Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Expect the unexpected

Columnist David Zirnhelt says a new work ethic is upon us

As I write this article the forecast says to expect over another foot of snow and the temperatures will be minus 16-30 degrees C.

This means plowing snow and ensuring that vehicles can be warmed for guaranteed starting.

Aside from feeding animals, the rest of the work on our place has come to a halt. Work here is defined as continuous improvement including routine repairs and upgrades to facilities –fences, buildings, machinery.

This does not include major upgrades in harvesting machinery (hay and silage making) or developing new farmland.

This is to say just keeping the place operating requires time, energy, know-how and money (inflation abounds!).

We have been known to plow snow for a week or more just to open up our on ranch roads and operating areas.

The combination of cold and significant snow is another hit following flood, excessive heat, pandemic induced effects of supply and market barriers.

I think I have just defined farm life in (northern) Canada. In order to survive and thrive, a certain determined toughness can help. Barring the loss of health, we will get through this. Nothing abnormal about that.

However, I say, a generational or multigenerational shift in behavior and values has happened.

Not everyone is defined by what I am about to say.

A new work ethic is upon us.

Over work and stressful work is not for most of the people entering the workforce. Who needs unpleasant work?

Most of our work is pleasant. But there is a lot of it. Our responsibilities to our land and animals, to say nothing about neighbours and family, means the work is hardly nine to five. Some parts of the works go on for decades.

What I said earlier about the dramatic events affecting what we do, is compounded by the “ever with us” nature of daily operations:

Is the stock water frozen? Do they have salt, shelter? Do they need more feed for calories to keep warm in the -20 degree weather?

My last week was participating in some of the work to bring researchers together with producers to define projects which give us a better handle on operating farms given the increasing uncertainties brought on by a changing climate.

What do we plant and how do we manage our crops for soil health and resilience in the face of weather extremes?

We need flexibility and we need some experimentation.

Then we have to measure the evidence to validate our approaches and practises.

Many of our operations have been built with determination, hard work, and innovation.

This would be the takeaway for younger generations. The would be the reward for those of strong spirit.

Happy Holidays to everyone in this winter wonderland!


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