Everything’s coming up okra

Here’s what’s happening in the garden today:

1. The beans, a few of which were just barely trying to sprout yesterday, are really taking off, with many new sprouts and several of the initial sprouts putting out leaves.
2. The collards are getting bigger; the seedlings now look like radishes (two tiny heart-shaped leaves) instead of four-leaf clovers.
3. The okra is finally starting to come up. I planted a lot of it, so hopefully we will have a good crop this year.
4. Three or four cucumber seeds are sprouting.
5. Our tomatoes and peppers look good.

No signs of life yet from the asparagus beans, but I imagine they’ll be up soon, too. I think the garden really benefited from ideal growing conditions today: a very warm morning and afternoon, with a rainstorm in the late afternoon and into early evening. The frogs liked the rain; they’re just singing their little hearts out all over the neighborhood. There’s at least one living right next to our pond, because I heard it last night while I was bringing in the laundry.

The storm kept me from jogging after work, so I used the time to make a quick batch of tuna salad, which I ate on Triscuit crackers for dinner, and then I spent part of this evening reading and part of this evening practicing my neon skills, trying to regain some of what I’ve lost in three years away from the torches. I’ll have more to say about that later, but right now, I want to talk about the cool thing I signed up for today.

Our editorial assistant told me about a food co-op here in town that offers bags of organic meat or produce for $29 apiece. You pay a $45 annual membership fee to join the co-op, and then once a week, you can buy a bag of meat, a bag of produce, or a bag of each. It’s rather similar to a CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm, in that you’re buying local, and the contents of the produce bag are a surprise every week — whatever is in season is what you get.

We belonged to a CSA back in Illinois, and I highly recommend it. CSAs are a great way to support local farmers, try new things (they always put some weird stuff in the bag, like bok choy or kohlrabi — it’s not all heirloom tomatoes and organic carrots, although you get plenty of that, too), and learn about where your food comes from.

I suppose some people would cringe at the idea of letting a stranger pick out the groceries, but I haven’t met too many vegetables I didn’t like, and I have a pretty good sense of adventure about my meals. After all, I am firmly convinced that barbecued snoot is the reason God gave man dominion over the animals … and our copy editor, who usually goes and picks up lunch for the rest of the staff, can tell you that I’m not above handing him $10 and telling him to surprise me if I can’t decide what I want to eat … so the random-sack-of-produce thing is fine by me.

The other thing I really like about the CSA/co-op concept is the “autopilot” nature of the whole thing: Instead of wasting time figuring out what I want to eat for the next week, making a grocery list, and blowing an hour at the supermarket, I can just go and pick up my bag of goodies, put them away, and spend the next week cooking whatever I’ve got in the refrigerator. Somehow this strikes me as the sort of thing FlyLady would approve of.

I went and signed up for the co-op today. I’ll let you know what I get Friday. Our editorial assistant got a big ol’ fennel bulb last week. I would be excited if we got fennel, because that would mean that Ron would probably make me some of his famous baked fennel. Yum.


Travel my way

“Shall we plead for more at the open fount, which is pouring forth more than we accept?”
— Mary Baker Eddy

People sometimes ask why I drive Route 66 every summer instead of finding new places to go on vacation. “Why would you want to see the same stuff over and over?” they ask. “Why not see something different?”

My response is always the same: I don’t see the same stuff over and over. I might drive past the same things over and over, but driving past is not the same thing as seeing. Looking over my photos from this morning, I realized that most of them were new additions to my collection — things I’d never once stopped to shoot in all the times I’ve driven down Southwest Boulevard (a.k.a. Route 66) since we moved to Red Fork. It’s all right here in my own neighborhood, yet I never seem to see it.

Some examples:


I think this is an old hardware store. It breaks my heart to think of all the indie hardware stores we’ve lost over the years.


Ford panel truck outside Billy Ray’s BBQ.


Roses in front of an apartment house.


Midway Trailer Court sign. I shot this once before, on a cold, icy afternoon in 2006 … but I think it looks completely different with a dazzling spring sky behind it.


How long do you suppose this old hat shop has been closed? When was the last time you saw a lady wearing a hat?



If I could, I would buy this building and turn it into my own personal office/playhouse/whatever. I just love little teeny buildings. Especially little teeny buildings with better than half a century of history behind them.


A rose bush thrives at the corner of the property where the late Shady Rest Court once stood.


Wildflowers grow along a chain-link fence on an overpass above I-244.


I-244 overpass. The interstate sliced through Red Fork, effectively cutting the neighborhood in half.


Sign of the times: You used to find big, elaborate metal hubcaps lying in gutters next to 66. Now all the hubcaps are plastic, and you just see broken pieces of them here and there.


A used-car lot and auto repair shop occupies this old service station next to Crystal City. Note the neon “USED CARS” sign in the window.


The old Crystal City shopping center sign’s colorful design hints at the property’s former life as a once-popular amusement park. Efforts are afoot to redevelop Crystal City and restore it to its former glory. I wish the next owner would buy the Zingo roller coaster from Bell’s and put it in the parking lot. I’m told the original Zingo was at Crystal City. How cool would it be if it came full circle? I’m terrified of roller coasters, but if Crystal City got Zingo back, I would ride it at least once, just for the sake of history.


Yellow Submarine is long gone, but its sign still remains. The building now houses a very good Bill and Ruth’s with a very friendly owner whose mama helps in the kitchen, making killer falafel and baklava and all kinds of other wonderful treats.

This is 66: beauty and history and a million untold stories, and if you go too fast, you miss all of it.

This is true in all aspects of our lives, isn’t it? How many times do we overlook things because we’re in a hurry, or we’re preoccupied with our problems, or we don’t think they have anything to offer? How many people do we see every day but more or less ignore because we think we have nothing in common with them, no reason to talk to them, nothing to learn from them? How many blessings do we overlook because we just aren’t paying attention? How many times do we get so busy wishing and hoping and dreaming and praying for bigger-better-faster-more that we overlook the beauty and richness that’s all around, just waiting to bless us?

I love the sentiment in this little e-card about the best way to express gratitude. (Music starts as soon as you click “play,” so be sure and turn down the speakers if it’s likely to bother anybody. The music is nice but isn’t really necessary for you to be able to understand the message.)

Go find something or someone to appreciate this weekend.


2.8 miles

Ron didn’t feel like getting up early to drive me to the start line this morning, so I just grabbed his camera and my watch and went for a jog down Route 66 instead. I started at Crystal City and ran for 15 minutes (just shy of a mile and a half) before turning around and heading back. I took a leisurely pace on the return trip, stopping every few minutes to take pictures of things that looked interesting. It was a nice way to ease back into running after a five-month hiatus.

Nicer still is the fact that I didn’t have to spend $20 or so on a race entry fee … which means I can take that money to Li’l Sprouts and buy another hanging basket for the patio. I think maybe I’ll do pink petunias this time. 🙂

I’ll post my pictures later, when I’ve had time to upload them.


Stupidity, part deux

How long can the Red Fork Hippie Chick shuffle around in Birkenstocks while her Brooks Adrenalines languish in the closet?

Exactly five months, one week, and two days.

I have now put 26 races on my calendar between tomorrow this morning and Dec. 31, including two 15Ks, two half-marathons, five full marathons (two of them back-to-back) and a 50K.

Apparently I’m still a runner.

Yes, yes, I know … I’ve got STUPIDITY … but before you accuse me of being a totally masochistic idiot, please keep in mind two important points:

1. I am not as crazy as this woman.
2. Marathoners (particularly those of the not-very-fast-or-serious variety, which obviously describes me) never count carbs. We simply inhale them.

Pass the Twinkies. I’ve got a race in the morning. Five bucks says I set a PR in the wrong direction … but I should still be finished in plenty of time to hit the breakfast buffet at Ollie’s.


Slow day

Songdog climbed up on the couch beside me tonight and attempted to convince me that 50 pounds is not too large to be classified as a lap dog. He’s a sweetheart. I took advantage of the opportunity to brush his coat — something I probably ought to do at least once a week, but somehow only get around to doing a couple of times a year.

A casual observer, seeing the enormous mass of sable-colored hair I cleaned out of the brushes, would have suspected that this male collie-heeler mix had somehow defied the laws of biology and given birth to a full-grown Pomeranian.

It’s nice to have my big projects behind me, for the most part. Maybe now I can get back to work on Jamie’s alphabet book and the neon sign restoration I promised out three years ago.

I also need to repaint the outside of the house and start my labyrinth project while it’s still early enough in the season to do the plantings next to the path, but I think the neon has to be my top priority. Once that’s done, I’ll worry about the rest.

I feel another creative outburst coming on. We’ll see what craziness I come up with this time….




My roses are blooming. Above are Mojave (left) and Blue Girl. I didn’t get any decent blossoms last year because the thrips sucked all the moisture out of them and left them brown and shriveled. These have survived an aphid attack that’s compromised their looks a bit (note the little hole chewed in the Mojave blossom and the brown here and there on the Blue Girl), so I gritted my teeth and hit the bushes with neem oil this morning. With the Country Store closed, I don’t have an instant source of ladybugs and praying mantises to take care of the problem organically.

Oh well. I lopped off all the blossoms first so the bees wouldn’t get into the poison and carry it back to the hive. I don’t want to do anything that will hurt my girls, but when Bill sold me the neem last year, he recommended removing the blossoms first to protect the bees. I harvested three blossoms — the two pictured above and a JFK — but the JFK looked pretty damaged and pathetic and didn’t have much scent, so I threw it out. The Blue Girl is wonderfully fragrant; the Mojave less so.

It rained this afternoon, so I’m not sure how much good the neem treatment did, but hopefully it wiped out enough of the aphids to give the next round of buds a fighting chance. I’m hoping for lots of pretty blossoms so I can share them with my friends.


Caught up

Finally … my plate is almost clear! After running into some last-minute obstacles last night, I managed to finish up the newsletter a few minutes ago. I dealt with a few e-mails that needed attention, wrote a letter of support for a preservation project in Texas, and now I’m ready to start reading that stack of magazines next to my bed.

I’d kind of like to take a shower, but I’m balking at the thought of hot water hitting this sunburn … which did NOT fade to a “golden tan” like I’d hoped it would. (It did, however, dehydrate me and give me a fever and chills. Yippee.)

That’s what I get for tolerating error, I suppose. I’m not sure why I decided to accept a sunburn and sore muscles as the natural consequence of enjoying a pretty afternoon in the garden, but I seem to do it every year … and of course I get the same unpleasant results every year. (Note to self: “Standing porter” is way easier than cleaning up the aftermath when you don’t. I wonder how long it will take me to get the hang of that?)

On the up side, my rotten physical condition today gave me the chance to see, once again, how much my dog loves me. Scout pretends she doesn’t care what I do, but her carefully hidden sweet streak shows through whenever I’m sick. She gets all worried about me and won’t let me out of her sight. If I won’t let her up on the bed, she’ll sit on the floor right beside me, guarding me like a little soldier and making this sad face at me, as if to say, “Mom? You’ll be OK, won’t you? Please?” It’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

I always know when healing is imminent, because about an hour before I start to feel better, Scout ditches me and goes off to relax on her papasan chair in the living room. I don’t know how she knows, but she always does.

I am pleased to report that she is now fast asleep on the papasan, and has been for a couple of hours … which tells me it’s probably safe to take that shower now. 🙂


You’ve got stupidity!

When I was in seventh grade, Mrs. Chiaventone’s second-hour honors English class met in a classroom that had big windows looking out onto the playground where the children in the adjacent elementary school played.

Second hour coincided with the elementary students’ morning recess. The school was not air-conditioned, so we had to keep the windows open during warm weather.
This combination of factors provided an endless source of entertainment (read: disruptions) for our class.

On one particularly memorable morning, a little boy stood right outside our window, loudly upbraiding a playmate: “You’ve got stupidity! Stupidity! YOU’VE GOT STUPIDITY!”

I have no idea what his companion had done to earn this diagnosis, but it became a running joke in our class. Every time someone forgot his homework, or missed a question on a test, or gave a lame oral report, or we were confronted with a situation that we just weren’t sure how to address, one or the other of us would announce: “YOU’VE GOT STUPIDITY!”

This would, of course, bring down the house. Especially when Chris Redfearn did it. I don’t know why it was funnier when Chris said it. It just was.

I mention this tonight because I can hear that little boy’s voice shouting in my thought.

I am supposed to be laying out a newsletter for a local nonprofit group. Someone asked me if I could throw something together on the fly. In the past two weeks, I have designed a 76-page magazine for the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, which I followed up with a 12-page newsletter yesterday, and in between, two deadlines have come and gone at work, meaning I have laid out something like 18 pages at the office. Frankly, I’ve spent about as much quality time with inDesign as I care to. But I promised I would have this other newsletter done by Monday.

It’s not a big deal. It’s based on a very simple template. It’s only six pages. I have all the items I need, along with a list of everything I am supposed to have and where it’s all supposed to go. I am not responsible for writing, shooting, or editing anything. All I have to do is Photoshop some pictures into black and white, slap the stories and photos on the pages, and send a PDF to the editor. The whole thing probably won’t take an hour and a half. I’m just not in the mood to do it … and haven’t been all weekend.

So what am I doing tonight?

I’m looking up pictures of ’50s bombshell dresses to wear to the Will Rogers Banquet in June. I’m exchanging e-mails with a buddy of mine in California. I’m approving blog comments. I’m going back and rereading old blog entries from eight months ago. I’m thinking about changing my gerbil’s litter, because something in here smells weird, and I’m pretty sure it’s her. (Note how I am not actually changing her litter, which would represent a productive use of my time … just thinking about it.) And now I am blogging about something that happened during the Reagan administration.

In short, I am procrastinating in grand fashion. And I have been procrastinating for at least three times as long as it would have taken to simply lay out the newsletter.

You know why?

Because I’ve got STUPIDITY.


Earth Day

We celebrated Earth Day in the garden today. We moved the chicken tractor to the east side of the garden and took turns hoeing the west side so I could plant this year’s crops: lots of okra, two kinds of bush beans, Georgia collards, cucumbers, eggplant, asparagus beans, and the rest of the tomatoes. Ron dug postholes for the tomatoes and eggplant.

We found a lot of grubworms in the soil. I am not, as a general rule, terribly fond of grubs, but my appreciation for them is growing as I discover the joy they bring to my hens’ lives. Apparently chickens regard big, fat grubs with the same level of admiration and delight that humans reserve for filet mignon.

Ron found the biggest grub I’ve ever seen today while he was hoeing an area next to the garage. It had to be half an inch wide and at least three times that long. Solitaire — who has lost her youthful shyness and is turning out to be every bit as bossy and assertive as Pushy — grabbed it, but Elektra snatched it right out of her beak and took off with it. A spirited game of “Who’s Got the Worm?” ensued. I’m not sure who finally ate it, but I think Ron’s stock rose dramatically when he offered it to them.

I forgot to wear a hat while I was hoeing next to the beehive. One of the girls got a little too curious, managed to get tangled up in my hair, and stung me on the head before we could free her.

I felt terrible. A honeybee sting is unpleasant for the recipient, but it’s generally fatal to the one who administers it, and I could have protected my little girl from a frightening and ultimately lethal situation if I’d simply remembered to tie back my hair and put on a hat to keep her curiosity from getting her into trouble.

As I wrestled briefly with a sense of guilt (mixed with a tiny bit of fear — that sting hurt!) a line from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, came to thought:

All of God’s creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible.

Ron removed the stinger for me and suggested I call a practitioner, as he was concerned that the sting’s location might produce a bad reaction.

I was tempted to shrug him off — I’ve never been allergic to honeybees, and I generally balk at calling a practitioner and disrupting whatever he or she happens to be doing on a beautiful Sunday afternoon — but Ron was concerned about my safety, and his concern seemed warranted as a strange sensation crept through my sinuses and into my ears, making my face tingle as if I’d just been given a shot of Novocain.

I called a great practitioner I’d known back in Illinois.

Her response was immediate: “God’s ideas can’t be in conflict with each other,” she said firmly. She reminded me that I couldn’t be punished for doing something good — and it was good for me to work in my garden.

The strange sensation in my sinuses left. I let fear creep back into thought briefly, and one side of my face promptly started to itch. Mrs. Eddy says to handle fear first, so I resisted the temptation to go inside and look in the mirror, opting instead to think about the story from the Bible in which Paul is bitten by a poisonous viper and simply shakes the animal off his hand, completely unharmed.

The itching stopped as quickly as it had started, and I had no further trouble as Ron and I dug and hoed and raked and planted.

I still have nine hot peppers to put in the ground, but it’s a bit early yet for them; I don’t usually plant peppers until May 1. As I was going through my seeds today, I found a bunch of flowers I’d forgotten about, too. I’ll have to figure out where I want to plant them. Hopefully some are shade-tolerant, as I need something pretty for my front flowerbeds.

I’ve got calluses on my palms and the faintest hint of a sunburn (which will soon deepen to a golden tan) on my shoulders. I’ve tucked collards and okra and beans and cucumbers into the soil to warm up and sprout. My hens are cooing contentedly to themselves, their bellies full of sourgrass and grubworms; my bees are foraging happily among the blackberry blossoms; and I’ve had yet another opportunity to experience healing.

It’s been a good day.

Hope you had a good day, too. If you haven’t yet, measure your ecological footprint, and then go do something nice for the environment.