What a difference a year makes!
At this same time last summer I had just finished harvesting a smaller-than-normal hay crop, only to have to start feeding it to the cow herd during the last week of June. The pastures had withered under relentless heat that reached near 100 degrees or above almost every day. Rain was nowhere to be found for most of the summer and fall as we endured the worst drought of my lifetime. For all of 2012, it seemed as if conditions might never return to normal.
Fall slowly turned into the winter that wasn’t, as moisture only occurred in the slightest forms of minor sleet, freezing rain or skiffs of snow. It was the first winter I can remember where I never once had to chop ice on the few ponds that still had water in them. Would we ever get enough runoff to refill the empty craters?
Then came March and our first significant snowfall in two years. It was welcome on my place if for no other reason than sheer moisture. More snow fell in April as well as some meaningful precipitation. I even had a total of 4 inches of snow on May 3 and 4, something I had never seen in my lifetime. And the rain continued and continues to the point that it has been difficult to find enough dry days in a row to make hay. I haven’t been able to unlock the 4-wheel drive hubs of my farm truck since March – but I’m not complaining.
Having lunch with a couple of old friends at the stockyards café last week, I told them of extraordinary yields I was obtaining from my hayfields. They concurred that they were also getting 50-100 percent more bales of hay this year than last.
“And have you ever seen grass grow any taller than it has this year?” One of my buddies asked.
We both had to agree that we could not remember a time when any of the grass hays had grown to the height it was this year. I wondered, out loud, if it was because the grass plants didn’t get the chance to grow any, at all, last season.
About the time we were beginning to mull over that profound statement and reach a ‘scientific consensus,’ an elderly gentleman who had to be pushing 90 and had been seated at the table behind one of my friends, shuffled by our table while relying on his old, wooden cane for steadiness.
“I couldn’t help but hear what you kids were talking about and I’d like to add my two cents,” he interjected.
Having just turned 61 and still the youngest at the table, I was feeling complimented that he had just referred to us as ‘kids,’ but invited him to jump right in.
“A May snowfall will cause grass to grow to record heights,” he added. “I’ve seen it happen every time.”
“Every time?” I asked.
“Well, I guess I should have said both times.”
The old man ambled away without another word as my friends and I looked at each other in amazement.
“It’s as good of an explanation as any we were going to come up with,” one of my friends stated. We all nodded in agreement and went back to eating.
Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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