June 2010


This week has been dedicated to mowing the pecan grove.
That’s a lot of hot, sweaty hours
sitting on a tractor.
But to me it is a labor of love.
Our dad planted and cared for that pecan grove.
He taught me several things:
to be sure and mow the path over the creek
or one day the weeds will hide it and we
won’t be able to find it;
to cut off the web worm webs,
put them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them;
to trim the branches below the grafts.

But out in the fields this week
I’ve thought of many things.

I wonder what farmers think
of all day long as they sit in their
tractors and combines.
I would imagine they think about
the price of wheat and how the cattle are doing;
probably plan what they need to do next.
But I would also imagine there comes a time
when they just notice the world around.

It is always changing.
There aren’t as many field mice this summer as there were last.
The weeds are taller and more diverse this year.
The clouds are beautiful, billowy and white,
until you round the corner, get away from the creek
and see the storm coming from the West.
Was the fawn that I saw each day get up
and run from the tractor,
the same one,
or three different ones?
Where is its mother?
There is the distinctive sound of the wild turkeys by the creek.

It’s a kind of meditation.
A time of being present
noticing nature,
feeling connected
with the plants, animals,
the heat of the sun,
the shade of the trees,
the full moon.

Dad was a very observant man.
I was always amazed at the detail he noticed.
I wonder if it came from years of sitting
on a tractor, noticing the world around.

One of our new guineas

Not all the stories
about farm life
are idyllic.
This is one of those.
We raised six keets
until they were guinea hens.
We hoped that the guineas
would help control our tick population.
A couple of friends,
veteran guinea-raisers,
said our guineas were old enough
to let out.
The expectation was
that they would fly up into the trees
and roost on top of the barn where
they’d spent part of their youth
when anything threatened them,
like our dogs
or perhaps owls.
But they never seemed to get the hang of flying.
Maybe they were too young still.
We’re not sure.
But all six gave their lives,
albeit not voluntarily,
to Joe, one of our dogs.
It’s not surprising
that Joe killed the guinea fowl.
It is his nature.
We had been warned.
We thought we were taking
careful precautions.
We are learning
and trying again.

One of our friends
has now given us three grown guineas.
They are staying a full month
penned in the barn
to get acclimated to “home”
in hopes they’ll return there at night.
And Ann has plans
for a safer staging area
when they’re let out to roam.

It is,
as many things are,
ironic:
Here we are trying to raise guineas
who love to eat ticks
so that people and dogs and cats
won’t get tick bites.
One of our dogs recently got very sick
from an earlier tick bite.
And it is a dog
who kills the guineas.
The natural world
is complicated
and uncontrollable.

Visiting during a break
at the Straw Bale Workshop

Here’s our July Newsletter

The story of June
and what’s coming up the rest of the summer:
cooking and eating
composting and gardening
learning to live simply
and mudding, mudding, mudding.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems

This exotic creature
was there on the south side of my house
one morning this week.
It’s an American Moon moth,
so named because of the look of his eyes.
This is a male,
with the feathered antennae.
It stayed most of the day
and everyone who came
got a chance to see
one of nature’s exquisite creatures.
And everyone responded
with surprise and awe.

Long ago,
a friend of mine once wondered out loud
what it would be like
to live in an extraordinarily beautiful place,
to look out every morning
and see something really magnificent.
I think he was thinking about mountains
or the ocean,
something grand and dramatic.
He wondered if he’d ever take it for granted.
Perhaps
seeing unexpected creatures
like the American Moon Moth
is one answer to that question:
I would always respond to them in wonder and awe,
even if I were living in the shadow of a great mountain.

It seems fitting that this American Moon moth arrived
the day the moon is full in the sky –
and the week that there is a lunar eclipse.
(Saturday morning from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.,
though 6:30 a.m.
is northern Oklahoma’s best time to see it.)
Maybe they’re in cahoots
with the big moon
these amazing moon moths.

Every labyrinth walk
is different.
Last night,
friends came for supper
and Earth was moving close
to hiding the Sun
when we decided to go to the labyrinth.
Storm clouds were building high in the sky
by the time we got to the top of the hill
where the labyrinth is mown into the prairie grass.
With Sun behind them,
the clouds were lined in a scallop of gold.
Pink, yellow, gold, white flowers
are thick on the prairie right now
and so the prairie grass and wildflower walls of the labyrinth
were waving in the breeze,
which increased suddenly
as the temperature dropped
and the clouds to the north grew dark.
The bolts of lightning were far to the north
and moved east
instead of south,
so we were able to keep walking the circuitous route
of the 88-foot-wide labyrinth.
The vibrant energy of beautiful waving grasses and flowers
and gusty storm
and the explosive exuberance
of a nine-year-old boy set free on the prairie
made this labyrinth walk
quite extraordinary.
It was a game for him
and it delighted us all –
to see him so happy
and free
and engaged,
his legs taking him through a mysterious path,
his arms outstretched in the wind.
Smiling,
our arms outstretched at times,
our legs knocked off center by the wind gusts,
we responded to the boy
and did not keep silence
amid his playfulness
and the uncertainty of the weather
and the magnificent beauty of land and sky in which
we had the good fortune
to immerse ourselves.

There is no one way to walk a labyrinth
or a life.
Walk it, indeed,
we must.
And some days
most unexpectedly
it knocks us off our center
and opens us
to unexpected grand beauty
and charm
and freedom
even amidst a storm.


Baby bagworms are on the march.
Having spent the winter hanging from evergreen trees
in conical-shaped bags,
they have lowered themselves to the ground
on silken threads
then constructed tiny bags
and begun the move.
These have moved onto the wooden statue
of St. Francis
under the giant Hackberry at the farmhouse.
I’ve been picking off the tiny chompers
and introducing them to soapy water.
There are more
every time I look.
But I’ve only found one
so far
climbing up the Hackberry.
Somehow,
I doubt St. Francis
minds
being a decoy.

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