Who needs a garden? I can see these sunny coreopsis blossoms from the window of my writing studio. They brighten my day and remind me that the wild world all around is as beautiful as gardens--and a heckuva lot less work. These beauties make a very fine dye. A couple of years ago, I gathered a big basket of blossoms, dried them, and dyed some wool samples. In an acid solution, coreopsis produces a yellow dye; in alkaline, a red dye. (That's the short of it; the long of it is more complicated.)
The Hill Country wildflowers are splendid this year, because of the rain. The monarda (spotted horsemint is its less romantic name) is blooming along our gravel road. Meadow Marsh is full of basket flowers, and the buffalo gourd's bright yellow flowers brighten the old gravel road to the abandoned corral. Along the road to Burnet, the standing cypress is a brilliant red stalk, with white oxe-eye daisies and lantana (the wild sort) at its feet. Everywhere we look,we see something to make us smile--and to love this place on the earth even more.
And it's fawn-time. A week or so ago, we saw this little guy where his mom had left him, nestled in the grass. Last night at dusk, he was frolicking after Mom as she grazed through the meadow, pure long-legged, leaping joy, a celebration of ecstatic life and living. Something else to keep us smiling, and watching, and loving this place.
Kitchen garden report. But yes, we do need a garden, and the veggies are also doing well right now. In another week, I'll be making tomato sauce, and already we have zucchini and yellow squash to give away. The beans (Kentucky Wonder and McCaslan) are coming on, and I've planted the sweet potato slips that got off to a good start on the window sill. The girls are giving us a half-dozen eggs a day, and entertaining us to boot.
Travel news. Mid-week, Bill and I are driving up to St. Louis for the Herb Society's 2013 conference, where I'm keynoting. These days, it's rare for both of us to be gone at once, because of the animals. But for this short trip, a neighbor is minding the chickens, the dogs/cat are going to the kennel, and Blossom (the cow) is on her own. It'll be good to get away for a few days and see a different landscape.
Book stuff. I have two projects cooking at the same time right now. Most days, I'm working on the Darling Dahlias 2014 mystery, The DDs & the Silver Dollar Bush. The 2013 book, The DDs & the Texas Star, will be out in September. The other project is A Wilder Rose, my novel about Rose Wilder Lane--journalist,bestselling author, world traveler, and the coauthor of the Little House books--which comes out under my own imprint in October. The e-galley is posted on NetGalley now, so if you're a book blogger/reviewer and would like a copy, please email me at susan at susanalbert dot com and I'll send you an invitation to download it to whatever device you're reading on these days.
UPDATE: If you're a NetGalley reviewer and you want to download the e-galley, hang on. There's a display problem with the text. We'll get it fixed ASAP.
Reading note. Love makes you see a place differently, just as you hold differently an object that belongs to someone you love. If you know one landscape well, you will look at all other landscapes differently. And if you learn to love one place, sometimes you can also learn to love another.--Anne Michaels
I'm guest-posting over at the Story Circle blog, HerStories, this week. The topic: How I came to write about Rose Wilder Lane and the Little House books. The story goes back to my childhood love affair with all eight of the books and my surprise when I read the ninth. For the details, read the post.
The Texas Prairie parsley (Polytaenia texana) put on a big show along our creek this spring, in the Back of Beyond, and hosted a gang of swallowtail caterpillars, sometimes called by the inglorious name, parsleyworms.To show how much they love this plant, the caterpillars have literally denuded most of them. They don't seem to eat the blooms, though, so most plants are setting seed, ensuring the swallowtails a good food source for next year's caterpillars.
Prairie parsley is often called "wild dill," but it's not a good idea to substitute it for garden dill in food. It's a member of the carrot family and it has several poisonous look-alike relatives. The toxins are part of the caterpillar's survival scheme, however: the toxins make the parsleyworms taste bad, so birds avoid them. For other native plants that host swallowtails (and some lovely butterfly photos!), check out Carole Sevilla Brown's excellent post.
Book Report. I was delighted this week to get the proof copy of A Wilder Rose, which will be out in
October. I've received a great many proof copies in my nearly 30 years as an author, but this pleases me more than most because it's coming out under my own imprint, Persevero Press. The process has given me an inside look into the book business that I would never have had if I'd played it safe and gone with a traditional publisher. The review copies will be here next week and I'll be mailing them out. Review copies will also be available digitally and on NetGalley.
This book is different, too, because it helped me revisit my past life as a research scholar. In the process, it led to an interesting and thought-provoking correspondence with a number of other scholars who have studied and written about Rose and her mother: William Holtz, whose biography of Rose, Ghost in the Little House, was an enormously helpful resource; William Anderson, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography; John E. Miller, who has written three books about Laura, including Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane; and Anita Fellman,Little House, Long Shadow. I've included many references to their work in the Reader's Companion that will be available as a free download from the book's website, so you can see where and how their writings have shaped influenced my fiction.
And this book is really different because of the work that's gone into it. I began the research in 1990 or so. I simply cannot count the number of hours, days, weeks I've put into it over the past 23 years. I'll have to write a post on that, when I get a little time.
Reading note: “Research" is a wonderful word for writers. It serves as excuse for everything.--Rayne Hall.