Outdoor Treadmill

Outdoor Treadmill

No fees, set hours, restraints on time — 
my outdoor treadmill suits me fine .  

Prairie snow provides vast retreat,
 with snowshoes strapped beneath my feet.

Crunching of snow the only sound
as I walk atop frozen ground.

Crisp, cold air upon my face
heightens senses, worries – erased.

Bright sun reflecting on the snow
gives icy crystals sparkling glow.

Deer, rabbits, fox may happen by,  
or owl glide across the sky.

All of  this,  just out my door –
nature’s gym, yet so much more…

Grateful to have waiting for me,
such splendor and tranquility.

 

Sandi Knight
© 2017

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Agvocating through art

Originally published in the July 13, 2017  issue of the Manitoba Cooperator


As farmers we don’t often have the opportunity to celebrate and showcase the crops we grow. So, when the opportunity arises, why not take it?

Earlier this year, our local arts centre asked for exhibit ideas for their boardroom gallery. Considering 2017 is canola’s 50th anniversary, I suggested a display of pictures, products and facts to celebrate. It was built around a blog post from last July entitled, Simply Canola, and inspired by the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum in Ottawa. The museum is commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday and Canola’s 50th anniversary with a nation-wide travelling exhibition, “Canola: A Canadian Story of Innovation” as well as an on-site exhibit, “Canola! Seeds of Innovation.”

Leanne Campbell photo

By far, canola is one of the most recognized crops we grow. There is no doubt it is the shining star of agriculture across western Canada every summer when it blooms. It isn’t unusual to see people stopping alongside the road to snap a picture, or take a ‘selfie’ against its gorgeous sea of yellow. Even those of us who grow it, are taken in by the allure of those bright and beautiful blossoms. Case in point – my extensive collection of photos from 2016.

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. We’ve been advised to tell our story, our way. So why not tell it through art? Especially when you can celebrate a crop many people are familiar with on a visual level.

Simply Canola is a pictorial diary of the canola we grew on our farm last year. Twenty-six photos, displayed in date order, give a tour from emergence to harvest, from close-ups to landscapes to sunsets. I’m hoping they convey the pride we take in growing this iconic prairie crop. A display case with canola, a sample of products made from it and bright yellow note cards with canola facts add an element of education to the display.

Jennifer Dyck photo

Canola is so much more than a pretty backdrop on the prairie landscape under the summer sun. The impact it has had in Canada and around the world in just 50 years is astounding. As the world’s only “Made in Canada” crop, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to agvocate and celebrate it with my photography in our local community. To date feedback has been positive and encouraging, both from consumers and those in the ag industry.

If you are in Portage la Prairie, please stop by and enjoy our farm’s views and vistas of Simply Canola. The exhibit is on display at the Portage and Districts Centre (11 2 St NE, Portage la Prairie, MB) from June 20th – August 5th in the Boardroom.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 11:00am to 5:00pm     Click here for directions.      (Note: Boardroom Gallery closed Wednesdays 12:30pm-3:30pm)  


Comments on “Simply Canola” 

“Who knew? Well done!”

“Beautiful, picturesque and educational.”

“Thank you – for this great contribution to the industry.”

“Excellent way to capture beauty and education.”

“I learned so much about canola!”

“Beautiful memories of home.”

“Lovely…and educational.”

Nature’s Messengers

natures-messengers

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

Simply Canola

There is no denying  canola has been the shining star of agriculture across western Canada this past month — as it is every summer when in bloom.  It isn’t unusual to see people stopping alongside the road to snap a picture, or take a selfie against the gorgeous sea of yellow this crop provides. 

Even those of us who grow it, are taken in by the allure of those bright and beautiful blossoms and have been know to take a picture, or two, perhaps more… I’ll admit I may have gotten carried away this year, but the opportunity was irresistible and right out my backdoor. 

We are proud to be one of the over 43,000 Canadian farmers producing this heart-healthy, versatile, edible oil. These are a few of my favourite shots taken on our farm from June 22nd to July 18th. I hope you enjoy my 2016 canola pictorial diary.  

*Click on the pictures for additional description and information.  

Out my backdoor

“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.”  ~ William Arthur Ward


You never know when actions will lead to opportunity.  This past March I found myself preparing for a photo exhibit.  When asked how long I’d been planning I replied, “I hadn’t.” It had never been a goal, ambition or something I’d ever remotely imagined doing.

But a simple “Challenge on Nature Photography” invitation — seven nature-themed photos in seven days — on Facebook in January opened a door.  Friends and family responded positively to the images I posted and persuaded me to “get busy framing” and show my work.  Even though it was in a small boardroom gallery, the thought was daunting, but I knew I would regret not taking advantage of the experience.

PosterThose who encouraged me lent a helping hand and “Out my backdoor” was soon on display.  The photographs shown can be seen here.  All twenty-five images are unedited and were taken within a mile radius of our home with a simple point-and-shoot camera.

The positive feedback and appreciation was overwhelming. My initial nervousness was soon replaced by gratitude for the chance to share my view of the prairies.  Someone commented, “You see what we may miss.”

Sun, moon and sky wall

When I head out for walks with my camera, I do so because I truly enjoy capturing images and moments in time, whether bright and bold, or small and subtle. No matter the season, every day offers something to make me pause and appreciate my surroundings.

Flowers and plants

After living on the farm for almost 28 years, perhaps I take my vantage point for granted. I didn’t realize so many others would enjoy “seeing through my lens”.

As a bonus to the whole experience, almost half the pictures sold. It is rather humbling to know my work will be hanging in new homes. Previous to the exhibit, I had never framed my photos, only shared them on social media — a trend that will now change.

I am grateful I pushed past my initial fear and trepidation, didn’t wait and let this opportunity pass. It was thoroughly enjoyable sharing the view ‘out my backdoor‘.  Now to ponder the question, “What’s next?”

We can, and should, do better

The Manitoba Provincial election is April 19th. There aren’t many people enthusiastic about the prospects. As a result, I’ve heard far too many say they won’t be voting.

It is easy to become disillusioned with politics – it is far from a perfect system and power does seem to have a way of eroding values. However, it is a privilege to have the right to vote and our collective voices do make a difference.

Imagine the public outcry if we weren’t allowed to vote. One hundred years ago in Manitoba that was the case for women.

Nellie_McClung-248x300I don’t remember when I first heard of Nellie McClung, maybe grade five or six, but her story made an impact. Novelist, teacher, social reformer and suffragist, she worked tirelessly to bring about change for women in Manitoba and across the country.

Thanks to McClung, in 1916 Manitoba was the first province in Canada to give women the right to vote and run for office. It took until 1919 for the federal government to do the same.

Then in March 1928, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling stated that women were not “qualified persons”. Nellie McClung rose to the occasion, along with Irene Parlby, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. The Famous Five fought for change. In October 1929 they won the battle; women were declared “persons” and given equal rights.

They would be appalled to know that today so many chose not to “exercise their franchise”. Voter turnout for the recent provincial election in Saskatchewan was a dismal 56.83 percent. We can, and should, do better.

We have freedom. We have choice. We have the right.

Nellie McClung on loonieSometimes we need to look to our past to be grateful for the present. You don’t have to get involved in politics, but you should be informed and never take the privilege of   having a say for granted. So on April 19th, get out and vote. Let’s quell voter apathy       and take an active part in shaping the future of our province.

 

One small rain…

It rained last night. Not much, a mere one millimeter, but apparently enough to awaken the magic of spring. Winter has been reluctant to loosen its grip, but this gentle overnight rain had sufficient power to shift the tides.

This morning there is an après-rain freshness in the air. Overhead, summer-like wispy clouds reach out into in the cornflower-blue sky.

P1140784

An enthusiastic bird chorus greets me as I step out the door. Robins, which have been slow in returning, cover the lawn in convention-like style. Black-eyed juncos gather beneath the bird feeders, cleaning up the winter leftovers. Sparrows, finches and nuthatches flit back and forth to claim seed, scattering into the trees whenever a blue jay or woodpecker noisily bullies them away. Chickadees sing their spring song. Mourning doves coo softly in the background.

The wind is light, the temperature warm.  Miss Sage is anxious for a walk, and on a day like this, who am I to argue? It is all too easy to delay the tasks at hand and head down our quiet country road.

 

At the creek, we are greeted by the trills of P1140794red-winged blackbirds – the first of the season. The glass-like surface of the water is broken as a muskrat dives for cover upon on our arrival, ripples circling out as witness to its disappearance.

Then, a distinct rolling call urges me to look upward – sandhill cranes. Finally I see them, flying in relaxed, synchronized formation overhead, rising and falling with the thermal lift. Another sign that perhaps spring is here to stay.

P1140782

Back in our yard, the lawn is still a dried-brown, but here and there, tinges of green are beginning to show. It might only be the quack-grass revolting against winter, but nonetheless it is a welcome change.

It is remarkable what one small rain can do. More growth and change is yet to come, but spring is now poised to make an entrance.  And it finally feels like winter is headed out the backdoor.

Innovation in Oil

Originally published January 2016 in Canola Digest


Three Manitoba canola growers are bottling and marketing canola oil with flavour characteristics unique to their own farms.  As grapes produce different flavour subtleties in wine based on their “terroir” – a  French word that covers soil, topography and climate – so does canola from different regions produce slightly different oil.

Photo courtesy of MCGA

Photo courtesy of MCGA

The Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) and the Manitoba Agri-Health Research Network Inc. (MAHRN) are studying virgin, cold-pressed canola oil, meal and co-products from processing as part of a Canadian Climate Advantage Diet (CCAD) project funded by Growing Forward II.  The three-year $396,000 project is looking at how the interaction between plant genetics and local growing conditions impacts the nutritional profile, flavour characteristics and end-use qualities of Manitoba-grown canola.  MCGA has contributed $10,000 to the project with a goal of adding value and finding innovative uses for Manitoba-grown and processed canola. The venture addresses the keen interest consumers have in local food, ‘terroir’ and virgin cold-pressed oils.

The three farmers involved to date are:  Brian Chorney of East Selkirk, Jack Froese of Winkler and Larry Bohdanovich of Grandview. They all grow the same variety but, surprisingly, the look, taste and even the nutritional profile of each oil is different. The East Selkirk Vintage has a higher iron content. The Grandview oil has a higher vitamin A number, is the strongest in flavour and has the deepest gold colour. Variations also exist in the percentage of crude oil extracted (33.9 – 39.5%) and clarified oil recovered (68.14 – 69.5%).  East Selkirk has the highest rates.  (Note that cold-pressing cannot extract as much oil from the seed, resulting in a high-oil meal.)

Photo courtesy of MCGA

Photo courtesy of MCGA

These unique, cold-pressed oils were test marketed at both the retail and food service level with highly favourable results. They are being embraced for salad oils, drizzles and a Canadian-grown alternative to extra-virgin olive oil.

The 2015 Vintages, prominently labeled with each growing area, will be available in early 2016 at five Winnipeg Red River Coops as well as the Winkler Co-op. These new virgin canola oils are also part of the Buy Manitoba Program. Such distinctive specialty oils demand a premium and sell at 20 times the price of conventional canola oil.

The long-term goal of this project is to develop on-farm enterprises and small and medium-sized business product lines. “It’s always exciting to see innovation in agriculture and Manitoba canola growers are definitely excited about growing future prospects for canola in Manitoba,” says Ellen Pruden, education and promotions manager with MCGA.

DEFINITIONS

Terroir (ter-war):   A term most often associated with grapes and wine, this is the special set of characteristics expressed in agricultural products when the geography, geology and climate of a location interacts with plant genetics. As a result of this project, we now know terroir exists in Manitoba-grown canola.

Cold-pressed oils:   Obtained by mechanically pressing and grinding the seed at a slow speed. Cooling methods are in place to ensure the temperature does not exceed 60 C during this process.

 

Prairie Waves

Praire Waves for blog post

Prairie Waves

North winds howl, snow swirls.
Under night sky mighty hands
create beauty from raging storm.

Morning brings sculpted drifts.
Sun reflects on diamond crystals.
Prairie waves of sparkling white
turn bleakness into brilliance.

Sandi Knight
January 2008