Thursday, August 9, 2018

Summer 2018

WHOA!  It's been a very busy spring and summer at the Retreat and in the nearby town of Watonga. I see that the last time I updated this page was in March!!  I may not have written here during this lag time, but I've posted a lot on facebook pages for the Chaparral Retreat, Watonga Arts Center, Phoenix Circle Foundation, Oklahoma House Concerts, and Blaine County OK Community pages, so I'll just write some highlights here.

Our rooms were booked throughout the spring and summer with guests in the area for family reunions, school reunions, weekend getaways, the Roman Nose Hills Trail Ride, friends visiting us, and House Concerts. We held at least one concert a month this year, most at the Retreat but a couple at the Whirlwind Winery.  The Winery has turned into a good venue for live music and having concerts there has attracted new people that may not have come out to the house in the country. I also arranged for a band, John the Franklin out of OKC, to play at the Park on July 4th and that was a hit with park management and visitors.  We hope to continue that as an annual tradition.

 Chuck Dunlap

 Abbigale Dawn

Dylan Stewart at the Whirlwind Winery

                                                                             Gentry Counce @
                                                                        Whirlwind Winery

The Watonga Chamber of Commerce has a new director -Teresa France -- and she has lit a fire in the community, re-igniting the town's relationship with the State Park and bringing fresh ideas to the Chamber board.  She jumped right in and found an economic development consultant to spend a few days here and give suggestions to the community on how to "Flip This Town" -- revitalize the downtown, attract new visitors and businesses, and make available some new activities for both adults and children.  In the meantime, Andy worked on getting the front facade of the building we bought at 111 E. Main St., Watonga, redone with the help of a grant from KeepOklahomaBeautiful and we were able to have a photo op while Ron Drake was in town.  His visit and input got other people interested in renovating a couple of buildings on Main St.

After a trip to Las Vegas to see Van Morrison and the Beatles/Cirque de Soleil LOVE shows, Andy and I got to see David Byrne in concert in OKC, and James Taylor in Wichita.

 I loved the chalkboard at the JT concert venue!  We're going to have a chalkboard outside of our arts building for people to write and draw on. We can then take photos and erase and start again.  Andy is now busy working on the inside of the arts center, and he and Drew are working on a logo.  We (Andy, me, Drew, and Jenna) brainstormed and decided on a name for the center -- WATONGA ARTWORKS. 
Other things we've done so far this year:  hired a young man to help trim trees;
We planted a silver maple tree outside of the Texas bedroom;
Andy rescued some crepe myrtles that were being dug up and replaced by other landscape, and we planted them in our yard;
Drew and Jenna got 6 sheep and move them around the yard to eat the grass-helps cut down Andy's mowing time down front of the property;
We served wood-fired pizza dinner to a group of visiting mission students from North Carolina; 
I painted my first "Barn Quilt" and Andy put it up on the outside of our building on Main Street;

This month I led a painting class for 4H kids -- they will enter their art for ribbons and cash awards at the Blaine County Fair.  I included in the class a short lesson on the Monarch butterfly's migration, feeding grounds, and pollination -- our house is on the migratory path for the Monarch as they make their way from Canada to Mexico for the winter. If you've watched any Nature or Nova shows and have seen photographs of the Monarch in large clusters covering trees, believe that they are really that thick!  We've had them linger in our trees for a couple of days and they are amazing to watch as they flutter in and around the property and literally cover the tree leaves, making the branches of the trees look  like they are moving.  I wish I had a photo, but my phone camera isn't sophisticated enough to get a shot that isn't blurry.  I am looking forward to their arrival this year, usually in August or September. 

So, it is now almost mid-August -- temperatures are still in the 90's but we've had a little rain and the yard is green and everything is blooming.  I celebrated my birthday over a long weekend with friends at the house and then a day trip on Monday to OKC to visit the 21C Museum and eat sushi.  Can't ask for better!! Today has been a pleasant day to sit outside on the patio while I catch up on this blog. 

I hope this post finds everyone in good health and enjoying a good life!  /Linda




How Time Flies

It's already mid-March -- where did the time go?  Spring flowers are budding and blooming and it's time to rake leaves off of the gardens to uncover the new growth. 

It took me longer than usual to completely recover from my bout with the flu.  Even after I no longer had flu symptoms and thought I was well, I felt weak and tired for weeks and finally went to see my doctor. Lupus?  Thyroid?  Regular blood work all looked to be normal, but a series of specific blood tests revealed that my body was severely deficient in vitamins.We came to the conclusion that the flu had taken a dangerous toll on my immune system.  It has now been a month since I started a new vitamin regimen and I can feel the difference in my energy levels.

Austin-based musician MANDY ROWDEN will be at the Chaparral Retreat & Guesthouse  as part of our Oklahoma House Concert series on Friday, March 23.  We're developing a following of musicians and audience and have two house concerts already scheduled for April and May and one in June and one in July.  Even though we're located in the middle of Nowhere Oklahoma, we have been able to attract quite a few very talented musicians from all around the country.

Friday, January 26, 2018

January 2018 - Busy Month

After recovering from the real flu and taking time to get my strength back over the holiday season, on Jan 15 I challenged myself and went out in 28 degree weather to give a hiking tour of the Three Springs area at Roman Nose State Park to two visitors from Norman, OK.  Even in the winter, the scenery in the park is beautiful and peaceful. I couldn't help but give a little history on the Park, talk about the Native American culture and the Civilian Conservation Corp.  Our faces were frozen by the time we finished the hike from the Shelter to the swimming pool bath house and back up to the parking lot.  We drove to the Lodge and walked down the hallway to look at the current and historical photographs. This part of Oklahoma really is special.

On Sunday, Jan 14, the first Oklahoma House Concert of the year was held at the Chaparral Retreat.  A young, sweet, and very talented musician, Abbigale Dawn, from Norman, OK put us all under her spell with her lovely lyrics and vocals.   She was referred to our place by Oklahoma singer/songerwriter Dylan Stewart.  Phoenix Circle Foundation organizes these house concerts not only to support musicians, but in the hopes that we will also be able to raise a few dollars to go toward the Foundation's mission of bringing arts opportunities and experiences to an underserved part of rural Oklahoma.  It is a win-win proposition for everyone - musicians, the Foundation, the audience, and of course Andy and I.  We win by getting exposure for the BandB and by not having to drive an hour for entertainment and fun.  We so much appreciate the musicians who are willing to come out here, and the people who come out for the concert.   We already have several concerts lined up for the first half of this year!

We've been busy with the Friends of Roman Nose State Park Assoc. and the new management at the park in organizing the annual Trout Derby, scheduled for the first weekend in March.  The FORN group will be working with the Chamber of Commerce and we hope to have a good turn-out.  The FORN group is also working on getting a reprint of the book by Dr. M.C. Weber, "Roman Nose State Park--A History" that the group sells as a fundraiser.  The book is the essential guide to the history, geology, and culture of the Park.

We are also excited to hear that the Chamber of Commerce has hired a new admin director!  That should  mean some good things happening in Watonga in the coming year.  I know that Andy and I and Phoenix Circle Foundation personally  have some plans for new and fun activities once we get the Arts Center open .... and on that front, we are thankful and happy that the Phoenix Circle Foundation has been awarded  a grant from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful to put towards the redo of the building on Main Street that Andy has been working on all year.  The money will allow us to finish the front of the building with new windows and an awning, and that will complete the block on the northeast end of Main Street (i.e., all of the storefronts are attractive and have businesses in them).   Once that is completed, Andy can then turn his attention to finishing the inside of the building. specifically to a heating and air conditioning system before the summer.  I'll be looking for and requesting donations and grant money for that equipment and installation.  I'll also be sending in a Press Release to our local newspaper in the next week or so to let the public know where the money is coming from -- a great organization called KEEP OKLAHOMA BEAUTIFUL that has lots of conversation, litter cleanup and recycling programs, and even art projects that repurpose, recycle, and reuse things that might otherwise be thrown away.  I hope to work with the Chamber of Commerce and the local schools on a couple of thesenKOB  projeects to keep Watonga and the State Park  looking good.   

The road we live on, Hwy 8A, is only a couple of miles long and leads right into Roman Nose State Park.  It is amazing to me how much trash and litter is thrown out of cars that use that road, both coming and going from the Park.  When Dr. Max and Marjorie Barrett lived here, they walked along the easement every day and picked up trash from the roadsides for years.  It was great exercise for them, and kept the highway free of litter that would otherwise be blown by the wind onto the properties of those who live along the highway.  I think that would be a great project for a 4-H group or Boy Scout group, or even an after-school project for elementary and middle school youth. 

This week our new puppy Sadie (named after the Beatles song Sexy Sadie) went in for her spay operation.  She is young--eight months old-- and will heal quickly.  The first day after surgery she was lethargic, ate but then threw up her food, drank little water, and pretty much just rested though her puppy instinct was to jump and play. We kept her subdued for the next couple of days and she is getting more frisky and active every day. She loves to run and jump through the woods like a gazelle.

 Sadie is trying to make friends with KikiDee, who I have been allowing to come into my bedroom in spite of my allergies.  She doesn't stay long but when she is inside my bedroom she room she explores a little, tolerates the puppy's playful advances, and then ends up curled up at my feet.  Sadie tries to engage with her, and Kiki Dee responds with little love bites on Sadie's feet and neck.

Andy and I are planning to take a vacation and Drew and Jenna will take care of the house and animals while we are gone.  We haven't had a vacation in 3 years other than a weekend visit here and there, so we are going to "sell the stock and spend all the money" [ from Sting's "Brand New Day"]  and celebrate Andy's birthday with long-time loved friends--I don't know all of the details but I've heard rumors that there will be a limosine involved.  Hopefully in a warm climate! 

I think our next House Concert is in February, maybe around Valentine's Day. Right now it is happy hour and I'm settled in (google the Finnish term "kalsarikannit") so I won't be able to give any more information until the morning.  We have some very sweet guests staying with us this evening and I have a special breakfast planned for them in the morning, so I'm shutting down the computer for this evening.  WISHING ALL A HAPPY FRIDAY AND HAPPY WEEKEND!!

Looking forward to comments on this post!!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Upcoming House Concerts

Jan 6, 2018 -- Today is Epiphany, commonly known as Three Kings’ Day in the United States, signifying the end of the Christian Christmas season.  It celebrates the three wise men’s visit to baby Jesus and also remembers his baptism, according to the Christian Bible’s events.

After a week (or more) of VERY cold weather, the past couple of days have been slightly warmer (40 degrees is my benchmark for "too cold") and Andy has been busy cutting down dead trees and chopping wood for the house fireplaces.  I've been focusing on scheduling House Concerts and my writing.  On Thursday evening, a friend and I drove to Enid to attend the Enid Writer's Group meeting and it was very interesting.  Got to meet some new people, interested in house concerts and poetry readings in addition to being supportive of poetry, prose, and song writing.  It was a fun evening. 

The Red Carpet Country annual Visitors' Guide is going to press.  Watonga has two pages of promotion in the guide, which will be good for tourism and increased number of visitors to our area throughout the year.

Friends of Roman Nose State Park Association will meet at the RNSP Lodge on Monday, Jan. 8, at 6:00 PM.  Plans for the annual Trout Derby at the lake will be discussed.  This event has been a collaboration between the Watonga Chamber of Commerce and the Friends of Roman Nose State Park Assoc. nonprofit group for many years and it requires community volunteers to make it a successful event.  Everyone on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors are invited to attend and give input, as well as all members of the Chamber and all residents and business owners in Watonga.  It is an event that brings lots of visitors to our area.  Come out to the meeting and meet the new Park Manager, Kyle Bernis.  

The 2018 Oklahoma House Concert series at the Chaparral Retreat is off to a good start, with bookings already scheduled for the first three months of the year and new inquiries coming in daily from touring musicians.  As a director of the program, we are excited about the exposure we are getting and the interest of musicians in coming to Watonga.  The next House Concert will be on Sunday, January 14, featuring ABBIGALE DAWN, a young singer/songwriter from Norman, Oklahoma.  In 2017, a few shows were held at our local Whirlwind Winery, bringing people to downtown Main Street.   I invite anyone who wants to get facebook notifications of upcoming events and concerts to join the OKLAHOMA HOUSE CONCERTS Group page I've set up.  We are looking forward to the opening of the building next door to the winery at 111 E. Main St. in town where we will be able to host all kinds of arts events in 2018. 

Speaking of which, significant progress has been made on the renovation of the old building at 111 E. Main St.  The inside has been gutted and prepared for installation of plumbing and electric, and the outside front of the building has a complete new look.  SADLY, several of the new windows  have been vandalized and broken, and several panels will already have to be replaced.  The incidents have been reported to the police, and we are hopeful that neighboring business owners and other residents will report suspicious behavior around the building to the police (keeping fingers crossed, as that's all we can do until we get a security system installed).   We each regularly drive to the building and around the block several times a day, but the vandalism seems to be occurring overnight under cover of darkness. Now that the police department and neighboring business have been made aware of the vandalism, maybe the problem will stop as more people are watching.

Our mini-Aussie Sadie puppy is getting big -- that is, as big as she's going to get.  She is so full of energy and loves to run and play outside when it isn't too cold.  Jenna made a stuffed toy out of old socks and sweater for Sadie for Christmas and she loves throwing it around.  Sometime soon I need to learn how to video and transfer moving pics to facebook.