Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas letter to friends

December 5, 2013
It is a VERY cold and dreary day up here in Oklahoma.  We are expecting the next seven days to be below freezing and we might even get a little dusting of snow. It is a good time to do paperwork and computer work in front of the fireplace.  Andy has cut lots of wood and brought it up close to the house for the season. 

As for this past year, we have had some blessings and not too many difficulties.  I've tried to write on the blog regularly, so scroll down to read posts from throughout the year. My health is good, and Andy is healthy too.  I get a lot of therapy out of writing here and on my other blog,, about things going on here in Watonga. 

 I am now working part-time at our local Methodist Church as church secretary. It happens that our church was appointed a new minister just before our church secretary retired, so we are both new at our jobs.  Pastor Steve is a pleasure to work with; we help each other with learning how the church operates.  I look forward to going to work these days.

We had a beautiful summer up here; the yards looked fabulous all season. We had quite a bit of business and made new friends. Some old friends came to visit too. Andy began building an outdoor oven and we've worked on coming up with a good pizza dough recipe. We are eager to open for business in the spring.

As for the kids -- Blake is currently living in Oregon and likes it there.  Drew is still down in Georgetown, TX and has registered for more classes this past semester after taking a year off from school.  He and Jenna have come up to visit regularly (though not as often as I'd like to see them, of course).   This is the first year that we won't have one or the other child with us for the holidays. 
Skeeter became ill a few months ago and we thought we would have to say goodbye to him, but after a couple of blood transfusions and a regimen of steroids, he has gotten his strength and energy back and he is back to running around the yard again, though he prefers to spend more and more time just lounging at Andy's feet these days.  Kiki the cat is healthy and happy; we've had her for almost two years now. 

So for now I'll say MERRY CHRISTMAS  from us to all of our friends, with a hope that it is a special time of year for you and that you get to spend some special time with friends and family. 

Friday, November 1, 2013


We're having gorgeous weather today -- around 70 degrees and the sun is shining on all of the brightly colored leaves as they change color and twinkle in the breeze.  We have some guests who are here for their third visit.  They will ride bikes through Roman Nose State Park, and then we'll have homemade pizza and beer this evening.  Our other two rooms are also booked for the weekend, but more on that later.....

Monday, October 28, 2013

October weekend

We have a full house this weekend, plus guests during the week.
My best friend from Dallas came to visit last weekend (and brought lots of goodies to share!).  Even though rain was predicted, the weather turned out pretty decent, at least good enough to sit out on the back patio in front of the fireplace one evening, and take a tour of Watonga on Saturday. Unfortunately, neither of us were up to walking the four miles we used to walk every day.  After the driving tour, we stopped in at the Whirlwind Winery and she got a taste of our "local fare". She liked several of Brad's vintages and took some back to Dallas with her.  Other than that, we just relaxed and talked and ate and caught each other up on goings on here and there. I am eager for her to bring up some of the old "gang" in the spring.

One of the things Mary brought to me were some century plant babies that came off of a plant I have given to her several years ago.  The plant I gave her back then was from my dad's garden in El Paso.  When Andy and I moved up to Oklahoma, I brought three young babies from the original I had gotten from my dad and planted in my yard in Coppell (the original was too big to dig up and move so I left it in Coppell), but because I planted them and left them out over that first winter here, two didn't survive the wet winter and I only had one left, which has been kept in a pot and brought into my bedroom every winter since 2008.  Mary also brought me a couple of agave plants from her garden and they will definitely  have to come into the house in the winter.  I think I need a winter greenhouse for all of my plants that need to be indoors during the winter.  This month I'm going to try to give some of the plants away -- those that I have multiples of. 

Andy went to the OU/TT game on Saturday, and on Sunday we watched the Dallas Cowboys lose themselves in the last seconds of the game.  Nothing new there. 

This coming weekend is the annual Halloween Party we attend in town.  Two of our guests for the weekend are here for that event.  I hope of us is able to get up and prepare breakfast the morning after the party! This week Andy and I are making last minute decisions on our costumes for the party!!  I thought all year that I would be Medusa, but when it came down to actually getting a headpiece with SNAKES on it, I just couldn't do it.  Just looking at them on-line made me quesy, so that idea was nixed.  And I've spent ALL YEAR planning on that costume!!!  Of course, last year I went at Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist, and no one knew who or what I was. 

The Texas room will be occupied this weekend by a dad and his two grown sons who meet here once a year and bike at Roman Nose State Park.  This is their third annual visit.  We plan on making pizza in the outdoor oven on Friday night and Dave has promised to bring homemade libations. The weekend weather is expected to be nice,  no rain, in the 60's. 


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fall weather

Saturday, Oct. 19. 
Yesterday (Friday) was cold and rainy and dreary. Temperatures got down to 32 degrees in OKC overnight.  But today is supposed to be bright and sunny, with temperatures reaching 65 degrees.  It's  a good day to get outside and work in the yard.  This coming week should bring us nice days and cool nights.  I will start bringing plants inside for the winter.  The trees are not yet turning colors, and I have a feeling it's going to be a couple of weeks before that change starts. I have friends coming to visit next week, but I think the gardens and trees are still going to be green so they will not get to see the beautiful color of our fall season. Oh well.  At least we should get to hike and enjoy the outdoors while they are here.

Andy is making banana bread while I keep up on my blog.  I am distressed about the story in the news about the Boy Scout leaders toppling a rock in a Utah national park, vandalizing a protected place, and then lying about it. I'm not bothered by the fact that the story has gone viral, but by the fact that some idiots not only did something stupid but then put it out there for everyone to see, AND THEN lied about it!  Who do they think they are fooling with their lie that they did it as a "safety" precaution.  Anyone who sees the video can see that they are taking great joy in their prank, regardless of what they say was (supposedly) on their mind.  They are bad examples of parenting, of leadership, of society not taking responsibility for their own actions.  I hope this story serves as a lesson of what NOT to do. Of course, there are and always will be people who don't know how to think or act.  I don't why I am especially bothered by this story when there is so much other ugliness going on in the world. Writing about it at least lets me get it off my chest.

The Watonga Cheese & Wine Festival is over and we are recuperating slowly.  There is lots of follow-up work to be done next week. The good news is that it was a successful festival. We had visitors from OKC and suburbs in addition to the local residents and from nearby communities.  The wine & cheese addition was an overwhelming success.  The musical entertainment and ZUMBA demonstration drew crowds, and I for one enjoyed all of it.  We surveyed the vendors after the festival and they were all (except one) happy with the crowds and their sales.  Andy and Mary had lots of help, but they and the Chamber Board can always use more volunteers.  This year's success gives them something to build on next year. 

Drew came to visit over the weekend and helped Andy clean up after the Festival.  We tried not to make him work too much during his short visit!  He went to church with us on Sunday, and we grilled steaks and zucchini from our garden, and drank wine and sat in front of the fireplace on the back patio in the chill of Sunday evening.  We missed Jenna, who had to stay back in Texas to attend a workshop, but we know she'll come the next time Drew drives up.  All in all, last weekend was very pleasant. 

Then we attended the City Council meeting on Tuesday, and I have lots to write about on the watonganews blog.  Just the facts, ma'am!  Well, maybe with a little commentary.  Someone has to do it!  We have a new editor at the Watonga Republican and he is doing a good job of reporting what he sees. I've been getting a lot of comments on the blog and the facebook page for Watonga News blog, supportive of reading about things going on in Watonga that they don't get in the newspaper. I try to write about the good and the not-so-good, even though some would prefer that only the "good" stuff is made public.  That's not real world and I believe it is important that the public get as much information we they can get, not just the kudos and halos.  As our new editor said, and I believe, a well-informed public is necessary for a democracy.  Thomas Jefferson said: "Ignorance and sound self-government could not exist together: the one destroyed the other. A despotic government could restrain its citizens and deprive the people of their liberties only while they were ignorant.

I'm stepping off of my soapbox for now.  /Linda

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

OGIC Wine Competition at Chaparral Retreat

OGIC Wine Competition - September 28,2013

Saturday was a busy day for a group of Watongans working on the upcoming Cheese & Wine Festival.  Andy and Linda, proprietors of the Chaparral Retreat & Guesthouse, hosted the first (hopefully annual) official Oklahoma Grape Industry Council wine competition at their quiet and peaceful place just outside of Watonga.  Brad Stinson, owner of the Whirlwind Winery, and Andy worked with Dr. William McGlynn from OSU to put  the contest together.  Dr. McGlynn along with Amie Hendrickson and Clayton Bahr  acted as judges.  They tasted and critiqued sixty-five different Oklahoma wines and graded them on a number scale.  It was a blind taste test, with the Judges not knowing what wines were from what winery. Entries came in from all across the state of Oklahoma. Local attorney Vicki Williams acted as wine steward, while Tanya Stinson and Maria Laubach helped with rotating wine glasses for the numerous wines. Lunch was served and it was a perfect day to sit outside on the patio and eat.
 The number grades for each wine were entered into a program and scores tabulated, and then forwarded to OGIC. The Best of Show and medal winners will be announced soon by the OGIC. 

The winning wineries will be represented at the Watonga Cheese & Wine Festival on Oct. 11 and Oct 12, and the public will have an opportunity to taste the wines and choose a "People's Choice" by popular vote.  Watonga is getting lots of publicity for  the Cheese Festival this year, so if the weather holds out it may bring record crowds to Watonga. The Chamber of Commerce wants to thank the advertising agency StapleGun for all of their help and guidance in promoting our festival  [in addition to the article in the Tulsa World, I even heard the guys on 96.9 FM radio talking about the Festival! -- that's a first for Watonga!!]   Andy Barrett and Brad Stinson will be appearing on Channel 43 on the morning show (Rise & Shine) on October 8 at 8:15 a.m. to promote the festival.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A lovely weekend

Monday, Sept. 16
Another great weekend was shared with new friends! John and Sondra from Edmond spent Friday and Saturday night at the Retreat and lots of time at Roman Nose State Park. They ate dinner at the Lodge on Friday, and we recommended that they eat on Saturday night at the Noble House restuarant in. Watonga, which is featuring Eddie's BBQ & More on Fridays and Saturdays, 4:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. We need more places in Watonga that are open for dinner, so support Eddie in this new venture! He told me he had a lot of take-out business before the football game on Friday, so that's a great start.

On Saturday morning, Brad Stinson and the gang spent another morning harvesting grapes in Fay, and then had lunch at the Whirlwind Winery before pressing the grapes in the afternoon.  There was a good group of helpers.  While I was at the winery, Andy was home cutting up dead wood for the Oven and for a bonfire. He blazed a new trail along the south side of the property.  It was a pleasant day and there was a light breeze in the evening when we started the fire (not enough to stir up the flames but enough to cool us down).  Our good friend Jerry S. came out and enjoyed the bonfire with us.  There was a three-quarter moon out and a clear sky with stars. 
Sunday afternoon was a little warmer, probably around 90 degrees and Andy did some more wood harvesting.  I am ready to make pizza this weekend!  Skeeter is feeling better and spent most of the day out in the woods with Andy, but came back to the house right at 5:00 p.m. (dinner time)  He is one smart dog!

We had a nice rainstorm on Sunday night and are expecting more rain over the next couple of days -- just when Andy thought the mowing might be finished!!

Friday, September 13, 2013


We've had a couple of weeks of hot, dry weather and I've been watering the grounds like a fiend to keep the grass and gardens alive.  Grasshoppers still munch on some plants but they aren't destroying everything like they did last year.  A cool front blew in last evening and we had a nice rainstorm -- no thunder but a good downpour.  We sat on the front porch and enjoyed the sounds of the water hitting the rocks on the north side of the porch. 

Skeeter has had a rough couple of weeks.  He began getting sluggish and lethargic and didn't want to run or play, but he was eating well and drinking plenty of water.  He had no outward signs of illness other than a slight limp in one of his back legs.  We thought at first it was the heat, but when he seemed to get weaker we took him to the vet.  It wasn't good news but the vet didn't know what was wrong with him other than he was severely anemic and seemed to have low blood volume.  He hadn't been bleeding or losing blood outwardly, and Dr. McCrary said it seemed like his body was reproducing blood.  The doc did all kinds of tests, bloodwork, and sent off samples to the vet school in Stillwater.  He arranged for Skeeter to get a blood transfusion, and put him on antibiotics while we are waiting for the test results from the vet school.  Skeeter spent one night at the vet's and came home the next afternoon, seemingly feeling better and with much more energy.  We're giving him liver to eat to help build up his iron.  Still waiting for the vet's call this afternoon.  He sat with us on the porch last evening to watch the rain, but since there was no thunder he didn't have anything to run after!

It's Friday night, yay!  We have guests staying with us this weekend and I'm planning on making Migas for breakfast.  Never had them?  You need to come spend a night at the Retreat and ask for Migas for breakfast!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Busy Weekend!

I'm recovering from a busy and fun weekend!
On Saturday we went to the Whirlwind Winery's vineyard in Fay, OK to help with the grape harvest.  The weather was pleasant when we started at 7:00 a.m., just at sunrise, but it warmed up quickly.  There were a few new people who joined us for the harvest.  At 11:30ish we headed to the winery in Watonga where Brad's wife Tanya had laid out a delicious lunch spread (Italian fare, of course). 

After lunch, Brad and the gang began the pressing process. He had plenty of help, so I headed home to get ready for guests at the Retreat.  I made a batch of granola from a recipe given to me by our friend Teri in Tulsa, and boiled some chicken breasts to make chicken salad.  I thought I would take a nap, but ended up working out in the yard, watering the gardens.  The afternoon went by quickly!  Our guests arrived from Frisco, TX and got settled in. I gave them the history of the house and some history about the area.  They had come specifically to hike at Roman Nose State Park.  After breakfast on Sunday morning, they headed out to the park and spent all day there -- they even made it to Inspiration Point. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beautiful summer weekend

In spite of the humidity, we've had beautiful weather these past couple of days.  The temperature has been in the mid-90's (which isn't bad compared to the past two years of temperatures above 110 at this time!) and we've been able to spend some time outside.  There is a cool breeze that sweeps past us on the front porch as we sit in our rockers and listen to Eric Clapton on the CD player, drinking raspberry lemonade over ice.  That was after an afternoon of driving through town (Watonga) in the Desoto with our guests from Tulsa.  David and Christi were here to hike at Roman Nose State Park in training for a trip to Spain next year to walk the Camino de Santiago. They rose early to have breakfast before hitting the trails at Roman Nose Park. 

Andy spent the morning mowing yards in town.  More and more people are starting to take care of their yards by mowing and clearing away weeds and trash and the town is looking better, though there are still a lot of dilapidated buildings that need to be torn down.  Mowing the weeds and tall grass in the yards of those houses just serves to reveal the blighted condition of the buildings. But in another week the weeds will be grown back up to hide the buildings.  

 In town we stopped at the Whirlwind Winery and introduced them to Brad and Don, proprietors.  I think Christi liked Brad's Wild Sand Plum wine best.  Brad told us that next weekend is harvest day.  Don had brought in some clusters of grapes from the fields to show off, and they were beautiful.  

Our new friends left the Retreat right after a breakfast of rosemary bacon and French toast with cinnamon apples.  Andy and I went to church services and I reflected on how meeting new people and sharing our retreat with them renews my faith that we are where we are supposed to be.  All of the children are back in school, both locally and in college, so most families are back from vacation.  We have a new minister at the Methodist Church and he is full of new enthusiasm, not only for our congregation but also for the community.  I was able to put out of my mind the upcoming battle with the City, if only for a little while. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


In last week's issue of the Watonga Republican (Page A4), there is a story about the Swaim girls. We are pleased to announce that they will perform (as Threefold Chord) at this year's Cheese & Wine Festival,  Saturday morning, before the Parade. Don't miss them!! 

Instead of new daily posts about Festival entertainment, I'll be updating this post regularly, so scroll down to find it if it isn't at the top of the Blog.  Thanks for reading!  /Linda


ANYONE who has painted at Liquid ART event should consider submitting one of your pieces to the BLAINE COUNTY FREE FAIR!  It's FREE!  Take your art to the Foley building at the fairgrounds on Thurs. Aug. 22 between 4:00 - 6:30 p.m.  Check out the fair catalog for categories, but I know we've done a landscape and a still life and something with flowers!  This is an opportunity to support the County Fair and promote Liquid ART!

Monday, August 12, 2013

WEEKEND at the Retreat

Thanks to all who came by to celebrate Linda's birthday with us.  It was great fun. We had a couple of surprise guests!  The weather was perfect for outdoor seating. 


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BIG birthday!

Many who read this may think I'm silly, making a big deal out of a birthday.  If you knew the whole story you wouldn't think it so silly.  After a rough childhood, I met my knight in shining armor (Andy), and we successfully raised two great children to adulthood.  Since moving to Watonga OK, I've survived a heart attack, a stroke, a seizure disorder, harassment by employers, back-stabbing, and I'm still here to continue the fight.  I am blessed with a loving family, and many friends and acquaintances. I am blessed to have a little piece of paradise at the Chaparral Retreat where I can work the gardens and meet new people all the time.  Two things I know in my heart -- Watonga is where I'm supposed to be; and God has a plan for me even if I don't know what that is. I am just following a path and trying to stay on the right path.  So, here I am at a big milestone and I'm going to celebrate this life, gosh darn it. 

  OK, enough of that.  Andy continues to work on the Oven.  The cooking oven is actually finished, but he is now putting on a rock facing. 

I continue to work on finding just the right pizza dough recipe.  The hope is to be able to produce an edible pizza by the end of the month.  We may be calling local friends who are willing to be guinea pigs to come over and eat pizza -- I don't think I can eat that much pizza over the next month!! 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 30, 2013

It was a busy weekend at the Retreat, with Dan and Anita and Sydney from Washington, Lee and Myrna Marriott from Edmond, and Drew and Jenna from Texas all here for a visit.  Andy smoked a beef brisket and Drew brought fresh flour tortillas from HEB store in Austin.  We ate brisket tacos for dinner with a chocolate sheet cake for dessert.  Sydney couldn't get enough of it! 

The weather was perfect for sitting outside and watching the hummingbirds come to the feeder. Tim and Sherry stopped by for a visit.  The kids stayed up late, talking.  It all reminded me of the days when Andy and I would come here to visit granddad.  The next day, Andy got the Desoto out and took everyone for a ride through town. 

The front windows on the theatre are etched with an art deco design by Drew and it was the first time he and Jenna got to see the finished work.  Andy and I are both proud of him and his work. Now the Liberty Theatre has touches of two generations of Barretts
On Friday we did our Liquid ART at the Whirlwind Winery.  We didn't have a big crowd but those of us there enjoyed the evening.  I can't believe more people don't come to this inexpensive evening of fun! 


Friday, July 26, 2013

The Oven is now being "seasoned" -- Andy has to build a fire in the oven for six days, starting with a small fire and each day increasing the size of the fire. 

Yesterday afternoon we walked down the trail to the "back forty" and cleared away dead limbs and suckers that had overgrown onto the path.  There was a nice breeze under the canopy of trees.  Then, last night, we got about two inches of rain!  Andy mowed the lawn yesterday, just in time for the moisture.  The property is looking pretty good.  We sat on the front porch and looked out over the canvas and decided what trees need more trimming and where I should plant more color for this time of year.  The crepe myrtle are blooming, along with the summer phlox, coreopsis, and turk's cap.  This weekend we will have family visiting and we hope to get to sit outside on the patio and enjoy some "cooler" weather -- in the 80's! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013


July 19.  Today was hot at the Retreat, around 98 degrees, but a light breeze and shelter in the shade under the trees made it tolerable.  The grasshoppers are back in full force, after a few days of wet weather. I didn't spend too much time outside other than spreading an organic bait for grasshoppers in the early morning.  Andy worked on mowing the yard and then went to town to do some "paid" handyman work.   We have lots of baby zucchini on the plants, some baby eggplant, a few green tomatoes, and some flower buds on the pepper plants.  The "bait" takes about two weeks to work, so I'll continue to watch the garden for evidence of grasshoppers eating the leaves.  So far the basil is unaffected by the varmints and I'm ready to harvest another crop in the next day or so to make pesto. 

Last night the Community Band put on a nice program.  The band consists of not only local band students but musicians from surrounding towns, alumni of Watonga band program, former and current band directors.  Our high school band director Brian Pope and former band director Chris Bordelon have done a great job in getting this group together.  I hope they continue to put on the concert every year. The community certainly did support it with good attendance. 

As for the Oven, the fireplace side is now finished and Andy is ready to start curing the inside of the oven.  There is still some "construction" to be done -- putting on the rock facing and digging out the yard for seating space -- but I'm hopeful it may be ready in a month.  Andy has been working hard on the project in spite of the heat. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013


This past week was hot and humid, but Andy continued to work on the oven and fireplace.  I worked in the garden, pulling weeds and grass out and harvesting zucchini and tomatoes.  Just enough for us -- none for the Farmers Market though I'm hopeful I'll have a big harvest by next weekend to take into town. 

We had some visitors from Dallas at the Retreat and enjoyed reminiscing with them not only about Dallas but also about the Chicago area, where they have also lived.  They spent the day exploring the area, did a little wine tour including the Whirlwind Winery, and then went to the Canton Rodeo. 

This morning is beautiful!  It was raining when I got up from bed.  Before making breakfast, I sat on the front porch with a cup of coffee.  The temperature was about 68 degrees! A perfect morning to commune with nature.  Everything is green, a few flowers are blooming here and there, and the air smells clean and fresh.  It has stopped raining but it is still overcast and cool, and the birds are singing. 



Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday, Sunday

It's awfully hot today so I am staying in the house.  Yesterday I harvested some basil and made three jars of beautiful Pesto.  The plants are still healthy and thriving, so I should get to make another batch of Pesto next week.  We baked a loaf of French bread and ate the pesto as a spread on it.   In the last batch I added some chipotle seasoning to give it a kick.   Delicious!

This evening I'm going to plant my sweet potato slips.  I have some regular potatoes growing in the garden but they aren't quite ready to dig yet.  I'm encouraged after getting some fresh new potatoes from our friend Janet Edsall from her garden.  I cut them in half, coated them with olive oil and seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, dill) and roasted them in the oven.  They were great with a small filet mignon steak, and even better cold the next morning with breakfast.  Waste not, want not!

Friday, July 5, 2013

4th of July

Our friends Linda and Mark Grennan stayed at the Retreat on Wednesday night.  After breakfast, Andy worked on the Oven during the  morning, while I worked in the front gardens.  There are always weeds and grass and four o'clocks to pull up.  I also harvested basil from the garden to make a batch of pesto.   It was a lovely day, not too hot or humid. Patrick Espy came by for a visit -- we hadn't seen him in quite a while.  After work we sat under the umbrella on the patio and enjoyed a cold beer while a slab of ribs cooked in the house oven. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Progress on the Oven at Chaparral


Andy's been working hard while the weather has been pleasant and he's made good progress on the Oven this week.  There are so many more steps to the building process than I originally imagined.

A layer of sand is spread out within the frame of fire brick.

Then the firebrick are laid out in a herring-bone pattern without mortar.  But they have to be perfectly level.  This is going to be the cooking surface:

Then the actual dome form is covered with firebrick and a special mortar.  Once set, the form itself will be removed, leaving only the brick structure. 


Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer fun

We had a great evening at the Whirlwind Winery on Saturday night, painting a landscape with a lesson by Kelly from Oklahoma city.  Most of our attendees were from Oklahoma City (other than our "regulars").  We'd love to see more locals join in the fun! 
Mid-evening we had visitors who were bicyclists going cross-country from South Carolina to California and had a nice visit with them. Overall it was a fun Saturday night.
I am getting ready to start work on the former Sweet Shop on Main Street, to get it set up as an art studio where we can give art lessons and have a place to display art.  Watch for updates on that. 
We had guests at the Retreat this past week from Arkansas, a friend of Vicki Williams from Weatherford, a young couple from Lawton who found our place on Tripadvisor, and a young man from Yuma, Arizona, here to do some work with his church. I enjoyed visiting with all of them over breakfast.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ready for summer guests

The Retreat grounds are looking good after three weeks of spring cleaning work by Andy and a young man named Travis who has been helping him.  They've trimmed trees, pulled out dead wood, cleared walking paths, and raked dead leaves off of the gardens.  The daylilies are blooming thanks to the additional sunlight that's getting in.


We've had two bonfires over the past two weeks to burn the excess brush. 
It's been a good time of year for guests to be here.  We've had pleasant weather this past week, so it's been perfect for hiking and just sitting out on the front porch.  The birds are going crazy with their songs.  We love to sit on the porch and watch them fly through the trees as they stealthily make their way to the birdbath. I'm not good at taking bird photos, but I'd love it if someone with that talent could come and take pictures that I could post here.  The number of different voices I hear is amazing.  I know I've spotted at least six different varieties of birds that I can recognize and know there are more that come and go regularly.  We've had two rooms occupied this week and have thoroughly enjoyed visiting with our guests.   
Not too much work has been done on the Oven these past two weeks, as Andy has been concentrating on the spring cleaning while he has help.  He is ready to start constructing the cooking dome with fire bricks.
This Saturday the Whirlwind Winery in downtown Watonga is  hosting another "Liquid Art" event.  We will be painting a picture of vases with flowers.  ANYONE can do it!  Plus, we'll have a real ARTIST present to give hints on how to paint with acrylics. 


Come join us on Saturday night BUT PLEASE CALL ME TO LET ME KNOW IF YOU ARE COMING so that we are sure to have enough supplies on hand.  We provide a canvas, paints, brushes, easel and apron for you to use to create your work of ART! 


Sunday, June 16, 2013

6/16/2013 Father's Day

Last weekend Andy went to Tulsa to visit his dad and take him to an Army reunion.  This weekend we are taking it easy at home.  Blake went to church with us this morning and the UMW made a very nice breakfast in honor of all of the fathers.  It was also the first weekend for our new preacher, Steve, to preside over the Sunday service.  Lots of volunteers from the congregation have been working hard on the parsonage home to get it ready for the new minister and his wife to move in.  There is still more work to be done this week, but it should be ready by Friday for them to move in.  Steve preached this Sunday (today) and he and his wife should be able to move in completely this coming week.  We miss Larry and Kelly but are confident in the District's choice of Steve and his wife B.J. as our new minister and wife. 

Andy has been working hard on the parsonage to get it ready for the new minister, so no work has been don on the oven.  BUT, this week he will be able to install the cooking dome.  I am excited!

This week should also be decent temperatures to work outside in.  Last week was hellish (not compared to Dallas!!), with temperatures in the high 90's all week.  The grasshoppers have  reappeared, but not to the extent they invaded last summer. Today I sprayed a bug killer that is supposed to keep them at bay, but it has to be sprayed every seven days or after a rain.  I'm not giving up on the garden yet!  Lots of things have been blooming and the yard and grounds are beautiful after Andy and his helper Travis have worked for two weeks on clearing dead brush and tree limbs.  The daylilies have just started to bloom, along with the creeping sedum and tickseed coreopsis.  I also have some Mexican hat coming up in two places and hope they reseed themselves.  They are a wildflower, so who knows what they will do.  I have not been successful in getting gallardia (Indian blanket, the state wildflower of Oklahoma) to come up, but I'm not giving up on that yet.  The natives are coming up all along the roads right now.  I have transplanted quite a bit of blue spiderwort (native to Oklahoma) and will have a good showing of blue flowers throughout this summer and next spring. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hot June

Looks like our cool Spring is over. The temperatures this week will be in the mid- to high 90's.  We've had plenty of rain but that doesn't mean we wouldn't welcome more.  The height of the tornado season is over, I'm told.

Andy and a young man from Geary have been working like dogs on cleaning up the property:  raking leaves, trimming dead wood and cutting up firewood for the oven, snipping off suckers from trees, and generally cleaning up after a tough winter.  I've worked on transplanting flowers around and keeping things watered and fed.  I'm ready for an outdoor party! 

We did have our neighbor Coot,his daughter, granddaughter and husband over for dinner on Sunday evening.  It was a beautiful day outside but just a little too warm and windy for al fresco seating.  We had a good visit sitting around the dining room table, drinking wine and sweet tea, and reminiscing. 

The Watonga Cheese Festival Committee is working on lining up ENTERTAINMENT for this year's festival. There are lots of talented people in our area and this year we want to highlight that talent on our stages. I'm asking that anyone reading this contact me or Andy Barrett (580-623-4269) to tell us of a musical act, band, soloist, or other entertainment who may be interested in performing during the Cheese Festival. We want lots of LOCAL TALENT to show off our town! Thanks!!

Watch for more news -- gotta run now to help work on cleaning out the parsonage to get it ready for our new minister and wife!

Monday, June 3, 2013


This coming weekend, June 8, Rick Larson's father is coming to visit from California.  He is an artist and an Art teacher there.  He has agreed to come to our Liquid Art session and give us some pointers.  We are having it at the Library this weekend, and hope to get a bigger crowd.  We are planning on painting a landscape or a still-life -- final decision will be made by Mr. Larson.  We won't have wine at this event, but will provide Sprite and water and a dessert snack.  As usual, all painting supplies will be provided.  I hope you'll join us!!! It's always fun.


June 3, 2013
The last two weeks have brought devastating tornados and flooding rains to the Oklahoma City and surrounding areas. After the record tornado hit Moore on May 20, several smaller tornados hit the El Reno and Midwest City areas this past Friday and caused severe damage and deaths. We feel fortunate that we were not affected by that weather here at the Retreat, neither with physical damage or by knowing someone who personally suffered damage or injury by the weather.  We are grateful to have gotten some rain that has suddenly brought spring to the area.  I know the wheat farmers are also happy about the rain, even if it is late in the year. 

Suddenly the property is overgrown and green.  Andy has been busy cutting out broken limbs from trees and cutting them up for next winter's firewood, and for the oven.  He is taking a break from working on the oven while he waits for the latest layer of cement to cure.  We have firebrick stacked up, ready to use to build the actual oven part of the structure. 

I've been working on transplanting spiderwort around the property.  It is abundant and a perennial, very tolerant of the weather here. It will bloom all summer so it is nice to have around.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day weekend

We had a good weekend in spite of windy weather this past weekend.  Andy returned  safely from a job in Omaha, Nebraska.  Vicki Williams and I manned the first Farm & Garden Market at the Armory in Watonga.  We didn't have any produce vendors on Saturday;  with the late freezes we've had the outdoor gardens are not yet producing much except greens.  I harvested some lettuces and took those to the market.  I also took some potted plants and sold a couple.  It was a very nice day and we had several customers come by the Armory.  We could only tell them to come back in following weeks and we hope Aubrey Drew will bring some of his produce and canned goods.  Otherwise it was quiet in the town of Watonga. There was no Pioneer Day celebration so the streets were dead.   

At the Retreat we had guests who came to town to be with family and visit loved ones' gravesites.  And we had a couple who came just to get away and relax.  Thanks, Tim, for telling the young couple about our place when the Lodge was full.   They sat on the back patio and Andy fired up the chiminea.  It smelled like a campfire.  We sat with them and visited for a while under the stars.  The weather was perfect.  I feel like we made new friends and hope they will come back to see us. 

One of our guests this weekend purchased one of Drew's paintings from our Liquid Art evening.  She liked several of the paintings we have on display at the house, but I was only willing to let go of one of them.   

In between Andy's work on the outdoor oven in our backyard, Andy and I are working on a friend's yard -- cleaning up and putting in some new landscaping.  We've gotten the "cleanup" part done and now I'm ready to buy some new shrubs and plants to fill in the empty beds. 

Last week I suffered an injury and have been recuperating all weekend.  I don't think anything was broken but I have some pretty ugly bruises and my right side hurts like hell.  I feel like I was kicked in the side by a horse.  The funny thing is, I don't know what happened or how it happened.  Andy wasn't home so it is certain that he didn't beat me (just kidding!!) The only explanation we can come up with is that I got out of bed in the middle of the night while still asleep, fell against something in the bedroom, and got back into bed.  I don't remember anything happening and I woke up in bed on Thursday morning with an ache in my side.  The bruise grew over the next couple of days and I could feel the soreness deep inside, especially when I coughed or laughed or took a deep breath.  I found a scratch on one of my arms but no other scrapes or bruises.  I definitely bruised my ribs but don't think I injured any organs or broke anything.  Today, Tuesday, I am feeling a little better, not as sore I have been over the past few days.  I really can't afford to go to the doctor so I'm just hopeful my body will heal itself. 

The irises blooms have just about played out for the year. We had a good show but there were also lots of irises that didn't put out blooms.  It was nice to see flowers blooming from the highway.  Andy and I like to walk around the property and figure out where we need to move plants and add color.  I have some white irises given to me by my friend Katie, and I'm hoping to get some multicolored plants from another lady in Watonga who is willing to let me "thin out" her iris bed.  Right now the mouse-ear coreopsis and tickseed are blooming bright yellow and gold, and the turk's cap is putting on some blooms.  The sedum is also putting up stalks where yellow flowers will open in the next week or so.The summer phlox is coming up along with the obedient plant so we'll have more color later in the summer.  My variegated vinca is growing like a weed and I am transplanting some of into pots to take to the Farm & Garden market.  SPRING is finally here in earnest!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday May 20

This afternoon a HUGE tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma.  The news reports are 24-7 on both TV and radio.  One of the major targets was an elementary school.  Initial death count was around 90, then the news reports were saying 54 dead.  The rescue personnel are still trying to clear the debris and hope to find more people alive.  The location of the tornado devastation was a good 90 miles from Watonga, so we are grateful the storms missed us.  But our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Moore and the rescue personnel that are helping down there.  This evening's weather reports are that the stormy weather and possible tornado activity have moved southeast, toward Arkansas and southeast Oklahoma.  The weather here today is actually very nice, with a high temperature of 85 degrees and a little bit of wind. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Yesterday's temperature got up to 89 degrees!  It was a gorgeous day.  I worked in the vegetable garden, spreading mulch, and did a little cleaning in the garage, organizing all of my gardening stuff. 

Today is overcast but warm.  I planted some of the seeds I found yesterday, watered the vegetable garden, and harvested some mesclun mix and lettuces for dinner this evening.  I also took photographs of the blooming irises so that I can have a record of where each color is, so that when I thin the beds I'll have some idea of what color I am thinning. 

I met with one of the youth from The Spot yesterday about maintaining some of the garden beds on Main Street.  He is excited about working the beds and really making them pop!  Today we will go to the local nursery, June's Plant Place, and choose some hardy plants for the beds. I'm going to give him some groundcover and some irises for him to put into the beds. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Beautiful Spring Day

Monday, May 13, 2013.  Andy is busy at work on the Oven. 
He continues to make steady progess.  The cement forms he is pouring today will have to dry and cure for several days.  Drew is planning on being here this coming weekend so he can help with the project. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday May 10

The circus was in town last night, but I didn't get any photos.  I hear it was a resounding success. It was very nice to have something for families to do in Watonga!

We have guests from Ponca City (David and Mary Lou) on Wednesday, who golfed at Roman Nose State Park on Thursday.  They stayed in the New Mexico room and David and I had a good visit about New Mexico in general.  Thankfully, the weather was perfect on Thursday after a stormy Wednesday night.  We didn't get any hail like other nearby areas did (OKC), but we got a good thunderstorm and lightening show. David and Mary Lou said they sat out on the covered patio of their room and watched some of the show.

For breakfast I made sage sausage, applesauce with sliced apples on the side, and our standard "hole-in-one", an egg grilled in a hole of a piece of bread that is buttered and toasted; and sliced tomatoes with a drizzle of an apple dressing garnished with fresh rosemary.  I didn't take any photos but it really was a pretty breakfast setting.  Mary Lou, who had recently had hip surgery, suggested we put a chair in the NM room that has arms.  Right now there is a leather high-backed chair with no arms in that room, but we have an armchair in another room that we will switch out.  I really do like getting suggestions from visitors on what we can do to make their stay even just that little bit more comfortable.

Andy and I went out to the "back forty" to hunt for mushrooms again yesterday, since the weather warmed up after a good rain.  Didn't find any more after the crop we gathered on Tuesday. 
Andy, Dale, and John - hunting mushrooms in May.

Today if work day in the yard -- pulling weeds, raking up leaves, cleaning out flower beds, trimming dead off of the trees and bushes.  the irises are starting to bloom.  Everything is turning green. 

And here's the latest progress on The Oven -- it's coming together nicely: