September 2009

Dad in Pecan Grove

Dad in the Pecan Grove

Dad planted a pecan grove when he was 80.
He had been a farmer all his life
and served as our state’s governor – twice –
and U.S Senator.
When he finally came back to the farm full-time,
one of his many projects
was to plant a pecan grove.
There was planting and thinning and grafting and mowing.
He couldn’t do all that himself,
but he made all the decisions
and not many days went by
before he was driving down to the pecan grove.
It’s still a young grove
but this year’s crop looked promising
until his last trip there last week with a visiting grandson,
when they found only two pecans;
something had got to them.
This was not too surprising,
or defeating:
Dad has been a farmer all his life;
he knows about crop failure
and he knows about the long view
and he certainly knows about hope.

Our Dad, Henry Bellmon, died yesterday morning
after a brief hospitalization
due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease,
a milder version than some
which he handled with great dignity.
His legacy
is immense.
Our hearts sob in the most profound gratitude.


Land Institute - 350The extensive root systems of perennial grasses spell out
the particles per million of carbon that Earth can sustain.
On the Big Barn at The Land Institute’s annual Prairie Festival
in Salina, Kansas, last weekend. We are already at 390. See

These are some of the things we heard at The Land Institute‘s Prairie Festival last weekend:

George Woodwell, senior scientist, Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, MA., calls the situation we have created on Earth, “climatic disruption” because it’s “far more than warming.” “The living systems of the Earth – the seas, forests, terrestrials; they run the world…We think the biological world is open to easy compromise. It’s not any more open to easy compromise than the law of gravity is open to easy compromise.” The metaphor he uses is the “Haitian abyss,” describing situations in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the situation in Haiti. At this point, neither can simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps and solve their own problems.

It takes a new view of the world to envision a world that will work, he says. We are adding 5 billion tons of carbon to the planet each year above what the sea and plants can absorb. “We can’t just tinker with the old world. We have to have a new world” or we will enter the “Haitian abyss – when we can’t get ourselves out of the situation we’re in.” “We have to move away from fossil fuel. It’s done. We have to decide what else to do. We have to preserve the integrity of the Earth.”

John Todd, ecological designer, founder of Ocean Arks, Intl., and Todd Ecological, Inc.; winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for his entry “Design for a Carbon Neutral World: The Challenge of Appalachia,” in which he envisions and works toward healing and recovery of horrific mountain removal. In our efforts to solve the ecological problems we have created, he says, we can “learn the language of nature. The prairie knows something I need to know: nature’s operating instructions. I need to learn what it knows that I can apply to my life. It is a lifetime learning.” As one example in his work, Todd tells the stories of using nature’s operating instructions to clean water from toxic waste.

Wes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute, tells the compelling story of the collapse of the industrial mind and compels us to face and deal with the ecological problems we have created by learning and respecting dynamic ecological systems to “increase our resilience thinking while we still have a little slack.” “Enhance your ability to absorb disturbance.” And he asks: “Do we have the ability to practice restraint?”

It was a deeply meaningful symposium.
Here are people who are giving us the worst possible news.
And showing us ways to create a new world.
It is hopeful, in a we-HAVE-to-get-down-to-business way.
all the little things we do
seem inadequate.
We must do all that –
and more,
not only individually,
but corporately,
as a species,
changing our ways radically,
living within the natural systems
of which we are not independent,
but of which we are a part.
It is inspiring and deeply helpful
to meet people who can and are leading the way.
can we listen
and take their lead?


The inner world of the soul is suffering a great eviction by the landlord forces of advertisting and external social reality. This outer exile really impoverishes us. One of the reasons so many people are suffering from stress is not that they are doing stressful things but that they allow so little time for silence. A fruitful solitude without silence and space is inconceivable.

— John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

Again, simplicity and solitude walk hand in hand. Solitude refers principally to the inward unity that frees us from the panicked need for acclaim and approval. Through it we are enabled to be genuinely alone, for the fear of obscurity is gone; and we are enabled to be genuinely with others, for they no longer control us.

— Richard Foster, Freedom of Simplicity

It’s the sort of school field trip
only elementary school children appreciate:
a poop tour.
We’ve been working on a composting project
with our local school at Billings this year.
They’ve been collecting cafeteria scraps
and composting them in a bin.
In August,
they added the compost to their raised bed garden
when they planted their fall crop of vegetables.
So we thought it fitting to invite them to Turtle Rock Farm
to see all the different ways we have of generating poop
for composting.

Billings kids and chickens
We showed them red wiggler worms.
We showed them our five chickens
and how we let them have their way with next year’s garden plot,
scratching it,
gorging on the insects,
and fertilizing it.
(We made them very happy when we invited them to catch grasshoppers
and feed them to the chickens.)
We showed them the Alpaca
and their poop,
which is the best on the farm.

Billings kids and alpaca
And we showed them our gardens,
which are beautiful right now,
at least partly,
to the poop we’ve composted
from the chickens,
the worms,
the alpaca.
(And we threw in a lesson about the importance of bees,
though they didn’t get too close to the hives.)
It was a happy field trip.

Billings Kids at Garden

autumn lightAutumn Light

These are the days of perfection.

view from the porchView from the Porch

It’s the cool, crystalline air
with a gentle breeze
or absolute stillness.
It’s the throngs of red-winged blackbirds chattering noisily.
It’s the haunting cry of some lone bird out on the prairie.
It’s the playful cavorting of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher couples.
It’s sky the color of the sea
and clouds that seem merry.
All wrapped up in the indescribable light of autumn.

I can barely stand the beauty.
I can barely take it in.
And when night comes
and relieves the exquisiteness of the day
there is suddenly a sky
that is bigger than the day;
a sky that sparkles

moth, black and white

I have long enjoyed seeing this moth.
I like the simplicity
and the dramatic, geometric design.
But I didn’t even recognize it the other day
when I saw it.

moth, black and white with surprise inside

This moth’s beauty stopped me in my tracks
and I felt lucky to see such a moth.
Then it closed its wings again
and there was the moth
I knew and loved.
I was delighted,
that I didn’t really know
someone I thought I knew.
And they turn out to be even more beautiful
than I’d first known.

Greeting to the Autumn Equinox

Hail! Journeyer of the Heavens,
Queen of Brightness, King of Beauty!
Gifts of gladness richly bringing,
Autumn sheaves and red leaves’ fall.
Generous be the heart within us,
Open be our hands to all,
Justice to be in equal measure,
Harvest thankfulness our call.

— Caitlin Matthews, Celtic Devotional

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