July 2008

Following an inch of rain last night –
Hallelujah! –
I was pulling unwanted growth
from the stone path
front porch
when I heard a racket over to my left.
A bright green cicada had been attacked.
The predator was gorgeous too:
deep maroon and black body, the shape of a dragonfly’s –
only thicker and longer;
separated, deep black, bug-out eyes,
like a damselfly;
long, spiky legs,
like a robber wasp.

The cicada had succumbed.

I didn’t have my camera to capture it,
so I caught it in a small plastic tub,
which was not good for the insect.
As I observed,
it stared at me with
penetrating eyes.
I let it go immediately.

Can’t name it.
So can’t learn about it.
So can’t understand it
except to say
everyone eats.


Making the changes necessary to live sustainably is getting exciting. More time and attention required, but worth it – not because we’ll benefit materially, but “worth it” because we care about creation and all that entails.

Ours is the transition phase. Living sustainably will benefit creation, including our children and grandchildren. It’s a spiritual motivation that compels us, step-by-step, to make changes in the way we live, so that others will also, so that God’s blessing of creation will thrive. The more physical work is “worth” the soulful fulfillment.

The changes required for sustainable farming are mind-boggling, for they require a fundamental shift – a paradigm shift – in thinking and in the system. The resulting change in practices requires, like everything, a process. In Oklahoma we are fortunate to have the great work of the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Poteau, to help us make the shift in thinking and do the practical work of making systematic changes. Check out their website for a wealth of information about programs that help the farmer and the community.

A great resource is a book The Next Green Revolution ; Essential Steps to a Healthy, Sustainable Agriculture written by James Horne, President of the Kerr Center, and Maura McDermott, Communications Director there. They explain the history of how we got so far from sustainable practices, help us understand the difference in thinking between industrial and sustainable agriculture and outline the eight steps to take to begin to make the changes. It’s available from their website.

I started vermi-composting last fall and have found it to be very interesting and easy.

You order worms over the internet — there are several locations. I prefer one close to my home to cut down on the shipping time.

Then you make a bed out of shredded paper. Newspaper is great if you can find pages without colored ink. Then you feed them kitchen scraps. A pound of worms can eat a pound of food a day. You don’t have to feel guilty about throwing out spoiled or uneaten food.

In a few months you will have worm castings, which is the best kind of compost for your garden or house plants. Give it a try. It’s lots of fun and beneficial.

There is a book, Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhoff. It has all the information you need.

Also the benefits are listed below. They come from the following website: www.highcountryconservation.com

Benefits to worm composting:

  • Worm composting is faster than backyard composting and can work year-round with no changes
  • Some consider worm castings (another name for the compost they create) to be even more fertile than typical backyard compost
  • Worm bins can be kept in very small spaces indoors, so people without yards can do it– it is great for apartment/condo dwellers and classrooms!
  • Compost tea (the liquid produced during the process) is easy to “harvest” from most worm bins and can be used on houseplants (or any other plants) as a liquid fertilizer
  • Kids love it!
  • They are the easiest pets to care for! You can go on vacation for 2 weeks without getting a “worm sitter!” (If you are leaving for a month or more, you will need to have someone come and feed them every 2 weeks though.)
  • Many people concerned about pests getting into their outdoor bin like keeping the indoor worm bin
  • There is less maintenance involved– no mixing needed!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the response to our blog entries about composting (click here to read all our entries about composting) has been so overwhelming that we’ve planned a few one-day workshops at Turtle Rock Farm Retreat for folks to come and build their own composter.

We’ve just set the dates — Aug 23 & Oct 11 — so sign up soon!

Great organic gardening starts with good soil. The best way to feed and improve your soil is with compost.

From 9am to 5pm on either date, we will help you build your own tumbling composter (with materials provided by Turtle Rock Farm), share information about composting and work with vermi-composting.

The $150 retreat fee (includes all materials for the composter that you will take home).

Check our Schedule of Workshops and Retreats to download registration forms.

Though we got two inches of rain in July (this is the second year of above-normal rains,) now that we’re entering the hotter, drier days of August, I’m glad for my xeriscaping (low-water, “waterwise”) gardening. I want to do more and I have a lot more to learn.

A great source of information, as well as seeds, plants and other materials (including two great products – “Superthrive” and “Saltwater Farms SeaCom-PGR”) is High Country Gardens, in Santa Fe, NM.

Healthy Soil is Green

It’s not just a matter of using plants that don’t need a lot of water. It’s learning how to supplement the soil, use plants that grow where you live, plant things in the best location, build gardens that capture water. It’s a different way to garden.

I’ve admired other people’s lovely gardens and been given seeds and plants and it’s tempting to try to do what they do. But often that requires more water than I want to use. So, I’m happy to begin to learn xeriscaping and make the changes necessary – even though it’s going to take awhile – to create a garden that is more sustainable.

entrance too

Old Fashioned Air Conditioning

This summer and last summer, we’ve been fortunate to have more summer rain than usual. And the temperature hasn’t been as hot as normal – only short runs of 100+degree days, rather than weeks on end in the three-digit figures. In this part of Oklahoma, we have only made it to 100 a few days, with the reprieve of cooler nights and good breezes.

My house is a century-old farmhouse, built in the days when there was no air conditioning. It has windows that create cross-breezes and overhangs on the south (and an added porch on the north) that help cool the house. Trees on the west provide shade in the hottest part of the day. So far this summer, I only have had to turn on the air conditioner in the heat of the afternoon, and only since mid-July. Mornings and evenings are cool in the house, especially with the use of ceiling fans. I set my thermostat at 85 and keep fans going where I’m working. When it hits 90 and the air coming through the windows is warming, I shut them and turn on the air conditioner. By 9 p.m. the air outside is cooler and I shut off the air conditioner and open the windows and sleep in the cool breeze.

I have to admit I don’t like air conditioning. I love air coming in the windows. A long time ago, a friend who was visiting and got hot in my house asked why I didn’t have an air conditioner. After hearing my rationale, he suggested that if I got an air conditioner I wouldn’t have to leave it on all the time. It was a revelation – and I got an air conditioner.

Now days, when it warms, people seem to turn on the air conditioner and not turn it off. Our bodies aren’t used to warm weather. And I wonder how our pioneer ancestors managed.

It’s good to remember we have choices – while we still have choices, so that we will have choices.

hummingbird at feeder

No Conversation for Hummingbird and Wasp at Table

Here at my country home, I’ve come to know the differences in quiet.

Sometimes, it seems noisy here:
the mockingbird carrying on

the incessant cicadeas

a squawling momma cat protecting her kittens from an eager tomcat

a coyote family howling at dusk
and the dogs chiming in

a flock of chattering blackbirds passing through
or a flock of geese flying over

the wind on a rampage
or whistling through the window screens.

Then there is a quieter time:
the mere chirp of a barn swallow
the hum of a wasp
the whir of hummingbird wings
the breeze in the pine tree…

Then there is silence:
when cats sit without a sound and watch the kittens
chase a leaf
and pounce lightly, silently, on the little leaf

when flowers grow and bloom without a peep

when a spider spins a web

when the milky way appears in the dark blue
or the full moon shimmers on the pond.

Enter a pasture in the morning and you hear a few birds
but you can actually feel the deep quiet penetrating the soul.

And I realize:
the natural world is pretty quiet –
except for the racket we human beings create.

Why is that?

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