Dirt and iPhones Do Mix: One Vanguardian’s Perspective on Technology on the Farm

So you play FarmVille on Facebook, and as you build your “farm” from the comfort of your easy chair, you feel like you are accomplishing something, right? OK, man up already and face it––you have no clue what it’s like to run a farm. My experience is slightly different––my family had a chicken farm in Rockland County that we “city kids” would visit during the summer to “help out.” The farm also grew corn as a staple crop for feed and to sell. By the time we would get there in the summer, the real work was done––our biggest chore was shucking the corn for dinner.

Flash forward to spring 2012 and my reality. I consider myself a “gentleman farmer.” I live on nine acres of pristine property in the mountains of Sullivan County, NY, in the tiny town of Glen Spey (Google Map 12737). I have a barn with a hayloft, split wood for the fireplace, operate a tractor (lowlanders have riding mowers; we have nothing but tractors), drive a pick-up truck, and have a back brace with suspenders for the real work. My frost date is Memorial Day weekend, which means no planting till then––seeds are OK, but the real work begins on the holiday weekend.

My “field” is a 60′ x 40′ horn of plenty, filled with fruit trees and bushes, grape vines, 20 varieties of vegetables and cutting flowers, and surprisingly, no corn. Each year I fertilize with up to 300 lbs of cow manure, lime, and fireplace ash to keep the pH correct. My beds are raised, and I till each one until the soil is the consistency of butter. What self-respecting plant wouldn’t want to wiggle its roots in my bed? Call me crazy, but I commute three hours to work each way because I love where I work and love where I live, just not necessarily in that order.

Last weekend, I did the first cut of the season. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and as I made the turns on the tractor with my music playing from my iPhone, I stopped to take a photo of our family of tree swallows working on their new nest in the birdhouse. As I paused to take it all in, I realized how much technology I have come to rely on to make my life easier. Besides the joy and convenience of having music and photography attached to my belt, much of this process is technology-driven. Consider that I use my iPad to order everything from new tiller blades to seeds to chain saws to fertilizer. Weather is a big consideration on a farm, and I have not one but three weather apps to help me know when to plant and when to water. These apps also help to notify me of approaching storms or frost.

When the day is done and the stars come out, I have a great app on my iPad called Star Walk. This app is terrific if you have a clear view of the night sky and you can see all the stars and constellations overhead. This app also shows which satellites are drifting by. (Unfortunately, the shooting stars you may enjoy flash by too fast to be named.)

There are a plethora of other apps to help your green thumb, and it’s always best to read some of the reviews before you purchase. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an oldie but goodie, the Farmers’ Almanac. Continuously published since 1818, this periodical is known for its long-range weather predictions and astronomical data mixed with humor, trivia, gardening, cooking, fishing, and human-interest content. While not yet an app, it is available as an e-book for your iPad, Nook, or Kindle. This is a must-have for even the “black thumb” gardener who can’t keep even a houseplant alive.

To finish on a positive note for my FarmVille friends, reviews of the new FarmVille Version 2.7 are high. Released on April 4, 2012, FarmVille has gone tropical. Grab your sandals and head to FarmVille’s new Hawaiian Paradise. Leave those clunky coins at home because the new currency is coconuts. Love the beach? Cultivate your favorite water crops and play with new aquatic creatures. While Zynga is excited with the reception the latest version has received, I am sure the lucky few who sample my harvested veggies will be glad there are “gentleman farmers” like me who like to play in the dirt.

Author: Tom Caska


One response to “Dirt and iPhones Do Mix: One Vanguardian’s Perspective on Technology on the Farm

  1. Thank you Farmer Tom,
    Very informative and interesting…
    Never knew fireplace ash could be used to balance soil ph…
    Will have to ask you the best ways to grow tomatoes in pots and…
    Have to see if that StarWalk ap is avail for androids.


    PS I’m sure your plants will enjoy this wet Memorial Day weekend.

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