January 21/20 – Down on the Farm

Alberta is one of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. Previously, the District of Alberta was only one part of the vast Northwest Territories, it joined Confederation in 1905 (as did Saskatchewan) when its population would have been around only 100,000.

The province covers 660,000 square kilometers (250,000 square miles) and as of the 2016 census, the population was listed as 4,067,175, but Stats Canada census data from 2019 shows it at 4,362,503. For comparison purposes, Japan’s area is 377,975 square kilometers (145,937 square miles) and its population as of 2019 is estimated at 126,150,000. The UK covers 242,495 square kilometers (93,628 square miles) and its population as of 2019, is estimated at 67,545,757.


What I am getting at, is that Alberta has a vast amount of uninhabited, open space (mountains, forests and farmland). 30% of Alberta’s population is rural (small towns, municipalities and farms). They see Alberta’s 7 major cities as getting far more attention than they do and they are right. I think we would all be in deep doo-doo if the resources, both natural and agricultural were taken out of our economy. I lived in rural areas for 13 years out of my first 18 and another three years after that during my working life. Of that portion, I lived and worked on farms for 12 of those years, when I lived at home.

So, I thought, what better post for today than one paying homage to Alberta’s agrarian areas, both past and present. We Urban Slickers all moan and groan about how bad the recent cold spell was, but what about the farmers who raise livestock and also had to suffer through it. Not only do they have to keep the family safe and warm, but nobody can settle down for the evening in front of the telly, until all of the livestock are tended to.

I recall those days, when as a 16 year old, I was home from school, as at -51 F temperatures, school buses and most vehicles will not run. Stepping outside after breakfast, I breathed too deeply and had to turn around and go back into a frigid farmhouse to catch my breath. But, I could not stay there. The cattle and swine needed food, in this case, something we called “chop”. You run whole oats or barley or a mixture thereof through a grinder to make it into something that easier for the animals to digest. We had none left and thus, had to make some to keep the animals alive.

This meant my Dad had to get the tractor going (2 hours with a Sterno pot under the crankcase to heat the frozen oil to a liquid state, a squirt of ether through the air cleaner into the carb and a whole lot of hand cranking and it was running) at -51F. After the motor warmed up, the tractor was positioned just right, so a long, 12″ wide, incredibly dangerous canvas fabric drive belt could be run between the tractor power pulley and the grinder pulley. Once in position, the gear case for the power pulley was engaged and with an ear splitting shriek, the grinder began to spin, so we could start grinding the animal feed. We made enough chop to last a week, which was good, because daily highs between -50 and -55 F for almost a week, before warming up.

Job done, we all gratefully stepped back into the house, knowing the animals were fed. It was then, I realized I needed to make a visit to the rest room….the “wee hoosie out back”, the outhouse….which was outside….at -51, with Sears catalogue pages instead of TP. My visit was brief.

And so, my photos pay homage to the tough rural Albertans, past and present who live Down on the Farm. A bad day at the office for them could have serious consequences.

farm out buildings, including animal shelters (back to the prevailing wind)

Old farmstead buildings

Threshing machine, used to separate grain, stalks and chaff before the advent of modern combine harvesters. The threshing machine was pulled into a field and remained stationary during harvesting. Power came from a steam traction engine and a long canvas fabric or rubber belt was run from the engine pulley to the thresher pulley. Horse drawn wagons were commonly used to bring stooked grain bundles to the machine. The bundles were then thrown into the spinning blades by men using long handled forks. Chaff and straw came out one end and grain out the other. This thresher seems to be in pretty good shape.

You have been warned. Rural trespass (snowmobiles and quads), illegal hunting and rural crime are prevalent in rural Alberta. So much open land, so few eyes watching.

The horses and cattle were feeling the love of the warm sun on this day.

The old farmstead.

Modern farm silos and buildings in the distance.

Old wooden farm buildings do not always stand the test of time and kind of relax back into the land.

9 thoughts on “January 21/20 – Down on the Farm

  1. And while chores might not be quite as difficult now they are still outside in that weather. Then in the summer for long long days in the heat. Sure some tractors have AC but not all. The advent of technology has helped but it’s still a lot of manual labour to make those buttons work! People rag on farmers all the time about the chemicals and yet everyone is happy to eat the food or drink the milk. Farmers treat their cattle well as it’s the difference between debt and some money in the bank. As you can tell I am quite passionate about this subject. No sick days and if one is truly ill the neighborhours step up to help out.
    The no trespassing signs are becoming more prevalent as the number of issues arise.
    Did you know that Alberta and Saskatchewan were supposed to be one province but the government down East thought “whoa — too big and might develop too much clout” so they chopped a line down the middle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree with your passion. I watched farming life slowly kill my Mother and Father. It was always “next year country” but next year never came. When I volunteered to stay Down on the Farm, Dad told me to get the H out because I could do so much better than he had. As to the West having clout, this will never happen until we are taken as equal partners to confederation. PEI has more clout than we do. Thanks for reading and commenting. Allan

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great photos Allan. I especially loved the black and white ones. Even though I lived in Alberta – and remember those cold cold days – I wasn’t on a farm – but can appreciate all what they do. Thanks for sharing some of your past

    Liked by 2 people

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