Monday, July 18, 2011


 A while ago I posted a picture that included the bright yellow of a field of blooming canola across the road from our place.  That field belongs to my good friend and walking companion and her husband.  There's another field, just north of town that they also farm, which has a fantastic canola crop blooming on it.  Every time we
walk by it, I wish I had my camera to take a picture for you to see it up close.  So today we went back (in the car!) with the camera to get this picture.  That's M standing in the midst of the canola.  It's right up to her chin!

She and her husband, with the help of a few part-time workers, farm 5,000 acres in this vicinity.  Some land is theirs, but much is rented, including our little 12 acre field north of our yard.  L. rotates crops in order to preserve and build up the land.

To give you an idea how big 5,000 acres is, imagine driving along a country road.  On your left hand, for 18 miles, stretching 1/2 mile to your left from the road, all that land makes up enough "quarters" (quarter sections) to make up 5,000 acres. A section is a surveyed area 1 mile square.  So a quarter section is 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile.  That assumes that some of the land has creeks running through it, sloughs, and other obstructions that the farmer has to go around in his seeding and harvesting.

To farm these big fields, the farmers on the Canadian prairies use the very largest equipment produced in the world: huge tractors, seeders, sprayers and combines.
Perhaps in the Russian grain areas these enormous machines are also used.  Sometime this summer or fall, I'll try to get a picture of some of these monsters.

Canola has an interesting history: it was developed by Canadian scientists from rapeseed, which had an unacceptably high level of erucic acid, toxic to humans at that level.  In the second world war, the oil from rapeseed was used as a lubricant in tanks, etc.  By interbreeding with other plants they produced a low level erucic acid plant in the mustard family, which was given the name Canola, a shortened form of Canadian Oil.  It is sold as a healthy oil, and I've used it for a long time in baking bread, buns, and loaf cakes, as per a recipe for Cranberry/orange loaf that I posted recently.

In looking up erucic acid today, I found some articles that claim it is an unhealthy oil, so maybe I should do a little more research.  It can be confusing to us ordinary folks to sort out all the claims and counter claims.

Here's a photo of a canola field in southern Alberta in 1975.  Oh, and in the midst of the canola is a younger version of Jim and myself.

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