Thanksgiving for the harvest – on the combine!

For many Canadians, when it comes to family dinners, Thanksgiving ranks in importance right after Christmas. The big question for western Canadian grain farm women is always: will there be a sit down Thanksgiving dinner with the family this year?

Last year we could gather with my family at my sister's place for Thanksgiving. The harvest was finished.

Last year we could gather with my family at my sister's place for Thanksgiving. The harvest was finished.

If they’re lucky, and the harvest is finished like it was for most in Westlock last year, their farmer will carve the turkey at the dining table and thank God the crop is in. Or, even if the harvest isn’t finished, it might be raining or even snowing, and they’ll still have pumpkin pie around the table. Some of those present may not feel as thankful as they could be, but the dinner will be saved.

Then there are the years, like this one for many, where Thanksgiving dinner coincides with a sunny day after a wet period. The cook will hear the all-too familiar words, “Sorry, honey, the harvest comes first, you know that.” There are various ways around this one – serve it in the field from the tailgate of the pickup, serve it at home without the family members involved in the harvest, or postpone it to another day. Hopefully there will be mutual understanding…

Many farmers will have spent Thanksgiving on the combine this year. Robert is combining canola.  (picture courtesy of Daniel Stamm)

Many farmers will have spent Thanksgiving on the combine this year. Robert is combining canola. (picture courtesy of Daniel Stamm)

Robert is helping Iman Koeman with the combining again, as in the last years. Like most farmers in Central Alberta, they had to wait through half of the beautiful September weather for the crops to mature sufficiently so they could start harvesting. They got a couple good weeks in with long hours. Then a week ago it started to rain, off and on, just enough to stop operations. From the reports I’ve heard most farmers in the area are about 60% done or better. That’s still a good amount of crop out, but mostly canola on the swath.

Despite what looked like a difficult year – a late start, then a prolonged dry period, then flood-like rains – the reports on yields are positive. Some fields are giving bumper crops, others average, some below average. It seems like a normal year. Prices are still good so farmers are happy. Now, if they can only get those last swaths in!

Robert did get Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday – our good friends Sharon and Dave McGraw invited him. Thanks guys for taking him in! But he didn’t have much time to digest the meal before he was called to the combine again at 7 p.m., and was still going at midnight when he sent me a text message. The weather report isn’t particularly favourable. They can’t afford to waste any dry hours…

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