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Digging corrugates

Erica Ramsey Louder for Progressive Forage Published on 11 July 2022

I had to spell-check myself before I wrote that title. I didn't know how to spell corrugates, and once I had spelled it, it still didn't look right to me. Corrugates, what an incorrigible word. Do you know folks who hate the word "moist?" I feel that way about the word corrugates. I don't think I always have, but I do now.

Last week, my younger brother, Nate, sent a message to the family text message group that said, "Are there any volunteers who would like to come shovel some corrugates?" Silence ensued. With some misguided benevolence to Nate, I texted back, "Craig and I can come." Then my mom chimed in, "I will help." The five of us – Nate's wife, Makayla, joined in too – spent the best part of the evening on one of the longest days of the year digging corrugates for 90 acres of corn.

Now, before you start to feel sorry for us, we were only digging the 4 to 50 feet the tractor couldn't dig because our fields are not square and because of the headland or some such tractor nonsense. At that moment, I knew I was digging a channel that would match up the gated pipe to the cultivated corrugates somewhere down the field – flood irrigation at its highest peak of sophistication.

By row 10, my pectoral and deltoid on my right side ached enough that I had to take a little break. My 56-year-old mother smiled at me and asked, "You getting too old for this work?" "I don't think I was ever young enough for this work." "You've done this before, haven't you?" she asked me. Now that we are safely ensconced back on the family farm, she forgets that we farmed on our own for the previous 10 years and had little day-to-day on the family operation. I said, "We had a pivot for our corn, and even then, I questioned the sanity of growing corn. One could simply grow pasture and graze cattle with so much less irrigating." My husband chimes in at this point: "You might think a pressurized system like a pivot is easier but think of all those u-joints we had to change and all those Augusts digging out pivot tires?" His use of the pronoun "we" is tongue in cheek. He dug those pivot tires and changed the u-joints; there was no we involved. I'm painting an abysmal picture of myself as a farmer, but I was tired, and I'd already put a full day of work in at the office – you know, that town job that supports the farm from time to time.

I started digging corrugates again, and once I got into a rhythm of moving my shovel, it wasn't terrible. We stopped at dusk, knowing someone (or a few someones ) would need to be back tomorrow to finish that work. The fact that we are completing this chore so late in the season is, so I'm told, a blessing. The early June rains bought us a couple of weeks, and the corn will still be "knee-high by the fourth of July." So my dad says, who was circumspectly absent from shovel work that night, preferring his tractor – but don't we all. Digging corrugates is a medieval punishment in the age of enlightenment, the age of the pivot and the tractor.  end mark

PHOTO: Craig Louder digs a corrugate in a corn field. Photo by Erica Louder.

Erica Ramsey Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

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