Sunday, July 16, 2006

Field tile and hard work...

I did a commentary about installing drainage tile in my fields this week on USFR and got this great letter back today:

Dear John
I thought your show was good today. Can't believe the oil companies would allow us farmers a chance to buy stock in the ethonol business if it is a good deal. That is why we have not bought any. The oil company will sell their product just enough cheaper that only us dedicated farm people will pay the extra. Remember we wouldn't buy ethel cause it was ten cents more and that was when gas was twenty five cents a gallon.
Anyway my reason is to tell you about my grandpa.He came here to MO. about 1880 from W VA. He stopped to see his sister at Chenoa ILL. They were laying tile there so he worked there and learned how to do it.
He taught my dad and so about 1947 my dad tiled a wet bottom we have and then in 1960 we extended it a ways as the creek had changed the lay of land so i learned how to lay clay tile. We dug the trench with spades by hand. Streched a string from point to point then used a gage made out of lath to gage the depth from the string. Used a carpenters level on a 2 x 4 to make sure the string had the right fall so the tile would be laid on the right grade so it would drain after it was covered up. I guess grandpa wore a pair of hob nailed shoes that were heavy so when you lay the tile segments you walked on the completed tile then the new one you lay down you bump it tight against the others with your heal. I could show you easier than tell you. They kept the spades in a bucket of sand and used oil to keep them bright. Talk about hard work that is it. The neighbors north of us tried it but were not good enough with the level so theirs never did drain. a lot of hard work for nothing . My dad had a guy working for us said he could just sight through the spade handle and get the right grade. Of coure pop showed him it wasn't that easy. You also had to prime the tile as they called it which was to throw a little dirt on it to hold it in place while the rest of the dirt is thrown in the ditch. We still have the finish shovel that you use to make the little grove or depression to lay the tile on grade. It would be easier to show you than it has to tell you. Hope i haven't bored you too much.

Dale Hartley Kingston Mo.

Maybe it's growing up with machines, but I love to hear how earlier farmers solved problems with ingenuity and muscle-power.


Ed Winkle said...

Enjoyed Dale's story. This is a part of the heritage that makes American Agriculture great. I would love to help my grandfather help put in clay tile. It would be hard work but it would be priceless...

John Phipps said...

From a commenter who preferred to remain anonymous:

Interesting item about the drainage tile. For whatever reason, the greenies and NRCS have made tile a four letter word here in SD. Ridiculous statements like water from a tile is more polluted than water from an open ditch, etc. Even though the regs are supposed to be nationwide, NRCS is treating SD much more stringently than MN and IA in regard to maintaining drainage systems.
Along these lines, do you recall the Barthel drainage story in Nebraska that Jill Carlson wrote about in the Landowner a few years ago? Can you believe that it is an ongoing issue? The Barthels had gotten a favorable ruling from the 8th Circuit Court back in 1999, but the NRCS is still refusing to fully comply with that ruling. Barthels have about 30 days to raise the funds to appeal back to the 8th Circuit again, or face losing their Sandhills family ranch at a time when they should be able to retire.