I started writing this column on the last day of March. The snow was rapidly receding, the water running, the rhubarb in my backyard emerging and my recently- transplanted tomato seedlings were leaning into the light.
To me, spring feels more like the New Year than January 1.
A while back I was visiting seed grower Ed Seidle, talking to him about his on-farm research. Ed likes to say that if the weather puts on a waltz, you better waltz, not jig. With all the advancements in farming, Mother Nature still has the final say.
I find it hard to focus on writing this time of year, with the birds chirping and yard work beckoning. I’m tempted to play hooky from the day job and start working on a new flowerbed, plant some spinach and kale and go horseback riding.
I think spring fever would drive me nuts if I were a farmer. How do farmers deal with the waiting game during late — or wet — springs that delay field work?
There are many things producers can control or at least influence. Soil fertility, livestock nutrition, crop rotations come to mind. But, as Ed pointed out, Mother Nature still chooses the music. As spring unfolds, we’ll be waiting to see what’s on her playlist.
Speaking of playlists
This winter Glacier FarmMedia launched a podcast, Between the Rows. Glacier FarmMedia owns several of the western Canadian ag publications, including Grainews and Country Guide. The weekly podcast features reporters talking about recently-published stories. It’s a good snapshot of stories from across Western Canada.
I’m a big radio fan, and I’ve been listening to podcasts on my iPhone for a few years now. I wasn’t involved in the development of Between the Rows, but I did get to listen to a few of the pilots as my colleagues worked on the show this winter. It was interesting to hear how the show developed and improved. Personally, I think it makes a lot of sense for Glacier to get into podcasting. It seems like something our audience will appreciate and find accessible. And as a “print” journalist, podcasting fits well into my own workflow.
This winter I started a podcast of my own (Reading West), featuring western Canadian authors reading their work. There was a bit of a learning curve when it came to technical stuff such as editing audio and uploading and distributing the episodes. But surprisingly, the most work has been getting enough authors to record their own readings. I need to send out requests regularly, something that I haven’t been doing enough. It’s been an interesting, worthwhile experience so far.
If you’re a radio fan, but haven’t subscribed to podcasts yet, I’d highly recommend it, especially as you prepare to put in long hours during seeding. All you need is a smartphone. You can subscribe to podcasts by searching through iTunes, a podcast app, or Google Play. You can also listen through the podcast’s website Between the Rows online at AGCanada.com.
Subscribing is free, although some shows ask for donations.
I subscribe to a couple of dozen podcasts. On the farming side, I listen to BBC’s Farming Today, Real Ag Radio, Rob Sharkey’s Shark Farmer, Canola Watch, and of course Between the Rows.
On the literary side, I like The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice (I sort of modelled my own show after it). I also like creepy sci-fi series such as Tanis and Rabbits. I’m a true crime listener, so Crimetown and Criminal are favourites. Reply All is an interesting technology/current events show from the U.S. Reveal is an investigative journalism series I like. Jesse Brown is building a small media empire with shows such as Canadaland (looks at Canadian media) and The Imposter (arts and culture). Brown himself rubs some people the wrong way, but he has interesting guests.
If you’re looking for more suggestions, ask your fellow farmers. You’ll probably get plenty of ideas from others. You can also see what’s available by browsing a podcasting app. I use the iTunes podcast app, but there are plenty of other apps out there.
Good luck with seeding this year. I’m crossing my fingers that Mother Nature picks a tune everyone can dance to.