The Nor-West Farmer and Manitoba Miller ran competitive essay competitions in 1888. One essay topic was “How to Start a Quarter Section Farm: Hints to New Settlers”. Through 1888, three award-winning essays on this topic were printed in monthly editions of the Nor-West Farmer and Manitoba Miller.
This is the third installment of the third-place essay by Keith Henderson of LaRiviere.
The breaking season starts about the twenty-fourth of May, and lasts until the middle of July. A man starting in the first year ought to break every day weather will permit, for he will find that more land he has under cultivation the better it will pay. He will have more time the first summer to break than any other, as he will have no harvesting nor much building to interfere with his work. With a good yoke of oxen a man ought to break an acre and a quarter a day. If the flies bother them in the evening, smudge them well, so they will rest all night and turn them out to graze at five o’clock in the morning. Hitch them into the plow at seven and keep them going steady until twelve, but do not push them off their regular gait. When they are unhitched at noon, give them a drink of water and let them loose to feed until half past one o’clock and break from then until half past six in the evening, then allow them to graze until nine. Try and do the same amount of work with the oxen each day, but if you should happen to lose two or three hours one day, do not make your oxen work that much more the next. By following this rule, you will find that you will break nearly as much as your neighbor can with a team of horses. Ten tons of hay will winter a yoke of oxen and a cow. The best way to get it cut would be to make a bargain with a neighbor, who has a team of horses and a mower o cut two days. In a good common meadow, a team of horses ought to cut five tonnes a day, and one of the oxen will rake it with a hay rake. It is time enough to commence backsetting the first of September, from the time haying done until then, he can probably get plenty of work with the neighbors, if he wishes to hire, but if not, he will find enough to keep him busy around here. He must not neglect a fire-break around his haystack and buildings. Have the potatoes dug and in the cellar by the middle of October, but do not close the air holes until it begins to freeze pretty hard, or the potatoes will sweat and some of them may rot. In selecting the seed grain, get the very best of red fyfe and then there will be no trouble selling it, and it always commands the highest price. do not buy a binder until you have a team of horses, if you can hire your grain cut at a reasonable price. A man that is not afraid of work and tries to keep out of debt can get along on a homestead in Manitoba as well as he can on a farm in any part of the world.