May 2009

white calf green pasture

God poured his being in equal measure to all creatures, to each as much as it can receive. This is a good lesson for us that we should love all creatures equally with everything which we have received from God.

— Meister Eckhart, Third Sermon
in Passion for Creation:
The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart
by Matthew Fox


It is great to have friends come and visit at the farm. There are so many experiences to share. My friend Karen came from Maryland over Memorial Weekend. On Friday evening we traveled an hour west to the Great Salt Plains to dig for selenite crystals. I have heard people talk about this for years, but had never done it myself. The digging had been closed for two years so we were fortunate that it had opened up just two weeks before we went. We had a very successful outing.


We went in the evening and also experienced the sun going out of view over the barren salt plains.


Karen enjoyed going to the garden before breakfast and picking strawberries to put on her cereal.

Several evenings we went to our neighbors to help feed the 20 orphaned kids and lambs.
Karen and Kid better

On Memorial Day we traveled 40 minutes into Kansas to a “Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’ concert at the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine.


Before catching her plane, we went to the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement center near Billings to watch a weather balloon launch. This happens four times a day 365 days a year.


There’s nothing like having friends come to visit to get you out to see the local sights!


“I pay attention to what comes to my mind as I wake up.” Sage advice from Ann.

What came to Ann’s mind that morning was to put another super on the hive. What came to my mind was strawberries! During my recent four-day stay at Turtle Rock Farm, I came to relish picking strawberries in the morning. Not at the crack of dawn, mind you, but early enough to feel the cool morning breeze, the warm sun on my back; to hear the bullfrogs croaking; to see the lovely wildflowers as I walked to and from the strawberry patch.

I became engrossed in finding those juicy red treasures hanging under the leaves or nestling in the mulch. The container quickly filled with ripe strawberries, yet I found it difficult to pull away from the patch. “Oh, just a few more,” I’d tell myself, even as my mouth was watering from thinking about fresh strawberries on granola and local yogurt and my legs were letting me know that they had had enough.

Fortunately, I would hear the door open and then Ann calling, “That’s enough!” and that would be what I needed to be able to pick up the bounty and head for the breakfast table.

I’m most grateful to Ann, Pat and Turtle Rock Farm for such experiences that reconnect me to nature. The strawberries – whether on granola or in their scrumptious sorbet – tasted sweeter because I knew the person who tended the plants, I stood on the soil where they grew, I touched the plants, I picked and washed the berries. I’m grateful for that experience of connecting with all aspects of those strawberries and for feeling connected to and a part of nature.

Now that I’ve returned to Maryland, I’ll be putting into practice what I learned about and experienced at Turtle Rock Farm. I’ll be paying attention to what comes to mind in the morning. I’ll be finding ways to stay connected with nature first thing in the morning. And, lucky for me, strawberries are just coming into season here, so I’ll be busy pickin’. — Karen Ownbey

Well, this is another bird story.
A couple of weeks ago,
around midnight,
we came home from the city to find a note from our dad
on the kitchen counter:
“Live bird in jar.”
He had rescued a beautiful Painted Bunting
who had flown into the window.
(See our May 15 post, Flying Colors)

Last week,
when I went to Hughes County for the Blue Thumb training,
a high school science teacher and her family
were in attendance.
In fact, much of the training was in her science classroom.
Her daughters were carrying a baby bird on their fingers
during the two-day training.
It was brown
with a longish, bumpy beak.

They had found it the day before.
It had fallen from a nest and couldn’t fly yet.
Their mom, the science teacher,
had once worked with birds professionally.
She knew to feed it soaked cat food.
It sat in a basket when it wasn’t sitting on their fingers.
But most of the time it was on their fingers,
as they played around the classroom.

This sort of thing amazes me.
I thought baby birds would be afraid
and delicate
and sure to die
if I presumed to rescue them.
And here these little girls were bopping around
with this baby bird on their finger.
Mom wasn’t sure what kind of bird it was.
She thought perhaps a Mockingbird,
but this little bird was chirping
in a way that baby Mockingbirds don’t,
she said.

I came home and the next afternoon
went out to mow the yard
and under the Pecan Tree,
where I’ve been watching the Scissored-tail Flycatchers
build a nest,
was a baby brown bird
flapping its wings
and running,
but not flying.
My sister arrived about that time
and we caught it
and it sat in my hand quietly.
I got out some dog food to soak.

brown bird - in hand

This baby bird is brown
with a longish bumpy beak
and a white tail feather.
I think it’s a Mockingbird
because there’s been one singing
from the top of the Pecan Tree.

baby brown bird

How does this happen?
How does a beautiful Painted Bunting,
unseen in these parts,
end up on our kitchen counter?
How does a baby brown bird with a bumpy beak
hang out on a little girl’s finger?
How does it happen
that the very next day
I discover a baby brown bird with a bumpy beak
and need to rescue it
and know, just in time,
that it likes soaked cat food
and that
it will sit in my hand?

brown bird closeup

Postscript, August 2015:
Giselle writes:
If there is any way you can change your post to show it is a mourning dove, and people should contact a rehabilitator about care, it would be beneficial.

Blue Thumb- gathering at Ranch Creek

Blue Thumb Training Session at Ranch Creek,
Hughes County

I signed up for Blue Thumb training
because I wanted to learn more about ecosystems;
specifically, ours.
The training I could attend was last week,
in central southeastern Oklahoma.
I traveled through three ecoregions to get there.
(Oklahoma has eleven.)

Blue Thumb is a program of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
I’ve written about it before,
when Blue Thumb’s Jean Lemmon came to Turtle Rock Farm
to look at the creeks we could monitor.
Now that Ann and I both have had the training,
we’ll begin monthly monitoring.
It’s quite involved
and I’m excited about it,
because you really get to know
the ecosystem of a stream.

Our good instructors demonstrated
how to collect insects from the stream
in a fine net.
We got to try our hands at seining a stream for fish.
blue thumb - seining

The types, size and numbers of insects and fish in the stream
indicate the health of a stream.

We’re just getting started,
but already we’ve learned:
+ the stream is like a nursery for insects,
where many are born and then fly away.
+ erosion into a stream brings sediment that decreases oxygen content
which affects life
+ nutrients from run-off
(from pastures over-saturated with poultry litter, for instance)
increase algae
which decreases oxygen content
+ the riparian area (vegetation at the edge of streams)
helps prevent erosion,
provides shade and cooler water for stream life
+ the runoff from large expanses of concrete
pollute streams with gasoline and oil
+ tree roots at stream edge create habitat for stream inhabitants

There’s so much more to learn.
Blue Thumb trains lots of volunteers to not only monitor the streams
but also to help educate people about the importance of caring for our streams.
Says Cheryl Cheadle, one of our teachers:

People are spending 90 percent of their time inside. We want to bring them out to the creeks, show them the creatures so they can view the stream as someone’s home.

blue thumb - channel cat

Meeting a Channel Catfish before it goes back into its home
in Ranch Creek.


Walking through the pasture in the evening,
I can imagine myself in Ireland,
or Scotland perhaps.
I don’t ever remember this place
being this green

It’s the rain,
the way the rains came –
easy, over weeks –
combined with cool weather.
The grasses,
flowers are vibrant and lush.
The vegetables in the garden
that didn’t drown
are growing strong.

the Hackberry Trees are dropping
tender green leaves.
And some wheat is damaged from standing water;
some from a hard late freeze.
Gnats and mosquitoes are so thick
they seem to bump right into us.
the birds are feasting.

Looking out across the pasture
I have to stop and stare,
just to take in the beauty
of so much green.

two ponds in evening sun

When the Board of Directors of Green Connections,
our not-for-profit partner,
met here recently,
we strolled onto the prairie
where we hope to build a retreat center
and the wildflowers were so beautiful,
our friend Tom
couldn’t help but take a few home
for his wife Linda,
who knows all their names.

gc board at kirby place

tom with flowers

Tom, with handful of Spiderwort

Hackberry in the sun

On a farm you learn to respect nature, particularly for the wisdom of the dark underworld. When you sow things in the spring, you commit them to the darkness of the soil. The soil does its own work. It is destructive to interfere with the rhythm and wisdom of its darkness…

Each tree grows in two directions at once, into the darkness and out to the light with as many branches and roots as it needs to embody its wild desires…

Negative introspection damages the soul. It is wise to allow the soul to carry on its secret work in the night side of your life. You might not see anything stirring for a long time. You might have only the slightest intimations of the secret growth that is happening within you, but these intimations are sufficient.We should be fulfilled and satisfied with them…

If you could trust your soul, you would receive every blessing you require. Life itself is the great sacrament through which we are wounded and healed. If we live everything, life will be faithful to us.

— John O’Donohue, Anam Cara; A Book of Celtic Wisdom

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