Sunday, December 29, 2019

The end of 2019

December 28, 2019
It's been a whirlwind year for us at the Retreat.  We've kept busy with guests at the BnB,  made new friends and hosted returning guests, held house concerts at least once a month, had a few groups come over for wood-fired pizza dinners, and done lots of maintenance work on the house and yard.  And I'm not even going to get into my health/heart issues during the year!  

We still enjoy the gorgeous sunsets from the front porch on most evenings.

We just can't seem to let go of volunteering and both Andy and I are still serving on a few boards of nonprofits organizations.  After some serious health problems, I've promised myself I'm going to back off of some of those thankless and stressful positions this year. The things I enjoy most -- my gardens, working with children at the art center and the local public school, organizing the house concerts, and working with the Keep Oklahoma Beautiful group -- are going to be my priorities this year.  

Keep Oklahoma Beautiful gave Phoenix Circle Foundation a small grant for a teaching garden, and I got several local young people needing community service hours to help set up the garden and plant. We composted our kitchen scraps and added sheep and cow manure to amend the sandy soil and build up rows.  Another KOB project that we organized locally was the annual Great American Cleanup, with volunteers from the local high school, 4H, Mercy Hospital, Roman Nose State Park staff and members of Friends of Roman Nose State Park.  My efforts to get some recycling going in town are going well, with collection bins at RNSP General Store, the Watonga Airport office, and Hot Dog Joint in Watonga.  We have to take what we collect to a recycling center 40 miles away, but it's nice to get out of town -- kill two birds with one stone. 

KOB awarded Phoenix Circle Foundation their Environmental Excellence award of Affiliate of the Year for 2019.  Our foundation was chosen from cities, nonprofit groups, volunteer groups, civic clubs, from all 77 counties in Oklahoma.  What a surprise it was!  We were happy to bring the award to Watonga and share with all of the people who volunteered and helped us.

This summer we opened the Art center on Saturday afternoons for kids to come in and just create.  We provided all of the supplies, and it was so heart-warming to see how their interest in art and their confidence grew each time they came in.

Drew was commissioned to design and paint a statue of a bison for the nearby town of Okeene, and it as unveiled in November.   It stands outside of a gift shop called The Corner at the main intersection in Okeene. 

Drew has gone back to school at Southwestern Oklahoma State University to finish his degree and wants to teach art to young people.  He is great with kids. 

I was asked to do an art "curriculum" for three groups this year:  the high school "Eagle Flight" students,  the County 4-H kids, and the middle school gifted and talented students. Watonga ArtWorks then hosted an exhibit about Ledger Art during the Watonga Cheese Festival, and had a drawing for a copy of the book, "The Ledgerbook of Thomas Blue Eagle."

In October Andy and I got to take a trip to New Mexico, saw one of his old classmates and his wife, and attended a wedding at the Rio Grande Gorge.  We stayed at three different B&B's, in Albuquerque, Taos, and Santa Fe.  It was a true adventure .... a long story I won't include here.

Drew and Jenna are spending this holiday with Jenna's family back east (Tennessee and Maryland) with their dog, Martha.  Our dog Sadie misses all of them, as Andy and I do too.  We are staying home to take care of all of the animals -- dog, cats, and sheep.  Just before Drew and Jenna left town, one of their sheep dropped a lamb and we are expecting another any moment.  The lamb is just too cute to even try to describe!!  I'll post photos later.

We hope everyone's holidays are all you could wish for, and that the new year brings joy, peace, good health, and new adventures!!

Andy and Linda Barrett 


Wednesday, July 31, 2019


WEDNESDAY - last day of July 2019. It's been a busy month -- Oklahoma musician Chloe-Beth Campbell performed at the Chaparral Retreat; Kory Quinn from Oregon played at the Whirlwind Winery, and Merry Ellen Kirk played at the Chaparral Retreat on a Sunday afternoon. There were fireworks in town on the 4th, and more at Roman Nose State Park on July 6. Our rooms were full at the Retreat most of the month with new visitors to our area celebrating anniversaries and birthdays, and friends from Tulsa.

The WATONGA ARTWORKS on Main St. has been open on Saturday afternoons for "Community Art Club", a couple of hours when anyone can come in and use our art supplies to be creative.  We've had children from age 3 to 13 each Saturday.  
I led the 4-H group in a painting session, and suggested a "space" theme in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing and first man to step on the surface of the moon.  Each child painted something different and they were very creative -- I look forward to seeing their works displayed at the upcoming Blaine County Fair in August.
Phoenix Circle Foundation is also continuing our work to encourage recycling, reduce waste, and got volunteers to help with our GREAT AMERICAN CLEANUP effort at Roman Nose State Park.  We had several more volunteers than last year come out to help this past spring, and more and more residents are using the Keep Oklahoma Beautiful recycling bins we have placed at the State Park General Store.  AND, we are excited to get permission from the Airport manager to place a recycling bin in their office.    I saw Jena and Shane Ohman going along the right-of-way along Hwy 8 one day, picking up trash from along the highway, and stopped to thank them!    The Lend-a-Bin program through Keep Oklahoma Beautiful is sponsored by Pepsico; Andy and I collect plastic and aluminum cans from the bins and take them to the Weatherford recycling center regularly.  
I attended a workshop put on by Keep Oklahoma Beautiful with speakers from OG&E, DEQ, Koch Communications, Republic Services, and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.  These workshops are free and there is always great useful information provided, in addition to networking opportunities.  A special surprise guest speaker showed up at this seminar - former Governor George Nigh! 
There is lots of other stuff to tell you about what's going on in Watonga ... some of the usual and some new things going on, but my eyes are tired so I'll write more later.  HAVE A GREAT DAY and try to stay cool!!
/Linda Barrett

Monday, January 14, 2019



January is going by fast!  The weather out here in NEVERWHERE has been alternately cold (20's overnight, 30's and 40's during the day) and decently warm (50's and 60's).

I finished working with a local young man who needed community service hours last week--50 hours over three months time.  He was eager and willing to work, collecting recycling materials, picking up trash along roadways, helped with Fresh Paint Days project, working on a firebreak by clearing and moving dead wood and burning it.  He worked in Phoenix Circle Foundation's new "teaching garden", and helped with the Roadside Beautification project the foundation did last year.  He was a pleasure to work with and I was really happy to see him reach his goal. 

We attended a Friends of Roman Nose State Park Assoc. meeting to help plan the annual Trout Derby at Roman Nose State Park.  The lake at the park is spring feed and the water stays cold enough to sustain Trout all year around.  Then, at the end of February, the Fish and Wildlife stocks the lake with tagged fish. When caught during the Derby, the fish qualify for prizes given by the FORN and the Chamber of Commerce, collected by local merchants.  See the Watonga Trout Derby facebook page for more information.  It is one of the major events held in our area and brings lots of visitors, so if you want to stay at the Chaparral Retreat during that time, call for your reservation soon 'cause we fill up quickly ( Phone:  580-623-4269.   Fisherman can register through the Watonga Chamber of Commerce, 580-623-5352 or online.

We're still partnering with Whirlwind Winery for a Package Experience -- would be perfect for a Valentine's gift.  Purchase by phone to get a confirmation number and a reservation.  

Singer/songwriter Marcedes Carroll from Bozeman Montana put on a show on Saturday night at the Whirlwind Winery   worthy of a Ryman Auditorium audience. Sadly, only a dozen people showed up to see her. There's not much to do for entertainment in our little corner of rural Oklahoma, so having a touring musician stop in and perform is a real treat.  This is why we are constantly doing "Fundraising" -- to be able to pay the musicians a little bit.   We are developing a nationwide network of musicians who want to come here to play but the locals that support the live music program is a small group.  Half of the people that came on Saturday night were not from Watonga. that's great because the concerts series brings in "tourists", but one of the Foundation's goals is to have something in our town for locals to do. So, we are looking for corporate sponsors to fund some advertising in Weatherford, Hinton, Canton, and other communities close by.  These musicians play for tips and CD and Tshirt sales, so the size of the audience is important (we'd like to get 20-25 people -- right now we average 10 to 15 attendees).  

 Marcedes was awesome - strong vocals, expressive guitar work, sweet, tender storytelling. This young lady has a special talen - we're going to have her back here for sure. She played original songs that will be on her first EP and has a Kickstarter campaign launching on Jan 21. 📸: @chloenostrant
I'll look for some pics from last night to post.

The next Oklahoma House Concert will be at the Chaparral Retreat on Sat., Jan 26. , featuring DELIBERATE KIN, a bluegrass/ alternative folk duo from Kansas.  MARK YOUR CALENDARS and join our BLAINE COUNTY CALENDAR or OKLAHOMA HOUSE CONCERT group pages to receive notices of this and upcoming shows.  OR, we'll send out email notices if you'll send us a message at that you want to get notices. We currently have musicians scheduled through August!!

We'll be looking skyward on January 19-21 for the rare astrological alignment of planets that's supposed to be visible those evenings, and on January 20 for the "Super wolf blood moon eclipse."    We have the perfect location out in the country, away from urban artificial light pollution.  We have two rooms currently available at the Chaparral Retreat for rent for an overnight stay ( call 580-623-4269 for a reservation!  The nearby Roman Nose State Park is also a good place to view dark skies full of stars. 

I'm all set for the day .... did my morning stretching, had a cup of coffee, checked the calendar, wrote in my journal, paid bills. Checked my facebook and email. It' is sunny but cold today so I may end up staying indoors and catching up on paperwork.  Martha and Sadie wear themselves running around outdoors and then come in for a rest.  

 HAVE A GREAT DAY!!  /Linda Barrett

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


December 28, 2018

"Another cold December day, and there are no singing sparrows" -from my book of poems

Ah, time to catch up, before another year begins.  2018 has been busy.  Since my last post we've had several house concerts, got some ink in the state tourism magazine OKLAHOMA TODAY about our place as the home of OKLAHOMA HOUSE CONCERTS, had visits from friends, visited friends in Tulsa and in Dallas, and made new friends.  We opened the WATONGA ARTWORKS building in town, celebrated our 38th anniversary, won an Environmental Excellence award from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful for PHOENIX CIRCLE FOUNDATION, got through another Cheese Festival. I survived a brown recluse spider bite with only a small scar, and we have all stayed healthy through the year other than minor colds and viruses.  We had to replace the HVAC unit in the main house this past summer.  The gardens were lush and beautiful all spring and summer and into October, and the sheep helped cut down on some mowing down at the front of the property. I post updates and photos regularly on facebook (under Linda Barrett and  Chaparral Retreat & Guesthouse pages).   We ended the year on an "up" note overall.  Scroll down this page for photos. 

We finally opened the arts center, named it WATONGA ARTWORKS, and Drew has designed a logo for a sign.  The interior space isn't totally finished yet but the front half, the gallery area with a stage, is done and we have art on the walls from a local artist.  We hosted a musician one night during the Cheese Festival in the building and have a couple more shows already scheduled for 2019.  We get lots of referrals from musicians who have played at our place, and the article  in the tourism magazine gave us a big boost, so we are splitting shows during the year between our house, the local winery, and the ArtWorks stage.  I think 2019 is going to be a fun year. 

With the help of an author from Tulsa who happened upon our B&B, we organized an afternoon of readings from some books about Oklahoma history:  Cimarron,  Red Dust & Broadsides, The Town Herd, and A Catalogue of Common People.  Together with that we held a creative writing contest for high school students and gave awards to the kids who participated, thanks to donations from our local  telephone company, Pioneer Telephone.  Besides our work with the Phoenix Circle Foundation, we're still involved with Friends of Roman Nose State Park and have helped with a couple of events held out there. 

Drew and Jenna spent the December holidays with Jenna's family in Tennessee and Maryland, so Andy and I had a quiet December here at the house by ourselves.  The weather hasn't been too bad this winter so far -- cold and windy but no ice or heavy snow (yet).    

We hope everyone had a good year in 2018 and we look forward to another good one in 2019.   I hope all of our friends will keep in touch!!

January 2, 2019

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!!