December 2007

We’re creating a new program and wonder what you think of the idea.

We’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and so we’re going to offer six one-day workshops beginning in February to help folks experience how to build and garden in a raised bed.

We’re calling it “Growing Your Own Vegetables in Small Spaces.” It will be on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m at at Turtle Rock Farm in Oklahoma. One in February, two in March, one in April and then two in August for fall planting.

What do you think? Are you ready to come to the country and learn to grow some fresh veggies without pesticides???


The first snow I saw this year was in New York City. I was there last week for a class. It had been awhile since I’d been there – about 25 years. My most memorable moment during an earlier visit was standing in an office building on a cold day waiting for a ride. As I stood there for half an hour or so, I watched a revolving glass door that never stopped turning, there were so many people entering the building. In that short period, an ambulance arrived and carried someone out on a stretcher. That had added to my sense of frenzy and even danger.

Nevertheless, I felt excited about the trip last week. Didn’t know why. I was perfectly content enjoying the quiet life here at Turtle Rock Farm. It had been a lovely autumn and I had no need to leave the pastoral setting where I find so much joy, where I feel so connected to Life.

In New York City, we were housed in what was formerly an immigrant settlement house during the days when young single women arrived at Ellis Island and had no place to go. An amazing woman named Alma Matthews would take them in, help them find a job and a place to live. This former settlement house – now two connected brownstones in the West Village – was given to the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, which uses it for visiting folks and small conferences.

The streets in the West Village are familiar from romantic movies of Manhattan: colorful leaf-bedecked sidewalks, streetlights, the charming houses, trees with ivy growing around them, narrow streets, folks walking their dogs or pushing baby carriages (or both,) couples walking side-by-side engaged in intimate conversation, café windows close to the sidewalk where folks inside enjoy a book and a cup of coffee or engaging conversation with friends.

Sunday morning we woke up to a lovely snowfall and as we walked to Church of the Village for worship, it was exciting to be walking down the picturesque street in the beautiful snow. The whole week was lovely. We took the subway to Harlem, the ferry to Staten Island to visit projects where folks are effectively dealing with justice issues. We walked a lot, for miles – as do all New Yorkers, no matter the snow, no matter the cold wind. You just bundle up and go. New Yorkers are hearty folks.

I enjoyed every moment of my stay. And that was absolutely amazing to me. How could someone who loves living the rural life, someone who needs to be in the country, enjoy so much such an urban environment?

I think something changed for me last week: I realized that it’s not a matter of deciding which is better. It’s not a matter of critiquing one to prove that the other is best. That long-running debate over which is better, the country or the city, has ended for me. We just decide where we need or want to be at the moment; we don’t have to figure out which one is best.

This is important, not only for my own peace of mind and heart, but for our conflicted world: There are wonderful aspects to every place, as well as valuable aspects to each person’s point of view. We don’t have to convince others that our choices are the best.

Seeing one star at night out the window of the fourth floor of the brownstone was a connection for me to my own backyard here at the farm. But for once it didn’t occur to me to criticize the fact that you can see only one star – and rarely, in the city lights. I was thrilled to see the one I did.

I was sharing with one of the people in my class, who had lived in New York City awhile, about our eco-spirituality and environmental justice ministry here at Turtle Rock Farm. I firmly believe that it is Earth-saving, species-saving, that we connect with creation. I told her that while I think that Earth and everyone absolutely would be better if we all could connect with nature on a regular basis at places like Turtle Rock Farm, it is humbling to realize that there are millions of people who can’t do that.

She told me that they do connect with nature, just in a different way. There’s that star; those orange and yellow leaves on the sidewalk. There’s the snow (I happened along a school later in the week that was letting out just as another snowfall came and watched the happy children catch the flakes on their tongues.) There’s Central Park. I saw squirrels. Lots of folks had dogs and cats. I saw roses blooming in the snow in the flowerpots that lined the steep steps up to our brownstone.

I came home to sleet and snow and thunder and lightning – all at the same time; it felt good to be home. And I loved that week in New York City.

13 December 2007