Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Morel hunting a success!

 April 19, 2021

Today was a good day.  It was sunny and around 55 degrees when Andy and I left the house to go to OKC and pick up groceries we had ordered online.  While in Yukon, we went to lunch at one of our favorite Vietnamese restaurants. Not only is the food good but it is never crowded, even before COVID hit.  Though Andy and I have both been vaccinated, we are still careful about social distancing and using hand sanitizer and wearing our mask unless we're eating.   

The semi-annual Roman Nose Hills Trail Ride is being held this weekend. When Andy and I got home from the City we put our boots on and drove to the Midway Cafe site to set up the grills for the Saturday lunch cookout.  It is a beautiful place thick with trees and a fishing lake. Sadie went with us and we walked through a patch of trees looking for mushrooms, with no luck. 

Before going home, we decided to go into the woods at the back of our land via the gravel road instead of hiking, to hunt for morel mushrooms. We got a little rain a couple of days ago and today was plenty warm, so we figured they would be popping up.  Andy had found a couple on Saturday when he was out in the woods along the back road. That day he ran into a neighbor who was out also morel hunting.  Andy only found 4 on Saturday, and Mitch had about a dozen he had found on his property that day.  We were out for about 40 minutes, and I was ready to give up, when Andy spotted a couple of mushrooms.  Then as I was approaching where he stood, I came across a "honey hole" (as they call it here) and found about half a dozen all in the same area.  In the end we gathered just enough to fry up as an appetizer.  We marked the location for future hunting. I still think it is weird that everyone around here is secretive about their hunting spots for morels. Tonight a cold front is coming through central Oklahoma so that will probably be all the mushrooms we get this season. After the rain that is supposed to come through this weekend, we may go out and look for more (it can become an obsession, but at least the hunting season is short). 


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Time to hunt morel mushrooms

 The weirdness of 2020 has extended into 2021 in more than a few ways.  I've gotten to where I don't even look at the news reports of COVID cases, deaths, the vaccines ,etc; but I can't help but notice that our country seems to be at a standstill in mitigating the pandemic. That is to say, many Americans just can't seem to get it into their heads that the sooner we all mask up the sooner we'll get the pandemic under control.  Andy and I have both been vaccinated and still wear masks when we're in public (not when we're driving in the car.)

But the Oklahoma weather has been just as unpredictable as it always is.  The good thing is that we didn't get a freeze after the currant and redbuds flowered, so we may get a good crop of currants and we definitely has a bright splash of color from the redbuds. We had little rain over the past two months until this week, and the temperatures have been in the 50-60-70's, even as warm as 80 and sunny. I describe these conditions because the time to find morel mushrooms all depends on the temperature and moisture in the woods.  For the past month I've seen hundreds of posts on Facebook about who has found a cache of the coveted fungi and where they are popping up.  The "myth" is that mushrooms pop up when the redbuds are in full bloom, but that doesn't take into consideration the other necessary conditions for fruiting. All of the conditions may come together this Sunday, with the rain we've had the past two days, though the temperature won't be as warm as some people say it must be.  But we're going to go hunting when the temperature gets up to 60 degrees on Sunday instead of waiting until it hits 80 degrees again, cause that's not going to happen for a while. I hope we are successful.

Today some surveyors came out to survey our neighbor's property (the Nelsons) to our north. Evidently it has been sold to a group out of Texas (the Palo Duro Canyon area) called Stephens Brothers Cabins. We don't know what the new owners' intentions are yet - whether they intend to build cabins out in the woods - but we'll just have to be prepared for some changes in the area.  We just hope for good neighbors.

Last weekend Drew slaughtered one of his sheep, so we have a freezer chest full of lamb.  He's going to make some curry for dinner tonight.  He only has two more weeks of student teaching and will graduate from Southwestern OK State University on May 1.  

. . .   

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Today's update

 Yesterday was windy and chilly in our area, so I stayed indoors and vegged.  I did get up the energy to prepare dinner at the end of the day, a hearty tomato basil soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.   

Today (4/13/21) was a much better day than yesterday.  The wind was only a breeze; it was sunny and warm enough that the cool breeze felt good while I worked outdoors in a T-shirt.  Andy and I went into town to run some errands - go to the bank, get some groceries, drop off a flat tire to be fixed, picked up prescriptions from the local pharmacy, and stopped in at Jackie's Lawn & Lube/June's Garden Center/distributor of Watonga Cheese.  I bought a few seedlings (eggplant and cherry tomato) for our garden.  June has the best, healthiest plants and a wide variety of not only ornamentals but also vegetables and herbs. 

Speaking of plants and gardening -- I am boycotting Bonnie's plants because they are not an ethical company. A couple of years ago I was at a Lowe's store to pick up some seedlings for the vegetable garden. They had a table with several signs around the table that said "$1.98" for the 3" pots -- what a deal!! When I got to the checkout counter, the cashier rang the plants up at $3.98 each - which was the posted price on the plastic descriptive tag in each pot.  I told the cashier that the sale price was listed on the table at $1.98.  The  cashier followed me outside to the table to confirm what I had told her, and then she explained to me that the sale price did not pertain to the Bonnie brand, even though the table only had Bonnie plants on it.  I asked, then why are the sale signs there, where there are only Bonnie plants.  The cashier told me that Bonnie and their personnel controlled where their plants were set up in stores, and the stores are not allowed to mark the prices down. In fact, she said all Bonnie plants that are not sold are returned to the nursery, actually picked up by a Bonnie nursery representative, no matter what condition they are in. I asked to see a manager, and the manager followed me outside to the "sale" table.  Her explanation was that "some employee" must have put the Bonnie plants on the sale table because the racks Bonnie provided for their merchandise were full.  Well, that's all well and good except for the fact that the employee left the sale price sign on the table, and there were no other plants on the table that were not Bonnie. The employee should have removed the sale signs if they weren't going to sell the plants on the table for the sale price. I told her, in a nice voice, that it was false advertising. The manager said "you can always contact the Bonnie nursery.  We don't have any control over their marketing and plant placement on our premises." I was frustrated and fuming mad, but decided not to spend anymore time on the matter. I walked away from my cart that was full of plants and since then have refused to buy any more Bonnie nursery plants.  Bonnie Nursery seedlings are sold everywhere, from the local grocery store to Tractor Supply and Atwoods (local businesses)  But June Morris here in Watonga gets her seedlings from another nursery. While Bonnie charges $3.98 for a 3-inch seedling, June charges $1.98 for the same plant.  June always culls her supply of damaged or half-dead seedlings, and will sell those for less than the marked price if a person asks.  

End of my rant!  In the afternoon I planted the seedlings I had bought at June's, planted some cilantro, mesclun mix, and parsley seed, and watered the potato bed and lettuces I have in pots.  Then I spent an hour or so pulling up the spreading vinca (periwinkle) that had encroached on and covered up some other plants in the large "wild" area in the front yard.  Jenna and I walked around the property to look at what was blooming and what was budding and what needed to be cut back or trimmed.  Everything is so colorful outdoors right now!  And we're getting some much needed rain today!  

Next project, after the rainy days are over, is to go hunting for morels out in the woods!! 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Life in the Country

 The shroud of winter 2020-2021 has been lifted and I survived. There is so much cleaning work to be done, both indoors and outside.  Andy has been busy moving fallen trees and branches and cutting them up or burning the dead wood.  Drew and Jenna have set out seeds for the vegetable garden and made up a map of the space for complementary planting.  I've prepared a bed for potatoes and gotten  them into the ground, and have also planted some parsley and some lettuces. 

Sadie and Martha both love to run through the woods, and Sadie has to go outside whenever Andy or I are outdoors. This week she has caught two baby rabbits, and today she came out of the woods carrying a larger one, maybe a young adult. I watched her eat the first bunny, and the second one she left for the cats - or maybe she was chased off from the kill by one of the cats. I think she ran off with the young adult and hid it in the woods after the cats approached her on the patio. When Sadie came back to the patio, she was dripping wet:  she had jumped into the pond to cool down. The pond is her private swimming pool, and she loves to swim across it. Between her dashing through the woods and refusing to come to me when I call her, it is very hard to get a photo of her playing outside.

We (the kids) have eight sheep now and are ready to thin the herd; Drew will try to sell three or four before having to go the alternate route. The chickens are producing plenty of eggs and we can hear the rooster crow when we are walking to the garden or along trails in the woods. 

I am regularly asked "have the kids finished their house" and the answer is "No". But they intend to and will use it as a studio instead of their primary living space. Drew's time has been 100% consumed by school since he started back to finish his degree.  He will graduate in May and is already sending out resumes for a teaching job. 

. . .  

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

April 2021- Almost "Normal"

 Things are looking up at the Retreat.  The local nursery owner in town told me today that "we're over the cold temperatures" when I was in her shop looking at herbs and vegetables for the garden.  The redbud trees  starting budding out about ten days ago and haven't yet hit their peak. The daytime temperatures are now steadily in the 50's 60's and 70's, and if we get some rain in the next week to ten days it will be a good time to go hunting for morel mushrooms out in the woods!  Around the house, colors are starting to pop (mostly redbuds and bulbs).  I haven't seen any buds on any of the irises that are all around the property. I've posted a few pics on our facebook pages (Linda Barrett or Chaparral Retreat and Guesthouse).  

We had a new baby lamb born about a week ago and he is too cute.  We now have eight sheep. The kids are ready to sell off a couple of the rams we have and maybe even a female or two.  We have still not been able to teach Sadie (our mini-Aussie) to herd them -- Sadie would rather run and play in the woods. We have five laying hens and a rooster and they are all healthy and happy.

Drew and Jenna have already planted some vegetables in the garden and started some seedlings in the house for summer veggies.  I finally got our seed potatoes in the ground.  The walk up to the garden is uphill so I get some good exercise going up there to water, weed, and plant new things.  I have lettuces planted in large pots outside of the kitchen and we are able to harvest some for dinner already.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we don't have a bad year for grasshoppers. 

We have gotten our COVID vaccinations and have stayed safe and well over the past fifteen months. We are ready to open one room of the bed & breakfast and see how that goes.  We are getting more and more calls from musicians who want to know if we are going to continue our House Concerts, and we are ready to say "YES!" Check out the Oklahoma House Concerts page for updates on when and where!

. . . 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Spring update

 March 18, 2021

I recently received an email from someone who said she does read our blog!  

The past twelve months have taken us on a long, strange trip.  The day the COVID19 pandemic was announced is etched into my memory. I was probably the only person in the world who, at the time, was grateful for the announcement. In short, here's why:  Last February I received a subpoena from the Los Angeles Superior Court to appear there as a "material witness" in a criminal case involving a person I knew forty years ago. I fought the subpoena in the local court on the grounds that I had not seen that person for forty years, knew nothing about the other parties in the criminal case, and had no information about the case to give to the LA court.  But the only grounds the judge would consider was the fact that a pandemic had been declared and that because of my age, I was in the high risk group who were being advised not to travel. 

No one could have predicted how long the COVID pandemic would last.  For the first six months we took each day one at a time, not being able to plan on anything. Mixed messages from the government wasn't any help in guiding us. In June we closed our doors to guests and canceled house concerts that were on the calendar through December. We had a trip to England planned for June 2020 and we had to cancel all of those plans. The rest of the year played out with us in isolation at home. 

We got through the winter with one bad ice storm in October that not only kept us stuck at home but also caused a multi-day power outage. The ice took down lots of dead wood in the forest but also several live trees and branches from live trees. We have a lot of downed wood that needs to be cut up and/or burned.  Andy has his work cut out for him this spring.  We had another snow event in February but didn't lose power. We're hopeful that we've gotten through the winter and that we got enough moisture for a colorful spring.  The redbuds are starting to put out buds but the quince hasn't bloomed yet. Daffodils and crocus are blooming and iris shoots are popping up all around. 

It is now mid-March and there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.  Andy and I have both been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, and Drew is eligible for it because he is a teacher.  News reports say that there is plenty of vaccine available, or will soon be available (May 1), for every adult who wants the vaccine to get one.  Though the number of COVID cases have been going down, we may be in for a spike and a resulting delay in controlling the spread because state governments are loosening restrictions for mask use, business openings and large group gatherings (such as sorting events), and getting kids back into schools in spite of warnings by the head epidimiologist Mr. Fauci to slow down for another month. 



Monday, January 4, 2021

Jan 4, 2021

We've had snow on the ground for the past three days, and it has been beautiful.  Fortunately, we didn't get ice out of this weather and no power outages. We all spent New Years afternoon playing games and the kids put together a puzzle they received as Christmas gifts. The temperature today should reach 50 degrees so the snow may melt away, though the daytime temps over the next few days are going to be in the 40's. 





The best "gift" I received this year was a letter  from an old friend I had lost track of and had not been in touch with for almost ten years. My fault -- I had her last known address but had not written because I wasn't sure it was still her address. She doesn't do social media and I didn't have an email.  Getting her letter and knowing that she wants to stay in touch just brightened up my day. 

Focusing on the "bad news" of the year has made me not want to interact with anyone. Being quarantined in the house doesn't help.  Sometimes Andy and I will just get in the car and drive around the countryside in order to get a change of scenery.  I really miss social interaction with people.