Arts & Life, Columns

Spill the Beans: A walk in the woods

When I moved to the farm after 13 years of living in the city, my grandmother suggested I start small. You know, small garden, only a few chickens, don’t bite off more than you can chew…I didn’t really listen. Maybe I should have. But now, almost three years into my prairie farm life, I think it might be too late to heed her wise advice…

Spill the beans is a weekly column chronicling my attempts at a self-sufficient life on this small prairie farm.


When I write about my farm, most of you likely picture this.

Wheat fields blue sky
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

And you wouldn’t be wrong. Large fields of wheat, soybeans, canola, corn or potatoes surround us on most sides. But the founders of our farm (my husband’s ancestors) chose wisely when they decided to settle in what was known as Manitoba’s West Reserve in the late 1800s.

You see, we’ve got a creek that runs through our property (although at this time of the year, you could barely call it a puddle). And due to some water stewardship flood protection, our creek and the surrounding land is basically untouched by any sort of farming activity.

And today, you are going to join me on my walk along the creek (although I will spare you actual photos of the creek because mid-summer is its least beautiful time) with this cute little companion.

My walking companion
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

The path looks like this.

Fallen trees
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

My neighbour grooms it periodically, which is especially nice during tick season so we don’t have to walk through the longest grass. The path is wide enough for ATVs and is sometimes is used for that by us and others, but most of the time, it’s quiet and I use it for walking. It’s gorgeous at any time of the year, although, unless there is a cross-country ski trail groomed through here, it’s basically unpassable in the winter.

The trail is home to a wide variety of plants, animals, bugs and fungi. The photos and descriptions that follow are just a small snippet of what we see and hear (and avoid) on our walks.

To most farmers, milkweed is a tenacious, obvious weed. But when it’s allowed to grow with complete abandon, like this field pictured below, it’s gorgeous and gives off a sweet fragrance.

Field of Milkweed
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

And it’s the favoured food of Monarch butterflies.

Monarch closeup
Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

There are other gorgeous weeds. Like this burdock for example.

Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

Or this sweet little daisy-like flower whose name I can’t remember.

Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

Last week, on our walk, the pup and I scared up some baby deer — fawns that weren’t brand new anymore, but still had their spots. We see and hear countless birds, including blue herons that feed on bugs that live in the creek. And if we’re lucky, we might see a fox or smell a skunk. But the wildlife doesn’t want to stand still for pictures so you’ll just have to take my word for it (or come for a visit to see for yourself).

And sometimes, if we’re lucky, we can also forage. At this time of the year, if one knows where to look, the wild choke cherries are prolific and ready to be picked (or eaten by birds — which I can’t stand because it feels like the berries are going to waste).

Photo credit: Jamie Dyck

And of course, I take anyone that comes to visit for a walk in my woods. It’s peaceful. It’s unexpected. It allows me and any companion of mine to feel close to nature. And when the dragonflies, bats, spiders and/or birds are doing their job, it’s even fairly mosquito free.

You are welcome to join me anytime. And if you hurry, we can still pick those chokecherries…


Follow Jamie Dyck on twitter @jndyck, or on instagram @jamieontheprairie for more photos of farm life.