open letter to squash bugs

Dear Squash Bugs,

I hate you.

I hate you with the heat of a thousand suns. I wish you would die.

squash bug infestation 2013

No, wishing your death is too easy for you and too difficult for me. Because, as you probably know, killing you quickly and en masse could also kill my beloved and productive honeybees. Are you productive? No. Are you beloved? Not by a soul. Not by anyone who knows the real you.

So instead I wish you banishment to a land where no zucchini or pumpkins or eggplant grow. I wish you a new and unfamiliar home devoid of even cucumber plants.  Because apparently my abundant squash garden wasn’t enough for you, and you had to also decimate my raw pickles. 

Squash bugs, I hope that whenever you get dolled up and go out on the town, you unwittingly drag behind you long strands of filthy toilet paper from the public restroom stall where, ironically, there was no TP for you to clean yourself. Like you care. You’re so disgusting.

I hope that the cute doctor with whom you flirt shamelessly sees you to your dark, destructive core and gags when you speak. I hope people give bad Yelp reviews to the restaurants and hotels you frequent, just because you stink up the place so much.

And I hope that when you enter a public swimming pool mothers drag their children to safety and even apathetic teenaged boys are disgusted at sharing the chlorinated water with you.

In fact, I hope that one by one your supposed friends abandon you and are embarrassed to have ever been associated with you.  

May you invite other insects to a dinner party at your new stupid squash bug house, and may they all accept with saccharine grins, but at the last minute everyone secretly coordinates to just not show up. So you have to do all the work anyway then just sit there alone, watching your candles burn slowly in the greedy solitude. You’ll have to eat all that food yourself, but you’re used to that, aren’t you? You didn’t prepare it with anyone else in mind, anyway. You’re so selfish.

I hope that every person who has endured your belittling, condescending, manipulative personality over the years will get to watch your slow, awkward, painful decline. I hope you starve and suffer no matter how many of our pumpkins you have stolen. And I hope that the pumpkins still in your grasp see you for the monster you are.

Is that why you do it, squash bugs? Do you know what a monster you are, yet you hate yourself for it, and your nastiness is a cry for help? Are you begging for attention, affirmation, acceptance?

You will never be accepted. There is no excuse for the things you have done so repeatedly. And any attention you get is, at best, pity.

You have hurt us for the last time, and the scars you have left will only cause us to fight back harder next year. Because you will not have the final word, not with my garden.

Squash bugs, you are just ugly, pathetic, desperate opposition to anything good and true and beautiful. 

And that eggplant makes your butt look enormously fat.

Run and hide. 

XOXOXO

Marie

our most favorite alfredo

I have loved alfredo sauce since I was a little girl, beginning with a shrimp-and-pasta dish I ordered at Red Lobster in maybe fourth grade. My friend Amber and I shared a birthday dinner there. We also wore matching plaid pleated skirts. I used those bendy rods to curl my hair and she wore real Keds. It was awesome. The alfredo flavor and creaminess left a lasting impression on me, and thereafter I ordered it at every single restaurant where I found it on the menu.

Around the third year of our marriage I learned to make it myself and played around with the details until Handsome and I became I am obsessed with the final product. He loves it. He craves it, asks for it, and moans and shivers when it appears on his plate. It is so simple to make but absolutely decadent. Cheesy, salty, thickish, creamy… And it pairs with everything. You can eat it on skinny little angel hair noodles or drizzled over savory filled crepes. It tastes amazing with grilled herbed chicken breast or seafood or, as we enjoyed it tonight, steak.

alfredo plate

 

Alfredo is probably our top choice for pizza sauce at the Lazy W, too. But the way we eat it is a far cry from the jar of thin white sauce you can buy on the pasta aisle. I have to admit, this is also light years ahead of what Red Lobster serves. Here’s our recipe.

A couple of notes: This comes together really quickly, so I suggest prepping the other elements of your meal first. The sauce tends to separate if you let it sit out too long. Also, the butter and two cheeses in the recipe make it pretty salty already, so I do not add any salt. And I am a bonafide salt FREAK. So there you go. Lastly, the following measurements yield about 2 cups of sauce, which because of its richness is more than it sounds like. And the whole thing quadruples well. Not that I ever quadruple anything for two people. That would be crazy.

 

alfredo ingredients

 

Basic Alfredo Sauce:

saute a little minced garlic in olive oil

add one stick of real butter and one half cup of heavy whipping cream

heat it almost to bubbly and as it blends and thickens, season with pepper and nutmeg

then remove from heat and add 1/2 cup parmesean cheese and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese

stir it all really smooth with a wooden spoon and add immediately to your base dish (noodles, etc.)

 

And that’s it! Quick and simple.

Tonight I folded the aflredo saucein with about 10 ounces of penne pasta noodles, cooked not even to al dente. The noodles still had lots of bite left in them when I pulled them from their boiling water, because I wanted to finish it all off in the oven while our steaks were cooking. For the final few minutes of baking I sprinkled some extra mozzarella cheese on top. Just because.

 

rich alfredo sauce baked with penne pasta

rich alfredo sauce baked with penne pasta

 

How about you? Are you an alfredo aficionado? How else could you serve it with? What yummy recipes from your childhood are still fixtures in your life?

Thanks Mama Kat for a fun prompt! It totally helped me decide our side dish tonight.

mama kat image

Mama Kat’s Losin It

 

happy return to frontier bee club

Last night Maribeth and I attended the Frontier bee club meeting in Guthrie for the first time all summer. Both of us had missed the June and July meetings for different reasons, and both of us were so happy to finally return. Those are some of the nicest and most interesting people around, and the meetings are always informative and fun.

Last night, the crowd was about double in size (lots of new and prospective beekeepers in central Oklahoma, which is wonderful news) and our club president James and his sweet and playful wife Audra had organized two special events: a honey extraction demonstration and a honey tasting contest. YUM!

 

Scraping the capped honey off the frame, before the frame goes into the spinning extractor.

Scraping the capped honey off the frame, before the frame goes into the spinning extractor.

Fresh, raw honey drizzling into a clean bucket after the frames have been extracted. James told us a great story about introducing his grandson to the experience of casting his finger through the honey ribbon. "He's a fast learner," he said with measured pride.

Fresh, raw honey drizzling into a clean bucket after the frames have been extracted. James told us a great story about introducing his grandson to the experience of casting his finger through the honey ribbon. “He’s a fast learner,” James said with measured pride.

 

The taller gentleman on the left is Bob. Of all the lovely people at bee club, I have become especially acquainted with him and his wife Betty. Bob is retired from an industry that my husband’s team now regulates, so that’s an interesting coincidence. Bob borrowed my Papa Joe’s apiary journal a few months ago and pleased me right down to my bones with news of how much he enjoyed it. Last night Betty gifted me a wonderful Oklahoma Pioneer Chef cook book as a thank you, and I can’t wait to explore it. She is an avid gardener, too, so no small wonder I like her so much.

 

beeclub bob chuddie

The gentleman on the right is Chuddie. I’ve quoted him here several times. He is the club’s favorite “old timer” who is so generous with ideas, advice, practical inventions, and hilarious anecdotes and one-liners. He was, believe it or not, my great-grandfather’s beekeeping mentor back in the 1970′s. Chuddie clearly remembered Joe Neiberding when I first brought the apiary journal with me, and it just makes me feel wonderful in so many ways. Life can be beautifully full circle once in a while.

beeclub honey samples

 

I wish the honey tasting contest could have lasted all night. There were six samples, and each of them was so unique and wildly stimulating that I was almost in a panic. How could I possibly rank my top three favorites? How could I choose between the molasses flavor of one and the wildflower notes of another? Would you listen if I told you in detail how the colors affected me emotionally, and also the varying thicknesses? It’s far too much sensual beauty to be accepted in an assembly line moment. But I was happy to try anyway.

 

beeclub HONEY

 

Of course we still enjoyed the normal free flowing conversation and beekeeping Q & A, too. There was lots of chatter about what’s blooming in Oklahoma right now, how much honey people are harvesting (400 pounds from only 9 hives, one gentleman reported!) what’s next for the bees seasonally, how to trap hive beetles, where you can get glass jars on sale, ideas on combining weak hives before winter, foul brood versus chalk brood and their respective symptoms, the going price for raw, local honey, and so much more.

 

beeclub james speaking

 

Whew! The meeting just feels like a long, natural conversation, but when I step back and digest all the information shared, it’s a bit stunning. One of my favorite things to hear is this: “If you ask a room full of ten beekeepers how to do something, you will invariably get ten different answers.” So true! But I love it. Everybody is so gentle with their disagreements, and it is really fun to get a cross pollination of ideas and perspectives. James does a wonderful job facilitating the talk.

Oh! We also signed up to work shifts at the State Fair agriculture booth. So next month I’ll get to tell you all about that!

All of this, plus a long table of delicious snacks brought by all and at the end, the raucous door prize game. I contributed a big, heavy bag of garden fresh tomatoes. Several people did, in fact, and others brought treasures like fresh eggs, flower seeds, sacks of sugar, and these gorgeous home grown pears.

 

beeclub pears

 

These meetings are so worth the time and energy to get there. Why do we ever ever miss?

How did you spend your Tuesday evening? Are you tempted to venture into beekeeping? If you are a beekeeper already, how are your sweet ladies faring at the end of summer? Tell me everything.

We lived for honey… August said honey was the ambrosia of the gods
and the shampoo of the goddesses.
~Sue Monk Kidd in The Secret Life of Bees
XOXOXOXO

 

 

how to fall in love with running in 5 steps

If you’ve visited the Lazy W much this past year, then you know I love running. I fell in love with it almost two years ago and have been fumbling through my own mile-addicted adventure ever since.

Whether I am qualified to give you running advice is questionable, but without a doubt I can tell you all about how to get it under your skin. How to open your body and soul to the possibilities.

How to fall in love with one of the most beneficial things that you all by yourself can do in this life.

My very good friend & book club buddy Steph snapped this photo of me around mile 22 of last year's OKCM Marathon. I will never forget this feeling! xoxo

My very good friend & book club buddy Steph snapped this photo of me around mile 22 of last year’s OKCM Marathon. I will never forget the feelings from this day! xoxo

 

#1. Give it a fair shake. Brand new to running and already convinced you hate it? Please wait. Do not sell yourself short by struggling through one awkward, wheezing mile then declare running just isn’t for you. You know the millions of physical and mental benefits, right? Why did you start? Don’t you believe people who say that running makes them happier overall? Just get past the weird beginnings, trust me. My beginnings were extremely weird. And still I often need three miles to warm up for a five mile run. Even well seasoned ultra runners are known to say “Never judge a run by the first three miles.”
Three miles. That is about half an hour of warm up, and it is SO worth it! If you are even a little bit interested in this amazing new chapter of life, then please give it a fair shake. Nibble at it. Seek support. Try different methods. Get the long view and grow a funny bone, because you will make yourself laugh. A lot.

Also, wear funny message tees.

Also, wear funny message tees.

#2. Find your own running buttons and push them. Everyone is different. Running may seem painfully routine looking in from the outside, but there is a deep inner world there, a vast ocean of thought and feeling that you get to explore every time you lace up. (Maybe that’s why so many writers are also runners. Huh.)
And there are a hundred thousand variations for runners to discover. Do you listen to music, or keep the rhythmic silence? Run alone or with friends? Trail, track, or treadmill? Cold weather or hot? Morning, noon, or night? Try lots of different combinations until you discover your sweet spot, then max out! Enjoy yourself. Then shake things up again, enjoy some variety. Then go back to your reliable routines again. My favorite running blogger The Monican has lots of fun ideas to offer but always goes back to this smart mantra: You do YOU. Amen.

#3. Stock up on inspiration for a rainy day. Even deep into your own running obsession, far past your first big runner’s high, you’ll have dry days. You’ll have mornings when you had planned to run but WOW something else sounds better. Or you question the benefits. Or you just need new ideas. Be ready for those days by making little collections of motivational words, images, and info-graphics.
Ever heard of Pinterest? I have like three boards that revolve around fitness, but one in particular serves running alone. I refer to it when I can feel my feet dragging or my thoughts going negative. Maybe you’d rather have an old-fashioned vision board, complete with cork and push pins and glossy magazine pages! Know thyself and motivate thyself.

 

http://www.pinterest.com/greengoose/running-obsession/

Do you have a cool running board I might want to follow?

 

#4. Set a fun goal (or two or three) and make them known to loved ones. This is pretty standard advice offered for all kinds of new endeavors, and it almost sounds cheesy, but cheesy stuff tends to work! My advice for new runners who want to build enthusiasm? Look for a snazzy 5-K or a half marathon and register. Pay the money so you’re committed. Then on your calendar count the necessary training weeks backwards from the event date and pencil in your workout plan for every week. (Hal Higdon is a great source of advice for training.) And record what miles you run against that plan. Get consistent. Blab about it to your friends to the point they are mildly annoyed.
Last March I was close to burnout for different reasons, and had I not made my goal of “running my first full marathon at forty” so public to people who really love me, I might have backed out. I am SO GLAD I didn’t back out. What a sad thing that would have been. Concrete goals made public are effective!

#5. Always go one more. One more mile, one more song, one more lap, one more day… However you’re measuring your frustration at any given point, try going just one more past where you want to. Remember that running is largely in your head, maybe more so than in your body; so take every opportunity to strengthen your mind. It will improve your life in so many ways. Do more than what you think you can do. Over and over, bit by bit, you will be amazed.

 stopping is hard

 

So that’s my advice if you are thinking of a wonderful new running obsession but need the final nudge. If you do these five things: Give it a fair shake, find a groove, stay inspired, set goals publicly, and go beyond your own expectations… I am pretty sure you will fall in love with running. And running will always love you back.

And then we can grab some miles together sometime!

Now you tell me. If you’re a runner already, what advice would you give a newbie? If you need some nudging, what’s on your mind? What’s holding you back from starting, or what’s slowing you down?

Run while you can.
XOXOXOXO

 

friday 5 at the farm: bison trivia

Hello friends! We’re winding down another work week, and to cap off all the chores and cooking and cleaning and gardening and errands and bee stings and intense office hours (not for me obviously) and general toil, how about a quick Friday Five?

It occurs to me that not all of you have visited the actual dirt-and-hooves Lazy W, so you don’t know all of our animals personally. Well, in the coming weeks I’m gonna try to fix that. They are each so lovable and interesting, and we have learned so much just by living with and caring for them.

One of the most unusual creatures here is a young male bison. His name is Chunk-Hi, and he pretty much has us wrapped around his little hooves. Here are five things you might not know about bison, as taught to us by Chunk.

Our beloved Chunk-hi, male bison, four years old in this photo. Gentle giant. xoxo

Our beloved Chunk-hi, male bison, four years old in this photo. Gentle giant. xoxo

 

And yes, for the record, we usually call him a buffalo. It might not be scientifically correct, but we don’t get too worked up over that. We have more important things to fret over, like the cost of sugar for the welfare bees.

Okay.

Bison-buffalo facts:

#1. They start off as calves looking completely different! They are born with a gentle little hump, but still their body shape is much closer to a traditional cow compared to how they look as adults. And bison calves are a golden, caramelish, yummy bronze color, not dark and nearly black like they are later in life (thought that color scheme is also striking). I’ve always understood this coloring would help the babies stay concealed from predators in the golden prairie grasses that grow in this part of the country, their native land. Seems legit. Calves are woolly, curly, and 100% precious. Those eyes! They stay like this for several months, about as long as they nurse their mamas. In Chunk-hi’s case, it was about as long as we bottle fed him.

Jessica was almost 12 that summer and indispensable in helping me keep the bison calves full of milk! They learned to love the sight of the big plastic bottles and would suck on our hands for a long time after each feeding. Very sweet bonding time.

Jessica was almost 12 that summer and indispensable in helping me keep the bison calves full of milk! They learned to love the sight of the big plastic bottles and would suck on our hands for a long time after each feeding. Very sweet bonding experience.

#2. Buffs (see? I call them whatever I want) are skittish. Despite their enormous size and mass, despite how dangerous they can be, these animals have extremely fragile sensibilities. You can hurt their feelings by looking at them the wrong way, and especially young buffs will jump and bolt at a sudden noise. Our Chunk-hi has stiffened his nerves over time, but still it is not unusual to see him running for his life, high speed away from Mama Goose, who is basically a mean and bitter old woman. You can tell a buff is upset by watching his body langiuage. For example, and I do not know if this is true for regular cows, a tail raised stright up in the air is bad. Real bad. I call it the exclamation point tail, and it means he is on high alert, and you should be too. Just give him a cookie and stand your ground. Do not run. Walk slowly away, sideways if possible, without giving the appearance of retreat. Which brings me to my next point of bison trivia…

#3. They love cookies. I mean, LOVE them. We have an inside track to rejected Nabisco product, so every few months the farm is restocked with about a million packages of Oreos, Triscuits, graham crackers, you name it. Once upon a time I would eat a lot of that myself, but you know… Running. So now they all belong to our animals. Chunk’s favorite is probably Chips Ahoy, and I don’t blame him. Even slightly out-dated, those things are good. I’d pay big bucks to see him use his hooves to dunk a sleeve of cookies into a big bowl of milk. Visitors to the farm are usually game for feeding him sweet, crunchy treats, and they always get slobbered (bison are profuse slobberers) and sometimes gently bit.

Nabisco, if you are reading this, would you like to sponsor our farm? Our buff loves Chips Ahoy. So much.

Nabisco, if you are reading this, would you like to sponsor our farm? Our buff loves Chips Ahoy. So much.

#4. Bison also love to be loved. Like any creature, they need loads of affection and attention, and they also thrive on good philosophical conversation. Chunk loves to have his fuzzy, oblong ears stroked and scratched. He loves to have his eyes cupped and play gone-gone peekaboo. And he loves to press his massive forehead against the wire fencing so you can scratch him riiiiiight there, thank-you-very much. It helps that a bison will eat a big meal then go sit in a sandy wallow to digest it and perhaps chew some cud, because this is prime time to chill with him and just talk things over. Get it all out, you know? Catch up with each other. He is not in a hurry during cud time, and he appreciates you not being in a hurry, either. Sometimes he even lets you paint his horns fun colors.

Handsome was working in his car shop one winter afternoon when Chunk was probably three years old. The overhead door was open. Chunk snuck up him and was rewarded with colorful paint stripes. The look on his face. I cannot get ENOUGH of it!! xoxo

Handsome was working in his car shop one winter afternoon when Chunk was probably three years old. The overhead door was open. Chunk snuck up him and was rewarded with colorful paint stripes. The look on his face. I cannot get ENOUGH of it!! xoxo

#5. American Buffalo are shed machines. Each winter they grow these thick, truly impressive, impenetrable manes and full body coats of water-resistant, woolly fur. It keeps them warm and indifferent to the ice storms and heavy rains. Chunk actually seems to enjoy snow. When he was a baby he would run and flip around in it just like a kid. But when the days warm up, of course, this incredible heavy garment is a problem. So starting in the springtime he begins to let loose the fluff and we find great big heaps of it all over the farm. He rubs against trees, fences, and horses, much to their chagrin. He lets me scrape him with a plastic garden rake. And it hangs in tightly woven, continuous sheets off of his barrel belly. Native American legends tell us that if a bison “gifts” you his fur, in other words, if he releases it to your hands easily when you have not sought after it, then he is lending you his magic. And buffalo magic is very special. I’ll write more about that another time.

Chunk-hi's first winter. He had just sprouted little tiny buffalo horn buds! When I first posted this photo to my private Facebook page, people didn't know what he was. Someone guess a groundhog. : ))

Chunk-hi’s first winter. He had just sprouted little tiny buffalo horn buds! When I first posted this photo to my private Facebook page, people didn’t know what he was. Someone guessed a groundhog. : ))

 

Bison shed

Bison shed

 

So there you have it! Five things you might not have known about bison-buffs. Do you know any fun trivia you’d like to share? Do you have any questions we can try to answer? Have you been to the W and taken photos with Chunk? If so I would be SO HAPPY if you posted those to this blog’s Facebook page. How fun. We love collecting happy memories.

Thanks for joining me today! I wish you a beautiful, restful weekend filled with exactly what you need.

Tune in next week for Marathon Monday stuff, an Alfredo recipe, a chicken photo shoot, and more.

“You can lead a buffalo anywhere he wants to go.”
~old adage we try to never forget
XOXOXOXO

fields of gold

This song Fields of Gold by Sting has always spoken to me. Tonight while walking backwards on my running trail I glimpsed the west field in a moment when the sun just sliced through the prairie grass and wildflowers and set everything in my heart on its side. Or back on its feet, perhaps. Memories, hopes, every aspect of love just pulsed. I just stood there letting it pulse, watching the west winds move.

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold

So she took her love for to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley?
We’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gold

fields of gold

See the west wind move like a lover so
Upon the fields of barley
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold

I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I’ve broken
But I swear in the days still left
We’ll walk in fields of gold, we’ll walk in fields of gold

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold

When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold

~Sting, 1993

how to cope with august in the garden

My gardens are suffering a bit, friends. They aren’t quite dead or beyond hope; but they are less vibrant and magical than they were just a couple of weeks ago. Maybe these charming summer months have spoiled me into what I thought was benign neglect but instead has been shameful laziness.

Or maybe August in Oklahoma is just always gonna be August in Oklahoma, no matter how charming the previous months and weeks have been.

The zucchini have largely surrendered to squash bugs, which exposes too much of the adjacent eggplants to the hot sun. The tomatoes can fight off only so many grasshoppers (and llamas) per day. The Three Sisters’ plot is crispy (totally my fault). The herb garden is at least one third stickers now. And my cantaloupes are half not quite ripe and half overripe, rotten. (She says scratching her head.) I’ve started new little areas of green beans, cucumbers, leafy things, and basil, and those sprouts are growing, but they need some TLC from Yours Truly, whereas their early season counterparts did not. And one of our three fruit trees has me concerned. I keep getting flashbacks of the Great Depression (even though I wasn’t alive then) when I see its sparse and curling leaves.

 

squash bugs... the bane of my garden existence...

squash bugs… the bane of my garden existence…

One of these years I will grow corn until people call me the jolly green giant like they did in sixth grade.

One of these years I will grow corn until people call me the jolly green giant like they did in sixth grade. Not that I was green, just tallish.

 

Fresh herbs are totally worth every garden chore you will do to maintain them.

Fresh herbs are totally worth every garden chore you will do to maintain them.

 

Homegrown melons taste like a completely different fruit compared to what you buy at the store. Try it!

Homegrown melons taste like a completely different fruit compared to what you buy at the store. Try it!

 

Blank spots in my raised beds are blank canvases. Room for improvement. And seeds are cheaper than paint!

Blank spots in my raised beds are blank canvases. Room for improvement. And seeds are cheaper than paint!

 

I have to mention the stickers twice, the goat-heads, because they are just so vicious. I literally hate them with my entire heart and say swear words when I have to pull them. Last night I pulled a wheelbarrow full from all around the farm, but mostly from my gardens, and a wand of the nasty kernels attached themselves to my sundress. They were so stout, so terrible, that they pinned the cotton fabric tightly against my stomach, like I was some kind of a garden bulletin board. I was so mad! I mean seriously! I had to take several deep breaths and count to three then bravely rip the stickers out of my dress, so that it could become unpinned from my tummy; and still a barb remained in my skin there. It pierced a tiny little drop of blood for no good reason at all. This kind of stuff makes me a bit crazy. I feel like my personal space has been invaded.

 

Oh basil. I just can't quit you. Why have you abandoned me this year?

Oh basil. I just can’t quit you. Why have you abandoned me this year?

 

Always bury your spent jack o' lanterns and always scatter your watermelon seeds. You never know what gorgeous vines and fruit will grow from it!

Always bury your spent jack o’ lanterns and always scatter your watermelon seeds. You never know what gorgeous vines and fruit will grow from it!

 

So what to do this week? What are the garden tasks at hand?

Reduce I have started by doing some massive cleaning. Pulling weeds, pruning overgrown shrubs and criss-crossed limbs, and trimming leggy vines all the way from jasmine and morning glory to the darling tomatoes. I am reducing those by at least a third, maybe more. And scraping off brown leaves, too. I’ve always believed this allows the plant to spend its energy more wisely.

Water Deeply This may sound like a no-brainer, but keep in mind that all summer I have had to actively water our edible plantings maybe three times total. The rain has been so soft and steady, so luxurious. This week we are hot and dry, and I am not wasting my time with light sprinkling, nor will I compromise the plants roots like that. Deep moisture is the ticket.

Feed & Mulch I have a five-gallon jug of organic fertilizer gifted to me by our landscaping friend Scott, and I plan to dilute that in several ways and feed the holy heck out of everything I see. Then add mulch to the gardens in thick layers. Then probably water some more and light a few candles and send a tweet to P. Allen Smith asking him to light a candle for me, too.

Hover I just need to spend more time in the garden. More time doing things, besides taking photos. Pinching leaves, tucking soil neatly, watering, singing Beatles songs, removing bugs, etcetera. So much can be avoided and accomplished in the garden just by being present.

 

I always feel like I'm in Narnia when I walk among morning glory vines early in the morning...xoxo

I always feel like I’m in Narnia when I walk among morning glory vines early in the morning…xoxo

 

So my garden will look smaller for a while, overall, but healthier. That’s the idea at least. And of course the biggest idea is that in a few weeks it will bounce back with new vigor and continue producing delicious food.

How is your garden looking? Are you still collecting food? Are you battling squash bugs and goat-head stickers like me? Can you still appreciate the beauty in your Eden, despite the brutality of mid-August? What’s your plan of action?

Tell me everything. I could talk about gardens all day long.

Until it’s time to go for a run. Or read a new book.

The best fertilizer if the gardener’s shadow.
~proverb, unknown origin
XOXOXOXO

 

 

miracles & mercies (psalm 136)

A week ago I was standing alone in the empty dining room of our church, trying not to think too hard about all the life changes going on around us, about all the turmoil that is far from healed in our family and in our church community. I started flipping through a Bible someone had left on one of the round tables there. My thumbs fanned the gold-trimmed tissue pages and stopped for no particular reason at Psalm 136. My eyes caught a few verses and then a few more, and the rhythm mesmerized me. For 26 focused verses the poet recites big, miraculous works of God and follows every single time with the phrase…

For his mercy endureth forever.

It was beautiful. All that power poured out, all that repetition. The phrase gradually gained volume in my head and thrummed up an energy I was not expecting in that quiet dining room. Some old Bible stories I knew, some I didn’t, they all swam around me. I couldn’t help but respond in my thoughts, “I know! He kind of did that for me too!”

He has, you know. God has been working miracles and shedding grace in my life for years, for over forty years now; but since I have really been paying attention, the miracles have been stunning.

My beautiful firstborn picking me some wildflowers, Mother's Day 2007

 

My baby, also picking me some wildflowers, also Mother's Day 2007.

I am still in need of miracles and mercy, as I suppose we all will be forever. I know that now and am no longer surprised by it. But what I also know is that gratitude and appreciation are so powerful. Gratitude and worship will literally transform our perspectives and often improve our actual circumstances.

Keep looking up, not ahead.

“Keep looking up, not ahead.” Thanks for this reminder, Marci. xoxo

What kinds of miracles have I seen?

God saved my youngest baby from a sudden, terrifying, life threatening brain event when she was a toddler. He helped her recover far beyond the doctors’ expectations, needing zero therapies afterwards. Just a few days after emergency surgery she was feeding herself grapes and giggling while my baby sister painted her nails.

For his mercy endureth forever.

God protected her a year later for another brain surgery, healing her perfectly despite so many things I cannot and will not even name.

For his mercy endureth forever.

God protected my first baby throughout a perforated appendix ordeal. A misdiagnosis from the pediatrician, extreme dehydration and pain, failure of the hospital to administer antibiotics, and so many related problems. He healed her. He relieved her pain between doses of morphine exactly when we laid hands on her and asked Him to help in Jesus’ name. He calmed the war between the families in order to get us all through the ordeal. He even helped us create unlikely bonds.

For his mercy endureth forever.

God timed our move away from the City so perfectly. This property became available (and the previous owners were in such a hurry to move) the same week Handsome received a promotion and significant raise at work. Every piece fell into place beautifully, and our dreams started forming right before our eyes.

For his mercy endureth forever.

When the farm house caught on fire a year after we bought it, God preserved my life and all of our animals’. He made the rough path of recovery really smooth and filled with blessings. The work required of us during those months ended up serving as a siphon for all the stress and grief that would come from unfathomable life changes that year.

For his mercy endureth forever.

When we were heartbroken God sent us friends that were closer than brothers and sisters.

For his mercy endureth forever.

When Handsome and I have been at odds with each other, God sometimes made us laugh and sometimes made us hurt so we turned toward one another again, standing together to face the world. Every time.

For his mercy endureth forever.

When we felt useless and irrelevant without our children, God gave us friends in need who accepted our love. He helped us feel that family glow in myriad ways and continued to spark our hope while soothing our nerves.

For his mercy endureth forever.

God gave Handsome a career that is more than a paycheck; it is an opportunity to do good in the world and make a difference.

For his mercy endureth forever.

They go on and on and on. Did we deserve even one of these blessings? No, far from it. Even the job-related blessings, the things for which we “work” are still expressions of abundant Love, forgiveness, grace, help at every turn. The miracles happen every year, every month, every single day. Constantly I see God’s hand at work in my life. He feeds me everything I need to be sustained both physically and spiritually. It’s overwhelming how much has happened in a strange, beautiful kind of way, thrilling outcomes that by every right should have been disasters.

For his mercy endureth forever.

What miracles have you seen in your life? What overwhelms your heart with gratitude and reminds you that God is in control of everything, no matter how dark it seems? Who in your life gently urges you to look up at the source of help instead of ahead to the next battle?

june orange lilies

Thanks for joining me again, friends. I hope you are uplifted and encouraged. That you find a million reasons to say thank you. I hope that whatever you are facing can be surrendered in prayer. One day it all could become stories you tell about miracles and mercy.

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good:
for his mercy endureth forever.

XOXOXOXO

 

august hive inspection

What a perfectly gorgeous day we had last Sunday for a bee yard inspection.

Maribeth and her husband Dean visited the farm, and we all had the nicest time laughing, trading stories, eating a long, leisurely, family style dinner (the first time she and I had cooked together, which was really fun!) and of course loving and admiring the bees.

Well, she and I loved and admired the bees. Our husbands have bonded over a general distaste for or at least mistrust of the buzzing, swarming creatures. They talk a lot about “hot hives” and how they need to be controlled or punched in their little faces because of the mowing difficulties they present, and both men complain good naturedly about how much money their wives spend on sugar for bee yard welfare efforts.

Now you know. Beekeeping is sometimes a controversial topic in marriages.

By the way, dinner was scrumptious. We feasted on roasted garlic-lemon chicken, fried garden squash, and this beautiful tomato tart, also using fresh garden produce. If you have not yet tried Edie’s tomato tart, please do so pronto. It’s prime time for fresh garden tomatoes, and this flavor combination is a sure bet. Just use your favorite pie crust recipe and have some fun. We loved it! Zero leftovers.

 

http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2014/05/fresh-tomato-tart/

http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2014/05/fresh-tomato-tart/

 

Okay. The bees.

There was really good news and surprising news.

The good news is that both hives are thriving. They are free of wax moths and all other problematic invasions. They are multiplying like crazy. And they are pulling out foundation on most, nearly all, of the frames. There is lots and lots of brood in each of the colonies, which is evidence of a queen, though we didn’t exactly see either matriarch. That’s okay.

Also, we didn’t even need to smoke the bees. Maribeth paid them a lovely compliment by calling them “exceptionally gentle.” Swoon! I know this is irrational, but that felt as good as if someone had paid my own daughters a compliment for their good manners or something. As if I personally have a single thing to do with the bees’ temperament. How ’bout we just catalog that warm fuzzy feeling among the many ways our friends and family have described the Lazy W: peaceful, life giving, loving. This is our dream.

Okay. More good news is that there’s a little honey in each hive, which means the bees are working toward a winter supply.

This also points to the surprising news, however, which is that there is not as much honey there as I had thought. If you’ve noticed me mentioning here or on Facebook that on warm days I can smell honey from the garden gate, that’s true; but perhaps it’s more the comb or the nectar warming up that makes that lovely perfume. And the glossy cells I’ve seen while stealing a quick peek inside the hives are not surplus honey at all. It’s very little compared to how many bees are populating the boxes. They will need every bit of that and more to survive the winter.

So. I will not be harvesting honey this summer, and our “welfare” feeding efforts will continue. I am totally, one hundred percent, whole heartedly okay with this, because the bees are happy. We have survived the first season with two new colonies. I have learned more. And, thanks to my Dad’s carpentry skills and generosity, I’m better prepared for the future this time. Maybe I’ll even learn to make splits or catch swarms.

 

dad building bee boxes

 

beekeeping for dummies

augbeeinspect shows glove

 

augbeeinspect shows so many bees

 

augbeeinspect shows drawn comb

augbeeinspect shows capped brood

 

One of the funnest parts of Sunday’s inspection was witnessing the birth of a baby honey bee. Can you even imagine the minuscule, delicate sweetness of that moment?

We caught it quite by accident, having noticed among so many crawling, working bees, their hineys up to the sun, one little bee face. A very tiny, pale one. Look in this photo below, how you can see the bees buried face down in the cells, working, hineys up to the sun…

 

auginspect hiney up with sticker

 

Well somewhere on one of the frames we noticed a small, pale face instead of a hiney, and it was so obvious, so different, we froze all activity to watch. How I wish we had video to share or even one photo of that amazing moment, but try to forgive us because we were both dressed to the hilt in bees suits and veils, and operating smart phones with heavy gloves is tricky at best. All hail National Geographic, right? And just try to get honeybees to pose artfully for you. It is really truly not happening. We didn’t know until much later which photos turned out.

So as Maribeth and I watched silently, this speck of a creature chewed her way out of a snug, waxy cell, emerging very slowly into the fresh air. She was surrounded by busy bees (forgive the cliche) who just continued their work as she birthed herself. Another bee was chewing out of a cell adjacent to hers, and we were captivated.

I just wanted to share that with you. It was certainly a gift, to see her born. I tried relaying the joy to Handsome but he was still pretty wound up about the cost of sugar.

To round out this memory, here’s a quote from The Secret Life of Bees

A true beekeeper. The words caused a fullness in me, and right at that moment an explosion of blackbirds lifted off the ground in a clearing a short distance away and filled up the whole sky. I said to myself, will wonders never cease?

Thank you so much, Maribeth, from the bottom of my heart. You will never know how much I appreciate your gentle encouragement and generosity with your time and knowledge. We love having you and Dean as friends and mentors, and I love that you have helped me resurrect a family tradition. It’s the most beautiful thing.

Celebrate your progress, friends, and be sweet.
XOXOXOXO

 

 

giveaway winners & happy Monday to you!

 

RMJ book cover

Hopefully as the weeks pass everyone has time to post a photo of their finished projects to the Lazy W Facebook page. I am plotting a cool dresser makeover using her tips, and I pledge to post photos too.

The winners are…

Bruce Barone (gardener, chef, and fellow taker of the Joy Dare)
Stephanie Clinton who blogs at Hugs Kisses and Snot
Jennie Brooks (a beautiful soul)
Lynn Fern who blogs at On Fern Avenue
Heather Benton who blogs at New House New Home New Life

Big thank you to everyone who shared the book release information, and another big thank you to Allison for her generous gift. We wish her the best with this project AND with the final weeks of her pregnancy!

Marathon Mondays starting again. It is time for fall marathon training to start. While I have yet to decide on a race before the end of the year, I am kicking up my miles and revamping Marathon Monday posts to include all kinds of fitness and health related topics. I hope this is interesting to you! And I hope you join the conversations as often as you can. We all have bodies, and we all need to find sustainable ways to care for them.

ZB me after slide with sticker

The Lazy W Honeymakers are doing great. Maribeth helped me conduct a thorough bee yard inspection Sunday afternoon, and I want to share all of the sweet, sticky details with you. For now, just say a quiet little prayer of thanks that we have two thriving colonies at the farm! I am so happy.

bees aug 2014

Actively Giving Thanks. I stumbled across a scripture that has my memory in overdrive. The 136th Psalm is line after line of praise for incredible miracles God performed in the Old Testament, followed each time by this: His mercy endureth forever. It struck me so hard, and it inspired me to compile a long list of the incredible miracles He has performed in my life, focusing on His mercy. So I will be working on that throughout the week, and I invite you to do the same. Maybe meet me back here next Sunday and share some of your miracles remembered?

july 16 2014 purple morning glory

********************

Okay folks, I am signing off for a bit and heading outside for some running and fresh air. Then maybe some horse brushing and morning-glory thinning. Our nephew Koston is here for a day or two, so before he wakes up I need to carefully stack the Uno deck so he doesn’t beat me today.

I hope you have a full, happy, productive, loving day ahead of you! I hope you find the energy you need to tackle your lists and the reward you need to feel like it’s all worth it. Think positively. Protect your heart. Give of yourself generously. Never give up hope for your most urgent prayers.

Carpe the Heck out of This Diem!
XOXOXOXO