I was going to title this bog July Joys but then I would have had to list a whole bunch of things like family reunions, company, trips with grandkids to the lake, picnics, wiener roasts, long walks in the cool of the evening, etc. I don’t have time for that. So instead I am just going to share a couple of things from July.
First and foremost because it consumes the most of my time is the gardens. I know when I say garden, some people think little flower gardens. I do have those which are sadly neglected.
But for me gardening means the long rows of vegetables. Already we are enjoying baby carrots fresh from the garden, beet top greens (which are so good drowned in butter), fresh sweet lettuce and raspberries. The peas are heavy with pods so they will be next. My fingers are crossed that the beans hold out until the peas are done but only time will tell.
July has also been extremely rainy. 6” in the first two weeks. Sudden and vicious storms almost daily. We now have warmer weather but with all the moisture there is, we also have evening storms.
And yes, I can relate this back to my writing. Because I am writing up a storm most days as well.
The first book in a new series will be out in Oct. but I can’t wait to share the cover with you.
The six-book series is called BIG SKY COUNTRY. As you might guess, it is set in Montana. The setting is a fictional town called Bella Creek that has been built mostly by a big old cowboy—the patriarch of the Marshall family. The series will tell the stories of the three young Marshall cowboys, their sister and a couple of their closest friends.
It is set in the 1890s when gold was found in north western Montana. The town was built as an alternative to the nearby rough mining town.
Things I like about this series:
1. The strong family unit the Marshalls are. They support each other through thick and thin.
2. The setting—to the west is rugged mountain areas, to the east, rolling grasslands perfect for raising cattle. As one character says, “Good cow country.”
3. The strong community that pulls together to take care of its own.
4. The research I got to do which involved a trip to that part of Montana. Such beautiful country.
5. Cowboys. Need I say more?
And here it is. The cover of the first book in the series: Montana Cowboy Daddy.
We have two new lawn ornaments.
The first is a Rock Island steel wheel tractor. Can you imagine riding that thing for hours? My father-in-law used it. My husband operated it a time or two.
And now my son has ‘driven’ it into place.
Near as we can figure it was manufactured about 1928.
We now have a memento of the good old farming days.
Our second lawn addition is a little buck deer who has taken up residence in our trees. He seems content to share accommodations with us.
He’s fun to watch as he plays in the trees. Yes, he might be eating my apple tree but a good pruning is beneficial. Right?
He doesn’t bother running for shelter as we go in and out and as my client rattles up and down the ramp in his wheelchair. He seems to know we mean him no harm.
We’re enjoying his company.
I admit it. I can make anything about writing. Take this week for example. We drove east an hour or two to attend a funeral. The sky was sunny and bright. The landscape green and lush. It felt peaceful and ordinary.
The funeral was…well, a funeral. A little bit out of he ordinary but not unexpected. But during the service, thunder rumbled and roared and it crossed my mind that we could sit there while a tornado threatened and not even be aware of it. At one point, I’m sure lightening struck the building. The lights went out momentarily. Several women screamed. Very spooky.
We left and headed back home. The storm followed us. Or maybe we followed the storm. The clouds went from threatening to more threatening. It rained heavily. Lightening flashed and thunder rolled.
Before we reached home blue sky beckoned.
How, you ask, does this relate to writing? Well, it made me think of plot. First, the characters are making their way through life with little concern about what lies ahead. (Also called the Ordinary World). Then something changes…like a funeral that calls the characters to make a move. Still, things seem somewhat normal. But wait, problems and threats escalate—a storm, impending trouble. The trouble continues to escalate until the characters must go through a bad storm. But if the characters persevere, deal with the circumstances and use their growing skills, light breaks through and they conquer the challenges. They find their Happy Ever After.
Now if only plot was that simple and easy when I confront a new story which I am doing this week and for most of the summer.
My father was a gracious man. He never left the table without thanking the cook for the meal. Early in life he made a conscious decision to never complain. When he passed away after a few years in a care facility the staff said the appreciated his positive attitude and said he never complained.
My father lived through hard times. The death of his first wife left him with four young children to raise. He took pride in the fact he lived through the Dirty Thirties and was able to support his family while many others had to turn to the government for assistance.
Dad as a young father:
He taught me many things. How to drive, how to identify birds, the enjoyment of history, and how to handle a firearm. He taught me a love for the Bible.
One of my fondest memories is the years we spent living ‘on the road’ with him and Mom as he working and camped far from town in order to build and maintain roads. We lived in a primitive bunkhouse. I don’t know how my mother coped but as children we saw it as a giant adventure.
A typical bunkhouse such as we stayed in:
I say much of this every Father’s Day in honor of my father. I will likely, without apology, continue to say it on a yearly basis.
My dad has been gone for a few years now but the lessons he taught and—more importantly, lived—endure.
Writing a story always leads to ‘The End.’ But that isn’t the ending I want to talk about this morning. On Friday, June 10, 2016 almost 100 years of the Fords farming in the Chinook area came to an end. Our son has sold the place.
We attended the auction sale of the machinery and miscellaneous.
The big old house saw many children of three generations grow up. It saw hard times and wonderful times. And it’s getting weary. I hope it receives more children and the noise of another young family.
It was nice to see how green and lush the prairie was and to again be able to see three days in every direction. There’s nothing to compare with the wide-open spaces of the prairies. It seems to me the wideness causes one’s heart and mind to expand in an attempt to reach the horizon.
The windmill has stood through all those years. Oh the stories it could tell—of boys learning to shoot a gun, of girls learning to drive a tractor, of moms and dads standing arm and arm on the doorstep watching the fields turn green, or admiring the baby calves running about.
We are taking one memento home to park by our barn. Every time we look at it, in our minds we will be back on the hill staring out at the prairie and remembering.
Yes, it’s sad to say goodbye.
And yet, just as when I come to the end of a story and begin a new one, we look forward to a new beginning.
Every year it must be done. The alpacas must have their winter coats sheared off. It’s painless and must be a relief for the animals.
Though they are understandably curious as to what’s going on.
There’s people who do the shearing professionally and have a table the animal is laid on and then with a foot pedal, the animal is turned from side to side. Sort of like magic. (It doesn’t make sense to me but then I am not mechanically inclined).
The fleece is so soft especially from the youngest animals.
The grandgirls love to take part. If only to pet a goat. Or see a newborn alpaca. Or play with their cousins.
Tell me what unusual event takes place in your life every year.
Writing historicals can require a lot of research. For fun, I thought I’d list a few ways I research.
1. Get books from the library. Thank goodness for search tools and interlibrary loans. I especially like getting books written for children. the information is neatly summarized for me.
2. Museums. Some are better than others. One of the complaints I have is so many museums do not include a date on their displays. I can see something that I think is interesting but without a date, I don’t know if the object was available in the time period I am writing.
3. Maps. These give distances, land marks, etc.
4. talking to experts.
5. Travel. I take hundreds of pictures when I am researching an area. I take pictures of pictures, pictures of pages of a book for reference, pictures of flora, etc.
6. On-line. I’m convinced you can find out anything on the internet if you use the right search terms. How far from point A to point B? When did the railroad reach a certain destination (a little more challenging)? How fast can a horse gallop compared to how fast can a loaded wagon travel? I’ve found copies of journals, old maps and so many helpful things.
What do I do with all the research?
1. I read and make notes. Things like distances, any details about daily living, significant events,
2. I create a map.
3. I create a time line.
It can be time consuming and challenging but once I have a handle on the information it becomes intrinsic to my story,
It’s not often I get enthused about anything to do with making meals. I’m of the mind that I’ve been there, done that way too many times. But thanks to my good friend, Carolyne Aarsen (http://www.carolyneaarsen.com/) I’ve recently changed my mind.
She told me about the Instant Pot.
This lovely little thing is electric pressure cooker, steamer, slow cooker. I guess you can even make yogurt in it but seeing as I avoid dairy products in any great amount I haven’t tried.
What I have tried and love is:
1. Baked beans. Instructions say you don’t have to soak them but I boil and soak an hour then it takes less than an hour to ‘bake’ them to perfection at pressure.
2. Stews. The flavor is beyond compare. I get comments (good ones) from even the hardest to impress.
3. Potatoes. I’d buy it for this alone. I set the pot to pressure and set the times (about 12 mins.) and walk away and leave it. No pot watching and NO BOILING OVER ON THE STOVE.
4. Scalloped potatoes. Yummy, fast and no mess.
6. Today I am making a lentil chili mixture.
Did I mention it has a timer so you can set it to come on at a given time? Did I mention it has a keep warm feature. Last Sunday I set a casserole to cook knowing it would take about 30 minutes to reach pressure (I had the pot as full as it is to go) and 20 min. to cook. When it was done, the pressure went down and the warm feature kicked in. When we got home from church, it was cooked and hot.
There aren’t a lot of recipes given in the instruction booklets but there are plenty on-line. Mostly it’s a matter of experimenting.
Barely a day has gone by since I purchased this that I haven’t used it for something.
It’s Mothers Day but it’s hard to celebrate when almost 90,000 people are evacuated, fleeing a massive wildfire in Northern Alberta. https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=fort%20mcmurray%20wildfire%20evacuation
I am so proud of our community and our province as people pull together to help these displaced people…many who fled with only the clothes on their back. Our little community quickly filled many trailers and sent them north to help out.
The ‘angry beast’ as it’s been called, still roars. The fire chief says it will take a significant rain to put it out. Please pray for Alberta.