December 2010

Ann and Pat


Welcoming the new year at Turtle Rock Farm. Here’s our January newsletter:


Little Red Hen
moved in right away
to the rabbits’ village in the barn.
Now the three other hens
are constant residents,
eating fruits and vegetables from our hands –
though Red is the only one who takes lettuce and carrots
straight from the mouths of the rabbits.
Two of the younger hens are now laying eggs –
smaller and lighter in color – one tan, one cream-colored.
We found the first ones in Rabbitville
rather than in their roost.
The two guineas
also make their way into Rabbitville,
squawking as they walk the straw bale wall.
All the birds help themselves to the rabbits’ dry food
in dishes in the rabbit hutches,
which are always open so the rabbits
are free to come and go.
It really is a village.
our first rabbit,
is now gathering straw in her mouth
and carrying it down into the rabbit burrow.
We’re hoping it’s for warmth
rather than for babies.
(To our knowledge, none of the rabbits are males.)
Or maybe she’s building a little room for herself
so she can have some privacy.



I thought it unusual,
a cow grooming a calf
this time of year.
I thought it too far into the cold season,
for the calf to be a newborn;
and, though they are watchful
and protective
of their young,
unlike cats and dogs,
don’t seem to spend time
intimately tending their young.
So I stopped and watched,
Mama and calf
having caught my eye,
as the Black Angus tended the black calf
lying in the cold prairie grass.
She methodically licked its head and body
and then,
sure enough,
the little new one stood
on thin, shaky legs
as Mama licked her clean.
A few wobbly steps
and we have another neighbor on the prairie.

I left the warmth
of candle glow,
the festive sparkle of Christmas tree lights
to walk on the prairie.
It is a gray day.
Biting wind blows from the north.
I watch a covey of Quail
and a flock of Meadowlarks
in the dried, beige grass.
The black Cattle are sitting
in the corner of the pasture
where trees protect them.
It is very quiet
this Christmas morning.
The grass rustles as my feet pass
but I do not hear the Cats following me
and don’t know they’re here
until I happen to turn around to see
the view from where I now stand.
A mustard-colored Cat stops as I turn.
I smile:
he’s a wild Cat
but has followed me here
and is the same color as the grass.
I stand in the quiet
feeling the cold wind on my face,
grateful for the good company,
and I wonder.
The Quail, the Meadowlarks,
the Cattle, the Cats –
they don’t know it’s Christmas.
They don’t need to know it’s Christmas.
They’re loved.
And standing there
on the beige prairie
on a gray day
in a cold wind
on Christmas morning
away from the warmth of candlelight
and sweet music
and sparkling festive lights
I know it too.
We are Loved.

Rain came.
A little.
The prairie grass
that was dry-beige and lifeless looking
is orange and and bronze
beneath a haze of gray this
Raindrops dangle
beneath dark red Hackberry seeds.
Sweet chipping from the Sparrow
and softened squawks from the four pair of Doves,
sweeping across the yard
electric wire to tree and back again,
penetrate hushed stillness.
A young black Calf
out on theĀ  pasture kicks its back legs,
runs straight for another calf –
an invitation to join the game.
The prairie is exquisite
and alive
this Christmas Eve morning.

We had company
in the warm weather.
Humans, yes,
and the Birds of summer,
Butterflies and Moths.
Then they began to leave.
The Great Blue Herons stay.
And the Doves.
And Mockingbirds.
Then the Canada Geese
We hear them before we see them.
The Red-Tail Hawks are back
as well;
little Sparrows
and the Red-Winged Blackbirds.
Winter’s good company,
so very welcome.

While the Red-Tails bring comfort,
the Canada Geese, a raucous presence,
the Red-Winged Blackbirds
are the most festive.
Spots of red
in a sea of black
stand out especially against the fields
of green winter wheat
where the birds feed.
The way they move –
in waves of black
flashing in and out of view
in an instant –
brings a deep gladness.
And their numbers,
Their flocks string across the sky
for miles
(and here we can see for miles.)
I’ve seen them in one long strand
for three miles
and couldn’t see the end of the line.
of black birds
together flying
across the sky
dipping into green fields of wheat
flashing spots of red
bring an aliveness
to the prairie in winter,
and hope
for community.


If I kept coming
and going;
if I continued to fret
over piles of reminders
to do things
I have yet to do;
if I focused still
on gathering together
the foods and ornaments
that speak of celebrations
if I hadn’t learned
at least somewhat
this last year
how to live in
I would have missed,
had I been rushing on my way to town
for the last things on the Christmas grocery list,
a red-tail hawk,
so long absent,
so well-missed
last summer,
its beige breast feathers now fluffed
and standing cautiously,
on a fencepost
where I could see
and draw closer
and wonder at
this moment,
the closest I’ve ever been,
to a red-tail hawk –
before it lifted and spread wings
and soared,
as did I.

Next Page »