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SPOTLIGHT
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Hopes for the year's longest day

Published on -6/10/2012, 12:06 PM

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The longest day of the year will arrive next week, something we could only dream about during the depths of winter.

Yes, the last day of spring and the first day of summer give us the most daylight hours of the year. We can remain on the golf course or the lake longer than ever before, and I like to work in my garden that evening until I can't see the weeds any more.

This has turned into a difficult year in north-central Kansas. We enjoyed an early spring with ample rain and warmer than usual weather. My fruit trees bloomed prodigiously and now apples and apricots are growing on them. The volunteer mulberry tree is bearing fruit too.

But we haven't received any rain since late April, and the pastures are turning brown while large cracks appear in the soil. The plot where I and my grandson have started a garden is showing growth, but only after ample applications of irrigation water.

Harvest began in late May and even the oldest residents can't recall that this ever happened before. The wheat crop needed one more rain in early May but most fields look good from the road. You only know the quality when you shell a few heads. Now that a few combines are rolling, the yields will soon be known. It appears to be a good -- but not bumper -- year.

The wheat cutting continues late into the dry evenings and June 5th I enjoyed hamburgers and watermelon in the harvest field. Harvesting is much different than it was in my boyhood. Then we cut the wheat with a grain binder, piled it into shocks, and ran the bundles through a threshing machine. This required a lot of workers. These days, one man drives the combine and another handles the grain cart, semi and straw baler. That's the entire harvest crew.

Wheat cutting will be nearly finished by the time the longest day arrives, if the harvest isn't slowed by rainfall. Then everyone can pray for rain for the recently planted milo and soybeans, which are trying to grow in the middle of a drought.

Even with ample irrigation water, the garden sass isn't growing properly. However, the weeds really like the wettings and are coming up as thick as hair on a dog's back.

My years of gardening taught me to hoe or till the weeds when they are little. Last year, a garden plot got away from me and the weeds grew almost as high as my head. I was forced to use a saw or an axe to cut the large, tough stalks.

The most promising plants in this year's garden are the Fourth of July tomatoes, which already have set small fruit. Close behind are the pumpkins, watermelon and summer squash.

Thus we are enjoying another growing season and the great outdoors is the place to be, whether you're farming or gardening, fishing or golfing. The chill of winter seems far away. I much prefer 90-degree days to freezing days.

Darrel Miller lives near Downs in rural Osborne County and is a retired weekly newspaper editor.

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