An old sugar maple, her bark the colour of cinnamon, collapsed under the weight of last winter’s snow. Edging Fox Hollow’s meadow, she had dropped a few large branches in years previous, but last year’s 17 feet did her in.


Gary MacFadyen standing next to the fallen sugar maple.


The tape measures 32 inches where it is placed, but the widest cross-section is 36. Gary counted 120 rings, but he says some are so closely aligned only a dendro-chronologist could do an accurate reading of the old tree’s age.

She’ll take on a new life now. First, Gary will design a unique eight-inch-thick mantel for our friend Dave’s New Brunswick home. Then he will craft eclectic, artful furniture and, possibly, other diverse pieces. There will be no waste.

Our home is full of wonderful Gary-made useable wooden art. The smallest is my carved paperweight in the shape of a black bear. It is made of spruce. The largest is our log bed. It is also made of spruce, from Fox Hollow. There are also coffee and side tables, each one unique.


Black bear paperweight.

He builds from wood made available by Nature, like the fallen sugar maple, but also of recycled planks, boards and beams. The shelves in my office are of recycled mahogany! And two side tables are huge chunks of a Douglas fir beam recovered from Charlottetown’s Holman building when it was refurbished.


Coffee table made from a Vancouver Island bird’s-eye maple burl that we drove across country to PEI. The base is a branch from the sugar maple, now fallen at the edge of Fox Hollow’s meadow.

The Douglas fir was headed to the dump, and it was so heavy it just about crushed Gary’s half-ton. A ring count indicates it started growing in the early 1600s. We figure it was brought to PEI in the late 1800s, after British Columbia was connected by rail to the rest of the country, and when the Holman building was first built.


Gary MacFadyen with a spruce tree root from the back-forty at Rennies Road, PEI. It will be the base of a uniquely crafted table.

Plans are that, one-day, Gary will have a large workshop at Fox Hollow, where he will continue to make collectible, and useable, treasures from wood.

The book launch for Snow Softly Falling was a couple of weeks ago, and it was standing room only. One of forty-eight Prince Edward Island authors whose stories or poems appear in this anthology, my piece is titled “Christmas Eve Debutante.”

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The book’s cover is lovely, but after last winter I’m not sure about snow softly falling here on Prince Edward Island!

It’s memoir, set in West Vancouver, at Midnight Mass, 1972.

Here’s a short selection:

St. Christopher’s features a gargantuan pipe organ that climbs the wall and fills the space behind the altar like a Virginia Creeper. Diminutive Miss Rochester, the organist, wears a burgundy tam with a small hawk feather held in place by a glittering silver pin. She sits on a large bench pulled up to her keyboard at the far side of the pews.

 She has been playing Christmas hymns softly, but suddenly she amplifies the sound and breaks into “All My Heart Rejoices” when a procession of black-and-white robed figures, one carrying a huge, brightly polished brass cross enters at the back of the church and makes its way up the centre aisle. Frankincense puffs out of the thurible swung side to side by the altar boy who brings up the rear.

 Chatter stops and some children who’d been sleeping like lap dogs, small collapsed lumps in the pews, wake up. The minister, carrying a gold-embossed bible, smiles at me when he reaches the altar. I am sure he wonders why I have suddenly reappeared in his church after a three-year absence, and why I’m dolled up in a Jane Austin dress like I’m at a late-eighteenth-century genteel English ball.

 When I found out in confirmation classes that the Anglican Church exists partially because Henry XIII couldn’t get a divorce from Anne Boleyn, and that he had lopped off her head, I’d decided it was a pretty sketchy beginning. So after the big day in my white dress, white wrist-length gloves, and white shoes, with the bishop of New Westminster, the purple-and-gold pointed mitre upon his head reaching halfway to heaven, I had distanced myself.

 Snow Softly Falling is edited by Richard Lemm, and published by Acorn Press.

The lane we've opened that will become the driveway into Fox Hollow.

The lane through the woods.

We’ve opened up the roadway entrance to Fox Hollow, and made a lane that arcs through the woods to the meadow. Next week, stumps and topsoil will be excavated and shale brought in. Our goal is to one day build an accessible house that is off the grid.

Uniquely shaped maple tree branches that Gary will make into lamps or side tables. He's crafty.

Uniquely shaped maple tree branches that Gary will make into lamps or side tables. He’s crafty.

One of many small wood-piles ranging the side of the drive--not nearly so perfect as Robert Frost's

One of many small wood-piles stacked to the side of the lane–not so perfect as Robert Frost’s “four by four by eight.”

Source: BLOG #7: Maddison-MacFadyen on Historical Timber Ponds in the North Atlantic

When the Circus Comes to Town and Other Stories

When the Circus Comes to Town and Other Stories

When the Circus Comes to Town and Other Stories is the first book published by Sisters Publishing. It is actually a second edition. The first edition was published 13 years ago in Kaslo, British Columbia. It did well then, too, selling over 500 print copies regionally.

Intended for Junior readers (ages 11-13), the earlier edition was awarded Honourable Mention in Canadian Stories 2013 Self-published Book Contest in the children’s book category. It was this recognition that encouraged us to refurbish it and bring out a second edition.

Since republishing it last month on Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (kdp), I’ve learned from readers’ comments on Amazon that adults get a kick out of the stories, too. They are “charming,” “pacy,” and “the stuff about carting off the llama, pony and camel poop is a real hoot,” says one reader.

The main character is 13-year-old Tess Darling who suffers from a shortage of cash. Being resourceful and innovative, she embarks on a business venture—the Black Gold Worm Farm—to change her lot in life, but she gets herself in thorny predicaments along the way. Problem-solving her way out of them, she grows in maturity at the same time.

And, of course, teen romance is in the air.

Here are the beginning paragraphs of the third story, “Pouring Off Pong.”

I pulled the old carpet off the bin and realized I had been robbed. My worms were gone, along with their compost, which I was near ready to harvest. Bagged, it would have been worth $40.00, real riches for a kid like me. The worms had also multiplied so that there had been enough to start another farm.

I had planned to expand my market into New Denver and Nelson. Maybe I could quit school, like the kid in Hollywood who had harvested guinea pig droppings from his neighbourhood and sold them to starlets to fertilize their avocado plants. He’s made a couple of hundred thousand a year and has been on the David Letterman Show.

But now my hopes and business plans were dashed, literally dragged away, for I could see that the bottom of the bin, a plastic screen, had been lifted out and then schlepped through the gate into the lane.

In the lane the trail ended. Very likely, the culprit had lifted the whole works into a wagon or wheelbarrow, and he’d made off with more than my worms. My bright financial future was gone, as well.

To visit the Sisters Publishing website click here.

Sisters Publishing Home Page

Sisters Publishing Home Page

My sister Brenda Hewer and I conceived the idea for Sisters Publishing last Christmas.

Brenda’s a painter who makes a living doing layout and design. I’m a writer who was a high school English teacher for many years, but returned to the life of a scholar a few years ago to undertake a PhD.

We agreed it was high time to put our talents together to self-publish our work.

I’d be lying if I told you it was a piece of cake getting our Sisters Publishing website sorted and available on the Internet, and our first book, When the Circus Comes to Town and Other Stories, live on Amazon’s sites.

The website and the book are ready now. You can take a look by clicking here.

I’ll tell you more about When the Circus Comes to Town and Other Stories in my next blog post.

It all began with Little Bertha. She was erected in Spring, 2010 from PEI dressed stones got from an old shed that we recycled.

Little Bertha is the first inuksuk at Rennies Road. She was erected Spring, 2010.

Little Bertha is the first inuksuk at Rennies Road (Spring, 2010).

Bea Doiron dropped by soon after with her horse and buggy. Could she have an inuksuk at her place? “It’s just down the road a bit that-a-way,” she’d said, pointing towards Hunter River.

Bea Doiron with horse and buggy (Summer, 2010).

Bea Doiron with horse and buggy (Summer, 2010).

Big Jim was erected at Bea’s soon after.

Gary MacFadyen putting Big Jim together. Big Jim was created mid-summer, 2010.

Gary MacFadyen putting Big Jim together. Big Jim was created mid-summer, 2010.

Curious spectators at Bea's.

Curious spectators at Bea’s.

Big Jim completed and standing proud.

Big Jim completed and standing proud.

Five years passed.

We noticed inuksuit sprouting in other parts of the Island–two on the TransCanada erected by road construction crews. One big guy went up at Hunter River. He is on the embankment coming down the hill to the valley.

Then Heather Ford decided she’d like an inuksuk in her wooded garden at the end of her lane. Yesterday was creation day. We don’t know his or her name yet. Waiting on Heather for that.

Graeme Mckague and Gary MacFadyen built the as-yet-unnamed inuksut at Heather's.

Graeme Mckague and Gary MacFadyen built the as-yet-unnamed inuksuk at Heather’s.

The inuksuk at Heather's is surrounded by a ring of trees. It feels magical there.

The inuksuk at Heather’s is surrounded by a ring of trees. It feels magical there.

Little Bertha is five years older now. She started something in the neighbourhood. We wonder where the fourth inuksuk will stand.

Little Bertha (Fall, 2015).

Little Bertha (Fall, 2015).


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