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Canadian Life as I Found It
Chapter IX November, 1904


THE oxen I had turned out on a ranch, and my Indian pony I was keeping in town with me. I was very glad to turn my back on the homestead for a time, and I have been helping to make the cottage more cosy for the winter, breaking wood, etc.

I did not intend to be idle through the winter, and I have been lucky in securing a job with a large estate agent, to see that the numerous horses that the firm keep are properly looked after when they come in from driving people out long distances to see land. I am to have 30 dollars a month—a welcome addition for household expenses, for my 200 were all swallowed up, and had I not had a regular allowance from home, I do not see how we could have lived. Everything is very dear out West, groceries double the price they are at home; meat is cheap, but very bad; by taking a whole quarter of beef I can get it for 7 cents a lb., otherwise I should have to pay 12 cents; a cap costing a shilling at home costs a dollar out here. In fact it seems to me, that what costs a shilling at home invariably costs a dollar here.

A whole quarter of beef seems I dare say a large order, but we do not salt it, we eat it fresh, not all at once of course; but as everything is frozen we bring in at night what we want for the next day, and let it thaw out. When meat is frozen, you can break pieces off like you would wood. Butter in town costs 25 cents in summer and 35 cents in winter, milk 7 cents a quart, bread io cents per lb., or 15 cents per 21 lb., apples 4 dollars a barrel, oranges 50 cents a dozen, the cheapest sort of tobacco, 10 cents a plug, 8 plugs to the lb.

For horses you can pay any price from 270 to 500 dollars. In the spring they are dear, but in the fall and winter they are cheaper. Oxen are perhaps not so bad on a farm, but for road work they are hopeless, they work so slowly; and as I shall have a good deal of road work next year, hauling various necessaries, I shall he glad to change my team for a quicker one.

The first thing to be done in the spring is to get a decent shack built. This will cost between 250 to 300 dollars; the present one will have, to be pulled down, and built up again; it is very cold and leaks when it rains hard: we had to have dinner under umbrellas, and the beds got all soaked; besides, we require more room, for people are always dropping in, and you cannot turn away any one on the prairie.

When this is done I must turn my attention to getting a team, a general purpose one, and my Indian pony can always help plough. We are obliged to have a saddle horse, for cattle and even horses will wander at times for several miles, and one must ride after them.

I have not been able to fence in a pasture yet, as for implements you cannot buy on the hire system, but you can buy in the spring, and six months' credit is generally allowed, for which 6 per cent. interest is charged, or if for a year 12 per cent. One cannot hire from the well-established farmers, for as soon as the weather breaks, every one is in a hurry, as seeding is a very short period.


 


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