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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2090 plowing

Snowmageddon,well thats what they are calling it down east anyway. And the news footage from the last few days does look pretty impressive. Long lines of traffic stalled on the highways in deep snow and people stranded in their vehicles for up to 24 hours. You wouldn't think this could happen in Canada where we are used to this kind of weather.
Not so bad here in Sask. where we received more snow on top of the above normal amount we already had.
It the link works you can watch a short video I shot while plowing snow today. Farmers love to plow, be it soil in the summer or snow in the winter. Theres something satisfying about watching the snow roll off the angled blade up front of the 2090 Case, almost like soil turning over behind the blades of a tillage implement.
Its getting really deep in the fields for the time of year. The oddest thing is that the ground under the snow is not frozen, something I don't ever recall seeing at this time of year. Normally that ground is frozen solid and will support whatever weight we put on it. Today I was breaking through the surface in places and saw mud under the snow.
Maybe there is something to this global warming/climate change talk.
Its certainly a change from this photo I took back in February of 1971. The municipal graders had pushed through with the v plow up front and a wing on the back to angle back the huge ridges of snow. That 39 Ford stood pretty tall but there were places you could not see over the snow ridges when sitting in the drivers seat. Yes, winters were tough when I was a kid....

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Trivial Round, The Common Task

A quotation from one of my ancestors when he was pretty much saying
"business as usual". Thats about how its been here.
My old standby, the Massey Super 90 has been in the workshop for the past
week due to a water pump failure. I was lucky to be able to get a new
(rebuilt) one without too much trouble but I've had to use the bigger 2090
Case and it's dozer blade to put round hay bales out for the cattle which
works ok but not as handy as the front end loader on the Massey.
I've just about got all the pieces put back together to use the Massey
again. Had to burn a little furnace oil to get the shed warm enough to
work on it though.
I was a little shocked to find that magpies had literally pecked a hole
in the back of my poor decrepit old bull the other day. He is too slow
and quiet to shake them off and they just perch on his back and help
themselves. Normally I won't shoot a magpie but this was too much. I was
able to put a patch on his back with some cloth and some carpenter's glue
which I was surprised to see still in place 24 hours later.
The magpies come to eat leftover chop out of the feed trough but any
time I got close enough for a shot they would fly off. I finally set up
a "snipers blind" in the hayloft with just a narrow opening for the rifle
barrel leaving me completely hidden. In a couple of hours I had eliminated
5 of them and thought that was about all. This evening I see there are
at least that many more back again so I guess its back to the shooting
blind tomorrow.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Weather turns nice, things get busy

Well finally the weather gives us a break. Temperature soared to +20F today so I was able to do a bit of catching up on jobs that were not too attractive at below zero temps. Pumping summer diesel out of tractors , adding thinner and pumping it back in. Installing snow blower and spending hours blowing snow off my yard and driveway.
My old reliable Massey Super 90 has developed a major water pump leak so I can't use it to put hay bales out until I fix it. That looks like a difficult job so I removed the front end loader to at least improve the accessibility to the engine. Now I'll have to find an alternative to handle the big bales til the Massey is back on the job. The first option I think will be to install the bale spear on the 3 point hitch of an even older tractor. The 1953 Cockshutt 40 currently has the snowblower on it so I'll have to make that switch. Hopefully we will not get a major blizzard while I have the snowblower off. Just in case we do get snowed in I think I will install the dozer blade on the "new" tractor, my 1980 model 2090 Case. It will push snow clear into next winter and all in the comfort of a heated cab so I guess things will be under control for the time being.
I cheated a bit with this picture, its not from today, or even yesterday. In fact it was taken in 1990. Same yard and tractor (and driver) though.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Whats Wrong With This Picture

No, not the one above showing my neighbour's wheat and my tractor and house. I'm referring to the price of the wheat in the picture. I just got the returns for a semi load and a half of spring wheat and the results are less than inspiring. The gross price per bushel is $3.20 per bushel which I guess is not all that bad for #3 wheat (although I really question the grade as it is sure some nice heavy wheat.
The net price per bushel is a different story. By the time all the deductions such as elevation, rail freight, terminal cleaning, weighing and inspection, are taken into considerations, I end up with the princely sum of $1.70 per bushel. My Dad was getting that much for the same wheat back in the 1960s. True enough, theres a good chance the wheat board will have an interim and final payment coming to us later this year so it may look a little better then. But still, when over half the value of your grain is deducted by the "middle man" it makes me wonder why we are bothering to grow wheat .

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

Remembrance day 2010, the day we remember those who served in the military over the years, both past and present. I missed last years as I was still harvesting. Luckily this year I am finished with harvest and a good thing since we received about a foot of heavy snow in the past 24 hours. So I did not get out today either as the yard is heavy going and highways are not great driving conditions.
The above picture was taken near Oldenburg, Germany, just after the end of WWII. My Dad and a group of the guys from the 18th anti-tank battery sitting around an Archer self propelled gun. No doubt feeling pretty good that the fighting is over and they have survived and looking forward to going home.
My Dad never had a problem discussing his military experience and I wish now I had taken more time to listen or ask questions. He made some life long friends in the 18th anti tank battery and they kept in touch over the years and at reunions.
Dad put down some of his experiences on paper in the last years of his life so we are lucky to have those records along with many photos like this one.
One of these days I hope to put them all together into a book form, just to preserve a little history,, lest we forget.
Going back a little further, heres my grandfather, H. Nevard's wedding photo. 1919, just after he finished his military service in the Canadian army , 195th battalion in WWI.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another Reprieve from Winter

Great news, last week's snow has mostly melted and its nearly record high temperatures here the past few days. Time for us to catch up on a few jobs that need doing before winter sets in.
Unfortunately that snow last week contained a lot of water that will only add to our already saturated soil problems. Every slough is full and running over to the next one. Culverts and creeks are running like spring time, something I don't ever recall seeing at this time of year.
The wet conditions add to the problems of moving grain. I had to use the big Magnum tractor and borrow a neighbour's huge nylon tow rope to pull a loaded semi of wheat this evening after it became stuck in a patch of mud and melting snow.
That picture above shows the results of my unsuccessful attempt to pile some of the flax straw. The soil surface is so wet that the blade pushes mud into the piles which is not acceptable. Mud causes the straw to stick and wrap on the tractor wheels. Guess it will have to wait til spring (or freeze up).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Long Shadows in Tall Stubble

Could this be the beginning of winter? Looking out the window today I
can believe it. Quarter mile visibility in blowing and falling snow
with temperatures a few degrees below freezing are a major contrast to
a few days ago when this picture was taken. I was baling some wheat straw
and the blue sky with the long shadows over the tall yellow wheat stubble was
pretty impressive.
The old Massey baler made good solid bales as the wheat straw was a little on
the tough side.
Its not unheard of for winter to start in late October in Sask. but I'd
sure appreciate another month of the nice weather we have been getting
for the past while. I was extremely lucky to finish harvest just a couple
of days before this weather change. Yes, the last of the wheat is in the
bin, good yield, not so great quality at #3 but maybe the price will
make up for that.
In fact there are still a few acres of canola swath unharvested but due
to the fact that they are surrounded by water I doubt they will be harvested
this fall, or maybe at all.
Now to keep crossing jobs off the list of things to be done before winter.
Haul gravel for the cattle area, finish cleaning out the shelter, repair
the wind damage on the shelter roof, repair the wind damaged fence, finish
hauling the last of the hay bales home, etc,,,. Theres more but you get the

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Days Grow Short

Old song reference, days grow short when you reach September. (Even shorter in October)
Another busy day trying to get this year's long harvest wrapped up. I spent the morning "scouting the swamps" on the trike. This last field of canola has a 25 acre piece that is almost an island.
Inaccessible except by my fat-tired trike I don't see much chance of getting a combine through all that water. Ironic as once I'm in there the canola swaths are on mostly dry ground.

Its a good year for muskrats and geese. Not sure but the old timers had a saying about muskrat houses and how high they were being an indicator of what type of winter is coming. I've never seen their houses this high before.
These geese are having a fine time gathered around this large body of water on another of my fields as they feast on the last green growth of weeds on the summerfallow. Hunters were having a time this morning too as I heard many shotgun blasts from further north.

My last bit of wheat (50 acres) still stands waiting. Its cut off by a small creek which has been up to now, too wet to consider crossing with a combine or to haul grain across. Today its looking a little more hopeful. As there is no bin space left on that farm and no grain movement at present, I spent the afternoon transferring a bin full of wheat to my home yard. 4 loads done and one to go.
The wind was against me today and the poor old IH Loadstar had to work hard with the heavy loads against the strong west wind. Yesterday I was wishing for wind to take the combine dust away as I combined flax but the wind just disappeared and dust hung in the air. Today I would have appreciated a quiet day but no such luck. Until the last load when the wind dropped to a dead calm. Traffic on the gravel road increased to the point that I could hardly see for dust in the approaching darkness.
Just can't seem to get the timing right.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Another Day in the flax

Today's day in the field was on the swather for a change. Cutting flax with the self propelled IH 4000 swather went reasonably well although cold riding out in the open at temps hovering around 60 degrees. I tried warming up my frozen spam sandwiches by the exhaust manifold of the swather engine but it was not too satisfactory, mainly drying out the bread while still partially frozen in the centre.
Only about an hours work left to do but as the sun was down it was getting hard to see the cutting depth. Also hard to see the water patches before I drove into them. I narrowly escaped getting stuck several times that way.
The crop is a little disappointing with many acres that were drowned out and replaced by wild oats and foxtail which seemed to thrive on excess moisture. Bouncing through the ruts I made back in June with the sprayer was really annoying and luckily did not break anything.
Predictions are that flax will hit some really high prices this winter since there is not a big production anticipated from this years harvest. I hope so. Its been a hard crop to work with and we need a little reward.
Heres a picture from the last day of combining flax. Out amongst the swaths of flax and the water that reflects that typical dark blue of autumn skies.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Test Run

Today I finally took a test run with the new (to me) JD 7721 pull type combine that I bought to combine flax with. After fighting for ten years with the Case IH axial flow combine I finally admitted defeat when it came to combining flax . Pull type combines sell cheap now and I figured its rare to find one in this good condition.
I hadn't planned to try it today but after an inauspicious start with the Massey swather involving plugged cutterbars and much wasted time and energy I decided to give the combine a try just to see how it worked on the flax swaths. Smooth and steady are the words that come to mind. The big fluffy swaths just rolled in the feeder and right through the machine without a complaint or hesitation. At one point the big wheels did sink a bit in a muddy spot but the 7130 Magnum up front just kept on pulling steady at 2.8 mph with no hesitation. Just as I suspected, the green weeds in the sample were causing the moisture to test just a point higher than I liked. So I went back to the old IH self propelled swather and swathed a bit more flax before the sun dropped below the horizon and shut me down for the day. Flax is hard to cut at the best of times and when it gets a little dampness from the evening air, its time to quit before expensive parts start breaking.
I'm actually more concerned about wind than rain now. Those big fluffy swaths could start to move if the wind gets wild. 30% chance of showers for Monday. Maybe I should thresh some tomorrow and put it into aeration bins just in case the weather changes?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Flax Now

Swathing flax in this photo today. The old Massey 35 pull type has its work
cut out in this wiry crop. I can travel 3 mph in the heat of the day but
as soon as the sun gets near the horizon the straw seems to get tougher
to cut and the knife will plug frequently until I give up for the day.
I worked for a while with the old IH self propelled which handles it
better but not quite so comfortable for the operator sitting out in the
mosquitos and heat and dust.
Not that I'm complaining about the heat because we sure need it to finish
this harvest. Its not unheard of but this past week and a half of summer-like
heat has been amazing. I've needed to use the air conditioning on the combine
most days. Aeration fans actually dry grain in the bins, rare for October.
Its more likely to be cold and windy this time of the year and I'd be more
accustomed to dressing up in insulated coveralls and winter hat to ride the
open swather instead of a sun hat.
Combining went well and I've gone about as far as I can go til I swath the
flax and its dry enough to harvest. About 50 acres of wheat is unaccessible
due to wet ground, as is another 25 acres of canola. The water on this field
is unbelievable. As bad as it was when I swathed the canola, its far worse
now. There are swaths under the water in this photo. I'm not about to try
driving through this in the combine as I'd likely end up walking back
out of it without my boots.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Finally Harvesting

At last we have had a week of sunny warm weather and I imagine all of Sask. is under a cloud of grain dust as combines thresh grain all day and into the night. No dust from the ground though as there is more mud and water than I have ever worked in before. Many reports of stuck combines and grain carts, broken chains and tow ropes. Even backhoes brought in to dig out combines.
My photo shows what can happen when combining at night and the driver (me) can't tell what he is driving into. I don't normally drive through water with a combine but was amazed to see in the revealing light of day that I had spun through mud and water in the dark. I'm constantly amazed just how much this combine will go through but expect I will find it's limits before harvest is through.
One major breakdown lost me a whole day yesterday when I discovered a cracked wheel rim on the combine. A 5 hour round trip to a combine wrecker and $1800 later I had a "good as new" wheel and tire to replace the cracked rim.
Grain quality looks not too terrible considering the rain its had on it but I hear there is nothing better than a #3 wheat out in the fields now.
I'm probably at about 30% finished . Could be another 3 weeks of work out there if the weather holds out and nothing else breaks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Giants In The Earth

Funny how that quote (its in the bible somewhere) came to mind the
other day when I was digging potatoes and this huge one came out of
the ground. At least I will have a good crop of them.
Its the only harvesting I have done so far this fall as the weather
continues to put us on hold with cold, damp , cloudy weather. There
are a few farmers harvesting but no dry grain. They either own a grain
dryer or have found a buyer for the tough grain. For those that don't know,
tough, or damp grain (high moisture content) is very risky to store on
the farm as it can heat and spoil unless the temperature is quite low.
We did harvest a lot of tough grain last year but it was late in the season
(November) and cool enough to store safely for a while.
"Killing" frost last week put an end to the growing season although the
round leaf mallow (weeds) still look pretty healthy in the garden I noticed.
Temps in the low 20s most of the night, if that doesn't freeze them I don't
know what will.
That frost should also be a good thing to kill the weeds on my weed infested
summerfallow that has been too wet to cultivate.
Meanwhile, keep waiting and keeping busy with maintenance around the farm.
Theres still hope for this crop but each day takes a little of that away.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Worst Field Conditions in 40 Years

Or maybe more than 40 years.
It just keeps getting wetter. Another 2 inches the past week and only a little drying over the weekend. Now this week begins with clouds and threat of more rain.
This photo from 07 shows how bad it was then. None of that water was there in 89 when I started farming the land. This photo shows only a small portion of a slough that stretches over a half a mile long.
It might seem strange to complain about too much water in dryland Sask. but this year that is what we are doing. There are parts of that canola field that are now inaccessible. The quarter originally had 125 cultivated acres on it. This spring I was barely able to seed 90 acres. It has been gradually losing acres due to the ever-expanding sloughs that have nowhere to go except into the next slough.
Water is now running in off the neighbour's field. Nobody's fault, just gravity and natural drainage. Unfortunately this farm has no outlet for the water so it will continue to build up unless our weather patterns change back to dry.
Sask harvest statistics state we are about 13% complete. Normally at this date we would be more like 35% finished.
On the positive side, no worries of field fires, too wet for grasshoppers, can't think of much else at this point.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sick Of The Rain

I am so sick of rain, and mud. I have literally stood in the field (or
sat in my cab) and cursed the rain and the mud that results from it.
In nearly 40 years of farming I don't recall a year so wet. Water levels
in the fields have been rising since the end of April. To the point that
some of the acres we struggled to seed in the mud will now be impossible
to harvest.
I know the old song goes, "the farmer needs the rain" but this is
ridiculous. The excess rain has caused us no end of problems and frustration.
Crop development has been slow but some are finally ready to harvest.
Unfortunately it rains every few days and just about the time the crop
is dry enough to try a sample, another system moves in with rain.
With all the moisture in the system the ground and grass stay wet til late
morning so the combines will not be able to get an early start. Days
are getting shorter and the sun sets early which usually means the grass
(and crop) takes on moisture so we can't combine late either.
Statistically we are about 8% harvested but in a normal year we should
be at the 28% level already. Peas normally harvested the first week of
August are still standing(or laying) in the fields. Every day and every
drop of rain degrades their quality further.
On the positive side, cattle have more grass than they can eat and I have
not had to water the lawn or garden all summer.
In hindsight I guess summerfallowing some of my land was a mistake as
most of it is too wet to work properly, but who knew this was coming
back in April?
Took this photo a week ago on a rare sunny day trying to disk summerfallow.
Yes, the tractor is stuck in the mud.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who Can Stop The Rain

Sept 1 and we should be well into harvest but no such luck. I have
swathed all my canola but the wheat is still a bit on the green side,
and of course wet now as we keep getting rains to re-soak everything.
Field operations are getting more difficult all the time. Sloughs grow
a little bigger and spread farther into the field with every rain. The
ruts I made when stuck in the spring are still full of water.
As the photo shows, I got stuck once swathing canola last week with the
swather which has very little ground clearance. With a little patience
and care I was able to pull the swather out of the mud with the old 730
Case. Reports of stuck combines are coming in. Tractors on standby at
the edges of the field are the rule. I've seen some wheat fields lodged
so bad that they are almost flat to the ground. A good environment for
plant diseases, wonder if the kernels will even fill? It will take patience
and skill to cut those fields.
Late blight has hit most of the tomato gardens around the area although
mine look good (so far). Potatos have pretty well died off, not sure if
its just normal aging or the irish potato famine making a resurgence.
If we ever get rolling its going to be an interesting harvest. Hope I
get a chance to try out the new (to me) John Deere pull type combine.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Another Moose Sighting

Life is always interesting here on the farm. Working a little
sumerfallow today (which is extremely difficult this summer) and suddenly
I was not alone in the field. Spotted this moose about a quarter mile
away and quickly took a few pics. Moose are not all that common around here
and still cause me to jump for my camera whenever I spot one. This one
had antlers so is the first male I have seen so far. I don't think I
will go wandering around that field on foot anymore as I would not care
to meet up with one of these big guys.
The earlier mentioned hay is now mostly in bales. Borderline too damp but
I think they should be ok. The last little bit was definitely too damp
as I found out when the baler began making a terrible rattling noise. By
the time I got it shut down and looked inside I was already mentally
composing an ad, "For sale, New Holland 847 baler for parts only" as I
feared it was hopelessly damaged internally. After blowing the dust and
chaff out and examining the twisted metal I now have hopes that I can
repair the damage myself just by disassembling and straightening a few
Good thing I have most of
the baling done already.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Computer Crashes, Etc.

Why do I have to learn the hard way to back up everything worth saving on a computer?
The drive became unstable on this machine last weekend and finally refused to run windows.
I was ready to replace it as it has been giving me hassles for quite some time. But I decided to
try and fix it myself by re-installing windows. It worked but of course everything that I did not have backed up was lost. I am not sure and maybe don't want to know just what all I lost but have some work ahead of me replacing it. I've had an external hard drive for backup for a year now but just did not get around to backing up everything I should have.
I managed to find my way back to some of my familiar sites, including this one, red power, newagtalk
and a few others. Its almost like being "born again" with an almost empty computer and having to re-locate things.
As usual I'm working against the weather. The photo shows some of the hay I cut last Saturday.
Normally it would be dry enough to bale (or already baled) by now but it got rained on a time or two since I cut it. Not sure how much as I don't have a guage at this farm which is 5 miles from home. And 5 miles is a long way when it comes to rainfall discrepancies.
The hay in the photo is unbelievably rank and green. It grows on an old cattle shelter area very rich in nutrients and produces a heavy swath that resists the best efforts of the sun and wind to dry it. I've turned all the swaths with the hay rake yesterday and was hoping to bale it Saturday
But now with possible showers forecast for tonight I might just push it up to this afternoon.
Its pushing my luck to bale up hay that is too damp but its a gamble leaving it out there to almost surely get rained on again and lose more quality. Hopefully it will be just light showers, less than a millimetre for those that favour the metric system. (Not me)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

Its an old expression my Dad often used and today I took it literally. We have had a few days without rain and I swathed some hay on Saturday. Drying well on the surface but underneath the hay was still green and damp so today I used the wheel rake to turn all the swaths over.
Working on my grandfathers farm I often think of the differences in how I make hay and how he used to do it. While I might complain about the mosquitos I realize it used to be a lot worse. A team of horses on an old ground drive mower cutting maybe 6 feet. A steel seat that must have been extremely uncomfortable and left a long lasting impression on your backside.
They would also use a horse powered rake to gather the hay into rows, then out with the pitchforks to "coil" the hay into small , weatherproof stacks to dry further.
Some days later they'd head back to the field with wagons (hayracks) and horses to load the hay on and haul it to the yard to stack for winter's use. They were some tough individuals to endure the long hot days in the hayfields each summer.
Tomorrow I will sit in the air conditioned cab listening to CBC talk radio while I roll up hay into round bales that can then be loaded by front end loader onto a trailer for the long (5 miles) drive home. We have come a long way in the way we handle hay.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Black Skies, Green and Yellow Fields

No surprise here, it rained again today. The black sky in the photo was indicative of the thunderstorm approaching. Listening to the radio reports of a state of emergency in NorthBattleford after this afternoon's torrential rain and hail storm had me a little concerned that we were in for some of the same.
It turned out to be only a brief rain shower. Still enough to send me home from the field. This summerfallow was too wet for good working even before it rained. I figured with a little tillage I could maybe help dry up the surface at
least. With chem fallow there is no weed growth to take up the excess moisture so the fields do not dry much and could still be un-seedable by next spring.
In hindsight I should probably have seeded some kind of crop on all the chem fallow and take whatever grows. With all the violent storms around this summer I'm starting to think my best investment might be additional hail insurance

Monday, July 19, 2010

Country Road Taking me Home

The photo shows the view down the long hood of the old 730 Case as I head home for the evening after a short day in the field.
Time is flying by and I see its been a while since I updated here. Did I mention I bought a new (to me) combine? I'm sure I've gone on at length in the past about the tribulations of trying to harvest flax with my IH combine so I won't dwell on it. The popular belief is that John Deere conventionals handle flax much better so I found a really nice 22 year old pull type green machine to combine flax this year and save my sanity. Now if the weather co-operates and the crop survives without hail or frost we will see how that goes.
We have managed to dodge the bullets of hail storms and tornados so far but other areas of the province have not been so lucky, losing not only crops but homes and machinery.
Haying is slow going as I held off cutting every time rain was forecast, and that was pretty frequent. I did manage to get maybe ten percent of my winter's supply cut and baled so far but theres a nice crop of it on the other farm that should have been cut a week ago. I spent half a day yesterday getting the swather out of its storage shed in hopes of cutting today. Now rain is forecast for tomorrow so I guess I'm on hold again.
I'm sure I"ve spent more hours on the lawn tractor cutting the yard than I have actually
cutting hay for winter's cattle feed.
The heavy rains have produced a great crop of hay but zero saskatoons for some reason.
Flowering canola fields are yellow and theres literally hundreds (thousands?) of acres all around me.
My flax is acres of blue, except for the acres of yellow that were drowned out by excess moisture. Flax acres are way down this year so consequently the price is way up. Nearly 50%
higher than what I sold mine for this spring. Interesting...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Under Stormy Skies

I took this picture of the stormy skies to the south of me last evening. These thunderstorms make for some impressive sky photos.
Summer 2010 is starting out even wetter than spring. Its been a losing battle. Ground that I could work in April is now either under water or too muddy to drive through. Things usually work the opposite in a normal year. I've managed to get mostly caught up with crop spraying by working in far less than ideal conditions. Some days were too windy but I tried to avoid working beside any of the neighbour's susceptible crops. Makes for poor relations.
The ground was always too muddy but I pressed on with 4wd and managed to drag the sprayer through without incident. The ruts I made last week now have water in them from recent rains.
I finally realized that the destruction in the yard while I was away Friday was caused by a hail storm. Broken tree leaves, satellite dish cable and multiple dents in the metal roof of my porch finally clued me in. Strangely enough I can't see any crop damage. Still one more field to check though. To show just how local these storms can be, I was only 8 miles away spraying a crop when this thunder/hail storm hit my yard and there was nothing fell where I was working.
Between crop spraying and thunderstorms we were able to get all last year's spring wheat hauled to Viterra. Six semi loads that would have taken me a week with my old IH but only a long afternoon with today's semis and grain vac. Expensive but time is money too.
All the unseeded acreage in the country is starting to affect grain prices as the market begins to realize there may not be enough grain out there to satisfy the demand. Thats good news for anyone with a good crop growing or old grain in the bins.
Grass is growing like crazy and theres a tremdous crop of hay and pasture out there but I hardly dare start cutting until this wet weather eases up a bit. Those heavy swaths of grass will take forever to dry and will likely rot before they can be baled.
Mosquitos are becoming a real problem for any outdoor activities.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fencing, spraying weeds, etc.

Thats my Dad fixing fence back in the hot dry summer of 88. I thought about him yesterday while replacing some fence posts.
Most of the time I will use the tractor and front end loader to push the posts into the ground but where the fence goes
through trees and bush it is impossible to get the tractor near so I do it the old fashioned way, with a crow bar and
"post maul" as Dad used to call it. Thats about a 12 pound hammer on a long handle and it will drive fence pickets deep
into the ground, but it takes a good man to swing it. Dad would hold the post steady with his left hand and swing that big
hammer with his right arm. Once the post was lined up he would go at it with both hands on the hammer. Smooth steady swings
using the weight of the hammer, not so much the strength of his arms to drive the picket into the ground.
Fence repair, not one of my favourite farm jobs but one that has to be done if there are cattle.
It was a good day for it, cool and cloudy eventually turning into a fine rain that would soak you through before you realized
just how much it was raining.
Its been a rare day that we haven't had rain lately it seems. Producing lush green pastures for the cattle but causing problems
for those still trying to plant their crops. I was lucky enough to finish up a week ago but am now trying to catch up on
crop spraying. Weeds grow well too when it rains this much. Unfortunately all that moisture makes it "interesting" trying
to spray the crops. I've had to put the big front wheel assist tractor normally used for heavy tillage, onto the sprayer. Even
with that I've been close to stuck in the mud a time or two. Theres some pretty nasty ruts left behind me which will provide
some rough rides for the swather come harvest time.
Its clouding up in the west again and more showers are predicted for tonight and tomorrow. Looks like the sprayer will get
a day or so off.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Planting Progress

Seeding moves along steadily on the farm. Until today. The intermittent showers of the morning turned to steady, at times heavy rain. By noon the air seeder was digging up drier soil than what was on the surface so decided to call it quits. Kind of ok to have a short break after the past couple of weeks of non stop tractor work. We have had some incredible warm, almost record breaking temps which really dried up the surface of fields and started everything growing.
I'm way ahead of the provincial average, which is about 38% complete last time I heard. I'm about 90% finished. With the rain we have had today and whats forecast for the next day or so I don't think I'll get the crops all in the ground by the 24th. Thats always been a sort of target date for finishing seeding crops here.
The John Deere anhydrous cultivator worked well and survived some of my incredible rocky ground without breakdown. A leaking exhaust manifold on the tractor caused some concern til we discovered what it was and decided I could go on working with it as is for now. For about the second time in the 14 years I've owned this Magnum tractor I got it stuck bad enough that I had to unhitch the anhydrous cultivator to get out of the mud. With the aid of a huge nylon tow rope borrowed from a neighbour I was able to extricate it from the mud with no harm done, other than time lost and frustration at the incredibly wet ground on this particular field.
This picture of the old Loadstar unloading fertilizer into the air seeder was taken one morning a week ago. Less than a half hour later the truck was stuck in the mud on a wet hillside. Sometimes trying to take a shortcut is just a waste of time and effort and I should have known better.
My "garden patch" sits un-worked growing weeds as I have had no time to do anything with it. Seeding crops takes top priority right now so the garden vegetables will just have to wait a few more days. My "lawn" remains untouched with the mower yet this spring and it is looking more like a hayfield every day. Might get a chance to cut it before the fields dry up enough to get back in the tractor. If not, no big deal. I don't think the neighbours will complain.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Theres A Storm Across The Valley

With apologies to John Denver for borrowing that line from his song, "Rocky Mountain High", this was the scene out of my office window yesterday about 5:30.
ITs one of the benefits of this line of work that I get a constantly changing view through those windows in the cab of my big red tractor. Yesterday's dark Western sky made a nice backdrop for the special bright green shade that the poplar leaves show for their first stage of opening. The new worked black soil beside the weathered stubble of last year's canola crop. Its one of the many reasons I never get bored with this farming business (or lifestyle).
Its been a series of starts and stops trying to get the anhydrous applied in preparation for seeding the crop. Its a week ago today that I started and I should be finished with that job by now but recurring rain and snow days have stalled me twice now. Close to an inch of rain on the weekend and now another half inch last night.
Its true, rain is so necessary to produce a crop but first we have to get that crop planted. And there is a limited "window of opportunity" to get that job done. Most crops need around 100 days of frost free weather to reach maturity so we like to get them in the ground by the end of May so they will be ready to harvest in September.
The rain will surely make the grass grow which will keep the cattle (and me) happy for the summer.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Busy Times

Obviously I have been a little busy lately and hardly keeping up with the blogs I follow let alone writing. Today it is raining so I am not in the field. I started in with the anhydrous applicator (see the JD 1610 in previous postings) on Tuesday evening and have made pretty good time when I am actually in the field. Various holdups and complications have kept my total acres down to about 300 so far with maybe another 300 to go.
Rain shut me down Thursday morning but the ground was dry enough to work by noon. Just before heading out I checked on a complaining cow in the pasture and found her 2 day old calf looking pretty hollow and obviously not had anything to drink. Luckily for me she is the oldest and quietest cow on the farm and patiently followed me as I herded the calf to the barn. A combination of a slow learning, long legged calf and a cow with teats that hang nearly to the ground made a combination that were not going to work without a little help. Thanks to my long suffering sister in law who I call on in emergencies like this we were able to take care of that situation, temporarily anyway.
It made for a late start on the anhydrous cultivator and after ten minutes I found a flat tire. The resulting dissambly, running to two towns to find a new tire, various other adjustments meant I did not get rolling again til 7:30 in the evening. I was able to almost empty the tank by working til just after midnight. The first raindrops were beginning to fall when I got out to check on a leaking anhydrous hose. I figured I'd call it a day even though there was only a half hours work left in that field. It was a long time since dinner, or lunch as some call it. 5 miles home to a late supper (or early breakfast) at 1:00 am. The cow and calf appeared to be fine and this cat seemed to be pretty friendly too. Rain is falling, grass is growing, a day of rest on the farm.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

One More Step Forward

All the pieces are finally coming together. This picture (taken April 24) shows the first day in the field for the JD 1610 anhydrous cultivator we have been working on. Except for a few leaks that needed sealing up it seems to be working out pretty well. Those narrow Bourgault NH3 knives with the carbide tips are easy pulling and don't disturb the soil much. Someone commented that those carbide tipped knives will still be working long after we are retired or have shuffled off this mortal coil. I hope they do last as they were quite expensive.
Unfortunately the weather has put a stop to field operations today with some light snow and temps down near the freezing mark. Kind of nice to have a day off for a change and of course a little rain will do us a lot of good. Grass and trees are starting to show some green but the cows still come home to eat hay out of the feeder after a day of foraging the field and pasture. Not enough grass growth to keep them satisfied just yet.
We are pretty much on schedule for this time of year. With a little luck and a few breaks (not breakdowns) I have hopes of getting the crop seeded by the usual time.
I've already put in a row of early potatoes in the garden. They probably won't show any leaves for weeks but at least its a start.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More spring preparations

Spring marches on. With almost record breaking warm temperatures it feels more like May than April this past week. No seeding going on in the immediate area that I have noticed but then it is still a little early. We know that Sask weather can lull us into a sense of security with beautiful weather and then turn around and hit us with a late spring snowstorm or frost and we might regret planting crops too early.
It has been great condtions for working on the big green machine, a John Deere 1610 chisel plow that we are installing an anhydrous fertilizer kit on. Its a lot of work and expense but at current rental rates this machine should pay for itself in about 3 years. And by that I mean the rental rates we won't have to pay. After over ten years of renting anhydrous applicators and paying as high as $3 an acre for the use of them, it will be nice to have a machine of our own that is always always available and kept in a good state of repair. Some of the rental stuff tends to see some hard use and a lack of maintenance.
Hopefully next week will see us putting anhydrous into the ground in preparation for planting. With a little luck ,,, seeding the first week of May.
As usual, plans subject to change due to weather changes. The cattle guys (including me) would like to see a little rain to get the grass growing, but not enough to seriously delay seeding crops

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Long And Winding Road

The long and winding road. Well, by Sask. standards it was winding in this picture although probably considered pretty straight compared to some. This drop down the Lumsden Hill into the Qu'appelle valley provides some relief from the sometimes monotonous flat terrain leading up to it. Plenty of traffic on this 4 lane blacktop which makes it really interesting when towing a wide farm implement behind a 3/4 ton diesel pickup. Something like 5 hours at 24 miles per hour so we got to see all sorts of drivers out there ranging from cautious and courteous to impatient and selfish but thankfully we made the trip with no mishaps. The cracked implement tires held up for the entire trip much to my surprise.
Weather was beautiful. I guess sometimes you get the breaks. Now with a little luck we will have it field ready within a week

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Out On The Praire

Spent a few hours harrowing the cattle pasture on this beautiful sunny spring day. Saw the first crocus of spring, not visible in this picture though. This old prairie wool is unbroken land that has never seen the plough, or any other tillage for that matter. Its undisturbed since the days when the bison roamed here. Only my cattle and a few gophers to disturb the surface. That old threshing machine in the background is from my grandfather's time. Its just an ornament now. A handy back scratcher for the cattle too. Fields are still muddy but it won't be long before spring planting begins. Today was just a warm-up.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Moose And Etc.

A couple of ungulates. Ok, they are better known as moose but I've always wanted a chance to use that term to describe hoofed mammals. I was inspecting some of my fields on a sunny April afternoon and spotted 2 figures that were too big to be deer and there were no cattle in the area. There have always been reports of sightings of moose in the area but never by me, until today. This appeared to be a cow with a calf from last year judging by their sizes. There is plenty of wild land for them to roam on over there and hopefully they won't trample down too much of the crop this summer.
It was a good weekend for people in the roofing repair business. Wild and crazy winds wreaked havoc on shingles and metal roofing and siding Friday and Saturday. Streets are littered with bits of broken shingles and tree branches. No precpitation to go with it although there was snow in the north. What little benefit that might have been was mostly cancelled out by the fact that the wind blew most of it off the fields into fence lines and hedges. Some fields in the west are so dry at this point that farmers are not planning to seed them as there would be insufficient moisture to germinate. It could all change in the next day or so. Thats the nature of farming. We are at the mercy of nature.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Down By 11 Up By 1

This picture shows the remains of the herd, only 7 head.
Today I finally got a neighbour in with cattle trailer to sell some of the herd. I was up to 18 head which is the most cattle I have had on this farm in years. I knew the pasture was going to be hard pressed to keep them fed this summer even if it rains . And its been a dry spring so far, still feeding hay bales.
I hate loading cattle. I think its as stressful on me as it is on the cattle. Even the annoying complaining ones that I don't like, I feel a little guilty luring them into the shelter/penning area with oat chop and hay.
I'd planned to send 10 head but one extra old cow got in to the pen area so I decided to let her go if there was room on the trailer. I've kept back 7 head including a lame decrepit Bull that may or may not be able to perform his duties this summer. But he's been such a good quiet old bull all his life that I figure I will let him live out whatever days he has left on this farm. Same with that ten year old cow who is so quiet and never given me a moments trouble in all her life. Not to mention the many good calves she has produced.
Just before we started loading I noticed a 2 year old heifer looking like calving. She wandered off out into the pasture and I found her later with a new calf. So I am down by 11 and up by 1 today. Should be an easier summer

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nothing But Blue Sky

March going out like a lamb? Although the wind was a little lion-like it was definitely a beautiful spring day as this picture shows. Only a little snow left on the north side of hills and bushes. Melt water fills some of the low spots in the field but much less than normal for this time of year. Concerns of a drought already are being heard with predictions of poor crops and grasshopper infestations eating much of what does grow in the fields. We are still close to a month away from normal planting time and theres plenty of time for spring rains yet to change the outlook. The old farmers used to say, "I've never lost a crop in March yet". And its true.
I took this photo out of my window at mid day. Not a kodachrome but it might make you think "all the worlds a sunny day" as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel used to say.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Looking like Spring

First calf of 2010, well spring is definitely advancing here in the frozen north. That little calf born last week had a few cold days but should be fine now that it is warming up. Saw 50 degrees on the thermometer today so the snow is going fast, not that we had as much as a usual winter anyway. Concern is already being raised as to the shortage of snowmelt water. Could be a dry spring. Not necessarily a disaster as we can still get rains after spring seeding to produce a crop.
I'm in the midst of hauling wheat to the cleaning plant for cleaning. With a little luck it will be going into the ground in about a month.
In spite of all the uncertainty concerning the GMO/Triffid flax situation I have spoken for some certified Sorel flax seed in hopes of growing a field of flax this year. Its a newer variety from the Bethune I have been growing but according to what I hear it is still not a sure thing that it will be free of gmo traces.
Flax prices continue their downward spiral. Glad I sold at $8.50 when I had the chance as theres no telling when or if the price will improve. Canola still pretty flat with just minor ups and downs in the price. Not enough to open up the canola bins on this farm just yet.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Coyotes and gophers

Canis latrans, or as we know it, the wiley coyote. They have been in the news more lately. In response to complaints by livestock producers our provincial government put a bounty on them of $20 a head for this winter. Of course it is controversial. The city dwellers who see the cute little wild dogs out in the country think its a bad idea to put a bounty on them. Livestock producers who have had ongoing problems with coyote predations on their calves and lambs are more in favour obviously.
If I was losing my animals and my income to coyotes I would be hoping for a solution too.
I took the picture of this little pup a few summers back while I was out hunting gophers. It would have been easy to shoot but I'm hoping the coyote will eventually help me out a little by catching some of the gophers that are causing me problems. I could probably live with their excavations and relentless appetite for the grass in my cattle pasture but these gophers do not repsect a barbed wire fence. "My gophers" have been travelling into the neighbours crops and chewing the growing plants down to ground level which is not acceptable. So poison and 22 shells are used to keep the gopher population down to tolerable levels.
Hopefully the surviving coyotes will help with the gopher control too, and not come into my yard to pick up an easy chicken dinner.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On Growing Grain

I took this picture a couple of weeks ago when I had the trucks come in to haul out my wheat contract. Those two big semis moved over 4000 bushels down the road in 4 loads in a short day. Everything worked just the way its supposed to and even the weather co-operated. I was glad to see that tough grain moved as it is always risky storing grain at high moisture. Some of this tested as high as 17% which is 2.5% above dry. Thanks to our extreme cold winter weather we can get away with holding that grain through the winter without spoilage, usually.
Interesting to review the settlement tickets though. Our Canadian wheat board advertises a price of $4.67 per bushel for that #1 low protein. Sounds pretty good at first but looking a little closer we see that the terminal wants 38 cents a bushel for elevation. Another 15 cents a bushel for cleaning ( I suppose they give the screenings away?). Then the CWB charges 78 cents a bushel to move that grain to its final destination. Not done yet there is another 22 cents deduction for "FAF", not sure what that is. And being that it is tough (damp) grain the terminal charges 11 cents a bushel for drying. Just to confuse you further, the terminal pays me 15 cents a bushel to help offset the trucking charges so that puts my net at $3.18 per bushel.
Based on what the wheat board finally sells the grain for, we will receive a final payment next December/January but its anybody's guess at this point how much or how little it will be.
Just as a point of interest, that $3.03 will not buy a gallon of car gas today but it might just about cover a gallon of farm diesel fuel. I haven't bought any lately.
In my early days of farming (1971) wheat was being bartered off for $1 a bushel as there was a glut of wheat on the market. That bushel of wheat would buy 4 gallons of farm fuel at that time.
Just something to think about as I am trying to decide what to plant this spring.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Love Letters from a century ago

April 26/1910

My Dear Horrie

I was very pleased to receive your nice letter this morning and to hear that you were all well. I hope you are still having nice
weather so that you can get the seed in alright. We are having very showery weather here at present. Father has finished
putting the seed corn in and today he has been drilling beet or (mangold) and then will only have the swedes to drill.
Does your cow give much milk? We got 68 pounds of butter this week which is the most we have ever had. We are going to
take it to the town tomorrow but there will be too much to carry all one time. We get about 56 eggs in a day.
It was 4 years ago yesterday since you went away from here. Annie went back to London last Saturday. She had a nice
little change as she stayed here three weeks. Herbert was very good to spare her for so long wasn't he?.
Louie and little Ethel are at Lexden.They went a fortnight ago last Saturday. I don't know when they are coming back again.
The Suffolk Agriculture show is going to be held at Saxmundham this year in June and in July the Essex Yeomanry and the
Essex and Suffolk. Cyclists are coming to camp on Hurts Hall Park, Saxmundham so I expect it will seem quite a busy place.
Is there any flowers out on the prairie yet? The cowslips are out in the meadows now. I am sending you one just for a little
remembrance of the last time you were here. I wonder how long it will be before I see you again. I don't think I shall forget you
even if it is lots of years and now I think I will bring my letter to a close as it is getting rather late.
Hoping you are all quite well. With love to all and my best and truest love to you Dearest, I remain your everloving Alice

Yet another in the collection of letters mailed between my grandfather and grandmother, Horace Nevard and Alice Hall.
Horace had sailed off to Canada to take up a homestead in Sask. in 06 while Alice remained working on her parents farm at
Saxmundham, Suffolk.How difficult must it have been for him to sail half way around the world not knowing when they might
see each other again? And it was to be another 6 years before they met again when
Horace returned to England in 1916 in the Canadian
Expeditionary Force , soon to see action in some of the big battles of World War I in France. It must have been a stressful time to be separated
all those years , briefly re-united and then separated again by war , now knowing if he would survive. Luckily he did and they were married in 1919, soon to return to his homestead in Saskatchewan.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mystery Photo

Couldn't resist this vintage postcard of my home town for sale on ebay recently. I've collected a few vintage "elevator shots" over the years but this one was unique in that it appeared to have some sort of parade or procession down main street. It took a bit of research through history books and other old photos. I couldn't see any cars newer than the early thirties. What few trees were visibile had no leaves showing so it had to be spring or fall. Finally it was the sign or banner high on the lead float that gave it away when I found a photo taken from another angle in the local history book. It was the Jubilee celebration for King George V and Queen Mary. An event that was apparently celebrated in many towns and villages across the country on that day, May 6, 1935.
Interesting comments written on the back by the photographer give few clues..........
"Taken from top of an elevator. God it was dusty.....but anything for art(?) Its a procession in commemoration of an old settler- or somepin' Anyway, this is all the Llptonians-such a crowd- and I am going to have to live with them!!! "

I wonder who wrote that brief comment? Obviously someone who was new to the town as they did not seem to know what the parade was all about.
New grain elevator manager? Not likely as I doubt they would complain about the grain dust which was a daily occurence in the old elevators.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Charles and Kate

Charles and Kate. Or to be precise, Karl Hobeteder and Kathleen Mary Goff.
This studio portrait of them was taken in England sometime after they met and before they came to Canada.
Kate had worked as a domestic and parlour maid in various hotels and resorts along the south coast of England in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Karl , originally from Austria also worked in the service industry in hotels and resorts and this is likely where they met.
In 1910 Kate travelled to Canada to visit her brothers, Tom and Alf Goff who had taken up homesteads in the new province of Saskatchewan. Karl travelled with her and they arrived in July. They had plans of travelling on further to B.C. but ended up staying with Tom on his homestead and were married in December of 1910.
Karl and Kate took on a farm of their own less than a mile from her brothers and never did get to B.C. It was a hard life and I don't think they ever again could afford such nice clothes as in the above picture. Kate died in 1943, ten years before I was born. "Uncle Charlie" lived on until 1963 on the same farm with the assistance of his 2 daughters, Grace and Ivy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Country Guide magazine cover from March of 57. Money was none too plentiful when I was a kid growing up in the 50s and 60son a Sask. farm. But there was always reading material and several farm publications kept us well supplied with pictures and text if we cared to read them. For farmers the Country Guide, Western Producer, Free Press Weekly and Family Herald were almost a religion. The weather forecast page was one of the main attractions in the Country Guide to see what the coming month had in store in the way of weather, good or bad. Market outlooks and advertising for all that nice shiny new farm equipment that we could never afford still made interesting reading.
The covers were always impressive. This cover makes me realize just how long ago 1957 was.
The scene taken at a grain elevator is typical of the time. A couple of farmers up on the truck load of grain discussing something relating to the grain growing business no doubt. That one ton R series IH truck backed up to the elevator is catching the clean grain as it comes out of the grain cleaner. Preparations for spring planting which would be just around the corner on this warm sunny day in March. No leaves on the trees yet but the first crocus flowers might just be showing on the odd patch of unbroken prairie.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Flax Follies

This Triffid flax problem just won't go away. For those that don't know, Triffid flax was a genetically modified variety of flax introduced in the 1990s but never officially released to the public for production. A couple of months ago some alert testers detected some minute traces of the Triffid gene in a Canadian shipment of flax to Europe. That pretty well closed the doors to anymore of our flax being sold to the European market.
The latest solution seems to be testing all flax grown here to see if it contains the Triffid gene. The cost of that test is about $110 and guess who pays for that test? The farmer of course. Apparently we will not be allowed to deliver any flax for sale unless it shows a clean bill of health (below the benchmark figure for triffid content.)
Luckily mine has tested negative although the test did indicate triffid genes at a very low concentration. Where did that come from? I have no idea. This flax was grown from seed I saved last year. That previous crop was grown from seed purchased from a neighbour and his was originally bought as certified seed so one would assume it was gmo free. And what is the problem with gmo flax anyway? Nobody has ever come out and showed conclusive evidence that gm flax is a health hazard at any level.
Flax prices have lost ground since this event . I was selling for over $11 per bushel last winter, now I would be very lucky to see $9 for the same flax. This is not what we needed after the horrendous task of harvesting the crop. Flax is difficult at the best of times but this year (09) it was nearly impossible for me. Actually it was impossible and I was only able to get a small percentage through my combine and had to hire a neighbour to do the rest.
My suspicions are that this triffid nonsense is just an artificial trade barrier in an effort to drop the price of our flax. We are seeing similar shenanigans from the Chinese who suddenly have decided they will not buy any of our canola that contains blackleg. Now blackleg is a fairly common disease of canola that has no effect on the seed or to human health and I would guess that almost every field of canola would have at least a small percentage of blackleg in it.
Now we have the rest of the winter to think about what to grow in the spring. A link to what other farmers are talking about.........

Saturday, January 9, 2010

60 Years Ago

This picture from about 1950 shows my Dad beside a load of firewood destined to heat the house for the winter. Poplar logs, all cut by axe, loaded on the sleigh by hand, and unloaded the same way. The old saying was true, "wood warms you several times". Much handling involved from start to finish. Usually a group of neighbours would gather to help saw the poles into stove wood lengths.
On a cold quiet winter night it was nice to listen to the occasional snap of sparks from the stove and feel the heat radiating off the big old cast iron cook stove. Kind of made all the work worth while.