Okie Adventures: Fort Reno Ghost Tour

One of my quirks is that my favorite travel activity is to seek out and attend ghost tours. This has nothing at all to do with whether I believe in ghosts, and everything about discovering the quirky histories of the places I visit and learning trivia about a city’s often otherwise-overlooked nooks and crannies. Several years ago I even took a ghost tour of my own hometown and wound up in places I’d never seen before. Ever since then I’ve been hooked.

Unfortunately I have no idea if the Oklahoma City ghost tour I took so long ago is so active (It was organized by Ghouli, back then). But this year, in honor of Halloween, I sought out another Oklahoma ghost tour at Fort Reno.

I’d never even been to Fort Reno before, and it would have been wise to arrive early and go through the history center before the tour… however family events intervened (as sometimes happens). We instead arrived just in time. Which turned out to be early, since they started a wee late.

The tour was three hours long. For the first hour, we watched a series of presentations in an open air stage. We got a brief history of the fort, an introduction to all of the staff, and an introduction to ghost hunting. At some point during this, a very amusing headless horseman appeared, shouted “Y’all seen my head?” threw something into the crowd and galloped away. (My personal favorite part of course)

After that we were split into groups, with each tour guide carrying a lantern. We walked to each building of the fort and were told about the building’s history and paranormal activity. Our tour guide, in two locations, did a “knock test” and tried to get ghosts to communicate with us. Rumor has it there was a knock during the first test but I didn’t hear it!

For the finale we caravanned to the fort’s cemetery where a re-enactor explained how the cemetery was laid out, why the headstones were facing an interesting direction, and why the POWs were in a separate section. We also learned stories about some of the people buried there. There was some spooky story about having a ghost follow you after touching a particular tombstone, and a volunteer was taken out to try it.

Well, you can probably guess that we didn’t see any ghosts. I did, however, get to see and learn about a cool Oklahoma location that I’d never visited before. To me, the real moral of this story is that I really need to go back during the day time and take a more thorough look and go through the museum. When I go back, I also intend to ask why the fort has no walls. I thought that was what a fort was? A secure, walled-in strong hold? If you go to Fort Reno, you should know… the fort has no fort walls. It is like a little town of historic buildings, all on its own in the country. Except this little town aided in securing Indian Territory and played roles in the two World Wars.  


CSA and Cooking Pumpkin

I LOVE pumpkin! My all-time favorite pumpkin recipes are sweets (pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pasties, and pumpkin butter), but for CSA pumpkins, my favorite recipes are pumpkin puree (which is then used or frozen) and pumpkin curry stew.

Pureed Pumpkin
Bake pumpkins, whole, in the oven at 350 until they are soft when you poke them with a fork.I left the little pumpkin below in the oven for an hour, but it probably would have been fine at around the 45 minute mark.
Remove and let cool.
Them remove skin, scoop out the seeds, and chop into cubes.
Puree in blender.
Here I am baking the pumpkin and sweet potatoes at the same time.

You can see the color change in the pumpkin and the holes where my fork easily pierced the skin, indicating that it is done cooking.

Pumpkin Curry Stew adapted from Martha Stewart
3 tbsp canola oil
1 onion finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp curry poweder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 cups halved cherry or golden tomatoes, or 2 chopped large tomatoes
2/3 cup water
1 small pumpkin, chopped
1/2 cup – 1 cup of pumpkin puree, to taste
1 can of red kidney beans or 1 chopped chicken breast
1 sliced carrot
2 chopped potatoes
1-2 spicy peppers, seeded and chopped

Either follow Martha Stewart's directions for cooking, or put ingredients in a crockpot on high and add enough water to cover. If using the crockpot method, give it a stir every so often to prevent burning, and turn the heat down to medium after a couple of hours.


Cooking Adventures with Community Supported Agriculture

CSA Haul from 1 week in September: Okra, tomatoes, onion, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, eggs, watermelon, butternut squash, and orange bell peppers

One more year of our Berry Creek Farm CSA has come to an end. (Learn about their CSA here, or see my previous posts about it here)   This is my second year with the CSA and I’ve learned a lot. I was amazed at the different types of produce we got from the CSA this year than last year! With the kinder weather and whatever the farmer was doing differently, we had a wider variety of produce types throughout the season, and several different types of veggies and fruits in each bag (along with our fantastic eggs).

I have found this experience to be far different from grocery shopping. And I think this CSA, more than anything else (ever), has made me comfortable in the kitchen. Because not only did I have to eat things I’d never tried before, I had to learn to make dishes with them. Even more – if I made, say one eggplant dish I didn’t like, instead of giving up on eggplant, I would have to keep trying different recipes until I FOUND a way to like it! Because like it or not, we would keep getting that same vegetable each week as long as it was in season, so I had to learn how to eat and enjoy them all.

If there was something we already liked (for example, cucumber), I still had to find new ways to prepare it because after a looooong robust cucumber season we were starting to get tired of the usual ways of munching it. Along similar lines, I had to learn what would freeze well and what would not. Some things freeze, but just aren’t as good thawed, or when thawed should only be cooked a certain way (boiled into soup, pureed, diced into a baked dish or sauce) to disguise texture changes.

I also had to learn how to improvise in the kitchen for meals. This is something I could already do to an extent, but doing it with items that I’m less familiar with (like eggplant) took a lot more thinking! (I can tell you that stir frying eggplant was not a good idea, but doing the same with okra, if done with care, can come out ok).

This week I’m going to post some of our favorite CSA produce-using recipes. Some are healthier than others – we are fine lovers of things rich and cheesy, and some of our favorites reflect that. I hope you enjoy it!


Best Recycling Ever! - Box House Gift

Last weekend was my nephew's first birthday party. It was perfectly timed a couple of weeks after my husband bought a new mini-fridge to accomodate his brewing hobby. So of course you know what we were thinking.


My husband and I had a lot of fun putting this together last week.

Features of this piece of real estate are:
  •  Leftover primer gives it a shiny white base coat!
  • Monster duct tape to reinforce edges and corners and seal flaps and creases
  • Toilet paper tubes and tissues make the chimney
  • Bicycle horn acts as doorbell
  • Tap-light LEDs inside for fun and illumination
  • Used extra cardboard and jumbo brad paper fastener to create a spinning color wheel
  • Fake flowers can be put in and out of holes in the flower box
  • The welcome mat is a place mat written on with permanent marker
  • Sharpie, paint pens, magazine cuttings, and contact paper for finishing touches
  • Signed by the artist
  • Our favorite part - a secret Martian landscape!
Both the nephew and his two-year old cousin loved the house! The nephew got really interested when he saw there was a light inside. I was surprised that *both* babies managed to fit in there at once. They sat in there side by side, banging blocks together and throwing things out the little windows. I'm not sure how long the silk flowers will last, but they will be fun for a time. I was also amazed that the box was sturdy enough for the nephew to pull himself up on the door and use it for balance. :)


Lessons in Composting

I’ve been learning to compost over the past year or two. Can it really be as easy as throwing things in a pile and waiting for them to turn to dirt? Here’s what I’ve learned.

The Construction
·         Acquired discarded pallets from Craigslist
·         Attached them together with L-brackets, one for each side, one for the bottom.
·         Used a staple gun to line them with landscaping fabric (to help hold the soil in)
·         Used a hinge to attach the front pallet, allowing it to swing open.
·         Create the starter pile: I used a couple bags of soil and leaf rakings as starter substrate and acquired some red worms from a coworker and added them to the mix.
My compost... black, happy, in-progress compost on the left, raw materials/dirt on the right.

The Execution
·         Posted the do’s and dont’s of composting on the fridge
·         Set a plastic tub by the sink to collect kitchen waste.
·         When tub is full, it is taken outside to the compost pile:
o        I dig a little hole and fill it with the waste…
o        then I cover it back up with dirt.
·         Turn the Pile with a big shovel: I play this part by ear. It isn’t needed often - the worms do most of the work.

The Tips:
·         Make sure the pile doesn’t dry out too much – I watered it a few times during the hot dry summer.
·         If you give yourself access to the openned end of the bottom/base pallet, you can slide a large try in there to catch compost tea in when the rain soaks through. I was not smart enough to design it this way, but I wish I would have been!
·         Did you know worms can overwinter in an above-ground pile of dirt? They could at my house.
·         As long as I kept the waste covered up with a nice layer of “browns”, there was no compost stink and no flies.

The Mistake!
It worked really nicely, for over a year. Just stellar. Rich dark dirt from a happy worm metropolis.


I had heard that you can put eggshells in compost, and I finally got up the courage to try it. I put what I thought to be clean, dry eggshells into the compost for a few weeks in June. Then one day, when I dig my little compost hole, I notice that there are what appear to be some type of large beetle larvae swarming the eggshells that I uncovered. ACK! OMG! No more eggshells in the compost for me – not ever. Maybe you guys can do it right. But I won’t do it anymore. That was gross. Like a scene from The Mummy or something.

Not long after this, my worms disappeared. I don’t know if they got too hot or too dry or the larvae ate them, but they’re gone. Sad face. I really had to slow down how much waste I was putting into the compost with the worms are gone. Some of our produce rinds had to (gasp!) go straight to the dump. Shameful.  

Completed compost, freshly added to the flower bed!
The Recovery!
Magically the worms reappeared. It took a long time – so long that I was thinking of going out to buy some, say, 2-3 months or so. I still don’t have as many worms as I used to. My guess is that there were some egg sacks remaining which hatched.

Reaping the Rewards
I built several new garden beds this spring and used almost all of my compost. I left a small amount for my new starter and then started over the same as I had the previous year. By fall, I had created enough  that add a load to an existing bed as a soil amendment.

I am currently using the right-hand bin as a “raw materials” bin. We dug a large hole in our yard to install a doggie waste device (I am strange, I know) and all the clay that we dug up is in this bin. I am slowly adding the clay into the compost pile, so that the worms can eat it up and mix it together with all the good stuff.  So far, so good.


Exciting Times for Exciting Folks

"Wandering Jew" blooming like crazy in my yard...

Happy October, everyone!

I’ve been taking a blog-cation… but I’ve had some adventures along the way, which I’ll get more into later. Some of my favorite adventures while I’ve been away:

  • ·         Getting a new roof with reflective, energy efficient shingles
  • ·         Taking a Spokies bicycle tour of Downtown OKC
  • ·         Hosting a Swap and Wine-Tasting Party
  • ·         Learning to make pumpkin puree from scratch
  • ·         Making the perfect pumpkin curry stew
  • ·         Planting blackberry bushes
  • ·         Attending a Wine and Palette painting class with a buddy
  • ·         Buying beeswax candles (shopping spree here and here!)
  • ·         Babysitting my nephew and watching him learn to walk

I wanted to throw a quick shout out and let you know that I’m still here and I’ll be back into the regular weekly posting business quickly – starting today!
Happy Snail on Happy Pumpkin, 2008

I also wanted to gush about the weather. Isn’t this Oklahoma weather we’ve had lately worth celebrating? It’s warmer than expected for October still (depending on your expectations) but the RAIN! Ho, Celebrate The Rain! All this beautiful rain and the cooler-than-broiling temperatures have really given my garden new life – it’s like a second spring! My marigolds, kale, and peppers are happier and healthier than they have been all year. The one cold snap did under my cantaloupes, but they produced like champs before that happened. Why have I not been out hiking this month? Truly, what is wrong with me?

The weather yesterday was so incredible that I did everything I could think of to the garden before I went back in – transplanted, weeded, even turned over the compost and did some soil amendment. Oy, I have a gorgeous patch of dirt now.

I have my next few posts planned out – Adventures in Composting, CSA’s Season End, the Swap Party, and my new energy-saving (I hope) roof!  I am thinking of doing a special Halloween post as an  OkieAdventures segment. I’ll just leave you hanging in suspense on that.