Dear MysteryPartners' Friends,
2011 is nearly gone—a year of difficult challenge and deep satisfaction.
You're probably aware of the challenging impact of climate change in your own part of the country—heavy snows, flooding, wind. Here in Texas, 2011 brought the worst drought and hottest summer on record, with what seemed like unending days of blistering heat, without a cloud in the sky—not even a decent tropical storm to bring relief! While there have been some welcome showers in the past few weeks, we're expecting another dry winter and spring, courtesy of a lingering La Nina weather system. At Meadow Knoll, this has meant a difficult gardening year, dying trees, poor grass for our cattle, a disastrous impact on wildlife, a shrinking aquifer—and a new and deeper water well, our Christmas gift to each other. All across Texas, towns are running out of water, farmers and ranchers are suffering, and tourist businesses on the lakes have gone out of business. We're all deeply concerned about next summer: for many of us, the drought has become our frame of reference.
But there have been many satisfactions, as well. In spite of the heat, Susan's garden produced a notable crop of tomatoes, summer squash, okra, and (surprisingly) spring potatoes. She also raised a large, healthy flock of Cornish Rock chickens that will be cast in starring roles at the dinner table throughout 2012. She thinks these are significant accomplishments for a gardener/chicken-farmer in her early 70s.
Bill has been perfecting his woodturning techniques this year and has created a new website to offer his vases, bowls, and hand-carved doughbowls. In this craftwork, he uses many tools from his large collection of antique wood-working tools, as well as others he has made himself. While we mourn the loss of some of our beautiful old trees in the drought, their passing has guaranteed him a life-time supply of beautiful elm and hackberry that he will turn into large bowls and vases. He spent several months this year at Coyote Ridge, our place in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico, where his workshop is naturally air-conditioned.
We added three more books to our growing bookshelf this year. Mourning Gloria was published in March to excellent reviews. The herbal theme: psychoactive plants. The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies (Book 2 in Susan's new Depression-era series) came out in July. And The Tale of Castle Cottage—Miss Potter's "wedding book" and the final volume in the eight-book Cottage Tales series—appeared in September. We're delighted to tell you that we have new contracts for both China Bayles and the Darling Dahlias, so you can look forward to three more books (in print, ebook, and audio formats) in each series. Our Robin Paige Victorian/Edwardian mysteries continue to be available as well, both in print and in ebook format. Susan has also been working on another project: a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane and the writing of the Little House books that you loved when you were a child. We're not sure when or in what format that book will be published—we'll keep you posted.
All in all, 2011 has been a year of challenge and satisfaction. We know that you've had your own challenges too: we hope you weathered them, and that there were plenty of satisfactions to weigh in the balance. As we look ahead to 2012, we wish you peace, contentment, and good health. Thanks for being readers and friends--we appreciate every one of you!
Susan and Bill