor more than anything he has ever had in his life. Aunt Sadie says he loves it more. She told me once that if it was raining and she was caught outside, he would check to see if that tractor was covered before he would get her an umbrella. He does like his tractor.  
They both were wearing their "go-to-town" clothes, and as I got out of my truck, they walked with me to the couple’s old white frame farmhouse. They told me they had been to town to eat lunch at the new O'Charlie's restaurant to celebrate Valentine’s Day, due to missing it because of the weather. Uncle Sid said he wanted to take his Sadie out to something more than the meat-and-three place down at the crossroads. He always has been sort of sentimental when it comes to special occasions.  
"Yeah, Charlie has a pretty nice place in town," Uncle Sid said as he patted Aunt Sadie on the leg. "It was real good. Didn't even have any problems with my new teeth either. My steak was as soft as butter."  
After discussing his steak, Uncle Sid began to smile a bit and I knew something else was coming. He said, "Saw my cousin Sassafras there too. He's about five years older than I am, but married late in life. He and his wife Magdalena invited us to eat with them and we really had a good time. But, you know, I got sort of tired hearing him talk to Mag. He called her Honey, Darlin', Sweetheart, Nanner Puddin’, Punkin’ and things like that."  
"Well, I guess he really likes his wife Uncle Sid," I said trying to make conversation.  
"Not really," Uncle Sid fired back. "While Mag and Sadie went to the ladies room, I asked him why he never called her by her name instead of using all of those sugar-coated names."  
After a moment of pause, I asked, "And what did he say?"  
With a mischievous look on his face, Uncle Sid said, "He just hung his head down and told me, 'To tell you the truth, I forgot her name about ten years ago.' "  
After a good laugh, Aunt Sadie looked at me and said, "We had a real good time and the meal was real tasty. I got all caught up in the excitement of the day and left my reading glasses on the table. I didn't miss them until we were a good five miles down the highway. When I told Sid what I had done and told him to look for a place to turn around, he threw a real good fuss and said I'm really getting forgetful."  
At this point, Uncle Sid began rolling a number 2 pencil around under his large, old hand on the kitchen table we were sitting at, and seemed to put most of his attention on the chore of making that moment go away.  
Aunt Sadie went on with her story and said, "When we finally got back to the restaurant and after a whole lot of fussing about me being forgetful, I got out of the truck to go in and get my glasses. Just as I got ready to close the truck door, Sid said, 'While you're in there, you might as well get my hat, too.' "  
See now why those two have been married so long? It’s more than the tractor in the shed, but a lot of years of giving and taking between two people who really care for each other.              
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Farm Bill Fiscally Responsible

The groundhog up in Pennsylvania saw his shadow, I understand, suggesting that we are looking at six more weeks of winter. Since the first day of spring normally doesn’t arrive until March 20, that sounds about right and I really don’t like forecasted weather based on a varmint pulled from its den against its will in the early morning hours. Where is PETA when you need them?
I’ve often wondered where that tradition came from anyway, and thanks to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, I learned that German immigrants brought this way of predicting weather to Pennsylvania way back in the 1800s. It seems over in Europe, for centuries, people have thought if an animal came out of hibernation and saw its shadow around this time, then winter would last for a while longer. At least that’s what my Old Farmer’s Almanac planner says and it never has informed me wrong.
It seems the English watched bears and the Germans kept an eye on badgers. When the Germans got to America, they couldn’t find any badgers, so they used the groundhog to plan on how long to stretch the firewood supply. Should have been a sign to them that since there were no badgers, the forecast wouldn’t work in these parts. 
We didn’t have any groundhogs to come out in Tennessee because the sun didn’t shine at all and we didn’t have anyone in top hats get up that early to pull one out of a hole either. So I guess spring will show up when it wants to and we will just have to wait as we always do.
We may not have had any shadows seen to predict the weather, but we did have a few Tennessee elected officials come out and vote to help Tennessee farmers prepare for this year’s spring planting. On February 4, the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Act of 2014, better known as the farm bill to most of us. Back on January 29, the U.S. House did the same thing. Now all the legislation lacks is the signature of the President. Hopefully this will be taken care of soon, giving our farmers a chance to farm knowing what safety nets are available and those that are not.
It has been five years in the making and a long time for farmers to wait. Congress has been somewhat like the groundhog, only they haven’t come out of their den as often, and it has remained cloudy a pretty long time on our farmsteads.  Hopefully these votes will bring an earlier spring for Tennessee farmers.
In a statement from Tennessee Farm Bureau President Lacy Upchurch, he summed it up best when he expressed that he felt the legislation is fiscally responsible. Upchurch said, “The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation commends the U.S. Senate for passage today of the new five-year farm bill.  While it’s been a long road to get to this point, we are pleased with the bi-partisan support of this legislation from both the Senate and House.
This bill, with the President’s signature, will allow our farmers to move forward this year with certainty in their business decisions and give them confidence in preparing for another crop. 
Agriculture is our most important industry in Tennessee, contributing billions of dollars to our economy each year.  We are really glad to see that this farm bill is fiscally responsible, saving taxpayers more than $16 billion over the next decade by eliminating direct payments and strengthening risk management tools.”
We especially want to thank Sen. Lamar Alexander for his support and vote of the farm bill along with our delegation in the House, including Rep. Dianne Black, Rep. Stephen Fincher and Rep. Phil Roe.”
After five years of waiting and talking to their congressmen, farmers have a farm bill that expands crop insurance, simplifies payments and spends dollars on crop research. It is reported the five-year piece of legislation is projected to cost nearly $1 trillion over the next decade. The Senate sent the legislation to President Obama for his signature and from there it goes to the Department of Agriculture to implement. 
At least we have a program that will now last for a period that will give the farm community some stability and allow for future planning at all levels of agricultural development, research, education and production. This is better than predicting the weather with a varmint any day.
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.  He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Adjusting To Global Warming

I keep having people ask me if I have adjusted to retirement. Since it has only been just a month since I turned off the office light for the last time and I’ve never retired before, I’m not really sure what the adjustment should feel like. I do know, so far this year, summer may have been a better time to have done so. This Global Warming is giving me cabin fever and if the ground hog sees his shadow, I’m declaring war on all whistle pigs.
Cold weather, satellite TV and more time on my hands to start the days have caused me to develop new routines. One thing is as I rise each morning, I turn on the TV to check out just what happened over the hours I rested, and sure enough, things are pretty much the way I left them the night before. Oh, there have been a few more people senselessly removed from this Earth due to violence that we are becoming too accustomed to, due to instant reporting, but as far as the rest of the happenings, not much changes. You see the same news anchors reporting about the markets having all the analysts confused and some groups of people with too much time on their hands protesting somebody else because they are at work doing something rather than protesting. It doesn’t take you long to realize that it is just another typical day in the news world of America.
During this short month, I have found it is not the best way to start off your day if you want to begin the day feeling good. It is sort of like having someone tell you as soon as you get up in the morning that you look sick. You may not be sick at all, but if people continue to make the observation and tell you all day that you do look sick, by afternoon you may start thinking it yourself. I wonder if we have spent so much time watching 24-hour news stations, local news at all hours of the day and now news tweets on our phones, we just may be making our economy and ourselves “electronically” sick with news overload. I know you have heard me say this before, but now I believe it more than ever.
There are some news channels that have reported news so continuously to the masses, that we don’t even hear them any longer, requiring all their reporters and anchors to holler at us to get our attention. They have over-used the term “breaking news” so much that we don’t even turn our heads anymore to see what they are talking about.
I heard someone use the term “collateral ignorance” the other day and it seems to be a term that sort of sums up what is going on around the world lately. All it takes is one instance of group ignorance happening somewhere in this country, and before you know it, there are other groups out there supporting and reinforcing those efforts, plus calling it a “cause.” Before long, it is a collateral effort that people join without even knowing what they are becoming a part of. Given today’s ability of social media and the Internet, many causes may spring up without even having a real purpose.
The same thing is happening with the weather. You can’t even enjoy the seasons anymore without being frightened to death with warnings and large colorful blobs being broadcast for hours on your TV set. I do appreciate the help for pinpointing tornadoes and major storms, but it has gotten to a point where it seems like the duration time has increased with the use of elaborate on-set computer equipment as well. We have become a society that wants to know everything, even the timing of when a raindrop or snowflake will fall from the sky.
I wonder what would happen if we turned off 24-hour news for a while and went back to the way it was a few years ago when it was thirty minutes in the morning, at lunch, dinner and bedtime. In those thirty-minute broadcasts you would also include not only the news, but the weather and sports as well, plus advertisements. It could require detailed news reporting and stories covered could become more newsworthy rather than something suitable to catch the viewing public’s eye. It could be news made rather than news created.
t is reported by the A.C. Nielsen Company that we watch more than 4 hours of TV each day. That is about 2 months of watching the one-eyed monster per year and if you live to be 65, that means you will spend 9 years watching Fox News or CNN. I just don’t think that is on anyone’s bucket list, but if it is, they are sure to reach the end of their list a lot sooner than they ever thought they would. 


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.  He may be contacted by e-mail at      

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