August 2008

Converting a conventional farm to an organic farm or a farm with grass-fed cattle is a challenging proposition at any time. For us the first step is getting our father, who is 87, on board. He has farmed all his life. When chemicals, in the form of pesticides and herbicides, came into being he saw improvements in productivity and less work for the farmer. He sees no reason to change.

But slowly, as we have explained why people want to eat organic meat – healthier for them and also healthier for the animals – he is starting to see that it might be worth checking out. On Friday we took him to Cattle Tracks Farm. There he was able to hear from John Gosney who has been farming organic wheat and cattle for 12 years. John was a conventional farmer for many years and his father was a farmer before him. A neighbor farmed organically and when he died his son asked John to farm their land, organically. As John saw how it worked and made more money than his own operation, he started converting his own farm to the natural way. Now he wouldn’t have it any other way. Yes, he says, he first farmed organically for the money. But now money is not the driving force. Now he knows he is doing the right thing for the environment, his family and the people who buy his products. That is what is important.

On the way home, Dad said he thought we could make the transition to grass-finished cattle. That is exciting for us. We have permission to start the change. There will be challenges – with weeds, and other issues we haven’t even thought of yet. But we will find a solution for each situation and stick to not using pestidices and herbicides. It’s a slow process but it’s good to have taken the first step.


This time I didn’t even hear the whir.
I saw flashes of green
as the hummingbirds raced by
in those first intense rays of morning sun.

it was the birds themselves that shined, golden.
Orioles in the Yaupon Holly.

I’d been phishing.
Sitting in the shade of the Yew,
making pssh pssh pssh pssh sounds.

Joseph Cornell had suggested this
in his book Listening to Nature.

It works.
Quietly phishing,
and the birds came
singing their own songs.

Ann is leading a Stress Release Techniques Workshop Saturday, September 13 from 10 am to 2 pm here at Turtle Rock Farm.

Stress is part of life, she says, and it can be a good motivator (help you run really fast when you’re being chased by a great woolly mammoth!) The problem is that these days, in a hectic, multi-tasking, information-overloaded culture, too often we stay in stress mode.

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to simple techniques to help lower the stress – whether it is physical, emotional or mental. These methods employ various modalities that are easy to learn, can be used any place and will not only help relieve stress, but help prevent getting stressed in the first place.

To find out more, take a look at our Schedule of Workshops and Retreats to download this registration form for Stress Release Techniques Workshop.

Picture of Angel

Septemberfest is an Oklahoma celebration held the last twelve years on the grounds of the Governor’s mansion in Oklahoma City. This year, festival-goers can also visit (for free) the newish Oklahoma History Center, across the street.

Septemberfest is geared toward families and children, who are invited to bring their own picnic. There will be entertainment, children’s activities and interactive exhibits. Which is where we come in. Turtle Rock Farm will have a booth in the agritourism tent. We will offer nature games and gifts from nature – which is why we’ve been calling every gardener we know to see if we can deadhead their flower gardens. Coming up with 5,000 dead flower blossoms/seed pods is an adventure! But well worth it, getting to show children where flower seeds come from and sending them home to grow their own.

The festival is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 6. The Governor’s Mansion is located east of the state capitol on NE 23rd Street. Parking will be available at the State Capitol and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, just east of the mansion.

pond and fog and fence crossing

In a way,
the pond is the center of life around here.
The house is carefully situated beside it,
the pond our father built with a bulldozer many years ago.
We watch blue heron and white cranes
egrets, geese and ducks and,
once, a lone pelican,
come and go.


We watch turtles and snakes poke their heads up out of the water.
Fish flop up, splashing so fast we rarely, but sometimes do,
catch a flash of their silvery skin.
Mostly, we’re left with the tell-tale enlarging circles in the water.

At night, we hear the chorus of croaking and chirping frogs
and sometimes in the day, see them sitting in the mud along the shoreline
before they see that we see them and jump with a squeak and a splash.
We watch wind making waves
and we watch the waves quiet from east to west
until the surface of the pond is like a mirror
and the clouds and trees are reflected upside down.

cypress knees
We watch fog rise in the morning,
water turn colors at twilight
and the moon shimmer in the water at night.
And though we’ve seen it all before,
we keep each other posted
of another bird flight, another shining moon, another mirrored sky.
Seeing life at the pond
is coming home.

cypress trees in the morning

Interesting insect events these days.

bag worm

Bag worms have moved in on the evergreen trees,
like summer’s ornaments.

The three 100-year-plus cedar trees
brought from Kansas by our grandfather
have weathered the visitations every year.
And so, we’re hoping they do this year.

Yesterday, saw something strange on the trunk of the pecan tree in the backyard.
(Same pecan tree that was birthplace of a scissored-tail flycatcher family.)
A group of beige, empty shells.

red worm birthplace

All caught in a sticky web.

Just as I stepped back,
I noticed a colony of red worms,
also caught in a white, sticky web.

red worm colony

Startled me – like when you look down
and find a snake at your feet.
Here is a whole colony of candy-cane-striped caterpillars,
in a white sticky web,
all in a tangle,
some hiding out –
or munching? –
deep in the grooves of the pecan tree bark.

Lovely little things.
Don’t know what they are.
Definitely building webs,
but not in the leaves.
On the bark,
a narrow patch of white sticky web,
climbing up the trunk and out, all the way to the end of the branch.

Just after dawn,
I apologized to them
as I committed mass murder,
scraping them with a garden tool off the bark
and into a pan of soapy water.
More had hatched during the night.

All life ends.
And sometimes we have to sacrifice ourselves for others.
The red caterpillars
for a pecan tree.

A baby rabbit
for a cat’s breakfast.

cat with rabbit

And sometimes
we all get to live together a little longer.
Bag worms,
grandmother and grandfather cedars.


colorful dawn

pink sky

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