November 2009

Click here to read the December Newsletter from Turtle Rock Farm:



The chickens are now in their winter pen,
at the barn on the Home Place.
Their days of scratching up soil,
eating insects
and fertilizing the garden
from the “chicken tractor”
are over
until spring.
Now they’re in an immovable pen,
but it’s warmer
and safe from predators.
Last week, Ann, Sid and I
refurbished one of the pens
on the south, lean-to side of the barn
and made it secure against industrious raccoons.
Despite a rather harried experience for Ann
getting them moved to the new place,
the hens themselves
seem content.
There was a beautiful, big, brown, warm egg this morning.

We do a lot of feeding these days –
fish, cats, dogs, Alpaca, chickens, bees, songbirds.
The farmers here spend a good part of their lives
feeding cattle.
And of course the animals feed us as well:
eggs, honey, fleece, meat, song, community.

It is central to our lives:
feed each other.
And when we do –
attentively –
we are living well.

The term “commons” is new to me.

The commons is what we share together.
From parks and clean water to
scientific knowledge and the Internet,
some things are no one’s private property.
They exist for everyone’s benefit,
and must be protected for future generations.
A movement is emerging today
to create a commons-based society.

The new issue of Kosmos magazine honors
Elinor Ostrom,
winner of the Nobel Prize 2009 in economics
for her work on the commons.

Kosmos states:

Humankind is suffering from an unprecedented campaign of privatization and commodification of the most basic elements of life: nature, culture, human work and knowledge itself. In the countless arenas, businesses are claiming our shared inheritance – science, creative works, water, the atmosphere, health, education, genetic diversity, even living creatures – as private property. A compulsive quest for short-term gain is sacrificing the prosperity of all and the stability of the Earth itself.

Elinor Ostrom, over four decades of work, has repeatedly demonstrated how commons resources can be successfully managed and shared without the intervention of private companies or government regulations.

At the World Social Forum of 2009,
meeting at Belem, Para, in Brazil,
they created a Manifesto reclaiming the commons.

Let us demonstrate how commons-based management-participatory, collaborative and transparent-offers the best hope for building a world that is sustainable, fair and life-giving.

Kosmos Journal

The commons is a creative idea worth thinking about.

Sunshine sparkling on water.
The curve of the prairie.
The splendor of the sea.
The Golden Hour, before the Earth rolls up and the sun disappears.
The Colorful Hour, right after –
and right before the sun rolls over and the sun appears again.
Birds and their song.
The sky,
and night.
The breeze,
soft and warm,
Dogs and cats.
All the animals.
and not.
and new.
Ah well…everything: Life on this wondrous planet.

The red-winged blackbirds,
our glorious winter friends,
seem to exalt in the sunny, cold, windy weather today.
Great flocks,
flying in ocean-like waves
up to the cedars
where they settle;
in a great whoosh,
they fly up to the sky,
their black wings edged in glittering gold
against the sun.
They make a flight around the house,
then softly settle back down again in the cedars,
squeaking and chattering.
and they’re off again,
rising high
then swooping low through the west pasture,
settling again in the north windrow.
One second you see them,
they turn and disappear in the light,
then flash back into view,
a flock of sheer joy.
All day long,
their shadows pass over the house
in waves.

Suddenly seeing their golden-edged wings this morning,
I gasped
and needed to swallow
but couldn’t;
choked instead
at this shower of thousands of blackbird blessings
in the morning sun.

In his book Anam Cara,
the late John O’Donohue
quotes a friend who is aware of the spiritual value
of our sense of taste,
who prepares meals and invites friends
to share them in a mindful way.
She says, “food is love.”

I can believe this…
as we gather with friends, new and old,
so often at table
around food that is grown naturally
and tastes of nature;
as we eat at a slower pace together,
enjoying the tastes, colors, textures
of the food;
as we listen, share, laugh together,
often outdoors
in the breeze and the sun;
as we make a point of pausing to remind ourselves
that we are one with
the bee,
the air,
the soil,
that provide our food.
It is communion.

I believe that “food is love”
because I experience it as well
when I share a handful of treats
each morning with Biak Bay,
the beautiful black Alpaca.
Biak will not let people touch him.
Mr. Darcy, the younger, does,
though I think he’s growing out of it too.
Mr. Darcy has never eaten treats.
But Biak lopes toward them every morning and evening.
He’ll eat from our hands,
but he spills a lot doing that.
So I usually put a handful in a bowl for him
and tilt it just a bit
so it’s easier for him to eat.
He eats with abandon,
looking up occasionally at me
with his huge black eyes –
not, I think, out of concern,
for in this moment
trust seems to surpass
As I hold the bowl for him,
my thumb comes in contact
with his soft, moist nose
which he either doesn’t notice
or doesn’t mind.
And in that moment,
he feeds me.
Like an infant nursing,
there is vulnerability,
giving and taking,
It is communion.

Beaver Dam on Kirby Place
with wetland above it

Went down to sit by the beaver dam on the Kirby Place.
We’ve been having rains regularly of late
and so the creek waters rush and vanish,
as they do on the prairie.
They usually have at least some water in them,
in places,
then flood
and often go dry.
Over the years, the conservation people
have built a series of flood-control dams and lakes
to try to maintain a more steady flow of water
through the watershed
and finally into the Gulf of Mexico.
But the human constructions don’t seem to work as well
as the beavers’ constructions.
This beaver community
has been maintaining their home here
for twenty years.

Though water is rushing down the creek at one end of the dam,
it is still a slow process,
which means that a most amazing and healthy thing
is happening above the beaver dam:
there is a broad wetland,
which doesn’t go dry,
and the creek above it
is still out of its banks.
Farther upstream,
the creek is already back to normal,
or below normal.
Though rushing through one end of the beaver dam,
the water here is only slowly making its way down the creek
below the beaver dam.
In the meantime,
the wetland provides habitat for life
and helps recharge the water table.

In modern times, beavers have been trapped and killed
to prevent them from damming the creeks.
They normally make a series of dams –
building another upstream when the community gets large enough.
And that causes flooding of farmers’ crop land.
the beavers here can’t go immediately upstream
because there is a flood-control dam about a quarter of a mile upstream.
This beaver community’s dam is situated
where it doesn’t interfere with cropland
and so it has been left alone.

Flooded Doe Creek, just above the beaver dam

Coming here
is like entering a sacred place.
It is a natural wonder.
The sense of the healthy life here
is palpable.
It must have been like this all across the Great Plains
long ago.

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