Latest articles

Soil moisture: the old and new stories

Know your subsoil moisture and your chance of rain to make seeding decisions

The first freeze-up stubble soil moisture map was made in Saskatchewan in 1978. Readers with Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water can see it on Page 109. It showed a lot of “very dry” and “dry” space. Red ink was common in the 1980s. The maps below show the situation in fall 1987 and fall […] Read more

Stubble soil moisture map, November 1, 2017

Les Henry’s annual map of fall soil moisture going into the winter months

The November 1, 2016, fall soil moisture map was, in a word, wet. In Manitoba and much of Saskatchewan all soils were at field capacity (holding maximum available water) and many areas were so wet that water tables were near enough to surface to be a factor. When the water table is within about five […] Read more

Exhibit 1: Weather cycles — Willowbunch Lake

Over the course of 30+ years at the University of Saskatchewan I collected about 5,000 35 mm colour slides. Many were taken by me while pounding pavement but I also “inherited” slides from folks who retired or moved. I also have a slide cabinet at home with hundreds of slides from junkets to Tanzania, Swaziland […] Read more

Diary of a pea crop

This season was too wet, then dry, but it’s left a promising start for next year

This is the story of the pea crop on my farm near Dundurn, Sask., in the 2017 growing season. August 21, 2016 Last year we combined an 82 bushel per acre malt barley crop on this field. The soil was well supplied with water at seeding time and the May to July rain was 10.5 […] Read more

Mail order houses: The Eakinton

The T. Eaton Co. Ltd. “Eakinton” was a very unique home

We have been getting quite a few queries about catalogue houses lately so I will tell the story about a very unique T. Eaton Home: Eakinton. First, a Q and A about the subject. What were catalogue or mail order houses? Starting in the early 1900s it was possible to order a house from a […] Read more

Farming through the drought cycles

Soils and Crops: Even with modern ag technology, we’re still reliant on rain or soil moisture

As the combines started to roll this fall, many were very surprised at how hard the truckers had to work. While not a barn burner, the 2017 crop will go in the books for many as good, and considering the lack of rainfall some will say it is great. We all like to point out […] Read more

Combines I have known, Part 2

In the 60s, Les Henry spent most of his combining hours in Massey combine cabs

Harvest seems to be moving along better this year so now may be the time to talk about combines. This is No. 2 in an irregular series about combines I have operated. The first piece went back to the old Oliver 30 pull type that was the first combine I ran and to Cockshutt 132 […] Read more

Water, salt and cows in pastures

Let’s use disaster as a chance to learn more about measuring the salt content in water

The recent loss of 200 head of stock due to bad water brings the subject of water and cows into sharp focus. The loss occurred at a pasture near Shamrock, Sask., about 75 km southwest of Moose Jaw. Let me first offer condolences to the producers who lost cattle. In my experience cows are more […] Read more

How water comes out of the ground

Water comes to the surface in many different ways

In my last column I looked at water entering the ground and the factors that control that flow. This time, I’ll look at water coming out of the ground and the clues it leaves about its origin. Contact springs A contact spring occurs when the contact zone between a very sandy soil and a finer […] Read more

Natural controls on internal drainage of sloughs

Whether or not your slough will drain quickly is a more complicated question than it appears

Many farms in Western Canada are plenty wet, and the 1.25 inches of rain we got on May 7 set seeding back a few days. When a rain like that comes we hope for a hot, dry wind to “dry it up.” But, evaporation is a small party of the overall equation. Sloughs do not […] Read more