In Bloom This Week: Gayfeather

This week, the Hill Country meadows are punctuated with purple exclamation points. This lavender beauty is gayfeather (Liatris spicata), or blazing star, also called snakeroot and colic root. Mrs. Grieve, in her Modern Herbal (not so modern: 1929) reports that the plant was used as a diuretic, as a topical treatment for sore throat, to treat snakebite, […]

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In Bloom This Week: Eryngo

This bristly beauty (Eryngium leavenworthii) is blooming all across Meadow Knoll this week, turning the fields a brilliant purple. I know what you’re thinking: that it looks a lot like a thistle. But it isn’t, although one of its folk names is Coyote Thistle–which you will understand if you remember that Coyote is a trickster […]

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Work in Progress: August 2021

August and September are butterfly months here in the Texas Hill Country. The blue mistflower (wild ageratum, Conoclinium coelestinum) is blooming, and the blooms seduce whole flocks of queen butterflies. When I walk past the mistflower bed dozens of queens flutter up, disturbed–the minute I’m gone, they settle back again. There are painted ladies, viceroys, […]

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Work In Progress July 2021: Maria and Georgia

Some of you may remember back to 2015, when I first considered writing a biographical novel about Georgia O’Keeffe’s later life. I spent a year or so reading and visiting the O’Keeffe sites at Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu, which aren’t far from our cabin in New Mexico. However, although I deeply admire O’Keeffe’s work, the […]

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Work In Progress: June 2021

My current cross stitch work-in-progress is from a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe, one of my favorite artists. I admire the way she looks deeply into a flower. She finds so much to be seen and reveals it so intimately. This one is “Red Canna.” As you can see from the imprint on the fabric, at […]

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In Bloom This Week: Texas Bluebells

My favorite Texas wildflower is blooming in the little scrap of wetland we call Meadow Marsh. We’re lucky to have the native Texas bluebells, Eustoma exaltatum, aka blue gentian, prairie gentian, and blue marsh lily. They truly are exalted, and for me, the loveliest of all our Hill Country wildflowers. The medicinal use of these […]

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Work In Progress: May 2021

One of the many happy privileges I’ve enjoyed in nearly four decades as a full-time writer is the ability to choose my own work. Nobody has ever tried to tell me what to write. Well, maybe some, like those who don’t like China Bayles’ liberal opinions and want to tell her what to think. But […]

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A Family Mystery

Nearly 40 years ago, an older family member confided to me that, according to secret family lore, my father–born in 1903, the youngest of four children–was not the son of Granny Amy’s husband, Granddad Fred. Neither my brother nor I found this to be very surprising; it explained our father’s estrangement from his brothers and […]

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In Bloom This Week: Evening Primroses

The pink blooms cascading down our creek bank this week belong to the evening primrose (Oenothera biennis). It’s not just pretty, though. It’s an all-around useful plant. I’ve read that primrose leaves can be cooked like greens–maybe I’ll add a few to the next batch of kale. The roots can be boiled like potatoes and […]

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