Friday, May 22, 2009

In the Season Thereof...

Rhubarb season is upon us! It doesn’t rate rave reviews any more, but rural folks used to look forward to the first harvest of the season: a tangy vegetable, loaded with Vitamin C, that’ll make you pucker if you eat it raw, but is delicious in pies and cobblers. I used to make a rhubarb custard pie that was out of this world, but that’s a subject for another blog.

I was thinking about rhubarb the other day and how, after a winter of eating only vegetables that could be stored in a root cellar: potatoes, carrots, cabbage , apples (though you couldn’t store the cabbage and apples together in the same place, because they would make each other go bad quickly), anyway, after a winter of bland veggies, the rhubarb must have been a singular delight to rural people of previous centuries. Spring tonic, they called it.

I often give thanks, as we ask the blessing on the food, that I live in a time with wonderful agricultural and transportation facilities so that the most common of us can eat food out of season throughout the year. Who’d a thunk it? No one in Sierra County, New Mexico, in the year I was born.

But, at the same time, something has been lost—that once-a-year specialness that attended the ripening of each crop, beginning with rhubarb. Each succeeding surprise, from strawberries to raspberries to cherries to blueberries and blackberries to apples, each advent was anticipated and relished and remembered long after the plants had withered with the frosty winds of fall.

There are a few things that remain as once-a-year blessings. Like Pacific Northwest strawberries. You won’t find them shipped fresh across the country, because they don’t last. Dark red and sweet, they’re unsubstantial as the river mist, and if not eaten soon after picking, they melt away. The season begins about mid June and is almost over on July 4th. I can hardly wait.

Another once-a-year delight is sweet corn. Oh, you can buy corn in the market right now. It’s corn season somewhere in the world. But there’s nothing as good as just-picked corn. The minute the ear is pulled from the stalk, the sweetness starts to disappear, so the quicker you can get it husked and cooked, the better it will taste. That’s why good corn is a once-a-year, straight-from-your (or neighbor’s)-garden affair.

And then there are lilacs. Is there fragrance that can compare with theirs? That’s a once-a-year treat that I look forward to. Again, it’s a short season but filled with the double sensory delight of scent and sight.

The picture is of my four-year-old lilac bush that must have heard me threatening to pull it out and run it through the chipper if it didn't start blooming pretty soon. It managed to squeeze out four blooms, so I let it live.

Last on my current list of once-a-year treats is my neighbor’s flowering cherry tree. Two weeks, max, I get to enjoy the rosy splendor of that tree before the petals fall and blow across the street to edge my lawn in pink drifts. It’s already over, and I’m glad I have the picture to augment the memory.

So, what about you. What, besides Christmas, do you wait all year for?

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Roundup of Memories Contest

The last five sentences in my just-out book, Counting the Cost, go like this:

Ruth stood and searched through the brightening vista for the source of that sound. At last, she saw it. It was the jingling of the trace chains on Ollie's chuck wagon as his outfit moved out on the spring work. For today was the sixth of May. The day after Cinco de Mayo.

Counting the Cost is based on the life of my uncle, a cowboy. It is full of family history, and to celebrate that, Inglestone Publishing is hosting a Roundup of Memories, and we're doing it when Heck Benham, our hero, would have been out on the spring work.

You can participate as a Blogger-about-the-contest, as a Memory-poster, or do both.

For Bloggers (if you're not a blogger, skip down to Memory-poster part):

1. Post a blog inviting your readers to share a short (300-500 words) favorite family memory or family history story. (Use the information in the Memory-poster section.)

2. Post your blog sometime between today and May 13.
3. After you post, send an e-mail with a link to . Your blog will be added to the list that will appear on Inglestone's blog, on my blog, and that will be transmitted to the 3,000 names on Cecily Markland's Bee-line list.

4. When you send the link, give us your mailing address for a thank-you gift. We'll send a copy of my booklet, Using Family History in Fiction, plus your choice of:

· A copy of Counting the Cost or

· A “gold nugget bag” of chocolate coins

So, let us know if you'd rather have the book or the chocolate. Tough choice.

For Memory Posters:

1. Submissions should be a memory of your own or a story of one of your own ancestors.
Submissions should be 300 to 500 words long and you may submit as many as you wish.

2. To submit your entries, simply visit, click on the Roundup of Memories image near the top of the home page, then fill out the simple form. Or, click here, and it will take you to the form.

3. Submit entries by May 20. Selected submissions will be published on the Inglestone Publishing Web site; and the winners will be announced May 25.

Contest winners will receive:

An autographed copy of Counting the Cost
Copy of Using Family History in Fiction
Gold nugget bag of chocolate coins

Grand Prize Winner will receive all of the above, PLUS $10 gift certificate to

So there you go. I'm fascinated, as I teach workshops and do firesides on Writing Family History in Fiction, at the stories people share that are parts of their family history. These are things that need to be written down, and if you don't write them, who will?

Here's a way to get a memory or two down on paper. You'll be preserving something for posterity AND getting chocolate in the bargain. It doesn't get any better than that.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Winner of the Drawing for a Spider Latham Mystery

In case you haven't read my last blog, I just offered one of my Spider Latham mysteries to people who commented. Today was the day to draw names to see who got the final book

I wrote down the names on scraps of paper, folded them up, put them in a basket and asked my husband to draw a piece of paper. He resisted until I assured him it wasn't a new way of serving up a 'honey do' ist.

The name he drew was: Christine Thackeray.

Congratulations, Christine. If you'll tell me which of the three Spider Latham books you want, I'll send it to you.

Options are: The Lodger, After Goliath and Snakewater Affair. You don't have to read them in order.

Email me at and let me know your address.

We're going to be having another contest for a copy of Counting the Cost and chocolate, beginning Cinco de Mayo. I'll tell you more about it tomorrow.

Thanks to all who stopped by for the contest, even if you didn't comment.