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Starting a New Book Series: Ozark Grannies’ Secrets

To join in more of the fun, check out Ozark Grannies’ Secrets on Facebook

Over the summer, I was selling cookies and books as well as some produce at the farmers’ market and even though there were times when we were busy, there were also times when we weren’t so I would talk with other vendors about things.

One of the topics was the fact that everyone liked my gardening books, but they didn’t just want general information, they wanted specific information about gardening in the Ozarks. If you know anything about the Ozarks, you know that we have a unique weather pattern. The statement that says “if you don’t like the weather, it will change” applies more to the Ozarks than any other part of the country maybe the world. This led us to thinking about how to better share the Ozarks with others through recipes and stories of people who can still share what makes the Ozarks so special.

This led to the idea that newcomers to the region probably won’t have a garden the first year, but just because they don’t have a garden doesn’t mean that they can’t eat from the land. The Ozarks has a rich landscape that produces all kinds of forageable foods many of which can’t be found in other places. Therefore, our book title is Gourmet Weeds. A gardening book is something we will want to write in the future.

Because it’s not the only book in the series, we decided we needed to have a brand for the series. we soon came up with the idea of Ozark Grannies’ Secrets. This series will cover a variety of topics that relate to the Ozarks.

What is an Ozark Granny?

What is an Ozark Granny? An Ozark Granny has often been referred to as an older woman who handles the home births of the backwoods families that didn’t have access to hospital care. However, an Ozark Granny is much more than that! Our series’ definition uses that extended definition when we call ourselves and anyone whose stories, we tell in the book who are Ozark Grannies.

More than just backwoods midwives, Ozark Grannies were the women with the knowledge of the old ways. They could make a meal of what they could find in their backyards or pantry shelves or woodsheds and knew how to heal using methods that were common to the area using home remedies. They had experience in gardening and could feed their families on a very low income. They had skills for making crafts from things that others would likely throw away.

The Series

In our book series, it is our intention to include recipes of different things that an Ozark Granny might have had in her recipe book or at least in her head. In this book, we are making it a point to specifically choose recipes in this book that at least one of the originators of the series has personally used. In future books, we hope to include recipes and stories from other Ozark grannies we meet around the Ozarks. If you live in the Ozarks and you have a recipe or story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Join our Facebook page and message us with your story and/or recipe.

Our First Book

Gourmet Weeds, Volume 1 is the name of the first of the Ozark Granny Secrets series.  In this book, we will be sharing our stories about these forageable foods, and the wonderful recipes where we have used these greens, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. You too can use in your meals using what’s growing in your backyard, the woods, or the fields. We only include recipes of our foraged foods that require only the addition of common store-bought staples.  No exotic ingredients are required.

Be sure to join our Facebook group and learn some Ozark Grannies’ Secrets and learn more about our progress on our first book of the Ozark Grannies’ Secrets series. Click here


Cygnet Brown typing on laptop while sitting on sofa in living room

Are you looking to build traffic for the blog, articles, or book that you have written? Many people suggest that you look to social media to find traffic, but that doesn’t always work.

The problem with that is that you, like me, sometimes don’t have a social media following with the people who are in your niche. Most of my friends and family aren’t always interested in what I’m interested in writing. The results were, I ended up connecting with people who are not necessarily my best customers.

Gain Knowledge from My Niche

I have always believed that the best way to know what’s good in your genre is to read about the topics that you write about. I like to get to know everything I can about what others have written within my genre. Reading within my genre helps get me to understand what has already been written. It gives me insights into my niche. It also helps me know what I know that others don’t and this tells me what is unique to me within my niche.

The other thing it does is it provides a way for me to get to know other writers’ audiences that are within my genre. I don’t just read the book, I  learn about the author. I read that author’s blogs. I connect with them on social media, and, of course, read their books. When they have a new book out, I have an opportunity to help them while at the same time they will be helping me gain access to their audience.

When I read books in my niche, I am always looking for an influencer or at least a writer who is in my niche. I look for books on Amazon or other book-selling sites and find authors of books that are close to the subjects that I am writing and purchase that book. Often I can find eBooks are less costly or even offered as free books. When I started out, I read a lot of free method books to get some lower-hanging influencers (who aren’t influencers yet, but like penny stocks, they might be valuable in the future.) I read the book and wrote down what I liked about the book. If I found that I didn’t like the book, I usually didn’t take any more time with that book or author. Instead, I just moved on.

Write a Review

Once I found a book that I enjoyed, I connected with the author in some way. We can connect with the other author in many different ways. We can connect with them on social media. We can comment on their blogs. Another way I like to use is to write a review of the book that I read that an influencer has written.

Rather than writing the review on Amazon or some other review site, write the review on my own blog. Writing a review on my blog is simple. Once I have my review written, I contact that person via social media or email and let that person know that I enjoyed their book so much that I wrote a review of their book on my blog.

Sometimes I won’t get a response, but other times I do and if I do, my blog, article, or social media post is likely to be seen by that influencer’s audience. This is why I wrote reviews on lesser-known writers first. They are more likely to appreciate your review and are more apt to work with me. If not, I read other authors’ books, looking for other opportunities. Eventually, someone is thrilled that I have read and reviewed their book.

Guest Blogging

Once I’ve written a review for a writer, and they are responding to my review, the next thing I can do is ask them if they would be willing to guest blog on my blog. If they are also just starting out, they may want to do this because they know that they will have access to my blog as well as their own.  

At the same time, I may request a trade. I make this sort of a mini-joint venture. They write a blog post on my blog and I guest post on theirs. The reason that I want to do this is so that both of us have access to each other’s audience. I include a link to my blog when you post on their blog and make sure that they have a post on my blog as well. This exchange is good for ranking as well.

Interview Other Writers

If the other author doesn’t want to exchange blogs, I may just want to do an interview of the other person on my blog. Often, I just ask them if I can interview them and then send them questions. I don’t necessarily need to speak to them in person. I do have a list of generic questions to ask, but I do also create an author and book-specific list of questions as well. Once I get the answers back and write up the interview, I can post the interview. Since I have already done a review of one of their books, I include a link to their review on my blog.

Again, I want to be sure that the other person has links to the interview that they can utilize on their social media and newsletters just as you will let your audience know about the interview. Often this is easier to do than exchanging blog posts because you’ll be doing most of the work. Because it’s all about them, they will let their audience know that you’ve done the interview. Their readers in turn will then have access to my blog as well as my readers and I get new readers this way.

As stated before, the Interviews don’t have to be in person either. They can be over the phone, or they can just as easily be done in writing. It can be as easy as sending them a bunch of questions and then I pick and choose which questions are the most interesting and post them. I send a copy of the interview to them, of course, to approve and I also discuss how they can best (and you will too) benefit from the interview.

I keep a template of various ways that the other writer can promote my post that is promoting them. That way I don’t have to reinvent it with the next author that I work with.

ARE YOU AN AUTHOR LOOKING TO BUILD AN AUDIENCE?

If you’re another author who would like to connect with me and do a blog exchange or would like to review my books and interview me, feel free to check out my link below to see if we’re a good fit.

View my Amazon Author Page


I was working at our local high school a few weeks ago. I was on Cafeteria duty when I saw a note handwritten on a blackboard in the corner of the room. The note was scrawled in chalk and the first line said,

“I never fail”

I thought that was a curious statement. How was that possible?  so I read the second line:

 “I either. . .”

 I either what?

The third line had the answer:

Win or Learn

That statement opened a whole new paradigm for me. I don’t ever have to look at anything I do ever again as a fail. I never again have to see myself as a failure. If I win and get what I want, of course, I win. However, if the results are not exactly what I was looking for, I still win if I learned something in the process.

As I look back in history, I learned that this idea of never failing didn’t originate from that chalk written note on that blackboard. I had heard it all before. It just hadn’t yet resonated with me.

It’s a Lesson from Edison

Back when Thomas A Edison was trying to perfect the incandescent lightbulb. He said, “Of the 200 light bulbs that didn’t work, every failure told me something that I was able to incorporate into the next attempt.”

He later wrote of the incandescent light bulb. “The electric light has caused me the greatest amount of study and has required the most elaborate experiments. I was never myself discouraged or inclined to be hopeless of success. I cannot say the same for all my associates.”

Edison was considered a genius partly because he didn’t quit. It wasn’t that he didn’t make mistakes or that things worked out every time he tried it, it was that he learned from what he had done in the past.

Applying the Principle Using My Own Example

I can apply this principle to book sales by saying this: “I have not failed at selling 1000 books per month. I have simply learned that the ways that I am trying to sell books is insufficient to get the results that I want. “

Another example is I have been selling my books on Amazon and at Farmer’s Market and have had limited success because I don’t have much of an audience. Therefore, I need to reach out to other areas. Maybe more and better-planned tweets. More and better Facebook posts, maybe get more reliable on Instagram, and maybe open a TicToc account and utilize those sites more. Maybe I need a YouTube channel. Maybe I need to get my books in more live locations. Maybe I need to connect with more influencers. As you can see, I have not experimented with every way possible to promote my books therefore, I really can’t say that I have failed. I simply have not found the right avenue(s) to sell my books yet. If I spend an hour or so every day working on book promotion and experimentation with different modalities, I will find a way to sell that many books per month.

The same goes for any goal that I want to achieve. I will never fail.

You’re not Failing if You Decide You Don’t Want to Do What It Takes

I have had times when I decided that what I was doing was not worth it to me and I don’t feel as though I failed. I just learned that what I was doing was not what I wanted to do.

I can’t tell you how many times I have started doing something that I later decided was not what I wanted to do. Probably the biggest example I can use occurred after I was trained as a nurse. I did well in school. I was in the top 10% of my class, but when it came to doing the job of nursing. I hated it and I never was a very good nurse. I went to work every day scared that I would cause someone’s death. My health suffered. My heart rate was continuously above 100 beats per minute. Not to go into details, but one day I self-sabotaged and got fired. I was relieved. I had learned that I needed to do something else so I changed course and went to college and got my bachelor’s degree and am now teaching and writing books which I love to do.

Sometimes winning is learning to quit something you hate.

Write a Book to Ignite Your Business

If writing a book is one of the ways that you want to grow your business, a good book to start with is this book.

On Kindle

In Paperback

Are you a business owner looking for sure-fire way to get the edge over your competition? Thanks to social media, the advertising world is changing. People can connect with you and your products like never before. They want to see the face behind the product. In addition, people want to know what is in it for them. They don’t care about the features so much as they want to know how what you do will benefit them. Writing a Book related to your business opens doors like nothing else can.


Whether you’re working a side hustle or running a solo business, you will need to be able to make the most of your work time, and often there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to get everything done that you want to complete on every given day. Therefore, it is necessary to find ways of using your time most effectively. Here are a few ways that I have found to make the most of my time as a solo entrepreneur.

I am Prioritizing Activities

Every day, I determine that I have one major project that I want to complete that is directly related to my major goals that I intend to accomplish during the next month and year. For the most part, I make it the first thing that I do each day and after that, I work on other business-related projects.

I am Batching Tasks

Easy, small activities are often necessary to make a business work. Reaching out to a single potential client may in itself be a small task, but if you don’t send out emails or make phone calls, you’re not likely to get the results in your business that you would like. You need to make time to do these mini projects. I often batch similar tasks when it’s appropriate. For instance, after making progress on my major morning project, I might send out a series of personalized emails to potential clients based on templates that I have created.

I am Creating Templates

I have created several templates that I use regularly to help save me many hours of work over a month. I choose a specific template to use for the business, and then personalize that template for that specific customer. This one strategy alone saves me many hours of work because I don’t have to rebuild every email from scratch.

I have several different kinds of templates. Some inform others of specific products or services that I am offering. Some thank others for purchasing and informing them of a related product or service that I offer. Some are regarding questions I want to ask them about their needs, and some are just to say thank you for anything that they did for me. I even have some wishing a person “happy birthday” or happy work anniversary.

The way I start developing these templates is simple. Whenever I need to write an email, I save a copy of that email in a folder marked “templates” and then organize them under different headings. Then whenever I need to write another email, I go to the file and copy the email and personalize it to the specific receiver.

I Am Streamlining Communication

When communicating with others, it’s best to use the most expedient method possible. When I can, I contact a lot of people all at once through email marketing, but if that’s not a good option, I do it through a direct email, if not an email, then a text, if not a text, then a phone call. I might use direct mail for the initial contact. I try to only meet someone in person if I contact them first in one of these other ways and have an appointment with that person or entity. It does save me a lot of time.

I keep a list of all my previous contacts and other information so that I can keep them informed on what I am doing. I send them email marketing campaigns so I can keep in touch with all of them. Every time I send one, I remind them of what I have to offer while at the same time giving them advice based on my expertise. I make it an added benefit to what I have already done for them.

To connect with new customers, I often do that via social media and lead them to my email newsletter so that they too can get the information that I’m giving to my existing customers.

I Am Creating a Procedure Manual Even Though I am the Only Person in my Business

Every day, week, and month, I measure how I spend my time. “What you write down and measure improves exponentially”. Writing down how you use your time will help you improve your time use exponentially as well. Keeping that information all in one place will help in this process.

I write down everything I do and every habit that I develop and create a procedure manual. I observe how I can improve my productivity in every part of my business and brainstorm the various ways that I can improve that production and experiment.

There’s another added benefit. Once you know what needs to be done, you can create positions to fill with people who can do what you don’t do as well as what someone else might be able to do it. No need to spend hours trying to decide what their job description should be, you’ll have everything you need to determine that in one place.

In addition, as you develop trust in those who work for you, you will be able to get others to not only do what you no longer want to do but also do those things that you love doing when you need a vacation.

Revising the Plan as Business Grows

As my business grows, this business model will grow with it. As my business grows, my business will become more complicated, not less, so having a plan to utilize my time better is definitely an important step in the business planning process. I will be able to bring more people in as I need them and do it more efficiently.


When we learn to do anything, it is hard at first. When we learned to walk, we fell down a lot. Then we got good at walking and now we can get up and walk across a room without consciously thinking about what we do. We were walking in flow.

When you learned to drive, you had to think through each move you made. You thought out every move we had to make. Think about what it was like when you came up to your first traffic sign. You had to know when to let off the gas when to put on the brake, and when and how to put on the blinker. You needed to remind yourself to look both ways before crossing an intersection. You had to think about how to turn the steering wheel. After practicing those driving skills over several weeks and months, you no longer had to think about what you were doing. The actions became automatic. You were driving in flow.

When you learned to read, you had to learn the alphabet, the sounds the letters made, and the words that the sounds produced. You had to string the words together to make sentences and then those sentences to make paragraphs. Soon you were reading and not even thinking about the words that you were reading instead, you were picturing the scene and feeling the emotions of the characters. You read in a flow state.

The same thing can happen with writing. You can develop writing skills that make writing flow just as easy as walking. You can learn to write in such a way that all you need is an idea and a few subtopics, and you can write a scene or an article very quickly because you learned how to write in flow.

Here are a few skills that every writer needs to learn so that they can best write in flow.

Learning Spelling and Grammar

Knowing how to spell words and knowing how to put a sentence together is the backbone of writing in flow. If you don’t know how to spell or how to put words down into a meaningful pattern, it’s difficult to write anything that makes sense.

Reading and reading a lot of good contemporary literature can help you in this skill.

Making a game of learning “spelling words” that you are likely to use regularly is a good practice if spelling is difficult for you.

Writing and writing regularly will help you over time develop this skill as well.

Learn Touch Typing

Years ago, I was in school, I had to write a lot of essays about the subject matter. In one class we had to write something that was due every Friday. The assignments took me about an hour to write, however, another student complained that the assignment took her over five hours to complete.

It wasn’t that I was smarter than she was. It was that I could type faster than she could because I had learned touch typing. QUERTY touch typing is a skill that helps me think of a word that magically comes out of my fingers onto the screen. I hadn’t learned touch typing until after I was out of high school, but it really came in handy when I was in college and for me as a writer of both articles and fiction. I don’t have to think about the individual words because I learned the fingering on the keyboard to the point that it is automatic. Yes, it took time to learn but it saves me so much time now.

Learn to Compose on the Computer

Right along with learning QUERTY keyboard fingering, I learned to compose on the computer. This is probably a skill that younger people know because they grew up writing on screens, but we old folks had to learn after the fact. Back in the old days, I wrote things out on paper and then had to transpose them to the computer screen. Now it is as simple as thinking the word and letting my fingers do the rest.

Journaling

Getting into the practice of sitting down to write every day is another critical skill that writers should do. Not knowing what to write is probably more crippling to a writer than not knowing how to write. Therefore, journaling is the next skill I recommend developing for learning to get into the flow.

Journaling is simply sitting down and writing your thoughts on the screen. Unlike many people, I don’t journal on paper, but I journal on my computer as a document in Microsoft Word. I type the date and then start typing. If I don’t know what to write, I write I don’t know what to write but. . . and then write whatever comes into my mind next. Often, when I don’t know what to write,  I will set a timer for fifteen minutes before journalling and then just keep typing until the timer goes off. Sometimes nothing of any value comes out of the journalling experience, but most of the time I find something that I can use.

Gathering Ideas

Writer’s block happens when you don’t have any ideas or ideas that you think are good for moving forward in a project. Writing a list of ideas that you can go to when you need an idea is one of the ways that you can avoid writer’s block and find your way into the flow.

Creating an Outline

Some people seem to think that there’s something constricting about writing using an outline, but I find that I get into the flow better when I have an outline. Writing an article or a story without an outline is like driving a car to a place where there are no signs indicating where to go. It’s easy to get lost.

I remember one time a co-worker of mine invited me to his house. He lived down a dirt road where there were no signs. He told me that if I just kept bearing to the right, I would eventually find his place. Instead, I ended up coming out where I started. I never did find his place.

The same happens when writing. Without an outline, it’s easy to go down a lot of rabbit holes that end up needing to be deleted or where I realize that the storyline isn’t going anywhere, and I must start over.

Putting it All Together

Any one of these skills will help you improve the flow of your writing but putting them all together will exponentially help improve your ability to get into the writing flow.

If getting into the flow of writing is difficult for you, which skill do you think would help you the most?


I am making money selling articles online! I have been writing a lot on a platform called Medium lately. I wrote almost every day in June last year and now as of July 27, 2022, I have started my own publication on the platform!

Medium Reader Program

The Medium Reader Program is a paid reader-supported platform where readers support writers on the site by reading articles on subjects that they want to read.

The cost is five dollars per month or fifty dollars per year and you can read as much or as little as you like. You can allow yourself to be put on the email list of your favorite authors on Medium so that you are able to read what they wrote. Once an individual subscribes to Medium and has paid for their month or year, the individual becomes a Medium Member, and they get access to every article or story that Medium carries. Click this link to become a Medium member.

To find topics or stories that you’re interested in, you can type a subject into the search bar in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. A drop-down bar will bring up people, publications, and tags based on that topic. Click on a person, publication, or tag, and the articles will display on your screen.

Medium Partner Program

Medium offers an online money-making program to writers called Medium Partner Program. These authors write articles or stories on their own profiles and many also include their articles in publications. These publications include stories by other authors that are related to the author’s story that is included in that publication.

In your profile, you can write on any subject, niche, or genre you prefer. You can also request a publication to take you on as a writer so that your article has the exposure of that publication.

Getting Paid to Write

Authors start getting paid once they have 100 followers and getting 100 followers on Medium is easy. I even wrote an article on Medium about that subject. Here is a FREE friends’ link to an article How I got Over 100 Followers in a Month.

Create Your Own Publication

One thing I just started on Medium on July 27, 2022, was creating my own publication which I call Tightening the Belt. It is about how to save money every day. For a FREE taste of the articles on Tightening the Belt one of my articles is Eat Less Meat for a Healthier Body and a Healthier Wallet

 Once you’re a writer on Medium, If you would like to write for my publication, I would love to have you. Check out Submitting to Tightening the Belt.

I really enjoy writing for Medium. It is a great way to start writing to make money.

Would you consider supporting me and other writers on Medium? For $5 a month ($50 per year), you get unlimited access to all the fantastic articles by the writers on Medium. Click this link to become a Medium member. https://donnabrown-18232.medium.com/membership

To read my future posts on Medium, feel free to follow me. I look forward to keeping in touch with you there!


Starting your week on the previous Friday, your month during the last week of the previous month, your year in December will make your business more productive. (Public Domain Photo)

In my book The Ultimate Keystone Habit, I wrote about ways that I like to start the day the night before. On the days that I incorporate this habit, the following day goes so much better, and I am so much more productive. On the other hand, on those days that I don’t start my day the night before, things don’t go as well the following day.

I like starting my day the night before. I set out my clothes, set up the coffee maker, have the dishes done, make up my plan for the next day, and journal what I am grateful for. Then I go to bed and in the morning because I know what I need to do, there’s no room for procrastination. I begin my morning routine and then get to work doing what I planned for the day.

I recently realized that prepping for the next step isn’t limited to the next day. I can prep for the next week on the Friday before.  I can start then next month the last week of the previous month. I can even start the year at the end of the year before. It is something that no one talks about, but it is a surefire way to 10x a life or a business.

Setting up a plan for the next week would be something that any of us can do. What do you plan to do next week? What are your priorities? Prioritize your week so that you are doing things that move your goals forward and don’t just keep your wheels spinning. Even fifteen minutes working on your goals on Friday for the upcoming week move the “progress can down the road” in a good way.

Getting Ahead for the Week on Friday

As a writer, I like to go over the ideas that I gained during the week on Friday mornings. That’s what I am doing this morning. I am writing down this idea for a story for a publication on Medium called Tightening the Belt. I also have an idea for next Wednesday’s blog and several for my Medium stories.  I am trying to write a new article every day for the entire month of August. What’s amazing is that doing this also gives me time to work on my latest novel Two Rivers each day.

This doesn’t only apply to me as a writer either. Different people can use this system in different ways. If you’re a salesman, you could start your calls the Friday before-when you call if someone says, “Call me next week”, say ‘well, I have you on the phone right now, how about if we scheduled to meet up early next week. Which would you prefer Monday morning or afternoon?” If they say Monday morning works good for them, after your call give a ‘hallelujah’! If you normally have a boring Monday morning meeting, this might be your ‘get out of meeting’ free card because you have a potential sale in front of you. Ask to be excused and ask for minutes to the meeting so that you don’t miss out on any important information. Later in the week you can talk to a colleague about any questions you have about that meeting. You’re following up on a lead, missing a meeting that is a waste of your time, and you already have a great start to your week. You’ll also have a potential sale on a Monday morning where you would have had to use the morning and the afternoon setting up for future sales. Now, you can still do that in the afternoon, but you’ll also already have momentum for a good week ahead of you.

Getting a Head Start on Next Month

As a writer, I can get ahead for the next month first by setting up the plan for the month. I can do this the last week of the month. It only takes a few minutes each day.  The first thing to do during the week is to revisit my goals and determine what I have accomplished and what I want to accomplish toward my master goals that month. Once that’s done, I can assign a specific project for each week to accomplish thereby purposely scheduling those projects to take action on and make headway on my long-term goals.

In addition, I schedule in appointments and other activities that I already have planned for the month and plans. I can also brainstorm ideas that improve how I handle different aspects of my writing business.  

Getting Ahead for the Next Year

Many people start the new year in January and end up getting started with the new year either late in the month or in February and don’t really get the year in full swing until March. I have found that when I get started with the new year in December, I able to get more done in January and February than I would if I had started in the first week of January.

With everything else, it starts with revisiting the long-term goals and creating the annual plan. Every December, between the holiday festivities, I plan the next year. I determine what I would like to get done during each month of the year. I schedule and plan out launches for the year. I plan what January will look like. They don’t have to be detailed, and they will often change over the course of the year, but the plan is there because it is true that if I fail to plan, I plan to fail.

This system of organization can easily be adapted to a team or an organization. Fewer Fridays are wasted, and Mondays are less dreaded when people in your team or organization are encouraged to start at the end of the last period. It may seem like more work in the beginning, but soon you’ll realize that work gains momentum and you’re much more productive than you ever thought possible.


Hundreds of people going in different directions.
Many Americans said goodbye and good riddance to their jobs when the pandemic hit.

Twenty million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in the second half of 2021. This occurred because many Americans had time to get off the treadmill long enough to realize that they didn’t want to and didn’t have to work as slave labor to support someone else’s dream. They decided that they wanted to decide for themselves where they wanted to work or whether they wanted to work at all. I am a part of this great migration from working for “the man”.

I Am Part of the Great Resignation

Since March 2020, I have been away from the nine to five grind and living on our acre and half. At first, I was putting the house in order. While I lived in a travel trailer on our property, I had our trailer set up and painted it on the inside. I worked the garden area and canned what I could. I set up shelving to hold our home-canned jars and the store-bought items I bought in bulk. We picked blackberries.

In 2021, while continuing to garden, I started selling my books and several kinds of cookies at the local farmer’s market. I have also been working part-time as a substitute teacher and last September, I started collecting early social security. About the same time, I published another book about gardening and have had some decent success. In September I published my book The Survival Garden. I was surprised at how many sales I was able to make between September and December.

Coming Back from a Small Set Back

The forward motion slowed, however. This past winter, I have started cutting into my savings a little. Between the fact that I have had to spend more on our heating fuel (we heat with wood) and for groceries and gasoline, things have cost me more than I expected. In addition, my computer started falling apart. It happened first in November and then the screen fell apart again in December. I waited for the entire month of January for the repairman to let me know that it was ready, but that never happened. At the beginning of February, I decided to purchase a new computer which is what I am working on now. I probably shouldn’t have waited even that long.

 Now that spring is in the air, I am hopeful about the future. We have already been getting ready for next year’s gardening season. Last fall I planted regular garlic and elephant garlic and it is up and growing. We have planted our potatoes in three different ways and have pepper and tomato plants growing nicely. Soon we’ll be planting onions, peas, and shortly after that corn.

My book sales have also started to grow again after just a few sales in January and February. I have started experimenting with marketing methods and have found some benefits to those methods. I will be giving more later as time goes on.

In March, I finished writing an eBook I call The Four-Seasons Vegetable Garden in which I tell about the various ways that I am developing a vegetable growing system in which I can grow all of my own vegetables throughout the year. Check it out! And while you’re at it, check out my other books-fiction as well as nonfiction at my Author Central Page.

Is Being Part of the Great Resignation Worth It?

It’s not like I couldn’t go back and do what I was doing before the pandemic hit. I still could, but I have decided that I don’t want to go back to the way things were. I like the fact that I don’t have to punch a time clock every day. I like the fact that I can greet the morning on my own terms. That’s not to say that I’m not working. I have probably worked harder over the past two years than any time in my life and I am happy with what I am doing. I love gardening and I love writing. I feel fulfilled and that is a great feeling.

Now It’s Your Turn!

How about you? Did the pandemic make you re-evaluate your life? If so, how has your life changed over the past two years? Feel free to comment below!


Over half a million people crossed the plains and the mountains toward the west coast in the mid-1800s.

Back in November, I was writing the first draft of my latest NaNoWriMo project. My working title is Little Africa. (for more about Little Africa, check out my article about this place) I know that there will be a better name for it, but in the process of writing that story, I decided at the end that my characters would go west with a wagon train.

Even though I know I will be ending the book with them going to the west coast by wagon train, I decided that I wasn’t going to write any book about the topic, but I am putting this information in the footnotes at the back of the book as some of the added material that I include. The reason I am not writing that story is that the story of people crossing the prairie to the west coast has already been done many times. However, that doesn’t stop me from writing about it at all.

The wagon train experience began In 1834 when a merchant from New England named Nathaniel Wyeth and an Episcopalian missionary named Jason Lee led the first eighty people to take the 2170 mile trip from Missouri to Oregon on what became the Oregon Trail.

By the end of the 1860s, half a million pioneers had traveled overland to the far West in search of new land, gold, and a new life. These pioneers gave up almost everything they possessed and left behind families that they might never see again. These people walked across half a continent through prairies, high deserts, and snow-covered mountains. They passed through territories that would later become Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.

Approximately ten percent of the travelers died along the trail usually, not from Indian attacks but, from disease or accidents. The wagon train routes across the country were considered by many to be the longest cemetery in the world.

Why?

Why did they take this journey? Some were escaping frequent outbreaks of diseases like malaria and dysentery in the crowded Eastern states. Many were the children of pioneers who had homesteaded in Indiana, Illinois, and the Michigan territories. This younger generation was forced to move further west because all the best river-bottom land for farming had already been claimed, and the competition for even the less-desirable farmland was fierce due to immigration.

Seventy percent of the travelers were farmers. They knew that in order to get the best land, they had to get there first. In 1850 the U.S. Congress ceded land in the Western territories to settlers by granting a square mile of land to each married couple and their children would inherit it.

Gold discoveries in California also drew people to the West Coast. Congress gave actual settlers 640 acres in California. In 1849, many folks began the journey as “49ers,” heading for the newly discovered goldfields of the Sierra foothills of California.

Later in the 1860s, some went west to escape the looming Civil War. But no matter the reason, there was one underlying sentiment shared by nearly every pioneer. Manifest Destiny was a deep-seated belief that the growth of the United States was divinely preordained.

The Trail

With a few exceptions, all the major Western trails started near the frontier town of Independence, Missouri. From Independence or at various branches further to the west, the traveler could head southwest on the Santa Fe Trail, west to Sacramento on the California Trail, or continue northwest to Oregon. The Mormon Trail, which lead to Salt Lake City, began in the town of Nauvoo, Illinois, and crossed the Missouri River north of Independence at Council Bluff, eventually joining up with the Oregon Trail near Fort Laramie, Wyoming.

They needed to leave late enough in the spring to provide grass for the livestock, so they did not leave any earlier than mid-April. However, they also didn’t want to leave in June because of the possibility of facing early snows in the mountains. They had to leave sometime between mid-April and during May. However, this meant facing swollen rivers, violent thunderstorms, and blistering mid-summer heat while crossing the deserts of southern Wyoming, Idaho, and eastern Oregon.

Preparing for the Trip

Before leaving, these pioneers acquired travel guidebooks like The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California, written by Lansford Hastings. All the travel guides provided commonly known details about travel distances, river crossings, the cost of food and equipment, and what dangerous situations they might face.

Oxen were much preferred over horses or mules by experienced travelers. These animals were more easily managed, were not likely to run away or die because of the hardships, cost less than horses or mules, and were worth more in Oregon. In addition, if the situation because necessary, they could always eat the oxen. Wagons with three yoke of oxen (two oxen per yoke) were required to make a successful journey.

Most of the wagons we see in movies are not the wagons that they used. Those wagons are Conestoga wagons, but these large freight-moving vessels were far too heavy to navigate open prairie, muddy river crossings, and mountain passes.

The wagon used by most pioneers was the “prairie schooner.”  This wagon was four feet wide and ten feet long. These light but strong wagons had vertical or slightly canted sides with waterproofed canvas covers supported by bent-wood ribbing. This wagon carried a maximum of 2,500 pounds of supplies. This made it necessary to walk rather than ride in a wagon.

Because of the weight limit, family members walked and guided the oxen. The only people to ride in the wagons were those too ill to walk. Some people set up their wagons so that they could sleep in them, but usually, these pioneers slept in tents or under the stars. They needed as much space as possible for storing their needed goods.

A complete wagon, three yokes of oxen, and the food needed for a five-member family cost a minimum of Six hundred dollars or equal to fifteen thousand dollars in today’s money. Poor farmers weren’t always able to come up with cash for these journeys so they did what they could like selling their land to a neighbor for what they could get or getting someone else to sponsor their trip cross country with the understanding that they would be paid back after they started making money from their new farm. Single young men and women were often hired on as “trail helpers” to wealthier individuals who were making the trip.

The food that was recommended for the trip for each adult was two hundred pounds of flour, thirty pounds of pilot bread, seventy-five pounds of bacon, ten pounds of rice, five pounds of coffee, two pounds of tea, twenty-five pounds of sugar, half a bushel of dried beans, one bushel of dried fruit, two pounds of saleratus, ten pounds of salt, half a bushel of corn meal; and a half-bushel of parched ground corn, as well as a small keg of vinegar.

Flour in the mid-1800s was not the bleached and enriched flour available today. Then, the pioneer had to choose between three types of flour: shorts, middlings, and superfine.

“Shorts” was a coarse-ground flour somewhere between wheat bran and whole wheat. It was poorly sifted and retained a high degree of impurities. Shorts flour was often the least-expensive option.“ Middlings”  was a remainder product formed during the separation of bran from white flour. High in gluten, “middlings” became a waste product for many mills and were often sold as an inexpensive flour without further refinement. “Superfine” flour was as close to modern white flour but was more like unbleached flour than what we have today.

They baked bread on the trail every day. They used small sheet-iron ovens, or dutch ovens, or they fried biscuits in a skillet.

Building fires on the trip was problematic because firewood was in short supply. Instead, on the prairies, they used small piles of “dried buffalo chips” or dried buffalo manure. These chips burned steadily and had little odor. When chips were in short supply, sagebrush was used.

Commercial yeast was not available at the time. Any yeast used had a short shelf life and was delivered from breweries as a by-product of beer making therefore could not be used on these cross-country endeavors. Sourdough starters were also problematic because it required a long time to make bread rise and rising bread or pastries required a place that wasn’t moving.

The answer to the problem was saleratus, a precursor to our modern baking soda. This was discovered by chemists in the late 1700s. It was a form of bicarbonate of soda that, when added to the dough, released carbon dioxide upon heating, causing the bread to rise. A natural source was found along the Oregon Trail near Independence Rock, Wyoming.

The other staple of trail life was bacon. Bacon then was any pig meat from the sides, hams, or shoulders that received a salt cure. This bacon rarely survived the entire journey and often became rancid or suffered insect infestation because of its fat content.

This was sometimes remedied by purchasing bacon at various forts along the way but at much higher prices.

Unlike salt pork or beef (which was kept barreled in a brine solution), bacon was stored dry in bug-proof bags or boxes. In hot climates, bacon was buried in bran,  supposedly this kept the fat from absorbing it.

Parched corn (corn whose kernels had been sun-dried or roasted in an oven) was very popular with the pioneers, if for no other reason than because it did not spoil easily. It was usually ground into rough flour and cooked as mush, which was served with milk from the traveler’s cows.

Dried fruits were a staple, not only amongst the pioneers but for practically everyone in 19th century America. Dried vegetables were less common with pioneers. This changed in 1859 with the publication of Randolph Marcy’s The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions in 1859. Where he suggested each traveler have desiccated vegetables, or dried vegetables,  a product used extensively in the Crimean War.

Coffee was not just a staple on the trail, it was often the only thing left near the end of the journey. Trail coffee was green (unroasted) beans because roasted or ground coffee traveled poorly and quickly lost flavor. They roasted the beans in a skillet over a fire, then ground them in a coffee grinder.

Medicinal Supplies

Disease was the big killer on the trail. In the mid-1800s, effective medical supplies were limited. A medical kit included “a little blue mass” which was mercury-based and used for many different diseases from constipation to tuberculosis. Opium and quinine were used for pain.

Weapons

They also carried a five-gallon drum of “medicinal spirits” a benign name for whiskey, brandy, or rum.

Everyone carried weapons for protection and to provide meat along the trail. Most travelers had a muzzle-loading long gun musket or rifle. Pistols were rare and expensive. Every wagon was equipped with gunpowder, shot molds, and lead for casting rifle balls.

Other Items

They also took clothing, camping supplies, day-to-day tools, livestock supplies, and a few keepsakes many of the family heirlooms were discarded along the route. Seed and plow blades were brought by farmers. Skilled craftsmen often brought additional wagons with the tools of their trades. Many family Bibles made the trip across the country along as did family cows.

The Trail’s End

While on the trail, couples married, gave birth, or broke up.  They suffered wagon mishaps. They developed a kinship with fellow travelers.

Many of the emigrants who arrived in Oregon or California were starving, with no provisions left. Others had some preserved food but had become sick and worn out from the journey. Many had also spent their last dollar.

The pioneers who had already made the journey were there to help the new arrivals. They helped stragglers in need.  Most of the new settlers arrived in the late fall or early winter, too late to put in a crop or do more than hastily construct winter quarters. Neighbors, churches, and civic committees worked together to keep the new arrivals alive, at least long enough to help them to get in a crop and “prove-up” their homesteads. Many of them considered that having thousands of new neighbors both armed and starving was a disaster waiting to happen. Anyone who wanted to work was offered employment even if their labors were rewarded in food rather than gold.

The Locket Saga

The research above was done for a future book in the Locket Saga series. In this series, a locket is passed from generation to generation of ordinary Americans who are a part of extraordinary events as family members are born, live, marry, and as they pass the torch and the locket to the next generation.


Tell a Story, Any Story

One of my favorite teachers in school was our POD teacher—Mr. Schwab. I did because he used to tell us stories about his military experience during WWII. He had been a prisoner of war in Italy and had escaped and spent a night in a haystack on an Italian farm as he made his way back to Allied lines. 

We have several ways that we can hook a reader into our stories. You could write a quote from someone you know or from a famous person. You could write a joke or a riddle or pose a question. You could set a scene. You could use an interesting fact or definition. My favorite way is to tell a story.

Stories in one form or another make what’s being written or what’s being said more interesting. All civilizations since the beginning of time have loved hearing stories. Aesop’s Fables wouldn’t have been as interesting if they had been written like the Ten Commandments.

The story of the tortoise and the hare wouldn’t have been as interesting if he had simply said: “Listen kids, you need to take your time and do your best to take one step at a time if you want to complete your tasks in a timely fashion.”

The same goes for writing nonfiction. People love stories. They want to hear your story and they want to hear your struggle. They don’t want to think that you were able to do everything perfectly the first time. They want to know that you are human, not super-human.

They want to hear stories from your experience that demonstrate what you are telling them.

When you tell a story, they remember what you said better than if you just give them the information.

Where to Find Great Story Ideas

One place you can find great story ideas could be from your own experience. Take some time to think about events that have occurred during your life. Is there a story that you can make relate to this part of your book?

Think about great stories that you have heard others tell. When I was a kid, I used to listen to what everyone was saying. One of my aunts used to say that I was the one to watch because I was always quiet and always listening.

Think about story lines that you have heard on television, seen in a movie, read in a book, or read in social media. Is there a way you can create a fictionalized story that you can make relate to your book?

Think about story lines that you have incorporated into fiction. There are also the story lines that you have already incorporated into your fiction. No one says that your stories have to be true stories. They just have to be interesting stories.  

When you determine that you have a noteworthy story, but don’t have a place to put it in your writing, write these story ideas down in a document or notebook. Keep track of as many stories as you can think of. When you hear new stories, write them down in this same notebook. If it’s interesting to you, write down as many words as you can so that you will remember what the story was about.

Find a way to organize the stories so that you can retrieve a specific story at will. Perhaps you can organize them in order as it relates to the subject matter, but whatever way you use, make sure that it works for you. There’s nothing worse than knowing that you have the answer, but don’t know where to find it.

Start your notebook of stories today. Incorporate what you can into your nonfiction as well as your fiction.

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