Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Old Time Harvest

I enjoyed spending a day at the Strathcona Vintage Tractor Association antique tractor pull and show this past weekend. It is an annual affair that pits tractors of various classes, according to weight, against each other in a pull off. Which tractor can pull the sled the furthest down the track? The tractor operators work as hard as their tractor to do the job. There are 6 classes of vintage tractors, all built before 1960. There were over 100 tractors at this years event, held at the clubs track at the site of the Bremner mansion which has been declared a historical monument by Strathcona County, This impressive home was built by a remittance man from Great Britain in the early 1900s. Now the county allows the SVTA to plant and harvest demonstration crops using the old fashioned technology of the day as a memorial to the hard work and inventiveness of our early pioneers. It is also amazing to see how machinery has advanced technologically since the turn of the twentieth century.
Deerland, the company I work for, donates the use of the track repair tractor, the tow back tractor and a 4 seater Gator to help the association with this event. Several hundred people wandered around the exhibits and cheered on the efforts of the historical tractor restorers as they coaxed their smoke bellowing steel steeds to maximum horsepower and traction.

On the opposite side of the field another group of machinery antiquity experts demonstrated a typical harvest using equipment built anywhere from 1900 through the 1950s. An "Oil Bath Rumley" tractor powered the threshing machine through a rack full of oat bundles. The long belt whispered and clacked its power effortlessly through the machine as the two man crew pitched the bundles into the throat of the grey monster. Out the other end blew the chaff and waste straw, once the guys turned the spout the right direction. The smaller spout carefully measured the clean seed oats into the 1950s model 2 ton GMC truck. Over in the fie
ld one John Deere model 70 towed the 12 foot Cockshut swather around and around the field of standing oats. At the other end of the field, going the opposite direction was a BR John Deere towing the 10 foot binder. I'd forgotten that the binder had to go counter-clockwise around the field as the bundles have to drop off on the stubble side. Once the group of 5 bundles are made, the binder operator drops them in the field where the stookers come along and stand them up by hand to cure and dry. I made about 40 stooks and that was enough already.
All in all, I think the participants enjoyed their days as much as the spectators did. There was plenty of advice flying around from some of the old timers who were standing around reminiscing.

On another note, a hailstorm blew through this area a few days ago. I stopped to look at the damage caused to a beautiful canola field. Most of the pods are laying on the ground after having been smashed open by the pounding hail.

Just next door is a field of peas that were laying on the ground ready for harvest. The combines had picked up over half of the crop and now it is swarmed by flocks of Canada Geese and ducks. The migrants lift off the North Saskatchewan River and numerous sloughs nearby to eat and gorge upon the peas lost by the combines. Geese grow quickly on this free, favorite, high protein fare. It seems that the struggles of the farmer are similar no matter the times or the areas where they live. Hail, drougth, wildlife, frost and machinery problems all work with or against the farmer of old and new. Only people of the farm can understand and empathise with the stewards of the land.

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