If we are what we eat, at the moment I am about 30% peach.
It’s been the spring and summer of the peach for me. I’ve had peaches on my trees before, but this summer was the bumper crop. I believe this is due to a normal, cold, wet winter, and a wet spring, so my trees had abundant deep moisture, and healthy pollinating insects.
I have picked peaches almost every day since May, and I have been able to eat most of them. Except for some losses to brown rot, my peaches have been big, beautiful and nutritious, and I couldn’t be happier with them.
Harsh, but True...
It aggravates me to no end when people immediately suggest that I make something out of my fruits and vegetables. “Are you going to make peach cobbler?” “Are you going to make peach ice cream?” No, fatty. Peaches are food. I’m going to eat them.
Mike, our next door neighbor, rolled his tractor while brush hogging, his business now that he is retired. He was injured and spent some time in the emergency room, but he’ll be okay. It’s a good reminder that something as simple as mowing merits extra care to be safe.
My DR all-terrain mower started with no effort last night, which is nothing short of Twilight Zone weird because I hadn’t started it in three years, and when I did, it took half a bottle of starter fluid to get it going. “Maybe it just needed the rest,” Abby jokingly suggested.
So, with the pasture partially mowed last night and the last of the peaches picked, I hope to get some more of that done today, and concentrate on my next crop, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and cantaloupe.
Today is the first day of summer 2019. Spring brought tremendous rain, gorgeous pastures, peach and plum trees sagging from the weight of fruit, and early yesterday morning, widespread thunderstorm damage in our neck of the southeastern Oklahoma woods.
A fortunate collision of timing allowed our good friend Robert to join me in our coverage of the storm damage from a fast-moving line of severe thunderstorms that rolled through about 3 a.m. Damage was widespread and caused damage to numerous trees, and downed power lines across the region.
More than 15,000 residents were without power, including us in Byng. As luck would have it, we did have power at the office, so we got the paper out, but the Pauls Valley paper wasn’t as fortunate, and I don’t know how they eventually got their product together.
Robert lives in the D.C. area, but came to Tulsa to photography his niece Rowan’s wedding, and had some time to come down yesterday, just in time to round up some nice storm cleanup images, which are in today’s Ada News.
After a long day of that, and Abby texting us “Power!!! Power!!!” at 2:04 p.m. (for an outage time of about 12 hours), we went home to shift to phase two of our day of photography, photographing our pets, our patch, and each other.
Readers might recall that Robert photographed Abby and me in November, and those image ended up being some of my all-time favorites of the two of us, and I hoped to recreate the magic, and the session was everything I wanted it to be.
In recent weeks my wife Abby and I have gotten in the habit of me picking up dinner from San Remos Pizzeria hera in Ada, a baked ziti for her and a big veggie pizza for me, and eating on those items for several days, since it’s a lot of food. I always feel happy when I can bring it home to her, and she feels happy when I do.
Abby’s been walking our Chihuahua, Summer, when I walk our Irish Wolfhound Hawken. It’s been unbelievably warm, green and beautiful out the last few weeks.
It’s Father’s Day, and though I am not a father (except maybe to our dogs), I am a step father, and I also have a birthday coming up shortly, so I decided I wanted new shoes. On Amazon, I found a nice pair of casual black shoes to go with dressier clothes, and I got another pair of Keens.
I got my first pair of Keens from my sister as a Christmas gift, and I like them so much I tend to wear them so much I wear them out. I learned years ago that different styles of Keen shoes fit very differently, and if I find a style, I should stick with it. Mine is the H2 Newport. They are rugged, waterproof, and super cool-looking.
Our trees and the pasture and garden are all happy and healthy. “It’s sure pretty out,” Abby commented as I wrote this. Tonight I’ll be out there again, walking dogs and tending tomato plants on our little patch of green in the country.
I planted my small orchard in a semicircle around the garden in 2007. It has been an amazing adventure to watch them all grow and thrive, but for the most part, weather and circumstance have limited the amount of fruit I’ve gotten from them. In fact, previously my plum trees have only ever produced one plum. One.
This year, however, has been different. All my trees have numerous fruit on them. My early Elberta peach tree is delivering huge, juicy, flavorful peaches this week like I have never seen. My cherry trees are both loaded with fruit, though they are smaller and not as sweet as grocery store cherries, possibly because the trees are immature. I also have dozens of small, sweet plums that are hard to eat because they are so juicy.
I expect this bounty is a combination of abundant rain and “just right” temperatures.
My good friend and fellow photographer Courtney Morehead came out last night to pick a dozen or so peaches and sample a couple of plums and cherries, as well as meet Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. Courtney and I have been working on sidelines and courts for years now; me for newspaper and her as a senior/portrait photographer. It was great to share the fruition with her.
All the fruit on the early Elberta is ripening at once, so it will be gone soon, in me or on the ground. I have six more peach trees what should make fruit on July.
I am also cultivating an excellent selection in the garden that includes regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Cherokee purple tomatoes, two kinds of bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, and cantaloupes. Between them are marigolds and some pollinator flowers my other photographer friend Wes Edens gave me Tuesday when I went out to his place to shoot some of his guns, which is always fun.
I feel happy when I think of being a part of nature.
I started the morning by weighing myself, 145 pounds. My wife Abby and I are both thinner now than the day we met, maybe even a couple of pounds too thin.
Yesterday I covered the Artesian Arts Festival, a growing, super-popular Native American street festival in Sulphur, Oklahoma. I usually go early so I can beat the heat, and even though I was there right at the start time, it was packed.
I saw my friend Margaret, who was showing her art in one of the booths.
I shot well, and as I was leaving, I got two green bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomato plants from a giveaway program. I got them planted in the garden last night.
On the way home, I brought lunch for us from San Remos, a bake ziti for Abby, and a veggie pizza for me, then ate as I worked my images from the festival and delivered them to my editor.
Later in the evening, I decided to pick some of my huge crop of early Elberta peaches, from the tree I felt certain had doomed itself by blooming too early, just before a hard freeze.
I am also astonished by how well all my other trees are doing. I have plums for the first time ever, and a huge number of cherries. Some seasons I am just happy to see my trees be trees, and some seasons shower me with produce. It’s almost impossible to guess how it will go, since there are so many variables, but in many ways, that’s one of the fun things about it.
FInally, I had the urge to shoot a few mags of 9mm through my Ruger P95, the same one I dreamed about recently.
In the dream...
I catch some thugs trashing the house, but am too late to confront them. I am able to shoot one round from my 9mm into the back of their car from more than a mile away. Abby and I are then in the first class section of a 747 headed for Houston. For some reason I still have my 9mm. I wear it in an open holster or put it on the table in front of me. No one seems to notice or care, which I find very odd, and am unable to find anywhere to put it out of sight. People complain that my laptop is too loud, but say nothing about the fact that I am armed.
I hadn’t put any combat calibers downrange since January, and felt rusty. It was good to get back in the swing, and I shot competently.
There has been a lot of Oklahoma weather news this month, including tornadoes and flooding, but our little patch of green in the country is doing just fine.
Workers are installing a long-awaited cell tower next door.
Why and when I prefer tablets over phones.
Everyone who knows me is aware that I seldom get sick, and even seldomer stay home from work sick, but the past two days have taken me down, with dizziness, vertigo, and malaise. I thought it might be a bad reaction to a medication, but Abby seems to be having it too, so now we think it might be a virus of some type.
Being down for even a day or two is very frustrating for me, as I am very healthy, very active, stay as busy as a bee, and remain super motivated to get things done. I’m feeling better enough today to be up and about, and will probably return to work tomorrow. If nothing else, being sick helps to remind me that many people deal with chronic debilitating illness, and I should always remain grateful for my health.
Although I mostly laid in bed yesterday, I did get up-ish for a while in the evening. Abby and I watched some game show bloopers on YouTube, then went back to bed, but not before I stepped out to photograph a major change to our patch of green: a cell tower is being installed next door.
My feelings about this event are mixed and complex…
It will be an eyesore. I have never liked the look of cell towers.
It is damaging to the land, as the crew dug a fairly deep hole for the foundation, and built a short gravel road to it.
It isn’t as damaging to the land as it potentially could have been. For example, they only tore down a couple of walnut saplings and a couple of elm saplings, which I had just kind of let grow.
All the work is on the other side of the property line, on the land that once belonged to the Milligans (Abby’s first in-laws), but which now belongs to the Nipps, our favorite neighbors.
The builders told me the first client will be ATT. We rely on cellular phone and data service, and Byng was a notorious ATT dark zone. We are glad the service will be better, although in the house now we use VoIP, not tower service.
The builders, who said they were from Saint Louis, also told me it will be a free-standing 300-foot tower. They said, “it’s not going anywhere. Cell towers like this in the Joplin tornado stayed up.”
I’m kind of an antenna guy, so it would hippocritcal for me to come down on antennas just because they are in my back yard.
The equipment has been roaring away for two days now, digging and moving earth. I expect it will be another week before the tower is up, and maybe months before ATT gets the service equipment in place, but it will be nice to have a cell signal on our phones for a change.
Finally, a friend of mine recently bought an iPad, nearly identical to the ones Abby and I have, and after using it for a day or two decided it wasn’t the game-changer he thought it would be. I guess he was looking for it to revolutionize his photography in some way, possibly making it easier to shoot and edit with the bigger-screened tablet.
One of the myths of tablets is that they are better than phones, but the truth is they are almost the same as phones, with the only real difference being the size of the screen. To me as a professional photographer, I would almost always carry and use the phone because of its compact size. The times I love a tablet is personal time, when I want to stream a movie or watch YouTube from the couch or the bed.
When Abby and I were first dating in 2003, Friday nights were often occupied watching a show that aired on ABC and ABC Family at the time, Whose Line Is It Anyway? We balled up together on the couch and laughed out loud all night.
In the Netflix era, we watch almost no “aired” television any more, but we own a couple of seasons of Whose Line on DVD, and last night Abby suggested we ball up on the big blue couch and watch. We laughed like hyenas.
It might be fun to pick out a couple of Whose Line games, like “90-second alphabet,” and do them at Open Mic Nyte.
Sometimes it feels like I want to do too many things. I want to write, I want to load the dishwasher, I want to mow, I want to play with lights in my studio, I want to take an extra walk with Hawken, I want to clean in the garage, I want to experiment with lenses, I want to shoot my guns, I want to tend my garden, I want, I want, I want…
We all get like this, and sometimes the tendency is to not do anything at all.
I, on the other hand, make myself stop for a second, and remember than I can’t do all these things at once, and I should do just one thing. That’s me today, and my first activity is writing what you are reading.
On another front, two good friends who are my age are having health problems. One of them might be having a heart attack (or may have had one), and is being stubborn about seeking medical care, and the other has a nerve issue combined with hypertension, which you can read about in his blog here (link.)
Yes, it’s disconcerting when my young friends are now old friends with old people problems, but the up side is that Abby and I are both fine at the moment, as are Summer the Chihuahua and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. To complicate the roller coaster ride is the fact that Max the Chihuahua, who is 15, is still sliding toward the inevitable: he can’t see or hear, and he is unable to move like he once could. He remains a loyal and wonderful dog, even though these are probably his last days or weeks.
The refrigerator guy is coming Tuesday to repair our 2009 model Whirlpool Gold series fridge. It is a beautiful, spacious machine with great features, and I was sad to find it was making less and less cold as the last couple of weeks progressed, so I expect it needs refrigerant or a part, but it’s such a great machine, it is worth fixing.
I moved all the perishables into the much older garage fridge, which we had repaired when we got the new one, for occasions like Thanksgiving, or when I need a cold water while mowing, or like this one now.
In advance of the repair, I decided to unplug it, remove all the removables, and clean it. The design is remarkably friendly to this task, and before I knew it, I had all the shelves and compartments in my bathtub for a hot soap shower, and the inside of the “icebox” (as Abby calls it) and freezer sparkling like the day we bought it. It was a surprisingly fun activity. My sister will tell you that cleaning, when it goes well, is ingrained in us by our mother Sarah Jo.
I will take a moment to carefully editorialize about the state of sales and service in our world (careful since my own profession relies on direct sales): as I was attempting to set up Tuesday’s repair, the specialist on the other end of the phone aggressively, almost insistently, tried to sell me a blanket warranty for all the other appliances in our house. I let her talk, but I didn’t buy anything else but the one repair, and here’s why: if someone is selling you something this aggressively, they are making a fortune off of you, and not doing you any favors. Extended warranties are another example. Stay away.
Tilly the Tiller won’t run, at least not usefully, so all my planting this year is at the end of my shovel. Yesterday I got all my tomato, cherry tomato, and bell peppers in the ground, and today I hope to get seeds in the ground; squash, cantelope, cucumber, and marigolds.
Last year I also put in radishes, turnips, and lettuce, but we didn’t eat any of them.
The garden overall will be smaller than last year. In 2018, I bought a huge number, 24 as I recall, of tomato and bell pepper plants, from a local high school horticulture program. That number determined the size of my garden in concert with the smooth operation of Tilly the Tiller. This year, I decided that so many plants demanded a lot of time and attention, so I got eight tomato plants (2 cherry), and eight peppers. I am also certain based on last year’s excessive (but fun) yield that this number of plants will provide all the produce I can pick.
Hot is the new Sweet?
When shopping for plants yesterday, I only found a few bell pepper plants, but hundreds of hot pepper plants. It’s possible that most people have gotten their regular peppers in the ground already and the only peppers left are hot, but based on the layout of the garden center, I think it more likely that more people are buying and growing hot pepper plants. Neither Abby nore I care for hot peppers, but I know a lot of people who do.
Also I took our toddler bed to Abby’s hair stylist for her child, then went to Walmart for supplies. On the way home I bought lunch, mixed vegetables for both of us from Famous Wok, and felt like a real husband bringing it home to her, and a real husband sharing it with her.
I’d been letting my hair grow since last summer at the behest of my lovely wife, who says she loves my hair, and if there is more hair, there is more hair to love. I liked that idea and and attempted to let my hair grow through the various stages: shaggy, pre-mullet, mullet, pre-pony tail, pony tail…
By the time I was just about to be pony tail guy, spring arrived, meaning I would be working outdoors in warm climates, and at a baseball game last week I was constantly fighting hair blowing into my face.
Anyway, it is springtime on the patch, and that means firing up our many internal combustion engines as we prepare to use them to manage our patch of green.
The riding mower, “Wildfire,” gave only a slight argument when the nozzle on my air compressor was the wrong type, letting me only air up the right front tire slightly. The mower started and mowed as requested, but the tire was too low, so I parked it to wait for the right nozzle to air up that tire.
The push mower started on one pull Wednesday, but wouldn’t start at all tonight until I gave it a shot of starter fluid.
Tilly the tiller tilled a very tiny patch in the garden before cronking out. My neighbor Stevie and I both had a crack at it, to no avail. Small engine repair?
Abby and I went to renew her driver license today to find that it’s free for a senior citizen. Huh. Afterwards, we shared a nice breakfast. It was nice to be out with her.
Finally, not feeling worked enough, I decided to wash the truck, which hasn’t been clean since before the first of the year. I lovingly hand washed it with a brush on a stick, plus a wash cloth soaked in soap for the bugs stuck on the chrome. Bling!
One of my peach trees has responded to a recent warm-up, producing blossoms. Blooming this early means I won’t get any peaches from this tree, since a hard freeze is forecast for tomorrow night. But the blossoms are beautiful, and are my favorite thing about having these trees.
Walking Hawken yesterday afternoon was a different experience. The second I opened the back door, I smelled the strong odor of grass fire smoke. The wind had shifted and was coming from the north, and someone, or probably many people, were burning the pastures in preparation for the spring growing season.
I have been off of social media radar for a few days to entertain the family visiting from Baltimore, Abby’s daughter, Chele, her husband Tom, and their son, our grandson, Paul.
I also did my usual work at the annual Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic basketball tournament, for which, for the first time ever, we hosted their web site. One night the crowd was so large we ran out of tickets.
Christmas is always stressful, but by the time it rolled around, I was very glad we were able to have it with the family. This year they arrived on December 26 and departed on New Year’s Day.
We had a gift exchange as soon as they arrived. We watched movies and played outside. We walked Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, which Paul, who is seven, regarded as an accomplishment, trekking deep into the woods. Paul rode his tractor, which he is likely to have outgrown by the next time they visit.
We toasted in the new year with the cheapest possible sparkling wine (technically not champagne,) hours before it actually turned midnight, and we all got a good night’s sleep before the kids flew back to Baltimore.
Finally, mindful of the weather forecast for snow and ice, and that my days off are limited, I de-decorated the entire house yesterday. Tonight I’ll let the wolfhound in the garage and the two of us will put all that stuff in the rafters. Another year ends, and begins.
Abby and I are preparing to host Christmas this week. The kids (Abby’s daughter Chele, husband Tom, and our grandson Paul) are coming on the 26th and staying through New Year’s Day.
I have decorated and shopped and cleaned and prepped. Now, more. No, really. This kind of thing seems perpetual, and is never finished. And you can’t do it a month before: the dogs will chew up a poo where you shampooed the carpet. The bathroom mirrors get splashed. The sink gets full of dishes. You know what it’s like.
Readers familiar with my cadre of work will recall that I don’t love Christmas. Not only is it a bone of religious contention (the pretend “War on Christmas”), it’s also a bitter reminder of how much we trivialize ourselves with commercialism. I talked about this in my column this week.
What do I like about Christmas? I love the photography most of all. I love that my wife loves it so tenderly. I love that we usually get to see the kids.
I will let you know how this Christmas stacks up. In the mean time, have a peaceful one.
Today is the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. Cull what you will from the meaning of that.
“All I want is what I… I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” ~Sally Brown
“Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.” ~Lucy Van Pelt
One thing I happily glossed over about A Charlie Brown Christmas when I was a kid: it consists almost entirely of recycled Peanuts comic strip dailies.
Recently I’ve been thinking about consumption. I thought of this as I reminisced about lenses I once owned and now miss; all that beautiful 1970s and 80s era Nikkor glass. What if I magically had a storage unit with all my old gear in it? But then I thought about the police scanners and Sony Trinitrons and flannel shirts and cars. Then, I thought, what if I magically had a warehouse full of everything I ever owned? Every bunch of broccoli. Every quart of motor oil. Every beer. Every loaf of bread. Every magazine and newspaper and paperback and hardback book. Every computer and floppy disk. All the DVDs and CDs and Blu-Ray discs and VHS video cassettes and vinyl records and compact cassettes and all the appliances to play and record them. All the wine and water. Everything. How big would that warehouse be?
Abby and I saw some of a M*A*S*H marathon. We’ve both been watching this show all our lives, so I looked it up: of the 11 main actors throughout the series, only five are still alive: Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Gary Burghoff, Mike Farrell, and Jamie Farr.
Abby and I watched The Innocent Man, a Netflix original series, this week. Though I was not interviewed on camera, the show, about two mishandled murders in Ada, is full of my images. I wrote my column this week, which ended up being our lead story Wednesday, about the day two of them were exonerated.
An unassailable truth: when Abby is up and about, I can sneak through the house like a ninja. But when she’s asleep, I might as well be on roller skates carrying a box of chandeliers.
My intermediate/advanced photography class ended on a high note, with good epiphanies from all my students. We all had fun, and they all seemed to learn a lot.
My column for Saturday will be about the true meaning of Christmas, about which I will likely catch flak because I didn’t mention Christ. But it was a good-natured column, so only the true nut jobs will call. Yay.
As usual, I had a super-fun time covering Independence Day celebrations in Ada’s Wintersmith Park Tuesday. The weather was nice and everyone had a great time.
It rained 3.1 inches Monday, then 1.5 inches early Wednesday morning, then another half inch right on top of us and nowhere else in there state, just as I was about to walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound two nights ago.
Everything was browning just a bit, but is now turning green again, and growing fast, so I am experiencing a burst of outdoor work.
My wife Abby and I gave Hawken a bath in the front yard yesterday, then took him to the vet, where he weighed 108 pounds, which is typical for his breed at his age, six months. He is a mess, but he loves us both.
I am aware that my last few entries have been about our new puppy, Hawken, and that my readers might have heard enough for a while.
“Evelyn slapped Raymond on the back with a laugh. ‘You must be starved, old friend. Come into my apartments, and we’ll suffer through a deep breakfast of pure sunlight.’” ~Sri da Avabhas
With things slow at the office, I took a couple of three-day weekends. We sleep, we watch movies, I work outdoors in the early summer breeze. Days like these represent everything I wanted from marriage.
This week’s joke between us: “I wish this had subtitles. It’s all in Canadian!”
This time last year I talked about beauty and its significance, and it remains just as significant a year later. The outdoor world on which we live, seven green acres here in southern Oklahoma, changes, and with my tools and my hands and my back, I am part of those changed. The Rose-of-Sharon bushes, for example, are at the end of their lives. I allowed the elm trees, along the fence leading south from the house, to grow, and they are huge and green, and make nice shade.
When I mow, I have a lot of time and monotony in which to think. It’s not always pleasant – I often think about negative things and try to imagine successful solution scenarios, but it doesn’t always end well.
For example, Abby’s SiriusXM satellite radio was streaming one of Abby’s favorite country music stations recently, and on the playlist was Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American.
“And I’m proud to be an American/Where at least I know I’m free…”
I certainly have no problem with the premise of national pride, but this song is really about being proud to be a rich, white, straight, conservative American. I’ve been to events where they play this song, and the parking lot is full of $36,000 pickup trucks, and the white-to-other-race ratio is 1500 to 1. There are no gay pride flags flying.
“…God Bless the USA.” I don’t know how you can listen to these lines without thinking about the demise of the democracy/republic and the rise of our electoral oligarchy. I am dismayed that we are taking giant steps toward being a pure mercantilist society, all the while posting childish memes about the purpose of life not being about being rich and popular, but about being kind and humble. We are not a kind and humble nation.
It’s possible I wasting my mowing time thinking about too many negative things. I am grateful to be outside on these summer days, cutting the grass or photographing the dogs and flowers, or clearing the brush from overgrown fence corners. I am grateful to come inside, covered in sweat and dust, to see that Abby loves me more every day. I love her more every day.
Over the past week I have had what I think is probably a strep infection. Unlike the two head colds I nurtured last winter, my efforts to fight it off with Emergen-C and good intentions failed, and I caved last night and went to the after-hours clinic at my doctor’s office. I saw Sherry, one of my favorite PAs, who was amused when I said, “I need a shot of Solu-Medrol and a script for Levaquin.” But she knows my wife Abby and me well, and she knows that I am knowledgeable about my own medical situation.
With a butt full of steroids and an e-script waiting for me at the pharmacy, I was in and out in less than ten minutes.
Still, it takes time for this stuff to work, and I was coughing up a storm, so by 9 pm, Abby had become so annoyed with trying and failing to watch M*A*S*H with me on Netflix that she sent me to bed.
Full of enough cold medicine to kill a rhino, I slept mostly soundly, interrupted by sudden coughing jags. At several points in my sleep I dreamed about a 15×15-foot pewter cube shaped like a meat tenderizing hammer, which I could see from the outside, but in which I was trapped. Each time I poked the inside corner of the cube, it would expand infinitely to 15×15 feet. Medicine dreams.
We just spent a week with the “Kids,” my wife Abby’s daughter Dawna Michele “Chele” Reeves, her husband Tom Reeves, and their son, our grandson Paul, who is about to turn four. Each year they alternate when they visit, Christmas or Thanksgiving, and this year we hosted them for Thanksgiving. Since we share Christmas gifts, we know it as “Christmagiving.”
Last year we gave Paul a motorized John Deere lawn tractor, but weather prevented him from playing with it. This year, he rode it every day, including one day with me riding our real law tractor.
We had “Christmas morning” on Tuesday so everyone would have time to play with their gifts.
Tom and I made some time to shoot. I saved some tea bottles over the past month or so, so we had plenty of targets.
My admonitions about holiday meals in a previous blog post apparently carried some weight, because with Chele cooking and me assisting, we were able to make a nice meal that wasn’t too complicated, and everyone enjoyed it.
Max the Chihuahua bonded with Paul since he was an infant, and on this trip, the two were best friends.
Abby and I saw the Kids off this morning. Everyone had a great time.
Long-time friend Scott Andersen came to visit this weekend. We hadn’t actually laid eyes on each other in nearly 20 years, but it seems like we picked up right where we left off.
My wife Abby had never met Scott and wanted to take him to dinner, so we dined at Papa Gjorgjo, the Italian restaurant in downtown Ada where Abby and I had our first date. Later, in private, both Abby and Scott said they liked each other.
On Saturday morning, we got some breakfast, then hit the range for some target shooting and some tactical drills.
At one point Scott asked me, almost incredulously, “So, are you happy?” Of course I answered without hesitation, “Yes.” Scott might have been hesitant in asking me this because he knew me best during a very unhappy time in my life, and although he has been in touch with me in recent hears, he’s never seen me with Abby, who is probably the biggest reason I am so happy.
When we were out about town, people kept saying hello to me, calling me by name, telling me how much they liked this picture or that in the newspaper, or just that they like my pictures. At one point Scott asked me, “How much did you pay these people to pretend they know you?” But of course, another reason I’m so happy is my relationship with my community, and I can’t remember the last time I was in a public place here and no one recognized me.
Scott got a huge kick out of staying in our RV, the Kokopelli. He was excited about it the moment he saw it, and said he got a great night of sleep in it.
Four years ago, my bathroom was occupied for a while with a tiny green frog. He was a welcome guest during my morning ablutions.
Last night the noise from our pond was cacophonous with the sound of frogs, toads, and insects, since it has been a decently wet spring, and this morning I spotted what looked like a gray tree frog in the kitchen sink.
I photographed it and went about my business, but as I kissed my wife and left the house, it had disappeared.
My wife came into the living room to tell me that Buxton the Goat was hollerin’. I put my headlamp flashlight on and grabbed a pistol to go see what might be upsetting him. In the back yard, the headlamp wasn’t quite enough, so I shined my Streamlight TLR-3 (which is on the rail of the 9mm pistol I was holding) into the pasture, where I discovered about five longhorn steers. I’d never seen cows in our pasture before. It’s not a cow pasture.
“Abby, come quick! We’ve got cows!” I called, and she obliged. The steers seemed happy to graze as we watched, but I was sure someone was missing them. I don’t know the price of a commercial steer, but it’s a lot, and these animal were definitely not where they belonged. I stepped outside the fence and shouted at them, and they moved in the direction of the road, where after a few minutes I noticed someone arrive in a four-wheeler and start rounding them up.
Abby was exhausted when she got home, and fell asleep in her recliner right away, with her bear shoes propped high up on the “green thing,” which my friends in Norman always called an LBUA, or Leaner Backer Upper Againster.
So I went to mow, but first I wanted to cut at least some of the dead branches off of the old apple tree in Dorothy’s yard, since I saw her today (to get her column, which she has decided to start writing again – yay!), and she gave me her blessing. We think last summer’s heat and drought are the cause of so many trees being dead now.
While I was cutting off these huge branches, I noticed Buxton the Goat had joined me. Odd, I thought. He doesn’t have opposable thumbs, so he couldn’t have opened the gate. I must have left it open, but that had to have been yesterday, so he only came out of the back yard when he saw me. I walked over to him as he ate leaves off of one of Abby’s Rose-of-Sharon and said, “Come on.” He followed completely, and surprisingly, obediently, through the gate into the back yard. What a good boy.
The whole time I was chain sawing and mowing and dragging branches, I had the Third Eye Blind song Non-Dairy Creamer playing in my head. In particular, I kept hearing, “They call it KFC ’cause it’s not really chicken.” I get it, Stephan, but hey, both of those statements are wrong. They call it “KFC” because Americans are lazy and don’t like to say whole words. KFC was just easier. And while it’s not a paradigm of well-prepared chicken, it is actually chicken.
I finished my night by showering to get the sawdust out of my hair.
I didn’t have any late afternoon or evening assignments at work so I was home by about three. It is cloudy and warm out, so by five I decided to get some yard work done. I pondered digging the garden. When I told Abby that I was planning a garden this year, her face lit up, so I know she is looking forward to having it. (Last year I just seemed to know not to plant, and the summer was one of the worst drought seasons we have ever experienced.) As I started to work, I discovered I had other priorities, like removing the elm saplings from the Rose-of-Sharon bushes, and pruning some of Dorothy’s peach trees. I took most of the branches
and gave them to Buxton the Goat, who seemed so excited by my presence that he couldn’t quite make himself eat them, and instead ran around and chattered at me.
I discovered that my suspicions that one of my plum trees had died were true, so I dug it up and threw it on the burn pile. I grabbed a camera to illustrate it, but found better things to photograph, like some of the flowers down at Dorothy’s. If I get the chance in the next day or two, I should cut some and take them to her.
I noted that all the trees and pastures and flowers and clover patches and everything else doesn’t grow larger in any predictable fashion. This late winter season has been much wetter than the last few years, and there is a thick, straight grass that I’ve never seen before growing thickly in all the pastures and our back yard . We are also seeing an amazing number of crane flies everywhere, like we have never seen before.
Like life itself, the only consistent thing I have observed about the life on our little patch of green is change.
Abby had nightmares and talked in her sleep all last night. This morning, her entire body was red and itchy, and her temperature was 102.3˚, so I decided to take her to the hospital. She was so weak, however, that I barely got her, through dragging and crawling, to the living room, where I called EMS, who came and got her. The hospital gave her fluids, Solu-Medrol, and clindamycin for a urinary tract infection. They also fed her breakfast, which she claimed was terrible, but which she ate heartily. By midday, they decided once again that she was better enough that she could go home, which I guess she is.
Dammit, it just scares the crap out of me when she is so sick like this. I know it scares her daughter and my sister, too.
As we talked this morning, I mentioned that my presence and presence of mind probably saved her life a couple of times, like when she had pneumonia in 2008, or earlier this month when she became sceptic from MRSA. She replied, “You saved me the day you married me.”
She saved me, too.
I took the rest of the day off to keep an eye on her, and she mostly slept. I spent some time outside doing chores and soaking up the 60˚ sunshine. Buxton the goat was glad to see me and followed me all over the place when I was near the back yard. I gave him the weeds he likes.
That’s how my wife and I spent this February 29, the extra day of 2012.
Abby and I thought we heard a knock at the door. Three taps, not too loud. But we were in for the night, and here in the country we certainly never have company unannounced at eight at night. We supposed it could have been Dorothy with a recipe for thanksgiving, but actually we didn’t expect anyone.
I got up, but instead of going straight to the door, I first got my Ruger P95, which is a high-capacity 9mm pistol. With the weapon hidden behind my back, I carefully opened the front door to find no one. Odd, we both felt. I carefully stepped out onto the porch and scanmed around with the tactical flashlight on my pistol, and saw nothing.
We then heard a similar noise from a less-distinct direction, so I checked the garage. While I was out there, Abby and I both heard more shots that seemed closer. I came back into the house to see Abby with her Walther PK380, holding it with her finger indexed and and muzzle up, ready to shoot.
Man, she’s cool.
After listening for a few more minutes, we decided the shots were coming from the east. We had no idea why someone would be shooting multiple rounds in the nighttime, except that maybe they were shooting at coyotes. I don’t like to shoot at coyotes at all, since I read once that if you miss, you educate them, and they are that much harder to kill if you need to later. The only shot I would take would be if they were threatening the dogs or the goat.
That was Wednesday night. As I write this, we are recovering from Thanksgiving, but not in the good “turkey coma” way. I woke up Thursday morning with blinding abdominal cramps. As the morning progressed, I became increasingly nauseous. By 10 am, Abby asked me to get out of bed, so I did and got in the shower, after which I laid down on the bathroom floor (what curative powers does a cold, unsanitary bathroom floor have?), and made a conscious effort not to vomit. Abby brought me a dose of promethazine, a gel you smear on your wrists to suppress nausea (when I was a kid, all they had for that were suppositories.) Although I was successful at not blarfing, it was clear at that point that Thanksgiving was canceled, or at least postponed until the weekend.
Last night and this morning, rain. For the first time since June, there is water in the pond. It’s too late to green up the pasture much, but it will help everything overwinter better.
The big news in Oklahoma over the last few days has been a spate of earthquakes. Abby and I slept through the first, but we both definitely felt the second, a magnitude 5.6 quake centered near Prague, Oklahoma, about 70 miles north of here, Saturday night. Abby was more alarmed about it than I was, but we both thought it was kind of neat. It seemed to shake the house for about 15 seconds, but it felt like longer to Abby. It has since been verified as the largest earthquake in the state’s history.
Last night as we watched a movie in the living room, we felt another. I paused the movie and said, “Can you feel that?” It was roughly like a big truck passing close to the house (which doesn’t actually happen since we live 100 yards off the road.) We assume it was an aftershock from Saturday’s event.
The moon was full a couple of days ago, and here in the country the coyotes are out in force. Sunday night Abby and I heard one right outside the back door, so Abby asked me to get a gun and make sure all our critters were safe. All three dogs (we are babysitting one right now) and the goat were fine. I had one of my 9mm Rugers, which has a tactical flashlight on it. I scanned the edges of the pasture with the light until I found a glowing pair of eyes at the tree line to the west. I followed it until it disappeared into the woods.
On evenings when I can, I like to wait outside for Abby as she gets home. It gives me a chance to be outdoors for a few minutes, and she loves seeing me waiting for her, which I was tonight. As I went out to wait, I first went into the back yard to pull down a mimosa branch for Buxton the Goat, and as I did so I was greeted by that most amazing smell of autumn, fireplace smoke. Autumn is here.