City slicker Toban Dyck grew up in rural Manitoba, but it’s been a long time since he’s actually lived there. Now he and his wife are moving home to give farming a shot
Operating a riding mower, no matter how many horses under the hood, does not elevate me to alpha-male status, but on that sunny day, it came close.
Sitting on the red mower, proud after having completed the task of cutting my parents’ relatively vast lawn, I texted my wife: “Let’s move to the farm.”
“Hell no!” BBM was unexpectedly fast, in this exchange.
This being the response I expected, no harm done, but I sat on the mower a little while longer, looking east across the prairies; not a cloud in the sky.
When I was a young child, farming was my world. I had a model replica of the only tractor my dad has ever purchased brand new. This tractor carried the weight of being the primary tractor for the acreage that was the basement rug; a lot of work for one tractor. But play time was the winter months.
I joined my dad in the tractor, combine and whatever other machine he had to operate, as often as possible (I would often sleep under the passenger seat of the highway tractor he used to haul hogs to Winnipeg). But, when I got older, I left my hometown of Winkler to pursue a career in writing — separating myself from the typical farmer and alpha male. (In fact, one of the first questions my dad asked me when I expressed interesting in farming was, “What about all those times you didn’t even want to change the oil in our car?” I don’t remember how I explained to him that I would be good with machines now, but that’s for another time.)
I’ve reported for CBC, the National Post, a variety of dailies and weeklies, and ended up as managing editor of a great publication housed in an old brick building in downtown Toronto. Successful by any measure. But, what made me yearn for the West was living — and making it, mind you — in the big city.
My wife and I lived in a great apartment near Queen and Bathurst, with the best landlords possible — an elderly Portuguese couple who frequently cooked us pizza. The National Post office was a drive, but the Toronto Standard was a lovely, 10-minute walk from our second-story pad.
I was in Winkler, and my wife was in Toronto when she received my “let’s farm” text.
The farmers among you must be laughing by now. I know how to write, but, just wait and see, I can get my hands dirty, too!
We’ve all fled things for various reasons. I left my hometown, hunting for experiences I wouldn’t otherwise get. I got them. But there are only so many wine/scotch tastings and rooftop parties can one attend before the awe is over and what remains of substance is not as significant as once hoped.
Really, life is the simple things: family, work you can defend and an outdoor fire pit. I am, like many writers, narcissistic, but in the lucid moments between bylines, it’s clear that farming is a good life.
The farm in question is beautiful, mostly crops and about 1,200 acres in size. It is a farm where my wife and I will have to set up a yard from scratch, educate ourselves on farm life and farming (I will have to learn to change oil) and find a way to peel back the Toronto to make room for Winkler.
Taking over the family farm as a 32-year-old journalist will not be easy, but I intend to write about it every step of the way.
Oh yeah, still sitting on the mower, the smell of freshly-mowed lawn tickling the poetic in me, my wife responds: “Let’s do it. I’m ready for life in the country, as long as I can have a goat.”
We’ll see about the goat. †