Saturday, June 28, 2008



An old farmer in Iowa grew wheat, soybeans, alfalfa, and hay for many years on his 2,000 acres. Then one year ethanol producers demanded more and more corn, so the old farmer decided to plant corn in all his fields. His neighbor came to visit. "Such good luck, corn is up from $3.50 a bushel to $5 next season!"

"Maybe," the farmer replied. And he sold his future corn at $5 a bushel, expecting to harvest 180 bushels of corn per acre. ($1.8 million)

In the spring devastating floods swept through levees and rose to record levels in Iowa, ruining more than half of the old farmer's corn crop. He would have to BUY the future corn he'd sold, at the current rate of $7.80 a bushel, a much higher rate than expected, in order to provide the corn he'd promised his buyers.

An old farmer in Michigan did the same with his fields, switching to corn from soybeans and hay. His neighbor said the same as the Iowan farmer's neighbor, "Such good luck, corn is up to $5 a bushel!"

"Maybe," the Michigan farmer replied. With the bad luck of massive flooding for the Iowan farmer (and also for farmers in Illinois, and in Indiana, and in Missouri, and in Wisconsin and in Minnesota) costing them millions of acres of lost crops and futures selling, which turned into having to purchase corn to fulfill contracts with buyers, the demand for corn only rose, pushing the price up and up so that the old Michigan farmer would earn more on his corn crop than he ever dreamed (currently $7.80/bushel @ 180 bushels/acre).

~ ~ ~


Farmer Don had a little 5 acre farm with beautiful, mature trees surrounding his house, providing shade in the hot summer. His neighbor came to congratulate him, "you are so lucky to have such beautiful tall trees to protect your house from the hot summer sun."

"Maybe," replied farmer Don.

Then a violent wind storm tore through the farm and split the prettiest maple with a honeybee hive in two, causing the tree to fall across his driveway.

"What terrible luck!" his neighbor said.

"Maybe," replied farmer Don. But he happened to have six strong men visiting who helped him chop up the pieces of fallen tree and move them out of the way. The men all told him, "what terrible luck to lose this tree full of honeybees!"

"Maybe," replied farmer Don.

When the men were gone and he began to clear away the fallen tree he looked up and saw the thin, old catalpa tree that had always been dwarfed by the maple before it had fallen in the violent wind. He was looking at the open sky around the catalpa tree when his neighbor came by, and he too looked up at the opened space allowing sun to fall on the catalpa tree, with rich but few white blossoms and heart-shaped leaves.

"Look! How lucky you are that the maple tree fell so your catalpa tree can thrive and grow bigger, providing beauty and grace to your farm."

"Maybe," replied farmer Don.

These stories are based on the old Taoist story "Maybe.":

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "Maybe," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "Maybe," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "Maybe," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "Maybe," said the farmer.


Sharon said...


And what a beautiful one you've capture through your photos (again!!!)...........

Anet said...

Well... Now I know the name of the tree in front of my friend's gift shop it's a Catalpa! Her tree is huge! It gets load with those white blossoms that smell wonderfully sweet! And do I recall long bean pods also?
I enjoyed the Maybe stories!
"Maybe," lol...

Ginnie said...

What a way to view life, Ruth! We have so much to learn from these stories, don't we. Life is a Tear and a Smile. Thanks for reminding us that we need both.

André Lemay said...

I love your stories and pictures. Maybe everything happens for a reason.

Rauf said...

its the attitude which makes the big difference Ruth. It makes and breaks people. Levels of caution risk and trust differ from person to person.

Lush green is so refreshing. You are enjoying the best of both the worlds Ruth.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Sharon, I think it's helpful to not get too attached to any outcome.


Anet, now that we have a catalpa, I see them everywhere. I remember seeing one as a young person at Jefferson's home in Virginia, Monticello. It was huge and glorious standing alone on a slope. When I realized we had one at the farm it made me happy. And now it might fill out.


Boots, yes, it's both/and, don't you think? But it's easy to think that we should never have tears, and that something is wrong if we do. It's all life.


André, maybe.

Thank you.

Ruth said...

rauf, yep, it's what's in our heads and hearts that filters circumstances.

I hope you're having enough rain in Chennai.

VioletSky said...

Hmm, wasn't familiar with Catalpa, but have now found some great tree identification sites on the web during my search!

Wasting too much time reading blogs. Maybe.


lesleyanne said...

i like those stories.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Loved these stories, Ruth.. just wonderful... always plan for the future...
reminds me of a statement I read attributed to Leonardo da Vinci;... goes something like... never become so attached to something that when it is gone you can not live without it...

or don't not put all your eggs in one basket...

great reminder for everyone!

Loring Wirbel said...

I was at my brother-in-law's farm on the Indiana-Michigan border this weekend. The entire history of the farm was a series of maybe events. And each of six Allison brothers came with their own stories of maybe-mishaps and maybe disasters-bonanzas to tell. And I didn't recognize what was going on until I read your stories. History is a string of unintended consequences.

Amy - "Twelve Acres" said...

All things happen for a reason. Right now, life has dealt us a bad hand. I am trying to see to the future and understand how the outcome will effect our lives. The "maybe" philosophy is so true. It may seem that the world is against you, but in the end things can work out to your benefit.

Your Catalpa tree with provide nice shade. I don't have any on the 12 acres, but I considered planting one. I am done planting trees this year, but there's still room for more next year. Maybe I will try a Catalpa then!

Ruth said...

Sanna, I've just seen the other side of your comment, at your blog. Fun to hear about where you sit when reading blogs.

And hey, I may call on you sometime for a tree ID site.


Wesrey, thanks.


Gwen, yes! Plan for contingencies.


Loring, well now I'd like to sit down for a spell and listen.


Amy, I'm sorry to hear that (I'd say 'maybe' - but I really am). I hope circumstances will turn around for you. It's good that for now that your attitude is to see it in context. That can be tough to do.

Catalpas are such graceful trees. I understand that farmers traditionally use the wood for fence posts because it's so hardy in weather, so if something unfortunate were to happen to your future catalpa tree some day, you and Jim could build something from the wood for your farm, maybe a new chicken run!

Gwen Buchanan said...

I have never seen a Catalpa tree or even heard of one..Thanks for perking my interest... love the gorgeous blossoms...

mystic rose said...

thanks for making me laugh. :)

Wonderful stories! and well written.

mystic rose said...

Those blossoms are beautiful!

Ruth said...

Gwen, I thought they were found only in the South (US), until we had one at the farm. Thank you.


Mystic Rose, any time. :)

Sandy said...

Great stories and photos. For some reason I just kept thinking of Ram Das while reading this...

Be Here Now - ...

whatever is happening in our world, globally, nationally, personally, MAYBE it's all okay in the moment.

Really enjoyed this post Ruth.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Auntie Sandy. Yes, and in this moment, I know what to do.

Bob Johnson said...

What great stories Ruth, moral of the stories, God works in mysterious ways, or you better to learn to roll with the punches, be much happier. Again since I am a very visual person, love you images.

Ruth said...

Oh thanks, Bob. I've seen you time and again roll with the punches when you've gone out to observe the night sky. You can't get too attached to things like weather and clear skies when you do what you do!

SwedeHart said...

Great timing! One of my students read and did their presentation on Way of the Peaceful Warrior- and she shared this story with the class- I love it! Maybe I'll show this in our class tonight to illustrate the theme even more:D

Ruth said...

Amazing, Swedehart! And that would be an honor.

jack said...

bamboo adobe

I sit along in the bamboo grove,
playing the zither and whistling along.
In this deep wood no one would know -
only the bright moon comes to shine.

Wang wei

Ruth said...

Jack, and the bright moon and the music matter even so.