A LEGACY OF LOVE…AND A WHOLE LOTTA NUTS!

My father loved pecans

And pecan trees

And my mother’s pecan pie.

I remember in college

Coming home for Thanksgiving

Going to the creek to pick up pecans.

There was always a bowl

To crack and pick

As we sat by the fire

In the winter.

Pecans even found their way

Into campaign brochures.

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Daddy planted a pecan grove

Rather late in life

We celebrated that fact

On his 85th birthday

With family

And former staff members.

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Now if you don’t know

You don’t just plant a pecan tree

And reap the harvest.

It takes at least 7 years

To produce.

So daddy must have known

That he would not live to see

The trees grow to maturity.

That someone would have to take up the mantle

And love it like he did.

And he did love it.

He loved, nurtured and respected

The land

And the life of a farmer.

But passing that to the next generation

Can be tricky…at best.

Thankfully, when the farms were divided

Among the three of us

My little sister Ann

Got the pecan grove.

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She has worked hard over the last nine year

To improve the pecan grove

To prune, mow and fertilize it.

Like daddy she has loved, nurtured and respected

The land.

She has gotten a good crop

About every other year.

Then came the rains last spring.

I mean RAIN.

Over 30 inches in a month.

Resulting in a bumper crop.

Over 7,000 pounds of pecans!

She’s been harvesting and processing pecans

Continuously for over a month.

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This week she’s coming to town to spread the love around.

Friends have pre-ordered hundreds of pounds

Of pecans

That will be turned into all kinds of treats

Over the holidays

And beyond.

Daddy & Mother would love what she has done.

And so do I.

Gail

PS

When Daddy was in office pecans were the standard gift for visiting dignitaries and Mother’s pecan pie was served at more dinners than I can count.  She would make a dozen or so at a time.  She was amazing.IMG_4132

This recipe was first printed in “Recipes from the Campaign Trail” .  A little campaign brochure with recipes from Mother’s kitchen and Daddy’s “recipe for good government”.  My how campaigns have changed over the years!

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SHIRLEY BELLMON’S PECAN PIE

3 Eggs    1 C. white corn syrup   1C. brown sugar   1 C pecans

1 unbaked pie shell

Beat eggs.  Add corn syrup and brown sugar to eggs and mix well.  Add this mixture to the pie shell.  Sprinkle pecans on top.  Bake at 350 for one hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NO WORDS

Most weeks

As I sit down to write

The words just flow.

This week

I seem to have no words.

At least not about gardening.

This week I want to tell you my story.

It’s an old story

Over 30 years ago.

But it’s an important one to me

And my life.

And it’s timely

With the devastating news

Of last week’s suicides.

I am among the millions of people

Who have suffered from clinical depression.

Most of my friends will be surprised by that.

I’ve never kept it a secret

But neither have I advertised it.

And frankly it was so long ago

Some of you may have simply forgotten.

I have not.

It was a very tough time.

I had had a miscarriage

The year before Elliott was born

So suffice it to say that I was a prime candidate

For depression.

Mine would likely be categorized

As postpartum depression

It’s depression

All the same.

I fought it for a long time.

By the time Elliott turned two

It became obvious

That I had to deal with it.

I distinctly remember where I was

When I told John I had to get help.

He was supportive from the beginning.

It wasn’t easy for either of us,

But he was there.

Fortunately for me a local therapist

Had recently spoken to the Stephen’s Ministry class

I was taking at church

And I liked her.

I knew where I could go for help.

I spent 6 months in one on one therapy

Took the anti-depressants the doctors prescribed.

And was involved with a therapy group for another 6 months.

Bit by bit

I got better.

She saved my life.

I have long felt

That therapy is the best gift

I’ve ever given myself.

Over the ensuing decades

I’ve gone back to therapy

For a tune up

As life has thrown me a few curve balls.

Why am I telling you this?

Most of the people who read this are friends.

But it’s going out there into cyber space

And that means people who don’t know me

Now know something very personal.

But that’s the point.

Those of us who have been there.

Have to tell our stories

Openly and honestly.

We are the very people

Who can make a huge difference in people’s lives.

We know the pain

And we know how help changed,

Really saved our lives.

If you can

Tell your story.

It may help someone

To get help.

And listen to people.

Really listen to them.

Encourage them.

Ask them if they need help.

Then help them find it

If they need it.

Without help

Think of all of the life

I and so many more

Would have missed.

Gail

 

 

 

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A FAMILY TRADITION

Family traditions can be tricky.

They can bring us comfort

And peace

And smiles.

But if we allow them

They can take up so much of our lives

That we can lose track

Of who’s life it is.

So, though I love traditions

I really try to re-examine

Them when they come

Swinging back into my day.

Holidays are especially ripe

For this.

Last week a tradition

In my family

Entered it’s 5th generation

When Elliott and Kristina

Took their kids

Into the mountains

To cut their own Christmas tree

With a permit from the forest service,

Of course.

A plains tradition

Transplanted to the mountains.

When I was a kid

My father would gather us together

And take us out into the field

To a cluster of red cedar trees

Where we would select

Our Christmas tree.

He would cut it down

Always leaving

A lower branch

So the tree could regrow.

(This was before red cedar trees

Became the nuisance

They are today.)

More often than not

It would be much bigger

Than we realized

Until we got it home

And it engulfed

The entire living room.

When Daddy took his young

Grandsons into the field

To cut a tree

The tree was so huge

It didn’t even fit into the room

And was placed outside the big glass door

On the patio

With presents placed

Just on the inside of the glass!

The adventure of cutting our own tree

Seemed like a quaint ritual

But I didn’t get the deep meaning

For my father

Until I almost messed it up.

You see we figured out over time

That my mother was allergic

To cedar

Which meant she was

Almost always sick

By Christmas.

So I pushed and pushed

Her to buy an artificial tree

Or as my father called it

The “plastic thing”!

Thankfully Daddy was a letter writer

So I have a record

In his own words

Of just how heinous

This crime was.

I read it at his funeral

And have included it

As a post script.

I am thankful for Elliott & Kristina

Picking up this meaningful tradition

And passing it along

Creating ” new old” memories

For yet another generation.

It’s hard to know

What to hold onto

And what to let go of

Since both are equally important.

I hope you enjoy

your traditions

of the season.

Looking back

While moving forward.

Gail

Nov 26, 1993

Dear Gail,

As my “sensitive” daughter you may be interested in knowing some of the thoughts that were going through my mind last evening as you all struggled to erect the “plastic thing” in our living room.

Real live red cedar trees have long held a special place in the Bellmon household.  It all started when my Dad dug up five small cedars as he and his family forded the Arkansas River at Ark City and brought them to the dug out on his new claim in the Cherokee Strip where they were planted.  Three years later they were moved to the “home place” where three have survived the heat and drought of summer, the cold and winds of winter as well as the good times of spring and fall.  They are now over 100 years old.

During my early youth in the depression years, when there was barely enough money for necessities, my mother would saw off a carefully selected lower branch from one of the trees.  By placing it carefully against a wall and by decorating it laboriously with strings of white pop corn and red cranberries interlaced with paper people cut from red and green paper folded so each emerged holding hands with its neighbor, she managed to brighten up what would otherwise have been a bleak Christmas season.

After your mother and I were married I accidentally came across a patch of wild cedars growing near the creek south of the “big hill”.  By cutting above a low limb – which later grew upright into a respectable new tree).   I was able to harvest our Christmas trees from the patch during the years you girls were growing up.  Some of my fondest memories are of Christmas seasons highlighted (for me at least) by my annual sojourn, ax in hand, to the cedar patch followed by three small girls having trouble – and needing help from their father – getting past weeds and brambles.

After some time spent artfully selecting the best tree for our purpose I would fell the candidate with the ax and we would drag it, butt first back to the pick-up for the ride to the house.  The decorating was done by your mother helped by you and your sisters.  The trees were far from perfect but they were” our trees” in every sense of the word.  They briefly added a clean outdoor scent to the whole house which was –is-their undoing since cedar oil is a villain so far as your mother’s allergies are concerned. 

Also, after a few days the branches dry out and become a fire hazard.  When taken down and pulled out the door after Christmas is over they leave behind a trail of brittle, sticky, dead needles like leaves which adhere to carpets and drapes into the next spring and summer – a reminder of Christmas past.

There is even one memory of taking the grandsons on a – hopefully – annual Christmas tree search.  Our joint efforts produced a tree too large for the living room of our “new” house.

And now we have our “Made in Taiwan” “plastic thing” – what memories can it hope to breed?  Of dust accumulated during the months it will be stored in some dark and deserted place, of cobwebs, perhaps of a nest of mice?  Clearly there will be no allergy for there is no scent, not hint of life, no danger, no challenge.  The “plastic thing” is thoroughly safe, sensibly sterile – decidedly dead, forever.

Is the “plastic thing” symbolic of what life in the waning days of the 20th century is coming to – safe – comfortable – secure – complacent?  What will follow – monotony – boredom – frustration?  Life as I have known it needs it imperfections, its disappointments as well as its successes.  Without challenge there can be no victory.

Maybe the above is too strong.  Your mother’s allergies are a real and important fact of life.  If the “plastic thing” solves that problem I reluctantly and with a real sense of loss accept the inevitable.  I greatly appreciate your concern for your mother but I wanted you to see another side of the Christmas tree controversy.

                                    Love,

                                           Your Dad

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STORIES

Last summer I read an interesting book

“The Art of Gathering”

By Priya Parker.

Reading it has made me think

About the kinds of gatherings I host.

I have always loved the idea

Of bringing people together.

And I like to “decorate”

For the occassion.

But this book has me thinking

More about what happens

Once we are gathered.

Last weekend is a good example.

I hosted a sort of birthday lunch.

It would have been my friend’s 70th birthday.

Had she lived to see the day.

Instead, her three daughters came

Along with some of her friends

From decades ago.

We sat around my dining room table

Telling stories of her life.

It wasn’t a gathering to “catch up”.

In true Priya fashion.

I even sent a text to that effect

Before we gathered.

Telling my guests it was not a day

To talk about grandchildren

But rather a day to share our stories and memories

So that her grandchildren could know her

A little better.

We laughed.

We cried.

We re-connected.

Memories buryied deeply

Began to surface.

Bringing more laughter

And tears.

Stories have the power

To bring us back to a different time

And place.

The power to learn new things

And answer questions

We didn’t even know we had.

The power to reunite with someone

We have lost

Or get to know someone

We never knew.

I hope as you gather

Around your holiday tables.

You will set aside the news of the day

And the game

And ask questions

That draw out stories

Of the lifetimes

You have gathered together.

Gail

“Share your story with someone. You never know how one sentence of your life story could inspire someone to rewrite their own.”

Demi Lovato

P.S. Think about recording interviews of your families and submitting them to The Great Thanksgiving Listen at https://storycorps.org/participate/the-great-thanksgiving-listen/ With permission, interviews become part of the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. More than 650,000 people have participated in StoryCorps to date, making it the largest single collection of voices ever gathered.

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A JOB WELL DONE

Last week’s predicted freeze

Did not materialize.

But we didn’t know that

Last Monday

When a full crew of Master Gardeners

And friends

Gathered at Faith Farm

To pick everthing on the vine.

And pick we did.

341 pounds of peppers and green tomatoes

And eggplant and turnips and radishes

And green beans and cucumbers.

Bringing us to an all time record

Of 4,027 pounds of fresh organic produce.

That’s a ton…well 2 tons actually

All going to provide our hungry neighbors

With the freshest possible produce.

It’s a mission that is easy to wrap our hands

And hearts around.

Over time it has become more than a mission

To those of us who come.

We have become a sort of gardening family.

Moving through the garden twice a week

Catching up on family news

Sharing stories of our own gardens

And ideas of how to grow even more

At Faith Farm.

Spending a few hours each week

In a garden

With fellow gardeners

On glorious spring days

And the dog days of summer

Growing vegetables

For hungry neighbors

Is a joy.

Thanks everyone.

Gail

“The people who give you their food give you their heart.”

Cesar Chavez

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END OF THE SEASON…OR IS IT?

When I think of fall

I think of the garden slowing down.

And it does.

The plants and blooms

Are going to sleep.

But my “to do” list

Seems endless.

I’ve brought much of this

On myself.

I think I have a fear

Of clean fingernails.

So I create gardening tasks.

For instance.

Pick green tomatoes.

Cut and dry Hydrangea blooms.

Pull the last of the Cockscomb and Zinnias.

When I was in Denver last week

I found close out vinca minor.

We are reworking a shady end of the garden

So I was in the market for vinca minor.

I found 20 tiny plants.

Today I planted 16 of them

In the ground

And potted up the other 4.

The plan is to take cuttings

From these 4 all winter.

Increasing the inventory

Enough to fill the space

By winter’s end.

Since we are expecting

Our first freeze this week

The giant and prickly Sego Palms

Had to be hauled into the garden house.

Bouganvilla, Asparagus Fern and Kimberly Fern

Found their way into the breakfast room

With John’s help.

Dusty Miller was rescued from the big pots

And cozied into the ground

Since it will often survive our winters.

And the Plumbago was dug and potted

In the garden house

Where again I’ll take winter cuttings

To have ready for next spring.

I keep talking about taking cuttings

Like I actually know how to do it.

I do know how to do it.

I just can’t keep them alive.

So that is my challenge

For the winter

Cuttings.

If I succeed at this.

The garden house will be

Even more of a jungled mess

Than it is today.

And that will make

For a very happy winter!

Gail

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THE POWER OF A SEED

My mother loved to garden.

Her only problem was

That for much of her life

She lived in two different towns

At the same time.

Sometimes even two different states!

That made tending a garden

A bit of a challenge for her.

When Daddy finally retired

They added a greenhouse

To the house on the farm.

She would putter there for days.

I watched her tenderly

Prick out baby lettuce plants

And give them their own home.

Knowing that since they lived in the country

Chances were pretty good

That a mouse

Would likely enjoy more lettuce

Than she would.

But she kept at it

Year after year.

She died suddenly one summer

While we were all on vacation together

Leaving everything in her life

And her greenhouse

As something of a still life.

One glorious fall day

I walked into

Her untended playpen

To find it full of vines

Covering floor to ceiling

And loaded with dozens of

Baby Boo Pumpkins.

She had been gone

For over a year.

Yet the power of a seed

Brought her right back

To me and my memories

Of her in this place.

Perhaps that’s why

I have an endlessly

Growing collection

Of seeds.

They connect me to the past

And show me

The hope of the future.

Gail

“A seed neither fears light nor darkness, but uses both to grow.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

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STALEMATE

There are times

When even the patient gardener

Get’s really frustrated.

This month has been

One of those times for me.

This summer

My garden turned 17.

And like any teenager

It’s morphing

Into it’s adult stage of life.

At least I think

That’s what’s going on.

All summer long

I’ve been making notes

About the changes

I want to make.

Move the dahlias

To more sunlight.

Move some hydrangeas

To more shade.

Make room

For new rose varieties.

Or simply

Make room.

Things have gotten

Just a little crowded.

So I couldn’t wait

For Labor Day

To begin digging.

But summer has been

RELENTLESS !

Not the 100 degree

Kind of relentless

But days and days

In the 90’s.

Not the best

For plant relocating.

We are finally moving

Toward fall.

So watch out

And check my driveway

For plants needing

A more spacious home.

Gail

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than she seeks.”

John Muir

(Actually he used he but you know, the seasons are changing.)

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It’s Buggy Time

Late summer is buggy

In my garden.

I don’t really know why

But there are always good bugs.

Last year the Orb spiders

Were everywhere

Spinning their zig zaggy webs

To my amazement.

This year I’ve only had a few visit.

Though this guy did claim

The inside of my garden house

As his new home.

But Praying Mantis are

Everywhere.

One day I rescued seven

From the clippings

Headed to the compost bin.

Lately, my garden has taken flight.

I spent hours

Over two days

Watching this Swallowtail

Feast on tall garden phlox.

Thankfully, I hadn’t gotten around

To deadheading it.

An now I wouldn’t dream of it

Even though it’s really ragged.

Last Wednesday at Faith Farm we counted

THIRTEEN swallowtail caterpillars

On one bronze Fennel plant.

The Monarch butterflies

Are flitting everywhere

And then there is this new friend.

Actually they brought the whole tribe

Right to my garden.

I have hundreds on what else

But Cockscomb.

And we all know you can’t have just

One Cockscomb.

My research tells me

They are harmless Goldenrod Soldier Beetles.

Actually a bit beneficial

Dining on aphids and “other plant pests”.

All of this fluttering and flying and buzzing

Makes a sunny afternoon

Stroll through the garden

A joy.

But then

When isn’t a garden

A joy?

Gail

“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.” ~Author unknown

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THE MYSTERY CONTINUES

A month or so ago

I wrote about a 12 foot tall sunflower

That had planted itself

At the front of the garden.

A sort of “magic bean” situation.

Over this month I have cut dozens

Of blooms from this tower of sunshine.

It simply makes me smile

Everytime I look it’s way.

But the blooms have faded

And it’s setting seeds.

So I decided that today was the day

To chop it down.

After church I went out my back door

Only to be stopped in my tracks

By something glistening in the sunlight

It was large – really large.

A very industrious spider

Had spun a web on the side

Of the sunflower.

But the really amazing thing

Was that it connected the other side

Of the web

To the cedar tree TWENTY FIVE FEET away.

I’m not making this up.

My neigbor Torry and John

Are witnesses.

We have no idea

How this was accomplished

Simply a miracle

In my own backyard.

It reminds me of something Elliott said last week

When we had all climbed the side of a mountin

To help H & H look for fossils.

Some in our group scoured a big area

While H & H just kept digging

And looking in a small space around them.

Elliott noted that looking closesly

Right in front of our eyes.

Revealed more and more.

Looking closely.

Slowing down to observe.

Delighting in the mystery of nature.

Time well spent.

Gail

” When one tugs at a single thing in nature they find it attached to the rest of the world.”

John Muir

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HITTING PAUSE

It happens every year

About this time.

After months of puttering

In my garden

I know exactly the things

I want to change.

Things I want to dig up

And move around

Or give away.

I have a running list

In my head

And another on paper.

I have a list of people

Who want certain plants

And another list of those wonderful souls

Who will take anything.

I’m excited to dig in.

Except…

It is still August.

Much like mid March.

You can do a lot of damage

This time of year.

So I’ve hit pause.

I’ve cleaned the garden house.

Ordered bulbs

And more bulbs.

Deadheaded

And, of course, there are weeds.

Sometimes it’s best just to stop

Perhaps sit

And wait

For the right moment in time

To come to you.

Gail

“Adapt the pace of nature – her secret is patience.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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OPTIMISM

You may have noticed

That I haven’t written much

Over the last 18 + months.

I could blame it on the pandemic

But that is really not the case.

On a glorious Sunday

In early February of 2020

I took a nasty fall

From my attic.

Thankfully I bounced off a refrigerator

And a car

Slowing my fall

To the garage floor.

Breaking

Well…a lot.

Don’t worry

With lots of good medical care

And support

I have recovered.

I will admit though, that I have not been

The cheeriest person of late.

Not the full blown depression

I have experienced

And written about

In the past,

But a kind of dullness

That is not me.

This afternoon

As I was planting what will

Hopefully be

A fall crop of peas

There it was

My old friend optimism.

I must be really optimistic

To be planting peas

In Oklahoma

In August.

Then I remembered this picture

That Kristina sent me yesterday.

Last summer

I taught my grandson, Henry

How to save marigold seeds.

He’s a quick study.

What better picture

Of optimism

Than a child

Holding a glass full of seeds.

Gail

“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried,

but you’ve actually been planted.”

Christine Caine

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