July 2010

Mr. Darcy and Biak (in the distance),
after their morning hose-down
and a roll in the dirt,
keeping cool in the shade

When Mr. Darcy
came to live with us,
he was two years old.
He would kiss us every day
and pestered his alpaca buddies.
He would not eat the healthy treats
we offered each day.
Mr. Darcy is three now.
He only kisses when he wants
and seems to prefer visitors.
He doesn’t break out into a playful scuttle
as often
but when he runs
he is fast and beautiful to watch.
Now he likes his treats twice a day
and eats it faster than his friend Biak.
He talks to us when we arrive
to put it in his bowl
and talks to Biak
when he has finished his
and wants some of his friend’s.

Biak has always required a reverent distance.
He does not like to be touched.
But he’s easier to commune with.
He’ll stand motionless
and let you look into his eyes,
even up close
if you don’t touch him.

One thing I’ve discovered about the natural world
is that it’s always changing.
Sometimes imperceptibly
sometimes subtly
and sometimes surprisingly.
Darcy stopped being so forthcoming with hisĀ  kisses.
Darcy eats treats now.
For awhile this spring
I couldn’t figure out why their tubs of water
were dirty every day
until one day,
when I saw Darcy splash his hooves in the water.
So when I cleaned and filled the tubs,
I would hose down his feet.
He still plunked them into the clean water
just as I’d fill the tubs.
When we learned that
some Alpaca living in Oklahoma
were dying from the heat,
I started hosing not only Darcy’s feet
but his entire body –
well, not the head.
He definitely doesn’t like that.
Biak doesn’t either
but they both love their showers now,
twice a day,
and approach the hose
(Then roll around in the dirt
for a cooling mud coating.)
And sometimes
Biak can’t tell the difference
between the feel of the water
and a sneaky hand
touching his neck.


Here’s our August newsletter.


We call our cooking workshop
an Earth Dinner
because we teach how to eat food
that’s grown, delivered and cooked in ways
that are good for the planet,
including the soil, the air, the water,
people and animals.
This is a great time of year to teach cooking for Earth
because it’s harvest time in the garden.
We made salads with vegetables
from our gardens,
including potatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes.
We found some green beans and yellow squash
at our local farmers’ market.
We used wheat
grown in Oklahoma
for a wheat salad and for bread.
We used honey gathered from a swarm at a neighbor’s
(we’ve already used ours from last year.)
We made quiche with eggs from our five wonderful hens
and cheese and mushrooms from Oklahoma growers
who sell their products through the Oklahoma food coop.
We roasted a chicken grown humanely
at a friend’s farm a couple of towns over.
We made sorbets from peaches off our tree
and cantaloupe grown in a town west of here.
(Ours are getting ripe too.)
It was a community event –
the cooks,
the gardener,
the soil and plants,
the neighbors and friends and farmers
who contributed from their harvest.
We ate very little petroleum,
the food was fresh and nutritious,
it was grown in such a way
that it didn’t contribute much to global climate change
and we had a great time
savoring the diversity of colors and textures and tastes
of food
Earth’s glorious food.

We are an island
in the current pattern
of “scattered thunderstorms.”
The sky darkens
in the west
and the south
and we hear the rumble of thunder.
The winds increase
and the temperature drops
A few raindrops
barely wet the ground
and the storms rumble
and east.
We don’t get the rain
which would be very helpful
but oh my
the air –
cool, soft, fragrant of Earth –
will heal your soul.
I try,
facing east,
facing west,
facing east,
to take in that sky:
slate-colored in the east
with rainbows that seem to splash golden to the horizon.
a network of white lightning veins spread across
that slate blue sky
between the ends of the rainbow;
while to the west
the sun appears amidst building clouds
as Earth rolls up
and a cooler, moister night
Unbidden gifts
for the anxious heart.

Anyone who practices Sabbath for even an afternoon usually suffers a little spell of Sabbath sickness. Try it and you too may be amazed by how quickly your welcome rest begins to feel like something closer to a bad cold. Okay, that was nice. Okay, you are ready to get back to work now. Yes, you know you said you wanted this, but now you have had just the right amount of rest – maybe even a touch too much – so that you are beginning to feel sluggish…Is weeding the garden really work if you enjoy it? Is looking through a Garnet Hill catalog really shopping? This, I think is how the rabbis were finally forced to spell out all the kinds of work that are forbidden on the Sabbath – because people kept trying to find ways to get to yes instead of no. If I am a doctor and someone calls for help, am I allowed to help? If my dog gets sick, can I take her to the vet? Is striking a match really making a fire?

Yes, it is. If you decide to live on the fire God has made inside of you instead, then it will not be long before some other things flare up as well. Most of us move fast enough during the week to outrun them, but if you slow down for a day, then all kinds of alarming things can happen. You can start crying without having the slightest idea why. You can start remembering what you loved about people who died before you were ten, along with things you did when you were eighteen that still send involuntary shivers up your back. You can make a list of the times you almost died in your life, along with the reasons you are most glad to be alive.

Released from bondage to the clock, you eat when you are hungry instead of when you have to. Nine times out of ten you discover that you are far less hungry than you thought you were, or at least less for groceries than for the bread no one can buy. As you slow down, your heart does too. The girdle of your diaphragm loosens, causing great sighs too deep for words to pour from your body. In their wake, you discover more room around your heart, a greater capacity for fresh air. Sabbath sickness turns out to be a lot like other sicknesses, which until now have been from work. If you flee from the pain and failure, then you run into them everywhere you go. If you can find some way to open to them instead, then they may bring their hands from behind their backs and lay flowers on your bed.

— Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

When I moved back to the farmhouse
there was an area just off the east end of the front porch
that had been excavated,
a rock garden unfinished.
Knee-high grass grew there.
I thought it would be a good place
for a small pond
so I covered it in black plastic to kill the grass.
In the meantime it was hard for me to envision
how to dig a pond there
since it was already dug out.
One has to work with the realities:
it would have to be a pond
made with a hard liner.
Another reality was that
my local home improvement store
didn’t have very big hard liners
and when we set the one I bought
in its place at the end of the porch,
it was almost lost.
So I got another one
and we set them back to back,
one a little higher than the other.
This was after a year or so
of reading, thinking and envisioning
the space,
killing the grass.

A year ago,
volunteers from Sierra Club
helped set and level the liners.
Then this spring
when Jae and Clayton,
our interns, arrived
we began the process
of getting this pond in operation.

We brought more stones
from a rocky area down south.
Jae, an artist,
figured out where to lay the stones
and Clayton set them around the pond liners.

We laid down cardboard and mulch
and planted Xeriscape plants
around the pond.
Clayton laid smaller stones
around the perimeter.

We’ve figured out how to circulate
the water from bottom pond to top pond to bottom pond
and eventually added a filter box for the pump
to keep the grass and leaves from clogging it.
A family of frogs were the first residents
and now there are four goldfish,
a water lily, marginal plants,
and, thanks to our friends Linda and Tom,
a water hyacinth
and water lettuce plants.
We added two solar fountains,
one in each pond.

Clayton at the pond.

It’s been a long process
that’s been fun to work on together
with lots of consultations –
technical, aesthetic –
lots of shared labor
lots of encouragement
and lots of shared joy
as we worked out the problems.
Even building a pond community
takes a community.

It seems to me that every project
is really about
to humans
the land
and sometimes
fish and frogs.

We are approaching the heart of summer.
Unrelenting daytime heat,
but the nights still are cooler.
Wasps – Yellow Jackets, Hornets,
and now, the blue-black ones.
For the first time this season
I saw an Orb spider.
The Johnson Grass along the roadsides
is as high as an elephant’s eye.
The sunflowers bloom.
The sky is breathtaking –
white and gray clouds
against a bright blue sky.
The rhythmic sizzle
that is the cicadea song
lulls me into
summer’s steady, lazy pace.
We still have breezes
that sometimes whistle through the window screens.
When it’s warmest,
I take a late afternoon turn
in the hammock
under the shade of the old cedars
where the breeze is cooler.
I could try to remember the blizzards
of last winter.
I let myself drift
into the lullaby
that is summer.

Next Page »