Gone Digital

So, full disclosure time. I have gone digital with my art. 

If you follow this blog that’s probably no great surprise, as beginning about two years ago with Blood and Fire, I switched over to creating my art digitally. It felt a bit hypocritical to me, especially as much of the theme in Secrets of Jarrow is the potential loss of knowledge and information in a digital age, but I have to admit, on switching over it was love at first byte.

A couple of years ago when my painter sister, who loves doing preliminary sketches on her iPad, gifted me her old iPencil, I found in playing around with it that the feel was surprisingly natural and intuitive when drawing on my iPad. A few years ago, when I experimented with drawing on a tablet, the lag time between the stroke and its showing up on the screen, and the general disconnect between the drawing surface and the monitor really got in the way of creating. Perhaps if I had grown up with the technology it would be different, but I realized right away it wasn’t for me and put it away.

But with improvements in technology and my drawing surface now also being where the image shows up, drawing on my iPad really worked for me. The lag time had completely disappeared and it felt like it was all upside. A bit of online research led me to Clip Studio, a great drawing app for the sort of work I wanted to do and experimenting with that over a week or so had me up to speed, especially as much of its function was pretty intuitive and mirrored, to a large extent, the same tools I was familiar with in Photoshop (which I have been using for years for colouring and tonal work on my comic book art).

What I like about drawing and inking on my iPad

So what is it that I like? Mostly it is the ability to rework things easily without a lot of erasing and redrawing. There are times when you nail a pose or a gesture but that part of the image is out of scale with the rest of the panel. Now I just resize it and keep going. That technology keeps the old limitations of analog work (erasing, resizing) from getting in the way of the creative flow, and my pencilled pages come together faster and better as a result.

In this short video of my recorded strokes (something else I love about going digital) you can see how the iPad is allowing me to rework and resize things easily and quickly - although not this quick! This represents about four hours of drawing.

Also, the capacity to easily correct my ink lines has the same effect, letting me loosen up a bit with my line work knowing that mistakes or over-working can be corrected. I have drawn with pen and ink since I was a kid, so I am pretty used to the unforgiving nature of the medium, but the digital just gives that extra bit of confidence. Funnily enough, partly by habit and partly not wanting to get into bad habits when I return to my actual sketch book, I still ink left to right, top to bottom even on my iPad, a habit I formed so that I wouldn’t smear the line on my page.

In this recent page you can see how I am still inking from left to right, top to bottom, even on my iPad! Old habits die hard, although in this case it is a habit I want to keep.

And of course, being able to go out and draw on my back porch in the summer, or anywhere really, untethering me from my studio is something that I really like.

What I don’t like about drawing and inking on my iPad

Not much. The niggling realization at the back of my head that I am no longer producing physical artwork. But I have a basement full of that and don’t really need to leave a larger footprint in that regard.

So no more of this - all the inked pages for Secrets of Jarrow.

 Wondering if I am destroying my already compromised vision by staring at my iPad for hours at end. (I’m setting an alarm, getting up and shifting my focal point every once in a while trying to alleviate the strain.)

And dealing with the hypocrisy - but I am comfortable with contradictions in my life. They make us human…

And the newsie bits...

Quid Pro Crow launched at Take Cover Books in Peterborough

A small but enthusiastic crowd made time on the May long weekend to come out and listen to me blather on about my second book. It actually was a very enjoyable evening for me (and I hope my audience!) as I talked about process and inspiration for Quid Pro Crow and even tried reading out loud to an audience from a comic book for the first time since I used to read Asterix to my little niece and nephew when I was young. Thanks again to Sean and Andrew at Take Cover (best bookstore ever) for hosting this event and to all those who came out.

Signing at TCAF 2024

I joined the throngs of thousands that descend on the Toronto Metropolitan Library for the annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival, signing for a few hours at the Renegade table. As always, it was fun to meet with fans, introduce my book to others and spend time hanging with my ace publisher, Alexander Finbow.

A chat with true North Country Comics

At TCAF John Swinimer buttonholed me for a few moments, getting me to talk a bit about my new book. Somehow I managed not to mention the book at all, but did talk a bit about my switch to digital. Here is the clip…



Sketching at Mértola.

Every once in a while I just need to recharge my visual batteries. For the last three weeks my partner Esperança and I have been doing exactly that, roaming around Portugal’s Alentejo border region with Spain, in the south and east of the country. It is a part of the country we have not visited for over thirty years and at that time it was a rushed visit, so we decided to do a deep dive this time, working our way up from the south and then spending the last week in the beautiful hill town of Castelo de Vide, a few kilometres from the Spanish border.

5-6000 year old Dolmen in a farmer's field.

We have spent a lot of time in rural Portugal, mostly the north and east, land that I love for its boulder strewn landscapes, and old stone. There is something distinctly un-tarted up about the Portuguese landscape, raw and sun-baked at times, but with the history of millennia everywhere you look. A lot of peoples and cultures have made their home here for a very long time, with megalithic monuments dating back 7000 years. The Celts were here, and the Romans, Visigoths came and were assimilated, Moors as well. And all have left their mark on the landscape, giving shape to the towns and villages, leaving remnants still evident everywhere, especially in the sparsely populated border regions where time seems to stand still.

These trips are very important to me, a time to soak in the rich imagery, imagery that inspires so much of my comic book art. It is a time to leave my iPad and stylus at home and pull out my sketchpad and pens, to sit with a place for a couple of hours and record it in line on paper, study the shapes of trees and bushes, how plaster flakes off old walls, exposing the stone beneath. And when not drawing, just absorbing my surroundings, ancient stepped streets, crumbling walls, the dramatic landscape spooling out as we walk a medieval path that people have walked for centuries.

Here is my sketchbook from this trip, two executed outside our B&B across the river from Mértola, a sleepy walled village that was once a thriving Roman river port, and the others done during a glorious week spent in the centuries old Jewish quarter in Castelo de Vide. When we return home I will be throwing myself into the busy-ness of launching Quid Pro Crow (see details of the launch below) but at least I will be entering these weeks with my energy renewed and my visual batteries well-charged.

Quid Pro Crow to be launched at Take Cover Books, Saturday, May 18, 2023, 7 to 9 p.m.

So of course this is the big news, that the second volume of my Mordecai Crow trilogy, Quid Pro Crow, is landing in bookstores on May 18! That day I will be launching it at my favourite bookstore, Peterborough's own Take Cover Books, doing something a bit different this time. I will be giving a little talk about how the second book came about and sharing some of the pages with you. I really hope you can make it if you are in the area. The store is at 59 Hunter Street East in East City. Hope to see you there!

Quid Pro Crow at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Saturday, May 11, 2 - 4 p.m.

Signing books at the Renegade table, with my publisher,
Alexander Finbow at TCAF 2023.

I will be at the Renegade table again this year at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, signing copies of Quid Pro Crow and just generally hanging out, from 2 p.m. onwards on Saturday, May 11. If you are in the area drop by and visit - I would love to see you! This is a free event, held in the Toronto Reference Library just north of Bloor on Young. It's packed to the gunnels with indie comic book publishers from all over and with a full schedule of exciting workshops and panels. 

Welcome to the Paliseum!

 I had the pleasure of speaking to our local historical society about a week ago - not your usual venue to be plugging comics but the invitation intrigued me. If you have been following my blog or receiving my newsletter you will know that lately I have been talking a lot about places my partner Esperança and I have encountered, in our travels abroad, and how they have influenced settings in the Mordecai Crow series, especially the second and third book. So I thought that love of history and old stone would be a good jumping off point for my talk.

I have always had a love of history, probably instilled in me at an early age by the books of Rosemary Sutcliffe, who wrote a series of historical novels for kids that always had a child at the heart of the story. I think that gave me not only a personal but deeply romantic relationship with history, romantic in the sense that I always equate history with stories rather than dates, battles and royal lineages. So when we travel, we often turn our backs on the cities and crowds and seek out the small historical oddities and old bits of stone that populate the more rural parts of countries like Portugal or the south of France, ferreting out the stories they still have to tell.

These travels have filled my head with images and ideas that I can draw on, literally, as I make my way through 120-150 pages of comic art. In many cases it is simply studies of crumbling walls or sagging roof lines done in my sketch book when I have the chance, or referencing back to the many photos Esperança has taken on our travels. (She is the designated photographer. My job is to complain about how long it takes and then gush about the beautiful record we have of our trip when we get home!)

A crumbling old house I sketched in Mosteiros, Açores.

But on occasion there will be something that lodges itself in my memory for years, things like Santa-Clara-a-Velha, the flooded church in Coimbra, Portugal that I blogged about a couple of months ago. Another such place is the Roman theatre in Orange, in the Rhone Valley in southern France. It is one of the best preserved Roman theatres in the world and is still used today for performances. 

Roman Theatre of Orange today, set up for a performance.

But my take away from that theatre was not so much the theatre itself as learning, through an image in the attached museum, that in medieval times the structure was filled with houses, built throughout the theatre and all the way up its crumbling seating. Again, it was a terrific example of how adaptive we are as a species, how this stout-walled Roman building was re-purposed, in dangerous times, as its very own gated community within a doubtlessly dangerous city.

Roman Theatre of Orange as it appeared in an early etching, prior to its restoration in 1825.

That image gave rise to the Pailiseum in Quid Pro Crow, a re-purposed modern sports stadium that is now the jewel in the crown of bandit ruler Zeya di Boticelli di Obscuro's petty kingdom, Flood Town (that's now New Atlantis, to you, pilgrim). I have shared images of the Palisem before but thought I would give a sneak preview of a sequence of pages when our heroes, Crow and Podd, arrive by boat and enter through the massive water gates into the Paliseum.

Fun fact! The fishing platform is based on the cliffside fishing platforms called trabucchi that we have seen in the south of Italy.

Secrets of Jarrow shortlisted for best indie graphic novel of 2023!
It was nice to find out last week that Secrets of Jarrow had appeared on a shortlist of best Canadian graphic novels
for 2023. The list, selected by Sequential Magazine, will now be voted on by readers over the next month. If you have read Secrets and enjoyed, please consider giving it your vote! Go to the link below and take the time to check out some other great Canadian comic talent published last year. The Graphic Novel category is part way down. (Heads up, to keep things one vote per person you will need a Google account to cast your vote.) Thanks!

Fun talk for the Millbrook Cavan Historical Society this month

Okay, so I knew everyone there as it was in my hometown, but still, it was a lot of fun to get up in front of fifty or so people and talk about the visual and historical inspirations for my books. I now have a finely polished talk that is ready to be trotted out in front of historical societies world-wide! Contact me for fees (none) and available booking dates (all of 2024).

Quid Pro Crow at the printers!
I know I have been saying this for months, but Quid Pro Crow really is at the printers now! Due out in May, we are just hammering out some last minute stuff but it's on Renegade's website for pre-order, so I guess this is real, folks!


See???! It has a cover and everything!

Hanging with the Troglodytes

I confess, I’m fascinated with the way humans adapt to changing circumstances. As much as anything, that was what inspired me to set my Mordecai Crow stories in a post-climate change future. Continuing with a theme, I thought I would blog about the troglodytes of southern Italy, and how their habitations inspired a group of cave dwellers encountered in my second Mordecai Crow book, Quid Pro Crow (due out this May). 

A few years ago we travelled to Puglia in the south of Italy, a part of that history-rich country that has remained a bit of a backwater, although it is gaining more attention in recent years for all of the unique things it has to offer. Among those is a long history of troglodytes, or cave dwellers, that have carved out their homes and churches from the soft porous limestone that exists in the ravines that intersect the landscape.

Most famous of these is Matera, just over the border in the region of Basilicata. You have to see this city to believe it, tumbling down through ancient stepped streets to the bottom of the ravine on which it is located. The area has been inhabited since time immemorial, and is unique in that it was originally a city of caves. Most of the cave dwellings were actually inhabited up until the 1950’s when they were deemed an embarrassment, were abandoned and the residents moved to modern housing in the newer parts of the city. However some of the caves are still inhabited today, both as homes and workplaces, many of them re-inhabited in more recent years and some converted to a boutique hotel!

The rupestrian church of Santa Maria de Idris in Matera, carved out of the rock.

Looking along the ravine, with a view of some of the abandoned cave dwellings on the lower edge of the city. Many of these were still occupied into the 1950's.

But Matera isn’t the only site of cave habitation. Near the town of Mottola, Puglia we tracked down an abandoned cave community that digs have confirmed has been inhabited since the bronze age! Records of inhabitation are dated back to 1227 when a vibrant medieval community lived, worked and worshiped in the cave dwellings in the ravine. More recently, during the Second World War Polish troops were stationed there and left behind the remnants of a church that they had begun to build. 

Access to the ravine is only by six rough hewn stairways carved into the rock walls. The entrance is tricky to find and involves a fair bit of scrambling, but you are rewarded with finding home after home, carved at different levels into the soft rock. Within the caves sleeping areas and cupboards have been carved out and also wells for storage and catching water run off.

A view of one wall of the ancient troglodyte settlement of Gravina di Petruscio.

A close up of some of the home entrances, stacked one on top of the other.

Of the many myths and stories that revolve around Gravina di Petruscio, the one that stuck with me was that in early medieval times, when the invading Saracens had taken control of Mottola and the surrounding area, the local inhabitants had fled to the caves and lived there, undetected, within a few kilometres of their enemy. This gave me the idea for the community of Thunberg in Quid Pro Crow, where Gnostic refugees live unnoticed by the Luddite overlords who have conquered the area.

Besides being hidden, there are a lot of good reasons to live in a cave, especially in a world ravaged by climate change. If doorways are positioned correctly, as they are at Gravina di Petuscio, they can catch the warmth of the sun during the day and remain cool at night. If you go far enough into rock the ambient temperature stays a consistent 13°C winter and summer. It is for these reasons that people and other critters have been living in caves since the beginning of time. I have visited caves where they have determined that bears, humans and other creatures had lived in the same space at different times over millenia, even managing to pinpoint within very short time spans the occupancy of each based on what they had left behind. And probably the most powerful experience I have ever had when travelling was seeing for the first time, deep in the caves of Niaux in the French Pyrennes, prehistoric cave paintings. I have seen many since but that first experience blew my mind, coming face to face with drawings left behind by cave dwellers inspired by what inspires me - putting down a line on a surface to tell a story.

So bringing this full circle, here is a sneak preview of a page from Quid Pro Crow, where Crow and Podd get the tour from one of Thunberg’s inhabitants, Maia.

Secrets of Jarrow chosen as one of the Five best graphic novels for 2023!

I was absolutely thrilled to find out that Secrets of Jarrow was chosen by the Toronto Star as one of the five best graphic novels of the year. Here is the link to the article - check out the other books chosen, as well. I’m feeling like I am in good company.

Upcoming talk at Millbrook Cavan Historical Society Feb. 22, 7 p.m., Millbrook Legion Hall

This is a hometown event, but I am really looking forward to it. I have been asked to come and talk about my work and plan to cover some of the ground I have been talking about recently - how my travels have influenced the landscape of Mordecai Crow. If you live close by, I hope you can make it! 

Here is a link for more information.

Love among the ruins

It’s no secret. I have a love of ruins. It gives my beloved a lot to worry about, as I tend to like things best when they are about to fall down. It doesn’t make me the most reliable home owner...

But in watching the tragedy of modern urban warfare play out in Gaza these days, I constantly find myself appalled yet fascinated by how the inhabitants continue to survive in the wreckage of a modern metropolis. It’s an old story, yet at the same time one we are seeing played out on an industrial scale in our own time. Aleppo in Syria, one of the oldest inhabited cities on Earth, also wasted by war. Antakaya in Turkey, once the ancient city of Antioch, tumbled down by a massive earthquake. It is hard to imagine any of these cities becoming anything but ghost cities, abandoned ruins that people once called home.

On our travels my partner and I often hunt down long abandoned sites where people once lived and thrived. It’s a bit of a hobby. Throughout Europe there are a myriad of hill towns that the inhabitants simply walked away from when it became safe enough and more practical to live in the vast industrial cities being built on lower ground, by the rivers and streams needed to transport goods and drive the mills. We have visited dozens of castle ruins that became redundant with the advent of gun powder and the massive remains of a number of religious houses in Ireland, pulled down by a despotic king looking to destroy their authority and get his hands on their riches.

Marialva in eastern Portugal, an abandoned medieval hill town where ghosts walk the streets.

Somehow I find it very poignant to wander the rubble-filled, weed-choked streets and spaces of these abandoned places. There’s a bitter sweet feeling in thinking about the people that lived there, how they probably thought, like we do, that life there would never change, could not imagine how the world could turn and they would be thrust out, or simply walk away.

In Mordecai Crow, where I am drawing a collapsed world, I constantly revisit some of these places we have seen for my inspiration. In my third volume I wanted to use one such site, a place that has stayed lodged in my imagination for decades now because of its otherworldly location and bizarre history. 

Years ago, in 1990 we were in Coimbra, Portugal, and sought out an ancient medieval monastic church, Santa-Clara-a-Velha, abandoned to the rising sands and waters of the Mondego. The inhabitants had eventually left it and its attached buildings, moving their monastery to higher ground, but the church still stood, crumbling but standing in waters that filled it to near the top of the side aisles. My memory was that there was a rickety walkway that spanned hummocks of earth so that you could make it out to the building, entering through a gaping window and looking down through the water to the floor of the church ten feet below the surface, where fish swam around the pillars.

The church as it appeared in 1954 (and still when we visited it in 1990). Photo by Mário Tavares Chicó

Santa Clara as it was during our visit in 1990, still flooded.

The church, left empty since 1677 has a connection to one of the eeriest and personally one of my favourite stories of medieval Portugal. It had been the original resting place of Inês de Castro, a Galician noblewoman and beloved of Prince Pedro, the future king of Portugal, who fell in love with her, neglecting his own recent bride, Constance of Castille. Constance died at an early age and Pedro fought to have Inês proclaimed his bride. However, this union threatened the stability of the realm and Pedro's father, Alfonso IV, conspired to have her murdered. This happened in the monastery of Santa-Clara-a-Velha where the poor woman's body was then interred, but on rising to the throne, more than a decade later, the legend has it that now King Pedro I had her body exhumed and brought to Alcobaça to lie there next to his own tomb in state (their tombs are still there side by side in this beautiful old Romanesque church). Before her interment, however, he summoned his nobles and had them do homage to her corpse, setting her on the throne and having them approach, one by one, and kiss the hem of her gown. In a country rife with the religious macabre, it just doesn’t get better than that!

I'm sure you can only imagine how excited we were when we came across this painting in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon of Le Couronnement d-Ines de Castro en 1361 by Pierre Charles Comte.

Below is my inked page where I have borrowed Santa-Clara-a-Velha and placed her in my own story. As always, it was a real pleasure to revisit this church through my art. Today the waters of the Mondego have been pushed back and it is an easily accessible monument, still unused but high and dry and well cared for. If you are curious, you can see the monastery as it appears today at this site: https://sacredwanderings.com/monastery-of-santa-clara-a-velha-coimbra/

It will not now fall down anytime soon but, to my eyes, in salvaging it and pushing back the waters it has, sadly, lost most of its charm.

Santa Clara re-purposed for my own story...

Nice review!

I had a nice review of Secrets of Jarrow in Canadian Review of Materials this month.

Brimming with fast paced action and plenty of suspense, Secrets of Jarrow is a nice addition to the post-apocalyptic graphic novel genre. Slavin has taken very real-world issues and shows us what can happen if we do not change our ways. But, as Slavin himself notes in the foreword, this book is not about climate change; “it is simply a story of one young man’s quest, set in the landscape of a collapsing world.” 

You can read the entire review here: https://www.cmreviews.ca/node/3824

And we had a terrific event at Take Cover Books!

It was a very full two hours signing books and visiting with friends, new and old, at Take Cover Books last month - a truly wonderful event at Peterborough's new and only independent bookstore. Thanks, owners Andrew and Sean and everyone who took the time to come out and help make this happen!

Signing and selling books at Millbrook's Christmas in the Village Thursday, December 7, 5-9 p.m.

If you missed me at Take Cover Books I will be signing and selling my book along with other local authors Kellie McKenty and Tony Parks at 19 King St. E. in downtown Millbrook. Christmas in the Village is a long-held event celebrating the beginning of the season with free horse-drawn wagon rides, street vendors and all the stores open late and sharing good cheer. Hope to see you there!

The return of the independent bookstore

I have been inordinately excited about the recent opening of a new independent bookstore in Peterborough, the nearest large commercial centre to the village of Millbrook where I live. It is called Take Cover Books, on Hunter Street in East City, and is owned and operated by two brothers, Sean and Andrew, who love books. 

Take Cover is the newest (and currently only) local bookstore to surface since Chapters/Indigo and then Amazon gave the one-two punch to almost every smaller city’s independents across the country. I have been making books long enough to remember the heyday of Canadian publishing (especially children's book publishing) when smaller publishers, librarians and independent booksellers worked together to bring Canadian books to Canadians. Beginning in the 70’s and continuing to flourish through to the early 2000’s, it was inspired by a national movement to support and encourage Canadian content in our schools, libraries and bookstores after decades of domination by American and British publishing.  There were two huge conventions held in Toronto, the Canadian Bookseller’s Association (CBA) and the OLA (Ontario Library Association) conferences where publishers, booksellers and librarians came together from Ontario and across the country to participate and see the year’s new crop of published books. In conjunction with this there were a number of national book conferences (Serendipity in Vancouver and Word Fest in Calgary, just to name two) that occurred regularly to promote Canadian literature. It was all driven by a committed group of book enthusiasts intent on supporting Canadian content, and at the very heart of it all was the independent bookseller.

Almost all of that is gone now or is only a shadow of what it was. That is partly because of new technology, new draws on how people choose to spend their money other than on books. Yet we are told that there are more books being bought today than ever (although we are reading fewer of them!) so maybe it has more to do with how books are sold.

It was mostly the co-opting of our bookselling industry by mega-players. We all know Amazon is evil. But the large chain bookstores are mostly carbon copies with little local autonomy. When I asked our local Chapters about stocking my book (not self-published, carried by a large Canadian distributor) I was told that all purchasing is initiated by head office! The only way I was able to have my book carried in my local store was to arrange for a signing, a cheerless four hours where I was given a table and abandoned, with customers studiously avoiding eye contact as they hurried past. Not even the staff came over to see what I was doing there!

The reason independents were (and still are!) such an important part of book culture is that they actually know their stock and know what their customers want. Their customers are invested as well in seeing the store thrive. Sean and Andrew, Take Cover’s co-owners, both love books, read profusely, and are familiar with many of the titles on their shelves. If you ask for a recommendation they will have one, no matter what your interests. If you want a book they don't have they will gladly bring it in. They put out a regular newsletter (you can subscribe here) that gives a run down of new arrivals as well as in depth features on books that they have recently read. They have an online book club you can join here. They organize author and book events that are actually promoted and supported by them and their customers, who also love books. Including mine

Andrew and Sean tell me that, with their generation at least, there is a push back to the Amazons and mega chains in this world, with a real desire to support local and small and use purchase dollars to make a difference in this world. I hope they are right - we need to push back against the soulless and mindless commercialism we are all being herded towards. I tell everyone I meet that Peterborough has a new independent bookstore.

Spread the word.

Book signing at Take Cover Books, Saturday, November 18, 2023, 12 a.m. to 2 p.m.

That's about it. I will be at Take Cover, hanging out, talking about my book, signing books and sharing some of the art and conceptual work around creating a graphic novel. If you haven't been to the store yet this is as good a time as ever to drop by! The store is at 59 Hunter Street East in East City. Hope to see you there!

My very own book trailer!

I have the best publisher in the world. On a cold Alberta winter day Alexander at Renegade shlepped out onto a frozen river with an advance copy of Secrets of Jarrow, propped it up in the snow, and then shot this video with a drone. Too cool.

And finally...

If you haven't signed up for my newsletter yet you have missed another preview, this time from Book 3! The sign up form is below...

My favourite post-apocalyptic vegetable

It's been a busy month so I thought I would re-post my October newsletter for those who may not have yet subscribed. If you would like to stay abreast of what is happening in the world of Mordecai Crow as well as get a few sneak peaks of work in progress, click on the subscribe button at the bottom of this page.

I’ve decided butternut squash is now my post-apocalyptic vegetable of choice. 

I subscribe to a few comic creator newsletters and I'm in awe of their busy schedules, new releases, and appearances at comic conventions around the globe. But I don’t envy them. My fall is a bit simpler. My second book is now off to be prepared for printing and I am back in my happy space, having just pencilled and inked page 100 of the third Mordecai Crow volume. Which is why all my news this month is more about foraging and less about my book!

Working on Mordecai Crow has got me to thinking quite a bit about how one might survive in a post-apocalyptic world. So back to the butternut squash. We harvested almost 20 of these big beautiful brutes this year and after growing them last year discovered that they keep fine for most of the winter. That could be a nuclear winter, a "Golly, climate change caused the Gulf Stream to just stop!" sort of winter, or what have you. A long time. So now we are self-sufficient in both garlic and squash when the apocalypse comes. It’s a start.

The fact that we are half way through October and have not yet had a frost is one of the few upsides to climate change, meaning our garden lives to a healthy old age and now dies a natural death. Thirty years ago, when we first moved to the country, our garden would regularly be struck down mid-September by a killer frost, with us scrambling to save what we could and bringing bushels of green tomatoes indoors to ripen off the vine. Not anymore. It probably means nasty diseases, insects and other unforeseen horrors will also thrive while species that can’t adapt will perish. But at least our garden will do well - barring floods, droughts, fires…

October is also my favourite foraging month. Elm oyster mushrooms, one of my favourite mushrooms to forage as they are so easy to identify, come out in the first couple of weeks in October. My partner is not fond of them, so I find people to lure into foraging with me because it's a fun as an Easter egg hunt!
Here's a video that will help you identify them:

It’s also when the silver berries ripen, an introduced species that now grows wild - there are many related species that grow throughout the world, but they are not well known here. I know a sunny hillside in the woods where we picked two kilos of them in a short amount of time in early October and there were still bushels left for the bears and chipmunks (which the Internet tells me are our major rivals). 
Also known as autumn olive (for its leaf, not the berry) you can read about it here: https://steemit.com/nature/@seedvault/foraging-in-ontario-autumn-olive

And this year my partner, on learning how good they are for you, began harvesting some of the black walnuts that surround our yard. They are surprisingly good, walnutty but a bit greener tasting and native to this area. But beware the dye in the husks which can turn your hands brown, even if you are wearing latex gloves, and be prepared to use a hammer to break through the shell! 


Personally I would miss not being able to buy most of my groceries at the store, but I’m constantly surprised how novel the idea of foraging our food from the wild seems to be to so many people when every other wild species on the planet survives by doing exactly that. Of course, there are too many of us (a hunter gatherer group needs seven to 500 square miles to survive) but by every measure imaginable, hunter gathers were healthier, happier and longer-lived than their agrarian counterparts. Than us. So go forage…

Keeping up with Comics

Speaking of newsletters that I follow, I thought I would share a couple of my favourites. These aren't creator newsletters, but rather a great way to stay up to date with what is happening in the world of comics.

The Comics Journal

I really like this one. More my speed, not so much superheroes but rather indie comics and stuff that will never be franchised into a summer blockbuster. Here is their link with a newsletter subscription box part way down. https://www.tcj.com/

True North Country Comics Newsletter

John Swiminer, the driving force behind True North, not only produces a regular podcast with comic creators but also does a great round up of Canadian comic news in his regular newsletter, which can be subscribed to here: https://tnc.news/subscribe/