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May in farm country is a month for hope

Telltale swirls of dust help locate planters Here they are planting peanuts
<p>Tell-tale swirls of dust help locate planters. Here, they are planting peanuts.</p>

May is a good time to visit the High Plains of Texas. So is April, come to think of it, and the fall months are actually pleasant and interesting with harvest in full swing and temperatures easing off a bit from the summer scorch.

I even enjoy a trek to the Plains in July and August to check on crop progress and bask in the warmth of West Texas summer for a few days. In good years, I see a lot of green spread across the High Plains in summer.

Winter is interesting, too. Monday might dawn a tad chilly but warm up to the low 60s by mid-afternoon, and then a blue norther can come in overnight to send thermometer mercury to below freezing. A snow storm can blow in pretty quick, as well, or sleet and ice can keep you bottled up for a day or two.

March can be entertaining with gale-force winds that stir up those fascinating dust storms. I’d just as soon avoid those.

But I digress. May is nice. For one thing, planting season is in full swing. Drive out a Farm to Market road from Lubbock, in any direction, and look for small dust clouds billowing out behind planters. It’s a good bet someone is planting cotton—this is where most of the Texas’ crop is grown. Could be peanuts, too. Or grain sorghum, corn, maybe a few fields of sunflowers, black-eyed peas, a little sesame the last few years, also grabbed some acres.

You’ll see fields of ripe small grain, mostly winter wheat, and if the weather is right, not too much humidity (a rare occurrence), combines might be rolling across the High Plains cutting those amber waves of grain.

A few wildflowers will decorate roadsides, ditches and field borders. It’s too late to catch the bluebonnets, but I see a lot of bright yellow blooms in May.

Farm equipment will be chugging up and down those small backroads, moving from one field to another to plant, spray or cultivate. I’ve noticed that folks driving these machines—some are gargantuan—will pull to the side of the road as soon as they find a spot wide enough, so it makes sense to  be patient and not rush around him.

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Folks are busy—working cattle, cutting hay, spraying weeds, planting crops—doing all they can to make certain that those seed they are putting in the ground will have a good chance of making a crop, offering a farm family a living for another year, putting money back into the local economy, and feeding those of us who watch agriculture from the road- side of the bar ditches and as we drive those FM roads.

May is when a lot of it gets started. It’s a good time to be close enough to observe the effort that goes into just the first few steps of making a crop. The season is long; a lot can happen. But in May, folks are optimistic about making another crop.

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