Medstead - Canada

Medstead (Saskatchewan) is a similarly sized community to Medstead (Hampshire) and has a lot in common. However the weather and wildlife is more varied than in England. Here are some interesting highlights from 2002, contributed by the Oster family who live in Medstead, Saskatchewan:

We farm folks are keeping fairly well considering how 2002's weather affected our crops which we rely on so much. Spring seeding went well in May, crops grew, but then it didn't rain much after that. Next it was HOT out. Crops shrivelled. Had a peak of 41C on July 12 for over an hour and we're not used to that kind of weather. August 2 we had -5C, freezing potato plants, garden vegetables, crops, hay meadows. However, this broke the weather pattern and in August we got four inches of rain which caused second growth in the barley. It also brought the cattle pastures back to life, gardens developed.

End of August we combined about 18 hours of peas and canola, yielded three bushels per acre. Then parked the combine. The other canola field wasn't worth combining (normally 28 bushels/acre), baled it for cattle bedding.

We didn't combine one kernel of barley. Barley went into silage bales bought another piece of machinery in order to wrap the bales up as silage feed), or as dry bales, or into bales that got used up right away before they heated up as there was some snow in them. Started baling August 19, and finished November 23. Our 2002 harvesting ended. If we had left our swaths out in the fields over winter, there wouldn't be much left in the spring to pick up as the deer and elk would have eaten it for winter lunches.

September was cool and damp. October 15 we had snow on the ground, eventually got about eight inches of it. To salvage the barley swaths covered in snow, we had to turn the swaths over, three or four times, to shake out the snow chunks, then follow with the baler, but it was a struggle as the baler bars kept bending and needed straightening. We have ample feed for the cattle, didn't sell any cows because of the drought. Now cattle feeding is a daily routine.

Today there are many farmers with lots of swaths of canola, barley and/or wheat laying in their fields with a light layer of snow on. Those crops will be harvested in the spring, baled or combined. Our grid roads are bare while the farm yards are snow packed. Farming tasks now include repairing machinery in the farm shop, culling cattle, marketing a little bit of old grain as we certainly didn't put much grain into the bins this autumn. We didn't get many hay bales in July because of the drought. Will manage though, as we have reserves from other years.

Garden wasn't super, mostly watered it to keep it alive. We experienced such hot weather the weeds didn't even grow properly. Rabbits and birds got some of our beets before us. Birds got the red and white currants in June, while the bears got the chokecherries before me in September. Drought, of course, took the raspberries. We had water for our cattle this summer, but as before, we had to keep putting the fence line further out into the Lake as the shoreline kept receding.

Mink and deer frequented our farm yard during August, as after a rain we found their tracks at the edge of a water puddle. We have a friendly white weasel sprinting about the farm yard now. In the spring we had four raccoons under the steel grain bins for a while, but they didn't stay long. Badgers have been about as well.

This autumn golden eagles and bald headed eagles hovered around the Lake and pastures. The migrating Canada geese and ducks frequented many meals on our swathed barley crops before we got it baled. Also had a white pelican by the corral gate late September after bringing the cattle home from their summer pasture. The pelican wandered across the farm yard to the shop, sunned itself in front and then eventually meandered away and up into the air. It was a grand specimen, richly plumaged and a heavy bird.