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Editor’s Column: June 3, 2013

My husband whisked me away for a spring getaway last week. A leisurely, romantic drive, then a hotel.

I know. Hard to believe. A grain farmer? Away from the farm, overnight? In the middle of spring seeding? Especially this year, with such cold weather and a late start. And Brad only had 230 acres in the ground.

You’re right.

It happened more like this.

“I have to drive all the way to &$*# Melfort to pick up the parts! Four hours each way! Do you know how much canola I could get in the ground in four hours?”

I volunteered to make the trip on my own, so he could do something else. But since I’ve built a bit of a reputation lately for bringing home the wrong parts, it probably wasn’t the best solution.

Weekend getaways

A few hours earlier, Brad had answered his cellphone from the tractor cab.

When the caller asked what he was up to, he’d said, “I’m watching the wheel fall right off the air seeder.”

Literally. The bolts gave out. After we moved the truck and auger out to the field so he could unload the cart, and then moved everything back to the yard, Brad realized he needed a new rim.

The nearest one was at the Bourgault factory, four hours away. And the parts department wouldn’t open until the next morning. It would be well after noon before he could start rebuilding, let alone get back in the field.

We left our six-year-old with Grandma, packed a bag and headed north.

“Damned bolts. Every other farmer in the country is out in the field.”

This breakdown set seeding back at least two days. Not only did we need the parts, we needed to find someone from a tire shop to make a house call to the farm in the middle of the May long weekend.

About 3-1/2 hours north, we saw a sign for Melfort. ‘City of Northern Lights,’ it said. “Yeah. Right.”

But a few minutes later we looked up, and sure enough. Lights.

Not the most spectacular northern lights we’ve seen, but definitely the best show we’ve had time to enjoy for a while.

“They’re really shaking around up there,” Brad said.

Then he stopped the truck, and we got out and stood together, watching from the side of the road. The lights were so beautiful.

Finally, Brad said, “Look, I don’t know why you got out of the truck, but I only stopped to pee. Didn’t want to waste time finding a gas station.”

No guests please, we’re farmers

Now the wheels are back on. Brad’s out in the field again, and I’ve had time to check my emails.

The other day I had a message from a British friend, telling me her mother had died. They’d been very close, so I invited my friend to come to Canada and stay with us for a while this summer, thinking a change of scene might take her mind off things.

As it turned out, her summer was already mostly booked, and she couldn’t make the trip from London. But that was probably for the best. By the time I got her email, I realized that our farm might not be the best place for a city visitor. Not if we wanted to make a good impression.

Here are three reasons that we may not be ready for urban guests.

1. The unpredictability

Farmers don’t work from 9 to 5. You just never know what’s going to happen next. It’s hard to plan a week away — what if next Tuesday is a good day for spraying? It’s also hard to plan to stay home (see above, about the trip to Melfort).

My friend would probably cope with this. Maybe she would find the surprise parts runs to Weyburn entertaining. But I suspect you need the right kind of guest to make this work.

2. The gunplay

No, not some sort of domestic dispute. But every now and then my husband will clatter into the house, run to the gun cabinet, load up a rifle and run back outside. Last time, he was dealing with a skunk harassing the dog.

Nothing illegal (no people, endangered species or out-of-season animals have been shot or even threatened). Just everyday pests. Nothing that doesn’t happen on every Prairie farm. But I’m not sure I’d be comfortable explaining this to someone who’s never been in a building with a gun.

3. The dog presents

Some city people have cats. Sometimes a house cat will catch a bird, or a small mouse out in the backyard, and present the dead creature as a present to its owner. Some owners think this is kind of cute. Last week our dog won a battle with a muskrat.

After the second time I stepped over the dead muskrat to get to the car (I wasn’t going to touch it), I started to get used to it. And by then I barely noticed the deer bone (complete with hoof) that the dog hauled home from who knows where.

When other farmers visit, they don’t even flinch at the sight of the deer hoof. But I’m not sure I want to explain it to a jet-lagged urbanite, fresh off a plane from Heathrow.

Maybe it would be better for us to have guests in the winter.

Do you have a story about city people visiting your farm? I’d like to hear it. My email address and phone number are on the left side of this page.

In this issue

On the cover, you’ll see that our Grainews field editor Lisa Guenther has put together an interesting piece on water quality. That photo on the cover is the dugout my husband has been using for water for his sprayer for years. So far, it seems to be doing the trick, but if we notice any changes in chemical effectiveness, we’ll be sure to have the water tested.

The machinery section in this issue is all about factory tours — John Deere, Agco, Case, New Holland. As our machinery editor, Scott Garvey, puts it in his piece about John Deere tours (page 22), machinery companies are learning that “if you build it, they will come.”

Most companies offer farmers some sort of factory tour, whether it’s a straight-up tour of the factory hosted by your local dealer or a turnkey tour where you see your own new machine on the assembly line. You’ll find the story of the tour my husband and I took to Grand Island, Nebraska so Brad could drive his new Case combine off the line on pages 18 and 19.

Enjoy this issue!


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