The garden is in mid-summer mode, yielding lots of peppers and tomatoes, but fewer cucumbers, which don’t tolerate the heat as well. I had planted a patch of cantaloupe, but only one of the seedlings survived, since I was busy taking care of Abby when they were sprouting. The plant that survived ended up sending out numerous vines, and there are now maturing fruit on them. I had wondered how to tell if they were getting ripe, but it turns out that they simple fall off the vine when they’re ready to be eaten. I had this one for breakfast this morning, and they are nothing short of succulent.
Quiz time: why is this post titled “Church Wedding?”
Tomorrow is the one day of the year during which I am the only person working at our newspaper. I work literally from dawn to dusk. It is one of my busiest days of the year. It starts with covering the Fireball Classic 5k and 10k runs, goes all day in Wintersmith Park with the police v firefighters softball game, the Kiddie Olympics sponsored by Proud Young Americans for Truth (PYAT), the Waterworks Games in the afternoon, live music all day, and finally ending with the fireworks over Wintersmith Lake after dark. It’s not a bad way to spend the day working.
After taking Abby to the doctor for a check-up, she and I had a fairly down afternoon. It was hot out, and Abby was off her feed, so we napped, and I burned a few DVDs. As evening approached, however, I started feeling the need to be useful, physically active, and outdoors.
I grabbed the limb lopper and headed toward Dorothy’s place. I knew that despite pruning some of the limbs in that direction the other day, there were still a few that needed attention.
Long story short: I must have lopped literally a ton of branches, all of which I dragged off, some for the goats, but most to the brush pile. It took me all of two hours.
The denouement for the evening was to give Jean-Claude Grand Am a bath. Hint: your car doesn’t get its cleanest unless you dry it.
I didn’t expect to get a crop from my fruit trees this year, since they are brand new trees. But I also didn’t expect to get a ripe peach in May, all by itself on the branch of one tree. But, there it was tonight.
2005 and 2006 were drought years here, and the 12 acres where we and Dorothy live suffered in that time. The grass and trees thinned, the pond dried up, the garden became despondent and morose. But the last two years have seen wonderful spring and summer rains, and the property is as green as we have ever seen it.
Despite taking precautions against frost damage, it appears that Sunday night’s temperatures in an isolated area of the state, here in southeast Oklahoma, dove into hard freeze, killing the tomatoes and bell peppers I planted last week. Such are the fates. I bought new, more mature plants today and put them into the garden right away. They look good.
Since the peaches had already bloomed and started producing fruit, they may have survived.
It was a stressful day for all of us, but for me it went easier because I spent much of the afternoon working outdoors. By the end of the day, with Abby and me home from work, I spent a few minutes unwinding by prowling around the patch, finding kibble to throw to the goats, checking out my new fruit tress, planning my garden, watching the sun go down.
Down by Dorothy’s, I noticed the old apple tree was starting to blossom. The small, pale pink and white flowers smelled so good that I knew I had something to bring inside to Abby.
I don’t especially want or expect anything more than a quiet “thank you,” so much as I want to lay another brick of foundation in our marriage. I do that by being the husband who brings his wife apple blossoms in the spring.
Abby and Dorothy (our defacto Mother-in-law) are in Baltimore this week with Abby’s daughter Chele, who in Baltimore is known by her actual first name of Dawna. (Pay attention now – this will be on the test.)
While they are gone, I am increasing my chore slate by about five fold, since I can tear up anything and make any noise I want without disturbing my wife. One thing I did so far was to repair the long-inoperative drawer on her antique chest-o-drawers (which will pleasantly surprise her), which I decided to do after putting away a bunch of her laundry, which I also decided to do. While I was in the garage working on the drawer, I found some nails that were perfect for fixing the siding that the goats had knocked off the house while sharpening their horns, so I went out to do that. While I was cutting off a piece of broken sheet steel, Coal inexplicably began eating the butt of my hammer. He is normally a pretty picky eater (it’s a myth that goats will eat anything), so I was a little surprised to see him adding tools to his diet. I chalked it up to Saint Patrick’s Day, not because I thought it was the real reason, but because it game me an excuse to post photos of me in my excellent Dollar Tree Saint Pats hat.
When R.E. and I were in college, he and I drove to Oklahoma City so I could buy cheap tires for my 1973 VW Beetle. While we waited, we walked up the snowy street to grab a bite, and on the walk back, Robert photographed a rusty spring sitting in the snow. The next day he submitted it to the OU Daily, and it appear on the front page with tag line, “A Harbinger of Spring.”
I thought of that tonight as I enjoyed another harbinger of spring, the shedding of the goats. After I finished planting the remaining five trees (two peach, two apricot, and a crepe myrtle in the front yard for Abby), I policed up the lawn implements. This was all to the amusement of our goats, who you will recalled are named Coal and Buxton. I threw them some hay from the pasture where I had mowed Monday to clear a place for the trees, them I gave then some early green stuff that grows in Abby’s azalea bed. Finally, I got the rake.
If you’ve never had a goat, sheep, horse, llama, camel, donkey, etc., you might not know that they and their coats are tough. For our goats’ thick winter coats, I use a grooming tool that looks like a rake. I do this for them every March, when I can see the pale undercoat start poke through Coal’s black outer hair. At first they don’t quite remember what I am doing, but before long they are pressing close to me, enjoying being brushed.
This project got pushed back a couple of weeks by miserable weather or job conflicts, but today I finally got to town in the truck and bought fruit trees! I got two Early Elberta peaches and two regular Elberta peaches, two dwarf Santa Rosa plums, two Early Golden apricots, two Bing cherries (I had to, since we live in Byng), and two paper shell pecans, one Stuart and one Choctaw. The tree place didn’t have the shade trees we wanted for the driveway, like Willows or Redbuds, but we can get them later in the week.
I set the fruit trees out by the garden, the place I plan my orchard, in hopes that they might dig their own holes and plant themselves, but it looks like I might have to get the shovel after all.
A couple of my friends told me a few years back that fruit trees were more trouble than they were worth. At the time, that advice seemed like nonsense, and after last year’s bumper crop of plums and peaches at Echo Canyon Bed and Breakfast, then peaches and apples down at Dorothy’s house, I found that I wanted more fruit and in more variety. We live on a pretty large patch of land, and fruit is an almost perfect food for a vegan like me.
Abby worked late, and has been asleep since I got home from working basketball. She looks really pretty asleep in her recliner, covered by a lap full of Chihuahuas.
I read on Wil Fry’s blog the phrase “just another random blog,” and I felt that I wanted to reiterate that “blog” isn’t a word at all, but a handy fusion of the phrase “web log.”
This isn’t really a log. It’s more of a stump.
It is Leap Day, that extra day we only get once ever four years. It deserves some recognition, like, “Four happy birthdays to you,” for everyone born on this date. When I was a teenager, I always told myself that if I ever committed suicide, it would be on this date, so grieving friends and relatives would only grieve one fourth as often.
I went to Wal Mart three times this week and forgot my nuts each time! I need to put a memo on the grocery list: “Richard’s nuts!”
When I first typed this, I accidentally wrote “Wil Fry’s blop,” which I think is pretty funny.
I got all frisky with the chores today. My first task was taking the power strips that were on the floor behind my computer desk and mounting them on the back of the desk itself. It sounded like a pretty straightforward chore, but it can-of-wormed on me pretty quick. I decided, for example, that while I had the desk pulled out from the wall that I would detangle all the cables and zip-tie them in an effort to de-spaghetti-ize the mess. It was incredibly effective. When I was done it was totally the cheese.
I also got out into the garden with the tiller and tilled up a whole new strip of earth, increasing the garden area by 40% or more. I’ve also decided to till up the strawberries and put something else there. Sometime down the road, I’ll maybe build an elevated area for strawberries – they are very awkward to harvest on the ground.
I also did a load of dishes, and two loads of wash, and cleaned some more in the garage. I rock!
At about 8:30 tonight, there was a close lightning strike, and we were plunged into darkness. For a few seconds. We Barrons are a little weird about flashlights – we collect them like some people collect stamps or coins. In spite of the nearly-instant re-lighting of our lives, the computers shut off, as did the stereo, which was playing Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Muh. We reported the outage using a cell phone, and about 15 minutes passed before a truck appeared, looking at our power lines.
We sat and read, but before long there was a text message on Abby’s cell phone, saying TORNADO WARNING! It occurred that me that my police scanners were, of course, off, since the power was off, so I turned on a hand-held scanner to hear the Byng Fire Department telling their volunteers, “Take care of your families first, we’ve got enough personnel at the station.” Then they decided that since the power was out at the siren tower, they would roll through town with sirens blaring and announcing the warning on their PA horns.
We calmly and quickly got our shoes on, grabbed the dogs, flashlights and radios (scanner and ham), and headed down to Dorothy’s house. She was asleep, so we woke her up and we all went down into the tiny basement below her garage. We waited for no more than ten minutes, after which police and fire departments reported that the threat area had moved to our northwest.
As I got dressed for work this morning, I noticed Sierra the Chihuahua whining and clawing at the China hutch. She whines and claws at stuff sometimes, so at first I ignored it. Then I noticed that the sound of the clawing didn’t match the movements she was making, and decided there must be something else making the sound. I got my new super flashlight, the one Abby got me for Christmas, and shined it behind the hutch to find a terrified mouse Sierra had cornered. This called for the official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle. I held the light along the axis of the barrel, SWAT style, shooed the dog away, and fired. One shot wasn’t enough, but three more dispatched the tiny invader. I felt bad that I had to kill it, but I can’t have mice in the house, as they bring the risk of disease, particularly to our curious animals. I pulled the limp carcass from behind the hutch and photographed it before tossing it in the trash can.
Add this to the two gophers I killed, one with a .22 and one with a machete, and you might think me quite the assassin.
This happens a lot: we spend a few days at Christmas in Florida, and lose all concept of what the outside world might be like. (This happens to me when I am hiking in the desert, too.) Yesterday we were picking oranges in Palm Coast, and today I woke up to see this outside our the front door in Byng.
Now that winter is here, it’s wildfire season again. The last two winters were under burn bans due to dry weather in the months prior, but it has since been lifted. It is dry and windy again today, despite a nice rainy spell last week. A few minutes ago I heard a call on the scanner about a grass fire across the street from us here in Byng. Of course, in the country “across the street” isn’t the same as in town. Looking, I saw nothing, but the journalist in me told me to get over there with a camera, which I did. It was in the field behind Vera’s house (we sometimes get her mail by mistake), and I only had to jump one barbed wire fence. I got there about the same time the Byng Volunteer Fire Department did, and they did their usual amazing job of stopping it before it got to any homes.
The process of culling the garden and throwing it to my ruminants continues.
I find the experience a little sad as I stand in the chill air, remembering the huge harvests; the bushy green tomato vines that smelled so good, the giant stands of bright marigolds, the crisp bell peppers that turned orange and red and yellow, the cucumbers that hid under their leaves until I searched for them.
The goats are thicker now, and their hair is thick and soft for winter. When I come into the back yard, they come running, and if I stand still, they push their bodies against my legs, saying hello.
Tonight I was pulling up mostly tomato vines, and on them were lots of shriveled green tomatoes. Coal is particularly fond of them, but Buxton likes them too. Here is an image of these two “sharing” (read: fighting over) a juicy one.
After a long, great growing season which saw my garden simply explode with produce, a freeze finally came, and as always, the garden is dormant for the year. It’s at this point that I pull up all the brown tomato and pepper plants, and whatever else is left, and throw them to the goats, who are always comically grateful for it. There’s a lot of garden, so I don’t give it all to them at once, so I’ll take several days on this task.
We don’t have a llama, though we might if my wife had her way.
An ongoing project around our house is powerwashing the siding. It’s slow, and I don’t have as much spare time as all that. I am doing it, however, one section at a time. Tonight I looked over and noticed that our propane “pig” (tank) had the same greenish mildew as the house, so I decided to wash it. The goats looked on with great curiosity. When I was done, I ran into the house and announced to Abby, “I powerwashed the pig!” It was a work of art that, sadly, was somewhat under appreciated.
Tonight while I was power washing the front of the house, I saw this little guy poking his head out of a small hole in the siding. I think the hole was from one time when I was trimming the photinia and almost fell off my ladder into the bush. Anyway, I called my family out to witness this miracle of froggery. So here is a picture of the funniest amphibian I saw all day.
Abby and I got married at the amazingly beautiful and iconic Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, October 12, 2004.
I had hiked to Delicate Arch on two previous occasions, but until the day we actually got married, Abby had only seen my photographs of it.
Abby’s daughter Dawna Michele “Chele” Milligan traveled from her home in Baltimore in a trip fraught with so much annoyance that she swore she would never visit Utah again. My sister Nicole came from her home in New Orleans with a guest. My friends Michael and his wife Thea , and David, traveled in convoy with us from Oklahoma. Our surprise guest was Robert , whose church helped him travel from Boston for the event. He arrived late, and caught up to us on the trail to Delicate Arch.
The weather was perfect the day we got married, but the next day, when we planned to hike the Primitive Loop at Arches National Park, was insanely windy and cold, but despite that, we had a great time. The next day, on our two-day drive home, we stopped and hiked at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.
Abby and I both agree that it was an excellent way for us to get married, and could not have been more perfect.
An additional narrative and many more photos are posted on our travel blog here (link).