The Gibson family farm has been in our family since 1906. It has been a fully functioning farm the whole time. My Grandfather and Great-Grandfather grew mostly canola and durum, and for the past ten years my father has been raising sheep. Our farm is located in the south-west corner of Saskatchewan. I grew up mostly in the city of Saskatoon, spending my summers out at the farm. You could say I have a bit of farm-kid in me. The farm spans for hundreds of acres around the farmhouse, but the garden is just down a path through the yard. This is where the magic happens...

What Seems Impossible- Fighting the Crisis in Africa

   I'm sure by now everyone has heard or read about the massive famine that was declared for certain regions of south central Somalia. This is disaster on the largest scale, with tens of thousands of Somalian casualties, and more and more dead everyday. Maybe it's because as North Americans we can't even imagine so much devastation, or maybe we're just immune from constantly being bombarded by news programs and newspaper headlines pronouncing tragedy after tragedy, but it's so easy to dismiss the issue at hand by changing the channel or flipping to the sports section. This time it's not so easy for me to push this to the back of my mind, and I challenge you not to push it away either.
    As I'm writing this, I'm drinking a cup of coffee and planning what to do with the bounty of my garden. I was fortunate enough to be born in a developed country, but more than that, I was fortunate enough to be born in a place where the soil and weather conditions usually work in my favour. As a Canadian, living in the prairies, I'm probably standing on the best land in the world, in conditions that are more often than not conducive to a prosperous life. Could I be any more lucky?
    Although I am grateful for my situation (that's an understatement), it is with a particular stab of guilt that I put on my rubber boots and trudge towards my garden. Just the other night, I had a BBQ with friends, and served three different kinds of meat (lamb, chicken AND pork ribs), gorgeous potatoes and garlic bread, and grilled vegetables. Add in a few bottles of wine and even more bottles of beer, and you have yourself a good time. After this feast was over, you know what I thought? I really should have made dessert. We didn't even say grace or take a moment to be thankful for what was in front of us. We just dug in, like it was our birthright to be so spoiled. On the other side of the world, there are people whose lives could be saved by drinking the dirty dish water I used to clean up after our meal.
    Now, feeling guilty will not keep those unfortunate souls in the Horn of Africa from starving to death. But being conscience and present in our own lives will go a long way towards being compassionate and generous beings. If you can afford it ( and we live in the top 1% of the worlds richest people, so I'm sure you could scrounge up something) why not send a donation via World Vision or any other non-profit organization to help the cause. Send $10 if you can. I spent more than that on a can of hairspray this week. I know $10 doesn't seem like much, especially when $300 million is needed to alleviate the suffering, but haven't you ever heard of the fable of The Crow and The Pitcher, in which a crow needs a drink of water, but can't reach the bottom of the pitcher to drink? So he goes and throws pebbles, one at a time into the pitcher to displace the water and bring the water level up so he could finally have a sip. A tiny pebble doesn't seem like much either, but each one is absolutely essential in achieving what seems impossible.


    Is there anything quite so wholesome as picking wildflowers in a field? I felt like a little girl prancing about in the long grass, worry-free and happy. Now, when I pick flowers, I love a complex variety of colours and textures in my arrangements. I find that's the key in any flower arrangement, wildflowers or store bought varieties.
    Furthermore, for me, nothing cheers me up like flowers in the house. I put them in the bathroom, on my bedside table, on the kitchen counter. Why wait for a man to send you flowers?? You'll be waiting a long time, trust me ladies. You need to take matters into your own hands, and get yourself some damn flowers!! You deserve it. Even just a sprig of lavender in a small vase or a single rose floating in a bowl. It's a bit luxurious, a bit of a splurge.
  If you are lucky enough to live on a farm, or are ambitious enough to take a drive through the country, you will be amazed at how many flowers you can find snuggling in the tall grass. And speaking of grass, there's nothing wrong with combining grasses or other greenery in with your flowers. They add one more dimension to your arrangment.
   If you live in the city, there's absolutely nothing wrong with grocery store flowers. Yes, greenhouse flowers are usually a little better quality, but they're more expensive, so don't feel bad about snagging a great deal while picking up milk or bread. I usually grab a couple different kinds of flowers, such as Lillies and Astroemeria, or Orchids and Pussywillows, and arrange them myself in a vase or jar.. The combinations are endless, just use your imagination!

I'm Cooked!

          Oh my Lord, I am cooked!. My skin is so baked by the sun it smells like fried chicken. I swear it actually does! At this point, my tan lines are so distinct, it's embarrassing. Especially my butt!! Even with my clothes off, it looks like I'm wearing white shorts! What do I do? I can't garden naked, and even if I did I don't think my butt would ever catch up with my back.
            Am I destined to spend my summer looking ridiculous? Nothing screams farm girl like two-toned skin. And yes, I know... no one is looking at my naked body (unfortunately).. but I know how silly it looks.
         But alas, I have a plan. It involves a little something called self-tanner. Maybe I can just apply it to the unexposed parts of me, evening out the colour. Even just a little bit. I have to be careful though, self-tanner is tricky. The first time I ever used it, I slathered thick gobs of it all over my face and neck. When I woke up, my face was the colour of pumpkin pie. No kidding, ask my friends. And yes, my mother actually made me go to school that day. People still bug me about it. And that was over a decade ago.
          Now, I'm more experienced with the stuff, but it's still intimidating. The only thing worse that a glowing white butt would be a glowing orange butt!! But I'm being careful, slowly building up the tan. And making sure I wash my hands afterwards to avoid the tell-tale orange hands that let everyone know your "healthy tan" is actually chemically induced. I'm somewhat confidant this genius plan will work... Now i just need to work on finding someone to appreciate my handiwork!

Nanaimo Bars

      Canada is the birthplace of many a tasty snack. My favorite? Nanaimo bars, hands down. For any non-Canadians out there, the nanaimo bar is an unbaked bar cookie named after the West Coast city of Nanaimo, B.C, possibly the most beautiful place on Earth. So it only makes sense that this treat is pretty epic, and steeped in Canadian tradition. It consists of three layers; a wafer and chocolate bottom, a silky custard cream middle topped with melted chocolate. Once all three layers firm up in the fridge, you cut your squares and eat them, refrigerate them or freeze them. Just describing them makes me giddy!
       I wish to share my family's recipe for anyone who cares to try it (which I HIGHLY recommend) For anyone who has never tasted one, put it on your bucket list. They're that good!!

                                                       GIBSON FAMILY NANAIMO BARS


2 squares of semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
2 cups graham wafer crumbs
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
                           1)Melt first four ingredients over a double boiler. Add the vanilla and egg slowly, and mix well. Add the graham crumbs and coconut (and walnuts). Press into a 9'' pan to form the bottom layer.


2 Tbsp custard powder
3 Tbsp milk
2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup butter or marg
                     2) Beat all four ingredients until smooth. Spread evenly over bottom layer.

4 squares of semi-sweet or milk chocolate
1 Tbsp butter or marg
                   3) Melt chocolate and butter over double boiler, being careful not to splash water into the chocolate, which will ruin the consistency. Pour over custard and chill in fridge for an hour or two. You know the rest.

Gardening is not for Sissies!

          What happens if you leave a field garden to it's own devices for over a week with equal parts rain and sunshine? You come back to a jungle. Seriously, my garden is like a tropical rainforest of weeds!!! A machete would be useful out there. As would a good old fashioned sickle. But all I have is a hoe, gardening gloves, and a cute little knee cushion to kneel on. The good thing is the vegetables are so big I can actually tell the difference between good plants and bad weeds.
          I was awake at 4:30 this morning pulling weeds, and I didn't stop until 3:00 this afternoon. Now I'm about 15% clear. Hey, gardening is not for sissies!! At least out here on the farm I don't have anyone to impress so I can get away with dirt under my fingernails and twigs in my hair. I even got a blister on my hand today!!! My stepmother rolled her eyes when I showed it to her, but it hurt like hell!! So I did exactly what she told me not to do... I poked it with a sterilized needle and let the fluid drain. It looks better now but it still hurts. Just because I'm a farm girl for the summer doesn't mean I want farm girl hands. Yuck! Looks like an Olive Oil hand treatment is on the agenda for tonight.


Farm Girl Beauty Tips

   I'm back on the farm from yet another fantastic visit in Saskatoon. It was wonderful, I spent almost every minute with friends and family, and the weather was excellent. I had a massage, more than one hot shower a day and deep hot bubble baths. I indulged in more than my fair share of wine and beer (and a few tequila shots!!) Basically, the perfect summer.
     Of course, now that I'm back on the farm, it's time to get back to business. But after being pampered for a whole week, I don't want to just let the harsh elements of nature take away my restful glow. This is where my training as an esthetician comes in handy. I studied my textbooks religiously, and bought as many books on skincare and physiology as I could find. My opinions on expensive lotions and products are mixed. On the one hand, I think it's often true that you get what you pay for... on the other hand though, I know of many basic everyday products that work just as well if not better than their more expensive counterparts. I use many of these little tricks on a daily basis, and I'd love to share them with you. Here is a list of my top five favorites.
          1) Vitamin E Oil. This stuff is thick and sticky so it takes some getting used to, but at night I love to put it around my eyes as a rich eye treatment. You can buy Vitamin E capsules and puncture them with a needle, or you can buy a little bottle of Vitamin E oil. If this is too sticky for you, you can also use Rose Hip Oil, which is equally fantastic, full of antioxidants but a bit harder to find.
          2) Olive Oil. Olive Oil is probably the most useful product in your house. You can use it as a hair treatment (just massage oil through dry hair and hit it with a blast of heat from a blow dryer before shampooing) It works as an excellent hand treatment as well, especially for a gardener (massage it through your hand until most of it is absorbed, then wipe your palms on a towel to remove the excess. I've heard of people using it as a face wash (a friend of mine swears by it), it makes an excellent shaving cream, and can even be used as a healing salve for cracked heels.
          3) Polysporin . My sister uses Polysporin as a lip balm. It smooth and silky, and if you have cracked, chapped lips, it contains healing compounds to repair delicate lip tissue.
          4) Tea Tree Oil. An excellent choice for oily or blemish prone skin. I mix the oil with a bit of unscented lotion and put it on my face and back. I haven't had a breakout since I bought my first bottle of it at the drugstore. It has antibacterial and antiviral qualities. I have an entire book, just describing everything Tea Tree Oil can do; treat bee stings, mosquito bites, athletes foot, acne, infections, colds, sore throats..... the list goes on and on. You can also use it as a natural cleaning product.
          5) Vinegar. Yup just the basic white vinegar that's stashed way in the back of your cupboard. I use it to treat sunburns ( keeps the skin from peeling) and also as part of a body scrub ( vinegar or lemon juice, salt or sugar, and a few drops of your favorite essential oil) Rub this on your body in circular motions, and it will remove dead skin cells and get your lymph flowing properly. I've also heard you can rinse your hair with it after you condition to make it extra shiny. The vinegar smell tends to evaporate very quickly.
        These are just 5 little tips that are so easy and inexpensive you'd be crazy not to try them. But all the beauty remedies and products in the world won't do a thing unless your body is in good condition. Just remember, there is no better way to look your best than to have a good nights sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat lots of veggies and omega-fatty oils from fish, flax or nuts. And of course, smile!!

To Hail and Back June 21

                  I am enjoying the calm after the storm. Sort of. I'm also kind of panicking because I may have lost some plants, and can't get to the garden because its too muddy, and I'm stuck in the house for the rest of the day. But other than that, I'm enjoying the calm after the storm.
               Let me clarify... we just had the mother-of-all hail storms. I was enjoying some sunshine, catching up on some weeding, and all of the sudden the sky darkened and BOOM.... thunder, followed by an intense shower of hail. I jumped into my car and sped up to the house, just before it got REALLY bad. And believe me, it did!! The hail stones were only about the size of a pea, but that's all it takes to cause some serious damage to tender plants like peas and corn. All I could do was stand at the window and pray for my little plants. It was a sense of total loss of control.
                I think this must have been what the pioneers that lived here 100 years ago must have felt every time a storm came, or an early frost, or a fire or a drought. Total helplessness. You put everything into your crop or garden, hours of labor and a bit of money, and in an instant, it can all be destroyed. Of course, now if this happens we have insurance and can always get food elsewhere. But 100 years ago, if a storm came, it was like standing back and watching the years' sustenance go down the drain. People died from incidents like these, whole families starved to death. It kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
           That's not to say I wouldn't be devastated if anything happened to my garden... I'd be crushed. But just as you start to get cocky and almighty because you raised a few seedlings from the ground... nature rears it angry head and shows you just how insignificant you are in comparison. It's humbling.If you don't respect mother nature, she will bring you to your knees and make you respect her.
                Now I just have to play the waiting game, let the ground dry up enough to get down to the garden and check on my plants.        Pray for me?