Thursday, November 10, 2016

Duct Tape Escape and Other Writing Research Shenanigans

Book research can be crazy fun. Of course what you are researching plays a big role in that, as does if you are actually getting anywhere. I have a linguistics friend who totally gets her geek-on translating old parish records that are in Danish or Norwegian. I’ve tried this, not the translation part, simply trying to decipher the name, but my grasp of early Scandinavian penmanship sucks. The initial delight at finding those particular records quickly dimmed as my lack of ability to decode the historic scratches made that jack pot of information morph into teasing frustration. This woman rocks it, and loves it! She did decipher those records and I found out I have a Finnish great-grandma who immigrated to northern Norway.

So yes, my research super power is not making out historic handwritten records. I can watch equine events for hours on end, though. I’m talking double digits in the same day kind of time. I love that kind of research, studying and understanding whatever my topic is, picking up those nuances of details and tucking away in my visceral memory until I can sit down to write next. I can’t always swing it in person, mind you. For instance, horse events in southern Alberta are considerably more accessible to me that CSIS agents (i.e. Gabe from Kiss Me in the Rain’s previous career). And don’t get me started on how many hours I blow through when doing genealogy research. I get sucked in and promise myself just another few minutes. Usually four hours, and several rabbit holes later, I finally look up and notice how much time has passed.

Spy Tips
Last week another writer friend and I decided to do a bit of field testing on some CIA spy tips I found in the book Spy Secrets that can Save Your Life, by Jason Hanson. I came across the book when I was cruising the reference section at a local bookstore. It caught my eye for a few reasons. First of all throw spy secrets in the title of anything and it is going to sound pretty darn interesting. I often include agent and/or law enforcement types in my fiction and am always keeping an eye out for research material. Score. I’ve also started paying more attention to titles by current and/or former law enforcement types as I am collaborating with a homicide detective on a non-fiction universal life-lessons book. So yeah, this book jumped out at me like crazy.

Spy Secrets that can Save Your Life shares techniques and strategies to keep you alive while in dangerous situations that Hanson has learned on the job. Spy Secrets has been a fascinating read so far, if a bit dooms-day. But I figure that’s the point he was going for in his book, staying alive if shit hits the fan. For any of the fellow anthro-nerds out there who find the study of people and culture interesting, you might want to check it out for that, even if learning evasive driving is not on your bucket list.

Field Testing
As I mentioned before, I just started it, but there is a ton of information that a novelist could use in there. For instance, I was telling another author friend, Makenzi Fisk about it and shared I wanted to try the get-out-of-being-duct-taped part. She is a retired police officer and I figured she would dig it, or at least understand my awe at some of the maneuverers. Of course she said, “I have duct tape. Want to try it now?”
This is why authors schedule writing sessions with other authors. Because when cool stuff like this comes up, we have someone to try it with. The impromptu duct-tape session was a hoot. And successful, the first try anyway. It was pretty awesome ripping those binds. But for the second time Makenzi asked me to not keep my elbows together when she taped them, just to see the difference. I couldn’t get the angle to rip, I couldn’t get out! I did manage to squirm my hands out of them, but it demonstrated just how important it can be to follow those directions. Check out the video Makenzie made of our get-out-of-duct-tape escapades.

I hope you are never duct-taped for realsies, that this video simply gives you a few moments of entertainment or maybe some information to include within the pages of your next book.

Happy Researching!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

National Novel Writing Month: one, two, three, weeeeeee!

On your marks, get set . . . NaNoWriMo!

NaNo-huh? At least that’s the response I’ve gotten when mentioning the write-a-50k-novel-in-the-30-days-of-November event to those who haven’t heard about the big writing party. It is also known as National Novel Writing Month, but NaNoWriMo is way more fun to say.

This year I figured, why not? If I fail, well, that many words wouldn’t have been written anyway. But if I succeed, well dang, then I have that many more words and likely hammered out my writing process all that much more, not to mention the great practice in  time management. That this blog, and that I actually just signed up, on the second day I hope signals the adaptiveness of my adventure instead of the tardiness.

When you sign up on there are all sorts of cool things to explore, which I haven’t yet because I’ve been signed up for about a second. Anyway, lots to check out including tons of new friends to meet who are on the same journey. Kind of a strength in numbers thing; we’re all on our own writing journey, but with legions of other writers around the world on their journey, too . . . all at the same time. Fun!!

Day Two 2016 NaNoWriMo
So how have I prepped for such a journey? Apparently not actually signing up until day two, but I digress. I’ll admit I had grandiose ideas of what I would do. It was mid-October when I decided to jump in. Two whole weeks to prepare! That’s like eons early in Sarah-time. About a week or so before I had even picked up a copy of Ready, Set, Novel! by Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant, and Tavia Stewart-Streit of National Novel Writing Month. I wanted to work on writing more efficiently. Now that writing is my day job, it’s important to me to figure out efficiency, obviously without losing art and form. I don’t normally go for the workbook style of book and was surprised it so captured my attention. But this one had that intuitive buzz that happens when there is a direction that is a really good idea to take and it is only later that you saw that it was foreshadowing, and in a really cool way. Besides, it is when we put ourselves out of our comfort zone, stretch those boundaries, that we so often see awesome growth.

So in going through that book, and hearing the voices of countless writing friends and presenters I’ve heard over the years, who dig plotting (as opposed to other writing process approaches), I thought okay, I can try this again. Last time was an epic failure. I didn’t throw my laptop out a window or anything, but that approach drove me bonkers. At least how I did it, did. I’m normally a pantser writer. At least in the first half of the book, writing for me is getting in front of the computer and seeing where the characters are going to lead me next. It is crazy fun, but I’ll be honest, not a very efficient way, at least for me anyway. Maybe others have had better luck. In the early stages of writing a book, I simply let the characters play. As they play, I get to know them more, figure them out, their motivations, their backstory, what direction they are headed in, and what conflict would really put them through their paces, that sort of thing. The story comes as I’m writing. It’s always an adventure when I sit back and let the characters take me along with them. When I tried plotting a few years ago, my characters kept veering off course from what I had plotted, but in really cool ways! It was like trying to herd cats until I finally abandoned the plotter approach and let my characters run wild, and it worked. Just like it had before. Again, just not super time-efficient. But who knows, maybe this time it will click. If nothing else, it is pretty cool to challenge yourself as a writer, see where you grow, what you can do.

So in prepping I decided to at least think about plot points I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t figure out the whole story, but I spent more time than normal pondering all those goodies of the characters I usually write to get to, and also options of where the storyline can go. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I have been using the writing program Scrivener for the non-fiction book I’m collaborating on (it's AMAZING), and have just recently started to embrace it for my fiction work, too. That’s another cool thing about this month of targeted writing, seeing if I harness Scrivener and all it’s functions and gizmos to help facilitate my fiction writing process, too!

Other ways to prep included finishing processing the garden harvest. I know that might sound weird for a writing binge prep, but I know I won’t have time while I’m supposed to be getting my word counts in, and the clock was ticking on the produce, anyway. I had finished most, but there was a bit more to go and I hate to see anything go to waste. I only have a teeny tiny bit left to do. Whew! And that sense of accomplishment has actually given me that feeling of Wonder Woman, definitely an asset going into this writing month that can be a bit intimidating!

I also took on a few house projects I’ve been meaning to tackle . . . because they needed to get done before NaNoWriMo?? No, because I tend to make something that is already hard, harder. Doh! My new hall closet is now partially complete. Which means it’s empty except for almost-done hand-made shelves. All the contents previously in said closet are now littering my studio, bedroom, and the bathroom. Brilliant Sarah, brilliant. Because clutter is so conducive to the creative process. I had been thinking to eliminate clutter by re-doing the closet, but until it’s actually finished, that would be a definite backfire. Whoops.

What have I learned so far? Really, just chill. My writing journey has meandered something fierce. But the one constant is that to be a writer, you must write. It's an incredible journey and the more I learn the more I realize I have years and years of learning and growing ahead of me. Nice! There are many paths to a completed novel, NaNoWriMo is one (thanks!!). The event has helped many, many writers accomplish their goals. Maybe it will help you, too. Maybe it is just the beginning, or another stepping stone, in this awesome path we call writing.

Have fun and happy writing!

To see how my writing has changed and evolved, check out Claiming Love (2009) and Kiss Me in the Rain (2016). Crazy different, but still Sarah. I’m also currently collaborating with a homicide detective on non-fiction book about the universal life-lessons he’s learned while on the job in law enforcement. Seven years ago if you would have told me that’s what I would be working on today along with my fiction, I would have said cool! But I totally didn’t see that one coming.

Writing can be such an incredible journey, hope you are having a blast!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back-to-School with YA Author Suzy Vadori

Do you smell that? Mmm hmm, fresh school supplies . . . It’s back-to-school time! In honour of this auspicious time of year, I thought I’d welcome the Aurora Award-nominated YA author Suzi Vadori with her debut novel The Fountain to give us a little back-to-school book break.

Q: Suzy, what is your favourite memory about back-to-school?
A: We moved around a lot when I was a kid – Nova Scotia, Ontario, Boston, Alberta… and that was all before I was out of elementary school. So, first days really were first days and I never knew what to expect. I always loved that first day at a new school. Usually, kids were nice. Sometimes, they made fun of my accent. That was one thing I’d try to shed quickly, to fit in to wherever I was now. On the first day of school, I loved the possibilities, and trying to figure out how the social system worked. I was always trying to figure out who would still be nice to me on the second day - to find that one friend who maybe didn't already have a best friend. I made many such friends, some that I’m still close with to this day.
I think that’s why I enjoy writing about kids going to new schools. It’s a topic I have lots of experience with.
Now that I’m a mom – back to school is fraught with shopping, new schedules and trying to arrange car-pooling for my three kids. They’ve gone to the same school with the same friends since kindergarten. But I always make sure I ask them about new kids in their class, and I know I’d have been happy to meet any one of them!

Q: What inspired you to write The Fountain?
A: I’ve always loved reading boarding school novels. My favourite part is when kids get out of bed and sneak around without parents or teachers to curb their activities.
The idea for The Fountain stemmed from the idea that getting everything you’ve always asked for isn’t always as great as it sounds. That you need to be sure you’re asking for the right things…
Paired with a great set of teens in a boarding school setting, The Fountain’s world was born.

Q: Kids and adults enjoy YA, why do you think YA has such universal appeal?
A: Everybody can relate to the things teens experience growing up. School, friendships and figuring out who you want to be when you grow up are milestones in our lives, and they are themes that don’t go away just because you add a few decades to your list of experience. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. ;-)  

Q: Can you tell us more about the series?
A: Certainly! The Fountain is Book 1 of The Fountain Series. Book 2 (The West Woods) is well underway, and will be coming out in the spring of 2017. The Fountain is available in paperback and eBook. Here’s a link to give it a try!

Suzy Vadori is an Operations Executive by day, Writer by night. The Fountain is her debut novel for Young Adults. Suzy is an involved member of the Calgary Writers’ community, serving as When Words Collide (a Calgary Festival for Readers and Writers) Program Manager for Middle Grade and Young Adult since 2013. Suzy lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband and three kids.

Monday, August 22, 2016

When Words Collide 2016: Happy Readers, Happy Writers

Celebrating with my editor Adrienne Kerr.
When Words Collide, Calgary
I’m still glowing from the the sixth annual When Words Collide! It’s a festival/conference for readers, writers, editors, agents and publishers, of all genres, fiction or non-fiction . . . basically if you’re involved with the written word, come play here for three days of awesome!

This is my fifth year participating, my fourth year on the board of directors, and a staple of my summer writing geek-on. What I love about this conference is not only the calibre of panelists and special guests, but the sense of community and seriously relaxed, happy vibe. This is a place to find your writer or reader tribe, learn, share and be inspired!

I met my incredibly talented editor, Adrienne Kerr, at WWC a few years ago. She listened (and heard) what I wanted to do with Kiss Me in the Rain and helped get me there. It released August 2! I’m still giddy. Just in case you are wondering how to kick your manuscript up a notch...or ten, I can’t say enough amazing things about this editor! And she likes scotch like me!

YA Author Suzi Vadori
When Words Collide, Calgary
For me, conferences are more fun when you have a roommate to share it with. A few years ago when I went to the Surrey International Writers’ conference, the fabulous Victoria Smith took me under her wing. What a difference that made! If you are considering going to a conference, maybe see if a friend wants to come, too. My long-time WWC “roomie” is Suzy Vadori. She writes YA and was nominated for an Aurora Award straight out the gate for her debut novel The Fountain! And she loves the tradition of the late-night fort building as much as I do. This was the third year of the fort-building shenanigans . . . shout out to all who played at 2am!

The panels, workshops and presentations, gosh, where do I start?? All of it was awesome, all of it! Maybe pictures are the best way to show? I had such a great time at #wwcyyc16. Thank you to all the old friends, and new. Happy Reading, Happy Writing, and see you all next year!


With fellow Eco-writer Nina Munteanu!
When Words Collide, Calgary
Author S. G. Wong and I giggling way too much!
When Words Collide, Calgary

All smiles in the fort!
When Words Collide, Calgary

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Memorable Border Crossings: "Welcome Home"

I love traveling as much as I love writing. This is my second post in my Memorable Border Crossings and it feeds in a personal way to my new release, Kiss Me in the Rain, the first of the Tanner Family Series. The series tackles environmental, social and economical issues, but the backbone of the series is the familial dynamic of adult siblings and their divorced parents. I know not everyone has positive border crossings, but this memory shares a happy moment during a rather awkward family time.

Coming Back into the U.S.A: Semester in Scotland
When I was 18 years old I received a brochure from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire’s International Office declaring I could study abroad. I was eighteen and it was a full two weeks before I even stepped foot in any of my freshman lecture halls or classrooms. Back then, still a couple years before I would meet my now, and very much a planner, husband, I didn’t do organized.  But this, something I would have to apply a whole year in advance for, called me like a very loud, very specific bull horn. Sarah, Study Abroad!

I applied for a program in Scotland, got accepted, and waited not-so-patiently to zip off to the land of castles, kilts, scotch, really cool accents and rugby. During that year my parents also happened to start the very long, rather painful process of divorcing.
Did I mention rugby? Turns out contact sports are really good at letting go of bottled up tension. Which I found out during my AMAZING semester in that incredibly welcoming, happy, beautiful country. I was having an epic experience, in between emails and phone calls from the dividing home front.

When my semester was over and my nineteen year old self flew back home, I walked out of the tunnel from the plane and headed down the windowed corridor to customs. On the other side of those floor-to-ceiling windows was my mom and my sister . . . and a few paces away my dad and his girlfriend. I know both my parents were just really excited I was home, but, well. . . awkward!

What does this have to do with border guards? As I walked down that corridor and I saw my two rides waiting to pick me up and dreading the first of what would be many perceived “who do you chose” scenarios, I walked into U.S. Customs. I have never wanted to wait so long in a line in my life. Or hang out with people with badges and guns. But all too soon it was my turn.

The border guard had no idea the family drama I would be stepping into in just a few moments, but he looked at me, handed me back my passport, and said, “Welcome home.”
I stared at him a moment, and realized he meant it.

“Thanks.” I said, feeling fortified by the kind, no-strings-attached words of a stranger. I borrowed some of his strength, hoped the jet lag didn’t make me ask my family the obvious, and went to see who I was catching a ride with. And have always remembered that small kindness that meant more to me than that border guard would ever know.

That having been said, I have heard those two magic words, Welcome Home,  almost every time since. Still, it's pretty cool. Thanks Mr. Nice Border Guard Guy.

Happy Trails . . .

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Release Day: Kiss Me in the Rain

Book Release Day
It's a happy day, and not just because I paddled around Bala Park Island today. After what turned out to be an extraordinary journey, my book Kiss Me in the Rain released today!
Hang on, I'm still letting that sink in.
I learned so much and worked with incredibly talented people. Shout out of thanks and awesome to my editor Adrienne Kerr, as well as to the Alberta Romance Writers' Association and my amazing cover designer Tufted Sky Cover Designs.
It's a happy day, indeed!

In the dense spruce forests of Northern Alberta, an environmentalist and an archeologist are about to uncover the wrongs of the past and the pleasures of the here and now.

Savannah McIntyre is estranged from her family, haunted by the destruction that her father's development business has visited upon the landscape that she loves. So when a family wedding calls her home, the hope of reconnecting with her dad surfaces, putting her directly in the path of Gabe Tanner, an archeologist on her father's payroll.
Gabe is estranged from his own father, and in him Savannah senses a man of immense compassion with a deep connection to the land. Navigating their mutual attraction on a remote and dangerous archaeological survey proves difficult, given their differences in ideology, but Savannah and Gabe are about to find out that love can thrive in any landscape.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

And so it starts...Summer, Calgary Stampede and Book Release count-down

Summer is fun. I tend to go mach ten to soak up every drop of summer fun that I possibly can. Still, I try to be organized, plan ahead, you know, facilitate the order so as to not get pulled under by the happy chaos. I'll let you know if that works out one of these days. :) I'm in the thick of pre-book launch madness (and it is glorious madness!!), but we took a pause break this morning to go to the Calgary Stampede Parade. Here is a wee pause break for you to check out some of the pics!

Couldn't help but feel those same emotions of gratitude and awe when this group walked past...the compassion and support and community strength during the Fort McMurray wildfires of 2016 will stay with us all a very long time.

Seriously, this dude is riding a bull. Full disclosure, I didn't check if it was a bull or steer.

The Calgary Stampede Show Riders = more horses for me to gawk at!

I took the pic of the banner as these kids were from a high school in Wisconsin, but man, they rocked it!
Sorry I didn't snap a mid-action pic!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Canada Day: Border Crossings, the first one

Happy Canada Day! This particular time, as in today through the Fourth is always a reflective time for me. I immigrated up seventeen years ago. Man, where did the time go? I love it up here, but also love where I came from. But instead of getting all mushy about the awesomeness of people and countries and landscapes, this will be the first of a handful of stories sharing my escapades crossing our beautiful shared border. Some are funny, some more serious, but all pay homage to the border guards keeping us all safe. Thank you for your service!

My first time crossing the border was eighteen years ago. I was coming up for an archaeology field school in Manitoba. One of my geography profs at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire asked what I was doing for the summer. Actually, I had been eying up a geology field school in Colorado but he vigorously shook his head. “No, no, no. You want to go to Canada.”
“I do?”
“Yes, for an archaeology field school. Six weeks living in a tent, digging and drinking beer with Canadians.”
That sounds about right for a twenty year old who likes travel, the outdoors, history and apparently beer, and looking for something cool to do that summer.

A couple weeks before I was scheduled to leave my prof asked if I minded if another of his students caught a ride with me. Sounded like splitting gas money. Back then I am sheepish to admit the shared expense was a bigger plus than the obvious environmental considerations of carpooling across several states and up into another country. I pay more attention to that sort of thing now. But I digress.

The other student was a forty-five year old ex-biker with long straggly hair and tattoos. I didn’t think much of the what or why of his appearance, but I’ll admit I took inventory of the situation. My spidy sense wasn’t freaking out and my prof obviously gave him the thumbs up as a safe traveling companion. Canadian Border Security did not.

Neither one of us had traveled to Manitoba before and we didn’t have the handy maps apps of today, let alone smart phones, that conveniently provide ETAs. We rolled into a 24-hour border crossing around 11pm and that’s when we were taken to separate rooms. I don’t know what his room looked like, mine just looked like a typical office with a big ‘ol desk and a nice border guard asking me repeatedly if I was there on my own accord, that I hadn’t been coerced, that I was okay. Safe. I showed him my paperwork from Brandon University, beaming at the upcoming adventure of learning how to do field archaeology. I didn’t clue in right away to what he was afraid was happening.

Maybe now’s a good time to mention that when I was twenty years old I looked twelve and probably looked just as naive. It was late at night, I was crossing the border, and with a man that looked significantly older than me and like he had lived at least part of his life on a rather rough side.

We were there for a few hours and kept apart. That was fine, I hadn’t ever crossed the Canadian border, for all I knew this was standard procedure. When we were allowed in and driving away my fellow student asked with snap, “Why didn’t they check you through interpol, too?”
“Because I look twelve and he thought you kidnapped me or worse.”
“Oh. Still isn’t fair.”
“No. He was trying to keep me safe.”
My travel companion was irate at being assumed super naughty, but seemed somewhat  mollified when I explained the questions they had asked me.

I don’t know what it is like to be routinely grilled by those in law enforcement positions, but I also am grateful for those border guards. They were just trying to keep a young woman safe. And the experience gave my fellow “mature student” plenty to laugh about later as he shared it around the campfire during that field school.

This summer, may your border crossings be safe, prompt and lead to incredible adventures. Happy traveling!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring Equinox 2016: Balance...and maybe that tipping point

Happy Spring Equinox. This is the day of balance, equal day, equal night, but also that pause before the tipping point into the growth and bloom of full-on spring. So to celebrate this celestial sweetness, I want to honour balance, but also how that prepares us for growth.

Great, what does that look like? What is balance? Well if you’re like me, there will be some things you just naturally know how to ride the wave and keep your balance, and others you get tossed around trying to stay up and it’s exhausting, not fluid or particularly graceful, and sometimes involves abysmal failure. Ug.

Loaded Potential
As I write this I wonder if we can look at where we do rock the balance and see if we can give ourselves pointers for the other stuff. For instance, physically, I have pretty good balance. My body pays attention to itself and can stay in a place of equilibrium . . . Damn, I never stopped to actually think about that before. Equilibrium. How do I achieve equilibrium in the areas of my life that are not in balance? Work/Life balance, my crazy long to-do list, how do I take a play out of my body balance book?

Small tweaks. Exaggerated movements just won’t work, at least for me they don’t. Apply enough pressure to create that positive, desired change, but not so much as to keep me still off balance just simply in the other direction.

What else . . . oh yeah, just decide to. If I channeled all the energy I spend ignoring or worrying about my to-do list and just hammered it out instead, that thing wouldn’t get out of control in the first place. I know, easier said then done, but this is a day of celestial balance, then tipping into growth. Let’s rock the balance and set up for beautiful growth.

Happy Spring.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Yellowknife Made Me a Gardener

I didn’t expect Yellowknife to have gigantic tomatoes. The Canadian Territories are leashed agriculturally by northern latitudes and brief windows to grow anything that’s not a native species. Or so I thought. One random August day I found myself in Yellowknife, NWT. I wasn’t looking for gardening bliss, but rather searching for the fabled Ragged Ass Road. Wanderers have a sense of humor and Yellowknife’s historical street-namers were no different. I wanted to see for myself the street that held bragging rights to such a conspicuous name. Besides, I have a souvenir code and if I wanted one of those green and white pseudo street signs boldly declaring Ragged Ass, I needed to actually see it.

With plenty of daylight left and being pointed in the general direction, I went exploring. Besides, I wanted to walk off lunch. It turns out that culinary prowess is also a trait of Yellowknife. The salmon and whitefish made perfect, spicy bedfellows in my rosé seafood chowder. I’m still dreaming of a second bowl.

I was caught off guard by the bright blue, yellow and red houses dotted around Great Slave Lake. It was as unexpected as finding the tundra rivalled New England in autumn glory. Yellowknife and her northern sisters were drawing me in, wrapping me around their Northwest Territory fingers and I wanted to see more.

Then I looked up the road and stopped short. It wasn’t Ragged Ass, but glass! A red deck had been transformed to a greenhouse and huge tomato plants boldly filled the large space. Vibrant and lush, the plants shimmered with vitality, and daring. I had always heard the north spoken of as an unforgiving climate, but I saw the plump fruits of ingenuity, determination and adaptation correcting my misconception.

I had found a Garden of Eden north of the 60th parallel. I wanted a tomato sandwich. I wanted to hold the slick smoothness of those plucky fruits in my hands. I wanted to shove my nose deep into the leaves, inhaling the punchy fragrance tomatoes alone have.

But that was private property and I was leaving in the morning. Gawking, but aware of the setting sun, I remembered my mission to Ragged Ass Road. It was a short, partial dirt road lined with a few houses and would have been mundane except for it’s name. But I knew its secret. The unassuming road had led me to magic that day. I was not a gardener when I went to Yellowknife, but I came back one.

*I first shared this story with World Nomads. Cool site and community for those into traveling. I'm pretty sure I'm older than their typical blogger. My footloose and fancy free days of traveling, backpacking and studying in different countries is a bit tempered by a mortgage (I LOVE my house), 2-legged and 4-legged kids (whew - they are total adventurers, too!), and a heady hankering to explore backcountry backpacking and road trips with the family.

Sometimes our itineraries change focus and we find whole new adventures to play in . . .  Never stop exploring!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Seed Catalogues and Marshalltown Trowels

Look what just came in the mail this week! 
I did it, I just did a happy dance. 

Each winter around this time the West Coast seed catalogue comes in the mail and I start dreaming of new garden beds, different heirloom varieties to try, and what I can tweak what I’m doing so the plants have a stronger chance. There is something exquisitely satisfying about growing your own vegetables, fruits and kitchen herbs. 

For anyone who is reading this and feeling the least bit intimidating, don’t!! My idea of a trowel still is my archaeology Marshalltown. Even now, I still use that one instead of a proper gardening one . . . except when I borrow my daughter’s “play” garden set. My mother-in-law got them for her and those things are metal, sturdy, and perfect for a bunch of the container gardening I do. She only sometimes rolls her eyes when I ask to borrow them. “Mom, you know those are toys, right?” Not if they do the job, then they’re implements.

Can you tell I did not grow up gardening. I figured when I grew up, you know, stopped living in a tent for archaeology field seasons and stop moving every fall/winter to a new city or town for school or work, I would eventually settle in one place long enough to be able to entertain the idea of gardening. Turns out Calgary was where we did that. For the gardeners out there, Calgary is Zone 3, with some pockets of Zone 2. I didn’t know what this meant, and I’m still learning how to play with how Mother Nature in my neck of the woods, ‘er . . . prairie. But what’s a perennial elsewhere works as an annual here. Our growing season is short, but the sun is hot and plants will all of a sudden take off across your yard (true story) when they get those long hot days of 30+ (90+ fahrenheit). 

This year a raspberry patch is so on the list! And more native species, too. No need to grumble about zone 3 when there really is a plethora of plants that have always thrived quite nicely here. As far as the rest...I’ll have a flip through the catalogue, research online and scour more books to see what to add to the usual seed and plant suspects.

Speaking of zones, I have a happy little gardening story that I will share Monday about my life-changing trip up to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. The Territories are many beautiful, wondrous things, but I never expected my trip up there for work to turn me into a gardner . . . stay tuned!