Share Your Favorite Old-Time Farm Wisdom

Preserve ancient farming traditions by passing along and putting to use these old-time farm sayings.

by Dawn Combs
Share Your Favorite Old-Time Farm Wisdom - Photo courtesy Rae Allen/Flickr (
Courtesy Rae Allen/Flickr

Were you checking your corn like I was this past week? I had the old saying “knee-high by the Fourth of July” going through my head. Mine measured up, so I’m excited about the corn I’ll get this year.

This got me thinking: How long until this bit of wisdom is completely forgotten? The corn all around our farm passed knee-high months ago. In fact, if it were knee-high now, the farmers would consider that a failure. In the age of genetically modified seeds, how much of our awareness of what’s appropriate for the season has gone out the window?

I went looking for more old-time wisdom. I remember my grandparents always saying that there would be three snowfalls after the forsythia bloom. My mother-in-law says whatever the weather on Easter Sunday, so it will be for the next several Sundays. As I write, my husband reminds me of an old one my parents used to recite, “Red sky at night, sailors delight! Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.”

Of course, most civilized people today would find these old sayings quaint but hardly relevant. We have radar on our phones and newscasters to tell us what we should find important in our surroundings, but I don’t think agricultural sayings are outdated at all. In fact, I believe we should all reach back into our memories and record them before they are forgotten. Common knowledge about our natural environment connects us to what is real.

I continued my search through books and came upon one in my antique collection called Riley’s Farm-Rhymes, written in 1883 by James Whitcomb Riley. In it, I found a jewel about companion planting that I am eager to test out.

Once upon a time, watermelon season started right around July Fourth and  extended into the fall. Anticipation built for the first taste of the ripe flesh, just as it did for the first slice of a summer tomato. Now, we can go to the grocery store and get them just about any time of the year. I believe we’ve lost something. I highly recommend you grow your own watermelon, but grow heirloom, seeded, varieties. The seeds are particularly beneficial for the urinary tract and especially for the prostate gland. They’re great blended into your smoothie or dried for use in making trail mixes or grinding.

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I thought I’d share an excerpt of the poem I found in the hopes that you might share with me, as well. Do you know any farm wisdom? Share what you know. Let’s get it written down so that we don’t lose it.

Wortermelon Time
by James Whitcomb Riley

They ain’t no better thing in the vegetable line;
And they don’t need much ‘tending’, as ev’ry farmer knows;
And when theyr ripe and ready fer to pluck from the vine,
I want to say to you theyr the best fruit that grows.

It’s some likes the yeller-core, and some likes the red,
And it’s some says “The Little Californy” is the best;
But the sweetest slice of all I ever wedged in my head,
Is the old”Edingburg Mounting-sprout,” of the west.

You don’t want no punkins nigh your wortermelon vines—
‘Cause, some-way-another, they’ll spile your melons, shore;—
I’ve seed ‘em taste like punkins, from the core to the rines,
Which may be a fact you have heerd of before.

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