I like it when I can see first hand the places I plan to write about. So this past week, I headed south to research the mountains of north-western Montana with a special regard to the gold rushes that took place there in 1867 and 1876.

The trip was most enjoyable. Forest fire smoke gave the mountains a smoky haze.

montana research trip July 031 Seeing the fading layers of blue-gray makes me long to be able to paint what I feel. Words are far too inadequate.

Seeing the cattle on the green hills made me feel like I had stepped right into the life of one of my cowboy heroes. Can you picture yourself on horseback, your cowboy hat pushed back as you admire your herd? I can.

montana research trip July 032 We took the scenic route south of the border along the Koocanusa Lake which meant that for 52 miles we followed a snake-shaped road down the mountain. Yes, the scenery was nice. I guess. I had to keep my eyes on the road. But I stopped to take this picture.

montana trip 038 The Koocanusa bridge across the Koocanusa lake formed by the Libby dam across the Kootenai river. The lake is very long–about 90 miles–crossing the International border into BC. By the way, the lake was named in a contest. It combines the first three letters of Kootenai, Canada and USA.

More of the lake. (I stopped twice on my way down the twisty road)

montana research trip July 044  We arrived in Libby, Montana and stayed in the Venture Inn Motel (great place to stay).

My room: Yup, that’s a recliner chair. Nice. And the desk was great for working on.

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Libby has something like 70 statues of eagles. Most of them done by the same man. This one could be seen from my motel room.

montana trip 042 

It was good to see the area. And equally good to get home. I’ll share more of my trip next time.

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It’s fun when I find something that fits into one of my stories or gives me an idea for another.

I had such a moment this week.

Often the little girls in my stories have a doll someone has made them week so when I found fabric dolls in a gift store, I was enamored. They were so unique. Here, have a look for yourself.

gift store sylvan lake 007 gift store sylvan lake 006 gift store sylvan lake 005 Did you notice the sign beside the one doll. lol. The partial sign on the first doll reads Bad mistakes often make good stories.

There were bumble bee dolls too. Cute, but not the same nostalgic feel.

gift store sylvan lake 004

I’m off to do research in Montana this week and hope I can find some special moments like these dolls provided.

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Both Canada and America celebrated birthdays this week. Our maple leaf flag is hanging at our driveway, proudly informing everyone that we’re proud to be Canadian.

Our town celebrates with a huge party in town–very kid friendly and everything free. Needless to say, it attracts a large crowd.

There were bouncy castles, rides, games, cupcakes, popcorn, balloon animals, face painting, temporary tattoos, dog agility demonstrations, music, etc.

I thought I’d share a few pictures of the event.

Canada day 003 Canada day 024 Canada day 006 Canada day 015 Canada day 020

Did you celebrate your country’s birthday? What do yo do that is special?

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After a long LONG winter there is so much activity to pack into a few short months.

There is the garden (with which I have a love/hate relationship). I love the fresh veggies. Sometimes I even like working in the garden. But only sometimes. With the abundance of rain, the weeds have gotten a head start on much of the garden.

weeding 001

This picture represents hours of work but I’m hoping to get it under control this week…if it doesn’t rain again.

But besides the promise of fresh vegetables, there is the present joy of lettuce (in a different garden which is practically weed free) and an abundance of flowers–especially daisies which in one of my favorite flowers.

daisies 003

There are so many things I want to do during the sunny (it will be sunny eventually. Right?) summer days. Of course I still have writing to do.

See what I mean? So much to do. So little time. lol.

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A number of years ago I wrote little anecdotal stories for a local newspaper. I thought I’d share one of them with you.


The best place to learn to drive is on the farm. I’ve heard it dozens of times so I know it must be true. I heard it lots about the time the men were making silage and there was a shortage of operators. Or right around harvest time when just one more truck would make it so the combine wouldn’t have to wait.

I’ve heard all the arguments. After all, they said, it’s perfectly safe. You can drive for days and never leave our property or see another vehicle. Most of the time. Yeah, right!

I’ve also seen how the kids were taught to drive.

It goes something like this: Open the truck door. Boost said child to the seat. Point out the pedals, the gearshift and the field. After that, it’s literally learn by the seat of the pants.

I’ll admit, it usually worked. The kid learned to drive simply because there wasn’t a choice. But it’s not without surprises as they learned the rules. ..sometimes with hair-raising results.

Take the time one of the boys parked the truck on a hill and walked down to the house. Part way down, he turned around to see the truck likewise headed down the hill, in a slightly different direction. He raced after it and caught up just as the truck nosedived into the side of the steel Quonset. Crunch. Rule number one: always put the truck in low gear and use the emergency brake. Especially when parked on a hill.

Or the time father and son were out moving a grain auger and looked up in time to se the fully loaded grain truck bearing down on them. The boy was able to leap into the truck and stomp down on the brakes hard enough to stop just before his father was pinned between two vehicles. Rule number two: See rule number one which applies double when applied to a loaded truck.

Farm trucks are a little different than your ordinary family vehicle. For instance, their weight, the amount of room it takes to maneuver, and the amount of time it takes to stop. Some things that a novice driver doesn’t always realize.

The men had just brought home a spanking new Mack truck. All shiny and clean. No dents. No missing pieces. Nothing the matter with it. They took it out to the field to do what farmers do best with their trucks. I think they stand around and brag about them especially when they are shiny and new with no dents. One of the boys drove the old, decrepit, banged up truck out to the same field, drove around the tractor, applied the brakes and came to a stop when he crashed into the side of the shiny new truck. There was much wailing and moaning as the men examined the truck.

Rule number three: Remember it takes twice as much space to stop a big truck as it does a half ton truck.

But I think if I had to choose the all-time winner of hard lessons it would be the time one of the boys parked a silage truck in front of the shop and sauntered to the house where the men were washing up after a hard day.

“Seems to be something wrong with the truck,” he mentioned. “Doesn’t turn too good.” And off he went to bed.

The next morning it rained. The men were busy packing the pit and looking after other things most of the day. It was late before they got around to checking on the truck and when they did, you could hear them yowl in the next township.

Something wrong turned out to be a bent wheel with a fender crushed into the tire. How it even moved was a mystery. As was the cause.

“I think I hit a rock,” was the explanation.

Upon checking the field, the ‘little rock’ turned out to be the size of a Volkswagen and it had been turned over and moved several feet from its original place.

I figured the boy deserved a medal for the biggest rock run over by a truck. Rule number four: avoid big rocks.

What better way to learn the rules of driving and what safer place than on a farm?

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Are we born creative? If so, is it criticized from us? Watching my grandchildren play makes me wonder if yes is the answer to both questions?

This is my four-year-old granddaughter playing with a box of cars and trucks.

Stasia 003

She has them lined up on the entertainment center. When I first saw her arrangement, I thought she was playing cars and trucks. Like why wouldn’t I think that? But no, the cars and trucks were people and she was serving them juice then putting them to bed, all the while talking to them.

Creativity at its best. I wish I could recapture such pure imagination.

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Filling the Well

Posted on August 17, 2012 by Julia Cameron Filed as Uncategorized and tagged

Art is an image-using system. In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond. We’ve got big fish, little fish, fat fish, skinny fish– an abundance of artistic fish to fry. As artists, we must realize that we have to maintain this artistic ecosystem.

If we don’t give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked. Any extended period of piece of work draws heavily on our artistic well.

As artists we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them– to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well.From Julia Cameron’s blog.

Here is a list of some of my favorite ways to fill the well:

1.Go for a walk, preferably in a place filled with beautiful sites. I love walking around town in the summer and admiring the yards.

2. Which brings to mind another favorite way–visit botanical gardens.

olds gardens july 2013 013

3. Go to a library or bookstore. Sigh.

4. Visit a museum or art gallery.

5. Go to quilt or yarn store. All those fabrics and yarns arranged in bins of color. And the samples of finished work stir the senses.

6. Music–almost any kind. It’s especially nice to listen to music while sitting on a patio enjoying the scent of flowers.

7. People watching. The perfect place is at a little Paris cafe. Just saying.


8. Garden/farmer’s markets which combine people watching, colors and scents and food.

9. Coffee shops in general. The atmosphere seems to work for many people. A number of authors I know go to the nearest coffee shop to work. There is even an app to reproduce the sound of a coffee shop while at home.

10. Sitting at the lake.

sylvan lake in sept. 018

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One of my favorite books (though long neglected) is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

the artist's way

One of the principles she talks about is ‘filling the well.’ She explains that creating comes from our inner well and if we continually draw from it without filling it, we will run dry.

Well, after a LONG winter of nothing but snow and bare trees to look at, being confined to home because of snow and storms, and generally seeing nothing out my window but a few brave birds and cars hurrying down the road, I was in dire need of some refilling. So today I went for a drive in the country. Green, green, green. I’ve decided it’s my favorite outdoor color. Lots of yellow (dandelions but who cares. They look nice).

I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite pictures.

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may 31 033

Okay it was three but I have lots more. Thought I’d spare you having to look at all 40 of them. :-)

I’m interested in knowing do you find nature a great way to refill your ‘well’? What other ways work for you?

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In my book Falling For the Rancher Father, little nine-year-old Allie is being raised by her father who is very protective of her because she’s had scarlet fever, one of the diseases we hear little of today.

But it was deadly before there were vaccinations and antibiotics.

Here are a few of the things I learned about it.

It’s caused by the same group of bacteria that causes strep throat.

In the 1800s homes with a child suffering from scarlet fever were quarantined. From

“SCARLET FEVER // No person shall remove this card without // permission of the Board of Health, or one of // its Officers, under a penalty of not less than // $5 and not more than $50. // DR. D.R. FINLAYSON // Medical Health Officer // Ripley Ontario”


Patients died from, among other sides affects, brain inflammation.

Treatments were described as this: In mild attacks, having given half a grain of podophylline with ten grains of Epsom salts, to carry off the bile, the bowels should be regulated afterwards with two grains of aloes and ten of salts given in treacle, at night, when required. The patient should be confiued to bed in a well-aired room, with covering sufficient to retain warmth ; and get toast-, barley-, or rice-water, or rennet whey, with five grains of nitre, and half a teaspoonful of the acetate of ammonia, in such drink, every three hours, alternately, if the patient be below ten years; and ten grains of nitre, and one teaspoonful of the acetate of ammonia, every three hours, alternately, if above ten years of age. I’ll spare you some of the other descriptions of how to deal with the infected throat, etc. Shaving the hair off was often considered necessary. And the use of leeches was involved.

Unfortunately the disease could affect the heart, lungs and liver.

It makes me glad for antibiotics and vaccines.

If you lived in the 1800s and had a child that survived scarlet fever, how would you feel? How would you treat the child?


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Many are aware of Cleopatra’s needle in Central Park, New York. But did you know there are 3 of them? Here is a quote from Wikipedia telling of their locations.

Cleopatra’s Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. The London and New York ones are a pair, while the Paris one comes from a different original site, Luxor, where its twin remains. Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime.

Further research unearthed this information about the one erected in London. (again from wikipedia)

On erection of the obelisk in 1878 a time capsule was concealed in the front part of the pedestal, it contained : A set of 12 photographs of the best looking English women of the day, a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, some children’s toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in erection, a 3′ bronze model of the monument, a complete set of British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the strange tale of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the bible in several languages, a copy of Whitaker’s Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers.

When I read the above paragraph I knew it would play a small part in the story of Mercy in Falling for the Rancher Father.

This is her reaction to the time capsule concealed in the pedestal:

Wasn’t the Wild West show exactly the kind of thing she’d wanted since she was sixteen years old and watching Cleopatra’s Needle unveiling in London? They’d buried a time capsule beneath it that included pictures of the twelve most beautiful women. That struck her as unfair. What if a woman was born ugly? Was she to be ignored? What if she was beautiful but no one noticed? No, a person had to be able to do something to earn notice and value.

She would do something. She would join a Wild West show and perform for others. The audience would appreciate her skills. It didn’t matter what Mr. Abel Borgard thought.

I love research especially when it can play a direct part in my stories.

Speaking of research, I am hoping to soon be able to do some on-site research. More on that next week.

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