Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Lady's Slipper - an exquisite prairie gem

About two years ago, I was at another colony and a friend and I went for a ride on a Kubota. This friend is like a wild flower encyclopedia, and along the way she kept pointing out various beautiful plants growing wild. There were more than I ever saw in our area, or maybe I just didn't notice them. (Read more about this here.) After that ride I became fascinated with wild flowers myself. Now I need to get a book so I can identify these prairie gems.

A few days ago, one of our students told me he saw lady's slippers growing along the road near our colony. I couldn't believe it, for I've never seen any in our area. I thought he must be mistaken. Yesterday two of my sisters found the place and low and behold, they really are lady's slippers. Just a few small patches of them, but hopefully they will continue to grow and multiply. I always feel too many wild flowers are killed with all the crop spraying going on, for years ago there were more around.

 I just had to go and see these rare beauties for myself, and take some pictures to share. They are so exquisite! So far, the most beautiful wild flower I've seen. Lady's slippers are in the orchid family. No wonder I love them, for orchids are my favourite house plant. I have two and one is about ready to bloom right now. (More on one of them here.) Lady's slippers are apparently endangered, so when we spot them, it's best that we enjoy them where they are, take pictures, but NEVER pick them.

I'll keep my eyes open and try to capture more of the wild flowers in our area. I know there are wild roses around and lots of meadow anemone this year as well.

What's your favourite wildflower?

Monday, 5 June 2017

Watertown, South Dakota - Writing and Art

Watertown, South Dakota, where I recently attended a teachers conference, was the childhood home of the late Terry Redlin, a renowned artist. As I walked down the hall of the Ramkota Hotel and Watertown Event Centre on my last day and looked at the gorgeous Terry Redlin paintings lining the walls, I regretted not taking time to visit the Redlin Art Centre. By clicking on the link, you can view his paintings. Many of them are scenes of nature, farm and family. Autumn Evening. depicting a family raking fall leaves around their home, is one of my favourites. Sadly, Terry Redlin's interesting life story ended in 2016 after a nine-year struggle with Alzheimer.  

Art work and products courtesy of LLC, Lake City MN and the Redlin Art Centre, Watertown SD.

The event my sister-in-law, Karen and I attended was the Colony Teachers Mini Conference, and the main focus was Teaching Informational Writing to PreK-12 students. The speaker for the first day was Jill Jackson from Los Angelos. Her book, How to Teach Students to Write Informational Text, which I'm happy to say we got to take home, offers a structured and simple way to teaching this type of writing. I'm looking forward to using it, come September. 

I don't usually attend conferences towards the end of a school year, but this one was well worth the trip, especially since I came away with lesson plan inspiration and a valuable resource - a good start for planning the writing aspect of the upcoming school year!

I was also delighted to get the chance to share my book with the attendees. One of the organizers invited me to do that and had a table set up for me, where teachers (all of them teach at South and North Dakota colonies) could buy Hutterite Diaries during breaks. It was great to chat with these teachers; they got really excited when I was able to tell them that I have relatives at "their colonies". One of them told me she has a book club with the colony ladies, so she bought multiple copies of my book. It would be fun to Skype with this group, or with any of the schools that bought my book, for that matter. I did that with a Manitoba school when my book first came out, and it worked quite well. 

I brought along some Hutterite-written children's books from HB Book Centre to show these colony teachers and they were happy to learn that there are books available with "Hutterite characters". I just wish we had more! If you have any budding writers on your colony, encourage them to write children's books. I'm sure there are many beautiful stories begging to be published.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Heading to Watertown, SD to share Hutterite-Written Books with Colony Teachers

I'm always excited when an opportunity comes up for me to get my books into the hands of students, especially those in Hutterite schools, for I know we don't have many Hutterite-written books on our shelves. I've said it numerous times, and will repeat it again, it's important for our children to have books where they can identify with the culture, beliefs and values. One Hutterite teacher summed it up rather nicely, "I love the rich Hutterian culture just oozing out of every single sentence. I think my students immediately recognized and connected with the 'Hutterite-ism' as soon as I started reading it to them." 

On June the 1st and 2nd I'll be at the annual Colony Teachers Conference in Watertown, South Dakota, hosted by the South East Education Cooperative out of Fargo, North Dakota. This year's conference theme is writing and I've been invited to come share Hutterite Diaries with the attendees. I'm grateful for this opportunity and am really looking forward to not only share my book, but also take in some sessions, and meet colony teachers. 

My sincere thanks to the organizers, especially Gwyneth and Erika, for telling me about this conference, helping me get registered, and allowing me to set up an author table. Besides my own book, I'll also tell teachers about other beautiful Hutterite-written books. 

Here are some other books written and illustrated by Hutterites, available at HB Book Centre and/or Amazon:
  • Marty’s Adventure – Elma Maendel and Cynthia Stahl
  • Marty’s Colour Adventure – Elma Maendel and Cynthia Stahl
  • Playing Like Timothy – Johannes Waldner and Victor Kleinsasser
  • Jewell Adventure – Gilbert Hofer and Victor Kleinsasser
  • Es Lauft e Meisl – Karis Hofer
  • Flowing Through the Seasons – Herman and Cynthia Stahl
  • Hutterischa Bibl Tschichtlen – Linda Maendel
  • My Hutterite Life – Lisa Marie Stahl
  • Sarah’s Journey: the Story of a Hutterite Woman – Debbie P. Stahl 
  • Lindas Gluecklicher Tag - Linda Maendel                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
If you're a colony teacher, do your students a huge favour; introduce them to books written by Hutterites. You'll never regret it. These books also make meaningful gifts for Hutterites who've never heard about them. And yes, I'm sure there are many who haven't.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Ebb Tide - Beverly Lewis

About the Book

Oh, to see the ocean, Sallie thought. And to spend the summer as a nanny. She shook her head in amazement. This seemed too good to be true, but she really must talk it over with Dat and Mamm, especially since she'd be gone so long. And after I promised Mamm I'd take baptism classes this summer . . .
Sallie Riehl has dreamed of traveling at least once before settling down to join church, so she is thrilled at an unexpected summer opportunity to nanny in Cape May for a well-to-do family. However, saying even a temporary good-bye to Paradise Township means forgoing baptism another year, as well as leaving behind a would-be beau. Yet the weeks in Cape May soon prove unforgettable as Sallie meets a Mennonite young man whose friendship she quickly begins to cherish. Has she been too hasty with her promises, or will she only find what her heart is longing for back home?

My Thoughts:

Although this story holds some intrigue about what Sallie's summer away from home would be like, especially with her growing sense of unrest, it didn't really hold my interest well. Another disappointing aspect is that I felt I never got to know the family she stayed with very well, especially the father. The story is just too focussed on Sallie. This one wouldn't fall under 'page-turner' for sure. It sort of strays from this author's usual story lines where you see more of the Amish lifestyle. This one is more about one Amish girl tentatively stepping away from the world she knows well, into the less familiar. The end of the book was not really a surprise; I would have been surprised had it gone the other way.


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Spirit of Canada - Chicken Soup with a Pinch of Hutterite Flavour


About the Book:

Chicken Soup for the Soul The Spirit of Canada is finished and at the printer. The release date is June 6th, 2017 - just in time for Canada Day! This book has 101 wonderful, heartwarming, touching stories that celebrate who we are as Canadians, and how much we love this country. We read over 1000 stories to arrive at this final group, and believe me, those final decisions were not easy. Congratulations to all the authors whose stories were chosen to be included. 

I'm delighted to be one of those authors! After years of submitting numerous stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul, one of them has finally made it into a book  - and a very Canadian book, too! I can't wait to leaf through this book and look for my story. Yes, for sure I'll read all the other stories as well, but first, I'll just need to savour seeing my own.

So, if you're yearning for a helping of Chicken Soup with a pinch of Hutterite flavour, this is it. (No bowl or spoon necessary, just a copy of the book and your favourite reading spot.) Of course, Spirit of Canada would also make a great Canada Day gift, or for any other occasion. If you have a chance to read my story, I'd love to hear from you.

Have you or any one you know ever had a story published in a Chicken Soup book?

I'm wondering if any Hutterites have ever had their stories appear in these books. I've read many Chicken Soup books over the years, but have never seen a story by a Hutterite in any of them. But, of course I haven't read them all.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Hutterite Diaries Spinoff

It's true, one never knows what will happen once you get something published; the same is true when you answer the phone. Case in point, I got a rather unexpected call just before Christmas. I didn't know the person on the other end, and his name, Peter Slobodzian didn't ring a bell either. He told me that he and his family own and operate Q Lake Lodge here in Manitoba and that some of our guys, including my brother had fished there some time ago. As you can imagine, while he was telling me all this, I was wondering how I fit into any of it. Sure, I wouldn't mind spending time at a nice lake, but I don't care about fishing at all.

 "I'm also a substitute teacher and sometimes teach at Treherne School," he continued. "One day, while I was filling in for one of their teachers, I visited the library and found your book, Hutterite Diaries. Intrigued, I quickly read a few stories and liked what I read. Would you be interested in submitting articles for our Rural Outdoors magazine?"

A lovely surprise, for sure! In any case, I found my voice and asked him to tell me more about this magazine, since I'd never heard of it. Rural Outdoors is a publication he and his family publish a few times a year, as part of their Q Lake Lodge promotion. After chatting a few more minutes, we decided to meet for further discussions sometime after the holidays. After that meeting, I sent him a few of my stories for him to look at and decide if they'd be a good fit for his magazine. He was clearly excited about featuring a story written by a Hutterite, since he does business with some of the colonies.

Thus, the most recent edition on Rural Outdoors has one of my stories in it. It's one you've most likely read, if you've been following this blog for a while.  You can read an early version of it here. Or perhaps some of you, especially if you live in Manitoba, will get a chance to see it in Rural Outdoors. 

Feel free to share any of your own out-of-the-blue lovely surprises.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Maverick Hutterite – Verlyn Hofer

About the Book:

"Born in November of 1870, David was but three years old when his parents, along with other Hutterite brethren, began making final preparations for their journey to a new land. He was too young to be concerned about the religious and political implications of this great exodus, but most certainly his entire life would be greatly influenced by this momentous decision to immigrate to America." David Hofer was born into the Hutterite Church and communal way of life in Russian Ukraine at a very unique time in this little-understood Christian community's history. After nearly four hundred years of fleeing across Europe in search of a homeland in which to practice their faith free from persecution, the Hutterites made the momentous decision to flee Ukraine and set sail for the North American continent in 1874. The very first Hutterite Colony in North America was established near Yankton, South Dakota, on the banks of the Missouri River in 1874. This colony, called Bon Homme, is where young David Hofer would observe his fourth birthday soon after its founding. However, by seventeen years of age, David would make a decision that would change his life forever. Rather than join his family in their move from Bonne Homme colony to Milltown colony, he would strike out on his own and break away from the Hutterite way of life. This is his journey.

My Thoughts:

Enhanced by a collection of family photos, this book begins with a condensed, but helpful overview of the history of the Hutterites. After approximately hundred years in Russia, the Hutterites again looked for a new home, this time crossing the ocean. David Hofer’s journey started in the Ukrainian frontier. When he was a little boy he and his family got on a ship and headed for the United States. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this detailed and sprinkled with humour historical account, of one maverick Hutterite. It’s obvious that a lot of time and research went into chronicling this remarkable story. His venture of leaving family and home at the Bon Homme Hutterite colony in South Dakota wasn’t easy, but he persevered and over time was rewarded with a successful business. Even though David chose to leave his Hutterite colony, he, for the most part, stayed true to his Anabaptist beliefs. He maintained contact with his family and always respected the faith and communal way of life he grew up with. This is obvious, through visits to see his family, although rare and at times unsettling. When the Hutterites were being mistreated because of their pacifist practices, David was clearly hurting for his misunderstood people. 

While reading it struck me that with dialogue or more quotes this narrative would have been even more captivating, as this engages the reader, brings the characters to life and infuses drama into the story. I would have loved to hear the voices of David and Anna and others through conversation pieces that could have been woven into the story. I know this is not always easy with this type of book, but I saw a number of places where it would have worked beautifully. 

Nonetheless, I recommend this book to anyone interested in Hutterite history, or who wants to get a glimpse into the life of the Prairie People, families and individuals who chose to leave their communal way of life to live in mainstream society.

My sincere thanks to Verlyn Hofer for sending me a copy of The Maverick Hutterite, in exchange for an honest review. And to Jordan Hofer for putting me in touch with his grandfather, the author of this book.