It’s Your Ladder

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It’s Your Ladder

It’s your ladder.
Climb at your own pace,
pause to enjoy the view,
keep your footing firm.

It’s your ladder.
Trust in each step,
never fear going higher
or taking a step back.

It’s your ladder.
Let others help steady it,
when you’re wavering,
in need of support.

It’s your ladder.
Look up, look back, look around.
Each rung offers lessons,
meaning, significance.

It’s your ladder.
Make the pattern of ascent
unique to you, your dreams
your aspirations.

It’s your ladder.

Sandi Knight
© 2016

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Agvocating – Where do I begin?

Originally published in the November 2016 issue of Canola Digest 


With less than two percent of Canadians living on farms, there is a huge disconnect between food producers and consumers. Surveys show consumers want to learn more. In order to give them credible information, farmers and others in the ag industry need to speak up. Advice and workshops on advocating for agriculture, or ‘agvocating’, has been presented at many farm shows/conferences over the last year.

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Dr. Kevin Folta  is a professor, Chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida and winner of the 2016 Borlaug CAST Communication Award. “Recipients of CAST’s annual award are science/ag experts who demonstrate an ability to communicate through written material, public presentations, and various forms of media.” Folta does it all, and  does it exceptionally well. He speaks across North America and has a strong on-line presence. He offers this advice when discussing agricultural biotechnology with a concerned public.

 

DO:

  • Start with shared values and common concerns. “Like you, I want my kids to eat healthy food.”  “My family lives on the farm. I care about the farm environment. Here’s what I do…”
  •  Have honest conversations about what you know; speak to your strengths.  If you don’t believe it, don’t say it.
  • Disengage when attacks become personal, it is unproductive to continue.
  • Talk about ethics, your experience and your priorities. Remember you cannot fight fear with facts.
  • Sign up for social media accounts – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Follow other agvocates. Even if you don’t create content, you can have a tremendous impact by amplifying others’ messages. ie. share good work, making it more visible.  Signing up also ensures that you have control of your own name.

Don’t:

  •  Use the “feed the world” rhetoric.
  •  Dodge discussions on the limitations of genetic engineering/modification (GM). See Folta’s slide deck for more.
  • Ever claim GM is a single solution. It is not.
  • Discount other production methods or tools. All tools are needed going forward.
  • Discredit other forms of genetic improvement  such as mutagenesis.

Take-A-Way:

We have the safest, most diverse and abundant food supply in history. We also have immediate access to information — good and bad. If we engage incorrectly, we make the  broken lines of communication between consumers, scientists and farmers  worse.

To change the hearts and minds of a concerned public, we need to get involved in the conversation — in person, on-line or both. According to studies farmers are both warm and competent, so sharing our stories is critical to ensure and maintain access to ag innovation for everyone.

p1160076So begin with telling your story, your way. Don’t get bogged down in the science and terminology. Explain how precision plant breeding benefits your farm, the environment and food production.

Read, watch videos, listen to podcasts, learn from others, share their stories and practice telling yours. Remember if you don’t have the answer to someone’s question, it is okay to say, “I’ll look into that and get back to you.” Add your voice to the conversation — everyone’s is needed. If we don’t tell our stories, who will?


Kevin Folta resources:

Other Ag resources:

Fall Silhouette

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Fall Silhouette 

Stark against blue prairie sky
a threadbare tree stands out.
A few dogged leaves hold fast
unwilling to give way to winter.
 They remain united with branches,
 creating striking fall silhouette.

Sandi Knight
© 2005

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

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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.