Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Bees' Knees, Baby

   Hey there! So... Beekeeping Class. Loved it. After a lot of nervous excitement, I spent yesterday's gorgeous morning hours with my friend Tracy, who is by the way always wonderfully thirsty for knowledge and adventure. She was flat out the perfect companion for this event. Thanks for joining me Tracy!

   We were in an OSU-OKC classroom learning all about beekeeping in Oklahoma. Well, actually, we learned how much we don't know about this hobby. The instructor gave us three hours' worth of solid information but teasingly admitted that the real stuff comes in future classes. I suppose this is smart; for only a partial class fee (just $20) you get an excellent overview and the chance to see if you want to learn even more. Then he generously applies the money you just spent toward the full cost. My decision? Yes please!! I am enrolled in five more classes spread throughout the springtime.

For this charming bee skep image, 
Pinterest led me first to Montpelier Farmers Market 
And then ultimately Bee Haven Honey Farm.
The second site has a lovely mantra on its front page:

"Our toil doth sweeten others."

I just love that. It is the literal expression 
of the true mission of a hobby farm.

   I see many bees in our future, you guys. And wooden-ware boxes and queens and drones and veils. I see so much honey, molten rivers of it... I can already smell its sweet, spicy, thick nutrition.

   The class was interesting from the first moment until the last. Our instructor, Rick Hall, is president of the Central Oklahoma Beekeepers' Association. He stated off by saying this...

   Does it ring a bell? Winnie the Pooh of course! I love Winnie the Pooh. I have always wanted to visit Rabbit's garden and chastise him a little for being so grumpy.

   Did you know that a bee colony observes a strict caste system and that the queen is the only fertile member? I bet you knew that. But did you know that she is also the only bee who does not die when she stings? She only stings other queens, you guys. That is interesting. So look out, sister!

    The males are called drones and they are an extreme minority in the colony, just up to 5% of the population. Their sole function is to inseminate the queen. This happens on a "marriage flight" which can occur just ten days after the drones hatch! Whoa! Cradle rob much there, your Highness?

   Did you know that the average adult human can withstand about 500 bee stings? Did you know that honeybee venom is very similar to rattlesnake venom? Yikes.

   Having recently polished off Animal, Vegetable, Miracle the notion of growing foods with nuanced flavors particular to a geographical area is fascinating to me. Did you know that in addition to wines and cheeses, honey has this wonderful potential too? Honey procured in one area can taste special based on what flora are nearby. Doesn't this make sense, since what the bees harvest is exactly what goes into the honey? Our instructor described a honey producing area where Black Walnut trees are prevalent. This fairly made my mouth water with curiosity. 

   Hey, by the way, everybody should relax about killer bees. The last documented case of Africanized colonies was in 2005. 

   Have you ever heard of an apiary? That is simply the word used to describe a bee yard or a place where bees are kept. Oklahoma is zoned statewide for keeping bees, but interestingly the sale of honey and other bee products is is both unregulated and over governed at once. Apiology as a money making venture is a bit, umm, sticky. 

   I could continue listing these snippets of information for the rest of the evening, but as truly delicious as it all is, this knowledge is still very disjointed for me. That will be changing, and I am so excited to share this adventure with you guys. For now, thanks a ton for reading and for the sweet buzzing...

"Always watch where you are going.
Otherwise you may step on a piece of the Forest
that was left out by mistake."
~Winnie the Pooh

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Short & Sweet

   Today is beekeeping class you guys. Did anyone remember? I woke up in the dark with that Christmas morning conviction, that bewilderment that no one else as awake yet!
   I am drinking large amounts of coffee and wearing a little too much mascara. I am also wearing a necklace which I believe will enhance my beekeeping skills; Handsome thinks it could cause the bees to attack me. Oh, he just magic-markered a cute little bee on my shoulder (so that I have the creature's totem powers in class today). And I am so excited that my friend Tracy is joining me!

   Thank you a ton for stopping in at the Lazy W this morning... I have things to say to each of you who has commented recently, and I have more stories to share too (about the Wreck, about the spring chicks that are trying to hatch and the gardens, about Oklahoma, about smart energy...). We have a full weekend ahead of us here.  I hope you all enjoy this gorgeous Saturday, where ever you are and what ever is on your plate!  

  It's time for me to scoot. I have a little drive ahead of me and lots of bee things to learn! Wait, should I wear my dirty rubber boots, or clean tennis shoes?


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Wreck (part one of three)

I have hesitated for almost two weeks to write this post because for the most part it isn't our story to share. Also because it is so sad, and I generally like to avoid spreading sadness. But in some ways this is very much our story, and now it has rested a while and is full enough to deliver a small, positive message. I also kind of feel the need to have it "down on paper" somehow. If you too write just for the sake of writing, then you know what I mean.


Those First Hours:
On Saturday, March 10th my husband and I were returning to the farm from an evening out, just the two of us. It was the end of my birthday week, and he had been spoiling me rotten. We were on an emotional high, laughing, relaxed, having a really good time together, bellies full but not miserable, oozing romance and peace in every way... It was shaping up to be one of those weekends that can make a person forget all about being surrounded on both sides by unreasonable work loads. (This is my husband's professional lot right now... but he carries it very well!)

He was driving. It was about 8:35 p.m., rainy and foggy and already quite dark. Very dark, actually. He had just slowed to approach the front gate to our farm when we saw it.

A white pickup truck was wrecked in our path. Just north of the farm, between us and our gate, very nearly facing us in our lane. Its front bumper was pointed into the deep ditch there, headlights on but dim and mostly choked by the fog.

The rain was glinting off of a million pieces of shattered glass, spread evenly from one side of the paved road to the other. I had never seen anything like that, and it took a moment to register. For a split second I was dazzled by the wet, glittered blackness. Then we both saw him at the same time.

A man had been thrown from the truck and was lying alone on the asphalt, crumpled and motionless.

"There's somebody there!" I honestly do not know which of us said it first, but in an instant our mutual sense of carefulness exploded into action. My husband tore his car through the glass, around the wreck, and off of the road. We scrambled out of his car and ran as fast as we could the fifty feet or so back to the wreck. As we ran, another pickup was approaching. Luckily that driver saw the confusion and slowed in plenty of time. I screamed at him to train his headlights on the wreck where my husband had already crouched to check the man for signs of life. I could have sworn maybe two other people were in the truck still and yelled at him to check (there were none, what I saw were shirts hanging from a hook). He was already yelling at me firmly to not come any closer!

That told me everything.

Already on the phone with 911, my husband motioned for me to go find flashlights. Then he crouched again near the man, who I could barely see from the opposite side of the wreck. He was wearing a smooth white cotton t-shirt, tucked into his belted Wranglers. His face was obscured, for which I was thankful, and he was completely still. He barely seemed real in one sense and then in another he could have been any of our Oklahoma neighbors or family members.

As I ran back to our car for the house keys and then through the gate and up the long gravel driveway, I felt this overwhelming sadness that the man, whoever he was, had been lying alone in the rain like that. No jacket. Just exposed and vulnerable, not defending himself in any way against the dreariness of the weather or the violence of the wreck. That a grown man, someone who loves and is loved, just driving in the dark a few minutes ago, could be so utterly alone and helpless. It was breaking my heart.

It was very dark, but I remember the front field animals were running in large, excited circles. The crash must have just happened, and it must have been very loud. We later surmised it was a rollover.

Once in the house I grabbed flashlights then ran at full speed back down the driveway and toward the scene.

The second driver who had just arrived was still reluctant to walk very near, which was fine. He took a flashlight from me and started searching the brush. My husband was staying with the man, holding his hand and searching for breath or a pulse. There was none.  But he stayed and spoke to him, just in case. He also kept me away.

As we all waited for the emergency crews to arrive, a small car drove up on the scene too fast. Filled with four giggling young women, probably out just having some Saturday night fun like we were doing ten minutes ago, they barely stopped in time, screeching on the slick wet road to a panicked halt with just feet to spare.

The small car's laughter hushed in the instant that its passengers must have seen the truck and then the glass and then the man's terribly still body. I could feel dread all around us in the damp. First my husband spoke to them, then the other young man did (they seemed to know each other). The car slowly made its turn-around and drove away. Respectfully, I thought. They left in a very different mood than they had arrived just seconds earlier.

For several minutes I stood at a distance, waiting to see how I could help and agonizing over the scene, wondering who this man could be, wanting to be with my husband and help him but trusting his protectiveness. He always steps up to the hardest jobs. That's just his nature.

Soon we heard the distant wail of fire trucks and police cars. No one spoke; we just waited and watched. When they arrived, a crew of men helped search the surrounding areas, helped confirm no one else was in the wreck, and relieved my husband of his post at the man's side. He stayed there to give what information he could and provide names and phone numbers, etc. I was urged to go back to the house, which I did. I called my Mom on the way. When she answered, all the breath I had been holding in spilled out in ridiculous little girl sobs.

The man's anonymity and alone-ness were torturing me, and she offered all of her softness and strength, promised to pray for him and for his family. The grief for this stranger was intense.

Eventually I saw my husband's headlights curve slowly onto the property. He parked in his shop and walked through the rain back to the house. We gripped and held each other tightly for a few seconds but then he released me to go wash his hands and face. I couldn't stop my mind from wondering about the identity of this man, wondering who would be getting a phone call that night. The relief of having my own husband safe at home was strong enough to make my stomach shudder.

My husband made a phone call to his own dad, so that in case the local news reported a fatality wreck on our road everyone would know we're safe. We spent a little time trying to wind down and go to bed, but the flashing red lights remained outside for several hours. Neither of us slept much that night.

The next day we would begin to learn more about the man who lost his life in front of our home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Forest Incident: an Epilogue in Photos

   Yesterday I posted a rather lengthy tale about getting lost in the forest with M Half. I chose not to illustrate it partly because neither of us took a camera that day and also because that post was so blessedly long already.  Wowsa! Sharing that much was cathartic and a little exhausting, but it could have been an even longer story, you guys. A lot happened that day. Trust me.

   Now I need to tell you that a couple of weeks after that traumatic life event, M Half was here at the farm again and we took another trip into the forest, this time with a camera. This second trip was only about a third as deep as the first. We came out this time not only emotionally unscathed but also carrying a glorious souvenir! Here's a shorter, happier tale for you this fine Tuesday evening.

This is the people view of most of the Pine Forest. 
Tall, straight tree trunks thrusting confidently into the open sky.
We enjoy a limited population of child-eating cows in this area.

This is the place we casually dubbed Yoga Meadow. 
It's a small but private clearing on the north edge of the forest. 
On a a recent trip there by myself I discovered 
lots of new spring flowers and budding trees.
So beautiful...

Okay. This is called the Murder Sheyed.
I feel like I don't want to explain that. Okay?


What I will tell you guys is that
sometimes when I visit the forest
that creaky looking door is open, like it is in this photo.
Other times, with no interference from us,
it is not only closed but LOCKED.
No one lives on this property, you guys.
No one except, perhaps... Sasquatch.

This tree takes my breath away.
Look at how smoothly it genuflects toward the earth.

Here is the climbing tree we've been talking about.
Don't you agree it is perfectly designed? 
The branches are arranged in a spiral staircase around the trunk.
It's almost too easy.

Here is a little drop off and deer track tattooed by shadows.
I love that thick carpet of pine needles...
Bouncy, muffled, slightly crunchy...
When I was little I remember wishing I could nap in places like this.
When my girls were little they would ask for bedtime stories
about the Pine Forest of MY childhood, 
a big beautiful one in southeastern Oklahoma.

And here is the rusty blue treasure 
that tempted us back into the forest
despite our recent trauma.
We saw it near a trash heap and wondered at the way
it was perched so uprightly in those trees. 
Like someone had just finished riding it 
and had set it on its kickstand for a while.

The bike was so well buried in the forest and surrounded by thicket
that actually laying hands on it
required some patience and George Bush-style strategerie.
So worth it!

Oh, look. I am a huge dork.
This is how we show things on the farm. 
We pretend to be Vanna.
We call it Vanna-ing.
After wrestling the bike from its forest embrace,
M Half and I spent a little time busting the immovable chain 
and tearing the rotted rubber away from the wheels
in hopes of the whole thing rolling smoothly back to the farm.
Well, it never "rolled" exactly, but we did gain a little mobility.
And we did feel pretty invincible after the demolition.
And we did need hot, soapy showers after the exertion. Gross.

   So there you have it. The forest doesn't always chew us up and spit us out; sometimes it offers little gifts. Right now the bike sits at our front door with some pansies and metal artwork from New Orleans. I have high hopes of eventually securing it to the brick wall above our kitchen door and using it to grow morning glory vines, like a cool rusted trellis. Again, if we are friends, you will not warn my husband of this plan. He is more worried about vines above doorways than I am about bloodthirsty cows.

Be Brave. 

Game Change: Book Review & Movie Mention

    I have a lot to say about this book, but the bottom line is that while enlightening and challenging in some ways, it is not necessarily the King James of modern politics I expected it to be. And regarding the barely related HBO movie, it's just apples and oranges. This is absolutely not a time when you can skim by with the movie and say you've got the content of the book. Not the same at all, you guys.

Game Change Book Review

   Julia and Gen suggested this book to me about a year ago, and I finally got around to reading it. Actually, it was quite by accident that I snagged it on clearance while grocery shopping and have thoroughly enjoyed every chapter since. Woohoo! Anyway, these smart, sassy ladies described Game Change as sort of a behind the scenes analysis of the 2008 Presidential election story, supposedly a well researched and scrupulously documented and verified truth telling of what really happened between the biggest candidates, both Democrat and Republican. 

   Okay. Let's get something out of the way first. The nature of truth telling or truth accepting is that you have to trust the source, and while I love and trust my sister and friend, I don't know these authors at all. And, you guys, I have seen that old Dustin Hoffman movie Wag the Dog, so I am skeptical enough about media motivation to read everything with big, chunky grains of salt. 

   That said, I will pay dues to the writers and publishers for beginning this book with a description of how to interpret it: Their use of quotation marks meant one level of exactness; their use of italics meant another. Sometimes they were patching together stories from multiple sources; other times they were offered detailed accounts first hand but could not name their sources. And so on. I read it with a general understanding of their "map legend." So for the rest of this review, just periodically insert the words if this book is to be trusted.


   At first blush, do you know what I liked about this book? The fact they it tells a really important, complex story about a chapter of our nation's history, but from an intimate perspective. The reader is offered a fairly solid description of key events leading up to the election of our first African American President, and this is something that will be studied for generations. We get to watch the election process unfold beginning with the candidates' decisions to run in the first place. We get to see how the campaigning affected the candidates and their spouses. We get little glints of true light off of some of the characters that media coverage tends to either sanitize or demonize. And I just plain groove this you guys. Public decorum is good and necessary of course, but how fascinating is it to explore not the train wrecks but the contradictory realness of our movers and shakers? Love it.

   Specifically, and this was a big surprise to me personally, the book displays an incredible wealth of understanding about Hillary Clinton, a woman whose story is equally important to our history, even if she was not elected then. I have to say, nothing I have ever seen before sheds as much light and humanity on her than this book did. I may not agree with much of what I know about her politics, but as a woman, as a human being, I gained a lot of respect for her after absorbing what she has endured over the years and what her motivations seem to be. I stand among those guilty of judging her for her rigidity and failing to appreciate her "big picture."

   But I cannot say that Game Change reads as unbiased.

   For all of its fact loving and even tempered delivery, I felt more and more like the book was guilty of exactly what the book itself observed of media during that election: favoritism toward Obama. In an overarching, pretty obvious way too. I got the feeling that the writers were fourteen year old girls fawning over a Twilight actor.

   Game Change repeatedly describes a troubling perception on the part of the Clinton campaign, the McCains, and others that the press and general public were so immediately and thoroughly enamored by Obama that they became a bit hypnotized by his speeches, regardless of the surrounding facts and regardless of the fitness of his opposition, etc. As time passed, the complaints certainly grew about the press' blindness and tendency to be manipulated. Yikes.

   Again, this is something that can only be proven by a perfect bird's eye view of all facts and considerations, but I can tell you that this book seems to have been very soft and very comfy toward our soon-to-be new President. It seems to be equally critical and equally unforgiving toward every other candidate, though to a slightly lesser degree Hillary Clinton.

   Even when peppered with unflattering or downright infuriating facts about Obama, story after story is told with a lyrical, almost fairy tale tone that glows softly and brightly against the grittiness lent toward every other main character. That was frustrating for me as a reader expecting something more encyclopedic. If this was a fiction novel, the hero was made clear from the beginning.

   This is not to say I don't grasp and appreciate the emotional significance of these historic events; just that the epic is not told from quite the neutral position it claims.

   On top of this, the HBO movie that recently aired was a complete disappointment to me. It was all about Sarah Palin! As much as I enjoy just for entertainment purposes watching her speak (and by the way, Julianne Moore delivered an uncanny performance, WOW!), Palin's appearance in the book was fractional at best. The meat of the story was between Clinton and Obama, and it was almost fully accomplished by the time Palin was introduced toward the end. So for the movie to be made so unrepresentative of the book is, to me, more of the tail wagging the dog. I also cannot help but notice that the same week that Game Change was aired on HBO, they also began promoting a new series called Veep, in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays an attractive but laughable female Vice President. Ouch. And shame on you HBO, for not trying harder to resist transparency.

   Perhaps now I'm the one who sounds a little biased. Maybe. But I can appreciate the book for what it was and use it as a jumping off point for looking more deeply into interesting characters. 

   Game Change, if not vettable* as a complete, true, and unbiased story, is at least a well written drama unto itself. It serves up a layered and rhythmic collection of interesting stories about truly fascinating people. The authors provide a little less scrumptious detail than a fiction writer might, for obvious reasons I suppose, but that little deficiency is more than compensated for by the substance of the stories and their implications.

   I have so very much more to say about this you guys, pages and pages of notes I intended to share, but the horses are hungry and I need to mix some bread dough for dinner then possibly do a Jillian Michaels workout video. Have you read Game Change? Do you have time to talk about it? This is not a book club selection, so I am kinda flying solo here and  would love to hear others' reactions and insights! Thanks for another excellent reading recommendation, Julia and Gen! Love you like crazy!

Be Skeptical. Seek Truth. Vote.

* Vettable is one of about a million words in this book which I have been dying to use myself since reading it. Another of the many gifts of Game Change is a dramatic spike in my vocabulary! I started keeping track of words I had to understand from context but look up for definition and came up with a pretty healthy list! LOL

Monday, March 19, 2012

Famous Last Words: the Forest Incident

   So, a few weeks ago my ten-four-good-buddy M Half was visiting the farm. Somewhere between her remote office laptop work and conference calls, my multitudinous farm chores, and the need for us both to get cleaned up for another installment of our world famous book club which we affectionately call "Dinner Club With a Reading Problem," *take a deep breath* she and I decided to thrust ourselves into the quiet and solitude of the Pine Forest. We needed some Zen, you guys. We laid everything aside, found suitable footwear (okay, yes, I just kept my rubber boots on, whatever), and paced toward the green, threat-less edge of the wild. 

   Here's the thing. In hindsight I see our crossing of that gated threshold between the Lazy W and the Pine Forest a bit like the beginning of a good thriller movie. Neither of us knew it at the time, but we were about to make a few memories. Like, for real you guys. 

   Why haven't I written about this yet? Why now, almost a month late? Because it shook me to my core. My tree-climbing, childhood summers-in-the-country, horse whispering, ain't-skeeird core. I have spent the last few weeks digesting and coming to terms with what happened, what almost happened, and how it all came out in the wash. Plus, of course, M Half wrote about it last night and spicily bet everyone ten bucks I would follow suit today. So here we go. Here is my ten dollar story.


I. The Setting:

   The forest was bright and friendly that afternoon. We passed by the abandoned and mostly demolished workshop where the owls eat their prey then threaded our way between wild roses, dormant cherry trees, and baby loblolly pines. This is a sparse expanse of the property, easily navigated. The pale prairie grasses crunched beneath our feet. Sunshine sliced through the leafy canopy and warmed us up pretty quickly. I remember having worn a light jacket but not needing it for long.

   We paused at a particularly open, grassy spot where the sunshine poured in freely, like liquid gold, and we dubbed it Yoga Meadow. Having just pressed through a half hour of yoga together back at the house, M Half and I were in the mood to commemorate the peacefulness. We may or may not have done some heavy-footed, jacket-impeded spontaneous poses right there in Yoga Meadow. Imagine Madonna in Vogue crossed awkwardly with Mary Catherine Gallagher from SNL.

II. Onward...

   We descended through the forest, which slopes downhill as you head either north or west away from the farm. Perhaps this is a good time to point out that I was eventually unsure of what direction we were headed. We slipped through dilapidated interior gates (but never crossed a fence, this is crucial information). We followed deer trails and marveled at unusual divets in the thick pine needle floor. We listened. We admired. We soaked up nature and shared a certain astonishment that so much wildness was so near home.

   I think I said something like, "You know, I used to let the kids hike in here all the time, and I've been here a hundred times alone, but never this deep. We've never been past that fence." M Half and I more or less agreed about the unlikelihood of getting lost so close to home. Which is to say that I arrogantly assured my friend there was no way we would ever get lost so close to home.

   People should keep track of the stupid things they say. 

   We hiked lower and lower, trading light, effortless conversation, touching the tree bark and watching the undergrowth increase dramatically with every step. I noticed my companion's delicacy, her wish to disturb as little as possible, even if it meant doing some crazy bends and dips. She is an experienced, cosmopolitan hiker who has navigated beautiful places in Colorado, Arizona, and Costa Rica, probably much more. I am just a wide eyed tromper who is happy enough to have explored hundreds of great places right here in Oklahoma plus a few in Louisiana. (I don't think a Mexico honeymoon counts for the purposes of this story.)

   While she was avoiding leaving even a footprint, I was collecting what few wildflowers I could find and snapping off slender tree branches so I could "force" them to bloom in a vase of water back home. I was raised to be respectful of nature but accept her wonderful gifts. This is not where the dissimilarity ended that day.

III. More Examples of How Differently We Experienced That Hike:

  • I climbed a tree that was designed specifically for climbing. It was perfect. She watched patiently from the ground and was apparently scripting in her head explanations to Handsome  about my inevitable mouth injuries. There were none, thanktheheavensabove.
  • Having been home when the storms hit a few years ago, I was relatively unfazed by our discovery of tornado debris still remaining in some of the trees. She seemed almost saddened by it, or at least stunned.
  • I must have looked behind us, over my shoulder, about ten thousand times, wondering over and over again why it suddenly got so quiet in there, while she just pressed confidently on the chosen path. No biggie, her posture seemed to say. We got this.
  • I was afraid. She was undisturbed. I would make it home in tears of panic. She would make it home in tears of laughter.

IV. Fast forward about 45 minutes, or maybe it was 3 hours: 

   At some point quite deep into the hike, my writerly friend and I discovered not only deer droppings but also cow patties. 

   Cow patties. In the forest.  The forest that is supposedly fenced off. Where no one lives. Where certainly no one keeps cows. A phantom cow. A phantom menace cow.
   Now, you guys, you know I have a buffalo who is as sweet as can be, and I know how to deal with him and horses and mean roosters and geese and everything, but cows are very different. 

V. My Fear of Cows Background: 

   When I was a little girl on one of those tromping expeditions with a few other young Okies (cousins), we were once viciously, rabidly, undeservedly chased and subsequently treed by a cow. This is one good reason to be a skilled tree climber, even past the age when most people find it reasonable to climb trees. You never know when a cow will chase you up one. It happened to us also on the edge of a forest, also in the quiet, like this day with M Half. My cousins and I were in that tree for over an hour, and it was flat out terrifying. I thought I was going to die. 

   The day of my hike with M Half, though, what did I actually say? Probably just, "Hey, look, I think that's a cow patty. Huh" Trying to act all cool. She could not have known that from that moment on my heart was beating as fast as a hummingbird and as violently as a bass drum. My bovine terror was the beginning of the end of our peaceful adventure. 

VI. Things declined rapidly from there:

   We approached a new boundary, another dry creek bed, which M Half seemed happy to cross, and I nearly had a panic attack. I wanted to be home in the worst way, not extending our distance! I could not see any buildings, could not hear any of our animals, not even Mia's heartsick moaning, could not even tell which direction was north, and I felt that prickly heat stabbing at my armpits. My eyes were glued open at maximum dilation. I was on high alert and was actively thanking God I had not brought my children on this misadventure. Because everyone knows that cows, vengeful creatures that they are, love to eat juicy, tender children.

   Then as we tried to elbow our way back from whence we came, the landmarks had shifted. We thought we were following the same trees and errant plastic milk crate, but then it was clear we were not. It was painfully clear to me and humorously clear to her that we were not headed back the same way we came.

   It took every ounce of self control I could muster to not break down into tears.  

   I was working my way through a maze of braided tree branches, desperate for a clear path and vowing to never again wander so far from home, when to my right appeared a low, thick, dome-topped structure. Kind of like a small hut. Kind of like a den. About two feet away from me. Where my boots were fairly stuck in the leaves, mud, and undergrowth.

   Oh my God, it's probably a wolverine den, I moaned inwardly as the panic mounted in my body. But audibly all I said was "Hey look, some kind of a den." Again, the undersell was pathetic and probably transparent.

   M Half, at that exact moment, said in her cheerful, experienced-hiker voice, "Hey do you have bears in Oklahoma?" 

   "WHAT?! Why would you SAY that?!" I was suddenly shrieking at her. I could no longer hide my terror. Without any warning my secret fears came spilling out all over my bewildered friend. I tore mercilessly through those low, braided branches, determined not to get caught by either a bear or a wolverine. Or a cow. Our pace increased tenfold as we searched for the red dirt road, for any dirt road, for any sign of civilization.

   Every twig that snapped beneath our feet was possibly a beast thirsty for our guts and marrow. When a rabbit darted in front of me I screamed bloody murder, a long, exaggerated wailing, pleading for my life kind of scream that unfortunately made M Half giggle uncontrollably.  It was, again, pathetic on my part, and it was also a recipe for our first real fight as friends. 

VII. The Attack:

   Out of nowhere appeared a coyote and a bobcat working in tandem to kill us. Or, according to M, they were two "smallish to medium sized" dogs, I am still not sure. They stopped on our path, looked us directly in the eyes, then turned on their murderous heels and ran in a straight line toward a property we had just noticed ourselves. It was hidden behind some trees, an unsavory and foreign looking place that was probably the home of a serial killer.

   M Half, still sweetly oblivious to the opposite effect being had by her attempts to calm me, said, "Don't worry, they're just going to tell their owner we're here..."

   "Are you serious? That is not good! People have guns and I think we're trespassing!!" I started jogging. Which is to say that I willingly left M Half to her own devices. Side note, when I told my Mom this part of the story about a week later, she scolded me for leaving my friend behind. Awesome.

VIII. Then the road: 

   We found it just as suddenly as we had discovered our desperation. The blessed, unpaved, tire tracks red dirt road which would prove to be either our salvation or the site of our final, ironic demise. I had the sensation of vertigo, where the actual length of the road stretched out elastically, bending and eluding my clumsy, rubber-booted feet. I would have felt more stable on a moving fun house floor.

   Within seconds, from that unfamiliar property behind us, a truck engine came to life. No, it roared to life. The driver who had turned its ignition key was clearly digging his foot deeply and repeatedly into the accelerator much the same way he wanted to dig a knife deep into my belly. Revving it wildly. I started to sprint, but M Half protested.

   "Just walk, calm down, it's okay..."
   I have these vague, disconnected memories of my level headed (if slightly naive) buddy trying in different ways to calm me down, to slow me down a bit, assuring me of things like never in the daylight, never so close to home, we're not even wearing bikinis, etc, etc. Part of me remembers her trying to touch my arm, to soothe me, and I tossed her off, brimming with bitter adrenaline, unwilling to be talked down from my ledge of hysteria.

IX. Home Sweet Home:

   Eventually, of course, we made it down that elastic length of red dirt and found the perpendicular paved road which would lead us home. Although I felt like we had hiked to the ends of the known world, the farm was in fact only about a quarter of a mile away. M Half was full on laughing by then, and I really can't blame her. But it was a while before I could sincerely join her in that levity.

   As we shoved open the front gate and walked sweatily and trembling up the driveway, she and I both noticed that the Lazy W animals were also on high alert. The horses were tense, ears pricked forward and eyes wide, the buffalo's tail was straight up in the air like an exclamation point, and the geese and guineas were screaming and flying around the yard, definitely panic stricken.

   We can only guess exactly why the barnyard was so steeped in chaos upon our return, but in my heart I know they felt my fear. They might have even heard me scream, realizing now how close to home we actually were when it happened. But we were safe. No serial killer or cow or coyote would dare battle our many loving animals for my life or that of my friend.


   So that's my ten dollar story. Please compare it to M Half's to get an alternate version of the truth (rib-rib). And for goodness' sake, if you go on a hike, use breadcrumbs.

Hansel & Gretel Were Smart

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cheer Us Up You Guys!

   We are in desperate need of some cheering up around here, you guys! Both of us for a change, not just one of us, so I am doing what any self respecting Apronista would do... cooking up a house full of comfort food. My friend Marci would be so proud. Her favorite method of stress management is definitely cooking (she is highly skilled in the kitchen, that doesn't hurt), followed closely by laughing till her face hurts. So maybe tonight after we fill our bellies Handsome and I can latch onto something hilarious. 

   For supper we're having roasted garlic-lemon chicken with the skin on so it gets all crispy golden and a little greasy. Also Parmesan-stuffed zucchini and hot buttered egg noodles. Perhaps you've noticed we are on neither the Paleo diet nor Atkins. And I wish I could boast that the noodles are made from scratch, but they're just not. They were on sale, though. So there's that.

   Then to wash all of that down we'll try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe. Like most people, we have had our favorite said cookie for many years and don't deviate too easily. But sweet Edie over at lifeingrace says that these delicacies are worthy of their own Facebook page. Ha!! Awesome. That's my kinda cookie!  So I have a big sweet, salty batch mixed up and am just now inhaling the first tendrils of sugary, chocolaty aromas from the oven. The fact that it's interlaced with buttery garlic and sometimes that bright green jolt of softening zucchini does not hurting my feelings.

   I seem to have our caloric intake covered for tonight. Maybe enough for tomorrow, too. So that leaves us still needing the hysterical, eye watering, stomach stiffening laughter. What do you say? What can you offer us that might make us laugh uncontrollably tonight??

LOL, please!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

There's a New Tree Farm in Town

   For about two years we have watched with great curiosity as  a section of land just past Midwest City, parallel to I-40 westbound, was cleared, plowed, reshaped, and built upon or some mysterious new business. For a while we thought with chagrin it would be another neighborhood development, but eventually we saw signs popping up about a tree farm. Then, because we are generally bitter people with snarky senses of humor, we rolled our eyes about the irony of clearing out trees in order to then sell trees. (Insert here all of the very legitimate information about what types of trees were actually cleared: Probably tons and tons of red cedars, not pines or red buds...)

   You guys, I humbly report that all of the nose upturning these past couple of years was for naught. Last week this new tree farm finally opened, and I paid them a visit. It is breathtakingly beautiful inside and out, a home landscaper's paradise! If you live in the area and have any interest in gardening, plan to spend an afternoon here. But do not bother taking your camera.

   I entered the store like a kid in a candy shop but also impersonating a journalist because I had a camera strapped around my neck and was wearing very clackety high heeled boots. I started snapping photos of all the beautiful displays, the distressed wood furniture, the artwork, the pottery, the wall murals... Until I was delicately asked to not do that anymore. Cease and desist. The manager and cashier were ever so polite about it, but they preferred not to have the retail spaces photographed. I suppose that makes sense, because so much of it was original artwork and such. 

   It didn't sit so well with me at first, though. I protested mildly, saying, "But I live in the area and I have a blog, I wanted to write a little advertisement for you guys." Public service announcement: They don't care if you have a blog.

    "I'm so sorry, ma'am, we really aren't comfortable having the store photographed."

   We volleyed the issue a few times. I might have even thrown in the word Langley for good measure, but finally I switched my camera off, swung it behind my back, and proceeded to take in the expansive place just as a customer.

   This gorgeous floor mosaic welcomes you just as you cross the threshold. This photo is the only one of the interior I actually had permission to take, so I'm sharing it. The rest I will keep to myself. Just go see this place, you guys! You will gasp and grin over and over. They have gifts for children, gifts for serious gardeners, gifts for beginning gardeners, gifts for home decorators, gifts for just about anyone. They even have a landscape artist right there in the store! He was drawing these very professional looking diagrams and aerial views of properties in pastel colors, perfect circles, and triangles... I think as I approached that corner of the room he could sense that a haphazard garden experimenter was nearby, and his orderliness went into overdrive. This pressed me away silently.

   The grounds outside were just as breathtaking! What you see driving past on the Interstate is only a sliver of what they have built at Tony's Tree Plantation. 

   They have a spectacular greenhouse, of course, filled with Oklahoma standards, herbs, veggies, and some tempting exotics. I purchased two rosemary babies and a mammoth spider plant at very good prices. All of their plants looked ferociously healthy, and the fragrances in the greenhouse were absolutely intoxicating. I caught myself walking in these little spirals, touching the ruffled greens, inhaling the lemony blooms, feeling the crunch of wet gravel beneath my boots... 

   They have several acres of tree rows out back where I will eventually buy some more fruit trees for the Lazy W orchard. Their collection of evergreens is so vast that I wonder now if they also plan to sell  live Christmas trees? Not sure. But it is a beautiful space.

   And they have curvaceous stone paths, intimate garden settees, and probably half a dozen fish ponds embracing two sides of the property. Walking through so much lushness really got me motivated to complete a few gardening projects at home.

   Oh! And their collections of both Vietnamese and Mexican pottery pretty much blew my socks off. Except I wasn't wearing socks. But I did gasp out loud and get a weird look from a fellow shopper.

What is this???
I need this.
I need it like I have never needed 
even a blue hydrangea.

   I meandered for over an hour, filling my mind with bold new ideas for inserting artwork into the garden and for growing new, unusual things. And the whole no photos bit of drama could not have ended more gently. The manager carried my purchases to my car and apologized if it had offended me, which of course it really did not, though I played it up pretty good on Facebook that afternoon. Because that's how I roll.

   I must admit that my Oklahoma City heart still belongs to Horn Seed Company, located just a bike ride away from my childhood home. But that is a forty minute drive now, so Tony's will very likely become my local haunt. Please pay a visit when you can, and to make the drive worthwhile, come to the farm for some fresh sweet tea. I'll show you the forbidden retail photos!! Mwa-ha-ha...

Twelve Days Till My Beekeeping Class!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Ms. Red

   We lost a hen today, one of the very best ever. 

   She was the regal, highly personable, indefatigable Red. I first wrote about her in this interview and have wanted to share more about her with you guys, but here we are. If you have been a visitor at the dirt-and-hooves Lazy W then you have probably noticed her plenty, though she wasn't ever the sort of girl who craved cuddling, like Mia does. Instead, she was the mover and shaker. The kinetic energy, mission impossible personality who kept all the birds motivated.

   Red was always the first person to rise and shine in the morning as well as the first to pull up a chair at the open grain bin. Usually she would just hop right in and help herself. I never once scolded her for this, because she always allowed me to retrieve enough for the others and never once pecked me. In recent days, she had even started allowing a certain rooster to join her.

   She was such a woman of action that the only times Red wasn't already waiting at the chicken yard gate at dawn, she was either laying an egg herself or dutifully sitting on a community clutch. But even then I could always touch her and hand feed her, multi-tasker that she was. She was all at once easy going and alert. This kind of approachability is not universal to all hens, folks, but I bet you know that.

   Like I mentioned, Red was a very attentive brooder, sitting on anyone's egg no matter the shape or color, and she was an excellent mother. My best guess is that in her Lazy W years she provided us with nearly two dozen live chicks. Tomato is in this group! Have you heard of Tomato? She's also laid about seventy four million large, delicious green eggs. And aside from three or four little sickly days which were all easily remedied with standard home health care TLC, she was a healthy, vibrant bird. Strapping, even.

   Red lived well past the expected life span for her breed, so while we are very sad she is gone, we are truly happy to celebrate her long, happy life. She seems to have died peacefully. When we said our silent goodbyes to each other she had sunshine on her feathers and clover in her belly. 

   I chose to bury her in the back field, halfway down the hill, at the site of the kids' old playhouse. This is also where Jess chose to bury her beloved fish named Banana. Banana was a very good fish. Red was a very good chicken. And they were both deeply loved, so it's fitting that they are buried near each other at a place where so much fun and creativity happened. Dusty, Mia, and Momma Goose all attended the burial.

   Thank you, Red, for all of the life you brought the farm. Thank you for the wonderful, nutritious eggs which we have shared with so many loved ones. Thank you for all of those beautiful fluffy little babies, for the upbeat atmosphere and beauty you always provided, and for showing us that a person really can live fully right up to the last day. Rest in Peace. We love you.

Be Vibrant Like Red...



Sun Worshipers Rejoice!

   In our little slice of heaven, the clock has made its annual adjustment forward, making the sunrise a bit later and the sunset later too. And I could not be happier! The first morning is always the most difficult, of course, and most of my friends joined me in accidentally sleeping late because the sun was nowhere to be found at the usual "time." Whatever "time" means to you.

This leafy mess is the area outside my kitchen window 
where I'll soon be installing an herb garden.

   Aside from this first dark thrust into the new work week, though, the beginning of Daylight Savings Time is a wonderful thrill for me! It is one more signal that winter is closing up shop. Springtime conditions are in full force in Oklahoma already, but now even the calendar agrees. It gives me butterflies. Or, chickens. Or whatever.

The chickens are more than happy to scratch up the weeds
and devour whatever bugs they can find,
especially when I tempt them with a good layer of manure.
This loosens up the heavy clay and saves me a lot of time with the spade.
It's like slave labor. Only more symbiotic.

   Now we can cook more slowly in the evening and hopefully crave less heavy meals, too. We can eat dinner, clean up the dishes, and still have time to walk around the farm without a flashlight. We can feed a second round of kitchen scraps to the chickens in the evenings because they'll be foraging still. Handsome can feel the sun on his skin every day now, rather than just see it through his airtight office windows, so we anticipate spending more hours together outside, and not just on the weekends. This is such a good time of year.

Of course, Mia supervises the whole operation.

   On top of all of this, I am feeling so thankful for the gentle, consistent rain! It bears repeating that after last year's brutality, this year's mildness will be reverently accepted as an undeserved gift every single day.

   Interestingly, in addition to the clock shift, we are also in the beginning days of a waning moon here. So I suppose after finishing some housework I should get to work on soil amendment and planting potatoes, garlic, carrots, and radishes, which are all below ground crops.

   The many slices of time and season that God gives us are so fascinating! A time for everything, for every purpose under heaven.

Thirteen Days Till my Beekeeping Class!!
Have a Beautiful, Productive Day, Everyone!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Humilspiration (Blogger Event)

   Yes, I am pretty sure that's a real word.

(hyoo-mil-spur-A-shun), noun
A luscious blend 
of humility and inspiration
resulting from gentle exposure 
to brilliant, accomplished people
who are willing to share their passion. 

   It's what happened to me last Saturday when a small, cozy group of Oklahoma bloggers convened right here at our little farm for a few hours of chatting, nibbling edibles, and soaking up each others' experiences. It was wonderful in every way.

   Honestly, I am still not sure how in the heck I scored an invite since every other woman there has been blogging far longer than me and has established herself in various ways both professionally and in the blogging community. But I am ever so grateful to Kelly from the Red Dirt Chronicles for her thoughtfulness.

Here are Kelly and Dee strolling with cameras and kind words.

   Early on in the event's planning stages I stuck my neck out and offered to host, trying to conceal the truth that I just meant to cement my attendance. I mean, eventually someone was bound to realize this *crazy* Lazy W lady was pretending to fit into the "real bloggers" club and then promptly revoke my welcome card. Have you ever seen Catch Me if You Can? Kind of like that. But if I was hosting, well... then my chances for retaining my invite just greatly improved.

Several home made dishes and decadent bakery luxuries filled the table that day.

   Anyway, the other eight women who joined in on Saturday were just dazzling in every way. About another eight were invited and had to decline, but I know they would have dazzled me too. I certainly look forward to meeting them eventually.

I can still smell the sugar...

   You may remember that last Saturday was a drop dead gorgeous day in Oklahoma. Bright sunshine, warm skin, cool breezes. As everyone arrived one by one and trickled down the driveway, we mingled outside and fed treats to the animals. Mia the gander bonded suddenly and passionately to Rose, one of the loveliest and warmest people you will ever meet. She has recently revived her blog Rose Rock Oklahoma, and I am so glad she did. Go find her post on International Women's Day!
   But Mia was rude and inappropriate with Brooke. (So sorry for that.. but Pacino did think it was funny.)

Here are Laura and Brooke are getting acquainted with Pacino the macaw, 
and moments later Brooke suffered some unwanted aggression from Mia the gander.

   I had the very real pleasure of meeting Sonya of Beyond the Screen Door, a woman whose exceptional seamstress work and talent for combining unexpected fabrics has been inspiring me for a long time.

I had to apply every ounce of self control in my body
to *not* ask Sonya, pictured here chatting with Allison,
her opinion on a fabric idea for my kitchen.
She is so gracious, I would have ended up taking advantage of her.

   Another guest was a kind of local celebrity, Katie from Dishin and Dishes. She is a food blogger who appears weekly on Rise and Shine Oklahoma. She is also in the final stages of writing a book surveying all the best local restaurants in Oklahoma! This will definitely be on my Christmas shopping list next December.

Here are Rose Marie and Katie, two fabulous women 
who first forged an acquaintance on Twitter 
then had lunch together the week after this event!
I almost cropped this photo, but if you look closely 
at the bottom you will see Mia, 
the gander who chooses people to love. 
This day he had his sights on Rose, loud and clear. 

   Allison is the super energetic talent behind Refunk My Junk. All of her ideas are fresh and pretty, and she makes it seem doable! Love that. If you're in OKC, you can find her wares over at The Feathered Nest. We also discovered that she and Handsome worked for the same big box bank once upon a time. Cool!

Allison is* hilarious* to listen to
and her style really flows over into her blog. 
(Stripper glitter, anyone?)
I managed to snap a photo of her during 
exactly the four seconds she wasn't smiling and making friends!
So sorry, but it's kind of my talent.

   Dee is the talent behind the curtain at Red Dirt Ramblings. Her topic of focus is my not so private obsession, gardening... Oooh la la... Plus she has spun her skills and knowledge into a full blown writing career. This is what I am talking about, you guys! These things are actually possible! After some note trading and chatting, Dee and I noticed that her children are attending my high school Alma mater, Mount Saint Mary in south Oklahoma City. Small, beautiful world where we live, huh?

   Laura is a young, gorgeous professional who has been stylishly chronicling her home renovations over at The Steen Style. She is one of those women whose smile is bright and whose energy is contagious. In fact, she arrived at the Bloggers' Ball (as it was cheerfully dubbed) with another lovely young woman, Brooke, and we all assumed they were lifelong friends. Not so! They had only met in 3-D that morning, on the way to the Lazy W. How's that for making connections real?
   Brooke has been writing Rural Gone Urban for a while and recently launched a brand spankin new site for Chickasaw Country. Very exciting. Now she's writing a children's book, so keep your eye on her!

   These ladies showered me lavishly with unnecessary but much appreciated hostess gifts. The funny thing is they didn't know it's also my birthday week, woo-hoo! 

   After we pressed the clock for every spare minute sharing stories, ideas, questions, and hopes for the future of our little group, everyone said goodbye and drove away from the farm. I was literally stunned into silence. Not the normal post-party fervor or exhaustion, just a wonderful, bizarre sense of possibility. 

Possibility for my blog.
Possibility for Oklahoma, my heart's homeland.  
Possibility for the universal experiences 
of creativity and sharing.

   I could barely speak for about fifteen minutes. See... each of these women started blogging for intensely personal reasons (like me) and each has gradually discovered her voice, mission, and platform in her own unique way. Now they are evolving unapologetically and sharing those mindful resources.   Collectively these bloggers were an ocean of knowledge on IT and had a firm grasp on social media, all of which is crazy useful to me. But their greatest gifts were openness and drive.

Kelly's Twitter stream of most quotable remarks during the session was priceless.
"Blog drunk, edit sober." Solid advice, ladies. Solid.

   In a nutshell, it was one of those times when life shows you exactly how much you don't know but simultaneously offers you a chance to learn it all. And to learn it through some really delicious connections.

   I am whole heartedly looking forward to the next event and expect to see some of you between now and then, too. Thanks again for visiting the Lazy W, thanks for the gifts, thanks for the generous exchanges. Best wishes to everyone this spring and summer!

Birds of a Feather Can Still Be Mighty Different.
And That is Very Good.


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