It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.
But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.
Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.
Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.
Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘bread.’
“Over here!” Eliza called out first. “Coltsfoot. A huge patch coming up.”
Jennie stepped over to Eliza’s side of the hollow and kneeled next to Eliza who was already plucking the fresh greenery sprouting from the earth. The women spent several minutes, tugging the emerald stalks that poked their way through the mulch of oak and sassafras leaves. Jennie added a handful to Eliza’s basket. “Better to keep it all together and not have to sort it out later.”
When they’d cleared a good portion of the patch, leaving some to grow and propagate, Jenny stood and wiped her brow. Looking over at her daughter, she squinted, as if sizing her up to see how she was holding up. Not even a bead of sweat glistened on Eliza’s brow. Jennie decided that they were good to keep going a bit longer.
They hadn’t wandered far from their first treasure trove when Jennie found the next. “Over here. There’s some nettles on this side.”
The women plucked gingerly on this crop. Even so, Eliza still muttered an occasional, “Ouch!”
Jennie laughed softly under her breath. “I see you don’t have as much experience at picking nettles.”
“No, I don’t, Mother. Honestly. I don’t know how you’ve done this for all these years.”
“It’s not so bad really. Look for the youngest ones. They’re not as prickly.”
“My fingers are starting to burn.” Eliza stuck a finger in her mouth and sucked on it to try to ease the sting.
“I’d say rub it with parsley when we get back, so you don’t get a nettle rash. But, I don’t think the parsley has come up yet. I’ll put a salve on it instead.”
“You and your herbs. Leave it to my mother to know what to do.” She stopped and looked at her mother with a quizzical expression on her face. “How’d you learn all of this?”
“Why, from my mother, of course. And her mother, too. Mostly from Granny, I suppose. She kept all the knowledge in her head. Walking through the woods with her was like having a talking book with you.” She smiled and paused, reflecting on her memories before she continued. “She knew more about plant medicine than anyone around. I don’t know but a small piece of what all she knew.”
Eliza sat on a large rock and let her mother finish pulling what she wanted.
Jennie glanced up and saw that her daughter looked paler than when they’d set out. Moving slowly and carefully up the hill towards where Eliza sat, Jennie plucked a folded dishtowel from her apron pocket. She unfolded the towel to reveal two slices of bread nestled inside the towel. “Here, dear. Have a bite to eat. I brought us each a slice. Then, let’s head back. We’ve got enough. Once your father digs the sassafras for me, I’ll be set for a good bit.”
About half way back to their cabins, Eliza looked up by a rock over cropping. She squinted and held her hand up over her eyes. “Look at all the brambles up there. It looks like berry vines. Maybe blackberries. Don’t you use blackberry leaves for something?”
“I make a tea with the dried leaves. They’re probably not leafed out enough yet. I usually harvest those around May or June.”
“You’re right. They’re not very green yet. Looks like they’re just budding. We’ll come back later to get some.”
“That would be nice, dear. I always appreciate your help. I’m surely pleased with what we did find today.”
They neared the spring and sat their baskets and walking sticks down to wash their hands and rest for a moment.
The peace was broken by the frantic calls of a young girl. “Mrs. Barnes! Mrs. Barnes!”
Jennie looked confused. She stood and surveyed the landscape, looking for the source of the cries. She finally spotted the youngster, their neighbor’s daughter, running down from the back side of the house. “Molly?”
—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.