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A blueprint for spring

Despite the bitter cold and short days, Toban Dyck is dreaming of what he’ll do 
with his new farmyard 
when spring finally comes

I want to write about my backyard ice rink, but fear it may be too off topic for this column. The rink, for me, is pride and the fall happening at the same time. It’s proving a challenge to get that surface smooth. But, it’s one flood away from being a surface I would let your kids skate on. That is, after you sign a waiver.

Blue Monday — a day in January said to be the most depressing day of the year — came and went without a hitch. I spent it, again, working on my rink.

The challenge of being a farmer with little farming to do in winter is, and I may be repeating myself here, the same challenge the rest of Canada faces. Attempting day after day to keep the cold from winning. The real, diagnosable manifestation of depression will not be discussed here, but its little brother, winter blues, will be. And the best way to beat it is, again, to stay busy.

The rink is a project, sometimes failing other times not, that keeps me busy, yes, but it also forces me to think about our yard on the farm. I can make a rink wherever I want, this year, as our lawn has yet to come up. Next year, however, I will have to put together a plan that will exclude ruining a large, asymmetrical rectangle of grass.

I am in charge, it’s even scary to write such words, of the entire farmyard for a spell during winter, a yard about four acres of which needs to stay looking sharp (my words). And that’s the revelation: keeping your yard sharp is important. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Your yard is what people see of your farm and keeping it tidy, groomed, and organized will provide a sense of pride.

At least that’s how it has worked for me so far this winter. The machinery is tucked away in work sheds or parked in a line on the yard, all items ready for spring work.

Yard planning

What does this have to do with winter, you ask? Good question. Everything. My wife and I don’t anticipate having much time in summer to plan our yard. More so, we don’t want to take time in summer to plan our yard, and it’s fun to dream about what could be, especially with access to machinery that would make quick work of simple landscaping.

In order to make room for our home, my parents had to take down a large, old cattle corral and a few troughs. This penning had been around, unused for over a decade. And, while it had rustic charm, the area was unplanned, unused space. The project was daunting, I heard, but the reward for my parents is seeing a space on their yard that is attractive and full of potential.

We have spent more than a few evenings thinking of ways to beautify our two acres. And when it’s -41 C, doing so is an exercise that calls up sunny days, warm evenings, gazebos and other garden buildings we’re looking forward to building.

I may be out on limb, but I dare say most farmyards have spaces begging to be re-imagined, whether it’s an area of overgrown machinery or a section of yard separated by a shelterbelt that should probably be taken down. Take the time now to dress your yard up.

An ice rink is all we’ve planned for our winter yard, but already our new yard contains a pergola, a few hundred feet of pathways, and the list goes on, albeit only in our mind. But that is enough to make us forget about -41 C weather. Winter will not win, this time. †

About the author


Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]



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