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Editor’s Column

In the last issue of Grainews I wrote about the July 13 hailstorm that swept over most of our land, doing a lot of damage. Since the article was published, we’ve heard from all kinds of friends and acquaintances, passing on condolences and kind wishes. All of the thoughtful comments have definitely made it easier for us to cope with the loss.

I should probably email Hallmark and suggest that they come out with a “Sorry you were hailed out” card. Maybe I could get royalties.

Harvest after hail

Some of our canola was a complete writeoff. Brad sprayed it with Roundup, not long after the storm. He’s hoping it’ll dry down enough that he can smash it up with a harrow bar before winter.

As for the fields that were damaged, but not a complete writeoff, we’re trying to figure out exactly when to swath. The main stems of most of the canola plants were badly damaged by hailstones. The seeds in the pods on the old-growth area are starting to brown, but the newer parts of the plant are nowhere near ready to cut.

As a welcome break from spraying out what were once nice-looking canola crops, Brad has been out in the field seeding winter wheat on some land that was too wet to seed in the spring. Planting new seed brings a lot more optimism to the summer. We’re trying to stay optimistic, but now we need to start watching for grasshoppers coming in from the edge of the field to eat the sprouting winter wheat. What a year.

With the late harvest, like everyone else, we’re watching the calendar, the long-range forecasts and the phases of the moon to try to forecast the first frost. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come too early for us or any Grainews readers.

In the garden

Try to imagine my husband’s delight when he found out that, even though a lot of our crop was lost, the zucchini plants in the garden came through the hailstorm just fine.

I’ve been serving stir-fried yellow and green zucchini as often as I think I can get away with it. Then zucchini chocolate chip cake. Muffins. Loaf.

Things hit a new peak the other night (or low point, depending on your point of view), when I made zucchini and feta cheese pancakes for supper.

Everyone knows the old jokes about how Prairie people have to lock their car doors when they go to the post office so nobody sneaks zucchini into their cars. I don’t know if this has actually happened, but I do know that a few years ago, a woman who hadn’t been living out here very long called me up, very upset. “I had to buy zucchini,” she said. “I just know everybody in the Co-op was looking and me and thinking ‘she doesn’t have any friends.’”

Another neighbour swears that, on the day of his grandmother’s funeral, when the mourners drove out to the family farm for coffee and squares, his mom sent him outside to sneak zucchini in to the back seats of all of their relative’s vehicles.

I love zucchini. It’s hardy. Versatile. Even if you’re not a great gardener, you can usually grow zucchini. And it makes your garden look a lot more substantial for drivers going by on the road. And here’s the best part: if an early frost threatens the canola and the wheat, I can still take out blankets to save the zucchini. Brad will be thrilled.

Tillage radish

I have a new back up plan, for the day when my family really, really can’t stomach any more zucchini. Tillage radish.

Brad seeded tillage radish for the first time a couple of weeks ago. We’re hoping that the tillage radish plants will suck up some of the excess moisture in some parts of our fields, so they’re easier to deal with next year.

About two weeks after Brad seeded, they’d popped up nicely, as you can see from the photo.

One day when I was cooking up some Swiss chard from the garden and thinking about how this new crop is called “radish,” I had an idea, and emailed Kevin Elmy for more information. Kevin is a Saskatchewan farmer and a Grainews contributor. He’s been growing tillage radish on his farm for a few years, and he wrote an article about it for Grainews last winter.

Kevin was quick to reply and tell me that I could definitely eat tillage radish. He wrote, “Roots can be treated like carrots or potatoes, leaves in salads. It is the hot part of hot and sour soup.” I foresee a whole new series of cooking experiments. This is bound to be even more exciting than the zucchini feta cheese pancakes.

In this issue

This is our soil management issue. Lisa Guenther has written the cover story about herbicide carryover. We also have stories about soil testing, managing soil residue, how to live with clubroot and wind erosion.

As we move from a drier cycle to a cycle with more moisture, lots of farmers are finding they have to learn new ways to manage the same soil they’ve been cropping for years. Hopefully, you’ll find something in this issue that will be helpful for your situation.

Leeann

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