Announcements

10 Year Anniverary & New Releases Winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels' Butterfly Cottage - Melanie B, Dogwood Plantation - Patty H R, Janet Grunst's winner is Connie S., Denise Weimer's Winner is Kay M., Naomi Musch's winner is Chappy Debbie, Angela Couch - Kathleen Maher, Pegg Thomas Beverly D. M. & Gracie Y., Christy Distler - Kailey B., Shannon McNear - Marilyn R.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Pegg Thomas's Two Colonial Novels Earn Awards/Honors!




Sarah's Choice WINNER of Selah Award for Historical Fiction!

Sarah Feight has her life planned with a loving husband, a promising new settlement, and big dreams to shape the future of trade on Pennsylvania’s frontier. An Indian attack at dawn changes everything.

When he pulls his freight wagons into Fort Pitt, Leith McCully never dreams he’ll be conscripted into the militia and ordered to defend the fort. Worried about trader friends on his delivery route, he rides to their settlement and returns with Sarah, the only survivor.

Fort Pitt is crowded to twice its capacity with the settlers who have taken refuge there and surrounded by the rising smoke of burned-out settlements. Tempers flare, disease breaks out, and the constant fear of the next attack has everyone on edge.

Cully keeps an eye on Sarah because he feels responsible for her. And, though he doesn’t admit as much, she tugs at his heart. Sarah sees Cully as the last link to her past. A friend of her husband’s family. She’s going to need someone she can trust, and she trusts Cully. Her rescuer.

Are trust and admiration enough to help them survive the siege and its devastating consequences? Is there any hope for a future beyond?






Maggie's Strength Second Place Finalist for the Selah Award for Historical Fiction!

Maggie Kerr is a survivor. Taken captive at age eleven during the battle at Fort McCord, she's learned to adapt and to trust no one. Promised in marriage to a Huron warrior she fears, Maggie risks everything in a run for her freedom.

Content to ignore the rising animosity between the British and the Ottawa villagers he calls his friends, Baptiste Geroux plants his fields, limping behind his oxen and waiting for his brother to return from the west. Until the day a woman in danger arrives on his farm.

When more tribes join Pontiac in an all-out war, Maggie and Baptiste take refuge at Fort Detroit. He’s distrusted for being French. She’s scorned for being raised by the Hurons. Together they forge a fragile bond—until Maggie's past threatens their chance at happiness.


Congrats to Pegg!!!

Friday, April 1, 2022

A Little Remembering... A Little Prepping



I'm concerned. Concerned about the state of affairs internationally. Concerned about the lay of things within our own country. Concerned about where we are at spiritually and in the overall picture of things that God has had mapped out since time unfathomable.

We are not in a good place as far as the world goes, and we had better take notice, but I'm not about to go political (or quite theological) on you. Not so far as this post is concerned. But we are starting to experience supply-chain issues, inflation, and loss of production. This is leading me up to my decades-old curiosity about how things were done back in the day. Primarily I'm referring to storing food. These days some might consider me a (mild) prepper. Some might say I'm just using my common sense. Others might say, "We've been doing that since my great-grandpa fought in the Great War!"

I like to look back into the early years of American colonization and figure out how they did things back then and didn't all starve. Well, some did of course.

Let's have a look, and let's think about what we can do to stave off hardship during future shortages or simply times of personal hardship.


In early America, women were largely responsible for putting by. They were the ones who grew and gathered, then dried the herbs and vegetables, pickled the eggs, canned the fruit, stuffed the sausage, smoked the meat, rendered the fat, and so on. We think of having jams and jellies in our pantry as a luxury. They realized it was the best way to preserve fruit for winter--that and drying the food by spreading it in the sun, covered with a fine cloth to keep insects off, or else dried inside a slack oven. (That's an oven that's been heated and is cooling down.) I still haven't figured out how they kept mice and rodents out of their drying food or their smoked meat hanging from the rafters.


Speaking of meat, maybe you've noticed depleted meat departments in your local grocery store. I know I have. A couple weeks ago I went up to my local big name store and bought a huge pork tenderloin at a decent price. I brought it home, cubed up all but a normal roast-sized section, and canned it. I produced four quarts of pork out of that loin, plus one nice roast for the freezer. As I was canning, I popped the fat I'd trimmed off into a crockpot and rendered it so I'd have a little jar in the fridge for frying and greasing my bread pans.

I've baked bread for years, but I've always depended on having yeast. I no longer expect to have it when I need it. So at my ripe age, my daughter-in-law is teaching me the finer points of baking with sour dough. The use of sour dough as a starter dates all the way back to ancient Egypt. Our average colonial housewife would have been quite adept at using it.


I've been putting up extra dry foods in canning jars with oxygen absorbers--things I saw run out on the store shelves in 2020 such as flour, oatmeal, dry beans, rice, potato flakes, and so on. Meanwhile I'll still plant a large garden and put up fruits and vegetables like I normally do.

Back in the day, even our American forefathers depended upon imports like molasses, spices, sugar, and rum for aiding in their food storage and preparation. Many on the frontier soon learned how to use maple sugar too. I've gotten away from a lot of sugar (not all, of course) as well as store-bought pectin when preserving. I've been enjoying more maple syrup and honey purchased from my neighbors. In those old days, people also use sugar in a process aptly called "sugaring" in which fruit was preserved by packing it in heavy syrup (sugar water). Meanwhile, other types of food such as cabbage, eggs, meats, and other vegetables could be pickled too. The pickling process also releases vitamin C which prevents scurvy. So eat your pickles! (I confess that recently I sat down with a plateful of pickled beets to enjoy while I watched a movie. Yummy!)


Learning about history isn't always just to help us picture the past, it's a way to give us knowledge and insight for the future--but of course you know that. Have you been going out of your way to "put by" a little extra lately?

Thinking back and planning ahead,

Naomi

www.naomimusch.com

Don't miss my three new releases in 2022! Each one nods to a different era from the past.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Keeping Warm in Style (If You Were a Voyageur 200 Years Ago) ~ The Hudson Bay Blanket Capote

The combination of practical yet flamboyant and culturally-mixed attire is one of the things that intrigues me about the lifestyles of the Great Lakes voyageurs and fur traders. Whether it was the decorated sash at their waist, their leggings and tall beaded moccasins, an occasional feathered hat, or the magnificently thick point blanket sewn into a capote for the cold winter nights, I find it all very decorative and appealing even to my 21st century eye. Apparently modern designers do too, for some aspects of their clothing have only grown in popularity, both in form and fashion today.

A hunter dons the traditional point blanket capote in this painting "Following the Moose" by Cornelius Krieghoff, Brooklyn Museum, Wikipedia Commons

Of all the attire that captures the era and the style, the capote is probably the most notable. Made of the famous Hudson Bay point blanket, it was easy to sew into a coat that could protect from the frigid northern elements. First however, you might wonder what a point blanket actually is. Even if you’ve seen them, you might wonder why they’re called that.

Point blankets originated, historically, as the heavy wool trade blankets that voyageurs and traders exchanged with the First Nations people for beaver pelts. The blankets were much in demand as they were waterproof as well as warm. In the 1700s, point blankets accounted for 60% of trade goods on the American continent. You’ve likely seen many pictures like this of native peoples enjoying the warmth such blankets offered.

 

Painting of an Indian woman by Anna Mariea Von Phul wikipedia commons

Point blankets were--and still are--stitched with lines 3-6 inches long on one edge that indicates their size. Hence, a 4-point blanket is larger than a 3-point blanket. There are also, less commonly, half-lines (2-3 inches) for those odd sizes in between, like a 3-1/2 point blanket. When folded up and shelved with the lines facing outward, it was easy to tell what size the blanket would be. Oh, that we had such a simple system for discerning between king, queen, and full-size sheets!

Hudson Bay 4-Point Blanket, image from icollector.com

The Hudson Bay company originated the point blanket trade, and you can still find authentic Hudson Bay blankets today, recognized by the Hudson Bay emblem sewn into one corner. However, if they're of the old, collectible variety, they'll set you back hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Once the fur trade died out around the Great Lakes, the Hudson Bay company went on to develop other goods for sale, and today they are much like any catalog or online department store. You can find modern versions of the Hudson Bay point blankets--still spendy--and imitation versions from other companies as well.

If you are particularly canny with a sewing machine or needle, you can even make your own. There are many instructional videos, blogs, and pdfs online to guide you. Me...I'd like someone to make one for me. Here's my dream coat (found at TigerRagVintageNola on Etsy):



Maybe someday...

Do you happen to own a point blanket or even have an imitation tucked in a chest or covering the foot of your bed? What do you think of the style of the blanket capote? Is it something you could imagine yourself wearing?

Stay warm out there! It's only February! And Happy Valentines to all the Colonial Quills readers and writers!

Naomi

https://naomimusch.com/

Warm up inside with romance, adventure, and a glimpse into Lake Superior history.

Mist O'er the Voyageur and Song for the Hunter

Both on Kindle Unlimited as well as in paperback.



Thursday, January 20, 2022

The History Behind "Song for the Hunter" ~ Author's Note


With two new books releasing at the beginning of this year, I hope you'll indulge me today as I share a bit from my author's note about my novel Song for the Hunter, a romantic and adventurous story set mostly on Lake Superior's Madeline Island (in the story called by it's earlier name, St. Michel's) in 1808.


Tragedy brought them together, but learning the truth might tear them apart.

Métis hunter Bemidii Marchal has never played his flute to court a maiden, but he considers the possibility at Fort William’s Great Rendezvous. However, when rescuing his sister causes an influential man’s death, the hunter becomes the hunted. Bemidii flees for refuge to Lake Superior’s Madeline Island and takes the name his French father called him, Benjamin.

Carrying a secret, Camilla Bonnet travels with her husband into the wilderness where tragedy awaits. Left alone, she fears “Benjamin” but is forced to trust him. As she does, their friendship grows and turns to deeper feelings. Then Bemidii discovers more about the man he killed. Now the secret he hides might turn Camilla’s heart away—and demand his life.


I appreciate everyone who has entered the world of the Lake Superior fur trade with me through my posts on CQ, via the world created in my previous novel Mist O'er the Voyageur, and now in the sequel Song for the Hunter. While the story of my hero Bemidii Marchal and heroine Camilla Bonnet is completely fictitious, there are a number of people mentioned in the story who did forge history, at least somewhat similarly to the way I showed them doing so in the story.

Michel and Madeleine (Equasayway) Cadotte, indeed, headed the most renowned fur trade family of the Apostle Islands and in northern Wisconsin, and their sons carried on in their stead. The largest of the Apostle Islands where their trading post was built is now called Madeline Island—named in her honor. The La Pointe post was built near the ruins of an old military fort that had been occupied at the southern end of the island during the French and Indian Wars. Today, visiting La Pointe by ferry, you are not only afforded the joy of basking in the windswept beauty of the island, still sitting like a gem in sparkling Lake Superior among the archipelago of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, but you can also take in the lovely setting of historic Bayfield, Wisconsin, on the distant hills of the mainland.



Michel’s great-grandfather, Mathurin Cadot (changed later to Cadotte), was the first family member to arrive at Lake Superior in the 1600s. It was Michel’s father, Jean-Baptiste Sr. who, most critically, established fur-trading posts along the southern shore of the lake, all the way to Chequamegon Bay where this story takes place. Three of Michel and Madeleine’s sons continued the tradition, serving important roles in both the fur trade and the War of 1812. It was their son-in-law, Lyman Warren, who took over the post on Madeline Island after Michel retired. Under Lyman’s direction, the post became the American Fur Company’s primary trading post in the region.

Around the middle of the novel, Michel mentions that his stores at Lac Courte Oreille had been robbed the year before. That was an event that took place when the famed Indian called the Prophet, brother to the great Tecumseh, began preaching his religion that advocated banning the trade of whiskey. He also taught that the Indians should not furnish meat to the white traders unless it was boned. As his religion spread, some Indians took to harassing traders wherever they could, including breaking in and destroying stores, as happened to Cadotte at Lac Courte Oreilles, some seventy-five miles south of Chequamegon Bay. The Prophet was defeated in 1811 by Mad Anthony Wayne at Tippecanoe, and the death of Tecumseh followed in 1813.

The novel also mentions that the Americans would be coming soon to take over French trade in the area. As a matter of fact, there were plenty of American fur traders already in Wisconsin. In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, in which territories and states were formed around the Great Lakes. While Wisconsin was part of Indiana Territory, it was not much affected by United States laws until Jay’s Treaty of 1795, which contained a provision for British withdrawal from the region. If you read Brigitte and René’s story in my novel Mist O’er the Voyageur, you might recall how the French had withdrawn from Grand Portage, leaving it to the British, and now that, too, would fall under American jurisdiction.

Michel Cadotte, though a Frenchman, was an independent trader who plied his trade in whichever direction his interests were best served. He transitioned his work from Canada’s North West Company to John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company shortly after the conclusion of this novel.


As to the presence of my heroine, Camilla Bonnet, history tells us that—but for the occasional company partner’s wife taking a summer trip with her husband into the Upper Country—there were only two white women who permanently resided in Wisconsin at this time. They were Mrs. Charles de Langlade at La Saye and Mrs. Jean Marie Cardinal at Prairie du Chien. Nevertheless, I felt it plausible that someone like Camilla might have arrived with her bourgeois husband Ambroise, and … let’s just say my imagination took over from there. Perhaps there actually was someone like Camilla living here in this vast Great Lakes country, and history simply lost track of her.

I hope you’ll read Song for the Hunter, and enjoy this glimpse into the rich history of America’s fur trading past as much as I did. Please leave an online review for Bemidii and Camilla’s story if you enjoy it!

Available at: AmazonChristianBookBarnes&Noble, and direct from the publisher: ISM

Add it to your wish list on Goodreads and Bookbub.

Blessings,
Naomi

Monday, January 10, 2022

Yaupon tea: another small adventure in historical research


Some time back I wrote about my quest to find and try hyson tea, a variety popular during the colonial and Federal eras of our country's history (apparently Thomas Jefferson was a fan) and mentioned in the material accounts surrounding the Harpes. (It's good! Very much like other modern green teas.)

My latest research nerdiness led me to yaupon (YO-pahn), a type of holly which grows wild across the southern United States and the only known source of caffeine native to North America. The berries are poisonous (although by some accounts the native peoples would eat them after boiling for 8-9 hours) but the leaves were steeped and drunk for both social and ceremonial occasions.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia ... range distribution for yaupon)

Gift teas!
The plant would later be categorized Ilex vomitoria for its reputation as an emetic--native peoples would brew it for hours and drink it by the gallon as a stimulant and purgative. But prepared as a "normal" tea and consumed in smaller quantities, it's said to be packed with antioxidants, even more than traditional green teas. It's even rumored to help with high blood sugars and other health issues. At some point in my research months ago, I added a sampler pack to my Amazon gift list and then--forgot about it.

One of my dear daughters-in-law gifted me with the tea for Christmas, though, and so I was beyond excited to try it:  Yaupon by Catspring Tea in three varieties:  green, medium roast, and dark roast.

(Photo credit: mine)

Surprise! It really is as smooth as they claim. Because it doesn't contain tannins, it never developes that puckery taste and feeling that black teas get from steeping too long. But warning--this is not a bedtime tea! A week or two ago I needed a cuppa to shake off an after-nap groggy feeling, and opted for the green tea (so far it's my favorite). Well, it was so efficient at banishing my sleepiness that I wound up being wide awake until well after midnight!

Yaupon may not be as high in caffeine as coffee (or so the websites say) but it also contains theobromine, a substance in chocolate. It's also one of those rare brews that tastes better as it ages!

So that's my experience with a now-obscrure tea that was likely offered to the English explorers and the Lost Colonists by their native hosts. It was almost certainly used as well in preparation for wartime and coming-of-age rites.

If you're interested in reading more about this staple beverage that once threatened the global tea trade, try any of these articles:









(Photo credit: Wikipedia ... Eastern bluebird feeding on yaupon berries)