Our July-August Newsletter
Summer (Sorta) at Turtle Rock Farm


At dinner a week ago,
during the Sisters of Earth conference,
there was a buzz around the table,
welling excitement in the air:
“Have you heard Sara Thomsen before?”
Many had; I hadn’t.
We are in for a wonderful evening,
they pronounced.

Sara actually arrived for our concert
in Leavenworth, KS, from Oklahoma!
From Okemah; from the Woodie Guthrie festival,
where her song, “Precious Water” had won
third place in the songwriting contest.
From Duluth, Minnesota, Sara has been
writing and singing for years. She is truly
a folk singer/songwriter: singing boldly,
and beautifully, of the social issues,
and the wonders, of our time.

I have been playing her music all week because,
in her music I experience exactly
what she describes in the liner notes for her latest album,
“A Song is Somewhere to Begin:”

The singing is not about the song
The song is a vehicle, instrument, passageway
To propel us, move us, shake us,
beckon and break us
open, to wander where our hearts want to lead
Present, Open, Aware, Engaged, Caring
Able to witness the wondrous and horrific world
Around, within, and about us.


Sara is engaged—bringing song to protests, to teaching
and healing. With the community choir she guides,
Echoes of Peace, she traveled to Iraq,
to Halabja, one of the villages where people died
from chemical weapons.
That song is on her latest album. (The Iraqi voice in the recording
is that of the poet reciting his poem. Sara recorded him on her cell phone
during the visit.)
Other songs on the new album include “Precious Water,”
commissioned by a community in Minnesota
protesting a mining project near the Boundary Waters Wilderness
and “Between the Clotheslines,” written
for an environmental awareness event. (It points to the fact that
sixty million Americans are banned from hanging their laundry out to dry.)
I also love the title track from the latest album “Somewhere to Begin”
and the children’s calypso lullaby: “The Heartbeat Drum.”
You can find her story and her music on her website: www.sarathomsen.com

Here are recordings and videos of a collection of her songs.
“Halabja” and “Address” is a beautiful song Sara wrote from the words
of the poet who lived in the the Iraqi village the day
the wind brought deadly chemicals.
The images of the villagers are very strong.
“A Woman’s Place” celebrates women globally.
“By Breath” speaks to the connectedness of the great web of life on the planet.


Ann’s garden in the high tunnel
has so far escaped grasshopper
A few grasshoppers have found the plants—
big yellow ones fling themselves
from leaves—but
the invasion has not reached a critical
So we are enjoying tomatoes, chard, basil,
cucumbers, eggplant, peppers…

We know from friends who are the most successful
organic gardeners
we know
that grasshoppers are not only destroying the plants
but are also eating the row covers
covering the plants to protect them
from grasshoppers.

This is the third year of our grasshopper
devastation. This is a cool, wet summer; and
we thought they thrived in a dry and hot
Turns out, as weather changes,
due to climate change
due to global warming,
the grasshoppers are an indicator species
for scientists. And turns out,
grasshoppers develop better in
warmer temperatures. And,
there are grasshoppers
who like cool-weather climates. And,
because weather is changing,
grasshoppers are re-distributing. They’re
on the move—and longer summers,
give them that opportunity. We might have
cool-weather grasshoppers
this year!

So…It’s not simply the giant devastating events—
fires, floods, extreme storms—
that point to the impact of changes in climate;
these masses of chomping, flingy
insects do too.
One benefit of grasshoppers
in the prairie ecosystem:
more food for birds.
So, while humans have to figure out
how to grow food in changing conditions—
why aren’t we in the U.S. cooking those grasshoppers?!—
people in other cultures love them—
the prairie birds are happy.
Yay! More birds!

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