Out for a hike above the Guadalcacin Reservoir, Spain.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Arcos de la Frontera, Spain.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Heading towards Seville, Spain.

Friday, September 16, 2016

There's something you don't get to do every day!

We've been spending our summers here on the Canadian prairies for four years now. The first year up at Sturgeon Lake, and the last three summers here at Cabri Regional Park.

Saskatchewan contains 44% of all the farmland in Canada! And so, a big part of the economy here is farming. Many of our clientele here at the park are local farmers, and our economy here at the campground is directly related to the growing season. Farmers are busy with seeding and fertilizing in May and June, so not many of them come to the park. And then in mid August through September they are busy harvesting the product, so the park is quiet once again.

Being from the city in Ontario, we don't know very much about farming. My grandfather was a wheat farmer north of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan back in the 1930's so my roots go back to this part of Canada, but that lifestyle was a long time ago and things have changed a lot since then.

So at this time of year, people around these parts are busy with harvest. It seems like just about everybody does something to help with harvest. The men (and some women!) are out driving the big machinery and working into the night to get the product off the fields.

Yesterday, one of the regulars here at the park invited us to see their operation and we jumped at the opportunity! Never like us to turn down seeing or doing something new.

David and Sharlene, along with their son Jeff, farm a 4,000 acre operation here, on several different properties between 10 and 30 kms away from the park. This would be considered a mid size farm, with some of the larger farms being in excess of 8,000 acres.

Jeff is driving the combine, while the wheat is being loaded into a grain cart at the same time. 
An employee drives the tractor with the grain cart.

Their son Jeff was out on the combine today, and they got him to stop long enough to let us on board! Wow...big equipment. Beside the driver, there is a smaller seat for one more person. I took a turn first, then he stopped again and Ruth got on board. There's something you don't get to do every day!

Jeff, with the combine.

I think they said this particular machine was about six years old. It would be considered a medium size combine...there are larger ones available. And, big ticket items. This machine brand new would sell for about $650,000! Farming is a big business nowadays, with lots of dollars floating around on an annual basis. The hope is that there is some left over for the farmer by the time expenses are taken away from revenue.

I climbed up into the big machine and sat beside Jeff. He got things rolling and I looked around at all the high tech equipment. Computer screens, and GPS enabled steering. Amazing stuff. There are sensors throughout the unit that keep track of moisture content and what parts of the field have the highest yield, and where more or less fertilizer will be needed during seeding next year. With all of this info being fed live through the internet as the harvest is taking place. They know exactly where production stands at any given point through the harvest!


Here is what it looks like from the driver's seat.

As the combine is operating, it is throwing the cleaned grain into a bin on the back of the combine. But the bin actually fills up fairly quickly and so they either have to stop and transfer it to the grain cart, or they can do it "on the fly" and transfer while both units are driving.

I went for one pass up and down the fields, and then Ruth got in and went for a pass.

Ruth is in the combine heading down the field while the grain cart waits for the return pass.

On the return pass, the grain cart lines itself up beside the combine to take on another load.

When the grain cart is full, he heads over to the waiting tractor trailer to load the trailer.

The grain cart loading the tractor trailer.

And then when the tractor trailer if full, we drive it over to the storage bins a few kilometers away. We were invited to go for that ride too, so we all jumped in the tractor trailer!

The tractor trailer arrives at the storage bins.

The wheat gets dumped from the trailer into the loading machine.

Wheat, fresh off the field!

Ruth, climbing to the top of the storage bin.

View from the top.

Transferring the grain from the trailer to the storage bin.

While the truck was unloading, Sharlene took us into the huge garage and shop where they store the equipment...

The big workshop garage. That's the seeding and fertilizing unit.

Now that's a tractor!

Kevin, in the driver's seat.

Another big ticket piece of equipment. New, this tractor is about $450,000. This one is about two years old, but when I opened the driver's door, it still had that new car smell!

Ruth, having fun. A big tractor needs big tires!

The grain is sold off to a variety of buyers. This is where it gets complicated, because it's not a simple business anymore. As David says, he doesn't need to go to Las Vegas...he gambles every day as part of his business. Grain is often sold in contracts, and often in advance of when it is even grown! That means there is a lot of risk if you can't supply your contract because you don't have a good year. Or, you can lock in a higher price mid season and then have a really good yield.

And of course so much depends on the weather. This year's wheat crop was a higher yield than normal, but it wasn't as good as the quality was from last year because we had so much rain this year.

They don't only farm wheat here. Actually, most of the wheat production here is called "durum" because of the type of wheat that it is. But they also grow lentils and peas.

The lentil crop was quite good this year.

Isn't it amazing how the combine can clean the product so well?? These lentils will be shipped to a place where they are further cleaned of the "skin" around the lentil, and then split.

These smaller storage bins are full of lentils.

What an interesting afternoon we had! They've invited us back in the spring to see how seeding and fertilizing is done! 

Well, they say you learn something new every day. We sure proved that yesterday.

Antarctic Krill Oil...great source of Omega 3 oils...

And in Canada, a nice chef knife...razor sharp!


  1. Very interesting! Here in the San Joaquin Valley, we grow raisin grapes and almonds. Totally different harvest.

    1. We enjoyed our afternoon and sure learnt more about the farming life.

      Looks like we will have to check out farming in the San Joaquin Valley some time. :-)

  2. Awesome. Biggest tractor I ever drove was a Cockshutt 1900, but it was puny compared to that "Versatile". Such a fun day!

    1. Well the Cockshutt 1900 would have been a lot bigger than our little tractor here at the park. I am sure that Kevin would love a ride in that HUGE tractor, maybe next spring. ;-)

  3. Excellent post! When the header pic first popped up I thought 500K. Boy was I way off. Most people don't realize what it takes to produce the food we eat.

    1. Thanks Chris! Yep, most people just take our food for granted and don't realize the hard work and money that goes into it and bringing to to your local grocery store. We now have a better understanding of the long hours that farmers put into their product.

  4. So interesting to see the process. Suzie grew up on a dairy farm here in Ontario, a much smaller operation , only about 200 acres. We camped here in the summers fora few years and were both able to help out the odd time driving the tractors and hauling the wagons, though she had more experience. Nice that you got the tour.

    1. Yes, a dairy farm would certainly be very different to the farming that is done out here in the prairies. Still it would be interesting to see that production as well.

  5. Great post! I'm always amazed how fast the combines go. Much faster than years ago.
    Not many swath anymore....all standing.

    1. Yep, they move along quite nicely and very precise! I can't even begin to imagine how they would have done it so many years ago, guaranteed their fields would not have been as big as they are today.

  6. oh wow, what a great post! I love harvesting time, and your details are excellent, because most folks don't have a clue about all this. I had the pleasure of operating a $500K combine 25 years ago from Texas panhandle to Canada/Minnesota border harvesting about 20 farmers' wheat fields for a "wheatie" (custom harvester). The teamwork, the farmers, nature and the crop's moisture content, bad fields, good fields, the equipment, it is mind-boggling to get a good handle on it all, and your post did it perfectly! Ruth, love your portrait in a wheel :)

    1. Thank you Terri! We had a couple of good teachers out there on the field the other day, we listened very closely to what they had to say and asked lots of question to gain more insight in the world of farming. Yes, a lot of time, effort and teamwork go into the farming life as well as a bit of luck. ;-)

  7. Can you imagine how wide-eyed and excited Cameron would have been if he had been able to visit that huge farm with you. I'm sure he would have been all over the farm equipment if you didn't hold his hand firmly. He would have thought, "wow, toys so much bigger than ME."


    1. Cameron had already beat us to having a ride in a very big combine. When they lived in Nova Scotia they rented a house that belonged to a man who had a big farm operation only a 10 minute walk from the house. They were allowed to go down anytime and wander around and look at the equipment and that is where he got his ride in a combine. They couldn't get him out of it until the whole field was cut, lol! He loved it and loves all the farm equipment.

  8. Now that was fascinating! I see smaller versions of all that in fields around here, but so neat to get to see it up close.

    1. Yep, it was pretty cool to see it up close and then to be able to have a ride in it too. Looking forward to the seeding season next year! :-)


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