Nuffield Scholar report

Check out this Nuffield report on “The future of the Family farm in a marginal area”

Craig Duffield travelled to “Palliser’s Triangle” in Canada which is a semi-arid area in Canada which had also historically been deemed “inappropriate” to farm. This area now is extremely productive. The Semi-Arid Prairie Research Centre (SPARC) is based in the centre of this zone and their extensive research has directly improved agriculture for region.

It will be good to have Craig’s insights as John Martin and I travelling through this area.

20 degrees below zero!

I have just been conversing with a colleague at Farm Credit Canada (Regina), who advised the winter has been very “dry and mild”, and some are already worried about drought conditions for the summer. He went on to say this could all change in a hurry as they typically get about half their annual rainfall in April through to June. The rain usually comes via storms from which they measure the rain showers in centimetres. He also advised wind is normal, but high winds are common. John and I should see the tail end of seeding as we head across the Prairies, but will also mean we can expect to get drenched occasionally and hoping the wind doesn’t blow us back to Vancouver!

 I know it gets cold in Canada, but what I initially thought he meant by “dry” was less rain, but he was actually referring to the fact they have had virtually no snow. Whilst it has been mild, he reported that it was 20 degrees below zero this morning in Regina, one of the coldest days of winter so far. A far cry from the 40 degree + temperatures and high winds we were pushing into on the weekend.

The “scenic” route. Don’t trust the GPS

It is now 9.30pm on Saturday night, the hot northerly wind has left us in peace. I’m in my tent, although it would be better to be under the stars as it so warm and still. I am hoping the exertion from today’s pounding into the wind with a full load, in what felt like 35 -40 degrees on the hot bitumen road will get the better of me and I finally drift into a well earned rest before we do it again tomorrow. It was so warm on the road today my tyre was leaving an impression of my tyre tread on sections of the bitumen.

John and I are at the Maryborough Caravan Park, having ridden 100km from Kyneton. The day started off cool enough as we meandered our way through the scenic route (read- we trusted the GPS to get us through to Glenluce and Guilford but after about 5km the road that the GPS suggested we take was de-commissioned and soon after the road went from paved to gravel and we ended up doing a big circle). At this stage we still had Trevor Miles whom will be with us in Canada until we get to Calgary. Unfortunately Trevor wasn’t feeling too well so didn’t come with us all the way today, parting at Newstead. Anyway it was good to give the bikes a run on the gravel for a few km’s to test them out. At least our sense of humor was still in tact so we changed our plans and pushed on.

By the way I sometimes refer to my GPS as “Yellowbeard”. If anyone who has seen the movie of the same name will understand.

Our new plans involved coffee and muffins at the Glenlyon General Store (which we highly recommend, thanks John). The revised route took us through Glenlyon, Yandoit, Newstead for lunch, then Carisbrook before getting to Maryborough around 3.45pm. My partner Meg drove down from Bendigo to meet us and deliver a perfectly chilled Vale Ale and some other delightful snacks which was very well received.

Yesterday was also a hot 70+km ride from Bendigo to Kyneton in the afternoon via Sutton Grange and Metcalfe. This was a really pleasant ride with plenty of hills to challenge us. We were a bit bemused when we got to the so called Kyneton Caravan Park, because although it is on maps, internet etc it is no longer operating. We stayed there anyway but the possums, cockatoos and the odd hoon were constant reminders that this was “their” park now. Trevor also sprung a leak in his mattress so the night wasn’t so restful for him. I decided I didn’t need my sleeping bag before we left Bendigo given the forecast minimums were in the 20’s however it is surprising how cool it got which meant in the middle of the night trying to find whatever clothes I could, doubling the sheet over me etc to try and keep warm.

These training rides have been great for testing out the gear we plan to take to Canada. The trangia is getting a good work out with different meals etc. (even a healthly bit of competition creeping into the cooking). We are revising what clothes to take and will probably cut back some things or exchange for others. It is also important we get used to sleeping it the tent as four months is a long time to be on the road.

Now, time I got some sleep. Early start tomorrow as we head back to Bendigo. We want to try and beat the forecast rain for the afternoon.