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THE FARMER FACES AN EVIL ARMY

One thing I loved when I was involved in farming--and even afterwards to some extent--was the annual series of crop tours. It began shortly after seeding, and continued  every couple weeks or so after that.

Now seeding was always my favourite time of the farm year. After the seed was in the ground there was a feeling of satisfaction. So far so good. Nothing troubling has happened to the crop yet.

Out of sight however, there is a standing army, ready and determined to destroy that crop. Its leaders--Jack Frost, Harry Hail, Debbie Drought, Fanny Flood, Freddy Fungus, Robby Rust and the whole Bug Brigade--are tough and evil.

The first crop tours begin  two or three weeks after seeding, and they are the best. (If you’re not in farming but happen to be driving down a country road, you’ll  find yourself having to pass pickup truck after pickup truck crawling along like snails, heads hanging out of windows, trying to spot those first tiny green rows.) The next few trips, as the plants rise higher, are filled with excitement. Things are still looking good. But the enemies are hiding out there, ready to pounce.

Over the next two months the thugs  begin showing up, one by one.  First may be the signs of Debbie the Drought, hopefully scared off, for now, with a day or two of rain. Often a member of the Bug Brigade--a worm, maybe , or grasshopper--will make an appearance, held in check with a dose--a very expensive dose--of insecticide. By now the pickups are often parked for a few minutes while the farmer wades in to check on a number of plants, looking for those bugs or traces of Freddie Fungus.

Now you’ll often see a farmer stop his truck near another and the two self-certified crop experts will spend some time arguing over what the yield will be in this field here and that one over there. 

The tours at this time are not always troubling, of course, generally there is considerable satisfaction as the plants head out, grow taller, gradually mature. 

Now you’ll often see a farmer stop his truck near another and the two self-certified crop experts will spend some time arguing over what the yield will be in this field here and that one over there. 

By mid-to-late August farmers are anxiously watching the weather predictions as overnight temperatures get a little lower overnight, hoping and praying that Mr. Jack Frost is keeping his distance. No more wishing for rain now, we remember years that were too dry during growing season, but came up in the fall with enough rain to hold harvest back and lower the grades of grain crops. Mother Nature--Commander of the enemy army--likes to play that kind of sick joke on farmers. So we watch the watch the western sky as we drive the country roads, praying not to see dark clouds showing up there.  

Now the trips become series of  crop checks to see if they’re ready for the swather or combine. Crush a wheat head into your hand, squeeze the kernels--are they hard, soft, turning colour?  Break open canola pods; are the seeds looking green enough to wait a while longer?

Harvest arrives and there are no more easygoing  tours. Now the roads are full of combines rushing from field to field, huge truckloads of grain, oilseed, peas, fuel, and more, hauling their vital cargos. This is the big finish. Here’s where we find out for sure how much damage the farmers’ enemies have done to the quality and yield. Has there ever been a year when not even one of those thugs has slightly altered the final condition of the crops? The most elderly stubble jumpers, still farming or retired, will tell you that if that perfect year ever arrives, duck. The sky will be falling.


To comment on columns contact Esther or me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 306 384 8657 or 110 - 201 Cree Place Saskatoon,  S7K 7Z3

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