A Country Halloween

Halloween. It’s a celebration people either love or hate. Their view of this spooky evening may depend on where they live. For people who reside in towns or cities, the night can be hectic and exhausting.

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For those of us in the country, it is generally a much-anticipated night —  a family affair, a chance  to reconnect with neighbours. One parent may stay at home to hand out treats while the other drives the youngsters to all the usual stops in the area. Many take their children to the same houses they went to when they were young. Patience is essential — not necessarily for the drive from house to house, but for the visiting at each stop.

20151031_173533However, the pay-off is worth it. The hand-outs are generous as country homes have so few visitors. “Halloween Bags” are filled with a variety of treats. Some people set the table with a wide assortment of goodies and novelties; youngsters are invited in to choose what they like. Apples and home baking are still acceptable as Halloween treats – safety is not a concern.

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When children decide they are too old to go trick-or-treating, treats are sent home for them with their younger siblings. Even parents get in on the act, their pockets filled at the end of the evening, at the neighbours’ insistence, of course.

If both parents accompany the trick-or-treaters, bags or bowls of goodies are left at their own home for the neighbourhood children to help themselves. Trust is not an issue.

pumpkins-backdoorHalloween displays are always drawing cards. Even if fewer than a dozen youngsters come to the door, many still enjoy decorating. Scarecrows greet you at the end of lanes. Pumpkins and gourds are set amidst bales and cornstalks; ghosts hang from trees. Witches sit in rocking chairs carefully guarding the door. Rigged doorbells or knockers cause Halloween creatures to shake or elicit ghostly laughter. Jack o’ lanterns of all shapes and sizes line driveways and doorsteps. Children return year after year  just to see their favourite Halloween haunts.

witchSome adults never outgrow this night of pranks. Many dress in costume to greet their young guests. Others wait until they are sure no more trick-or-treaters will be stopping by, then rummage through their ‘tickle trunks’, pick out appropriate attire, and head out to stir up a bit of fun with the neighbours.

carlee-catThankfully, a country Halloween is still enjoyable. It brings back fond childhood memories. Parents  drive down gravel roads through mud, rain, sleet or snow. Manners are important. “Trick-or-Treat” is always followed by a thank you. Tricks, if played, are neither harmful nor destructive. It is an evening of reminiscing and laughter. And when the doorbell rings, children are greeted with an enthusiasm. “It’s so good to see you! Thanks for stopping by!”

Happy Halloween!

 

Refueling with the Manitoba Farm Women’s Conference

mfwc-fuel-the-pulse

Given the challenges this year’s growing season and on-going harvest have thrown our way, perhaps the Manitoba Farm Women’s Conference (MFWC) is exactly what you need to recharge. “Fuel the Pulse” is this year’s theme. The 30th Annual MFWC will be held in Portage la Prairie November 20th – 22nd.

Speakers and sessions will cover a wide variety of topics on how we ‘fuel’ ourselves, our homes, our businesses and our communities. It is an opportunity to learn personal and business skills, to be inspired and motivated by both presenters and other farm women. But the benefits go far beyond learning.

These two days offer the opportunity to relax. No job to go to, no meals to make, no errands to run. You wake in the morning and have only yourself to get ready. Obligations are briefly forgotten. Your entire day is planned – no worrying or rushing required. This brief reprieve from our daily routines may even have a holiday-like feel.

friends-2It’s a time to renew old friendships and make new connections. You are surrounded by like-minded people who support and encourage each other. Everyone understands farming and cares deeply about agriculture. The desire to learn and explore new ventures is also renewed. Most of us leave the conference with at least one new idea to implement in our lives.

Time away provides perspective. Inspiration is found. Confidence is built. We are reminded that success does not come to anyone without hard work, mistakes and struggles. But laughter is always a part of the conference too, a wonderful, and often much needed, stress reliever.

These positive side effects, along with the program sessions and speakers, are a benefit to all who attend. They contribute to our well-being, and therefore to the well-being of our families, businesses and communities.

mfwc-logoFor me, it is always worth making time to attend. The learning, laughter, support and encouragement never fail to give me a much appreciated morale boost. I hope to see you there as we “Fuel the Pulse” and re-fuel ourselves.

 


Meet and Greet is Sunday, November 20th at 7 p.m. Conference begins Monday, November 21st at 8:45 a.m. and runs through to Tuesday, November 22nd at 3:30 p.m. Both full and individual day registration are available. 

Online registration has been extended to November 13, 2016 

Weathering the Rain

Originally published in the Manitoba Cooperator October 6, 2016 

Reflections on the seemingly endless rains this past growing season. For many across western Canada, snow was added to the mix in early October and harvest continues to be an ongoing challenge for far too farmers.  Thinking of those who are struggling to get their crops from the field to bin and hoping everyone will soon be done with #Harvest16.  


facebook_1474855006708I used to be that girl, the one who would joyfully head outside when it rained. I loved everything about it. The rhythmic sound on rooftops. The patterns it made as it rolled down windows. The feel of rain on my cheeks. The way it would it soak through and soften my wild, curly hair. If the rain was coming down fast and furious, I was content to sit under the cover of the front porch and watch. But the best rains were gentle, light, perfect for walking. The air so fresh, the streets quiet and still. Those rains offered a refuge from troubles and worries. I can still see my younger self soaking in the peace and serenity of those walks.

Yet there I sat, staring at the computer screen, tears instead of raindrops, slowly rolling down my cheeks. A friend was embracing and enjoying that night’s rain. Her post on social media read, “Jammies, slippers, hoodie, book, veranda, rain! Wonderful combination. .oh yes..glass of wine.”  She was doing exactly what I believe in and strive for — embracing the moment. But instead of being happy for her, I was jealous. Not of what she had, or what she was doing, but of that feeling, that freedom, that joyful connection to the rain.

I had the comfy clothes, books and wine, maybe not the veranda to relax in; that wasn’t the issue. What really got to me was the fact that she was enjoying the rain — and I wasn’t. In fact, after almost 3 months of excessive rains, I was cursing yet another downpour that was downgrading our wheat and delaying the start of harvest.

You would think after 27 years of farming, I would be used to it, but that night the dismal weather really weighed me down. I missed being that girl and my past laissez-faire relationship with the weather.

When your income is dependent on Mother Nature, your relationship with the sun and rain becomes fickle.  Excess amounts of either, especially at critical times during the growing season, can cause anything but joy and relaxation. The hold the weather has on our lives, can at times, be tiring.

I’m rather embarrassed by my feelings that night; jealousy is not an admirable trait. And being jealous of a feeling — well, that borders on absurd. I confessed to my friend. She totally understood, but we agreed the next time that happens, I am to join her.

rainbowI spoke to another woman, who has long since retired from farming and asked her if concern for the weather ever goes away. She laughed, “No.” So I guess I’ll have to be content with my memories of that girl. Look back on her fondly and smile. Even when we no longer work the land, concern for farmers will always be there, and I will be that little old lady who politely asks, “So, was that a good rain?”

 


It helps to talk to someone who listens and understands. No matter the issue, you can contact the Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services. They offer free, confidential information and non-judgmental support, for anyone who lives on farm, rural or northern community. Call Toll-Free 1-866-367-3276 Monday – Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. After hours 1-888-322-3016

Resources outside Manitoba include the Saskatchewan Farm Stress LineNova Scotia Farm Health & Safety Committee and PEI Farmer Counselling Program

 

 

 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

If you are looking for a hearty, healthy, flavourful, pumpkin muffin recipe — this is it!  Perfect for breakfast, snacks and dessert too! These muffins are family favourite and always a welcome addition to university care packages.

 Adapted from a recipe found on food.com several years ago. 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 – 398 ml can of pumpkin puree (1 2/3 cup)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole barley flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/3  cup mini-chocolate chips

Directions:

  1.   Pre-heat oven to 375°F (190ºC)
  2.   Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin with large parchment baking cups.
  3.   Whisk together canola oil, sugar and eggs.
  4.    Fold in pumpkin puree and milk; mix thoroughly.
  5.   In separate large bowl, combine flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda,     salt, spices and mini-chocolate chips. 
  6.   Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stir just to combine.
  7.   Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop the mixture evenly into    the muffin liners.
  8.   Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until toothpick or cake tester inserted into the     center of a muffin comes out clean.
  9.   Set tins on cooling rack for 5 min. before removing muffins to cool    completely.

Notes:

  • Be sure to use pure pumpkin puree, not canned pumpkin pie.
  • Check out the amazing health benefits of barley flour here.
  • Don’t have any  barley or whole wheat flour? Substitute with all-purpose flour.
  • Feel free to switch out the mini-chocolate chips with raisins or nuts.

Storage:

Can be stored in a covered container for 2 to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. If the kids are home or company drops by, you likely won’t have to worry about that though…