Evergreens for the Season

Our tree came into the house yesterday and today, I strung lights and garland on it. Tomorrow, I’ll decorate it completely. There were years when I’d do all this in one day, but I’ve come to enjoy breaking it up. Not because it’s a lot of work. I used to work at Christmasland at Lakeland Plant World Garden Centre, and there I learned to decorate a tree in 15 minutes.

But I’m no longer in a rush.

Years ago, when the kids were small, the tree came into the house, but it wasn’t lit or decorated until after they went to bed on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, with colourful lights shining brightly, the kids ran into the living room with sparkle in their eyes. It wasn’t only the few gifts beneath the tree that gave them joy but the whole transformation of the room while they slept.

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Happy Winter Solstice

Today we mark the longest night and shortest day of the year. Many around the world will have gazed upon the sun as it rose, quietly giving thanks for the return of light. Some had the good fortune to stand at significant locations, such as Stonehenge, to welcome the bright star. I watched the sunrise from my backyard though grey clouds obscured it, pausing during barn chores to reflect on the rebirth of the day.

Winter Solstice has been celebrated for centuries around the globe. How many centuries? No one knows. It goes back to as far as the stones are old.

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My Grandmother Eva Selina McDonald

On this day 135 years ago, my grandmother, Eva Selina McDonald, was born in the family home in the hamlet of Liscomb Mills, a place reached at that time only by ship, horseback and cart. The name reveals the main industry that pumped money and people into the area. There were several mills within walking distance, including one across the brook from where Eva was born.

Eva was the daughter of Jane Baker and William Aaron McDonald and the granddaughter of Martha and William McDonald.

Though I truly never knew her, I sense she knew hard work at a young age. I feel she was an adventurous girl who grew into a woman who loved nature and the simple things in life. My mother met her in 1949, and she told me Nan would go off on her own, wandering in the woods for hours on end. No one knew where she went or when she’d return.

I’m not sure if Nan came to this activity on her own or was influenced by her grandmother Martha, a Mi’kmaq woman. What I find interesting is that before my mother told me the stories of her wanderings, I was doing the same thing in the forest surrounding my childhood home. By the time I was 14, I’d wander into the woods, following one path then another to explore and to just be in the forest. Sometimes I’d be gone only an hour or two. Other times, I’d be wander for seven or eight hours.

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A Glimpse into the Magical World of G. Michael Vasey

Do you want a peek into the world of magic? Do you want to hear what those who make a little magic think of their craft? Do you want to hear about the experiences they’ve had?

This year, I came upon the podcasts of author G. Michael Vasey. During the 30 minutes or so conversations, Vasey talks with someone connected with magic or the supernatural in some fashion.

Last week, he had an interesting conversation with author Alan Richardson about his latest book, Visions of Paviland. Richardson refers to the book as a magical diary.

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Calculating Long-term Food Storage

In the past several years, I’ve heard a lot about preppers, and I’ve watched many videos on how they prepare. One topic of discussion that comes up regularly is long-term food storage. This food is intended to sustain individuals in the household for x-amount of time. Some keep a month’s supply of food on hand while others keep a year or two stashed in their pantry.

What continues to amuse me is up until about sixty years ago, having a storage of food in the pantry was common practice. Perhaps people living in cities were less inclined to keep a month’s worth of food on hand, but those living in the country dedicated space, time, money and energy to having a well-stocked pantry for the brutal winter months.

In today’s climate, my family would have been considered preppers because our freezer was full of deer meat, rabbit meat, fish and various items bought from the grocery store. By the end of October, shelves in the cold room were stocked with preserves my mother had done down: chow, pickles, cranberry jam, blueberry jam and a host of other foods picked from the garden or gathered from the forest that surrounded our neighbourhood.

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Christmas Memories: Time Change

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.

Christmas Memories: Hunting for the Perfect Tree

Many years ago, in the late 70s, when I was around 12, my younger brother, a neighbourhood friend and I were hiking through the woods as we often did. I can’t recall why we were out there on the trail leading towards the railway tracks on this particular day. Sometimes it was just where we walked. I can say it wasn’t to go fishing at the river that ran under the railway because it was mid-December, and everything was frozen solid. There was more than a foot of snow on the ground. However, the path had been beaten down somewhat from our constant travels, and the light layer of snow that had fallen since the previous day didn’t slow our pace.

More than a mile into the woods, we spotted a beautiful evergreen. To my eyes, it was the perfect Christmas tree. My brother and friend agreed. Since we had yet to get a tree for the house, we decided to bring this one home.

We always carried hatchets back then, so we chopped down the tree, swung it onto the trail and began the long trek. Given the tree’s size and our size, we took turns dragging it. Once we got onto the old farmer’s road, which was partially grown in from lack of use, there was room to get two people on the tree, one on either side.

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How do I feel while fasting?

In my post on Friday (What is Autophagy?), I provided basic information on the health benefits of fasting, which includes autophagy. I explained I was shooting for a 3-day fast.

Let Me Explain Further

I’m aiming for a 3-day fast. I need to work up to that. Thursday and Friday, I did my first 27-hour fast. When I ate early Friday evening, I didn’t feel like I was starving. I was a little hungry, but because I had worked outside all day, I was tired. I’m renovating the goat barn, so there was lots of cutting, hammering and hauling wood.

Knowing I was working on this project all weekend, I opted to eat Friday night and have two meals each day. I didn’t want to exhaust my body. By the time you read this, I’ll be into another fast. My goal is to go from Monday 6:00 pm until Wednesday morning with only water and a few herbal teas.

How do I Feel?

After 12 hours of fasting, I feel like I usually do upon waking in the morning having not eaten since around six o’clock the night before: satisfied.

On the first day of fasting for 18 hours, I start to feel freer from my skin. I know that probably doesn’t make sense, but the nearest I can explain it is ‘nothing feels tight’. I’m not talking about clothing. Perhaps it is due to some fluid loss, so maybe inflammation has decreased.

After the second day of fasting 18 hours, the noise in my head disappears. This has been very helpful given that besides the craziness that is happening in the world right now, life in my circle is a little chaotic with my oldest child moving back home, animals being added to the realm, my mother changing nursing homes and all the little things that can go wrong, like the thermostat in my truck sticking open.

The lack of noise in my head settles my brain. It slows things down and allows me to focus on the task at hand. Solutions come to me easier because there’s no static, and my brain takes time to consider the options.

There’s a calmness even when things go crazy around me and people get emotional. It’s like I’m listening, but I’m not reacting immediately with my own emotions.

Sleep is a dream. I normally sleep well, but sleeping while fasting is like being dropped off the edge of the world and floating in nothing with only a few dreams to entertain the part of my brain that stays active.

Sharper Minds

Fasting is supposed to sharpen our ability to think. Throughout the ages, those in the know have fasted to solve problems and to expand the thought process the well-fed brain is incapable of doing.

How long will this week’s fast go? I’m shooting for 30 hours.

99-cent Sale

The Salvation of Mary Lola Barnes

Until Friday November 27, 2020, the Salvation of Mary Lola Barnes will be on for 99 cents at Amazon. Unfortunately, this is an Amazon Countdown deal and only available in the United States and United Kingdom.

Be kind to your future self.

What is Autophagy?

If you’ve read my novel Northern Survival and stumbled over the word autophagy linked with self-eating, you’re probably not alone. When I first heard it, I was the same way.

Looking up the definition on the Internet, autophagy sounds like a horrible thing.

autophagy: consumption of the body’s own tissue as a metabolic process occurring in starvation and certain diseases.

Who would subject themselves to that?

Looking further, this is what you’ll find on Internet health pages.

Autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells, according to Priya Khorana, PhD, in nutrition education from Columbia University.

“Auto” means self and “phagy” means eat. So the literal meaning of autophagy is “self-eating.”


Who wants to clean out damaged cells to regenerate new ones? I do. I think everyone does. But there’s a lot more to autophagy, and it’s all good.

Here’s the few paragraphs where Olive talks to John about autophagy. This was several days after the plane crash, and with the lack of food, both were fasting most days.


Olive secured the fishing line to the end of the four-foot stick she’d brought along and plopped the hook into the water near the boat. He caught her eye, and she smiled with an ease that relaxed his muscles.

“This is my favourite kind of fishing,” she said. “Trolling. We do this for hours on the ocean. Sit back and let the fish come to us.” She lay with her back against the bow facing him and holding tightly to the rod.

“Don’t catch too many,” he said. “I want those growth hormones to kick in.” He grinned. “Tell me more about fasting and this autophagy theory. I need to regrow a few brain cells, recycle the cell garbage. I might look ten years younger by the time this is over.”

Her laugh settled him further, and he listened contently while she explained the self-eating approach to a healthier, younger self. In truth, she could have talked about anything, and she’d have had his attention. Her easy-going nature was addictive and time passed without notice.

I stumbled onto vital information about fasting two years ago while researching the Keto diet. I had known about the practice, but I had never considered it seriously as a way to get healthier. Exploring fasting further, I came upon autophagy and it’s incredible benefits to the body.

In early 2019, over the course of four months, I slowly reduced the amount of food I consumed and reduced my three square meals a day to two. I had even eliminated snacks when I was more intent on seeing results.

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The Day I Hit the Wall and Lost My Toenails

I was 12 years old when I hit the wall. I had been hiking all day, walking many miles into the woods to a collection of cabins where we’d spend three nights. I was with about 16 others, but we had broken into smaller groups, hiking with friends or those who hiked at the same pace.

While I was used to walking and hiking with a pack, this day, I had set a pace with a few older friends, and we had gotten lost. After two hours, we found our way and continued onto the camping site. A program leader and a few others started back to find us since we hadn’t arrived and it was getting late. We met up with them, and as we told stories about where we had ended up, I kept chugging along, adjusting my pack on my shoulders and anticipating a break because I was tired.

Then it happened. Without warning, I was lying in the bushes, collapsed and crying. I had no idea what had hit me. I struggled to rise, but the leader told me to stay down.

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