Sunday, August 14, 2011

Geezer Holiday at Empire Farm Days

     This past Wednesday I attended the the Empire Farm Days near Seneca Falls, New York.   This is a yearly event that I have enjoyed many times.   I can't remember the first time I attended this event that has a 78 year history.    Since it has been going on before I was born I expect the first time I visited the show was when I was a youth and was with my Dad.   At that time the show was basically an activity of the Empire State Potato Growers Club.   One of the demonstrations during the early days was of an aircraft spraying a field.    I was enthralled by airplanes at the time and marveled at the bravery of the fliers who would swoop to potato top level to lay down their spray.  They would even end up with some potato tops hanging from their landing gear.
     From those early days the show has grown into a gigantic exposition of farm machinery,  structures, tools and peripheral rural businesses from banking to insurance to seed and fertilizer among many others.   It is truly a big three day affair for New York agriculturalists.
     I arrived about 10 AM and was parked within a few hundred yards of the exposition within a few minutes.   Although they had circulating transport to the grounds, I was close enough to walk to the first street.   My routine has been to methodically travel all of the streets visiting the displays that especially attract my attention.    Mostly I am attracted to farm machinery on display and enjoy sitting on the seat of the super sized tractors, combines and forage choppers.     However, I also enjoy conversations with the sales representatives to get their take on the state of agriculture in New York State.    I always visit the Cornell building staffed by personnel of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to see what kind of pitches and information are being extended to the public.
Salford Plow -Up to 14 Bottoms

Three Bottom Mounted Plow
     By noon I had managed to visit about one half of the displays and arrived at one of the food tents to have lunch and sit for a brief rest before finishing my journey through the exposition.   Many different items piqued my interest but since I have been tracing the history of the plow and the evolution of plow design I was especially interested in the plows on display.

      Plow design continues to evolve even after 5000 years of development.   The two pictures illustrate two different moldboard designs.   The upper one shows a shortened moldboard with an abrupt curvature at the tail end and the lower picture shows a much longer moldboard with a more gradual curvature.   The top one would cause more breakup of the soil.   Although minimum tillage has dominated soybean and corn culture lately, I learned that some farmers have returned to periodic plowing to plow down crop residues and pesticide/herbicide residues.
     By 2:00 PM I had completed by visits to all the displays of interest to me and I was ready to depart.    I concluded from my visit that New York agriculture is a thriving.    Modern technology has enhanced the efficiency and productivity of agriculture.    However,  economic, social, health and safety problems continue to challenge farmers and the rural population.  Farming is still a hard and demanding life and all of us who benefit  from an inexpensive, abundant and high quality food supply should be grateful to our farmers.  Dwight Eisenhower made the following observation.

      "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field".   Dwight D. Eisenhower, September 11, 1956

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Zoo Memories

     Geezers have lived long enough to accumulate a lot of memories.   So it is for me.   Among these memories are recollections of visits to zoos.   A number of those memories came up today since we did a "day cation" visit to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.   We enjoyed several leisure hours observing a wide array of animals and exhibits in simulated habitats from ocean to desert to mountains to plains and forests.   Both domestic and wild animals were on display.   And along with the animals was a plethora of the human species also roaming outside the cages.   It is a wonderful zoo practically in our backyard and amazingly we had not been there in about 20 years.   Our recollection was that we had brought our  now 25 year old daughter there about 20 years ago.
      My first zoo experience was in 1952 when my high school senior class took a trip to the Washington, D.C.    Part or our Washington experience was a visit to the Rock Creek Zoo.   I do not have any particular vivid memories except that it seemed like an enormous venue.   Later in life I had heard how fabulous the London Zoo was and on a professional  trip in 1974 I had a chance to tour the London Zoo and thought it was one of the greatest zoos in the world.   In 1983 Nancy and I took a delayed honeymoon to London and I was determined that she should experience the London Zoo as well.   We took the underground from our hotel to the zoo and spent an interesting day there.   However, when we got ready to return we needed to walk the entire length of Regents Park to get to the underground station.   By that time Nancy was limping but grimly soldiering on.   To my dismay when we reached our hotel she removed here sneaker to display a bloody blisters on both feet.   Needless to say I was devastated by my inconsiderate behavior.   Rightly so, she reminds me of that day every time we visit a zoo.
     Our day today at the zoo was appropriately long enough to satisfy our curiosities but short enough to avoid pain and suffering.  We will need to go back in less than 20 years.    And maybe we ought to try going to the Bronx Zoo some time when we are in the New York Metropolitan area and take along our now mature daughter and her husband.
    Here are pictures of some of the zoo denizens I particularly appreciated.
Nancy The Penguin

Spiral Horned Sheep - Native to Afghanistan

Every Zoo Must Have Elephants

Hot Day for the Penguins