Refueling with the Manitoba Farm Women’s Conference

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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…

Nature’s Messengers

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Nature’s Messengers 

The congregation’s growing,
singing, strong and loud.
Flying in formation,
just below the cloud.

Now gathering in force,
they head towards the lake
The morning feed is over,
 time to take a break.

They’ll be overhead again,
 later in the day.
But as the days grow shorter,  
they’ll fly away to stay.

A welcome sign of spring,
 then again in fall.
They leave as if on cue,
when Nature gives the call.

Sandi Knight
© 2004

From My Corner of the Prairies – Canada In A Day

September 10, 2016 was Canada In A Day. We were asked to film our lives — whether it be a special occasion or a simple moment. The resulting video compilation will be used to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday next July.

Instead of a film, my story is one of pictures, reflections and simple gratitude for being a Canadian who has the privilege of living and farming on the vast and beautiful prairies.

Life is made great by the million little things that piece together our days and weave into their way into the tapestry of our lives.

Here are the pieces which made #CanadaInADay special to me.

Waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, pouring a cup and enjoying this view.

 

Wandering through my yard, taking time to notice the little things, like the bees enjoying my sunflowers.

Wandering through my yard, taking time to notice the little things, like bees on the towering sunflowers in my garden. 

 

 

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The satisfying job of chopping garden-fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions and celery, followed by aroma of simmering salsa wafting through the kitchen .

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Listening to the consistent ‘snapping’ on the jars of the finished product, knowing they are properly sealed and preserved for the months ahead.

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Having the combine come out of the shed to finally resume harvest after a week of rainy weather.

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Enjoying the delicious, fresh, crisp crunch of a B.C. Honey Crisp apple for a snack.

 

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A leisurely afternoon walk with our dog.  She stopped briefly by this freshly cultivated wheat field.  We work the straw into the soil to improve organic matter and soil health. 

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“Pure joy! ” Watching my  trusty side-kick , having a blast running through a wheat field. Here the straw has been baled to be used as bedding for cattle this winter.

 

 

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Appreciating that I can walk for miles on quiet country back roads without seeing a soul.  It doesn’t  necessarily mean my presence isn’t noticed though…The dog and I obviously piqued the interest of the neighbour’s cattle!

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Seeing these hives is a reminder that a delivery of fresh honey will soon arrive at our door.  A fellow farmer keeps bees in the shelter of an old yard-site on our farmland. The bees love the canola and alfalfa we grow, and we love the honey they produce!

 

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Walking to the marsh that borders part of our farm and capturing the beauty of the bulrushes and wildflowers blowing in the wind.  The marsh provides a unique and diverse ecosystem for a wide variety of plants, animals and birds.

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Riding alongside my husband in the combine, enjoying his company and the view as he harvests a field of canola.

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Taste-testing the fresh-made salsa for an appetizer. So good!

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Watching this bald eagle overlook the field we were harvesting. They aren’t usually this close to our yard, but hunting was easy as rodents scurried away as the canola swaths were picked up.

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Being thankful for a south wind that kept the moisture at bay as clouds rolled in later in the day.  Once the grass is wet with dew in the evening, it often makes the crops too ‘tough’ to harvest. Here the combine is unloading canola onto a grain truck so it can be hauled to our farmyard and put in a storage bin.

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Taking the time to savour this view at the end of our farmyard as the sun set. The end my tribute to #CanadaInAday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest Meals – Tips and Tricks

Originally published on Canola Eat Well  blog on August 31, 2015 

Harvest is now underway, albeit in fits and spurts in many areas of the country as wet weather continues to hamper efforts.  Here are a few tips to help ease the stress when it comes to meals to the field. 


Preparing and taking meals to the field during harvest can be a challenge. Some people make it look effortless, but they will be the first to tell you lessons learned along the way helped them hone their skills. They also advise it isn’t always the idyllic picture of everyone sitting around the makeshift table on the tailgate of a truck, a beautiful array of food spread out, light breeze blowing, everyone happy, relaxed — and that’s okay. Here are a few pointers from the voices of experience.

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Harvesting  wheat – view from the combine cab    (P. Knight photo)

Food:
  • Become friends with your slow-cooker. Embrace stews, chili and casseroles. All-in-one-meals can incorporate each food group and are easy to transport.
  • Have a good supply of clean vegetables and fruit in the fridge for quick preparation.
  •  Take advantage of rainy days to bake or make freezer-friendly meals.
Leaving Home: 
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Photo Courtesy of Roberta Galbraith

  • Make a checklist, especially if you are travelling to a field several miles away. Food, drink, utensils, chairs etc.
  • Have a storage caddy filled with cutlery, napkins, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, cups and plates. Camping dishes are ideal to use if you have them.
  •  Old towels make great insulators for keeping food warm. They absorb any spills and are easy to wash.
Getting There:
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Harvesting Canola

  • Ensure communication is clear. Exactly which field are they working in? Especially critical if it is early in your marriage when you aren’t familiar with each field’s ‘name‘.  “We’re on Bill’s”, or “At the McLeod farm”, may be meaningless to you, especially if Bill or the McLeods haven’t owned that land for several decades…                                                                                                                                   Cell phones and road numbers have definitely aided in alleviating navigational struggles.
  •  When swarms of mosquitoes and flies are abundant, it may seem genius to borrow your in-laws motor home to deliver supper. However, ensure you park on stable ground as getting said ‘kitchen-on-wheels’ stuck is more a hindrance than help to harvest progress.
No Time to Stop:
  • Small coolers which hold both food and drink, makes for a quick and easy hand-off and eliminates spills. 
  •  Sandwiches and wraps are perfect for on-the-go eating. Just remember to advise if you have used toothpicks to help hold them together…
  • Quiche works too, either hot or cold, with a side of raw veggies and a bun or biscuit. “Real men don’t eat quiche,” they say? Why argue when a simple name change will do? Who can resist “Bacon & Egg Pie”? 😉

A little preparation, communication, flexibility and sense of humour all help at this busy time of year. May your harvest meals be made and delivered with ease, and any memorable moments shared and treasured for years to come.  Wishing you a safe and abundant harvest, from our farm to yours.

Hearty Harvest Meals

These meal ideas are fabulous — no matter where your ‘kitchen table’ is at this busy time of year.  Originally published on the Canola Eat Well blog on August 24, 2015.

Harvest is now underway, but for many of us at a snails pace as high humidity and frequent rainfalls persist.  Last night in our area, it was unusually quiet after another 21 mm of rain fell — the chirping of crickets the only sound in the evening air. Here’s hoping for a good, long stretch of warm, dry days ahead so combining can resume. 


IMG_20160821_233418For many the end of summer brings a twinge of sadness. Not so for farmers. Usually it’s an exhilarating time filled with excitement, gratitude and relief. Another growing season is behind us and it’s finally time to reap the rewards.

The hum of combines is music to our ears. Country roads are bustling as trucks roll up and down hauling crop from fields to bins. Eyes are always to the sky as we hope for ideal harvest conditions. This is our final ‘dance’ with Mother Nature for the year and we hope it’s a smooth one.

The days can be long and hectic, so keeping the harvest crew fueled with healthy, nutritious meals is key. Thankfully, fresh local produce is abundant whether it be from your garden, the farmers’ market, a roadside stand or the grocery store.

Simple recipes packed with vegetables, which can be prepared ahead of time, are perfect for harvest. Convenience is key – whether taking meals to the field or looking for something which warms up easily if your crew prefers to keep working until weather conditions shut them down.

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Apple Galette – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

Beef Braised and Vegetable Stew fits the bill perfectly, using onions, carrots and rutabagas. Stew gives you the versatility to change up the vegetables if you wish. Corn-on-the-cob is a quick, easy side and Cheddar Baking Powder Biscuits are ideal to mop up your plate. Pie is always appreciated for dessert but is something this cook has never mastered. This simple, no-fail, fuss-free Apple Galette is every bit as good!

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Spice It Up Paste for Chicken Legs – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

On those really hot days your may prefer more picnic-like fare. Pasta salads are always a hit and an easy way to add more veggies to a meal. Put your own twist on Angel Wings Pasta. It pairs perfectly with chicken pieces seasoned with Spice-It-Up Paste.  If you have an abundance of greens to use, Roasted Beet Salad is fabulous.

 

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Jenn’s Chewy Granola Bars – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

‘Grab and go’ desserts are convenient and can do double duty for lunch boxes and snacks. Have a bumper crop of zucchini or a neighbour dropping it off on your doorstep?  Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake or Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins make a perfect finish with fresh fruit. Jenn’s Chewy Granola Bars are another great option and handy to have on stock in the freezer.

No matter the meal-time choices, this time of year your efforts are always appreciated. Taking a break is good for mind and body, it enhances farm safety and gives you time to connect with your family and friends. Everyone is always happy to sit down to a hearty meal.

I sometimes think back to the days of wood stoves, no refrigeration and large threshing gangs that needed to be fed three times a day. I admire the hard-working women who labored from dawn to dusk to get the job done. It makes me grateful for modern conveniences, the ease in which a meal can be prepared and many choices we now have.

Wishing you well as you transition your ‘farm table’ from the kitchen to the field.  May you have a safe and bountiful harvest!

The Collection

If we are fortunate, we have many circles of friendship, support and encouragement in our lives.  My writing group, “Prairie Pens”, is one such circle.  I wrote this in August 2008 as a tribute to them. Subsequently it was published in the introduction to our anthology, “From All Directions” in 2009.  

I’m not sure I would have had the courage and resolve to continue to put to paper without them. They have helped, and continue to help me, develop as a writer.  This craft is ever-evolving as we strive to hone and fine-tune the art of story-telling.  Their motivating and inspiring guidance over the last thirteen years will forever be appreciated. ♥


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Conversation, rippled with laughter, drifts out the screen windows toward the lake. A chickadee calls out from a nearby window branch, joining in the light-hearted banter.
Hummingbirds zip back and forth, drawn to blooms of scarlet geraniums and brilliant-blue salvia in overflowing window boxes. A flash of black and orange…yes, an oriole, heard earlier but seemingly reluctant to make an appearance. Elegant dragonflies float by; the hum of a cicada speaks to the heat of this perfect summer day.

Inside, simple plaques grace the walls – Wiggle Your Toes in the Sand; Life is Good at the Beach; and above the doorway, Home is Where Your Story Begins. How appropriate for this collection. They are comfortable, at ease, as they arrange themselves on rich chocolate-brown wicker topped with floral-green cushions. Soon the visiting ends as stories begin to pour out around the room. Emotions rise and fall; then advice freely flows.

The love of this art of etching words, simple words on paper, binds this group together. Women of all ages, different backgrounds, diverse life stories, offering each other support, encouragement, resolve – to imagine, to create, to write and keep writing.

One woman sits back for a moment, takes it all in – the surroundings, the setting, the vibrant group. Her eyes revert to the plaque Home is Where Your Story Begins. Yes, but it is here, with these women, where the courage is found to put pen to paper, to share words without fear. She glances out at the lake. Mid-day sun bounces off the water, sparkling as beautifully as the dynamic collection of writers surrounding her.

Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Short on eggs and long on zucchini? This cake is for you! It’s that time of year when either your garden, or your neighbour’s,  is overflowing with this popular, prolific squash.  My family loves this moist, delicious, easy-to-make cake.  After all, who doesn’t like turning a vegetable into chocolate? Sounds like a super-power to me! 

Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk *
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp natural cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1.    Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2.    Grease 9 X 13 pan or line with parchment paper.
  3.    In large bowl, mix canola oil and sugar.
  4.    Add milk, grated zucchini and vanilla. Stir well.
  5.    In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and chocolate chips.
  6.    Add to zucchini mixture.  Batter will be thick.
  7.    Spread evenly in pan. Bake 25 – 35 minutes, until toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8.   Let cool completely before serving.

Storage:

Can be kept in a covered container for 2 to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Notes:

*Buttermilk substitute – add 1 tbsp vinegar to milk (at least 1% milk fat).

Want to preserve excess squash for later use? Simply measure out desired amount of grated zucchini (2 cups for this recipe), pack in freezer bags, date and label. Keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.