Lessons From My Canola Kitchen

When planting fails

Sometimes success is not what you grow or do, success comes from the lessons you learn along the way.

Last month I joined a mini challenge to grow a canola plant on my kitchen counter. I turned to my community (both online and in person) for canola plant growing advice and set a plan to grow the best canola plant that I could.

It turns out that my idea of growing the best plant was much different than reality.

So I paused.

Lessons from my Canola Kitchen

  1. Try, Try Again – Do Not Allow Failure to Hold You Back

    When my first attempt at growing a canola plant failed miserably. I took all of my remaining seeds and tried again. Guess what?! I ended up with one germinated seed that has become my seedling.

  2. Even Slow Change is Growth

    A colleague shared this quote with me:
    “Slowly, slowly the egg will walk!” ~Ethiopian Proverb

    Sometimes change is so slow you think it’s not moving, until one day, it is! The lesson in this is to enjoy the journey, no matter how slow or fast it might seem.

  3. Community is: Knowledge, Support & Kindness

    There was a time when your community was restricted by your physical geographical location – think your community centre, local club, church or coffee shop.

    Today with the advancement of technology we can extend our community outside our geographical neighbourhoods and all the way around the world.
    Summer Sunset with Heart Hands | www.jenniferdyck.com
    With technology (mostly Twitter this time):
    Knowledge was accessed from farmers across Manitoba and all the way to Alberta, Canada!
    Support, encouragement and questions arrived from peers near and far.
    Kindness came as tips for best success, offers to send supplies and humour to help me through the failures.

The lesson for me was far greater than how to grow a canola plant. It was a lesson in community building, a lesson that included; humility, patience, asking for help, sharing stories and best of all contributing the the #FarmToFood conversation.

Where will your curiosity and passion for learning take you next?!

Always…Jenn

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Planting with Science

Food for Thought

What if your garden failed and you couldn’t replace your ‘lost’ produce by going to the store or market? What if the success of your garden determined not only what you’d eat but also how you’d live? How would you ensure you are making the best decisions for growing year after year after year?

Planting Seeds With Hope

Each spring, many of us anticipate the excitement of growing our own food.

Oregano in Garden | www.jenniferdyck.com

We might put some seeds in the ground or in a pot. Maybe we splurged and bought small garden plants, stuffed them into something bigger and said “Voila, my garden!

We plant seeds with hope. We hope they will grow.

We water, we might fertilize, we weed (for a little while), we might choose to fight off insects or disease and we watch them grow, until sometimes they don’t. Not everything we plant will grow to its fullest potential and maybe it doesn’t grow at all and that’s ok.

When Gardens Don’t Grow

What happens when you have a garden failure? What happens when your garden plants don’t grow? This has happened to me and it for lack of a better word it “sucks”. Yes, it sucks. I put time, money and effort into growing something to eat and it failed.

What happens next is where (I think) there is a disconnect taking place and a large opportunity for learning.

Many of us, me included will do the following:

“Oh well,” I shrug, pull up the plant(s), clean up my failure and head to the nearest grocery store or market and buy what I tried to grow at home. I carry on. We carry on.

My Garden is a Hobby

I grow food as a hobby. For most people, growing a garden is a hobby. I do it because I enjoy it, it brings me pleasure and I do it outside of my regular occupation.

Rhubarb Crisp | www.jenniferdyck.com

The success or failure of my garden and patio pots do not determine whether my family and I will eat. Failure of growth does not determine if we will have the resources to pay our bills, put food on the table and function in our day-to-day lives.

We have the ability to replace our loss, we can go buy what we need and carry on.

When Science and Gardening Meet

My friends with the most successful gardens have one thing in common – They turn to science. They read the seed packages, they know their soil type, they know what growing zone they live in, they read about AND practice science in their garden.

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

A garden can be super rewarding and very successful. It can allow us to play, to learn, to have fun and it can feed many mouths even when it is a hobby.

Successfully growing food relies on science with a dash of hope.

Farming Requires Science

A farmer growing food is growing food for a living. It’s their job, it’s their lifestyle and it’s their way of life.

Canola Heart Hands | www.jenniferdyck.com

When a crop fails, there is no store around the corner to replace what is lost. It is a failed crop. It might mean learning to do with less the coming year, it might mean bills going unpaid, it definitely means more than a failed hobby garden.

Farming relies upon science and the advancement of technology to be successful but science alone is not going to win over the hearts and minds of eaters. We will always have science to back us up but the greater connection, understanding and support will come from meeting one another around a table of compassion, emotional connection, critical thinking, a deep interest in learning and finding common ground.

Let’s Get Planting with Science

Growing my canola plant made me realize that if it fails, there is no store around the corner to buy a new one. This is up to me and science is going to be my best chance for a successful canola plant.

Here is what I decided to consider:

  • Soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Seed depth

Soil

My cup contains:

  • New potting soil 75%: it will contain unused nutrients. It was also recommended by a farmer.
  • Black earth provided 25%: it looked rich, contained moisture, contained small bits of clay and it grew plants this past season which indicated fertility.
  • 1 Tbsp of canola meal: this is my science experiment. My sister-in-law who is a Canola Meal expert used 2/3 of a cup so I’m the ‘low dose’ portion of our mini experiment.

Fertilizer

  • Inserted one fertilizer spike 13-4-5. This was also on recommendation of a farmer with an agronomy degree.

Seed Depth

  • Research has been done and is shared through the Canola Council of Canada agronomy team that ideal seed depth is 1/2 to 1 inch. I aimed for the 1/2 inch mark as I’d like to have early emergence from the soil.

  • I planted 4 seeds in my cup that are evenly spaced between the cup edge and the fertilizer spike in the center.
  • I was also advised to ensure I pack my soil down enough to ensure good soil contact to my seed.

The soil is mixed, the seeds are planted, the fertilizer spike is in, I’ve watered and now I wait…until I get this tweet:

Thanks Curtis! My cup is now in the bag provided and on the South facing window sill. It will stay in the bag 24hrs a day until day 5.

Follow #FarmToFoodFamily on twitter for more frequent updates.

Always…Jenn

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

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