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Canadian Life as I Found It
Chapter XXXVIII April, 1907


WE are getting one day hot and the next cold—not pleasant at all—and snow is still with us, and looks as if it meant to stay a little longer. I am afraid that we shall not get on to the land till the end of the month, if even then.

This long winter has been no joke, and at present the food question is becoming a rather serious one; we are all getting short of hay. I put up 30 tons, enough to see me right through the winter and spring under ordinary circumstances, but I shall run out of it before the end of the month. Of course as soon as the snow goes I can cut a supply, but we do not know when the snow will take itself off.

We had another bad storm last Thursday, about as bad as any we have had this year; there seems to be no end to this winter somehow. The riding plough I told you that I had bought cost me 72 dollars. I have been very busy putting it together; I had to bring it out in pieces; I think I have succeeded in getting it into working order. Horses are very dear, but I have bought one from a neighbour, a 3-year-old, half-Clyde bred. I have known this colt since he was a week old; I am giving 140 dollars for him. It is a good price to give, but as horses go now I have got him cheap, and being a young horse I shall have the training of him. In that way I shall know what I am doing.Buying older horses of strangers out here is more or less buying a pig in a poke. If the four horses work the plough well, I shall be able to get a good bit of land ready for next year.

I want to have 100 acres ready for wheat crop if possible. In that way I shall hope to put a little money in my pocket, instead of all going out as it has been up to the present moment, and hard, slow, uphill work it has been too.

We have great hopes of a railroad out here this year. The surveyors were here this week. The present survey goes right along the south line of my land. Of course they may not take this one, but if they do not, the second one will not be more than a mile north of me. I hear that they are to hurry up and survey 75 miles from town, and start grading this spring.

We hope for the best, but one never knows how things may turn out, and we fear that we may still have to team our wheat the 45 miles into Saskatoon.

You wonder how we have kept warm this winter; well, it was quite a puzzle at times, but we did manage to keep fairly warm. Green wood is rather hard to burn, but by keeping the new heater at full blast, it burns pretty well. A neighbour, as I told you, let us have half a ton of coal, and that helped us on quite a lot, for it enabled us to keep the fire in all night during the coldest snap, which, with wood alone, we could not have done. We ought to be thankful, for a great many people on the prairie had not even green wood to burn, and had to double up with others just to keep warm. I know a house about 5 miles from us, where nineteen people were living together, and this in a two-roomed shack, its size 14 by 16 feet, and that is only one example out of many such this winter; still better crowding like that than to be frozen to death, as one poor family seems to have been. I am sorry to say that this year we shall not be able to plant our potatoes, peas, etc., till quite the end of next month. Early vegetables and fruit are the things we miss the most in the North-West.

I may have a pupil this year, a young fellow from home who wants me to teach him Canadian farming. I have written and painted in true colours what he may expect if he comes out. If he is a nice lad he would be a help, but if he has too high an opinion of his own dignity, like that other young fellow, he would be a great bore.

Some Englishmen who come out are terribly green. Did I tell you the story about one living not far from us, who thought that bran was very good food for cattle, so he bought three bags of it and SOWED it in the ground; he also SOWED a bag of oatmeal, so as to grow his own porridge. This is not romance, for it really happened.

Another man started to plough, and went up and down the same furrow all day, and could not make out what was wrong with the plough, yet these men are now turning out real good farmers.


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