Friday, August 12, 2011

On writing and wandering through corn

I have struggled to find time and motivation to write recently, in my journal, blog, or at work.  But today, I have set aside the entire day for analyzing data and writing. And instead, I find my self looking out the window and thinking how it probably isn't going to rain and I could be outside wandering around the corn field. 

From Huxley

A big part of my job is taking notes on corn fields.  Plot by plot, looking up the rows, guaging ear height, plant height, disease progression, leaf angle, tassel size, and yield potential.  Most of that gets boiled down to a single rating and shorthand comments, for example A/B:@.0023.@: rating 3;sm pl, tssk4, gls6, (translation F4 bulk from parents A and B rating - good.  small plant some tassel skeletonization, susceptible to grey leaf spot - disease above the ear) or the worst rating possible rating A/B:@.0240.@; 9 ug (translation F4 bulk. Discard. Ugly line).  Repeat over and over again.  My goal most days is to look at 3000 plots in a day.  At 2.5' between plots that are 23' long that is walking 2 miles in 4-6 hours.  Not fast.  Not really that far, but it seems that way. 

From Huxley
View of inbred plots

From Huxley
Northern Corn Leaf Blight starting to infect the leaves

Spending that long in a corn field means I see a lot of details: bits of pottery, rocks, the swallows that follow you through the field, killdeer, insects, the gel roots exude to push through the dirt.  The world is divided into rectangular sections defined by straight rows of corn, but wildness pushes through.  There are prairie grasses still at the edges of fields that have been plowed now for 100 years, waiting for their chance to reclaim their inheritance.  Wherever there is light, dirt, and extra nutrients weeds will appear.  In Argentina, burrowing owls were common in corn fields.  In Iowa, I see chipmunks line up along the dirt path like sentinals awaiting orders and from the frequent tracks deer must be hiding just out of sight all over the field.  In the evening, the coyotes chase rabbits.  Racoons knock down sweet corn as soon as it's ready.  Rarely do I see foxes, but they are around.  In the mud near the front of the field there are tracks like a highway. 

From Huxley
Gel coating brace roots

I need to write more though and analyze more data.  Doug, my friend and philosopher, has convinced me that writing is like any other activity; it needs excersize and practice for improvement.  So I am going to set aside part of my day to write and think and plan.  We will see how it goes. 

For now, I am giving in and going back out to the field.  The swallows are calling and the rain has moved north.

From Huxley

1 comment:

Erin said...

Cool pictures and cool thoughts!