The Road to Pawhuska

Shelly and I like road trips. We went to Waco last year to the Magnolia Market. This year, we planned a trip to Pawkuska, OK. We wanted to see what Ree Drummond had happening at her Merchantile, or the Merc as she calls it.

I’ve been a long-time fan of the Pioneer Woman blog. I don’t remember who told me about her website years ago, but I was hooked by her marketing genius. I admired her ability to combine several aspects of her life into one website. She gave us a peek into her daily happenings, provided photography tips, and made throwing together a meal look easy. I admit I’m more of a Hello Fresh gal, but I have tried several of her recipes. I even admit to having a couple of her cookbooks. I’m a big fan of the olive bread and apple dumplings.

Originally our plan was to make the 12.5-hour (one-way) trip from home. It took us the same amount of time to get to Waco last year. Our plans changed when the week of our trip coordinated with another trip to Omaha, NE. We checked the distance and decided we could rent a car in Omaha, drive the 6 hours to Pawhuska, and fly out of Tulsa. That’s exactly what we did.

There’s not a lot to see between Omaha and Pawhuska, but the landscape is calming. There’s lots of blue sky. We were surprised to see gardens already flourishing and corn growing in the field. They must have got a jump on us with drier weather. We made a stop in Auburn, NE for gas and coffee. We stopped at a little place that served tacos for lunch and coffee all day. My latte was awesome.

We reached Pawhuska around 2 on Thursday afternoon. Although we heard the horror stories of long lines and crowds, we were pleasantly surprised to find parking in front of the Merc and no lines. Lodge tours were the day before. I’m guessing there’s more people on those days. It would have been OK to see the lodge, but it’s not on my bucket list. I imagine if you’re a fan of her show, the lodge where it’s filmed is a must see. If you go, be sure to check the schedule.

The shopping area is smaller than I expected. Most of the square footage is taken by the restaurant and upstairs bakery. Kitchen items and Ree’s (I don’t know her personally. Is it ok to call her Ree?) cookbooks are the main items of the Merc’s inventory. There are T-shirts and her signature tunics. The colors of the cookware and tunics are gorgeous. Since I just finished a renovation, I was flying out of Tulsa, and don’t look like her in a tunic, I wasn’t looking to make big purchases. I longingly admired a beautiful leather purse and a turquoise bread box. I left them behind. My suitcase was full. There’s always online ordering.

What you can’t get online is the eats. There was no waiting for the restaurant. Shelly and I halved an order of the olive bread. Yum! I had tomato soup and grilled cheese. Shelly ordered chicken parmesan. There was a lot of it. It made a nice dinner back at the hotel. Shelly shared.

After eating lunch and more browsing, we made our way upstairs to the bakery. I bought a blonde brownie. It gave me the sugar shivers. Shelly had a truffle. We both ordered the spicy cowgirl coffee. I found it a little too spicy for this old farmgirl with occasional hot flashes. It’s probably better on a cooler day. Shelly drank every drop of hers, cayenne pepper and all. Show off!

There’s no comparison between Waco and Pawkuska regarding the population and size of towns. In Waco, you can spend much of the day at Magnolia, but then visit many nearby stores and shops. Pawhuska stands more on its own. Unless you’re standing in long lines, making your way through the Mercantile might take an hour. Add eating time, without the lines, and you spend three. If going to the lodge, I imagine it turns into a longer day. You can spend more time browsing through additional shops or driving through Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. The entrance is right around the corner.

What is comparable between Waco and Pawkuska are the long-term effects being made possible with the revitalization of a specific area. As a marketing person, I admire the vision. Their own business initiatives plus the ones that spin off contribute so much to their communities. New job potential, additional tax revenue, and tourist dollars. Small towns need it for survival.

I’m hesitate to recommend making a 24-hour (home and back) road trip to Pawhuska unless you’re a much bigger fan than me, or you plan to make other stops. A plane ticket may be in order. I will say that however you choose to get there, it’s certainly worth the destination experience.IMG_0223IMG_0213IMG_0208

Bee Love

I admit I was naïve about beekeeping. My intentions were good. Get some hives, do my part to save our agricultural future, and harvest some honey in the process. On top of being naïve about the amount of knowledge needed, I certainly didn’t expect to feel genuine concern for the little creatures. After all, it’s not like having a dog.  I didn’t give them names like the neighbor does with her chickens and sheep. Hive #1 and Hive #2 is certainly sufficient.

To start from the beginning, I set up the hives about 4 weeks ago with two colonies. Since then, I’ve mixed up their bottles (jars of sugar water), monitored their flight paths, observed the pollen on their back quarters, and studied up on mites and beetles. I waited for them to acclimate to their new homes before pulling off the roof to check what was happening. The truth is I put it off until I felt I had watched enough YouTube videos. I know nothin’ about conducting a beehive inspection. Seriously, I’m still trying to figure out the difference in brood, burr comb, and honey. Not mentioning how to keep a smoker smoking.

After deciphering a little information from each of the 5,000 videos on the subject, I hoped I knew enough to crack the lid. I took notebook and pen, pretending that I would actually know enough to write something down. After a little smoke in the first hive, I took off the lid. There seemed to be thousands of bees, but then I spotted the white larvae. I felt panic. Is that a baby bee? Is that a worm? What is that?  I put the lid back in place, took off my gloves, and scribbled in my notebook…I NEED A BEE MENTOR!

I went back to the house, shot off an email to a fellow bee association member, and called up YouTube. The white stuff is wax moth. Wax moths set up camp in the empty real estate in the hive if there aren’t enough bees to protect the space. So, after some advice and two or three videos, I suited up, went back to tackle the intruders, and do some frame shifting. The bees weren’t excited to see me again, but I told them it was for their own good.

I knew Hive #1 and Hive#2 wouldn’t be glad to see me a third time, but I went to inspect the work the next day. The bees seemed happy, undisturbed by my presence (other than one overzealous guard bee), and buzzing with work. As I placed the frames back in line, fanned to keep from squishing, admired their little wings and cuteness, protected my babies, I realized….. I just fell in love. I felt the weight of responsibility for their well being.

I’ve heard there is no money in beekeeping, it’s expensive, and requires maintenance. Those comments are normally followed by “but it gets in your blood”. I now understand what they mean.

I wonder how many names I need. Hive #1 and Hive #2 now seems so impersonal.

Bee Love

36 Years……

Being in a long marriage is a little bit like that nice cup of coffee every morning—I might have it every day, but I still enjoy it.” Stephen Gaines

I sat and watched David fix a leak under the sink this weekend. He said he hated plumbing as he shook his head, starred at the issue, and FIXED it. I sat in my chair at the bar, drank my coffee, and supervised. Not really. I know nothing about plumbing. What I did do is think about being married to this man for 36 years today.

We were kids when we married. I’m sure we didn’t think it at the time, but we were. I was 19 and he was 21. Yep, kids. Thankfully, we’ve grown up together. We’ve spent a lot of time apart. He worked midnights for several years and I worked and traveled. I’ve spent several years working in another state. We’ve had independence, but always secure in where we belong. We’ve swapped chores when needed with no assignment based on roles. David makes a mean pan of cornbread and loves using the iron skillets. I’m a Hello Fresh and crock pot girl. He makes me waffles with blueberries (contributes to my retirement weight gain). He changed as many diapers, if not more, than I did.

I wondered if and when I retired, if we would get on each other’s nerves. So far, we are good. Several have asked him if he is adjusting to me being home every day. Each time he gives the same answer. He tells them that he loves having me around. Even after 36 years, I know he means it. A few days ago, he told me that he enjoys my company. Good thing since I hope we are both around for a while. He also said that he wishes for us to have another 36 years together. That is sweet, but I don’t think it will be very pretty or realistic.

When I talked about getting a couple of bee hives, he said to go for it. He told me that it would have to be a “Carrie” hobby because of his work and mowing habit. Funny thing about bees, they seem to draw you in (they are fascinating critters). First, he helped level the hives and get the area ready (He knows I’m horrible at leveling). Second, he helped catch a swarm I found in a nearby pine tree (I know nothin’ about catching a swarm). Just other day, he made two new opening reducers to fit the hives with feeders. As he walked toward me with the reducers, I remember thinking this man hates buying presents and cards for any occasion, but he makes me waffles and builds bee hive parts. Who needs cards (I’m trying to be a minimalist anyway)  and presents?

Happy Anniversary David, life is good here with you on Windy Hill.pexels-photo-1036844.jpeg

The Pursuit of Beekeeping

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance.

Henry David Thoreau

 

I can’t remember how long ago I became infatuated with bees. I do remember asking my Dad if he would consider a couple of hives on the farm. He scowled and shook his head as he told me there was no room for him and bees on the place (I’ve discovered that many folks agree with his view). At the time, I worked a lot and spent many days away from home. I didn’t have time to water a plant much less have bee hives. My infatuation waned due to other responsibilities, but with the promise to revisit.

With retirement on the horizon, I took the beginners bee class offered by the regional beekeeping club. I took notes, asked questions, paid a membership, wrote down member’s numbers, and bought numerous books. I’ve watched more YouTube videos than I can count. As the instructor said in class, ask 10 different beekeepers, get 10 different answers (not what I was hoping for).  Pine hives versus cypress hives. Painted or varnished finishes for the hive. Do I buy Italian bees or Carniola, Russian bees or Buckfast? Negatives include varroa and tracheal mites, brood disease, beetles, viruses, pesticides, and colony collapse disorder. The bees in the colony are the workers, drones and the queen (sounds like a workplace). Have a grumpy queen and the whole colony is moody (sort of like people). Every bee has a purpose and a role (also sort of like people). Face the hives to the south, ensure a wind break, and have water within a quarter mile. If providing a water supply, add a piece of wood so the bees don’t drown. Wow, who knew a bee could drown?

After a couple of months of reading and studying, the romanticized visions of beekeeping vanished. In addition, it isn’t a cheap endeavor. Just to name a few of the necessities; tools, a smoker, beetle busters, wood bleach, and a bee suit. In the early phase of this adventure, I told listeners that I wanted bees because they let themselves out in the morning and they were home by dark. Unlike my neighbor that has sheep that she moves around day to day, and chickens that have to be guarded and thinned out occasionally, I thought bees were the ultimate low maintenance contribution to nature. The joke is on me. I told the hubby that a dog would be easier.

I didn’t chicken out. I picked up two nucs of Italian bees (Benventuo!) on Saturday from a local beekeeper. A nuc is short for nucleus. It means there is an established queen and all the bees have formed a working relationship. If a package of bees is ordered, the queen is foreign to the colony and it takes a little more time for the colony to build (sort of like starting a new job and figuring out how the team works). Bringing home the nucs reminded me of when we brought our newborn babies home. I stood and starred at them. I tried to recall the YouTube videos (Dr. Spoke books for the newborns) telling me what to do.

On Saturday afternoon, I pulled on my white bee suit (looked like the Michelin tire guy) and got to it. I did make the mistake of peeking in at the bees before zipping my veil. Bad idea…..sting directly to the right temple (I’d be mad too if I had been bouncing around in a box). The first hive was torqued. I may have riled them a bit much with the new smoker. Pine needles make great fire material by the way. The second colony was kinder and calmer. I spotted the queen on the second frame. I used less smoke and was calmer myself since the burning pain in the right temple had stopped. I put the top on the hives, added a concrete block, and walked away.

A bit later, I sat in a chair (safe distance)and watched them come and go. Pollen on their legs, buzzing with activity, devoted to their role in the colony, fulfilling a role in our own agriculture cycle, and creating honey that goes on a hot biscuit. I found it peaceful and fascinating. I know the easiest part is over. Now it comes to monitoring for disease, mites, and keeping the queens healthy. The low maintenance thing went out the window, but then again, anything worth doing probably isn’t low maintenance.

Stay tuned. We will learn more about bees together here on Windy Hill.

Beehives

Counting

 

Drinking my morning coffee, I’m pondering the number of coworkers I have watched retire. I know the number is substantial.  I’ve heard peers say they were counting down to retirement. Funny, some started with the first payroll check. On the opposite end, I know workers that love what they do and cannot image a day without it. Sadly, life happened for others and retirement was the forced alternative to the best laid plans.

At retirement receptions, I’ve witnessed childlike giddiness at the thought of throwing away the alarm clock. I’ve also seen tears of joy, indecision, change, and fear. Through each event, I smiled, sniffed, congratulated, sympathized, envied………..and then went on my merry way. I would go back to my desk, tackle the next project and never ask—–what exactly are you counting? I assumed it was days left to work (I admit I had a pile of paperclips), but what do you count when you reach the official day?

It’s my turn. My retirement breakfast has come and gone. Watch in hand, it’s just a couple weeks before the official date. Dang, when did May 1 get so close to the doorstep?  I should be counting something. I should have paid more attention, asked more questions. I mean, what exactly does one count with the official date so close? What do you count when the paperclips and the paycheck are gone? Is it days, hours, expenses, or projects to do? Is it the pounds you gain now that I’m cooking? Is it the number of items on the honey-do list before “honey” explodes? Is it the things that may drive your hubby crazy now that you’re home everyday? (He doesn’t like the way I load the dishwasher:-)

I figured it out. It’s BLESSINGS. That’s what you count.

  • Opportunity, mentors, laughs, talented and smart peers, visionary bosses, coworkers, education, memories, safe travel, audio books, music, podcasts, retirement plan, industry friends, and life’s lessons. Teachers, community, forever friendships, good health, and a long career in the rural environment. The ability to adapt to and with change. A work family that pulled you up and along when grieving.

 

  • A supportive and loving family. Healthy children and grandchildren, siblings, and close friends that kept me in the loop even when I was always working or studying. A renovated home that finally came together.  Sleeping in my own bed. A view that is peaceful. Gorgeous sunsets.

These are the things I’m counting. Blessings.

Retirement is not the end of the road. It’s the beginning of the open highway……………..pexels-photo-730662.jpeg

Life is good….but cold and windy today……. on Windy Hill. Adventure awaits…….well, when it gets warmer…..

To Granny’s House We Go

I didn’t post a blog last week. My daughter and the two grandkids were here all week. Need I say more?

Our daughter Kelci is on maternity leave after the birth of our grandson on February 14th (a valentine baby and also Dad’s birthday). After being holed up in her house for six weeks, she needed a change of pace. Her husband Will had returned to work at the medical clinic, the baby was suffering from a touch of acid reflux (we called it colic but it still means nonstop crying), and their 2.5 year old daughter was adjusting to a new brother by NOT sleeping in her bed. No matter the age, sometimes a person just needs a visit home.

The kids arrived on Saturday and the weather misbehaved all week. We hoped for warm days and less wind. We got rain, cool temps, and brutal gusts (the kind that flips the outdoor furniture). My friend from North Dakota was also here a few days (she and a couple of other friends surprised me with their visit to my retirement party) and she brought sundresses. They stayed packed in her suitcase.

Despite the wet weather, we didn’t allow it to dampen our spirits or curtail our fun. Highlights of Addison’s week were visiting the neighbors. New lambs were born. Betty Ann became the proud mother to Fiona and Franklin. There were also eggs to gather (a few didn’t make it to the house), chickens to feed, and sheep to pet. We had one nice day of sunshine and Addison agreed to a ride on the 4-wheeler if granny agreed to come along. We also squeezed in some baking time.

Highlights of Rylan’s week were snoozing peacefully in his swing and being fed whenever he was hungry. He had longer spells of alertness and gave us all some big smiles (no not gas, real smiles). He was held, sniffed, and rocked by everyone. We laughed at his arm movements and boxing jabs.  It’s probably because he is so sore under his arms after being tossed around like a sack of potatoes. He was a trooper.

I believe Kelci had a few nice moments herself. She made it through a whole cup of coffee a couple of mornings without having to nuke it multiple times. Although the weather wasn’t great, she witnessed a couple of nice sunsets. She had a spinach and cheese omelet for breakfast almost every day and took a hot shower without listening for the baby to cry. It’s the little things.  Will arrived on Friday and our son Nelson joined us for dinner. One of the peaks of my week was to have the entire family together for a few hours. Laughter is always on the menu.

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On Saturday afternoon, Kelci and Will packed the car (packed is right with swings, diapers, Easter baskets, clothing, 2 car seats, etc.) and headed south. Like all parents with small children, they hoped their timing of just feeding Rylan and Addison’s nap time would carry them home in a reasonable state of peace. It’s always a little sad to see them go………Now, the house is quiet. The refrigerator is empty. Granny needs a nap.

It was a nice week here on Windy Hill.

The Neighbors

After reading the launch post of my blog, my neighbor said, “I can’t believe you didn’t say anything about your interesting neighbors.”  Taken aback a bit, I realized she was right to call me on my lack of introduction. My neighbors unquestionably deserve a mention. Matter of fact, they are interesting enough for an entire post.

When the hubby and I made our list of pros and cons for buying the parent’s place, the “neighbors” were taken into consideration (just to clarify, they were on the pro side). It so happens these neighbors are part of the family, the baby sister and her husband (now that you know she is the baby of the family you understand why she asked about being left out). They built a house on the family land a couple of years ago, but that was after constructing a photo studio…….. a mini version of the log house.  They are awesome photographers. They specialize in high school seniors, school and sports photography, and commercial and environmental shots. I can also vouch for their ability to make me look less scary in a headshot. That takes work. Since I gave them a plug here, go ahead and check out their website amillerphotoevent.com.

In addition to photography, they flip houses. They aren’t into the shiplap like the Gaines, but their work and renovation projects sell fast. If not for my neighbor and her designer’s touch, my sunroom would be blue, the bathroom floor would be something besides tile (some ladies like jewelry, my sister was thrilled with a new tile saw her hubby purchased), and I wouldn’t have an accent wall that everyone seems to admire when they visit.

Last, the neighbors have chickens and baby doll sheep. Receiving fresh eggs unquestionably has its perks. The baby dolls are just adorable with cute names. All, but one, are expecting baby lambs any day. Oh, and the neighbor just got new baby chicks. Baby lambs and baby chicks will earn this granny extra marks with the granddaughter. Who doesn’t want to pet a lamb and hold a chick at Easter?

So, having neighbors that are family, friends, talented helpers, and just plain fun to be around positively enhances life here on Windy Hill. It’s nice to have someone to drink a cup of coffee with (did I mention they have a cappuccino machine) and to share pizza on the deck. As Gilbert K. Chesterton said, we make our friends: we make our enemies: but God makes our next door neighbor.

Life is good on Windy Hill.

Windy Hill

Our new place doesn’t need a name, but I wanted one. It has an address for identification and we call it home. We called it Mom and Dad’s for 20 years. Even after their deaths in 2011 and 2013, we still called it Mom and Dad’s.

At some point, I noticed my struggle and my sisters to call it something else. We needed something less sad. It happened naturally to start calling it the farm. Even though it isn’t a working farm today (unless you count briers and privet), it has the acreage for possibilities. We didn’t think it too unrealistic to call it the farm.

It doesn’t take long to realize the wind blows all the time at the farm. When I was young, we lived across the road in the house that Mom and Dad built in the 1950s after they married (They built this house after retirement.). I remember sleeping in the front bedroom with the wind whistling around the corners until I covered my ears to sleep.  I had lots of dreams about The Wizard of Oz when the wind howled at night (I actually thought our apple trees turned into tornadoes….that’s another post.).

In summer, the wind provides much needed relief from the humidity and heat. In winter, the wind is not a good thing. It’s brutal. It pierces your skin and chills straight to the bone. When Mom was still here, I remember ringing the doorbell and waiting….and waiting……and waiting. Between Mom’s loud music playing (My own loud music and reading addiction came from Mom), her slower pace, and the square footage, it could take a while. When she finally arrived to let me in, I would fall into the doorway with my teeth chattering from the wind. Granted, it isn’t North Dakota frigid, but for the south it’s pretty darn cold.

So although I spent years in marketing and trying to be creative, it wasn’t that hard to find a name for our home. The truth is…the wind blows all the time. Our house is on a hill. I’d love to tell you it was something much deeper and emotional that created the name, but just plain calling it like we feel and see it.

Windy Hill it is.

We love this life on Windy Hill.

Adventure Awaits

That’s what the sign says. A retirement gift from a co-worker. The official retirement date is later this year, but with some time built up, I’m planning to spend a few months relaxing and preparing to say, “I’m retired”. I’ve had a job since 12, so it’s uncharted territory for this Type A personality. I believe it will take practice.

My timing isn’t great. In addition to figuring out how to retire, David and I just moved. We’ve lived in the same house for 30 years. We bought Mom and Dad’s place in 2016.  Who knew it would take 16 months to renovate and paint (that’s a whole post by itself)?

I had no way of knowing when I turned in my notice for retirement that moving and quitting would roll into one big, life changing ball. The quote comes to mind that life happens while busy making plans.

So, I now have free time previously dedicated to the two-way trip to the Bluegrass State, and the 50+ hours of actual marketing work. I also have the extra time I dedicated to  painting 400 miles (not really, but felt like it) of stained trim. Don’t get me wrong, the house is not finished. There are no doors on the closet or laundry. There’s more trim to paint (I missed some). We have a laundry room leak that continues to baffle us, and corners without accent chairs (when I took down the Christmas trees—big space left).

There are recipes to try (or better yet, investigate a Blue Apron or Hello Fresh service), and I’m seriously thinking about starting some bee hives. I believe the honey bee needs help. I hear if done well, there’s honey in it for us. We love honey.

When the weather warms, I want to put to use the small amount of knowledge I gained from the Master Gardener class (My fault not the instructor’s. He lost me at grasses.) and plant bee-loving and bouquet flowers. I have a half-finished lasagna garden.

I have a beautiful grand daughter and a brand new grandson born a few weeks ago (He’s adorable by the way).  I will have and make time for granny adventures.

So, with all the possibilities – here are the real reasons to occasionally post a blog.

  • To entertain myself and my brain so I don’t forget my words. (I’ve been moving into the stage of calling everything a “thing”.)
  • Writing will give me something to do besides sniffing paint fumes in a room with little ventilation.
  • I sometimes have introvert tendencies so a connection to the outside world is a must-even if it is not in person.
  • While searching for a subject, it will help me “take notice” of what is important.

That’s the plan anyway.

Join me here at lifeonwindyhill.com.

Adventure awaits.