The Ocean City Maryland shell defied our every effort. While looking at the beach pictures one more time, I came across the picture of the shell that got away. The whelk had come ashore during one of the tides and wedged itself between two breaker boulders. We probably spent over half an hour in gale force, sand pummeling winds trying to get our hands into the narrow isthmus to free the shell before the tide came in. Didn’t happen. That picture was certainly worth a thousand words, many unprintable.

The Ocean City Maryland shell defied our every effort. While looking at the beach pictures one more time, I came across the picture of the shell that got away. The whelk had come ashore during one of the tides and wedged itself between two breaker boulders. We probably spent over half an hour in gale force, sand pummeling winds trying to get our hands into the narrow isthmus to free the shell before the tide came in. Didn’t happen. That picture was certainly worth a thousand words, many unprintable.

Friday afternoon (Oct 25th) in pelting cold rain while standing in the Heart of the Japanese Garden, I planted a bright yellow chrysanthemum in front of the rock fountain. A spot of color in a wet sea of autumn drabness. The chrysanthemum, Kiku in Japanese, is the Imperial Family emblem and featured on the Imperial Seal of Japan. ‘Chrysos’ means gold, the original color of the first chrysanthemum and ‘Anthos’ is flower. In Japan, the chrysanthemum is considered the flower of autumn. The cherry blossom, the Sakura, is the flower of spring. The chrysanthemum in Japan has traditionally been crafted and cultured into elaborate horticultural shapes through meticulous guidance and pruning, employing techniques similar to those used in bonsai. A bonsai is trained for years, but the chrysanthemum only for months. In this country chrysanthemums are often trimmed to encourage blooming in autumn to brighten borders, gardens and landscapes as the countryside transitions into winter.

Early Saturday morning (Oct 26th) the Nikaho student delegation arrived at the Japanese Peace Garden. The site was still partially flooded from torrential rains that had previously fallen. It was a freezing, blustery morning and many of the delegates, both from Shawnee and Nikaho, Japan, were provided blankets and gloves to keep warm. Two strings of multi-colored origami cranes were placed on the Taylor Ricks redbud tree. Taylor died in an accident on December 16th 2011. He was a Shawnee student delegate who visited Nikaho, Japan in 2009 as part of the Sister Cities Exchange Program. The crane is considered a mythical long-lived creature in Japan. It is the ‘Bird of Happiness.’

After the brief ceremony, people then toured the soggy garden, stopping at the Tea House, the Heart and for pictures on the Bridge of Understanding. Host families then picked up the delegates for their next excursion at the Citizen Potawatomi Eagle Aviary.

Noon we drove to Tulsa to cheer on Ellie, geophysics student and one of the contestants in the University of Tulsa (TU) chili cookoff. TU students, faculty and staff concocted their best chilis for the competition. Two trestle tables were lined with crock pots and Dutch ovens. Spoons, small cups, crackers, chips, cornbread, even crème Brule and candy corn were available. Each chili had its own imaginative name reflecting the department or cook. At another table were hot dogs, cheese and fritos to go with the chilis. We sampled turkey, beef, venison, and vegetarian chilis. One chili was laced with a heavy dose of Samuel Adams. Loaded with South Asian spices was the pungent tangy non-traditional Indian (think India) chili. Ms Ellie’s rich beef and bean chili won the traditional category. She was elated as she received two 2019 Traditional Chili aprons and a goody bag for her superb effort.

Late afternoon, the clouds had departed and the sun shone brightly. TU Golden Hurricane played the Memphis Tigers. It was not only a home game but the TU homecoming. Alumni and students held tailgate get-togethers along the streets. In the large damp grass field of Chapman Commons were party tents. The large Official Homecoming Tent Party hosted by TU Alumni had free hamburgers and beer. The nearby stage, flanked by amplifiers and speakers, featured ‘My So Called Band,’ a retro 90’s tribute group. They played a diverse selection of songs with various instruments, vocalists, impressive drums and penetrating base.

The game started. Memphis took the lead, but Tulsa came back strong in the second half. Two seconds away from the end of the game, Memphis was one point ahead. Tulsa had positioned themselves in the center for the game-winning 29 yard field goal. The red-shirt freshman kicked the ball, it veered off to the side, and Memphis won the game. Heartbreak at TU.

This past week’s big project was the new greenhouse. The two lemon trees had run their course in the green plastic bubble and one had managed to send shoots out the side and top. Pushing them through the front door into the house for another winter had been met with loud protests. The money saved for a spring trip to the Netherlands and Keukenhof Park with seven million tulip, daffodil and other bulbs exploding into vivid colors was reluctantly re-directed.

Big Creek Nursery and Landscape outside of Cushing, OK, was established in 2009. You’ve seen their greenhouses around town. The 8’ x 16’ greenhouse they delivered three years ago had been prebuilt to our specifications. The hothouse has done an admirable job. At least the Plumeria, Hibiscus, pineapples, spider plants, ferns and other tropicals have survived the winters.

My idea for the ‘Lemonery’ deviated from the standard design. Big Creek had to plan a different approach. The greenhouse would be 8’ x 10’ but needed additional ventilation since the trees would be year-round residents. It had to be built onsite behind the other greenhouse and constructed around the lemon trees. A tall order.

Big Creek came through. Alvie, seven years a Master Craftsman with Big Creek, his wife and young son arrived in a large Ford pickup pulling an auburn colored horse trailer filled with lumber and pre-made sections. Stacked with the wood was enough blue metal edging, sheets of double-walled polycarbonate panels, two doors with windows and six automatic opening windows to cover the 8’ x 10’ greenhouse.

In six hours the plastic bubble had been moved away and the greenhouse was finished. Inside, the trees spread out in all directions trying to reach to the sky. They like being outdoors. I hope the two stay warm and cozy through the autumn and winter. To keep them company I moved in three red sages and some Nasturtiums, all still in bloom.

Twelve universities, colleges and schools (including Oklahoma Baptist University) have the bison as mascot. Today is National Bison Day, celebrated the first Saturday every November.

North American bison were hunted nearly to extinction, from 30 million to 541 animals, by 1888. Not only is the bison an important symbol of this country, but the species is helping preserve the Tallgrass prairies. Today the 25th roundup is being held at The Nature Conservancy’s J. H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north of Pawhuska. The herd of feisty bovines is annually culled to maintain a target population while all animals are given check-ups, weighed and vaccinated.

The last bison that lived in the area was killed in 1851. From the original 300 bison brought to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve years ago, now 2,500 bison call the Preserve home, home on the range.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.