Thursday, April 2, 2020

April 1, 2020
This isn't an April Fool's joke.  I believe humanity is getting closer and closer to the brink of change that we won't be able to come back from. The good news is, it has been a wake-up call around the world.

"Nobody gets out of here alive.
Good things happen in life - embrace and enjoy them.
Bad things happen - embrace them and learn from them.
Everyday is a test of how each of us will live our life 
and what we each will get out of it.
But nobody gets out of here alive." (c) Linda Barrett 2019

I have been working on writing, both in my personal journal and on my memoir.  After having to remember and relive and recount some traumatic episodes I've been through, and balancing those with the good things in my life, both of which have made me strong and resilient and a survivor, I took the advice of a friend who is a published author and started organizing all of the short "stories" into what I intend to be a memoir.  The most recent nightmare (other than the current global health crisis, COVID-19) has forced me to relive a time from forty years ago and brought the spectre of a long-forgotten ghost back into my life. 

Our entire family is "on alert" for an undetermined period of time.  We keep the house and cars and out-houses locked up tight, and watchful eyes toward the lane that leads to our house from the highway. Alarms signaling that a vehicle has turned into our driveway have been installed and are monitored. There was a point I thought I may have to leave the retreat for a while, but that concern has passed.  I'm not here - not answering the phone, not seeing anyone, and not going into town. The COVID-19 has become a timely excuse for my disappearance from the public eye. 

Other than the ghost that is haunting us and the effects of the COVID-19 around the world, life at the Retreat is still good.  Fortunately we are isolated in a rural area, not in a town or city, and we are  abiding by the self-quarantine and social distancing guidelines.  There have been no reported cases of the virus in our County.      

We have canceled our house concert live music series through May, and are holding off on canceling a June 29 show until we get closer and the musicians decide if they are going to be back on tour by then.  In the meantime, I am trying to share on social media the live-streaming videos and youtube videos I get from both musicians who have played at our house in the past and those who have been booked but are now postponed.  That is on facebook, on our OKLAHOMA HOUSE CONCERTS group page.  

AT HOME -- In addition to spending an hour a day writing, I am working on an "art" project, decopauging a gourd I want to put at the beginning of the “intuitive trail” that turns north off of the main trail to the back of our property.   

Since the two procedures to put in stents in a couple of major arteries of my heart, I have been doing really well as far an increased energy, ability to work outside and hike, and not falling unconscious and hitting my head on our cement floor! My blood pressure is normal most of the time and I continuously monitor it.  Ah, the flaws and wonders of modern medicine.  Who knew one could recover so well after being in some level of congestive heart failure for ten years!

April 2, 2020
Today is windy – 40 mph+ winds!  We may get storms tonight.  I need to work on the garden, getting it cleaned up and ready for planting spring crops, but allergies are really bad, especially with the high winds.   It is past the deadline for planting potatoes but still want to get some in the ground, along with carrots.  We have already planted some lettuces, salad mix, spinach, and cilantro.  We've foraged and found morel mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms.  Drew and Jenna are quite good cooks.  They made a hot and sour soup, served with basmati rice, for dinner one evening, and a shepherd pie with ground lamb from our freezer another evening. They have 8 sheep now and after slaughtering one already this year they are ready to sell a couple.  A sustainable herd is 6.  Two females had babies this past "season" - one had a single male and the other birthed a set of twins, one male and one female.  They are so CUTE!! 

Got the news that Ellis Marsalis Jr. passed away last night. from the COVID19 virus.  Of course, the news is sad, but it also reminded me of some good times Andy and I and some friends had down in New Orleans many years ago that unexpectedly involved Ellis Marsalis and his grandson, a young percussionist.Of course that story will be in one of my "memoirs".  There is so much to write about to cover my 66 years, I'm beginning to think it will take three or four "journal"-like FICTIONAL books.  Of course, all of the names will be changed to protect the innocent!

It's time for lunch, so I'll sign off here.  We here at the Chaparral Retreat hope everyone we know and who knows us is safe and staying well.  If anyone ever wants to skype or Zoom, or whatever other on-line platform is out there to communicate through (including an old fashioned phone call or a card in the mail), please contact me or Andy.  Home phone is 580-623-4269;   Andy's cell is 214-763-3823, and Linda's cell is 940-735-1065.  

/Linda and Andy 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

January is over.

A very busy week:
New guests at the Retreat, a trip to a nearby town (40 miles away) to see a potential singer/songwriter for an Oklahoma House Concert; Liquid Art date night at Whirlwind Winery, and a free art activity for kids and families making Valentine cards. And a last-minute visit from our poet/songwriter friend Nathan Brown who stopped in on his way to Colorado. What wonderful experiences!

 We had a good turnout at the Date Night, and everyone did a wonderful job on their painting of this landscape.  

 Today I'm going to do some writing on my book. 
The weather has been nice for winter, with one day of beautiful snow falling.

Today (Sunday), the temperature is supposed to get up to 70 degrees!  A good day to pick up pecans.  

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