Mitigating the Dirty Thirties – Relief

The rains stopped in 1929.

No one panicked. Dry years were not unknown – there had been the occasional one or two every decade so far. Everyone knew the rains would come again “next year.” Abe certainly believed so, for in the fall of 1929, he purchased a new Rumley combine.

RumleyCombine
The new Rumley combine, 1929; Abe on the combine, Garnet and Addie standing in front of the tractor

But the rains didn’t come “next year,” or for several years after. Crops struggled. What little grew was quickly devoured by grasshoppers, that is, if it wasn’t blown away first. Abe recorded annual yields between 2 and 9 bushels per acre. In 1937, the year of no rain, it plummeted to 1/3 bushel per acre, a “total crop failure.” Continue reading “Mitigating the Dirty Thirties – Relief”

Setting the stage for disaster in the Palliser Triangle

The Dirty Thirties was the result of a “perfect storm” of two factors: a severe, multi-year drought and farming techniques inappropriate for dry-land farming in the Palliser Triangle.

The mixed-grass prairie of the Palliser Triangle appeared, at first glance, to be a fertile and productive land. And it was – for grass. It had adapted over thousands of millennia to the mid-continental regimen of periodic droughts, short but intense over-grazing by bison herds, and fires that raged across the landscape. They survived and flourished because their roots went deep into the ground, soaking up moisture and holding the soil intact in spite of the weather above ground. Continue reading “Setting the stage for disaster in the Palliser Triangle”