Here are four things I dread about April.
1. Becoming a single mom
All farms are different. But generally, on grain farms, April marks the time of year when farmers boot things into high gear. Many farmers that had flexible schedules and reasonable work days all winter are suddenly putting in long hours and organizing their schedules around the weather again.
Like many farm moms, I’ve been spoiled by another winter of having a husband with time to do things around the house, watch our little boy’s skating lessons, and even take the occasional short holiday.
But once April hits, those days are over. I used “single mom” in my title, but it wasn’t really accurate. Most single moms don’t pack lunches for a working crew, move tractors around and rush to town for last-minute truckloads of fertilizer.
I don’t mean to complain — farm families are generally lucky to be able to plan their own working hours most of the year. And if we get the crop in the ground, we won’t last long on the farm. It’s just a shock.
It helps to know I’m not alone. In a farming community, you don’t see a lot of men with time to attend spring soccer practice.
(Except for the dreaded spring of 2011, when the local farmers had nothing else to do but hang around soccer practice talking about flooding. But nobody wants to repeat that.)
If it’s April, there’s going to be mud. In your car. In your porch. In your closet. In your kid’s hair.
You know you’re shopping with another farm woman when you both look at a pair of gorgeous suede boots, look at each other and say, “But we can’t buy those,” and you both know exactly why.
On a farm with a kid, it isn’t really spring until your kid comes into the house with a bad case of wet-boot — that soaked sock he’ll get when he messes around in a puddle until the water floods over the top of his boot. Or, worse yet, when the kid comes limping in with only one boot, and tells you the other one is “out there somewhere.”
3. That one last vicious snowstorm
Some people don’t like to make travel plans in January, in case the weather turns bad. Midwinter may be colder, but it usually seems to be spring that brings that one horrendous, unexpected snowstorm.
That storm comes with snow, drifts and sleet, and it leaves you stranded by the side of an icy road, wishing you’d taken time to refill your windshield wiper fluid before you left home.
Last spring, I was planning a trip to Regina in early April. But when we woke up, there was snow everywhere and not one, but two semi trucks stuck on the road outside our house.
Instead of a trip to Regina, I made breakfast (and lunch) for the two truckers while they waited for the snow to clear enough that my husband could pull them out.
4. Planning the garden
This is bound to be controversial. But the truth is that I hate gardening. And I’m awful at it.
I didn’t inherit my black thumb. My mother spent decades growing a fabulous garden — weed-free, with every kind of vegetable you can think of plus a few more. My grandmother also had a beautifully maintained garden, so I can’t even claim that the gardening gene skips every second generation.
Since I hate gardening and am not very good at it, some city people might wonder why I bother. If you’re reading Grainews, you probably didn’t think to question this.
If you live on a farm, you have to have a garden. I’m pretty sure there’s a municipal bylaw, if not a provincial regulation. (Or maybe it’s a requirement for crop insurance eligibility.)
Since I’ve written this much already, I might as well admit that I’m barely meeting the minimum standards to qualify my weedy patch as a “garden.” Last year I managed some lettuce, some onions and a random selection of squash. My garden is definitely not on any local garden tour. I’m not even sure it’s enough to keep my family from getting scurvy.
I’ll keep trying. When I see the rotating shelf of garden seeds at the Co-op, I’ll give it a spin and see what we get. Although I’ve lived in this yard for 10 years and never successfully grown a carrot, I’ll probably try yet another package of carrot seeds with a bushy green picture on the front.
My neighbour grows about three acres of sweet corn every summer (while looking after three well-behaved kids), but somehow mine never gets mature enough to ripen. I suppose I’ll give it one more chance.
There’s that whole thing about spring being a time for optimism. Renewal. A time for another chance. That may be the case for some of you, but I know I’m beat before the Co-op cashier gets my packets rung through the till.
Grainews reader Charlie Main phoned with some comments about the articles in the special safety section of our March 4 issue.
“I really liked the articles,” Charlie said. “They were really down to earth.” This wasn’t really surprising, since the writer, Shanyn Silinski, lives on a Manitoba farm.
But Charlie did point out that one of the pieces mentioned making sure that when you get out of a vehicle you should put the brake on and leave it in neutral. Charlie said, “The only time I put mine in neutral is to circulate the oil and get things warmed up. When you get off the machine, you should put it in park.” Good point Charlie — thanks for calling.
In this issue
I was really happy to read the article Sarah Weigum submitted for this issue of Grainews. Sarah is a seed grower from Alberta. In her article on pages 8 and 9, Sarah explains why she and her father will be planting fababeans for the first time this spring.
In the article, Sarah talks about their decision-making process — what factors they considered when they were decided whether to get into fababeans, and which variety to plant. She also discusses some of the agronomic challenges she expects to have to deal with. Sarah doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but she has listed many of the questions she hopes to answer during the growing season.
She’s promised to keep Grainews readers updated throughout the growing season with a couple of more articles showing us the progress of her crop. I hope it goes well for her.
Another article in this issue that is particularly interesting for me is the article on aerial spraying on pages 24 and 25. We don’t tend to hire aerial sprayers for our farm — largely because we have several organic neighbours and so we’re very sensitive about spray drift, but also because my husband can generally cover all of our acres with his ground sprayer. However, we do have satellite TV.
Last year, my husband and I watched every episode of “Dust Up,” a reality TV show on the History Channel about an aerial sprayer based in Nipawin, Sask. We loved the show. It was very exciting for me to have a chance to talk to the show’s star, Brennan Jardine, before our freelancer Rebeca Kuropatwa interviewed him. I don’t get phone calls from television stars every day. I was disappointed to hear that a second season of this Saskatchewan-based show doesn’t seem to be in the works. If you didn’t catch the show, at least you can read about it in this issue of Grainews.
And also in this issue, in the machinery section,Scott Garvey is focusing on tractors, giving us the rundown on a few new models.
I hope you’ll enjoy this issue.