Bees and frogs

Lots of bees

This is how our bees looked while Ron was messing with their hive today. The brown spots on the front of the hive are from the liquid smoke we use to keep them from getting too agitated.

It was ridiculously warm today. It got up to 80 or something. It’s supposed to be warm tomorrow, and then on Thursday, it’s going to cool off again, and we might get storms. I hope we do. I heard frogs singing this evening on my way home from the gym. If we get rain, I might hear more frogs.

I hope they come and sing in our pond and lay eggs in there so we’ll have a pond full of polliwogs like we had when the toads bred in our yard in Belleville. I love frogs.


Beautiful day

Today was bright and warm, but very windy. This character was seeking shelter from the wind on one of the crocus blossoms in the front yard when I came home for lunch:

Crocus bee

The crocuses were really putting on a show:


I spent several minutes in the back yard, watching our girls zip in and out of their hive. They seem to be thriving, and they’re obviously finding plenty of pollen — take a look at the bee on the lower left:


We had another glorious sunset this evening, but I didn’t have the camera handy to catch it for you. 😦

I think on Wednesday evening, Ron and I need to go for a walk along the river trail and watch the sun set. I’ll remember to bring the camera along.

Hope your day was as beautiful as mine.


Weekend in New Mexico

My trip got off to an auspicious start Friday, as I headed out of town after work and found myself driving into OKC under the most gorgeous sunset imaginable. My friend Brad called me just as I noticed the pink mackerel clouds off to my left. Five minutes into our conversation, the light had changed colors three times, there were enormous bands of gold streaking across a dazzling blue sky, and wispy pink clouds danced along the edges like the fringe on some giant falsa blanket. I finally interrupted him to ask if he could get to a west-facing window.

He couldn’t.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a fisheye lens or a place to pull over (I was on the turnpike just then), so I couldn’t shoot it for him. But I felt like a bit of a tease, telling him about that gorgeous sunset while he was stuck in a downtown skyscraper, so I made a mental note to bring back a New Mexico sunset for him.

These next three shots are for Brad. Notice Tucumcari Mountain in the background of the first two images:

Tucumcari Mountain



I spent two nights at the incomparable Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari. The weather was a little chilly, and it was too overcast to go out and shoot dazzling vistas on Saturday morning, so aside from brief visits to each of my usual haunts (Tepee Curios, Lowe’s grocery store, Coyote Moon, and La Cita), I spent most of the day at the Swallow, reading and napping and taking it easy. Which was fine with me … I’ve made so many manic trips out that direction, it was good to have a little time to slow down and catch my breath.


Inflation forced this bit of neon work off the Swallow’s marquee, but the owner keeps it hanging in a garage to amuse nostalgia buffs:

$3 and up

I slept in a little on Sunday morning, read some more, and then hit the road around 11 a.m. Tucumcari time (which would be noon Tulsa time).

Instead of taking Route 66 back home, as I’ve done a dozen times before, I decided to try something new: I took U.S. 54 to Guymon, then picked up U.S. 412 from Guymon to Sand Springs, which is about 5 miles from where I live. I found a few interesting things on the road.

This great-looking old motel is in Nara Visa, N.M., about five miles from the Texas border:

Western Stars

As I was shooting this theater in Dalhart, Texas, a guy jogging down the otherwise deserted street said, “The inside is even prettier.” I can well imagine. Too bad it wasn’t open.

Theater in Dalhart

This monument to the XIT Ranch is also in Dalhart:

XIT monument

This guy is standing outside an abandoned steakhouse between Dalhart and Stratford:

Big guy

This abandoned house east of Guymon looks like something out of The Grapes of Wrath. There are a lot of abandoned houses like this in western Oklahoma:


I think this next image is from Woodward, but I didn’t take notes, so I could have shot it somewhere else:

Mystery motel

I didn’t know this was possible, but I think Oklahoma has actually one-upped New Mexico for gorgeous scenery. Look at the striations in these mesas. They look like something out of the Painted Desert, but they’re actually on U.S. 412 west of Enid:

Painted 1

Painted 2

Painted 3

And finally, just to cap the trip, here’s a sunset west of Enid:

OK sunset

I am the Starlight …

The Starlight Express (my Scion xA, so dubbed because of its striking resemblance to a roller skate) and I are back in town.

I am pleased to report that it was a wonderful, relaxing trip, and by the grace of God, the Starlight Express and I shattered our old gas mileage record (399.9 miles on a single tank) by 30.8 miles, posting an impressive 40.712733 mpgs tonight after getting caught on the Cimarron Turnpike with a tenth of a tank and 395 miles on the trip odometer. The gas light came on at 400 miles … five miles past the sign that said, “GAS — FOOD — NEXT EXIT — 35 MILES.”

There was nearly a gallon and a half left in the tank when I finally fueled up.

Mind you, the Starlight Express is not a hybrid … just an inexpensive, well-designed Japanese ICE that’s got an EPA rating of 38 mpg highway but easily outperforms that if you drive like a hypermiler. I highly recommend the xA if you need something inexpensive, reliable, and cheap to feed.

More details from the trip when I get these photos worked up.


Strange sight

I was driving down 11th Street (a.k.a. Route 66) today when I encountered something I’d never seen before in Tulsa: A guinea sauntered through a construction zone and crossed the road in front of me. It went searching for snacks in a grassy area in front of the old Saratoga Motor Hotel.

I took a picture of it for work. After the photo runs (assuming we have room for it), I’ll post it here. The bird drew quite a bit of attention from passers-by. Very cute.

Not a whole lot else to report today. I spent this evening watching figure skating on TV. My heart just about broke for Irina Slutskaya when she fell — she’s been through so much, and she really wanted to win that gold medal for her mother — but Shizuka Arakawa really skated beautifully. As usual, Scott Hamilton’s commentary was wonderful. He’s always so positive; even when someone makes a mistake, he sounds sympathetic, and he always finds something positive to say about all the skaters — even the ones who mess up royally. I really enjoy listening to him.

I’ll be offline this weekend. I’m going to New Mexico for a couple of days but will undoubtedly have a memory card full of pictures to share by the time I get home.


Ask the Hippie, Vol. 1, Issue 2

Yeah, I know, I was gonna do “Ask the Hippie” more often than this, but I got sidetracked. Sorry. Hippies are known for creativity and pretty dreams, not organizational skills.

Anyway, here is a much-belated answer to Teen’s request for information about growing marigolds.

Marigolds were the first flowers I grew when I was little. I think I was about 5 when Mom and I planted marigold seeds we’d harvested off my grandmother’s plants.

In any case, marigolds are generally tough plants that resist insects (some gardeners plant them alongside food crops to discourage pests, because the flowers release a scent that insects find distasteful) and thrive in a variety of conditions.

Like most annuals, they prefer full sun and loose, well-drained garden loam, although I once grew them with moderate success in a contaminated bed under a shade tree that allowed only dappled sunlight to filter down on them now and then. The area was right under an old oil-change rack at a historic service station that some members of the Illinois Route 66 Association were restoring. The ground where I planted the marigolds was so contaminated that I could smell the oil every time I plunged my spade into the dirt, and when I went out to weed the area a month or so later, no weeds were growing there, aside from a few tough blades of grass.

The marigolds didn’t exactly thrive in that environment, but they survived, bloomed, and set seed. They didn’t produce a lot of foliage, and they looked pretty stunted, but given the soil conditions and the lack of light, I thought they did remarkably well.

Marigolds need moisture, but like most plants, they don’t like wet feet, so don’t get too carried away. If you plant them in a container, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom, and put about a one-inch layer of charcoal, vermiculite, perlite, aquarium gravel, or similar material in the bottom before you add the potting soil. If you plant outdoors, make sure they are not directly under the drip of the house, and make sure the soil drains well. If in doubt, dig a hole trowel-deep, put a handful or two of sand in the bottom, and add a handful or two of compost before replacing the soil. If the soil comes out of the hole in a big clump, smack it around and/or chop it up with your trowel to break it up and aerate it a bit before you put it back in the hole.

When you plant, you can either direct-seed the marigolds or start them indoors about six weeks before you plan to transplant them. You get earlier flowers if you start them indoors, but I’ve done them both ways. Plant them after the last frost (April 15 is generally considered safe here in Oklahoma), as they will not survive a heavy frost.

Other than that, you really don’t have to do much to them. Just keep them moist but not soggy, and they’ll generally take whatever else you can dish out. They are annuals, which means they’ll die off at the end of the season. Just harvest the seeds (which are wrapped up in a neat little husk that looks almost like a tiny brown paper bag — click here to see a picture) and you can replant next year. One or two flowers will usually produce enough seed to grow a whole garden of marigolds.

For more on marigolds, click here.

God bless Aunt Eunice

Check out this charming piece in today’s online edition of the Christian Science Monitor, in which writer Danny Heitman describes his Aunt Eunice’s enduring kindness and concern for nature as she returned to her home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina:

After an hour of pitching pickles and butter, bread and beans, jam, cheese, and dozens of decomposing delicacies into bulging garbage bags, Aunt Eunice retrieved a small brown block from the back of the freezer. It was still cold to the touch as she placed it in her palm and offered it for inspection.

“I think this can be saved,” she said as I leaned over to sniff the sweet scent of sugar, oatmeal, and peanut butter. “The woodpeckers will love it.”

At the end of the article, you’ll find her special recipe for bird treats. You can bet I’ll be whipping up a batch for the critters here in Red Fork. I’d been thinking of getting out the stepladder and appropriating some pinecones off the tree in my front yard to use as birdfeeders like we used to do in Girl Scouts, but Aunt Eunice’s recipe sounds like an even better idea.



Lee’s Feed here in Tulsa is already selling baby chicks. It’s a little early, but they had a whole flock of ’em under heat lamps today when we stopped by there during lunch. They were SOOOOOO cute … little and fuzzy and noisy. You could hear them peeping all the way out in the parking lot. I didn’t have the camera with me, or I would have taken a picture. They had yellow ones and brown ones and little light yellow ones with black stripes on them. It was a little cool for them, so they were piling up on each other and huddling up under the heat lamps for warmth.

I want some baby chicks. They had some araucanas there — that’s the kind that lays blue-green eggs — but Ron says if we get chickens, we have to get Barred Rocks, because they’ll do a better job of scratching up the soil and picking the bugs and weed seeds out of the garden before we plant stuff out there.

We’re talking about building a chicken tractor.

I want some meat rabbits, too, but Ron thinks I’ll get attached to them and won’t want to butcher them and eat them. I don’t think that’s likely to be a problem. Baby bunnies are cute, but I’ve been around too many nasty-tempered does to have any sentimental attachment to them once they get big enough to cop an attitude. Plus rabbits are among the easiest livestock to raise (especially where we live; a small lot in town really limits your options), and they produce some of the world’s best fertilizer, so even if I did turn into a sentimental sap and keep them as pets, they’d earn their keep by feeding my tomatoes. They can recycle weeds into rich fertilizer about as fast as anything out there.

Speaking of critters who produce fertilizer, I checked on my worms last night, and they are thriving. I harvested several cups of finished compost from the two drawers (I’m storing it in the bottom drawer for the time being) and found tons of what I assume are egg capsules in the bin. Hooray!