I’ve done several lawn seeding projects over the years, varying from repairing a few patches of bare ground up to several hundred square feet of new seeding. There’s a fair amount of work involved in getting rid of unwanted grass and weeds, prepping the ground, spreading fertilizer, putting down seed, rolling or pressing to ensure good contact between seed and soil. Oftentimes, I’d add mulching, either with straw or peat moss. And then, of course, the watering.
A recent project took me into different territory. Instead of repairing a poor section of lawn or creating a croquet court, I needed to reseed a section of horse pasture. A small section to be honest but definitely larger in scale. When you go from a few hundred square feet to a few thousand, there are considerations. This wasn’t a garden tiller bed prep and it wasn’t going to be throwing a few handfuls of seed around.
My little Kubota tractor worked perfectly for disking up the horse paddock and spreading and working in a ton or so of dried horse manure. A newly acquired antique cultimulcher with its multiple steel rollers and toothed discs did a serviceable job of breaking up dirt clods, smoothing the surface and pressing seed into the dirt. There was one other new tool that I added for this project.
I’d used a small handheld spreader and a small rolling spreader for some of the past seeding jobs. “There’s no way I’m walking over this paddock and pushing that little spreader!” I declared to myself. Instead, I decided to go old school.
I’d recently seen at a local farm store a hand-cranked seeder. Immediately I thought of the old canvas, wood and metal contraption that hung in the garage when I was growing up on our Todd County, Kentucky farm. I also remembered watching Dad sow alfalfa and grass seed with that. In his tan khakis and short-sleeve white shirt, wearing an old brown fedora and workworn leather brogans, he filled up the bag and then shouldered the seeder.
Across the freshly tilled field, he walked briskly, cranking steadily. The seed was held in the upper part of the gadget in a canvas bag that was glued and stapled along its lower edge to a wooden bottom. The seed dropped out through a metering slidegate inserted into the wooden piece. The wider you set the opening, the faster the seed poured out. Match up the size of the opening with the speed of the crank and how fast you walk to determine how thickly the seed was sown.
As Dad cranked, a thin, segmented metal wheel spun around, slinging the seed outward in a wide arc. At full tilt, it spread a swath of seed nearly twenty feet wide. At a good pace, a man could cover a lot of ground with that hand seeder in a day. Or even in an hour. Using the brand new old timey hand seeder that I’d just bought at TSC, it took me less than ten minutes to reseed about ten thousand square feet of paddock.
During the whole time of that project, from hooking up the disk, breaking up the ground and mangling the small patch of tall fescue, spreading the manure and disking some more, through the seeding and the final packing with the cultimulcher, I constantly thought about Dad and the farm back in Todd County. I thought about all the different things I do and have done over the years that I first saw him doing.
I thought about the construction, carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, roofing, concrete forming and finishing, laying concrete blocks and brick. Forming wood, building things, refinishing furniture. I thought about fishing and whistling, sending the border collie into the field to bring up the cows and milking. I thought about plowing, disking, harrowing, cultipacking, and drilling corn. I thought about cutting, raking, baling, and hauling hay, and the smell of fresh cut alfalfa. I thought about reading the Bible, preaching, and teaching Bible classes. I thought about singing old hymns in the car and in the milk barn, listening to the Friday Night Opry Warm-up show on the old radio in the milkshed. Croquet on the yard under the old maple trees. So much of who I am and what I do.
I can’t honestly say that any of those things are things that I deliberately learned so I could be like Dad. Some were things that I didn’t really have any choice about; the farm work had to be done. Some things I did because Dad or someone else needed the help. I think mostly it was because I’ve inherited his nature and therefore many of the things that appealed to him appeal to me.
I take so much pleasure these days in seeing the ways so many of the things that I liked and even admired in my Dad have become part of me. I can’t help wishing that I’d thought of one more thing last Saturday morning. I wish that when I’d strapped on that hand-cranked seeder, I’d have thought to put on my old felt fedora, too.
When it comes to imitating the Father Who Loves Us, details matter.