Let’s Grow Together

The Canola Plant Challenge

It sounded simple, plant a canola seed and grow it the best you can for 21 days. That’s the short version of an email that arrived this week. I paused. Then the ideas all started sprouting, in typical Jenn fashion, sprouting all at once!

So, here I go. Off on my next #FarmToFoodFamily learning adventure. I hope you’ll follow along for when we learn together, we get to grow together!

Plant it and it will grow…or will it!

The Parameters:

  • Plant your canola seed in the cup provided.
  • Pick your own soil or use the soil provided.
  • Use any inputs you want.
  • Keep a record book.
  • Bring your plant to be judged on November 25.

The plant will be judged on overall appearance:

  • colour
  • height
  • biomass
  • leaf surface area – you should be at 2 leaf stage

Let’s Get Planting

Container: pre-determined. Check!
Canola seeds: provided. Check!
Soil: provided. Can I do better?
Inputs: up to me. I better get help!

My first thought: I’ll mix compost in with the soil given to me, add a Tbsp of coffee grounds, dilute some plant fertilizer for watering, give it a splash of coffee every morning and we’ll be good to go. And for some reason I considered the idea of adding some ground flax to the soil mix too. Wait, what!?!

Then I realized I can do better. I can use this opportunity to connect, to learn and to grow. I can stand on my educational roots, I can stand on science. I can ask a farmer!

Follow me over the next few weeks on twitter using #FarmToFoodFamily. Join me as I expand my Farm to Food learning and have a little fun along the way.

Always…Jenn

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A little veggie bin full of learning

Learning through veggies

CSA veggies week 10 in 2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

No this is not a discussion about how many veggies you ate today. This goes deeper.

How often do you think about how your food made it onto your plate. I mean really think about how it got there – more than who cooked it or where you bought it? For most of us, it’s not likely that often, if at all.

CSA veggies-dinner-2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

The bin of veggies

For the past two years my family has belonged to a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) garden grown by The Bergmann’s.  We pay a one-time pre-season fee (buy a share in the garden) and in return we receive a weekly bin of veggies. What you get is determined by what your farmer decides to grow and how much Mother Nature decides to meddle.

Initially we joined because I didn’t want to make time to have a garden and we still wanted fresh seasonal vegetables. What I know now is that we joined because it was time to learn more about who and how our food is grown.

This week was our last veggie bin of the season. It was the last bin but it was the day we had our most important lesson.

CSA Veggies-with-bin-2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

It’s veggie confession time

I waited until after school to unpack our last bin with the boys. They love to eat and help in the kitchen but mostly they love to see Will on delivery days and unpack the bin.

They bounced down the front steps over to the bin, ripped off the lid, started pulling things out then looked up and said “That’s it?”

The boys said what I had thought a few times this season and my heart sunk. That’s when I realized, yes, that’s it! It was no longer a question. It was a light-bulb, exclamation, ah-ha moment. This, this was the teaching moment of the summer.

How dare we be so critical of our food. We were never hungry and what was provided was delicious, nourishing and made many excellent meals that we enjoyed together.

I paused. I sat down. They sat down. We sat there on the front patio and we talked.

My heart filled as I thought about our farm family. They poured their heart, blood, sweat and tears into our veggie bin. They gave us the best they had, they gave us as much as they possibly could, they worked extra hard this season and reseeded various times and I know that they truly care. But how do you teach that to a kid?

CSA veggies boys with squash | www.jenniferdyck.com

We talked about it. We talked about the part of food we rarely see. The growing part.

  • Were we ever hungry this summer because we didn’t have enough food?
    “No” they both said as though I was crazy

CSA veggies week 6 of 2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

  • Why do you think we have a bit less in our bin this year? What fell from the sky every couple of days?
    “Rain. The plants had too much water.” said one.
    “Plants don’t like too much water.” said the other.
  • How do you think Will and his family felt when the plants started getting sick?
    “I bet they were sad. I bet they wished they could have made them better.” said my one kid as he slumped a little.
  • How do you think it felt when you had to go get the veggies from the garden and there wasn’t as much as you had planned would grow?
    “That would suck” said my feisty one.
    “Yes, yes it would” I said.
  • We talked about how Mother Nature always plays the last card. A farmer can do everything right and Mother Nature can trump it all.
  • We talked about how farmers work really hard to grow top quality food and sometimes it doesn’t quite go as planned and it’s sad. It’s ok for us to be sad for them, with them. It’s also important for us to continue to support them.
  •  We agreed that growing food is hard work and we are thankful for farmers. Thankful for farmers that are willing to go all-in year after year after year.

To my farmer and farm family:

CSA Veggies week 4 of 2016 | www.jenniferdyck.com

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t do a better job of checking in during the season, that I didn’t ask more questions and that I didn’t stand up for you sooner. I’m sorry I ever thought “That’s it?” 

Because – That’s It! That’s a wrap on another season of veggies that made it to our plates, that had us experimenting in the kitchen, that had us learning about new ingredients, that had us being mindful about food waste and had us excited about delicious Canadian grown food. We Thank You!

Because – That’s It! That’s another season of helping teach another generation to appreciate food, to understand that it doesn’t “grow” in the grocery store and that someone, a real person, took the time to become an expert in growing food. I Thank You!

Because – That’s It! That’s another season laced with lessons for both of us and when we learn together, we grow together!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake with Cinnamon Oat Crumble | www.jenniferdyck.com

The kid said it best this week and said it just like a farmer:

“Well mom, there’s always next year! I bet next year will be great!”

Although from this mom who’s trying to raise a #FarmToFoodFamily – I say:
This Year WAS Great!

Always…Jenn

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake with Cinnamon Oat Crumble

Every season brings a plentiful produce item that I find myself creatively including in many meals and snacks. Right now that item is zucchini.

From muffins to cakes to cookies, from grilled, to spiralized and diced, my family has been eating it in all sorts of ways this season.

After combing the internet for the perfect zucchini cake recipe that used ingredients that I had available, I came up empty handed and decided to merge a few to create my very own cake.

My family hopes you’ll enjoy this as much as we do!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake with Cinnamon Oat Crumble

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake with Cinnamon Oat Crumble | www.jenniferdyck.com

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup low fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups packed shredded zucchini (peel on)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Cinnamon Oat Crumble:

  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Prepare a 9 x 11 pan with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder.
  3. In a second large bowl, beat together eggs, yogurt, canola oil and vanilla until well combined. Add the sugars and continue beating. Stir in the zucchini until well combined.
  4. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and stir just to combine ingredients.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts (if using) and stir just to combine ingredients.
  6. Add batter to prepared cake pan and leveled into the corners as needed.
  7. To prepare the crumble: combine oats, sugar, flour, canola oil and cinnamon until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Mixture will appear like damp sand. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the entire cake.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack. Serve warm with ice cream for a decadent treat or slice and serve at room temperature for a coffee time snack.

Triangles of Love

Quilting: It’s in my blood

Triangles of Love | www.jenniferdyck.comIt’s a long standing tradition in my family to gift a quilt to babies when they are born. My Grandma was an avid hand quilter and she made every baby that entered her world a quilt. She then taught the craft to my mom (her daughter-in-law) who has gifted quilts to new babies for decades.

Grown men have told me that they still have the quilt my mom gave them when they were born. This makes me feel old but it also warms my heart that pieces of fabric stitched together with love have become family keepsakes.

Initially taught to quilt by hand by my mom, I have slowly started to make more pieces by machine.

Project by Project

I will admit that not every baby has received a quilt over the past few years from me. Raising my own young family has taken priority but every chance I get to sew for a baby, I do.

I had the pleasure of making an extra special quilt this year for my first niece. I knew exactly which fabrics I wanted to use from my stash and quickly found inspiration online for a 60 degree triangle pattern. Using 6″ strips of fabric and a 60° marking on my ruler I set off.

Triangles of Love

Triangles of Love |www.jenniferdyck.com

Triangles of Love |www.jenniferdyck.com

Triangles of Love | www.jenniferdyck.com

Triangles of Love |www.jenniferdyck.com

Ellery Aug 2015 | www.jenniferdyck.com

Always…Jenn