Jerry Mills at Mills Apple Farm

Oct 13, 2020
Jerry Mills: How to stay vigilant amid challenges

Good news for a change: Last month I expected crop failure because of rots appearing as the fruit ripened. As the kids say, I was bummed out.

As a last resort I sprayed Jonathans with Merivon fungicide along with the stop drop. It worked! Crop is holding and staying clean. We just had one of the best two weekends in years, in spite of COVID-19 restrictions, labor shortages, etc.

We pulled it off with just three people. Daughter Sherry met customers wearing masks and sold them empty bags. Son Lowell carried them to and from the orchard in our wagon train. A baker kept the bakery counter replenished at Sherry’s station. We closed all of our regular play facilities. I hid in the wood shop trying to finish a cover to protect our new sign from the elements. (See photo below.)

Handmade shelter designed to protect a new LED welcome sign at Mills Apple Farm, Marine, Illinois. Unfortunately, we were unable to get it mounted over the sign to make this issue’s deadline. Note the extended back panel rising behind the roof. There is a long vent behind it to allow heat generated by the sign’s electronics to escape. Photo: Jerry Mills

What do you tell your friends and family these days? Not since the Great Depression has there ever been as bleak a time as there is now. Fortunately, I was too young to realize the depth of that situation. Now, I do.

My greatest sympathy is for those who are unable to fend for themselves, the elderly and the very young, threatened by coronavirus and hunger, the farmers, ranchers, fruit and winegrape growers and business people who are unable to stop the fires or hurricanes and move out of harm’s way. That is so sad.

On the other hand, it is hard for to feel sympathy for those who deliberately ignore warnings from the experts in order to “do their own thing,” whether it be not protecting themselves and their loved ones or staying in their homes until it is too late to escape fires or big storms.

For some reason, we Americans, with all the science, communications and media available, still fail to exercise common sense when it comes to our own welfare. Ranchers thin their herds; orchardists thin their crops. Maybe this is Mother Nature’s way of thinning us.

Where not to plant Honeycrisp apples: Five years ago, we planted 150 Honeycrisp trees within 50 feet of woods. The trees had decent crops these last two years, but, just as they ripened, the crops disappeared. The drops are gone too.

Groundhogs? Deer? Squirrels? Probably some of each. Two-legged thieves would not have carried rotted fruit away, but these did.

The enormous power of social media. On May 21, 2020, I sent a tweet, something I had never done before, protesting television news repeatedly showing the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. My complaint was the media showing the scene repeatedly, sometimes as many as three times in a single half-hour news program.

Yesterday, the same tweet came back with a notation, seen by 6 million viewers, including a niece in California listed by name. It would be interesting to know where that tweet has been since May. I know it was mine because it had the same two original typos. It is still out there.

Tool of the month. Have you seen electric signs lately? Our old one used neon lights. This one has LEDs. The remote program allows three colors and 12 rows of lights to produce about any kind of sign a person can imagine. It is spectacular!

My first flu shot in 67 years! The very first shot, so many years ago, made me sicker than a dog and I ended up in the hospital. That vaccine used chicken eggs, still in the most common influenza vaccines, which is why I never had another shot, until now.

There is a non-egg vaccine. It uses a component from fall armyworm larva.

This year, when Marilyn went for her flu shot, I tagged along and asked if they had eggless vaccine. It turns out they did, the worm stuff.

That was a week ago. No problems so far but I did notice a craving for lettuce.

— Jerry Mills, FGN columnist


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