Scottish couple, Lesley Gentles and her husband Gordon, farm in Canada, and have sent us a postcard from across the pond

My name is Lesley Gentles (nee Matthew) and I grew up at Chapel Farm which is just outside Thornhill, Stirling. My husband, Gordon Gentles, farmed at West Rossburn Lane, Blairdrummond for many years. We have two married children and are now enjoying four lovely grandchildren!

In November 2001, after dealing with a mountain of paperwork, we made the move to Manitoba, Canada. I still can’t decide why we did this in November – mid winter on the prairies!

We found the prairies to be a land of contrasts and diversities. Wide open spaces, stunning sunsets, freezing cold winds and the dreaded mosquitoes. The weather seemed to be the main topic of conversation. It is a Province of extremes for weather. The hottest temperature we experienced was 39°C and the coldest was -40°C, which with the wind-chill could be down as low as -50°.

Thank goodness for air conditioning and an efficient heating system. Back to the mosquitoes. In the spring and summer they came out in droves. Nowadays they carry a disease called West Nile which is debilitating and nasty. So one spends a while applying creams just to venture outside. Bug spray and sunscreen are both advisable. Takes ten minutes to apply them before going out.

While living in Manitoba we rented out our 480 acre farm and Gordon went into Real Estate. A career he enjoyed for the next fourteen years. I worked in the school system in our local town of Brandon as classroom support; a job which I really enjoyed. The school system is different in Manitoba as each student is given a class list of supplies they must buy for the coming year.

This includes pens, pencils, paper, jotters (scribblers in Canadian speak), markers and even plastic bags. It can be expensive if you have two or three children in the system. Manitoba is very multi-cultural; in one school I worked in there were fourteen nationalities including Chinese, Mexican, Columbian and El Salvadorian.

We lived in Manitoba for fourteen years and enjoyed our time there. We met a lot of nice people and made a lot of lovely friends. However, after much discussion we decided the time was right to make another move. Our family was expanding with the arrival of grandchildren, we were fed up with the long bitter cold Manitoba winters and we were both ready for a new challenge.

After quite a few trips back and forward to British Columbia we finally bought a 51 acre farm next to the small town of Salmon Arm. Salmon Arm is a small tourist town with a population of approximately 18,000. It is situated on the shores of the beautiful Shuswap Lake. A great place for boating and fishing.

One October day we eventually left on our final trip, a distance of 1020 miles, across the prairies. Gordon was driving the truck with a trailer in tow and I drove the car. All went well until our final leg going over the Rogers Pass. Now Gordon sometimes thinks he is one of life’s great pioneers, me, not so much. Driving a mountain pass at night with massive trucks coming up the rear is not my idea of fun. Gordon loved every minute of it.

We finally made it to our rundown property and promptly booked into the nearest hotel. For the next six months, over the winter we worked on renovating the entire house. Surprising thing is we are still married.

We found ourselves great tradesmen that were both reliable and efficient. It is not something we would do again. For the six months we lived without decent plumbing no kitchen and slept on an air mattress. It is amazing what one can do with a kettle, electric frying pan and crockpot.

By the spring of 2015 our renovations were complete and we began to enjoy our renovated home and some lovely spring weather.

The one thing for me that was unexpected was the amount of wildlife on our property.

In fact our family joke that Grandad and Granny have bought a zoo. Not funny! We have a wildlife camera which is attached to a tree in the woods-of which there are fifteen acres.

On the camera chip we have had pictures of black bears, racoons, deer, moose, coyote and to my horror and Gordon’s delight a cougar. In the three years we have been here we haven’t see the cougar but there are lots of bears around which does not make for a relaxing walk.

We carry bear spray and a bear banger which we have never had to use. Needless to say I never go walking without Gordon either. The bears regularly come up to the garden to feed on the fallen fruit. However, we have started to lift the fruit and dump it much further from the house.

Last year we spent lots of nights watching the bears munch on the fruit, all from the safety of the hay shed. On our farm we have three ponds which also attract numerous birds and animals. We have seen muskrats, painted turtles, ducks and geese.

All this wildlife is amazing but it can also be very annoying. Last year just after Gordon planted seed potatoes we discovered that some of the potatoes had been dug up by a moose. We never saw it but the tell-tale footprints were everywhere.

Hanging out the washing is also an adventure. Pegs and basket in my arms and eyes peeled to across the pond I always check for bears going around. We never had these issues at Blairdrummond!

Gordon farms 30 acres of arable on the farm. We make small hay bales but hopefully we are going to be making big bales this year. For the three years we have been here, the average temperature for hay time has been around 32°C which is hot for working with small bales. The heat, and the fact that Gordon is not 25 anymore, makes us want to go to big bales.

To collect the small bales in the field Gordon uses a machine called a bale wagon. If we had a farm on the flat and a hayshed with a concrete floor it would work perfectly!

However we have neither, so it is not efficient and causes Gordon a lot of extra work. For those of you that know Gordon you may be interested to know his Massey Ferguson 135 tractor is still used on a regular basis. His family bought it second hand in 1957. It was two years old. It is now 53yrs old and going strong. Last spring we seeded a field with alfalfa, orchard grass mix and due to the drought that followed it did not grow well. We had no rain for four and half months. Wildfires were all around the province of BC but we were lucky enough to avoid them here. However, the air was ‘smoky’ for weeks. We got paranoid at the sound of fire engines.

Our first few years here have had their challenges and their ‘moments’ however we would not change a thing. We are both looking forward to our future improvements on the farm and any challenges that come our way. I’ll keep you posted.