"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer As It Should Be

The East Coast has joined the heat wave rave we've been experiencing in Oklahoma for the last two months.  In June we had these kinds of highs (followed by number of days):

90 - 2
92 - 1
94 - 7
95 - 2
96 - 3
97 - 2
98 - 1
99 - 1
100 - 4
101 - 3
102 - 3
104 - 1

Seven of the last eight days in June had highs of 100 degrees or more.
In July (so far), here are our official highs:
98 - 1
99 - 3
100 - 7
101 - 2
102 - 2
103 - 2
104 - 2
105 - 1
107 - 1
These are the official temperatures at the airport but we're west of there and frequently have highs 2 - 4 degrees higher. We have highs in the 100's forecast for the next ten days. Unless we get lucky or a Hurricane hits Texas, we're not looking for measurable rain until mid September.
I'm not complaining. 

Compared to the humid east, we're in heaven.  Back in Virginia, it was so humid that I hated to leave the house when the temperature approached 90 degrees.  It was sticky, wet, nasty and hideous to breathe that swamp air.  Here?  We are deliciously cool inside our single level brick house, big overhangs, no south facing windows, few west facing windows, and low humidity. 

Even with this heat, our electric bill, here, is less than it was to cool our three story home back in Virginia.  Back east, most of our cooled air went to the basement but here, it pools throughout the living areas.  Mr. Wonderful nearly freezes under the ceiling fans in our bedroom and I sometimes find sleeveless blouses are too chilly.  

I regularly go outside during the heat of the day to read on the front porch, enjoying listening to the cicadas sing.
 Nasty looking things, cicadas are:
 Apparently tasty, too.
When I go outside to read, Evelyn stays inside but keeps her head resting on the window sill to make sure I stay in sight.  She is a mama's baby. 

The heat is strong and you can't stay out in it long without needing hydration.  Still, I find myself stepping outside just to lift my face to the sun for a kiss.  I never tan deeply but am as tan as I've been in twenty years.  I don't have bikini lines (heaven forbid) but the tops of my feet have white sandal stripes and my arms are light brown as opposed to looking like a toad's belly. 

The girls don't want to go outside in the heat of the day because they just aren't dressed for this heat, humidity or no.  We've altered our morning ritual of sitting on the west facing patio for our morning coffee because at that time of day, the house bricks have absorbed so much heat from the previous evening that the radiant heat feels like an oven.  Instead, we take lawn chairs to the back yard by the honeysuckle where the energy from the rising sun is blocked by the thicket next door. 
We catch the cool morning breezes before the day begins to catch fire. The girls chase toads, sniff all manner of growing things and enjoy being young dogs with no responsibilities other than to chase dragon flies, surreptitiously dig holes in the soft dirt under the leaky water faucet, and escape the attacks of dive bombing hummingbirds.
Normally, this is the time of year where things slow down.  We run errands and do yard work in the early morning or early evening.  Mowing the lawn has slowed to a trickle because, with the heat and drought, the grass isn't growing.  Where we water the trees, I clip the grass with scissors so that the weed eater doesn't strip the bark.
Nights on the back patio run late because outdoor chores are put off until the temperature dips back down into the high 90's.  By the time the sun sets and it starts to get comfortable enough to sit outside with a glass of wine or Mr. Wonderful's home brewed beer (which is excellent), it is frequently close to 8:30 or 9:00.  The girls dart around toad hunting like a dark side Easter egg hunt.  Unlike earlier in the season where we are rescuing toads right and left because they won't leave a particular one alone, there are now so many that they race from one to the other, barely giving one a nudge before spotting another and racing across the lawn in pursuit of bigger and better things.

Sane people give up gardening this time of year but I planted a number of wildflowers in the front bed as well as some zinnias in the planter alongside our independent minded moss roses. 
I'm having a heck of a time  making sure they get the right amount of water.  I drowned a couple of Cone Flowers but the others seem to be holding their own.

We've been battling bagworms and three of our six baby Caddo Maples are suffering in a bad way.  We sprayed them and manually removed the worms but in this heat and drought, aren't sure they'll make it.
The one we were so worried about early in the season is now one of the healthiest and we hope these three sick ones will also survive and eventually thrive. 

As hot as it has been, I've still managed to finally finish the wedding quilt top for my younger daughter and her husband.  Here are a few photos.
The completed top:
It is a true scrap quilt made of lots of small pieces of assorted blues.  I am completely intimidated by the size and am not sure how in the world I am going to manage to get this big thing bound.  It takes me forever to bind even a baby quilt.

On Thursday, my friend Kim (the one who lost her young son to brain cancer in 2009) celebrated his life on the second anniversary of his death.  As she did on the first anniversary, she invited friends and family out to the ball park Caleb loved so well (it has been named in his honor).  I headed that way Thursday afternoon to celebrate with her. 

On my way to the celebration, I drove to Fort Cobb lake, a reservoir which is about an hour or so west of my house.  I'd never been there and wanted to see what I've been missing.  I drove the backroads, all of which were in good repair.  The drive took me through rolling farmland and about thirty minutes west of here, you can see a large wind farm with its big wind mills churning.  Near Binger (the home of Johnny Bench), the land turned steeply hilly with terrific views towards the northeast.  The little town was a typical old style burg and I wondered, as I always do in such places, what it was about that little place that would inspire someone to go on to become famous.  I wondered if Johnny walked down that little downtown street, and mused that it might not have looked much different in his day than it does in mine.

Annual rainfall drops off sharply in western Oklahoma as compared to the rest of the state.  The farm lands in that area have large irrigation systems set up, unlike further east, including the Oklahoma City area.  Accordingly, the crops were looking fairly robust as compared to further east where they rely on Mother Nature to send water - and she hasn't, recently.  When I finally left the state highways for the smaller farm roads working my way to the Reservoir, the houses went from well tended farms to smaller lots with what amounted to shacks on them.  That far out, a lot of people with a high tolerance for trash in their yard and few neighbors to complain, are apt to "let things go." 

Fort Cobb turned out to be a typical west Oklahoma reservoir with reddish water, a dam, twisty scrub Oaks, dragonflies, loud buzzing insects, water fowl, boats and multigenerational families cooling off in the wading areas. 

Although my car outdoor temperature read 109 degrees, it was comfortable near the lake with the breeze flowing off. The park looked to be well maintained for the most part, although I was surprised the trees weren't being more closely pruned. It could be that they were saving money, or it could be that they were deliberately being left in their wild state. The campgrounds were dusty, the camp pits often filled with broken beer bottles and remnants of campers that had been there, before. Overall, it was quite clean with lots of bathrooms and nice cabins for people don't want to camp out. They also had a fee area that looked very nice but I didn't drive in to take a closer look since I only had a few minutes. I stopped at several places along the shore to take pictures.

I saw an enormous Blue Heron wading in the shallows but by the time I'd stopped the car and had my camera out, it flew away.  The water was very low, although not as low as I would have expected, given the severe drought.  I saw a native American couple who looked to be in their thirties on the shoreline.  The woman wore white shorts and had long, beautiful hair past her hip.  I admit I was taken aback to see her wade out into the red water up to her shoulders in those white shorts with her hair floating out behind her, but I could certainly understand wanting to get cooled off.    I saw a large family out romping in the waves with grandma, a bunch of kids and a medium sized dog who was having as much fun as any of them.  I stopped to chat with Grandpa, who had taken a break to grab a cold one and he said they were all having a great time.  Made me smile to watch them for a few minutes.

Just before I left, I happened upon a doe with three spotted fawns.
One of the fawns, in particular showed little fear and was as interested in me as I was in him.

Oklahoma has many lakes but most of them aren't beautiful in the same way you expect in the east or the mountains.  You don't go to look at them, you go to get in them.   Young people and families need a place to go to beat the summer heat and lakes are traditional weekend and vacation spots.  Between fishing, jet skiing, skiing, swimming and just plain hanging out, a lot of families spend nearly every summer weekend at the lake.  It has never been my cup of tea but for many, it is a tradition that has been handed down from their parents and grandparents who grew up before air conditioners were commonplace.  Of course most of Oklahoma's western lakes are man-made so you can only go back so many generations before a luscious lake used to be just a reedy stream. 
I arrived at the celebration of Caleb's life just as it was getting started.   The family provided home made ice cream, hotdogs, cookies, chips, a water slide and ballgames for anyone who wanted to participate. It is such a lovely, upbeat tradition, adding happy memories to the horrible ones associated with his death. Some of Caleb's school chums, now long, lanky and entering their teens, attended. There were many hugs, grins and laughter. I saw no tears, just some sad eyes behind sweet smiles when I expressed my condolences. Caleb's brothers were there, as well as many cousins, including tots who have arrived since Caleb passed. I am blessed to know people that emotionally healthy and well grounded.

Summer time.  All these things are what summer means to me.
Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


Florida Farm Girl said...

Roots. Tradition. Community. And, you're home.

Miriam said...

Gosh, I would have been a melted puddle if I had to live through that heat!!! Lucky your home stays cool.
Love the hummingbird photos. Is that a portulaca in the first flower photo after the hummingbirds?
I hope your maples survive.
Congratulations on finishing the quilt top. If I lived closer I would come help you do the binding.
Much love and strength to Kim and her family. A tough day handled well.

Anonymous said...

I am always happy to read your prose. And now your photos are simply mah-velous. Well done, Penny!

Carol S said...

Your photo of the cicada between the two dog noses made me laugh; it gives new meaning to the phrase "bug-eyed"!!
Great post and love the quilt top! Get you a book-on-tape and plop down on the couch and finish that binding.

M and M plus 3 said...

Your photos are outstanding, I truly enjoyed them. Now this quilt you made your daughter, OMG its beautiful! What pattern or method did you use? My neighbor made one using the ruler and book...I'm thinking Positively Pineapples. This pattern on my bucket list! Blues, my favorite color since a child.

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