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Communication is crucial, especially during busy times on the farm.

July 31, 2016

3 Min Read

Editor’s note: From John and Kendra Smiley’s monthly column, Home Front.


We’d planted corn on all but one of our fields this spring and after John opened up the last one, he called to let me know it was time for me to go to work with the cultivator. I’d been waiting to hear from him and was ready to do my part to move forward with the 2016 planting season. When I arrived, John was waiting to give me instructions about the catch basins I needed to be aware of and concluded by telling me, or attempting to tell me, what to do when I got to the berm.


Midway through that last instruction I stopped him and innocently asked what a berm was. He looked at me with disbelief and began his final instruction once again, saying exactly the same thing he’d said before, a little louder this time. When he got to the word berm for the second time I still had no idea what he was talking about so I raised my hand like a school girl. “What’s a berm?”

The question seemed simple enough, but rather than give me a definition he repeated his words for a third time; now the message were not only louder, but also slower. Funny, that didn’t help at all.


In my defense, I found it hard to believe that Kendra didn’t know what a berm was or at least couldn’t use her imagination and make a good guess. After all, I was in a hurry to get on the tractor and plant corn, and repeating the instruction about the berm over and over was getting old.

Finally I just pointed toward the north end of the field and hoped for the best. If it had been one of our boys I would have told him once and then if my instruction was unclear, I would have ridden with him on the first round. Because Kendra doesn’t like me to ride with her (she says it makes her nervous), I decided all I could do was hope that, as an adult, she would recognize the area that she was to avoid with the cultivator.

You’ll be relieved to know that Kendra not only managed to dodge every catch basin, but also discovered the berm and steered clear. When I asked her about it at the end of the day she replied that she found the “patch of grass and weeds by the wet spot” without any trouble. She’d found the berm and she’d learned a new vocabulary word although I have a feeling I’m not going to hear it in a sentence anytime soon.


Yes, I learned what a berm is and he’s right, I can’t imagine using that word in conversation. It’s tough when you didn’t grow up around machinery or animals or berms, for that matter. I grew up hanging out in my dad’s dental office and I have a feeling I know a few things about bicuspids that could baffle John. I also know that communication may not be easy, but is vital as we work around machinery that can be damaged or cause a great deal of damage.

When the boys were young and John gave them an important instruction he would typically preface it with the words, “Are you listening?” Hmmm…maybe I need to do a little better job of listening. That might eliminate hearing his words repeated louder and slower. And I suppose it’s possible he called that “patch of grass and weeds by the wet spot” a berm last year too.

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