Roderic Beaujot, formerly of Langbank, Sask and now living in London, Ontario since 1974 settled in at the University of Ontario as a Professor of Sociology. Beaujot is now 10 years retired from teaching and has since been doing some research with writing his latest book becoming his last project. His book is entitled “From Horse and Buggy to GPS: Life on a Saskatchewan Farm”.
Since his area is population, he pays attention to the demographics of the settlement of the Prairies, the various ethnic groups and how they settled in various areas and the French and English languages.
Growing up, Rod and his family heard many stories told by their parents, Leon and Dorothy Beaujot about their life growing up on their family farms in particular the specific community of Saint Hubert in the Whitewood-Langbank-Kipling area. The community of St. Hubert has since disappeared, with only an empty church and cemeteries remaining.
“It was because of my parents especially my dad telling me stories of their youth,” explains Beaujot as to why he was inspired to write this book.
“Knowing that I was an academic, my dad encouraged me to write these stories down and record them eventually being able to pass it down to the grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
This book follows his grandparents and parents from horse and buggy days to increased mechanization and specialization in agriculture. In the book he compares the farming from back then until the present.
“Basically it started with my parents telling us stories and then I wanted to conceptualize it and eventually I gathered a lot of information and made an 80-page version for my dad’s 90th birthday in 2009. After my parents passed away in 2014, I came back to it.”
“I wanted to tell in part the story of the community of St. Hubert that my grandparents came to and that was part of our lives and then I wanted to also make some comparisons with other parts of the family who didn't come to Canada. A little bit about my parents first cousins in Belgium and France as well as those who were in Canada and keep those memories alive.”
For instance, people had to learn how to operate with combines rather than thrashers. Eventually farmers learned how to do things without summerfallow and how to control weeds.
In those days, a thrashing bee would make its rounds from farm to farm.
Farmers eventually would become more independent and separate.
They did find that if you left the grain, providing there wasn't too much snow, you could still combine the frozen grain out in the swaths.
Stories such as this as to how things were more mechanized over the years.
Farming was much more labour intensive when his father started out as a farmer compared to when he retired from farming.
Leon and Dorothy originally started out just farming a half section in 1945 and in 1971 they were farming 1¾ sections.
During their first years of farming, Leon and Dorothy were quite self-sufficient, producing much of their own food: meat, milk, eggs, garden vegetables and fruit, even collecting wild berries and hunting for ducks. Besides producing grain for the market, they sold eggs, cream and livestock. By 1971, they had specialized in grain production. Chickens were raised for their own consumption, with garden vegetables and fruit remaining important. Other than the farmyard and gardens, all available land was used to maximize grain production. Even fences were removed.
They were now farming 1¾ sections (1,120 acres), which effectively had been three separate farms a decade or so earlier, each with a house and farmyard. The children were still important to farm production, with their wages entered in the farm account books, but they were leaving to study or work elsewhere as they were finishing high school.
Leon and Dorothy’s 40th Anniversary brought the family together for several days. There was much discussion of retirement and the implications for the family farm. Norbert and Pat were advancing their plans to establish Seed Hawk and to build no-till seeders at a location between the Beaujot farm and Langbank. The discussions in the family centered on working out an arrangement with Norbert and Pat to take over the operation of the farm. The farm would stay in the family!
He was considered to have a smaller than average farm in the beginning and eventually around the mid 60's was above average towards his retirement in the mid 80's. Once again the farms were larger.
The Beaujots had nine children with four boys born first and they farmed in terms of using the labour of the children. It was very much a family affair.
“Eventually each of the children headed off to University or started their careers and Mom and Dad were left alone to farm again,” says Rod. “Therefore larger equipment was needed to be able to farm alone and still get the job done.”
Out of the nine children, three returned to the farming way of life.
Norbert and Pat, both earning degrees in Agriculture and Engineering, in 1986 started a no-till seeding operation - Seed Hawk, minimizing the tillage of the land.
“Both my brothers and my father saw the importance of this way of farming the land,” explains Rod. “Doing the seeding the cultivation at the same time in order to not pulverize the soil as much and to preserve the moisture with existing stubble.”
Therefore you had to find other ways to control the weeds because part of the plowing and tillage and cultivating and disking is to control the weeds.
“My father had one of the first sprayers in 1948 as he was with the Veteran's Land Act they allowed the people who were soldiers during the war to have the first 'dibs' on buying this new equipment that was being developed,” explains Rod.
“During my grandfather's time, the only way to control the weeds was by cutting them down walking along and picking them and bagging them,” explains Rod.
“My grandfather on my mother's side had a degree in agriculture and he grew registered grain so had to keep the weeds out so they hired kids to walk through the fields picking the weeds and bag them and burn them.”
Rod retells stories from his mother’s youth:
Dorothy remembers milking cows as a very hard job that she did mostly with her sister Marie Louise. The long periods in the squatting position made her back sore. There were always terrible smells, and in the summer many insects. With his scientific orientation, their father (Paul Mullie) would have the milk from each cow tested for cream content. There was one cow that was particularly difficult to milk, requiring much effort to squeeze out the milk. Marie Louise and Dorothy devised the trick of diluting the sample with some skim milk so that it came back showing a low cream content. That was the end of the cow as it was slaughtered for meat instead.
Also these from Rod’s mother:
During this time (1935-45), Dorothy’s work on the farm was particularly intense, especially after her brother Michel was called for military service. Her sister Mary Louise looked after the household work while Dorothy did farm work. She would operate machinery with up to six horses, milk the cows, supervise kids pulling weeds from the fields, shovel the grain back from the auger into the bin at harvest time, and also help with the numerous household chores.
To order your copy of ‘From Horse and Buggy to GPS: Life on a Saskatchewan Farm’ go to www.lulu.com and type in Beaujot in the search engine.