Rehabbing surgically repaired shoulder results in severe case of cabin fever

I think I have a touch of cabin fever.

I've been getting out a bit, even driving short distances with my sling-encased right arm resting comfortably on the convenient armrest of my truck. I learned to drive left-handed when I was a teenager (to free up the right arm for snuggling). So getting from point A to point B (usually the physical therapist) is no big deal. Starting the truck is a bit of a chore since I have to reach through the steering wheel with my left hand to insert and turn the key. But I manage.

Long drives, however, seem to be a few weeks off and that's where the boredom comes in. I'd like to be tooling around the countryside watching things green up, if we'd had enough rain over the past six months to turn anything a color remotely resembling green. But I could at least drive out into farm country and watch bare ground blow from one county to the next.

Weathermen predict a good soaking rain coming in the next few days. If that happens, I'd like to be out somewhere to watch ditches fill up and overflow onto the highway and see fallow fields soak up enough water to guarantee enough moisture to germinate seed.

I generally like to drive up into the High Plains about this time of year and check on planting intentions and what changes folks are making with acreage, varieties and technology. I'm settling for second-hand reports, phone interviews and stringers keeping me informed. It's just not the same.

I expect to be out in the field next week, maybe a 100-mile trek and two or three farm visits. That ought to begin the process of clearing out the cobwebs from a month of near confinement. A week or so later I may try to get up into Oklahoma or the Texas High Plains. I need to find out what cotton farmers are thinking about the 2009 crop. I'd like to chat with a wheat farmer or two and see if they have anything left after six months of drought. And I want to explore their options for the rest of the spring. Cut what little wheat emerged for hay? Kill it and plant grain or cotton? Leave it fallow and just control weeds and hope for a better fall?

It's shaping up to be a challenging year for Southwest farmers, but what year doesn't shape up that way? I've actually been a bit surprised at the level of optimism, or at least the relatively in-check pessimism this winter.

I covered a no-till conference in Oklahoma City back in early February (the best no-till conference I've attended in years, by the way) and found folks anticipating opportunities for 2009. Folks who have converted to reduced tillage say they'd rather give up farming than go back to conventional tillage systems. They cite energy, labor, moisture and soil savings as reasons to stay the course.

Several talked about experimenting with relatively new crops, sesame, canola and several legumes, to improve soils and to add diversity to their marketing plans.

I'd like to be bouncing around in a pickup truck over a few of those farms this week instead of sitting here working the kinks out of this still-stiff arm, but the doctor says patience is a virtue and I suppose I'll do what he says, for another week or so or until the weather turns just too good to hang around the office.

And as far as fishing goes, I'm thinking that working a fly rod back and forth across the river ought to be pretty good physical therapy.

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