UP to now the winter has not
been severe. Had it been we should have been pretty cold, I expect; as it
is, it is none too warm at times; we often think of the home winters when we
used to stoke up a big coal fire, and still say how cold it was.
Those winters would be like
summer to us now. Here when you wake up in the morning there is a nice
little coat of ice on the sheet where your breath has frozen, and your head
is all white with a kind of hoarfrost. When you go to get breakfast, butter,
milk, porridge are all frozen solid, and you have to wait till you can thaw
them. We are used to this now, and it hardly troubles us.
We have lost, I am sorry to
say, eleven hens, frozen to death, although they were in the barn with the
horses and cows. This means a great loss to us, as good poultry is rather
difficult to procure.
There have been quite a lot
of dances given this winter out here, but we have been to none; we were
asked, but we did not see the fun of turning out in the cold to see some
thirty men dance with about eight women; for that is something like the
The thaw has started and the
snow is rapidly disappearing; the sun is warm and we get warm winds ; in
another week there will be very little snow left, and the gross is showing
through in patches; every day makes a difference now.
D--- and I are off to-morrow
to town to get a good load of stores, so that as soon as we can work the
land there will be no town trip to hinder us, for I hope to get some 50
acres ready for crop next year, and so get a first return. It is very uphill
work the first three years. I only hope that the result will eventually be
worth it, as the older settlers say it certainly will be.
The crops ripen very quickly:
a crop that is quite green to-day may be fit to cut in three days' time,
then there is a rush, and hence the necessity for having all your own
implements, for if you have no binder you have to wait till others have
done, and when they are ready to come to you, your crop is too ripe, and you
lose half the grain most probably.
It is the same with the
seeding. If you have no seeder and get some one to bring theirs, their own
work is done first, and your seed is put in too late, and does not get a
chance to mature and ripen.
I do not think that you
understand how the land is worked. We plough with the breaking plough 2
inches deep, the sods turn over just like a telegraph tape, no break in the
furrow ; when that is done you have to go over it with a disc or roller,
made like so many soup plates on edge; you go over the ground four or five
times with this, to cut up the sods as fine as possible; then harrow four or
five times with the seeding harrows ; and then if the ground is fine enough,
you can seed; if it is not fine enough, you put the disc on again till it
is. So, you see, there is plenty to be done before you can put your crops
in. You go ten times over each acre before seeding it.
Now to answer Mr. C---- 's
questions about his son coming out here, and as to what prospects he would
have if he came.
As to going to a farmer for a
year, if he knows nothing of farm work that would be the best plan, only he
must be very careful who he goes to. As to going into partnership with any
one I should certainly say NO.
If he comes out to a farmer
he must be prepared to do all kinds of work, clean horses, feed pigs, cut
wood, be at any one's beck and call, take a turn at cooking, and washing up;
in fact, do a great deal that a stableman would refuse to do at home; and
mind you, this is no fancy picture, but an absolute reality if a lad comes
out intending to become a good farmer on his own account later on.
Even if he knows something of
farming, I should not advise the taking up of a free grant if he comes out
alone, for there are no homesteads to be got now except nearly 100 miles out
from Saskatoon, and to a young man knowing nothing of this life, going out
that distance alone would probably mean death, or going crazy within six
months. If his father can afford it, I should advise both of them to come
out, take a look round and buy land in a settled part; it would be a good
investment, for land is going up rapidly in value.
As to capital C---- would
certainly require from £400 to £500 to work it properly; to build shack,
stable, and buy all the agricultural implements needed, also to live till he
got some return for his labour, and he would even then have to be very
careful and economical. I know that many start on less, but they half
starve; and you see young men of 20 and 25 looking 40 or 50 years old,
broken down all round. The rough life, extremes of heat and cold, and the
everlasting pig diet play havoc with the best of us.
Certainly if the lad has
plenty of grit, and does not mind taking anything that presents itself,
dirty work as well as clean, he would in time do more here than at home, but
he must have grit and much power of endurance, and not think that he is
better than the than he sees all tattered and torn, such a one as one would
like to give a coin to at home, for that man may be, and often is, a farmer
who, after some years of toil, has made a very decent pile; but has
forgotten to care for the more civilized ways of his younger days in the old
country across the seas.
There is a great sentiment of
equality in the North West of Canada, and this new-comers very often run
counter to, and so have to pass some very uncomfortable moments, for if they
seem to know a lot no one will give any help. It is far best for greenhorns
to forget all they learnt at home, or appear to do so, and begin their