Works in Progress September 2022

We’re finally getting a reprieve from the long string of brutal 100-plus degree-days that plagued us this summer. The hummingbirds are migrating south now, this one enjoying the turk’s cap, one of my favorite Texas natives. (Photo: my brother, John Webber). But nectar flowers aren’t plentiful in September, so we keep refilling the bottles of hummingbird hooch on our front porch–plenty of buzzing, high-velocity traffic, dawn to dark.

We’re all grateful for September, I think. The spring fawns have lost their spots and are deer-size now; they come in the evenings to browse the mustang grape leaves on the meadow fence. The little flock of six young turkeys and their turkey mom survived coyotes and arrive most mornings, eager for the corn I leave for them under the cedar tree. Yesterday, a pair of yellow warblers enjoyed splashing in the bird bath. Soon, we’ll hear the wild calls of the sandhill cranes high overhead, on their way south to the Rio Grande valley. After the long, stagnant summer, life feels as if it’s beginning again.

It’s been a busy summer for us. We sold our New Mexico cabin. The new owners have a large family and are looking forward to vacations and family weekends in the mountains. Bill has just finished moving us out and cleaning up after our 20 years there–I’m sure you can imagine what that job was like. (Now we have to find places for all that stuff!) But it was time to close that chapter.

While Bill was doing the heavy lifting in New Mexico, I held the fort here at Meadow Knoll, managing the chickens and the dog, writing and working on my current cross stitch project. Molly, our ancient heeler, no longer travels well and would be terribly unhappy in the kennel. We were told she was 4 when she came to us in 2008, which makes her 18 this year, and feeling her age. (Aren’t we all?) The Girls are molting–feathers all over the place. If they keep this up, they’ll be naked before their new feathers grow in.

The cross stitch project (Charles Wysocki’s “Quilts for Sale”) is progressing. As you can see, I started in the top left, working across the top third of this all-over pattern. I draw in a numbered grid (so I can see where I’m going). In June, I began using Pattern Keeper, software that tracks every stitch and takes most of the frustration out of complex chartwork. A genuine game-changer. I love it.







On the writing desk, two projects. One is a new mystery, Forget Me Never, for all you China Bayles fans. (The signature herb, if you haven’t guessed: forget-me-not.) I’m about a third of the way through it. The other is the Reader’s Companion to Someone Always Nearby, a novel about Maria Chabot and Georgia O’Keeffe. I’ll have a publishing update on that for you in another week or two. The Companion compiles the extensive research behind the novel, like the Companion I did for A Wilder Rose.

I’ve been getting a lot of mail about The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker. Yes, the similarities between corrupt politician Huey P. Long and the former president are real and unmistakably clear. No, I did not make it up or stretch the truth. Yes, Long was really killed by accident–at least, according to the book, Accident and Deception: The Huey Long Shooting By Donald A. Pavy, which makes very good sense to me. Read it for yourself and see what you think. And yes, unless we remember the past (as Santayana says), we are doomed to repeat it, as our current experience seems to illustrate.

It wasn’t a pleasant summer for those who care about what’s happening to our democracy, which is (don’t forget it) also a work in progress. And there are a tough couple of months ahead. Reproductive rights, voting rights, Second Amendment issues, inclusion–they’re on the ballot in November. Please, do what you can to ensure that our country does not slide backward into the past we thought we had left behind.

Your works-in-progress? I’d love to hear what keeping your hands and hearts busy as we turn toward autumn and winter. I can’t reply to everyone, but I read and enjoy all. Thanks for sharing. And do be civil, please.

Reading note. Happiness is not a finished product, it is a work in progress.― Khang Kijarro Nguyen


60 comments on “Works in Progress September 2022

  1. Amen, Lydia. In the words of an old hymn, care for others is the tie that binds our community together. A current example (we could find many): the compassion of the good people of Martha’s Vineyard for the migrants who were told they would find jobs waiting when they arrived by plane yesterday.

  2. Do you mean those far left Democrats who want to help students, workers and retirees and also fight Climate Change for our kids and grandkids? Sounds like something that Jesus would approve of.
    On the other side, the Republican leaders have announced that if they gain power they will try to gut both Social Security and Medicare. They already are against free lunches for poor kids, keep trying to cut food stamps for poor working people and even voted against paying for medical care for our veterans exposed to toxic burn pits! That doesn’t sound very Christian to me.

  3. I did very much notice your comparison of Long to President Trump in Red Hot Pocker. Trump wasn’t anything like the socialist Long. Trump is a conservative and patriot.

    I can only hope that conservative Republicans can take back Congress and save our country from the far left democrats.

  4. I love doing crossstitch, especially now the more challenging ones. I will check out the Pattern Keeper for sure! I have put one crossstitch aside for now to make a needlepoint Christmas stocking for our only grandchild, Julia. We never thought we’d have any grandchildren, so she is a joy and delight! My husband and I are smitten!💞 I hope we can leave her a better world with more rights, not less!!

  5. I hadn’t thought about the similarities between The Kingfish and Donal Trump until I started reading about Long in the latest Dahlia books. Thanks! (though I do think Long had a few redeeming features.)

  6. I don’t usually comment but I just HAVE to this month. I absolutely love your current cross stitch project, but more importantly, I appreciate the “Huey Long/our former president” comparison. With you and Bill where you are, there IS hope for Texas!

  7. I did some of those puzzles too, Diana–never thought of framing them! Calligraphy would be a lovely skill to have. I’m old enough to remember being taught Palmer with an actual inkwell in my first-grade desk (would you believe?) and a wooden pen with silvery nibs.

  8. I am a fan of Charles Wysocki and have many of his puzzles completed and preserved hanging on my office walls. The cross-stitch is beautiful. I am going back and reading The Darling Dahlia’s books in order from the beginning. This series has really captured my heart (although I like China Bayles as well). I am also a Texan and am currently working hybrid for firms in New England and practicing my calligraphy almost every day. At some point I will reach out to wedding planners as I used to address envelopes and invitation cards and really enjoyed it. Thank goodness fall is here!

  9. True–they’re aloof. At least, my 2 were. Bill isn’t a Siamese fan, though. Hoping a cat will prefer his lap to mine. 🙂

  10. I’m a full-coverage fan. And I like big projects, so I don’t have to keep looking for something else to work on. 🙂 Thanks for the tip to Cross Stitch Studio.

  11. Thank you for this. So well said: “What amazes me is the fact that we should have to fight for rights already ours.”

  12. You’re more optimistic than I, Susan. Yes, it will be behind us, historically. But if we’re not watchful, it will be with us and we will be in its control. That could easily have happened in 1936, if Long hadn’t been out of the picture. If he had run then, he might easily have lost the popular vote but won the electoral college–same thing that happened in 2016.

  13. Yes, estate sales. That’s on our minds for later–but so much work! (As I’m sure you know . . .)

  14. Yes, you’ve had the heat AND the floods! Hope you weren’t one of the folks who woke up to water in their living rooms.

  15. On yes, Florida Man, taking lessons from the Former Guy. Thanks for the reminder about forget-me-nots’ invasiveness. Here, it’s far too dry for that kind of behavior.

  16. OMG–2 quarts of hooch a day for bees! (Here, bees come to the cracked corn I put out for the turkeys. I wonder if they think it’s yellow pollen.) Hope yours don’t move in. At the NM cabin, we did have an invasion of bees one winter.

  17. Happy birthday! And I understand about bears and bird food. We had to be mindful of them at our NM cabin.

  18. I’ve been thinking of getting another cat but not sure I want a stitching pal in my lap. Had to laugh at your frogging tale. I once knitted a bulky-yarn poncho thingy for my MIL–when it was done, it was so heavy she couldn’t wear it. Frogged, transformed into an afghan. We laughed about that.

  19. Becky, I’ve heard of socks on 2 circs but never got up the courage to try. You’re a brave woman–and definitely right about being bored with Sock #2. I have a pair that lacks just the cuff on #2.

  20. Kudos to you for library support! Who would ever have imagined that people who want to control what others read might take our libraries away from us?

  21. Done–he says “thank you.” He has a talented eye and an amazing camera. We weren’t close as kids or adults, but now as seniors, we’re an important part of each other’s lives.

  22. Jane, if you haven’t looked into Pattern Keeper, do. There are sections of Wysockie’s “Quilts” that I wouldn’t attempt without it. Plus, it’s interesting and fun to do. There’s a FB group that shares tips and issues. I was able to upload the Wysocki pdf into it without difficulty, even though that designer isn’t on the supported list. Enjoy Hyde Park–we uncovered some really interesting anarchist history there, learned things my history profs never taught..

  23. Ah,another China Bayles book? Somehow I had gotten the idea Hemlock was to be the last of that series. Right now I am enjoying you and your husband as Robin Paige. Loving them!! “Death in Hyde Park” just came in today’s mail. Had the thought recently that I haven’t done any cross-stitch lately and there was the one you are working on… I love Charles Wysocki and am a quilter. :o) Had quite a time finding the pattern, but did, and it is on the way. Delighted I signed up up for you newsletter and that I found you… and yours… and am off to Hyde Park and an adventure with Charles and Kathryn. Thank you.

  24. A kind soul on Ravelry solved that problem for me by convincing me it’s okay to own duplicate sets. I tag-team the socks; cuff/cuff, leg/leg, heel flap/heel flap etc etc.
    Second sock is finished ten minutes after the first, and no giant snarl of socks and yarn balls.
    And I love to listen to audiobooks while I knit. Best of both worlds.

  25. While you already know I love you and love hearing about the home front as well as your writing world, please be sure and give John kudos from me this time around for that unbelievably beautiful photo! Oh My Gosh!!!

  26. Here in Albuquerque I’ll be looking forward to and looking for the Sandhill cranes that are leaving you.. Also looking forward to a new China Bayles book; thank you. Keeping busy writing letters to encourage people to vote, and knitting baby afghans. People keep having babies; the optimist in me sees this as hope for the future.

  27. Here in Florida we are also looking forward to cooler weather. I have been making Gardener’s Hand Scrub, Tuscan Seasoning Salt and Tuscan White Wine Vinegar. My garden club is raising money to revamp our local library’s tired courtyard. So much fun to see my abundance of herbs going to a good cause. Loved Red Hot Poker. So timely.

  28. Thank you as always for your updates on your lovely projects, writing, your home and thoughts. I am grateful for all of them.
    Though I live in Portland, OR now, my family is from Bertram and Mahomet. And I sometimes visit some family still left in Burnet and Marblemount. The beauty of your descriptions of nature (and the wonderful Hummie photo taken by your brother) always make me want to get on a plane.
    Thank you for everything and I’ll be on the lookout for that new book!

  29. You and China B. and the Dahlias help me navigate this difficult time. It’s funny that, although I knew about the corruption of those two evil politicians, I did not connect their remarkable similarities until I read the Dahlia book. It also helped give insight on how they drew in the vulnerable and disenchanted so easily. Thanks for your continued writing. I love to learn while being entertained. And, PS, herbs have been a hobby my whole long adult life. That’s what first drew me to your books.

  30. Also appreciate your comments on our country not going back but going ahead in all the ways we can including voting for the person running for governor. He needs our backing and votes come November💯Sending as much as I can to this candidate and others to keep the momentum going for the sake of ALL in This Country.THEIR Choice in Freedoms OUR COUNTRY To PRESERVE THat RIGHT 👍

  31. I do enjoy your posts! I love knitting, mostly socks lately, although I take a break when our Texas summers get too hot. I use 2 circular needles, knitting both socks at once. (When I used double-pointed needles and finished the first sock, I’d be totally bored with that pattern and want to move on.) I have a basic pattern for the foot and adapt cuff patterns from blanket and sweater patterns. Knitting patterns still fascinate me after 65 years of knitting (I’m 77). Knitting while watching cable news all evening keeps me fairly calm, but before bed, I have to read a few chapters of a mystery to be able to sleep. I”m so looking forward to your next book!

  32. What a wonderful post! Critters (wow on your brother’s outstanding photograph), but also your poetic narrative about the others at this time of seasonal change. And of course, your own changes, upcoming books, and delightful response to what we all loved a lot about Red Hot Poker!

  33. I’m eagerly anticipating the new China Bayles.
    And the parallel between Long and The Former Guy–even to the creep of fascism again in Europe. We have seen this movie before.
    After a summer with very little knitting, due not to the heat but to the presence of a new and very active Keeshond puppy (wild leaps into the lap, snatching and running) I have finally started again. First I made a double mohair hat, knitting mostly in church sans puppy.
    Just frogged a hat that I made last spring that grew to the size of a toddler sleeping bag when I washed it. Started over–too small. Frogged and started again.
    Maybe once it’s done I can go back to sock knitting on pointy sticks, as Ruby would probably call the DPNs.

  34. I can’t put out any kind of food for birds because we have bears in the neighborhood. I used to have a window box at the window where I sit at the computer and hummingbirds would come, but no more.

    September is always a good time for me as my birthday is the 7th. It’s my New Years every year.

  35. Greetings from Central Ontario.
    ‘MY hummies’ left on Labour Day-about a week earlier than usual- heading your way. Before they left, they were being harassed by honeybees desperate for sweetness. I have continued putting out ‘hummingbird juice’ for the bees, & am now up to 2 quarts a day. I worry about the bee populations. I only hope they don’t decide to move in for the winter!
    On a reading note-I have read all your books except the one about Georgia O’Keeffe-and enjoyed them all, with their differing tones.
    long distance hug

  36. You are not the only one to see the Huey Long parallels – and I see Florida Man trying to repeat that error, as well.

    It’ll be interesting to see what China does with forget-me-nots. They’re gorgeous in the spring but they get into EVERYTHING so I wind up ripping a lot of ’em up and into the compost when the blooms die back. I just read the Enterprise trilogy and that relationship works, as the phrase goes, ‘on so many levels.’

  37. Patricia, you’re right about that wildfire research getting too personal. Exactly my thought, when I was watching the (excellent) updates by the Forest Service on the unstoppable Hermit’s Peak fire. I could have written a better book if that real fire had happened first! I don’t ever hate a book, but I sometime get very tired of it and almost never go back to reread–although this summer, I read the last dozen books in the China series, just to catch up with events and people. An interesting process. Good luck with your mystery!

  38. Eager to read your next books. Just read your trio set at the newspaper and was fascinated by the wildfire research you included. Made me think of the danger your cabin faced. Research getting a little too personal!
    I’ve finished writing my mystery and am sending it out Monday to an agent who has agreed to read it. Either I’ll find a publisher or self publish. My goal is to get it out there so I can finish the next one. Do you ever get to a point where you hate your own book? Luckily I got over that and like it again. First book jitters.

  39. I am a devoted fan of the China Bayles books. Can’t wait to get my hands on “Forget Me Never.” Hope it will be published soon. In the meantime, I hope you, your husband and your menagerie are doing well. I’ve never been to Bertram, Texas, but i am sure it’s a great place to live. I currently (and permanently) live in Dallas and believe me, our summers here were brutal as well. Hoping for a long Indian summer and will keep my fingers crossed! Buena suerte on your continued excellent writing career!

  40. Glad to hear there’s a new China Baylis to anticipate. Having just moved from the house that was home for 44 years, I empathize with what to do with things. My solution was an estate sale.

  41. Your current cross stitch is absolutely breathtaking. I especially enjoyed the Darling Dahlias: the Red Hot Poker, noting how it compared to our current political situation. Amazing. I will be so glad when this is all behind us, and someday it will be. Excited to hear about the work progressing on the new China Bayles book. Love China and her cohorts so very much. Keep up the good work on all fronts, and enjoy Fall.

  42. I always enjoy China Bayles and the dahlias. And waiting always for the next one to be released. I recently finished the red hot poker and it did not disappoint. I have just started getting this newsletter. I totally agree with everything said about our country’s upheaval. What amazes me is the fact that we should have to fight for rights already ours. Thank you

  43. I am a cross stitcher and have only been doing full coverage for a bit. I have bought a number of patterns from TheCrossStitchStudio and love their patterns. Pattern Keeper is a game changer for larger patterns. Yes we all need to vote this November so we don’t go back.

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