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Editor’s Column

When our phone rang at 6:45, we knew who it would be before my husband picked it up.

“Just as well,” I heard my husband say. “I wasn’t looking forward to going out there to move enough snow out of the lane so you could turn around in the yard.”

It was too dangerous for our bus driver to be out on the roads. It was going to be another snow day.

Plans subject to cancellation

I’ll be glad to see the back of this winter.

Not that I’m usually winter’s biggest fan, but this winter seems to have brought an unusual amount of stormy days, high winds and roads that are just plain unsafe.

In early March, you didn’t see me in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan’s Soils and Crops workshop. My son was sad not to spend a day in Saskatoon with his grandparents while I learned about the latest agronomic research on and hoped for a chance to run into Grainews columnist Les Henry.

In December, I was grateful that I had a free cancellation option on my Medicine Hat hotel room reservation. That month, you didn’t see me at the Farming Smarter Conference, where I was hoping to learn more about some of the new research Farmer Smarter will take into the field this summer. (Farming Smarter is an Alberta-based research organization governed by a farmer board of directors. Learn more about it at www.farmingsmarter.com.)

In late January I was up at 5 a.m. for a day-long AgExpert course in Regina, worried that the 90-minute drive might take longer than usual due to questionable weather. I made it there safely, but I had a few tense moments on the highway and spent most of the trip muttering, “What am I doing outside when it’s -30 C?”

In February I cancelled dinner with Weyburn friends, a trip to Regina to spend the day with a sick friend and more than one lunch date.

I think this winter has been awful, considering the count of events missed and plans changed. It’s not just missing the events that makes winter days frustrating, it’s the hassle of changing plans and the feeling that you can never quite commit to something, because you might not be able to get to it.

My husband says this winter just seems bad because last winter was “easy.” He may have a point.

Expectations

It’s possible that this winter just seems especially difficult because we have such high expectations.

For example, on “kindergarten days,” I expect a bus to pull into our yard and drive my son 25 miles to school and then home again. Every weekday, my neighbour expects to hop into her car and drive 30 miles to her job in town.

This sort of behaviour would have been unheard of 50 years ago. Nobody in their right mind would have planned for that kind of commuting.

My great aunt tells stories of being driven to the local school (just a couple of miles away) in a horse-drawn wagon. I’m willing to bet they had quite a few snow days.

It was the early ’30s before Highway 13 (my route to Weyburn) was even gravelled, let alone paved to the point where I expect it to be a snow-free suface every day all winter so I can drive on it at 100 kilometres per hour (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) In 1947, I never would have tried to make plans to drive 430 km to Saskatoon and only stay two nights.

New advances in vehicle safety and tire technology have turned a 30-mile drive from an occasional day-long ordeal into a twice-daily routine. These days, we fully expect to be able to get wherever we want to go, no matter what the weather’s doing.

One morning this February I was at meeting in Regina. Most of the other people there were from rural Saskatchewan. One woman said, apologetically, “I didn’t come very far — I only live 60 miles from here.” Only in the Prairies would someone think driving 60 miles before 9 a.m. in the middle of winter was hardly worth mentioning.

If you have the patience to take the long view, it’s quite amazing that we’re able to get where we’d like to go as often as we do.

But maybe, like me, you don’t always have the patience to take the long view. I’ll admit it. I would have been a terrible pioneer.

Things I’ve learned from snow days

Here’s what I learned from this winter’s snow days.

1. “Sponge Bob Square Pants” is much funnier than you might think. (In case you don’t have a TV or a young child, this a cartoon about a yellow sponge that lives underwater, wears pants, has a pineapple for a house and works at a fast-food joint. That’s probably more than you want to know.)

2. All kinds of things can substitute for milk. I’ve used apple sauce, yogurt, butter, water and sour cream as a substitute for milk in recipes on those days when we couldn’t get to the store.

Like most farmers, we have a basement filled with enough extra food to open our own dry goods store. But our pantry does not include milk. I know — there’s powdered milk, UHT milk, boxed soybean milk and probably 15 other milk-like options I can’t find in Weyburn. But I just can’t bring myself to buy any of them.

3. Snow days are expensive. If that doesn’t make sense to you, you must not have Internet access. Sure, we save money on gas by not driving to town on days like today, but those savings don’t cancel out our bill for online shopping and iPad apps.

4. If you really need to be somewhere, don’t listen to the radio. If there’s any sign of winter weather, radio announcers will find a way to build up the hype until it’s a full-fledged blizzard in a skating rink. I’m not saying don’t be careful — check the highway hotline and call a friend at your destination — but sometimes you have to ignore the radio panic and get in the car.

5. If you’re stuck inside, remember it’s nice to be safe at home. As I write this, 150 Yorkton band students and their chaperones are waking up in the Morse, Sask., town hall — their bus hit the ditch and the town offered them a place to stay. Maybe some of the kids think it’s a fun adventure, but I doubt everyone’s loving it.

6. It’s hard to get motivated on a snow day. There’s no end to the work we could be doing in our house, shop, and home office. Maybe things are different at your house, but around here, once school’s been cancelled and we’ve decided we can’t go somewhere we’d planned to go, we spending most of the day wandering around the house, taking turns having naps.

7. I like my family. At least I’m stuck inside with people I don’t mind spending time with.

8. I’m very, very happy winter’s over. (Sure, see number 7, but enough is enough.)

A spectruckular issue

Grainews machinery editor Scott Garvey has a four-page spread on new trucks in the machinery section of this issue — this “spectruckular” starts on page 34. Whether or not you’re in the market for a new truck I’m sure you’ll find something interesting in his run-down of new offerings.

We’ve also got a financial section on pages 22 to 27. We’ve included a review of a new book called The Wealthy Farmer, an article on leasing farm machinery, some tips for dealing with your banker and a few other articles along those lines that you could find helpful on your farm.

For the past month, you’ve been seeing Grainews in your mailbox once a week. Now that we’re getting closer to spring seeding and you’re spending less time in the house, we’re slowing up our schedule. You’ll see the next Grainews in two weeks.

I hope you find something you enjoy in this issue.

Leeann

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