Tag Archives: rural life

Beautiful Review Of Shenandoah Watercolors


“Even though I’ve lived in both cities and rural areas, I’ve always considered myself a city girl although that’s probably a misnomer.  Truthfully, I’m overwhelmed by city life and fast grow bored with life in the country.  Whenever I’m living in the city, I yearn for a less complicated life; when living in the country, I yearn for all the stimuli a city provides.

Which typically leaves me in the suburbs, but that’s another story.

I recently read Beth Trissel’s Shenandoah Watercolors, a series of short essays which account a year’s time on her family’s rural farm in the Virginian Shenandoah Valley. Full of rich imagery and fantastic characters in the forms of people, house pets, and farm animals, Mrs. Trissel has cured me of one thing:  the idea that living in a rural area is less complicated than living in the city.  It’s complicated all right:  farm animals must be raised, sometimes by hand.  Cows are ushered from areas they’re determined to plunder, fences be damned.  Pets wreak their particular brand of havoc in the house, carefully hoarded spoils overriding the aftermath of broken items and strewn garbage from unsealed trash bags.  There’s constant worry about flooding and droughts and broken-down equipment; no harvest means more debt and tight finances.

Throughout all of this threads the familial and neighborly relationships – a sense of community seldom seen in city life.  When trouble strikes – be it concern over a crop or the unexpected death of a much-loved and anticipated, newly born grandchild – families and neighbors come together to help and nurture each other in any way they can.  I was struck by Mrs. Trissel’s summation:  “The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters.  Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth.  When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost.”

While the grass always seems to be greener in someone else’s pasture, I’m inclined to agree with her assessment.  While I don’t think farm life should be everyone’s calling, I do feel that we can all learn much from stopping to smell the flowers and reconnecting with the part of ourselves that isn’t connected to the conveniences of modern-day life.  In our haste to have the latest, high-tech toys we tend to neglect the very things that keep us grounded in our humanity.”

~Review by Author K. J. Pierce

Lovely Reader Review for Shenandoah Watercolors


“This is perhaps the most beautifully written memoir I’ve ever read. Its lovely and languid descriptions of the picturesque valley, the farm and gardens are equaled only by the charming and funny descriptions of the antics (and conversations!) of the farm animals. What a joy this is to read. I didn’t rush through it because I found it such a peaceful way to de-stress when I needed to. I’d read a chapter or two, or even a few pages and feel calmed by the flowing language, which painted scenes of baby animals growing in verdant pastures, kids skating on the frozen winter pond, birds trilling summer songs and garden projects of all kinds. Mrs. Trissel, a farm wife in a setting that makes you want to move to the Shenandoah immediately, has an insightful way of weaving the world around her into a quilt of colors and patterns, scents and sounds. Her perspectives are delightful. She doesn’t gloss over the hardships, but takes in the joys with such depth all is tempered and balanced.

Mrs. Trissel has an amazing knowledge of flowers and plants and a sense of humor that had me laughing on many occasions. Whether accompanying her husband to the county fair, pouring over seed catalogues with her youngest daughter or rolling her eyes affectionately at her older daughter’s ballooning wedding plans, the reader feels part of that life. She has a fascinating background that is revealed in snippets here and there as offhandedly as plucking flowers in the many gardens on the farm. Both that background and her obvious knowledge of literature (lovely quotes included throughout) add depth to her day-to-day life which comes across to the reader.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’ve read a lot of memoirs, but none so appealing as this one. Highly recommended.”

~Amazon Reader Review by C. G. King

 

Old Order Mennonites in The Shenandoah Valley


Yesterday I worked in the garden as horse and buggies clipped by on their way to a wedding in the Old Order Mennonite Church.  Many of our neighbors are Old Order Mennonites, gentle, hard-working people, and good friends to us.  The sight of a horse and buggy passing our farm, or meeting one, or a stream of buggies, on the back roads is a frequent occurrence here.  Little girls and small boys in the hats the men wear peering out from the back window of a buggy is always a delight, as is seeing women and children collected on a wagon on their way to a gathering…or riding old-fashioned bikes, at work on their farms, and sometimes even at play.

Long lines of wash flapping in the breeze with pants and dresses in graded sizes from large to tiny is a picturesque addition to the community.  Across the meadow and up the hill from our farm is a small Old Order school.  Last fall I spotted a line of children holding hands out for a walk along the country road  with their teacher(s).   Darling.  At the end of recess and lunch time, I hear the bell ring to summon the students back indoors.  Reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her ‘Little House‘ books.

The Old Order neighbors on the farm up the road from us have a produce stand with fresh vegetables from their garden for sale.  They use the honor system for customers to leave money in the box; the prices are listed on a handmade sign and the produce ready and waiting.  If you have a question, likely you can find someone about on the farm or wielding a hoe.  Normally I grow my own veges, but if I run low or have a crop failure I know where to go.  Their garden is always perfect. They have many children and a great deal more help than I.  Sigh.

I admire The Old Order Mennonite’s unique way of life and very much hope they are able to continue as they are.  The economic hardships facing many family farms, including ours, and the growing demands made by a burgeoning federal government with all its rules and regulation imposes yet more stress on a people already struggling to survive.  Imagine trying to live like it’s the 1800’s in 2011.

For example, they have no health insurance, but band together and support each other in times of illness and injury.  Doctors and hospitals make some concessions in regards to billing Old Orders, but the cost of medical care is still staggering.  These people do not, however, want to be forced into a government health plan as this goes against their religion.  They have as little as possible to do with government and the secular world in general.   I believe their unique way of life must be respected and protected or the day may come when buggies no longer pass our house.~

*Old Order Mennonites are one of the aspects of rural life in the Shenandoah Valley I touched on in my nonfiction book entitled Shenandoah Watercolors

*Pics of Old Order Mennonites and their farms by my husband and mother.  Old Orders do not like to have their pictures taken if their faces are visible so we are careful not to reveal them.

For Duck Lovers


The ducks are assembling on the river at my parent’s house and their old friend is back, and possibly his original mom.  Those of you who remember my post last summer about The Duck Who Thinks He’s A Chicken will appreciate these pics she took.   His hen mother isn’t in them, but I don’t think she’ll mind.

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck.” ~Proverb

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have to at least consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” ~Douglas Adams, British comic/ writer

 

Make Way For Ducklings


When the world was new and I was young, I ordered a dozen Rouen ducklings (resemble large mallards) from a game farm and began my love affair with ducks, blessed by its moments of joy and cursed with inevitable tragedy.  The box of downy babies was delivered directly to my door much earlier in the day than our mail normally comes as the mailman had wearied of their incessant peeping.  I took the new arrivals from the grateful carrier and transferred them to a corner of the family room under a warm light bulb.  My two oldest children, in grade school then, were delighted with their new playmates, but soon joined me in the discovery that these tiny creatures were incredibly messy.

The ducklings reveled in their food, spewing a mixture of feed and water on themselves, the box, and the walls.  This led to their speedy removal to an unoccupied rabbit hutch in an outbuilding.  Here they grew in sheltered bliss until we deemed them ready for life on the pond, unaware that our charges needed parental guidance.  The unchaperoned youngsters soon slipped under the fence and lost themselves in the neighbor’s grassy meadow.  We tracked their frantic quacks and carried them home, only to have them forget and stray again and again.

Sadly, unwary ducklings do not know to be on guard against snapping turtles, something their mama would have taught them.  By summer’s end, just two grown ducks remained and were fondly named Daphne and Darlene.  They were inseparable and divided their day between the cows and geese in the barnyard and forays to the pond.

The next spring Daphne and Darlene built a mutual nest inside a clump of gold-button tansy at the edge of the garden and patiently sat on the eggs that would never hatch.  It was time to find them a suitable spouse.  One fall evening “Don” arrived in my hubby’s pickup truck.

The girls took an instant liking to the handsome drake, and he to them, though he showed a slight preference for Darlene.  As spring neared again, we noticed a wild mallard drake observing our little band.  He would dash forward for a bite of grain at feeding time, only to be driven away by Don.  We pitied Dwayne, as he soon became known, and tossed a handful far to the side for him.  Besides the free lunch, it seemed that Dwayne was attracted to our Daphne, much to Don’s strong disapproval.

The small male was undeterred and eventually won acceptance, amusing us by his attempts to mate with Daphne, twice his size.  Persistence won out though.  That year the girls had separate nests, Darlene at the base of a bittersweet vine, while Daphne went back to the tansy.  Don and Dwayne bonded, swapping stories as they awaited imminent fatherhood.

The ducklings hatched in late spring and grew quickly.  All survived with excellent care from their mothers.  By fall we could see Dwayne’s influence on the flock.  His offspring were considerably smaller. It was a golden, happy time. Late afternoons we quacked loudly, calling our ducks for feeding.  Heads popped up from the seeding grass and they answered back then waddled single file behind Don, their noble leader.  If we were late with dinner, they gathered to complain about the lack of service and were not averse to heading up to the house to fetch us if necessary.

Autumn in all its’ splendor passed into a winter that was our most severe in years.  We tromped faithfully through the deep snow every day to scatter feed on the frozen pond.  Then one morning after fresh snowfall we could not find a single duck.  Our anxious calls came back to us empty on the wind…searching revealed spatters of blood and dog tracks in the snow, the silent witness to their grim fate.   Still, we hoped that some birds had escaped the attack and combed the neighborhood, finally locating a pair of Dwayne’s offspring.  Only the smaller ducks could fly well.  We had unwittingly fed the others up to be “sitting ducks,” an expression I understand too well now.  A week later Dwayne returned on his own, but it was a bleak time.  How empty the pond seemed without the gang.

That May, Betty, our lone remaining female, hatched a fuzzy brood.  Familiar quacks again filled the air and gladdened our spirits.  It just isn’t spring without ducklings.  ~

All of this took place eons ago, but we still have ducks on our pond and an ample flock fussy barnyard geese who make daily visits down to the water.  The small town of Dayton, Virginia, not far from us, has a lovely body of water called Silver Lake (the size of a large pond) and a stream that attracts so many ducks the town has installed a duck crossing sign.

*Pics of our farm and ducks, also my mom and dad’s ducks…it’s a family thing this love of ducks. But the top pic of Rouen ducks are not ours

*This story about ducklings is the one that really got me started in writing. It was ‘almost’ published in Southern Living Magazine and that editor gave me much encouragement about my writing, then she referred me to an editor at Progressive Farmer who accepted it and several more nonfiction pieces about rural life, but their free lance column got axed before publication.

Spring Rites


Spring can be very wintry here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, with snow lying on the ground sometimes until Easter and a chill wind blowing from the North.  But the sun shines more brightly, when it shines, and the barnyard geese get fussy, a sure harbinger of spring.  Squawky geese are always the first sign, even before the pussy willow blooms, or whatever it is that pussy willows do. This sign of spring makes me think of other annual observances, such as my battle with cows.  In winter I give them little thought, but in spring they’re the enemy.

March is usually the first month when gardeners can get their hands into the earth and plant something, like those first rows of peas, often put in with cold fingers right before a rain.  The rains come so closely together there may only be a day or two when the soil is workable before it’s too wet again.  Veteran gardeners watch the sky and feel the earth, wrinkled pea seed in readiness, and when it’s all systems go, there’s a mad scramble for the garden as the gray clouds roll in.  I have yet to beat the clouds this year.

Along with the peas, a bit of lettuce, spinach, and radish seeds are scattered in short rows, then back to the house for a hot cup of tea and toasting of numbed extremities by the wood stove, the contentment of a spring rite observed. There’s something of a one-upmanship among country folk about who gets their peas in the earliest.  “Got your peas in yet?” is apt to be a seemingly casual conversation opener, but only for the one who has, of course.

Spring is also the time of year when I regard the cows on our farm with a deep wariness.  Inevitably, the cows will get out.  I don’t know exactly when they’ll time their visit, but their attraction for newly planted gardens and flower beds is their annual spring rite. They particularly like a newly planted garden just after an April shower, because they can really sink their hooves in and churn up the earth.   The fence my father installed around the vegetable garden has helped deter them, unless someone forgets to close the gate.  However, my flower/herb beds and borders are unprotected.  And cows enjoy a freshly re-seeded lawn, which needs doing again after their last rampage.    Cows are also fond of shrubbery.  We have a side of the house called “Cow corner” where the bushes appear to have been strangely pruned by a mad gardener.

I don’t know of any plant that doesn’t attract them except maybe thistles, which we battle in the meadow.  I once threw myself in front of a stampeding young heifer as she made her way for my newly planted raspberry bushes––bushes I was in the midst of planting when she and several others escaped from the pen my husband was cleaning.  He’d left the gate unbolted for a second––that second cows live for.  Yelling “No!” I hurled myself in her path.  He came running just in time to see me prepared to be martyred for my cause, stalwart gardener that I am.

Not so the heifer, a coward at heart, who veered at the last moment and leapt off the small wall at one end of the garden.  I later heard some discussion about the value of the raspberries compared to the cow if she’d broken her leg.  There’s no comparison in my mind, but I’m relieved to add that she didn’t and there was some concern for my safety, had I disappeared under her charge.

I’ve watched in horror as bovines of all ages have frisked their way through tender young snapdragons, newly emerging peas, and dozens of other cherished plantings.  Later in the season when the weeds get thick and the weather grows hot and dry, my enthusiasm for the garden wanes.  As does the cows.  They prefer to make their pilgrimages while the earth is fresh and new, the plants carefully chosen and special.

*Pics are of the author, Beth Trissel, daughter Elise, our farm, cows, geese, and granddog Grady

More On My Valley Roots & Old Time Mennonite Molasses Cookies


This delicious recipe is from the Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter.  My husband gave me this cookbook eons ago and it’s stained from many uses over the years and is a family favorite.  I noted that Amazon is selling this book new for $599.99 which boggles the mind.  They do, however, have other options that run as low as $6.99.  That’s probably what mine is worth.

Also of interest, my hubby is related to the author on his mama’s side.  When I married him, I married into the Mennonite community and church.  We attend a New Order Mennonite Church, but he’s related to all sorts of ‘Orders’ including Old Order Mennonites who drive horse and buggies (similar to the Amish).  Many of our neighbors are ‘Old Orders’ and it’s common to see buggies pass our farm at most any time of the week, but particularly on Sunday morning when a stream of horses pulling buggies briskly trot past us on their way to church.  The Old Order Churches have hitching rails out front.  Very quaint.

Needless to say, I am rather unusual in this conservative area being a historical romance author, but people are quite tolerant and do not shun me.   Bear in mind that I wasn’t raised in this community but came from the English/Scots-Irish Presbyterians who settled nearby Augusta County several hundred years ago.  We always referred to ourselves as the ‘Scotch Irish’ but have since been told this isn’t the politically correct term.  I remember my grandmother saying she was ‘too Scotch’ for this or that, meaning too cheap, and so on.

My husband is of German/Swiss descent.  His ancestors settled in nearby Rockingham County about the same time mine did in Augusta.  For generations, the German Mennonites and Scots-Irish Presbyterians did not mix. Both groups were clannish and regarded the other as highly suspect.  Even though we’re all Christians, Mennonites thought Presbyterians were practically heathen, and Presbyterians frowned on their pacifistic neighbors.  Relations between these very different people have improved over time.  I doubt many marriages were made between them before ours, but we’ve been happily wed for many years.  However, my husband is what they call a militant Mennonite and not a true pacifist.   I’ve probably been a bad influence, though I suspect it’s his nature.    🙂

One of my favorite cookies is this old time molasses variety.

1 cup shortening, 4 cups flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 cup dark molasses, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/4 cup hot water, 1 1/4 tsp. soda

Sift flour and salt together and cut in shortening as for pastry. In another bowl, combine molasses and sugar. Add egg and beat well.  Dissolve soda in hot water and add to molasses mixture.  Combine crumb and molasses mixtures and stir until well blended. Chill dough for several hours in refrigerator.  Turn out on a lightly floured board.  Roll to 1/4 inch thickness.  Place 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 until a deep rich brown. After baking these cookies will be cracked on top.  Makes 4 dozen cookies.

*Old Order Mennonites and Amish do not like to have their pictures taken so the only photos we have are shot from a distance or angled so that you do not clearly see their faces.   The long line of wash is from an Old Order farm near us.  These pics are by my mom and husband and taken where we live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

*Please note, I included a recipe for soft ginger cookies from the Mennonite Cookbook in the comments to this post.

Rural Life and Recipe for Apricot Fruit Spread


A soft summer night is descending  over the ridges and settling into the Shenandoah Valley after much needed rain today.  The garden greened up immediately and seemed quite invigorated this evening.  The prize pumpkin vine that daughter Elise and I have labored over appeared to have doubled in size since yesterday.  The fresh scent of tasseling corn, sweet marjoram, and spicy basil wafted about us while we weeded the now easy to pull offenders.  Cicadas drone in the mild darkness, lightning bugs flicker, and all is well…at least for now.

Our surprisingly long lived apricot tree is absolutely loaded with fruit this year.  It should have been thinned and wasn’t, so most are too tiny for more than a mouthful or two but tasty and they smell delightful.  The need to find something simple but appealing to do with this bounty has been a challenge.  Once they’re peeled and pitted there’s really nothing left.  So we decided just to rinse and cut them in half, take out the pits, but not peel them.  The fruit is untainted as we never spray the tree.  After filling a large bowl with dozens of these little orange halves, we ran them through the food processor (or blender) skins and all.  The end result is a pureed sauce that we mixed with lemon juice to preserve and prevent browning, sweetened with sugar, and cooked over the stove using cornstarch as a thickening agent while stirring constantly.

The first batch turned out well and was consumed, so we are onto batches two and three.  This has made barely a dent in the fruit still covering our tree, but we’re willing to share with family and friends.  Meanwhile we’re hoping these batches will freeze in containers and keep for the winter.  If anyone has suggestions, feel free to make them.

Our recipe which we assume could be used for most any fruit is:

15 ounces of fresh pureed fruit

1/2–1 cup sugar (depending on how tart your mix is)

4 Tablespoons of lemon juice

5 Tablespoons of cornstarch

Mix the fruit with the sugar and lemon juice, whisk in the cornstarch and cook on the stove in a large sauce pot over a medium high burner until bubbly, then cook another minute at a low boil, all while continually stirring.  Then set the mixture aside and refrigerate after its cooled.  It will further thicken.  We used it on fresh homemade bread as a jam, but it would also work on pancakes or waffles, maybe used in a fruit cobbler…I mixed some with my plain yogurt…could add it to a smoothie…

For Those Who Live In Or Long For The Country~


Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.  ~Lou Erickson

Weather means more when you have a garden.  There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.  ~Marcelene Cox

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.  ~Mirabel Osler

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.  ~Author Unknown

The best place to seek God is in a garden.  You can dig for him there.  ~George Bernard Shaw

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.  ~Hanna Rion

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.  ~Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com

No two gardens are the same.  No two days are the same in one garden.  ~Hugh Johnson

I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day.  ~F. Frankfort Moore, A Garden of Peace

Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden…. It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden.  ~John Erskine

As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration. I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children.  ~ John Adams

“The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”
~ Shakespeare

The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found. ~ Beth

I looked out the window and the swallows are back, skimming over the pond. They weren’t there this morning. Not a single one. Now they are, and a flush of rose suffuses the trees on the hill above the meadow. I love the tender new leaves.

Our meadow is as lush as I’ve ever seen it. Thick grass, reaching past my knees, spreads in a green swathe from fence row to fence row and sparkles with bright gold dandelions and buttercups. The elusive meadowlark, my favorite songbird, trills sweetly from secret places hidden in the green. Rarely, I catch a magical flash of yellow as it flies, just before it tucks down again. Sandy brown killdeer dart around the edges of the pond on their long legs, sounding that wild funny cry peculiar to them.

The green-blue water that fills the banks of the pond now had dried to a painful parched puddle last summer. Migrating mallards and ruddy ducks ripple over the surface, bobbing bottoms up, and fill the air with busy gossipy quacks, content and happy creatures. Not so the plump gray and white barnyard geese. Their honking clash and chatter punctuates life on the farm, more or less, depending on their current level of hysteria.

Some of the geese have been here time out of mind, waddling about with their broken useless wings, reminding me of nervous old ladies who can’t find their glasses and are forever misplacing their grandchildren. More than once we’ve had to rescue a frantic gosling inadvertently left behind by its addled elders in a hole wallowed by the cows. Silly, silly geese. I scold the dogs when they’re tempted to chase and annoy them. Too easy, and it doesn’t seem fair.

****

In my garden, I have a sea of herbs and flowers continually changing with the season. Some perennials are lost each winter and new ones are planted by Elise and me, others by the birds. I’ve a wild aster that blooms in late spring, covered with small white flowers. It’s very pretty really, although hard to contain. I like white flowers glowing at dusk while all else fades.

Several plants reign supreme because of Elise. ‘Magic flowers,’ yellow evening primrose, have taken over a generous quadrant at the edge of the vegetable garden. She rushes me out at twilight to view the wonder as they pop open, charged with fragrance. Hummingbird moths swoop in like little fairies to feed on the blossoms.

She doesn’t like the bats that also come. I love the nighthawks. Dill is also taking over because black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on its leaves and hatch into little caterpillars which she watches closely, puts some into jars and feeds until they make a chrysalis, then one day they emerge with wet crumpled wings and she releases them to the sky. I feel a bit like those uncertain butterflies, taking those first tentative flights.

****

*Pic of wash day at a neighbor’s farm.

*My garden in a sunbeam

*Pics of our farm and the valley

*Evening Primrose

*Spring in the Shenandoah Valley

My Allergist Assures Me Spring Is Around the Corner


Yes, I said allergist.  Even though snow flurries fly as I write this, he says the early trees are out, pollen wise.  And a clump of lavender snow crocus are blooming in a sheltered spot beside my water garden.  The tips of bulbs are emerging where the snow has receded.  Ah spring…for one who dearly loves to garden and is addicted to the glories of new life, I’m terribly allergic to it.  Also to summer, fall…right up until that first killing frost.  In a battle to leave the  house and be out of doors in my beautiful green and pollen filled valley, I’ve endured a regimen of shots, four at a time, every 1-2 weeks for two decades.  And will, it seems forever more.  I’m also on several meds during pollen season.  But it’s well worth it for the joy of being outdoors during  the beauteous reign of the flowers.  No where on earth is more beautiful than the Shenandoah Valley nestled amid the spectacular Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.  God’s country, we call it, if the developers don’t completely overrun all the pastoral beauty with yet another sprawl of houses and businesses.   Stop!  Preserve and conserve this rare place.

Back to the shots, yes, I’ve made progress over the years and am much better than I was, but I’m not one of my allergist’s greatest success stories.  He has declared me among the top ten percent of allergy sufferers in the nation.  I’d rather be among the top ten percent of honored authors.  But it was the severity of my allergies that forced me indoors for much of the growing season and consequently are partly responsible for my leap into novel writing in the first place.  And that love of nature transferred itself to my stories in the descriptive details I’m praised for.

During the worst time of the year, commonly known as mid-summer through ragweed season, when I’m under what I call ‘under house arrest’ I gaze out my window to the garden, meadows, wooded hills and beyond these the blue swell of the Alleghenies and I write.  Not that I don’t write all the times of the year, but particularly then.  Even if I were to miraculously overcome all of my allergies I would still write.  But if not for allergies, I’d probably still be running my small herb business, making wreaths, dried arrangements and potpourri…which my former allergist declared is responsible for my developing every allergy latent within me.    So, I battle on with the shots in hopes of having less sneezy, itchy-eyed,  so congested I get vertigo, times in my garden(s).

Never give up on anything or anyone you truly love.  Fight on and find a way.   It is now fifteen years since I began this novel writing journey and what a journey it’s been.   And the gardens are still with me, the mountains still there.  And this year, the garden will be the best ever!

*Pics of snow crocus, the valley in early spring and my garden in sunbeam.