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Gwen Tuinman

Novelist

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Gwen Tuinman

Gwen Tuinman is a novelist, born and raised in rural southern Ontario. Fascinated by the landscape of human tenacity, she tells stories about people navigating the social restrictions of their era. Her storytelling is influenced by an interest in bygone days. She is author of The Last Hoffman, and creator of the womxn-creatives collective, The Wild Nellies.

How to Make Butter in a Churn

In the novel I’m currently writing, one character— a farm wife living in the early 1900s—operates a home dairy and sells butter to local families. I recently discovered an inspiring historical document about a farming couple in the butter business—Samuel and Jane Spares from Northfield, Hants County, Nova Scotia.

Between 1885 and 1890, the Spares sold $770.00 of produce generated by their farm. Three quarters of those funds were generated by livestock products, but the remainder was owing to butter, oats, hay and wool. “The 350 lbs. of butter sold (an average of 58 lbs per year) was the most important of these products. Churned in the kitchen by Jane Spares and her daughters, home-produced butter remained an important element of this farm’s commercial output until the establishment of a dairy factory in the district after the turn of the century.”

With an interest in butter-making, I set out to learn the process used by our early families.

Continue reading “How to Make Butter in a Churn”

On Curiosity, Delight and Writing

“Survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention (…) The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”

Something about this quote from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way has taken a hold of me and won’t let go. She’s written it by way of explaining her grandmother’s approach to enduring her husband’s years of careless living. The consequences of his actions inflicted much hardship, yet through it all, Grandmother focused on the positive, indulged her curiosities to stay sane, endure the bumpy ride.

Her approach to life is perfectly suited to a writer’s life. Our pursuits are sometimes put on hold due to life challenges, but for the most part, we push through difficult times and keep writing. To do this requires that we too pay attention and follow our curiosity. We infuse our imaginings with context, much like newly submerged tea leaves spreading their colour inside a cup.

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In Search of the Forest Primeval

In the summer of 1979, I sang along when Dan Fogelberg’s love song Longer played on the radio. He loved the object of his affection ‘deeper than any forest primeval’. What could be more compelling to a fifteen-year-old girl pining for romance. I then equated primeval with a dark European forest, thick with moss and trees old as time.

Years later, it was poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who brought the forest primeval closer to home. During a visit to Cape Breton Island, I purchased a copy of his epic poem, Evangeline, the tale of Acadians’ expulsion from Nova Scotia.

This is the forest primeval. 
The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, 
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight. 
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, 
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Continue reading “In Search of the Forest Primeval”

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