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Newman’s Castle

Grandson is no stranger to castles. He has read about Harry Potter’s where Hogwarts School is located and he has visited Disney’s castle at Disneyland. The former he has read about and watched in the movies The Sorcerer’s Stone and then again with The Chamber of Secrets. The latter brings good memories of living close to Anaheim, the home of Disneyland. So when I learned about Newman’s Castle not ten miles from us, I knew we would be visiting.

We stopped by Newman’s Bakery in town to pick up a kolache and make our reservation to visit the castle and have lunch. The castle? Yes, there’s a castle in the neighborhood. Newman’s Castle. It’s the home and labor of love of Mike Newman who owns the local bakery. We picked up some kolaches and more, then we looked for a red clay road off a nearby highway.

Wildflowers and this gate greeted us.

“There it is!” grandson cried out filled with the anticipation of what we were about to visit. “It has a catapult and a moat!”

Max, a border collie, and Avalon, a wolf dog met us. Max immediately engaged us dropping a stick at our feet wanting to play fetch. We all obliged until the ceremony began.

“Pick up a sword so you can be knighted,” King Mike Newman instructed. Grandson chose his and King Newman schooled the children standing in line about the virtues of a knight or dame. One by one the king of this castle knighted the children. They had questions to ask and so did the adults witnessing the scene.

“When did you start building the castle?”

“In 1998 but it’s not finished yet. Right now, I work out here after the visitors leave on the bell tower. I imagine I’ll keep adding things. There’s always something to work on or build.”

“What is the castle made of?”

“Cinder block reinforced with cement and rebar. You’ll see some mill cut lumber when we go inside.”

“Does the drawbridge work?”

“Yes, it does.”


“How about the catapult? Does it work?” The children followed him and with the help of his assistant Sir Joseph, a giant rock flew across the moat and landed just short of the walls.”

“I think you took out some lily pads,” grandson observed.

“Are you ready to go inside?” King Mike asked. The children ran to the drawbridge.

We continued the tour visiting the dungeon that included stocks, a bed of nails and a cage where humans could be hung in a standing position.

We walked along the cloisters, stepping into the long dining hall which serves as a reception area for various venues, wedding receptions and dinner theater performances, too. I walked further and sat on a pew of the small chapel. A statue of St. Francis greeted us at the threshold. It was a lovely spot to sit for a while. Outside I could hear the children running through the courtyard.

The children climbed up into the living quarters some four stories up and looked through the tower windows surveying the grounds they had already explored.

From the tower window

From the tower window

We made our way to the kitchen area where lunch and all kinds of baked goodies awaited us. While we ate, King Mike entertained us with tales of knights, chivalry and dragons. Grandson volunteered to play the part of a dragon with King Mike’s direction.

Back at the farm I pulled the book From the Tower Window off the book shelf. Out on the back porch I read a few tales which I hadn’t read in ages. There I found the tales of Beowulf, Joan of Arc, A Tale of King Arthur: Sir Gareth Beaumains, the Kitchen Knight and more heroic deeds. I thought about how dreams can come true and various labors of love can come to fruition. Like crazy Don Quijote, King Newman is inspiring the visitors to his unlikely place in Texas.

Good Fences 23

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The kitchen floor needed attention as it often does. It leads to the back door and there’s a lot of traipsin’ in and out that door. I usually use my Shark or my Kobeler with the rotating brushes. But one recent morning I used Molly Mop. After she had done her job I looked for a suitable place to dry her out, so I placed her on top of the corner of the fence where she could get full sun. A little while later I looked in her direction and saw this.

It was blazing hot outside.

It was blazing hot outside.

“Yeah,” my husband quipped, “it’s a cool 103 degrees outside and I thought Molly needed some SPF.”

My husband cracks me up out here in the country.

Located along the Brazos River, Washington on the Brazos is the birthplace of Texas. It was where 59 delegates signed their Declaration of Independence from Mexico and then drafted their constitution to form the Republic of Texas. These citizens of the Republic were called Texians. The Republic lasted from March 2, 1836 to February 19, 1846. Texas was annexed by the US on December 29 of 1845.

Enjoying his last few days of relative “freedom from school,” grandson and I took the drive along the Texas Independence Trail to another Washington. He helped me snap photos along the way. No traffic was held up while I stopped and he hung out the window to take what interested him or me.

The brown sign indicates we're almost there and the blue sign marks the Texas Independence Trail.

The brown sign indicates we’re almost there and the blue sign marks the Texas Independence Trail.

After a short drive from us, we arrived and walked up to the Star of the Republic Museum in anticipation of visiting a building in the shape of a star. Grandson was not disappointed as he pointed out two points of the star. In effect the building is circular and doors lead to 5 outdoor decks that form the five points of the star of the Republic of Texas and the state Lonestar.

Stars greeted us at the entrance.

And, a docent gave grandson two sheets front and back of scavenger hunt questions. He set out to answer almost all the questions.

The animals -bears, deer, iguana and buffalo, surveyor instruments – compass, navigation instruments – more compasses, sextant, astrolabe and the school house displays captured his attention.

We stayed for several hours. There are more sights to see on the grounds and I assured him we would come back to see more…maybe spring break or a weekend. We had to get back to the city where he lives for a “meet the teacher” event and back to school on Monday.

Good Fences 22

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Look up. Look all around. I’m seeing stars lately.

On a clear night, if we look up into the night sky, we see stars. During the day if we look all around we see stars, too.

On my drive to the college for the start of semester classes, this is just some of what I saw.

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Link up with Roan

Linking up with Roan.

We had company this past weekend, both daughters, son-in-law and our two grandsons. When Dor from Virginia Views posted this salad recipe, I knew I was putting it on the menu along with the steak and potato salad. Check her recipe out, “A Magical Mandarin Salad.” I loved the last line of her recipe “Serve in a pretty salad bowl and mix at the table.” So I looked for a pretty bowl, one that would be different and unfamiliar, one that would surprise every one and remind us of Grandma K’s presence at the table. I decided on this one!

It's a pretty one, isn't it?  It's over 75 years old, a wedding present from 1938.

It’s a pretty one, isn’t it? It’s over 75 years old, a wedding present from 1938.

Then we mixed it at the table and it became this. Thank you, Dor. It was delicious and magical.

The smallest one at our table didn’t eat the salad. But he did play with this train set and these blocks from when Papa was his age.

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And he played with these.

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Thank you Roan for hosting.

Remembering Susie Sneakers I realize, I have become Annie Ariats out here in the country.

“I’ve got to be prepared,” I tell myself, “for fire ants.” Those tiny red devils chomp a bite leaving me to itch for hours or days. They leave blisters, too.

These Ariats do duty.

These Ariats do duty.

Susie Sneakers was a twelve-year-old girl in the juvenile fiction novel of the same name written by Scott Corbett. She went to visit her Aunt Sally, Uncle Gurney, cousins Blake and Julia at Cape Cod from the Midwest. Being from the Midwest she just couldn’t bring herself to dip into the ocean without her sneakers on. She hated the thought of who knows what nibbling at her toes. She didn’t like the scratchy bottom where broken shells lay that scratched her heels and barefoot soles. She also, didn’t care for fish nibbling at her ankles and calves but never gave in to wearing long pants to swim and wade in the ocean.

Yes, this Annie is wearing her Ariats and gloves too, to protect against spiders. Rick tells me there are little black widows in the rocks by the gate and reminds me to be careful. And then there’s the night he walked in through the back door announcing, “I don’t want to alarm you but I just killed a copperhead in the driveway.”

Surveying my dress for the day, shorts, my boots and thick socks, my girlie-girl daughter asked me, “What are you wearing?”

“My Ariats,” I reply. “I just can’t go barefoot outside of the house or wear flip-flops beyond the fence.”

“I hope you don’t go out [the gate] like that.”

“No, dear, I wear sandals to town.”

I’m getting better. Sometimes I see a bite, a scratch or blister and ask myself “hmmm…how did that happen?”

The black, flying form of a dirt dobber doesn’t phase me. But the yellow markings on a similar form warn me that’s a wasp buzzing around. I remain still, very still or if he insists on flitting about I carefully dash into the house.

A couple of weeks ago, on a conference call and just before break, I had to announce, “Excuse me, you all, there’s a wasp sharing desk space with me in the window casing. I’m stepping away for a can of Raid.”

And then, there are the harmless creatures: dragonflies, cardinals, mockingbirds, humming birds, lizards, frogs, bunnies.

Good Fences 21

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Over the back yard fence one can see what cows can do to the land stirring it up. At times they stampede through it if startled, but usually they just amble slowly and sure-footedly through the hard crusted dirt toward the soft Bermuda and Mexia along its tracks. The fence to the side of this small stretch of turned-up-earth casts a shadow looking like a train trestle promising a smooth ride. However, as grandson and I made our way to the little barn to stow away Rudolph and the wire angel for Christmas, he took a tumble in the hard crusted earth.
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Last March after a good rainstorm, they muzzled and rubbed up on the gate that keeps them out of the yard. The latch loosened and they did what cows do, they just ambled toward another grass that doesn’t grow in the pastures, the lush, rich green St. Augustine of the farm house lawn! We walk with caution now so as not to catch a hoof hole. When we go to the back pastures in the Gator, Rick shovels up a load of “sand” and one by one we fill in the holes.

The front gate along the road is open. That’s all right; there’s a cattle guard they don’t attempt to walk over. BUT the gate to the yard stays closed…at least around late afternoon and early evening when the cows come up from the back. Good gate.

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Here I was back in June just five days after moving.

This looks like the Brooklyn Bridge because it was designed by John A. Roebling, the engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge.

This looks like the Brooklyn Bridge because it was designed by John A. Roebling, the engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge.

No, I didn’t move to Cincinnati nor was I visiting New York. I had taken a flight for my consulting job in Ohio. No sooner had I gotten off the plane and settled into our hotel with my roommate when I heard from Patty. She’s our unofficial social director each year. She has an agenda for each day. Just hook up with her and you’re bound to have a great time.
Roommate and I decided to join her. We met in the lobby happy to see one another after another year, and walked to The Great American Ball Park. She knew the way, but really all we had to do was follow the red shirts.
Once we bought our tickets, we entered the gates and found freebies galore: dog tags courteous of the US Army, free t-shifts, and lanyards. Roommate was happy to collect gifts for her children and I was happy to collect items for grandson.
We made our way to the nosebleed section as Rick calls it, and what a view!

At the Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati Reds Stadium, June, 2014

At the Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati Reds Stadium, June, 2014


The view of the Ohio River to the right of us.  Wow!

The view of the Ohio River to the right of us. Wow!


There was a lot to follow on the stat board.  They were having a good June and yes, they won that night against the Dodgers.

There was a lot to follow on the stat board. They were having a good June and yes, they won that night against the Dodgers.


Although there was a lot of action on the field, I continued to gaze towards to the river into the night.

Although there was a lot of action on the field, I continued to gaze towards the river into the night.

Grandson stayed with us last week.

I took him into town to visit the library and from the backseat of the car, I heard him announce, “When I own the farm I’m going to buy a John Deere mailbox.”

I told his mother and she confirmed, “Yes, he has plans.”
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“Honey, you know what a colander is, don’t you?”

“Yes. It’s a bowl with holes in it.”

“Good. Well, will you take the colander and throw it over the fence,” I asked him.

Incredulously he asked, “The whole thing?”

Keeping a straight face, I clarified. “No, baby, just what’s in it…the banana peels, chicken bones and egg shells.”

Note: A garbage disposal is coming after work on the pipes is finished.
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Saturday was so cool I traded my tank top and shorts in favor of a t-shirt and jeans. Unlike any day in 2011 when every day was scorching hot and there was very little water, it rained Friday night and the temps registered in the cool 70’s.

This grand old tree was here just three years ago, tall and huge offering shade to the cows who drank by the pond below it for many years. In 2011 the front pond couldn’t even quench a thirst. [Click for greater clarity.]

It offered shade in 2011 although the pond couldn't even return the favor.

It offered shade in 2011 although the pond couldn’t even muster up a drop of water.

It was here in 2011 and then gone by the next year. It appears to be a skeleton of what it was.

Rick entered the house through the back door. “Walter [the local tree guy] drove up again in his Mercedes (brand new Dodge truck) wanting to take it down. He wants to clean up more in front of the fence.”

Like cleaning up after Hurricane Ike, we are still clearing from the drought.

The Cow Parade

The show continues some two months after my last post. We’re here, finally here just outside our small town off our farm to market road Rick calls Buckhorn Boulevard. This week a huge snapping turtle has joined me for coffee. One day he walked up to the back porch, made his way closely around the perimeter of the house finding the taller grass Rick had not edged yet, and this morning he came back again making his way to who knows where — towards the back pond? He has a ways to go if his GPS leads him to another watering hole, nevertheless I have noticed he makes remarkable progress walking the width of the yard. I think he just may find the back pond.

We too, are making progress. What an adventure unpacking, cleaning cupboards, finding a new home for the things we want to keep. Even after the move we are boxing up loads of stuff we realize we don’t need here. Once here, it’s so much easier to part with it. I find it no problem here taking photos out of frames, putting the images from long ago in a suitable album to place them in; the frames are being stowed in a box marked Yard Sale. I tie an orange plastic ribbon around the boxes so Rick knows they go back to the garage for the country Yard Sale.

In the afternoon I watch a mockingbird gather sticks for a nest she is building. One twig is a tad long and she awkwardly flutters into the branches of the oak above her. I see a twig fall from the branches down to the ground. She returns to retrieve it and tries again. hmmmm…I don’t see it fall out of the tree again. Success.

Rick and I are finding the perfect space for my treasures. Remember Nooks and Crannies I Shall Miss? Sometimes we place and or hang things, then we find a better place. Don Crowley’s Morning Fire occupies the perfect wall in the great room. Michael Atkinson’s Emerald Lake with its aspen trees and river canyon find a place over the guest bed. The storytellers and singing mothers occupy a shelf by the fireplace. We are making this place our own.

In the evening between 6:00 and 6:30 like clockwork two bunnies come out to play. I see them while working at my desktop from my hexagonal table nestled in the corner of our bedroom with a window to the East and a window to the South. I run out carefully to the back porch to snap some photos picking up Rick’s camera as it zooms in so much better than mine.

Rick goes into town daily it seems to pick up plumbing supplies, crushed granite for the stone walkway he’s laying, the necessary screw or bolt to put things back together. One day we went to another town nearby to scope out Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Tractor Supply and the local creamery. We have discovered the local Mexican restaurant. They tell us they have been there for eight years. How can it be we thought they were the “new” restaurant in town?

Our dear friends from another state, drove down in their motor home after celebrating her mother’s 103rd birthday. What a great day we spent together in completely different surroundings from the city house. They left seeing our vision. My mother, brother and SIL come to visit. They comment on our progress and are satisfied Georgette and Rick are doing fine. In fact they’re doing more than fine. In spite of all the work, in spite of the fact the clay pipes have collapsed and require trenching to replace the old, in spite of the fact the kitchen sink was clogged, in spite of the fact the roof leaks, they see our vision. They now share our vision. First order of business, a new roof; then, the pipes must be excavated. Then a new water heater and water softener must be replaced. The kitchen needs attention, too.

The cows come up from the back pastures in the early evening. Sometimes they take a path around the west fence, sometimes they take the one over the south and east fence.

I love that our days are marked by the snapping turtle, the mockingbird, the bunnies and the cows.

It’s all an adventure. City parades usually occur in the morning; ours continues all day long. It is hard work, and we sleep soundly at the end of the day.

The cow parade, July 2014

The cow parade, July 2014

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