Les Henry: Thank you to my readers

Over my many years of communication with farmers, I often get more than I give

Alhambra is a pretty little place with stately spruce trees and lilacs in bloom in June. The photo is a street view from Google Earth. Now, many readers know where Alhambra, Alta., is.

Writing is a fun game, but it means little if there are few readers. The only way writers know if people are reading their work is by the letters, emails, etc., that are received. It is a big thrill and encouraging to hear from readers. What follows are a few examples from recent years.

The geography of the feedback is important, and any area I am not familiar with I check out on Google Earth, in soil survey reports or other sources to learn more.

Just yesterday, a letter arrived by mail from Wellwood, Man. Wellwood is in the heart of irrigation pivots with the water source from the Assiniboine Delta Aquifer. However, the letter was about United Grain Growers houses, not farming. To most folks, family comes first, and close behind is the roof over our heads and the land we farm.

The articles with climate facts using 30-year average temperature caught the interest of a reader from Alhambra, Alta. Alhambra is not Calgary, so I had to look it up on Google Earth and found it in nice, level farm country about 10 miles southeast of Rocky Mountain House. The soils are mostly grey-wooded of medium texture, but are quite acid.

The Louisiana connection

Most “Soils and Crops” readers are from the three Prairie provinces, but every so often the area expands. Just this month, I received an email from an engineer in Louisiana who was working on soil reclamation from oil well activities. He was looking for information on tile drainage and had come up with a Grainews column dealing with just that.

Of course, to have any chance at helping him, I had to dig out soil survey reports, geology and water well records. All of that information is available with a few clicks of a mouse after a Google search. Without the inquiry, I would know nothing about Louisiana and now I have a bit of an idea.

It was in Iberville Parish (County) close to Baton Rouge. Farming is only on raised levees and flooding is a constant challenge. Rain is 57 inches a year.

It must be mentioned that the digital spread of Grainews has no credit to this digitally challenged old fossil. Dave Bedard of Grainews/Glacier FarmMedia makes sure some articles of interest make it to Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thanks, Dave!

Speaking of tile drainage, a question from a Glenboro, Man., farmer a few years back asked if dryland tile drainage would work in his area with average annual rainfall of 18 inches. My answer was a very uncertain maybe. Thanks to the work of John Lee of Agvise Laboratories in Northwood, N.D., we now have a very good answer to that question.

I did not have to look up Glenboro as it is very near Stockton, Man., where my dad was raised, and I have visited the area a few times.

Another question about tile drainage came from a farmer near Deloraine, Man. He wanted to visit by phone, which suited me just fine. In the process, I learned a lot about nearby Whitewater Lake. I had visited that area on a soils tour in the 1980s.

Over my many years of communication with farmers, I often get more than I give. It is such conversations that keep a person tied into the countryside where the real action is. I do not pound much pavement now, so I greatly appreciate hearing from folks from all over.

A recent query was from a farmer east of Naicam, Sask., who was also an engineer with significant experience in fixing leaky canals, so I also learned a lot from him.

Not all positive

Not all communications are positive and that is fine too. It would be a dull world if we all thought alike.

When I wrote about pumping sloughs on my little farm, a reader noted that on her property everything was left and the deer could roam. I pointed out the water from sloughs was pumped to high, dry ground, so the water could be cycled through crops. My farm also has much wildlife and we have many photos to prove it. In essence, I gave a response similar to many independent farmers, “You do yours; I’ll do mine.”

One article dealt with my green manure experiment in the farm garden. In the very wet years, it was great to have something growing and building soil. However, that green manure sucked up all the soil water and a drier year following was a big problem. So, I went back to tillage for the garden patch. I did not say, “Don’t get me wrong — this is just a garden patch and I am in no way suggesting going back to tillage on the farm.”

A Manitoba farmer sent a letter that took exception and thought I meant fields also. A phone call sorted it all out and I thanked him for his communication.

The list goes on and on, but I do encourage readers to not be bashful about sending an email or letter to me or Grainews — they will always be forwarded to me. Each will get a response, a sincere thank you and an answer to the query if I am able.

I did pound a bit of pavement today — to Milden, which is southwest of Saskatoon, where I was raised — and most crops look very promising.

Have a good harvest and do put safety first, so you will be around for many more.

On pandemics and our current situation

As we struggle to determine where the world is going, a piece on pandemics and climate was considered, but will wait a while for that. My take on our current crisis is this:

  • Planet Earth has become too small.
  • There are too many people on the planet and global connectivity became too easy.
  • Many cities are too big and too congested. Too many beating hearts and “breathers,” and too many engines on too few acres.
  • Mother Nature is fighting back.

I have recently read Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate by William F. Ruddiman, a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. He talks about epidemics and pandemics and the link to climate. In a future article, I will bring forward more information from that interesting book. So far, my attempts to contact the author have failed. I will keep trying.

About the author


Les Henry

J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for “Grainews” readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres., Saskatoon, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.



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