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Canadian Life as I Found It
Chapter XXV March, 1906


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 proportion.

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 education afresh.


 


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