Millard "Mick" Balzly is stuck between a sponge and soft spot.
The sponge is the water-logged field where he plants grain this time of year. The soft spot - or soft spots, rather - are where not one but four tractors are bogged down.This is one farmer who's truly out standing in his field. There's nothing else he can do until El Nino quits pouring rain on soggy Utah Valley.
"I just hope the sun comes out for 30 days and dries things out," said Balzly, whose family owns 120 acres in the tiny farming community of Benjamin.
The Balzly brothers typically plant grain, alfalfa and corn in the spring. The third-generation farmers use the grain as feed for 90 head of cattle they own, some of which are catching pneumonia because of the cold, damp weather.
Balzly's brother, Ted, took the Kubota tractor out last Saturday to plow a five-acre field just east of I-15 between Spanish Fork and Payson. He was doing fine until he hit one of those soft spots.
The small machine hasn't moved since. In fact, the squishy ground swallows more of it every day.
The Balzlys' John Deere didn't fare any better trying to yank the Kubota out. The harder it pulled, the deeper it sank, leaving two tractors mired in mud.
Neighbor John Lindstrom came to the rescue with his mammoth dual-wheel, four-wheel drive John Deere. Nothing doing. One set of the heavily treaded tires ended up 3 feet deep.Another neighbor, Paul Hansen, chugged over on his vehicle. "I never even got the chain hooked on and I went down," he said.
Hansen's other tractor sits just outside the field avoiding the same fate. Enough was enough after the Swamp Thing sucked in a fourth victim. Even an old Army truck equipped with a winch couldn't muscle the machines out.
The jumble of red, green and orange tractors looks like Tonka toys left in a rain-drenched sandbox.
"It almost makes you want to throw your hands in the air and go the other direction," Balzly says, slogging through the gooey field. He said he feels bad that his neighbors can't use their tractors.
Balzly figures it will take at least another week for the saturated ground to dry out enough for a tow truck to drag the tractors out, provided it doesn't rain again. He probably won't get his corn planted until mid May.
In the meantime, he's maintaining a sense of humor because he says cussing won't do any good.
"Are the ski resorts still open?" he asked. "I was wondering if this was helping the skiers or just raising heck with everybody."
The untimely rain and snow showers are delaying planting along the Wasatch Front as well as slowing sales at greenhouses like Hansen's Plants and Produce.
"There's no customers," said Hansen, the neighbor who tried to pull Balzly's tractors out. "It's hard to sell flowers in a snowstorm."
Hansen, a lifelong farmer and rancher, doesn't put much stock in the El Nino phenomenon. "My birthday is the 27th of March and we've had more days that were rainy than sunny. I've seen lots of wet Aprils. Lots of 'em," he said.
Farmers are a tough lot, and Hansen said they'll live through the soppy spring. He even found a silver lining in those constantly bursting clouds.
"There is one bright side," he said. "We're not irrigating."