If you don't have your copy of the original ebook edition of A Wilder Rose yet, now's the time to get it. Available on Kindle, Amazon, and Kobo for only 99 cents. Limited time, of course.
If you don't have your copy of the original ebook edition of A Wilder Rose yet, now's the time to get it. Available on Kindle, Amazon, and Kobo for only 99 cents. Limited time, of course.
I was delighted last night to see that Ken Burns paid attention to Lorena Hickok in the fifth episode of his film, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. (Photo above: ER and Hick in Puerto Rico, with Paul Person, governor of the Virgin Islands. Lorena Hickok papers, F.D.R. Library Collection)
As some of you know, I've been working on a novel about Lorena (Hick, to her friends) for several years now, and she is dear to my heart. Burns gave us a little taste of Eleanor and Hick's passionate relationship (he cited one letter, in which ER wrote "You are the light of my life"). But he primarily focused on Hick's professional contributions as an investigative reporter for Harry Hopkins and FERA. He skipped over Hick's help to Eleanor in her efforts to enlarge the role of First Lady (especially her idea for Eleanor's press conferences and her My Day column), but that's understandable. An excellent film. If you haven't seen it, I hope you'll get a chance later--it'll no doubt be rerun.
Book report. I'm finished with the edits for the reprint edition of A Wilder Rose, which will come out with Lake Union in February 2015 and turned in the manuscript of the 2015 Darling Dahlias mystery. So those are done, and I'm ready to work on Hick and Eleanor: A Love Story. Also on the writing desk, the memoir I'm writing with my brother.
Last week, Bill (my husband, the other half of the Robin Paige team) and I had a long conversation with a publisher who is launching a new imprint. He has some interesting ideas for direct-to-reader marketing and interactive (writer/reader) texts. I'm pretty stacked up right now, but the conversation led me to think about some new ways to develop and share books and ideas. Love it when that happens!
Reading. I'm deep in Hick/Eleanor research right now. One of the most fascinating books I'm working with is Maurine Beasley's Eleanor Roosevelt and the Media, about the ways ER (with Hick's help) developed strong relationships with women journalists. I've also reread Watergate: A Novel, which is one of my favorite historical fictions. Mallon knows how to pull together real people, places, and events into his fictional framework. I wonder if younger readers (not familiar with Watergate) can navigate the book, but for those of us who are old enough to remember it as-it-happened, the novel is a tour de force.
Gardening. On hold this fall, I'm afraid. I'm going to a conference in October and then on to New Mexico, and I hate to leave Bill with both the garden and the animals. But I've ordered my spring seed potatoes for November delivery, which will give them time to sprout before they go into the ground in January.
Reading note. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.--Steven King
In the autumn of 1940, Rose Wilder Lane and her young friends, Norma Lee Browning and Norma Lee’s husband, Russell Ogg, took a long driving trip across the United States, towing a small travel trailer. They had reached Texas when Russell fell ill, and he and Norma Lee returned to Missouri to seek medical help. Rose stayed with their trailer in McAllen for three months, working on The Discovery of Freedom. During her stay, she came to love the balmy winter climate, the flowers and birds, and the generous, warmhearted people of the Rio Grande Valley.
Rose had settled in Danbury CT in 1938. But over the years, she occasionally visited South Texas. She visited again in late January and early February of 1965, and in April, she bought a house at 435 Woodland, in a quiet residential section of Harlingen TX. At the time, Harlingen was a town of about 38,00 people, located thirty miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. She was delighted by her new surroundings. To a friend, she wrote:
The odd thing here is that oleanders, poinsettias, gardenias, bougainvillea, and all sorts of exotic annuals (growing wild as weeds) are disregarded as commonplace, while the prized things are geraniums, chrysanthemums and roses. And ordinary white daisies, of all things. A neighbor has a bed of those and the whole neighborhood is waiting eagerly to see them bloom. She had an orchid tree in full bloom which excites no second glances.
As Rose was getting settled into her new house, she was welcomed by her new next-door neighbor, Frances Giffen. Over the next three years, the Giffens, their son Don, and daughter Carol, became her friends. Rose took a great pleasure in the small community of Woodland Drive.
After the publication of A Wilder Rose, Mrs. Giffen’s daughter, Carol Giffen Mayfield, wrote to me to say that she enjoyed the book and felt that the Rose of my fiction was very like the real Rose whom she and her family had known. Carol’s note opened a series of email conversations about her family and Rose and their time together. It led to this email conversation, which Carol and I conducted over virtual cups of tea, poured from Rose’s very own lovely teapot (photo above). Rose gave the teapot to Carol’s mother, Carol gave it to me, and I treasure it.
Carol, I’m so glad to be able to talk, at last, with someone who actually knew Rose. How did you meet her? What were your first impressions of her?
When Rose bought a house in my parents' neighborhood, my mother, Frances Giffen, welcomed her—with a cake, more than likely. Apparently, that was exactly the right thing to do if one wanted to please Rose and get to know her. My mother didn't have an ulterior motive, however—she was always gracious and loving.
Mother had told me what a fascinating person Rose was, so when I met her, I was prepared for someone unusual. It didn't take long to realize Rose, as the cliché goes, did not suffer fools gladly. She intimidated me to a certain extent with her knowledge and intelligence, and that impression never left me. She was never at a loss for words.
How would you describe her?
Physically, Rose was not more than five feet tall, maybe shorter. Her white hair was long and swept up, more to get it out of the way rather than to look stylish. The minute she spoke, she became ageless and captivating, and her very beautiful blue eyes bored into the person to whom she was speaking.
When you knew her, did she spend only winters in Harlingen, or was she there in the summer, too?
I know that Rose was in Harlingen during some of those summers, because I recall that my mother made several cool, loose dresses for her—voile, perhaps. She really didn't have anything in her wardrobe to adapt to our intense heat.
What did she enjoy doing when she was there?
Rose loved her garden and did a great deal of reading. She had two Maltese, Pepe and Pepe's brother (she never gave him a name). After she died, they spent the remainder of their lives with my parents. Pepe's brother became Brother and outlived Pepe.
Do you recall any stories or anecdotes she liked to tell? She lived in so many different places—did she tell stories about them?
My parents gave dinner parties to introduce Rose to various people in Harlingen. She would always be seated at the head of the table and would hold forth in the most beguiling way. Someone would ask her a question and that would begin a sort of question and answer period. I never heard her repeat herself as she divulged layer after layer of her countless adventures. What has stayed with me is the fact she taught herself to read at an extremely young age, three, perhaps. She didn't say it in so many words, but I know that making enough money to survive was of great importance, and she was so intelligent that she found many ways to support herself. But she always passed off her accomplishments in a very modest way, like, oh, anyone could do that. For a brief time, she had been impressed by communism, but she quickly realized the awful truth of it and became very alarmed at the idea that it was spreading. Someone important—I don't remember who—had told her that "they" (the Communists) are moving east and east and east and will get us one day. She said with such intensity that it frightened me.
Rose asked your brother, Don Giffen, to accompany her on the trip she planned in the last year of her life. Can you tell us about that?
Don knew Rose Lane much better than I did. They connected in such a way that she realized he would be the right person to accompany her on one last Grand Tour of Europe, to handle luggage, make arrangements, and drive the car. [She had purchased a Volvo , planning to take delivery in Sweden.] She asked Don to pose as her grandson to avoid questions as to why an elderly lady would be in the company of a very young man. (He was just 23). Sadly, Rose died when they reached Connecticut [October 30, 1968] and they never made the excursion together. Rose, however, being very wise and always thinking ahead, had made a codicil to her will, setting aside the necessary funds for Don to take the trip on his own. He did, about six months later. He was gone for the better part of a year and had a fabulous time.
By the time you knew Rose (1965-1968), her parents had been dead for a number of years. (Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1957, Almanzo in 1949.) Did you gain any impression about her relationship with her parents? Did she ever talk about her life in Missouri, either as a child or an adult?
I never heard her talk about Missouri or her life there. Don told me that she did not have a very satisfactory relationship with her parents. She felt that they had each other and she was sort of in the way. Only once did she talk about the Little House books. She had urged her mother to write down the stories Rose had heard when she was a child. They were not written in the way Rose thought they should be. Rose told her mother to try again and be . . . She used one perfect word, but I simply cannot remember it.
Oh, dear! When you do remember that “one perfect word,” please tell us what it was! But I’m sure you remember other things about her. What lingers most often in your mind?
Rose takes first prize in the category, Most Interesting People I've Known, and I will always feel very grateful that I met her. What lingers is her wonderful way of expressing herself. And those eyes—and vocabulary. Sometime after her death, I saw an interview with the film director, Alfred Hitchcock. To my mind, he was the masculine version of Rose—with an English accent. He had her droll delivery and her expressive eyes. The next day, I telephoned my mother and asked her if she had seen the Hitchcock interview the night before. Without being prompted, she said, Rose Lane!
In 1965, Rose traveled to Viet Nam, on assignment for the magazine Women’s Day. There, she met a young Vietnamese woman named Phan. Did you meet her?
Mother had a party for Phan and I met her then. She was shy and retiring, English certainly not being her first language. She had a lovely slim figure and was wearing a traditional Vietnamese dress. Later (Rose may have prompted her) she wrote a charming thank-you letter to my mother. She meant to say that the party would always leave her with wonderful memories, but she used the word “souvenirs” instead. I've always just loved that.
In September, 1967, Rose wrote to her friend Jasper Crane, saying that her house had escaped damage during Hurricane Beulah. For her, it was a “unique and marvelous experience which I wouldn’t have missed.” Do you remember that storm?
Oh, Susan, do I ever remember Hurricane Beulah! My husband and I were living in Brownsville at the time. Our mothers had both lived through the Storm of '33 when it hit the Valley. (The hurricanes weren't named at that time.) We heard countless stories about that hurricane so when Beulah arrived, we were quite determined to "weather the storm." It came at night and was very scary and thrilling at the same time. At times, it sounded like a train was moving through the house. Harlingen is farther inland than Brownsville, so they got the storm during the day. Thinking about this, I can't imagine my parents would have let Rose stay alone during the storm. She may have stayed with them. The damage was mainly to trees and power lines, and there was no electricity for at least a week. The novelty wore off quickly.
Carol, thanks so much for giving us this special personal insight into the personality of a very special person. I know that I speak for the readers of A Wilder Rose when I say thank you, thank you!
Everyone: be sure and watch for the reprint edition of A Wilder Rose, coming from Lake Union Publishing in 2015. I'm excited about introducing Rose to a wider audience!
Reading note. Happiness is something that comes into our lives through doors we don't remember leaving open.--Rose Wilder Lane
As I reported last week, Lake Union Publishing will be bringing out my novel, A Wilder Rose, in February 2015. The book--the true story of Rose Wilder Lane and the writing of the Little House books--first came out in hardcover, paperback, and ebook just a year ago (October 2013), under my own imprint, Persevero Press. It has done very well since, selling more than 12,000 copies and being offered in some 700 libraries in the U.S. and abroad. I'm sure that the reprint edition will do even better.
But in the meantime, the book is getting a do-over. Maybe you've heard the old saying, "A book is never really finished--it just bumps up against the deadline." I'm spending this week on minor touchups and a few major revisions, using my own notes and some suggestions from Lake Union's editor, who gave the book a careful going-over. It's a pleasure to dive back in and revisit Rose's life story, her work on the Little House books, a huge effort that spanned over a decade of her most productive literary life. You'll see the resulting do-over in February--I hope you'll like it as much as I do.
Revising Rose, however, means that parts of the Reader's Companion (the documentation of my research for the book) will be out of synch. I have two new projects brewing, as well as the next China Bayles (A Malted Murder), so I'm not sure when I'll get around to reworking the Companion to match. That will also be another big job. In the meantime, it's available (for less than a dollar!), so if you don't have it yet, now's a good time.
The Dahlias bloom in September. The new 1930s garden club mystery, The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush, will be out in early September. I'll be giving a couple of book talks (in Austin and in Houston). Check out the schedule here.
Reading report. One of my favorite summer reads this year was The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir by Marja Mills about her time as the next-door neighbor of Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird) and her sister Alice. I enjoyed it, and enjoyed writing the review. It's here. I'm currently reading The Little Girl who Fought the Great Depression: Shirly Temple and 1930s America, by John F. Kasson. A very good read--hope to get around to writing a review of it soon.
Dear Readers and Friends,
This is both an announcement and a thank-you letter. I'm delighted to announce that A Wilder Rose (originally published in 2013 under my own imprint: Persevero Press) will be reprinted by Lake Union Publishing in February 2015. It will be available in both ebook and print formats. Lake Union is an Amazon imprint.
As many of you will remember, I wasn't at all sure what to expect when I published the novel, which tells the true story of Rose Wilder Lane, the unacknowledged co-author of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. I've been astonished and so pleased by its success--for which I have you to thank, readers and friends!
A Wilder Rose has done very well as an author-published novel. It received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and appeared on Kirkus' 2013 Best of Indie Fiction and Best LGBT lists. It has frequently ranked in the top 10 on Amazon's biographical fiction. It garnered endorsements by every major Wilder scholar (important to me, since I'm a former academic). It is held by some 700 libraries, nation-wide and internationally--as far away as New Zealand and Australia. It has sold over 12,000 copies and continues to sell well, and I daily hear from readers who have enjoyed both the novel and its Reader's Companion.
For all these reasons, I gave a great deal of thought to Lake Union's reprint proposal, balancing the book's current and potential readership under my imprint against the large number of readers who might be reached through Amazon's amazing marketing program. As some of you know, I'm passionate about this book, which gives full credit to Rose Wilder Lane for her 12-year-long effort to turn her mother into a successful--and self-supporting--author. It is a story that has been hidden for far too long, a story that needs to be told.
In the end, my decision was made when I talked to Lake Union's acquisitions editor, who outlined its editorial and marketing program. Jodi is friendly, easy to work with, and knows her stuff--she made me feel at home immediately. There will be a few changes to the book, which will also have a new cover. I'll begin working on the project next week and am looking forward to the rest of the process. Lake Union/Amazon has a huge marketing muscle, and I'm betting that A Wilder Rose's readership will triple, maybe more, in 2015. Wouldn't Rose be amazed?
I said that this is a thank you letter, and it is. I couldn't have published this book under my own imprint if it weren't for readers like you, who over the years have become friends through my traditionally published mysteries, memoirs, and nonfiction. Joining the ranks of "hybrid authors" (writers who publish both traditionally and in via the new author-publishing technologies) has been a hugely satisfying adventure, and I've learned more about books and publishing than I could ever have imagined.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking this journey with me.
Reading note. Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading!--Rainer Maria Rilke
If you live in a place long enough, you will see plants at their prettiest. This is one of the best years for bloom on the prairie flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that I can remember, in the quarter-century we've lived on this land--to the great pleasure of tiny sweet-toothed insects who delight in the nectar.
We have literally hundreds of these small trees on our 31 acres, and the females (yes, the lovelier of the species) are covered with glorious clumps of creamy-white blossoms. The trees usually reach their zenith in late October, when the shortening days turn their leaves to a flaming red and these pretty flowers have ripened into conical reddish-brown drupes that are a mainstay winter food of deer, raccoons, and possums. Native Americans steeped the fruits of various sumac species in water to make a tart drink, sometimes called Indian lemonade or Rhus juice. They also used the bark, leaves, roots, and fruits of various species for a wide range ofmedicinal purposes, from treating toothache to tuberculosis.
But I don't have to wait until October to see the sumacs in full glory. This morning, I walked through a small forest of them in the east meadow, their blossoms buzzing with insects, the dawn-washed air fresh and cool, the dogs eagerly snuffing out the scents left by coyotes and armadillos that passed this way in the night, and a blue sky arching overhead. Such bounty, such grace. What else can we do but be grateful?
Garden report. This is lay-by time, between the spring and fall gardens. We've eaten the okra and tomatoes we wanted and the chickens are getting the rest, along with the small, seedy Porters. Heat and drought are powerful put-downs in the summer. But I need to start tomato seeds for fall. Maybe I'll do that today.
Book report. The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O'clock Lady is done, but my editor is on vacation, so I'll hold onto it until she comes back. I've done some work on the memoir that my brother John and I are writing, and caught up on a couple of backlogged projects. I'll have word for you on another exciting project by mid-week, so stay tuned.
Reading this week: Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mills. I'll post a review of this sometime next week, over at StoryCircleBookReviews. Did you know that I edit this site? We do some great things over there. You can subscribe to our monthly emails here.
Reading note. If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice.-- Meister Eckhart
Our common sunflower is uncommonly beautiful this year. This native sunflower is Helianthus annuus--native, that is, to the Americas, although humans have taken it around the planet. (I've been rereading Charles Mann's wonderful book, 1493, and appreciating more than ever the global migrations of native American plants.) Sunflower seeds went to Spain with the Conquistadors in the 1500s, where the edible seeds and the oil became an immediate hit. And from there, anywhere, everywhere.
But sunflowers are truly native to our hemisphere.The plants were likely cultivated first some 5,000 years ago in Mesoamerica and came to North America somewhat later, traveling a route similar to that of maize. The Aztecs and Incas used the blossom as the symbol of the sun god: one name for it translates as "big flower that looks at sun god." And this time of year, there's plenty of sun for the sunflower to look at.
Weather report. We've done it: topped 100 on our north-facing back deck for four days in a row. Nights are warm, too--mid to upper 70s. Which means that the spring tomatoes are pretty much done, and it's time to plant seeds for the fall tomatoes. We're banking on an El Nino fall, but the Climate Prediction Center reports that the odds have dropped.
Book report. This weekend, I'm putting the final touches on the 2015 Dalias mystery (The DDs and the Eleven O'clock Lady). I started the book in mid-May, took a few days out here and there and got a little behind. But I finished in about 80 days, which is par for the course. To paraphrase Thomas Edison (I think): "Art is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." I'm lucky enough to be a full-time writer, which means that I write full-time. Including weekends, when I'm working on a project.
Next project? I'm planning to spend the next week working on the memoir that my brother and I are writing. After that . . . well, I'm waiting until the contract is signed to tell you about it. (File under "Don't count your chickens.") Maybe that will happen next week. These things take time--longer in the summer, when lots of people take vacations. For me, since I began writing full time nearly 30 years ago, life has seemed like a long vacation.
Reading note. Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.--Hal Borland
The star of the garden this week is the okra, a hot-weather plant. And yes, the photo above is an okra blossom. If it reminds you of an hibiscus, there's a reason: they belong to the same (Malvacea) family.
I have a dozen okra plants in bloom and producing this week and will soon have more: the second planting is just coming up. I grow Clemson Spineless and Hill Country Red. In another week we'll have okra for the freezer, as well as for the dinner table.
Okra is a hardy plant. It doesn't like cold weather, but with a drink of water in the morning, it will survive the hottest afternoon. Domesticated along the Egyptian Nile in the 12th century BCE, it's beloved in hot regions around the world, where it grows best. If your summers are cool and you can't grow it, just wait another decade or so. Climate change is coming in your direction. Meanwhile, there's plenty in the supermarket this month.
Our favorite is Texas-fried Okra:
1/2 pound okra for every two people
chile powder & garlic powder (you decide how much)
salt & pepper
cornmeal, mixed with some finely crushed (really, really fine) tortilla chips
lard (yes, I know, but it's still the best. Use non-hydrogenated, if you can find it)
Pick okra when the pods are almost 3" long. Wash. Cut off the stems and slice diagonally into 1/4 inch pieces. Salt liberally and let set for about 20 minute, then rinse. (This reduces the musilage.) Sprinkle with chile powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, then dredge in the cornmeal/tortilla chips, tossing the pieces until they are thoroughly coated. Heat 1/4 inch lard in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the okra (don't plop it all in at once, drop in the individual pieces so they don't stick together). When nicely brown on both sides, dip them out with a perforated spatula. Drain on a paper towel before serving.
We love fried okra with a sauce made of mayo thinned with vinegar and a squeeze of lemon, sweetened with a little sugar, and peppered. When I have fresh basil, I add some, minced. Yum.
On the writing desk. I'm on the last lap with the 2015 Darling Dahlias mystery and eager for the launch of the 2014 novel: The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush. Story Circle has opened its online bookstore from now through 9/15, so if you'd like a signed, personalized copy of the latest oboks, now's your chance. There's good news coming about another big project on the near horizon--more about that later.
Reading note: Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do. Wendell Berry
It's looking like a banner year where Bill's pecan trees are concerned. When we moved to Meadow Knoll in 1986, he began grafting on native pecan stock planted here and there by squirrels, floods, and other random acts of a kind and generous nature. In other words, it's not an orderly orchard, with the trees in careful rows, but a lovely disorder of trees growing in all the best places. He grafted scions (graftwood cut from the previous season's growth of a productive tree) of different pecan cultivars: Choctaw, Desirable, Kiowa, Dobie.
They usually bear in alternate years, but our five-year drought has confused them and they've been out of sync. This year, though, the trees are loaded. The squirrels are already watching attentively, but Bill has fashioned "squirrel excluders" out of sheet metal and fastened them around the trunks, hoping to cut down on predation. We don't mind feeding a few squirrels, but they often don't actually eat the nuts, just tear them down, gnaw a few bites, and move on. Still, there are enough this year to conjure visions of pecan pie, and we're grateful.
Book report. I'm planning to wrap up the 2015 Darling Dahlias mystery this coming week, pretty much on schedule and several weeks ahead of the August 31 deadline. I have another important project to work on and hope to have an announcement about that in a week or so. A hint: it's about A Wilder Rose and it's exciting. Longer term: I'll be working on a memoir with my brother John, and another biographical novel (more later). And then the 2016 China Bayles, the first of a three-book contract. I feel deeply fortunate to be able to look ahead to plenty of good work.
We're saddened this week by the very serious illness of a family friend, Kathy Tucker, who has been especially dear to my children (and to me) for over twenty years. We feel extraordinarily blessed that she came into our lives and shared her generous spirit with us. Update 7.28. Kathy left us last night, but left her love behind.
Reading note: Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. Rumi
This week, the tomatoes are the stars of the garden. There's a great crop of small Porter tomatoes and a fair crop of Romas, all destined for sauce and soup.
Porter tomatoes were developed by a seed company in Stephenville, Texas, back in the 1940s and 50s. According to an article published in The Victoria Advocate (Nov. 11, 1994), Porter and Son closed in 1994 after eighty years of supplying seeds to Texas gardeners--seeds from plants that old Mr. V.O. Porter had bred in his own Texas garden to meet the challenges of our Texas heat and humidity.
V.O. Porter died in 1954, after forty years in the seed business. His son, Gene, continued his father's work until his death in 1990, and Alice Porter took it over after that, closing it in 1994. By that time, small seed companies were going out of business or being swallowed up by the larger seed companies, which usually carry only the plant varieties that are widely adapted and profitable. This consolidation of seed producers/distributors has resulted in an unfortunate corporate domination of the seed supply: Monsanto, for instance, has bought up literally dozens of smaller seed companies, to cut down on the competition. With this kind of dominance, "heirloom" varieties or those that were bred to produce well in a fairly small climate area have become endangered. But there's hope, for the Internet has expanded the range of the smaller companies once again, as I'm sure you know. (If the Internet had been available when Alice Porter closed the family business in 1994, Porter and Son Seedsmen might still be a going concern.)
The first Porter mail order catalog was published in 1912--I'd love to see a copy, so if you know of one, please email me. I've read that Porter specialized in watermelons, garlic (the famed "Texas White," which you can find mentioned in books but seems to have been lost), and tomatoes. But it is old Mr. Porter's tomato that has outlived the original company. Porter bred his tomato back in the days before automatic watering, and it thrives in conditions that daunt most other tomatoes. InThe Advocate article, his granddaughter, Alice Porter, says that her grandfather didn't keep records--he just liked to fool around with plants. "By crossbreeding various varieties," she adds, "he came up with the Porter, which because of the large numbers of small fruit it bore, required less water and would continue to produce right through August and September, even in the driest parts of West Texas."
I can testify to this. Larger tomatoes require too much water and (under the hot Texas sun) suffer sunscald and skin cracking. The little Porters, about the size of a golf ball, are meaty and flavorful. They grow on indeterminate plants that bear generously through the summer. (Determinate plants flower and fruit in a matter of a few weeks.) Most tomatoes don't set fruit after the nighttime temperatures rise above 70 degrees, but the Porters just keep on chugging along, persistantly producing flowers and fruit until frost.
My Porter seeds come from Willhite Seeds, a small independent in Poolville TX, where I buy other open-pollinated seeds for plants that are regionally adapted to our challenging Texas climate.
I just filled the slow cooker with Porters, plus a half dozen fresh bay leaves, onion, and chopped garlic--more herbs will go in later. By suppertime, this will have cooked down to a flavorful sauce. We'll have spaghetti for supper and the rest of the sauce will go on a pizza tomorrow night. We'll be eating Porters, bless 'em, all year long. And bless old V.O. Porter, too--the man who just liked to fool around with plants.
Book report: I'm working on chapters 14-16 in the current Dahlias work-in-progress, scheduled for publication in 2015. I'm aiming to finish in a couple of weeks, to start on another project. I'll have news (exciting news!) of that one soon, so don't go too far away!
Reading note. The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ― Michael Pollan