Monday, November 29, 2021

 So, 2021 wasn’t quite the year clear of the Coronavirus like we thought (i.e., hoped) it would be back at the end of 2020.  We in our family have all been vaccinated and continue to social distance and wear masks when in public.  Sadly, we’ve experienced through good friends what the virus can do and it looks like the virus is going to be with us for a while so we will continue to take precautions in the near future.  The good news is that we have been able to leave the house and resume some semblance of “normalcy” by getting to go out to eat, travelling, and spending time with friends.  We took a few trips this year: to Bakersfield to visit my sister Becky and her family and to lay our brother Simon to rest at the National Cemetery; a quick overnight trip to Dallas, and a trip to New Mexico to celebrate the retirement of one of Andy’s college buddies.   

Back at the Retreat, things have been quiet for the second year of the COVID pandemic.   We’ve started having guests again but have limited rentals to the New Mexico room which can be directly and easily accessed from its private patio.  We aren’t serving a cooked breakfast, but hopefully we can resume full service in 2022.  We had one House Concert this year and it reminded us of how much fun those shows are; again, we hope to resume having live music next year, if not at our house then at our local winery where we’ve hosted musicians in the past. 

Our son Drew earned his degree in art education from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and almost immediately got a job as a high school art teacher in the town of Yukon.  The commute is long and he and Jenna are looking for a house to buy nearer to his job.  Jenna works from home as a paralegal for a Dallas-based law firm and all of her work is on-line. Their house project on our property has been at a stand-still since Drew went back to school to finish his degree but they still intend to finish it at some point and use it as a studio. Our daughter Alma is still living in Portland, Oregon and is happy there.  I still post updates on goings on around here on Facebook (Chaparral Retreat and Guesthouse) and sometimes write in my blog at

Fortunately, our family is doing well as this year comes to an end.  We hope this note finds you and yours in good cheer for the holidays and that 2022 brings you LOVE, PEACE, GOOD HEALTH AND HAPPINESS.   

 /Andy and Linda Barrett
NEW MAILING ADDRESS:   4978 S. Hwy 8A, Watonga, OK  73772 (we no longer have our PO Box)"

Monday, August 2, 2021

Summer Celebrations

Aug 2, 2021

 It's 6:00 pm on Monday, third day of my birthday celebration. I made taco salad with grilled and sliced steak for family dinner, after eating out two days in a row with friends who were in town to celebrate an anniversary and my birthday. Being with good friends and family is the key to a happy birthday!

The weekend started with a fun watercolor painting lesson with a new 12-year old student at Watonga ArtWorks. Children are such sponges of information and experiences, and Maddie was a joy to work with.
Teri and John from Broken Arrow arrived in time for happy hour before going to dinner at Foggy Bottom restaurant at Roman Nose State Park Lodge -- excellent food. We were all too full for dessert but sat up and talked, catching up, till the late hour of 10:00 pm. We started up again on Sunday morning with a light breakfast of fruit, crescents, and bacon at the Chaparral Retreat before going on a hike around the property. The outdoor temperature on Sunday and Monday were like early spring and it was a real treat to walk around without getting sweaty or heat stroke!! We took our friends on a car tour of the town, including the new casino property (hotel is not open yet). By the time we finished with a late lunch we were all ready for a nap. We had breakfast at home before they headed off to their next adventure in Kansas. Celebrating their anniversary with them was very apropo since Andy and I attended their wedding which was the first time I met any of Andy's college friends after he and I first met over 40 years ago. I feel so blessed.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Come see us at the Chaparral Retreat again!

 We are having guests again at the Chaparral Retreat, but with some changes in order to take into account the continuing threat of COVID19 and its variants. I will miss cooking breakfast for our guests and spending time visiting with them as we ease back into the new normal. Everyone's safety is our primary concern! The peace and quiet of the Retreat, beautiful sunsets, flowering gardens and trails through the woods are all still here for visitors to enjoy. See the website at for updated information. I am also keeping up to date on postings to the Chaparral Retreat facebook pages.

With all of the rain we've had, the property has become a jungle. I am working to pull up vinca that is encroaching on paths, and continuing our annual battle with the grasshoppers. The vegetable garden is surviving but we're going to try a different tactic to keep the grasshoppers out since every other method we've tried has proven unsuccessful. I went to Hobby Lobby and bought several yards of a twill netting and intend to make small tents to place over the garden areas that are susceptible to the grasshoppers. They specifically like the basil.

I was walking along the front of the house yesterday, with scissors to cut the vinca that is extending onto the cement path that leads to the New Mexico room. I had not yet met the visitors who were staying in that room, but they were sitting on their patio and saw me, and asked if I was the proprietor. I introduced myself and they asked me some questions about the property and how we came to Watonga. We actually had a nice visit before the sun came out behind the clouds and the humidity shot up. The thing I missed most about shutting down during COVID was visiting with guests. We get to meet some interesting people and they usually end up being long-term friends.

Drew and Jenna have returned from their vacation to visit her parents back east, and they are both busy getting caught up on work and school planning/assignments. Martha was a good traveller but was obviously happy to be home where she can run to her heart's content. I know Sadie missed Martha even though we tried to give all of the animals extra attention while the kids were away.

The summer flowers are starting to bloom: coneflower, phlox, lantana, purple heart, and four o'clocks are putting on color. Our black currant bushes were eaten up by some kind of caterpiller but we did get a small harvest of the berries. We also found a mulberry tree on a friend's property and I collected some berries and made a mulberry jam. I have to say, it came out really good. I'm ready to make another batch after the ground dries up (the trees are in a low spot in a yard near a creek so it is especially muddy right now.

We are looking forward to having friends come to visit this summer, and have one Oklahoma house concert scheduled for September 13. We are going to try and hold the show on the back patio if the weather cooperates.

I hope everyone had a good fourth of July and that everyone is tolerating the heat and humidity of this time of year!

Friday, May 7, 2021

May 2021

 As Andy and I were walking around the property last evening, we saw that all of our crape myrtles died back from the deep freeze we had early this year. But they are putting out new growth from ground level. We have a lot of trimming to do to get rid of the dead and give the plants a fresh start!

The freeze also affected my iris bloom -- I only had one white iris bloom and about eight blooms in other clumps around the property and they are only now (May) opening up!

This week's weather has been perfect -- high 40's-50's overnight and 60 to 75 degrees during the day, with not much wind. I've spent the last week raking leaves off of the garden beds around the house in the hopes of keeping the grasshopper population down this year. Everything is green right now. We lost several entire trees from the ice storm and we have lots of fallen branches that need to be chainsawed into pieces. We'll have to take out a few dead trees completely. WE HAVE LOTS OF CUT-UP WOOD STACKED AND READY FOR PICKUP -- IF INTERESTED, CALL ANDY AT 214-763-3823 TO MAKE ARRANGEMENTS TO COME GET IT. We are located on the road to Roman Nose State Park if you need wood for a campfire!

We are opening up one bedroom in the house for rent (the New Mexico room), and have availability in June. We are still complying with social distancing and other precautions and have changed our breakfast to a "continental" offering: coffee and juice, fruit, muffins and/or bagels, granola, yogurt. see our website:

We have a house concert scheduled for September 16, with Ian Leath from Chicago, Illinois. Here are links to his bio and music:
Instagram / leithalian
I'll be posting an Event on Facebook later in the summer.

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!!