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In the Garden: Goals for 2021

January 20, 2021

In January, I set goals for the coming growing season in the garden. While I can’t dig in the frozen soil, I can plan what I’ll grow to become more self-sufficient.

Last year, my goal was to grow a year’s supply of herbs to use in my cooking. That was accomplished. In fact, I have more variety than I usually do. The herbs I grew, harvested and dried were rosemary, basil (green and purple), thyme, sage, summer savory and parsley (straight and curly)

I also grew and dried peppermint and lemon balm to use as a tea mix. Opening that bottle of peppermint and taking a deep breath, it smells like After Eight mints. Mmm.

2021 Garden Goals

This summer, I want to repeat my success and grow all the herbs I use in cooking. To this, I’m adding sweet marjoram and dill.

parsley, sage and thyme

An added goal is to grow several plants I can harvest and dry to make tea that will supply me for one year. This means I’ll grow and harvest more peppermint and lemon balm. To this list, I’ll add stevia (a natural sweetener), German chamomile, stinging nettle and fennel. I’ll also harvest some of the lavender flowers and raspberry leaves from the many plants I have.

While I’ll grow the foods I grew last summer, one specific goal is to grow 80 pounds of potatoes. Last year, I grew about 40 pounds. Yesterday, I ate the last of the potatoes grown in 2020. They still tasted great, even when eaten raw.

So far, I’ve already sown rosemary, an herb that take a long time to grow. By the time I’m ready to plant it outside, it should be about three inches tall. I’m experimenting with keeping last year’s plants alive in our cold winter, so hopefully, I’ll start the summer with a few mature plants already in the garden as well as new ones.

Happy gardening.

The Magic of Stones: Personal History

January 18, 2021

Isla of Maura, one of the main characters in the Castle Keepers series, has an attraction to stones. When the energy in a stone calls to her, she picks it up and carries it until she finds the person who needs it.

This character trait came from my own curiosity and habit of gathering stones. My interest in stones has walked with me all my life; it is so strong that when I was 14 years old, I stole a stone that had caught my eye. I know: who steals rocks?

The odd circumstances around this theft has stayed on my mind for almost four decades. You see, that day, my father and I were driving in his truck, perhaps going to the general store in Spanish Ship Bay, when he pulled into the driveway of the long white building along the harbour that used to be a restaurant at times. I believe it was called the Lighthouse Restaurant in the early 80s.

Anyways, at this time, the restaurant had closed, and an older man I did not know occupied it. Perhaps my father knew him since this was the area where he had been born and raised. It was summer. We walked in and my eyes drank in the boxes filled with various types of rocks. While my father and the man chatted, I walked around ogling the rocks. Some were undisturbed, as if recently plucked from the ground and put into the box. Others were polished smooth. Some where cut into shapes.

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It’s Seed Ordering Time

January 15, 2021

Shortly after Christmas, I went through Veseys Seed Catalogue and made a list of seeds I wanted to order for the coming growing season. This year’s order was small though I’m still contemplating a few other things. I’ll make up my mind before the end of January and make a second order if needed.

Harvesting Seeds

Why is my order small? Over the years, I’ve ordered many packages of seeds from various companies. I often don’t use all the seeds in an envelope, so I store them for the future. Seeds are good for a few years if they are kept in a dry, dark, cool (not below zero) place.

Last year, I put time into gathering seeds from plants in the garden. Once I learned how, it was easy to save many seeds. Usually I buy a few different varieties of tomato seeds, but I’m not buying any this year. I have about 300 seeds ready to be sown, but I’m not planting that many. I usually put in about a dozen plants.

The bonus about learning how to harvest seeds for future use is I save money. I usually spend about $50 a year on seeds and root stock. Since I don’t have to buy many seeds this year, I’m expanding my collection and buying a few different things I’ve never grown before. Two of those things are watermelon and stevia.

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Book Review: Permaculture by Jenni Blackmore

January 12, 2021

I met Jenni Blackmore in late summer 2015 at the Musquodoboit Farmer’s Market in Musquodoboit Harbour, NS. She had a vendor’s table next to mine. I was selling my homemade goat milk soap and my novels, and she was selling, amongst other things, copies of her book, Permaculture – for the rest of us –  Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre.

As a long-time gardener who began learning about building a food forest and permaculture only a few years ago, Blackmore’s book intrigued me.

The reasons I bought the book after talking with Blackmore were:

  • I wanted to learn more about permaculture in general.
  • I wanted to learn what Blackmore experienced from growing food in similar weather conditions and climate zone as I grew in.
  • Although a long-time gardener, I wanted to see if she had general garden knowledge to share that I had yet to learn.
  • Speaking with the author provided an insight not available when buying the book online or in a store, and I got the sense that Blackmore not only had a passion for gardening, she knew what she was talking about. She not only wrote the book, I believed she had valuable hands-on experiences to share.
  • I wanted to support a local author.
blackmore-jenni-permaculture

I’ve been gardening since I was a child, playing beside my mother, watching her plant potatoes, beets and carrots, and listening to her explain the different methods of planting each vegetable. She learned her gardening skills from her parents in the 1920s in a small community on the shoreline of Newfoundland where if your crops failed, you went hungry.

In my mid-20s, I began working at a large garden centre. By this time, I had grown many things. My knowledge continued to increase as I listened to the experts (though not all advice was good advice for the organic gardener), read magazines and bought books to increase the size of my library.

Many years later, I have a large collection of printed material to keep me busy reading through long winter nights. Unfortunately, not all of it is garden friendly. Some of the material discusses herbicides, pesticides and other nasty things to introduce into the growing environment. The preferred method of gardening in some of these books is not what I practise now. I prefer to walk with nature, not stomp over it and conquer it.

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I was interviewed by Allan Hudson at South Branch Scribbler

January 10, 2021

First Question

When we visit your website, we find a wonderful collection of fantasy novels. What inspired Northern Survival and the other romance titles?

My Answer

Northern Survival

While I’m a fantasy-writer at heart, there were several stories begging to be told that didn’t fit that genre. Some stories nagged at me for years before I wrote them down. Others, such as Northern Survival, came to me in mere seconds, and the need to record them was stronger than writing my fantasy series.

I also believe stories that include romance as an added feature appeal to me greatly. I enjoy seeing the interaction between would-be couples and their struggles to become one. While my fantasy novels are all about forces trying to conquer one another, mystical creatures, magic and adventure, there’s a lot of romance going on. The attraction (or lack of) between characters often drives them to do things they wouldn’t otherwise.

This romance weaving through stories is what I loved most about Star Wars and the Indiana Jones movies. It kept me turning the pages of The Wizard’s Ward by Deborah Hale and Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham.

To read the rest of the interview where I share a memory from my childhood and answer questions about my fantasy novels, go here: Author Diane McGyver of Nova Scotia, Canada.

Practise makes progress; there is not such thing as perfection.

The Ancient Practice of Making Bread

January 5, 2021
tags: ,

Making bread has been a tradition for centuries. How many centuries? When I googled it, I found this: According to history, the earliest bread was made in or around 8000 BC in the Middle East, specifically Egypt.

This could mean those who built the Great Pyramid more than 10,000 years ago may have been the first bread makers. Where had they come from? Advanced societies, such as Atlantis, where they probably made bread for centuries before that, but all that history has been destroyed.

Up until about 70 years ago, one could literally live off bread and water, but the high processing of the grain that goes into today’s bread is far less nutritious than it was decades ago. With all the good stuff removed to make bread soft and white and bad stuff added to fortify it, it’s more like junk food and would never sustain life.

The ingredients listed for our local Ben’s white bread are:

Enriched wheat flour, water, sugar, yeast*, vegetable oil (canola or soybean), wheat gluten*, salt, vinegar*, soybean flour, calcium propionate, sorbic acid*, soybean lecithin. * ingredients may vary.

Canola and soybean are two of the worst oils to consume. While this processed bread contains 12 ingredients, real bread needs only five: flour, water, yeast, butter and salt. It doesn’t need a sweetener to feed the yeast, so honey (or sugar) can be left out. However, I put a dab of honey in mine.

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Magic in 2021

January 1, 2021

Over the past week, I’ve been re-reading the first several chapters I’d written for Within the Myst, book 2 in the Mystical epic fantasy series. Since I have been writing non-fantasy for the past eight months, it took my brain a few days to switch into the fantasy mode.

To help make the transfer from contemporary stories to fantasy easier, I dove into subjects that align with fantasy. One of those topics was the energy around stones. If you’ve ready the books in the Castle Keepers series, you know I strongly suggest the stones gifted by Isla of Maura have magical qualities.

This journey led me to a few blogs I’d never visited and to topics I’d either not researched extensively or ones I hadn’t uncovered before. One of those blogs was The Magical World of G. Michael Vasey. Gary is the author of more than 40 books and writes about metaphysics, paranormal and magic, amongst other things.

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Diving into Book 2 of the Mystical Series

December 29, 2020

With Seeds of Life buried in the backyard to ripen over the next four months, I’m diving into my next project: Book 2 in the Mystical epic fantasy series. More than 20,000 words have already been written, and the first scene of the first chapter has been posted to the book’s page: Within the Myst.

This book picks up three weeks after Beyond the Myst ended. It opens with Ob Ryder Somerled in his cell and being summoned to meet with the Elders. The characters who will tell the story include:

  • Willow Asuwish – daughter of Floriana (nee Kintale) and Jack Asuwish
  • Acacia (nee Asuwish) Elrick – Willow’s sister
  • Wynter Storm – servant at Castle Cothromach, friend of Willow
  • Ob Ryder Somerled – a picket who lives at Muighland
  • Sigwin Darroch – sailman at Argosy Sails on Nautics Path, Cothromach, who befriended Willow
  • Gloriana Kintale – Willow’s aunt

This story will

  • follow Willow into the Land of Ath-o’Lea, the place she entered when she passed through the Myst.
  • follow the Asuwish family as they discover the true history of their home Cothromach
  • follow Gloriana as she searches for her life mate

The story will reveal some of the secrets of the Myst and the motives behind the green dragon attacks. Updates to word counts will appear in the right-hand margin.

Recipe: Carrot Cake

December 25, 2020
This carrot is ready to walk away.

This year, I grew an abundance of carrots. I grew them in the multi-sowing pattern: three seeds in one hole. If you’re like me, you’ve been taught since your first steps in the garden to either drop one seed in the hole or (since this is carrots), scatter them and when they start to grow, thin out the weaker seedlings to give the carrot lots of room to grow.

Well, that’s not how Charles Dowding does it, and I’ve been watching his videos and following him for almost two years. He puts three seeds in and grows carrots (and other vegetables, such as onions) in clumps.

My experience with this has been extremely interesting.

I can’t say these deformed characters were the result of multi-sowing or the organic seeds I had sown. However, these are the most interesting carrots I’ve ever grown. My onions sown with this method grew normally.

More on this multi-sowing method and Dowding in a future post. This post is about carrot cake.

I pulled the last of the carrots from the garden on December 14th, the day before temperatures were predicted to drop below -10 Celsius.

I’ve made this recipe several times, starting in 2017. I found the original on the Internet and tweaked it to my tastes. The original didn’t include raisins, but I love raisins.

I’ll be honest, when I look at carrot cake, nothing in my body says, “Oh. Lovely. That looks so delicious.”

Then I take a bite, and my taste buds ignite with excitement, and I love this cake.

Carrot Cake

The last harvest of carrots this season.

In a sauce pan

  • melt 1 1/4 cup butter

In a small bowl, shred

  • enough carrots to make three cups – that’s about 4 carrots average size

In a small bowl, mix

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
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Christmas Memories: Time Change

December 24, 2020

Many years ago, when my two oldest children were five and six, they bragged that they’d be up at five o’clock on Christmas morning. I was exhausted. Sleep deprived, was probably more like it. The baby had me up all hours of the night, and the last thing I wanted was to be up earlier than I had to be.

I told the kids they were not allowed out of their room until six o’clock. Period. They agreed, and went off to bed. They shared a room, and there was much complaining before the room fell silent and they were asleep.

I set to work decorating the tree; yes, when the kids were young, I decorated the tree after they went to bed, so when they walked out in the morning and saw the tree lit, decorated and surrounded by gifts, it was the entire image of it that excited them, not just the gifts, which were few in number.

Feeling weary, I had an idea to gain me an extra hour of sleep on the morning end. This was at a time when the kids had only one clock in their room and obviously no cell phones or iPods to tell them the time.

Once the kids were sound asleep, I sneaked into their room and turned the clock back one hour. It was still dark at seven as it was at six, so I had no fear of them discovering this deviousness until it was too late.

Off to bed I went.

At 6:30 am, I got up, turned on the tree lights and prepared the room for the arrival of the kids. At exactly 6:00 am bedroom time and 7:00 am kitchen time, the kids rushed out.

These kids are now in their early 20s, and they still complain about that trick. Me, I sit back and chuckle.