Spring! I bet I could repeat the word “spring” 800 times and you, the reader, who is starting to experience warmer weather, would read each word. I would. Sadly, though, any article starting with spring would have to end with the word “flooding,” as the two seem to have a close relationship, at least this is the case in southern Manitoba.
When I wrote this at the end of March, I could see the tarped corners of the farm’s John Deere drill sticking out from the melting drift it wintered under. This was misleading. The season when that drill would be needed was closer than all the snow left in the yard led one to believe.
Before this year, it had been a while since I seeded, but I did do it since I moved away from the farm, so I wasn’t totally green.
It was only a couple years after our wedding, 2003 or 2004, that I helped my dad put in the crop. I needed the extra money, and he also contracted help for the season, so it worked out, in theory. That spring, seeding began at the usual time, early May, but ended very late. After heavy, sporadic rains, what should have been only a two-week desertion of my wife in Winnipeg, turned to a marathon for me, living away from my wife and friends, and her, being alone in the city with newly-acquired education degree.
The last field we planted that year was the home quarter — soybeans. I remember feeling the push to get them in on time, and before more rains. It was late at night, I was emptying bags of soybeans into the drill, and it was soon time for my dad to spell me off.
When he called over the radio, about 12 or 1 a.m., asking if I wanted him to take over. I said, “No, I’m good.” I wasn’t lying. I could see the end, and I was in a groove. The weather was perfect. I could finish this field and cap the seeding season. This felt amazing at the time, and that was long before I had an interest in farming. In retrospect, perhaps the interest was always just below the surface. There’s something very satisfying about working through the night, especially when the finish line is so close.
The sun was starting to rise when I finished. I was tired and very excited to see my wife again. I have never been as close to falling asleep behind the wheel as I was that day. I made it.
It wasn’t long after that spring that the farm began investing in good drainage. And with excavation companies now operating with GPS-guided accuracy, it’s an investment that has paid for itself a few times over. Almost every year, a field or two gets molded to better deal with heavy rainfall or wet conditions.
This year’s flood forecast, so far, doesn’t look devastating, but this March there is enough snow on the ground now to warrant some concern. The average snow depth on our yard is about three to four feet, and the drifts are near tree height, at places. A fast melt would fill the creek running through our property, but that’s hardly worth mentioning over the potential setback of a flood to seeding times, and the land damage it could cause. Good drainage is a nice security against what could come. But sandbagging and the threat of land damage is a very real fear for many come spring, properly graded fields or not.
In the next few days, weeks, the drift burying the drill will be gone and we can see what’s needed to get it ready for some late nights and early mornings. I got a few all-nighters in me, if the need arises. And, this time, the ride home is much shorter. †