You will rise

“With an Open Heart” by Marlies Soltys

 

 

You will rise

 

You will rise 

To the girl at the window —
heart filled with fear, tears streaming down your face.
This is not your fault.

You did nothing wrong.
It’s not your responsibility, not yours to fix.
You will be okay.

Yes, you will remember…
But this will not haunt you, nor define you.
You will heal, you will rise.

You will find solace and peace
with the animals in the pasture and the barn,
in nature, in books, in running.

The outdoors will soothe you.
Your imagination, your creativity, your spirit,
will not be deterred.

You will chart your own course,
with guidance and encouragement from others —
who see, who care, who will help.

You will be determined —
forge ahead with enthusiasm, go through doors
you never imagined opening for you.

Your path will wind,
take you unexpected places, bring new opportunities,
and you will always try, always learn.

Yes, you will stumble —
falter, make mistakes and struggle,
but you will rise and keep moving ahead.

You will build a circle,
of friends, colleagues and strong women
who inspire you, see you and lift you up.

They will accept you —
just as you are, for who, and for all that you are.
They will have your back, in good times and bad.

With them you’re safe —
to express joy, wonder, happiness,
but also sadness and despair.

They will stand by you,
encourage you to share your gifts, your talents
— to shine your light.

In time, you will believe
you are worthy — of acceptance, of celebration,
of love and self-love.

To the girl at the window —
you will find your way past the fear, past the tears.
You will heal, and you will rise.

 

Sandi Knight © 2021

 

 

 

 

 

My Farm Story in Photos

In celebration of Canadian Agriculture Day!

Proud of our family’s contribution in growing food and ingredients for you!

Beyond that beautiful sea of yellow canola blossoms, within the bluff of trees on the horizon, is home.

Our house. Our farmyard. The place we plan, dream and hope. Where we’ve made, and are still making memories. Where we watch the weather. Wish for rain, for sun, and for both in the right amounts, at the right time.

My husband’s great-grandparents and their family came from Scotland and settled here over 90 years ago.

June 2021 will mark thirty-two years of it being my home. Thirty year-two years of marriage and farm life — of learning and adapting, of challenges and rewards. I fell in love with my farmer and this vast, beautiful prairie landscape. We raised our two children here, cultivating values which have enabled them to follow their dreams.

This photo evokes many memories and emotions. Among them — gratitude and pride in being part of a family farm, caring for the land entrusted to us by our ancestors, growing food for Canadians and people around the world, all while making a living on the land we love.

Some people see dirt, but this is soil — a living, dynamic ecosystem. The foundation of farming. Caring for it is crucial for growing healthy crops, now and into the future.

Farmers work with agronomists and soil scientists to make decisions which will create and keep our land healthy. We are continually learning how to best do this by testing our soils, choosing proper tillage techniques, rotating the crops we grow, incorporating organic matter, reducing compaction and loss of nutrients.

Education is ongoing and when we know better, we do better. Soil type, texture, structure and density vary from field to field and farm to farm, so techniques to care for it will also vary. But ultimately farmers strive to be stewards of the land and do our very best to care for the soil that sustains us all.

Hands down, one of my favourite farm pics to date.

Like the majority of my photos, I just happened to be in the right place, at the right time. I was out for an evening walk with our dog, and as the sun was setting, my farmer stopped to make sure he had enough canola seed and fertilizer in the seeder (planter) to finish the field he was working in that night.

The light was magical, the cool spring air was still and rich with the scent of freshly worked soil. This photo elicits so much emotion. It speaks to the dedication and determination it takes to farm. To the advancements we are fortunate to have compared with our ancestors. To how my life has been enriched by living here, being a part of our family farm and this amazing industry.

Wheat in the early stages, months before it turns into the iconic waving fields of gold many people envision when they think of this crop. 

As farmers we do all we can to ensure that our crops stay healthy and flourish over the growing season. But despite our best efforts, we also need faith, hope and optimism. Ultimately, Mother Nature holds the key. The right amount of rain and sunshine are beyond our control, as are hail, frost or other adverse weather conditions that can damage or destroy our crops.

But at this point, I choose to see the potential of this ‘food in progress’. I like to envision a healthy crop of wheat being harvested, then finding its way to flour mills around Canada and the world. A small portion is always reserved for my pantry, to be used in the cookies, cakes and muffins I like to bake.

Miss Sage, sitting attentively in our truck, waiting for the tractor and seeder (planter) in the distance to come around the field to where we are parked. We had brought lunch out to the field for my farmer. Sage knows he’s in there, and also knows there’s a good chance he’ll share a bit of that lunch with her!

She is our second dog — both were city-dogs who came from owners who were moving and looking for a good home for their much-loved pets. Both adapted to farm life well — lots of space to run and play, long walks and even tractor rides.

A wonderful transition for them, but so much more for us. Yes, they warn us when someone comes into our farmyard, but they also provide companionship. And when things go wrong — whether it’s machinery breaking down at a critical time or crops being damaged from drought, hail or flooding — our farm dog plays the role of counsellor. Either with a goofy smile and playful greeting, or simply sitting silently beside you, guiding your hand to the top of their head. That, along with unconditional love and joy they bring into our lives makes them an invaluable member of our farm family.

Up until 11 years ago, cattle were a part of our family farm. Our herd was small, only 30 to 40 cows and calves. This time of year would be filled with the excitement and challenges of cows giving birth.

But there came a time when it no longer made financial sense to keep our small herd. We either had to acquire more animals, which meant a large investment in them, shelter, equipment and more pasture, or sell our herd and focus solely on the grain and oilseed part of our operation.

Economically, it was an easy decision. Emotionally it was difficult. Cattle had been on our farm for generations. It requires dedication and a love for animals to work with them. And there are always those extra special animals who form an exceptional bond with you. There were many mixed emotions the day they left our farm.

I’ve walked countless miles on this country road — almost always with camera in hand. It’s exercise, but it’s also a moving meditation. A time to clear my mind and reset. A time to focus on what’s around me. To capture moments and memories — of crops growing, native flowers in the ditches, butterflies, birds, wildlife, the ever-changing prairie skies and in the winter snowscapes and drifts.

Last October, we had a day of sunshine, scattered showers and temperature swings. I didn’t have high expectations for photos with the growing season over and the unpredictable weather. But as the sun and rain clouds grappled for dominance in the sky, this rainbow arced over our farmyard, behind the bluff of trees. No pot of gold, but a beautiful surprise that brightened my day and made for a memorable walk. Views like this are one of the side-benefits of farming and living on the Canadian Prairies.

A September evening during harvest. The sky made a beautiful backdrop for the silhouettes of grain bins and trees in our farmyard. A peaceful look for a very busy spot that time of year.

Harvest is the ‘red carpet’ event of farming. The combine (harvester) in the field gathering crops is the ‘star’ of the show.

The farmyard is where all the ‘backstage’ hustle and bustle happens to keep the show going. It’s where equipment is stored. A place for repairs, maintenance, refueling, organizing. It’s where the crop is hauled to by truck, then unloaded into storage bins until it can be sold.

It’s where everything harvested is double checked for moisture content and quality. Where samples from each truckload are collected and kept to share with the Canadian Grain Commission and companies who buy our crop.

When harvest conditions aren’t ideal and the moisture content of a crop is too high to store safely, this is where it is ‘dried’. Using a grain dryer adds to the hustle and bustle with extra steps, time and cost. But when the weather doesn’t cooperate, it’s a neccessary step to ensure crop quality.

The farmyard is where plans are made and days are organized. It’s a place of frustration when things go wrong and gratitude when everything runs smoothly.

This ‘backstage’ is often overlooked during harvest, but it’s the driving force behind the show. And while I do love a beautiful combine silhouette shot as much as the next person, I was happy to capture our farmyard in this magic evening light. 🙌


Harvest is an exciting time of year as you reap the rewards of a full year of planning, working and hoping the weather is favourable. Not only to grow healthy crops that yield well, but also weather which allows you to quickly and efficiently harvest those crops in top condition.

This photo captures both the beauty and significance of harvest. The setting sun is over top of the “hopper”, (the part of the combine where the harvested seeds collect after they have been separated from the stems and leaves of the plants). One of my favourite harvest sunset shots to date.

This old black and white aerial photo shows our farmyard four generations ago.

My husband’s great-grandparents settled here in 1926, a second move after immigrating from Scotland in 1922. They wanted a farm with trees, good drinking water and soil without stones. This site fit the criteria to make living and farming here better.

Much has changed since then, but reminders of our past remain with some of the buildings repurposed or repaired. The barn loft was lowered and became our machine shed. Old steel wheels and pieces of harrow bar grace my flower beds and garden. Picture frames have been made from discarded barn windows. Our kitchen table and chairs are crafted from wooden barn beams.

It’s important to remember our history. To look back with gratitude on the hard work, determination and resilience of our ancestors which ensured we too could farm, make a life and a living here.


Canadian Cowboy Caviar

What the heck is Cowboy Caviar? I’d never heard of it before stopping for take-out from one of our favourite restaurants, Farmhouse 50 in Minnedosa, Manitoba.

I was picking up their fabulous pizza and wings special when I spied “Cowboy Caviar” in their Grab ‘n Go section. Intrigued, I thought, “Why not? Let’s give it a try!” This innocent looking bean-veggie-salsa-combo was AMAZING and devoured by our family in no time flat.

And then, I couldn’t stop thinking about it! But, with the restaurant an hour and a half away, it wasn’t possible to just pop back for more. So the next day, I started experimenting. Once I came up with a combination of ingredients and a dressing that was a hit with the family, I asked a few friends to recipe test for me. The reviews were great with one suggestion to add the zest from the lime. Genius! Thank you Ellen Pruden!

With a little research I found out Cowboy Caviar, originally named Texas Caviar, was created in the 1940s by Helen Corbitt, an accomplished and formidable Home Economist, teacher, chef and cookbook author. She made the dish, after a request to serve a dinner with Texas-only products, using black-eyed peas, garlic, onion, vinegar and oil. When you search ‘cowboy caviar’ today, there are over 3,000,000 results. Reading about Ms. Corbitt, I’m not sure how she would feel about the evolution and popularity of her creation.

You’ll find no black-eyed peas in this recipe. It uses Canadian-grown pulses — lentils, black beans and chickpeas, and of coure, Canadian canola oil.

Feel free to put your own spin on this recipe. Don’t like chickpeas? Replace the amount with more lentils or black beans. Hate cilantro? Use parsley. Not sure about the garlic? Try it without. Don’t have fresh tomatoes? Drain and chop canned tomatoes.

Just so you know this recipe makes 12 cups. Yes, it seems like a lot, but it’s addictive. And versatile. And delicious.

I love it as a salsa with tortilla chips, but it’s also fabulous on its own a side salad, or a snack to avert becoming hangry. Toss it with greens or pasta. Use it in omelettes or quesadillas. Get creative!

And if you really can’t see yourself using 12 cups, share away! Who wouldn’t want a surprise delivery of this tasty, satisfying snack with a bag of tortilla chips delivered to their door?

Canadian Cowboy Caviar

Main Ingredients:

  • 1 — 540 ml (19 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 — 540 ml (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 — 540 ml (19 oz) can lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups sweet corn, frozen & thawed, or canned
  • 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped or ¼ cup finely chopped bell peppers (any colour)
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro or parsley, finely chopped

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3 tbsp lime juice (1 — 2 limes)
  • zest from lime(s)
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

Directions:

*Chop garlic and set aside.

Drain and rinse black beans, chickpeas and lentils. Put in large bowl. Add corn. Chop tomatoes, red onion, peppers and cilantro. Toss all ingredients together, including garlic.

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing. Pour over top of ingredients, and mix.

Makes 12 cups. Serve immediately or store covered in the fridge.

Serving Options:

  • Appetizer with tortilla chips
  • Side Dish
  • Salad topping on your choice of greens
  • Omelette filling
  • Quesadilla filling
  • Perfect with pasta, hot or cold

*Pro-tip for garlic from Professional Home Economist Mairlyn Smith – “For its antioxidants to become more bio-available, garlic needs to oxidize before it is added to a recipe. By letting it sit there “breathing” the oxidation can take place.”

Giving back and building community — one potato at a time

A crop which would have gone to waste in 2016, inspired an act of giving. It then became an intentional event — with over 120,000 lbs of potatoes donated in three years.

In 2019, it was a welcome, joyful way to end a trying, exhausting year for one Manitoba farm family. It speaks to the importance of community, giving back and reducing food waste while  creating a positive, uplifting environment to make connections and share farm-to-food stories. This story is an example of the kindness, determination and resilience of farmers.  

Originally published in the Manitoba Co-operator  April 23, 2020 


Giving away 44,000 lbs potatoes was the highlight of 2019 for Mark and Yanara Peters of Spruce Drive Farms. They grow certified seed potatoes on their farm 12 miles northwest of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

With a less-than-average crop and a year filled with challenges, the Peters family wasn’t sure they would have enough potatoes to fill their contracts, let alone any to give away.

The growing season was filled with adverse weather conditions — far too dry when the crop was developing, excessive rains, early, heavy snowfalls in the fall — and mud. So. Much. Mud. Then an unprecedented 10-day power outage from an early October storm added another layer of stress — keeping generators running so potatoes already dug and in storage did not spoil. Harvest was incredibly slow, difficult and late. Overall, the farming year was physically and emotionally draining.

Yet, late in the fall, when Mother Nature gave a brief window of opportunity, the Peters family took advantage and dug two extra truck loads of their crop, specifically for a Community Potato Give-Away in Portage la Prairie. From past experience, they knew it filled a need and also how good it felt to give.

“This year more than ever we were good and ready for a pick-me-up,” Yanara Peters expressed as she smiled and patted Mark’s hand.

People gathering spuds along the 36-foot conveyor at the Community Potato Give-Away

It all began in 2016 as a result of circumstance. Seed potato production standards are very precise. That year, some of the Peters’ crop did not meet seed specifications but was perfectly suitable for the consumer market. However, without a contract to sell consumer potatoes, there was no place for those spuds to go. They could have left them in the field and avoided incurring more costs, but that type of waste didn’t sit well with them. They opted to dig the crop and the “Community Potato Give-Away” was born.

Fueled by its success, and the gratification they felt afterwards, the event continued in 2017. “It’s only potatoes, but it just brought so much to the community,” Mark said. “It’s a great opportunity to interact with people and hear their stories. The most basic need is being met with the most basic vegetable.”

But in 2018, Mother Nature had other plans. After an extremely wet fall, cold temperatures on October 11th froze 5,200 acres of unharvested potatoes in Manitoba. The Peters family was disheartened to lose what remained of their crop. What they had hoped would become an annual event was now not possible.

“We had them in the field, but when we got that early frost, that was it,” stated Mark. “We were disappointed, but that’s how it (farming) is. People understand.”

Mark Peters overlooking the crowd while unloading potatos onto the conveyor

Then, smiling, he went on, “I didn’t expect to be able to do it this year, because it was so late. After the power-outage and storm, I really didn’t think we’d be out there again. Once we realized we could, every load was just a gift — not expected at all, but so appreciated.”

It speaks volumes about the Peters family that they really don’t want to discuss the extra effort, time and cost it takes to do the give-away, but they were quick to acknowledge their employees who helped dig and grade the potatoes (removing mud and spoiled potatoes). When their crew knew those last loads were slated for giving, they generously donated their time.

So on Saturday, November 2, 2019, Mark and Yanara hosted their 3rd event. Family and friends readily volunteered to help. The day was cool, but thankfully the temperature hovered just above the freezing mark. They loaded two potato trucks and a 36-foot conveyor and drove the 12 miles to Portage la Prairie. They arrived early to set up, but with word spreading through social media and the local radio station, a crowd soon gathered.

Carrots donated by Connery Riverdale Farms

Peters and his volunteers moved quickly to get potatoes rolling out from the truck onto the conveyor to ease pick-up. Two large totes (about 3,000 lbs) of carrots donated by another local producer, Connery’s Riverdale Farms, added an unexpected bonus for those stopping by for spuds.

People came with bags, boxes, containers of all shapes and sizes to fill, not only for themselves, but for others — relatives, friends, shut-ins, those in need but with no transportation to get there. This is exactly the kind of giving and community building the Peters hoped to inspire when they had their very first give-away.

Conversations about why the potatoes were so muddy, and smaller than normal, created opportunities to talk about the realities of farming. Yes, the give-away is usually in mid-October, but the potatoes were still in the field then.

What makes the day so special though, is hearing the stories: potatoes going to a school lunch program and to families from that school; a young mom from India who has been here for nine years, delivering spuds to eight new Canadian families; a couple not taking for themselves, but for those in need in their neighbourhood. One gentleman driving by, saw the crowd gathered and stopped to inquire, “Free potatoes? Really? And carrots too?” He’d been asked to make food for a wake — it would now be a potato and carrot soup.

The atmosphere was jovial, light-hearted and welcoming. Smiles, hugs, waves and heartfelt thank yous were abundant. Someone commented, “You’re making a lot of people very happy today.”

That continued —9,000 lbs were loaded into bulk bags for First Nations communities across the province — delivered for free by Principle Supply, a local company serving those communities.

Yanara Peters enjoying one of many conversations during the give-away.

“It felt good — to see people, to talk to them,” shared Yanara. “At the end of the day we felt thankful — that we could do it, for our community, for all the people who showed up. We had so many volunteers, but others who came to get potatoes ended up staying to help because it was so much fun to be there. People of all ages, from all walks of life, helped each other.”

This act of giving is a deliberate one for the Peters family. Their potato storage bin was not overflowing — they could’ve sold those 44,000 lbs of potatoes, but wanted to give. Faith plays a huge role — this is what they feel called to do. They also remember being on the receiving end of help when they were young.

Mark reflects, “It was a tough, very poor year. It would’ve been easy not to do the give-away again, but we chose to do it and want to continue if at all possible. It’s how it should be.”

In a year which wore so many down in the farming community across the country, the Peters family created a way to fill their cup, make connections and build community —one potato at a time.

Swirl

Swirl

Words are trapped,
caught in web
of anxiety and fog.

Thoughts, ideas swirl,
entangled
in tightness of my chest.

Blank paper
stares back,
waiting for mind etchings…

Not caring
whether words
educate, inform or inspire.

Just breathe,
slow down the swirl,
let it gently fall on page.

Sandi Knight
© 2018

Moving Meditation

This prairie girl loves her wide open spaces, endless horizons and spectacular skies. But…there’s something special about being among the trees. Especially in the depths of winter. Their beauty, strength and imperfections all exposed. No rustling dress, no camouflage. Just resting giants reaching skyward. 💙


Moving Meditation 

Into the woods,
among the trees,
a calm descends.

Narrow trail winds,
beckons me…
keep moving.

With every step,
tensions, worries —
disappear.

I pause, look up,
admire tall aspens
reaching skyward.

Gratitude fills
my tired soul.
I breathe deeply.

Then resume
my peaceful,
moving meditation.

Sandi Knight
© 2020

Celebrating Canada’s Agriculture Day with Farm Photos

Originally published in the Manitoba Co-operator February 7, 2020


February  11th, Canada’s Agriculture Day, is intended to showcase all the amazing things happening in our industry. It’s a time to create a closer connection between consumers, our food and the people who produce it. Sharing what you love about Canadian agriculture can be as simple as posting a photo.

For me, a social media “10-day farming-family photo challenge” last year was a great exercise in putting this into practice. Every day I was to, “Select an image from a day in the life of farming that has had an impact on me, post it without a single explanation and nominate someone else to take the challenge —10 days, 10 farming photos, 10 nominations, and 0 explanations.”

But with less than 2% of our population farming, it seemed like pictures without explanations would be a missed opportunity to share our farm-to-food story — to make a connection with the other 98%, to create a welcoming forum for asking questions, addressing concerns and virtually inviting others onto our family farm.

These are my choices — the photos that affected me, stirred my emotions, made me pause and reflect on 30 years of life on our family farm.  They’re ones I will share again on Canada’s Agriculture Day, along with others taken over the course of this past year.

What pictures would you choose and which stories would you share?


‘Home’ — Day 1

Across that golden field of blooming canola, within the bluff of trees, is our family farm. My husband’s great-grandparents and their family came from Scotland and settled here over 90 years ago.

June 2019 marked thirty years of it being my home. Thirty years of marriage and farm life. Thirty years of learning and adapting. Thirty years of challenges and rewards. I fell in love with my farmer and this vast, beautiful prairie landscape. We raised our two children here, cultivating values which have enabled them to follow their dreams.

I pulled over one day last summer on my way home to take this photo. I’ve taken many pictures in and around our yard, but never from this distance or perspective. This photo evokes many memories and emotions. Among them — gratitude and pride in being part of a family farm, caring for the land entrusted to us by our ancestors, growing food for Canadians and people around the world, all while making a living on the land we love.


‘Down to earth’ — Day 2

Some people see dirt, but this is soil — a living, dynamic ecosystem. The foundation of farming. Caring for it is crucial for growing healthy crops, now and into the future. Farmers work with agronomists and soil scientists to make decisions that will create and keep our land healthy. We are continually learning how to best do this by testing our soils, choosing proper tillage techniques, rotating the crops we grow, incorporating organic matter, reducing compaction and loss of nutrients. Education is ongoing and when we know better, we do better. Soil type, texture, structure and density vary from field to field and farm to farm, so techniques to care for it will also vary. But ultimately farmers strive to be stewards of the land and do their very best to care for the soil that sustains us all.


‘Hopper Full of Gold’ — Day 3

Harvest is the ‘red-carpet’ event of farming, and the combine (harvester) is the ‘star’. Those trucking grain from the field to storage bins, or going for parts when there is a breakdown, or making meals, play supporting roles.

It’s an exciting time as you reap the rewards of a full year of planning, working and hoping the weather is favourable. Not only to grow healthy crops that yield well, but also weather which allows you to quickly and efficiently harvest those crops in top condition.

This photo captures both the beauty and significance of harvest. The setting sun is over top of the “hopper”, (the part of the combine where the harvested seeds collect after they have been separated from the stems and leaves of the plants). One of my favourite harvest shots to date.


‘Food in Progress’ — Day 4

Wheat in the early stages, months before it turns into the iconic waving fields of gold many people envision when they think of this crop. 

As farmers we do all we can to ensure that our crops stay healthy and flourish over the growing season. But despite our best efforts, we also need faith, hope and optimism. Ultimately, Mother Nature holds the key. The right amount of rain and sunshine are beyond our control, as are hail, frost or other adverse weather conditions that can damage or destroy our crops.

But at this point, I choose to see the potential of this ‘food in progress’. I like to envision a healthy crop of wheat being harvested, then finding its way to flour mills around Canada and the world. A small portion is always reserved for my pantry, to be used in the cookies, cakes and muffins I like to bake.


‘Sunset Check’ — Day 5

Hands down, one of my favourite farm pics to date.

Like the majority of my photos, I just happened to be in the right place, at the right time. I was out for an evening walk with our dog, and as the sun was setting, my husband stopped to make sure he had enough canola seed and fertilizer in the seeder (planter) to finish the field he was working in that night.

The light was magical, the cool spring air was still and rich with the scent of freshly worked soil. This photo evokes so much emotion. It speaks to the dedication and determination it takes to farm. To the advancements we are fortunate to have compared with our ancestors. To how my life has been enriched by living here, being a part of our family farm and this amazing industry.


‘Remember when’ — Day 6

Up until 10 years ago, cattle were a part of our family farm. Our herd was small, only 30 to 40 cows and calves. This time of year would be filled with the excitement and challenges of cows giving birth.

But there came a time when it no longer made financial sense to keep our small herd. We either had to acquire more animals, which meant a large investment in them, shelter, equipment and more pasture, or sell our herd and focus solely on the grain and oilseed part of our operation.

Economically, it was an easy decision. Emotionally it was difficult. Cattle had been on our farm for generations. It requires dedication and a love for animals to work with them. And there are always those extra special animals who form an exceptional bond with you. There were many mixed emotions the day they left our farm.


‘Patiently waiting’ — Day 7

Our dog, Sage, sitting attentively in the truck, waiting for the tractor and seeder (planter) in the distance to come around the field to where we are parked. We had brought lunch out to the field for my farmer. Sage knows he’s in there, and also knows there’s a good chance he’ll share a bit of that lunch with her!

She is our second dog — both were city-dogs who came from owners who were moving and looking for a good home for their much-loved pets. Both adapted to farm life well — lots of space to run and play, long walks and even tractor rides.

A wonderful transition for them, but so much more for us. Yes, they warn us when someone comes into our farmyard, but they also provide companionship. And when things go wrong — whether it’s machinery breaking down at a critical time or crops being damaged from drought, hail or flooding — our farm dog plays the role of counsellor. Either with a goofy smile and playful greeting, or simply sitting silently beside you, guiding your hand to the top of their head. That, along with unconditional love and joy they bring into our lives makes them an invaluable member of our farm family.


‘Late night harvest memories’ — Day 8

This photo was taken during harvest, September 2013. My farmer was hauling wheat from the field into the farmyard for storage. He needed a hand. Our daughter, 18-yrs-old at the time, was helping. They’re pausing here, discussing something, as they keep an eye on the equipment working to unload the wheat. It wasn’t the first, or the last time she helped, but it’s the only time I had my camera to capture the memory, and for me it has #allthefeels.


‘After the rain’ — Day 9

No pot of gold here, but hopefully a sign of just the right amount of rain for the growing season. And ultimately, an abundant harvest which ensures those white storage bins in our farmyard will be filled with grain.

We can do absolutely everything to the best of our ability, but Mother Nature holds the cards, determines the outcome — and our income. Every. Single. Year. I’m not sure it’s a risk you ever get used to, but it’s a reality of farming. The reason we’re so acutely concerned with the weather. The reason many farmers have traits of optimism and resilience to deal with those challenges and keep going year after year.


‘Where it all began’ — Day 10

This old black and white aerial photo shows our farmyard four generations ago.

My husband’s great-grandparents settled here in 1926, a second move after immigrating from Scotland in 1922. They wanted a farm with trees, good drinking water and soil without stones. This site fit the criteria to make living and farming here better.

Much has changed since then, but reminders of our past remain with some of the buildings repurposed or repaired. Old steel wheels and pieces of harrow bar grace my flower beds and garden. Picture frames have been made from discarded barn windows. Our kitchen table and chairs are crafted from wooden barn beams.

It’s important to remember our history. To look back with gratitude on the hard work, determination and resilience of our ancestors which ensured we too could farm, make a life and a living here.


 

 

Embracing My #WordoftheYear

Explore! Explore creativity, writing markets and photography. Explore my backyard, province and country. Explore health/wellness, self-care and fears. Explore food and fitness.

With January behind us, there’s a long trail of broken resolutions, and likely many disheartened people. Apparently 80% of those who make New Year’s resolutions fail to keep them. Luckily I’ve never felt inclined to jump on that bandwagon.

But in 2006, after listening to a Stuart McLean story on the radio program, “Vinyl Cafe”, I shifted a little. He suggested resolutions not be about self-improvement, but rather about enjoying life. This was an idea I could embrace — don’t focus on our self-perceived flaws, but rather the simpler things in life that make us happy, content and bring joy. Sign me up!

Then, four years ago, a friend and mentor introduced me to the concept of choosing a ‘word of the year’. It helped direct that train of thought, further enriching McLean’s idea. She advised, “It’s an intention, mantra or a cue. It’s like a road map and a reminder for how to live out each day.” Just a word, or simple phrase, to remind, guide and encourage us throughout the year. I embraced the idea.

Deciding on a word took time, but once I determined what it would be, I wrote out how I wanted it to affect my daily life.

2017 was “Be”— be present, be positive, be focused, be flexible, be organized, be proactive.

2018 was “Move” — move with joy, intent and enthusiasm, move both body and spirit, move beyond my comfort zone, move away from fears and towards goals.

2019 was “Experience”. I had several ideas of what I wanted to experience and how I wanted it to impact my life, but never took the time to put any of them on paper. The majority of experiences were fun, positive and uplifting, peppered with a few worrisome, challenging and stressful ones. Basically, it was a year of life’s
ups and downs.

As 2020 approached, two different words called out to me. In the end, it was a pocket calendar I found that solidified the decision. “Explore” would be my north star!

This time, I not only made the time to write out my intentions, but also brought them to life through a Vision Board/Intuitive Collage workshop. On January 26th, Inspire Studio and Satori Counselling in Minnedosa joined forces to provide a creative haven filled with materials, support and guidance. Two fabulous facilitators led our group through a wonderful, heart-opening day combining art, expression and mindfulness.

The result? A 16″ x 20″ canvas filled with words and images that brings me joy and keeps my vision for 2020 at the forefront. Definitely an experience worth repeating in the future, and one that is truly helping me embrace all I want to explore in the months ahead.


What would you choose to be your #wordoftheyear?

Three Gifts for You

Originally published in the Manitoba Co-operator December 24, 2019


I don’t think anyone in agriculture will dispute 2019 was a year for the record books. The challenges kept mounting throughout the growing season – all of them beyond our control.

Drought followed by untimely, excessive rains and snowfalls. A long, difficult harvest with conditions causing many crops to be left in the field. Poor yields and livestock feed shortages. A lengthy power-outage. Add to all that, trade disputes and a railway strike. It’s been discouraging and exhausting – physically, emotionally and economically.

With Christmas just around the corner, I wish I could do something to make a difference. I’d love to wrap up gifts of financial stability, fair trade deals and the promise of a stress-free, productive year in 2020 for all.

Unfortunately, I can only offer three simple wishes. They have no financial value, but are priceless commodities for the human spirit.

My first wish is serenity. I hope you have a place to find serenity. It may be a peaceful walk in the country, a drive to see Christmas lights, visiting a library or art gallery. Maybe a fireplace where you can curl up with a cup of tea. Perhaps a favourite chair in a quiet room – add music, candlelight or that book you’ve been meaning to read. You might find serenity in the face of a sleeping child or in the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. Or maybe it’s hidden in the glow of Christmas lights casting a peaceful and warm feeling over your home.

My second wish is faith. Faith means many things to many people. We are fortunate to live in a country where we have the freedom to choose our faith. But faith is more than religion – it is what keeps us going when times are difficult – believing things will get better; believing in the resiliency of the human spirit. You may find your faith in a place of worship. Your faith could be restored by a visit at the kitchen table with a good friend. You may find faith in the kindness of strangers or in the excited eyes of a child on Christmas morning. Faith may be buried deep inside you or found in the beauty of nature. When you gaze upon a magnificent prairie sky or watch the northern lights and millions of stars above, how can you not have faith?

My third and final wish is humour. Where would we be without laughter? It provides both a physical and emotional release, reducing stress and increasing relaxation, as well as boosting our immune systems. Laughter can re-energize you, give you strength and put life into perspective. You may find humour in a television show, movie, old pictures, a favourite comic strip or meme. Or how about a visit with that one friend that can always make you lighten up and laugh? Having a sense of humour helps us cope and keeps us moving forward.

Imagine these gifts under your tree this Christmas, beautifully wrapped, for you and your family. May serenity, faith and humour be with you always and help you deal with the many challenges farming and life bring your way.

And as you celebrate this holiday season, may you be surrounded by people who understand, support, uplift and encourage you. Merry Christmas from our family farm to yours.