Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tornado watch

In 1965 father took a year off from his job as an Ag Rep in Shellbrook, rented the house out, packed some of our stuff into a trailer and we set off for Colorado State University in Fort Collins.  Mother said afterwards that when he told her he had been accepted into the Masters program at CSU she went to the bathroom to wash her hair so she could cry into the sink.  But we all survived and it was in fact a grand adventure. 

One of the families that we met in Fort Collins was the Gary Garey family from Syracuse, Nebraska.  We won’t get into  the discussion about what kind of parents would name their kid Gary when the family name was Garey. 

Gary was a classmate of father’s in the Masters program at CSU and they stayed in touch after we returned to Shellbrook.  It must have only been 1 or 2 summers later when the Garey family came to Shellbrook for a visit.  I can’t place the time exactly but it was while we were still in Shellbrook and the Vietnam war was still in high gear because the Gareys were very worried about their oldest son’s draft.

One day while they were visiting the fire siren rang a particularly long time.  In a small town that just meant that there was a bad fire and they wanted to make sure all the volunteers heard the siren.  For the Garey family however their first thought was “tornado”.   We had to assure them that we simply didn’t have tornados but I’m not sure they completely believed us. TornadoWath

I’m in tornado alley now and I have some sense of their fear.  That’s the current radar view of Nebraska on Wunderground.  It looks pretty good right now and I think we’ve likely passed our highest risk but the TV is forecasting high tornado risk for areas southeast of here for 2 more days.  I always thought that tornados were something that blew up and blew over quickly but at least in this case they seem to have lots of warning and the threat period appears to go on for days, not hours.  I was actually a little worried about going to sleep last night because the threat for this county extended to 3:00 AM.  By 10:00 PM however the radar shots showed that most of the storm was already east of us and heading northeast.

I’ve been in Laramie, Wyoming for the past week and I’ll be in Broken Bow, Nebraska this week on another Growsafe project.  My rental for this trip turned out to be some kind of Chevy SUV.  Its been a good reminder not to consider buying anything from GM.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with it but nothing is particularly right either.  I’ve grown accustomed to some pretty nice toys on my personal Fords and on rental Fords; this Chevy is like taking a step 10 years back in vehicle technology.  The only feature that I have noticed that would be nice to see on a Ford is the moisture sensing wipers which I haven’t completely figured out but which are pretty cool nevertheless.

I had a very informative conversation with one of the client employees on the last job.  This guy knew where Saskatchewan was and had spent quite a bit of time fishing on the Sturgeon Weir which is just north of the Jan Lake turnoff on the Hansen Lake Road.  We got talking about farming and he asked me if there was some kind of Canadian government program to encourage farmers to maintain their farmyards.  I was taken aback by the question & I didn’t respond as wisely as I could have.  I did however assure him that there was and is no such program.

The foundation of his question was his observation that western Canadian farmyards generally look better than midwest US farmyards.  And I think he’s right – I think on the average a western Canadian farmyard is in better repair with more modern buildings and just generally better housekeeping than the average yard that you drive by in the midwest.  The reason however has nothing whatsoever to do with Canadian government programs and at the same time everything to do with US government programs.

My client’s question made an assumption that the Canadian government was somehow subsidizing farmers to maintain their farmyards.  And the assumption that Canadian farmers are somehow supported by their government to a greater degree than American farmers are is commonplace down here.  The truth is exactly the opposite. 

The reason the average yard in western Canada looks better than its counterpart in the midwest is simple.  The failures in western Canada have moved to the city or the oilpatch.  If they’re still living in the farmyard they have off farm income so they can afford to paint the outbuildings, fix the fences and mow the grass.  Meanwhile the successful farmers have had access to the land that the failures couldn’t manage so they have been able to grow profitably.  On the US side however, the failures are propped up by ag programs that assume every idiot born in the country has some God given right to be a farmer.  That’s simply stupid and fortunately for the most part, Canadian ag policy has recognized that and encouraged the failures to fail and move on. 

Implicit in the question was the assumption that farmers wouldn’t invest in the farm without some government incentive.  That  notion that government solves all is pervasive both north and south of the 49th.  There was a time when that foolish thinking was more common north of the border but I’m not sure that’s true anymore.  And there’s plenty of crappy farmyards in western Canada too – they just tend to be owned by socialists and NFU members.

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