Blackberry Winter


During the author’s childhood, she listened to the many stories she overheard her grandmother, Leta Oesch, and her great-grandmother telling about life in Canada. After her own daughter was born she was determined to preserve this family lore in a book about her grandmother’s life.

Blackberry Winter is the story of Leta Oesch, a young girl growing up in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. In 1903, Leta’s parents traveled in covered wagons from Nebraska to Canada to homestead in the Northwest Territories. It was a harsh, unforgiving land where only the strongest could survive — a land where the temperature could range from 110 degrees in summer to 60 degrees below zero in winter. Born in a log cabin during a blizzard, Leta grew up on the farm in northern Canada where time seemed to stand still. Work on the homestead was hard and never-ending. She helped her father clear the land and plant the crops, as well as breaking wild ponies and oxen. She learned the many ways to preserve food, how to keep the farm animals’ drinking water from freezing solid, how to keep the chickens from freezing to death in the coop, how to keep their feet from freezing to the roost, and much, much more.

At nineteen, she fell in love and married Dan Keogh, a U.S. citizen with wanderlust, and her life changed quickly and drastically. The tragedies and triumphs that take her from Canada to Southern California, through the Great Depression and World War II, are chronicled here. Leta’s journey, written in a charming narrative style, touches on five generations and includes photographs of the homestead, friends, and family.

Olivia Dee Clancy

(2004), 2016, 5½x8½, paper, 388 pp.

ISBN: 9780788425691