Farm Diary

I’ve heard and read about the “dust bowl” years here on the prairie, about hoppers that could clean off a 160-acre field in a day, about horses and cows forced to eat the prickly Russian thistles because they were the only green thing growing anywhere, about the farmers who took jobs in the northern “parkland” part of the province to earn enough to get by for another year. So I made up this diary.

Prairie Farm Girl’s Diary — Summer 1934

A west wind blew the hoppers in
two days ago.
They cleaned the wheat crop
clear down to the ground
yesterday.
Dad went north to a lumber camp
after seeding
so we can afford our grub and heat
next winter
and feed for the horses and cow –
unless it rains.
A stream of clouds went over
last night
on their way to rain somewhere else,
maybe tomorrow.
Tom and I are minding the place
all summer
while Dad’s away and Mom’s in a dither
about all the dust.
She says we’re leaving this drought-deviled land
soon as Dad gets back.

.

Image: MonikaP — Pixabay

Monday’s Clean Scene

Good morning everyone! Here in Sask it’s a dazzling Monday morning — the perfect opportunity to stay home and enjoy family life or visit friends online. And we have some great writing prompts to work with:

Ragtag Daily Prompt: TOUGH
Your Daily Word Prompt: CAPABLE
Word of the Day Challenge: TRIUMPH
Fandango’s FOWC: HYSTERICAL

I can picture farmers all over this region looking outside and smiling. That which we have longed for all summer — more precipitation — has come to pass by the bucket-full. Above and beyond our fondest wish. I hear that a number of highways were shut down yesterday because of the blizzard, so it isn’t only our area that’s enjoying the bounty. Now the wild wind has ceased, the sun has come out and we can enjoy the brilliance of our scenery.

This is perfect COVID weather, you could say: a great opportunity to self-isolate. All across the province schools will be closed today, repurposed as polling stations for municipal elections. So children don’t have to straggle to school through the snowbanks; teachers and school bus drivers can put their feet up until the road have been properly cleared. Yesterday’s wind straight from the north piled a big bank of snow, maybe a metre deep, right in front of our garage door, so we’re not going anywhere very soon, either.

Getting about will be tough for some this morning, but prairie folk are a hardy lot and we now have equipment more than capable of blasting through snowbanks. Our son-in-law and his little crew are occupied at that very task this morning. The Dept of Highways crews will be on the job, too. School yards will be cleared so voters can get to polls.

Thinking of the homesteaders who settled this land, a storm like this might have shut them down for weeks. Yesterday, as I tried to shove our outside screen door open with a foot of hard-packed snow piled against it, I thought of one account I read. Early settlers soon discovered that your cabin door must open inward — because, depending on the direction of the wind, a storm may pack five or six feet of snow against it! Some folks with “a delicate mental state” became hysterical finding themselves embalmed in a white cocoon.

One of the Neatby family tells in his memoir about how, the morning after a snowstorm, they tried to open their cabin door and found the storm had closed it tight with several feet of hard-packed snow. They managed to shove it open just enough to scoop handfuls from that wall of snow, melting them on the stove. Thus they worked most of the day, inch by inch, until it was open far enough that they could get out. After a moment to celebrate their triumph, the boys floundered through the snowbanks to feed their livestock. Yes, those were tough times, but most homesteaders persevered. The options were few back then.

Before the settlers came, the natives found a sheltered valley where they could set up their teepees and relax until spring came again. They didn’t have the rush-rush mindset of the Europeans and were content to wrap up in buffalo robes, sit and visit around the fire, tell stories. I wonder if they ever had election results to discuss? Talking about the weather would get old fast.

No car, no phone, no internet. No housework to speak of. No novel, notebook, or jigsaw puzzle. I fear most of us would go bananas, crackers, completely bonkersbarmy, the Brits would say — after a couple of days of this kind of relaxation. 🙂

Saturday Chat

Yesterday morning, standing in front of our south picture window letting the sun warm me, I had to think, “How the worm has turned!” Just last week all the drapes were drawn and we were trying hard to stay cool, the temp outside being 35̊ C. But yesterday morning the house was actually chilly.

After a few cooler days, I understand the worm is turning back again. I’m writing this at 2pm Saturday and it’s quite warm outside. Thursday afternoon we had a wild storm with 3/10″ of rain; in spite of that two hummers have decided to stick with us – our generous feeder, that is – for awhile longer. There’s one I think of as “old mother hummer” because she looks like one. When it comes to feeder-rights she’s obviously at the top of the pecking order; she sits on it like she owns it. I’m thinking this is the same hummer that stayed into Sept last year.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word today is GLITCH. Which reminds me, how are you all making out with the new Block–Ed. Still encountering glitches when you try to post? I still miss the one-shot Block & Justify feature. Doing it paragraph by paragraph is tedious, but it works. Now, if only I could see that is has worked, but that doesn’t show up in the draft. On the other hand, I really like the way I can shuffle paragraphs around with a click, click on the little arrow.

For me this week had a unique glitch in it when I discovered a lump appearing where it shouldn’t and we had to go to the hospital Wednesday morning. Thankfully it was never painful, just out of place, as hernias are. I was thinking this may require a quick minor surgery and went prepared, but the doctor was able to re-place it without too much distress to me. Now I need to do some exercises to strengthen the muscle that should be holding it in place. Fellow couch potatoes, be warned!

One good thing came of it, though. Sitting several hours in Emergency waiting to see a Dr, I finished the e-book I was reading. And when I got home, in the course of taking things easy, I finished a couple more. I’m a bad one for having several books on the go at a time. OCD? Just read another Jeeves and Wooster tale, Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, trying not to laugh too hard.

Covid-19 cases continue to decline here after the last round of fresh ones. To date Saskatchewan has had 1,165 cases, with1,548 recovered and 24 deaths. Out of a population of 1.182 million, so thankfully for us Covid-19 hasn’t been the “grim reaper” some folks were predicting. Most everyone’s wearing a mask now and some stores like Walmart & Costco insist. With my hearing problems, I’ll be so glad when a vaccine is found and we can talk face-to-face again. I can’t imagine how deaf people are making out!

The fields not combined are all golden, but a lot of fields are just stubble now as harvest continues, seemingly unhampered by Thursday’s storm. The crops have looked really lush this summer; now fat round bales are appearing in fields all around us.

And that’s about all the news from our small corner. Take care, everyone, and I hope you all have a great weekend.

Harvest Begins on the Prairies

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was HARVEST

For me this was a very timely prompt. Yesterday on our way to Saskatoon we passed the first field being combined in this area. A combine was chomping its way through a field of lentils. An article in the Western Producer includes a good picture of a field of lentils being harvested. And here’s another from Simpson Seeds.

Low-growing and dusty to harvest, this rusty-gold crop is a common sight in these parts. Farmers tell me lentils do best when somewhat stressed and growing conditions here — the hot, dry summers — are great at giving crops stress. 🙂

Lentils were unheard of here on the prairies when I was a girl, but now Canada is the world’s leading producer and exporter of lentils, and farmers here in Saskatchewan are producing 95% of the lentils harvested. Lentils.org, one information site, says: “Canada only began growing lentils in the 1970’s – now there are over 5,000 active lentil farmers in Canada.”

Great Balls of Fire!

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is FIRE IN THE SKY
and the Word of the Day Challenge is UNPREDICTABLE

First I should say that all bloggers are welcome to join in and write a post in response to the prompts. So if these prompt words give you an idea for a post, just click on the names (links) above for more details.

sundog-4454929_640
Michael McGough — Pixabay

A person could give various responses to the image of “fire in the sky.” A blazing sunrise or sunset would qualify. Here on the prairie we see some amazing sundogs, partial rings or halos on one side or both sides of the sun.

Of course one of the main displays of fire in the sky is lightning, which reminds me of a couple of stories I once heard.

My husband’s mother spent her first eight years in Manitoba and apparently the electrical storms there were furious and unpredictable back in those days. She says every time there was a thunderstorm her parents would gather the children all around in one room. After moving to Saskatchewan, they did this during the first few storms but soon decided our storms here didn’t pose a threat, so her parents quit this practice.

Visiting friends in Manitoba once, there was a wild thunderstorm, but no serious damage. In the morning they recalled another storm they’d had where ball lightning fell from the clouds and they watched balls of fire roll along the road by their place. So we understand why Grandpa & Grandma Letkeman took the precautions they did while they lived in Manitoba.

Weather patterns have changed a lot over the years, maybe due to settlement and many trees planted here on the prairie. Records show and old timers talk of wild storms, blizzards and heat waves like we never see these day — thankfully!

Lightning can have really unpredictable consequences. We read an account where a farmer had just built a new barn, the door of which had the standard Z of brace-boards across the back to fortify the vertical door boards. Nails holding this all together were evenly spaced all along this Z.

Soon after, an electrical storm passed over their farm. The next morning the farmer went out to do his chores and when he slid open the barn doors, the wood all fell in a heap at his feet. A lightning bolt had hit the barn and just jumped from nail to nail along the door, sizzling every one. One tug on the door and the whole thing gave way.

 

Summer, Baled and Stored

Richness of the pasture,
the warmth of sunshine,
rains of heaven: a prairie
summer captured in clover,
cut, ripened, baled and bound.
Rolls scattered through fields
at random or neatly aligned:
summer bundled in bronze.

Winter-disguised as vague lumps
under clean, snowy blankets,
wind-dusted at times.
Frozen, frosted, they still appeal;
hungry deer tug at sweet strands,
certain it’s all for them; – and find
last summer’s mice nestled deep.

–My poem from 2013