January 2011

Feeding the hens and rabbits,
who, this time of year,
in the same
large pen inside the barn,
is always interesting.
We feed the hens and guineas
in their pen where the rabbits aren’t,
hoping they’ll get their fill.
the hens peck at the sack
before we can get the greens out of it.
Little Red, the most aggressive of the flock,
will fly up, waist-high,
to grab the food out of our hands.
The other three,
who have now grown larger
than Little Red,
have overcome their shyness
and walk right up to our hands,
taking the lettuce or celery
with their beaks.
The guineas are wilder by nature
and don’t come near us,
but go immediately to the feed
we’ve scattered for them.
In the rabbit pen,
all three come up out of their burrows
when they hear us.
La Flem, the hugest,
and Jolie, the friendliest,
are usually first up.
Shy little Bella comes out, sniffs
at whatever is in our hand,
then backs off a bit
before returning to courageously
take the food.
Meanwhile, La Flem and Jolie
have taken from our hands
the greens or vegetables
and gone off to munch them.
They return to us for more.
By this time, the hens have arrived.
They walk right up to the
nibbling rabbits
and steal their food from their mouths.
The rabbits seem undisturbed by this,
most of the time—
probably because they know
they’ll get more from us.
When the hens see the rabbits
munching on the new pieces we give the rabbits,
they run right over and pluck the food
from the rabbits’ mouths again.
Eventually, there are bits of half-eaten
vegetables littering the rabbit pen floor
and we have nothing left to hand-feed them,
so we leave them to it
(filling both the hens’ and rabbits’ dishes
with pellets, which they don’t seem to
like nearly as much).
During all this,
the Alpacas
stand waiting at the gate
to get their handful of pellets.
On the days we bring them alfalfa,
they are especially excited—
crowding us so that we can barely
get to the place where we set down the hay for them.

I suspect we find the animals’ feeding behavior
for a couple of reasons:
the fact that we get to have close contact with them
and the bewildering fact
that we seem to have some behaviors
in common.


Ann, who is trained in understanding our bodies’ natural energy systems,
is leading another Top Ten Pain Releasers Workshop.
It’s a fun, hands-on workshop for reducing stress and pain
that integrates massage, energy work, kinesiology, polarity, acupressure and various reflex techniques.
She teaches a variety of simple and effective self-help skills
that can benefit ourselves and our loved ones.

The workshop is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday, February 26.
To register, go to our website.

Registration deadline February 18

With Kathryn at Penuel Ridge Retreat Center

In Nashville for training,
I also visited friends—
sister Deaconesses—
who live in the Tennessee countryside,
next door to a retreat center,
Penuel Ridge,
which Kathryn helped found
27 years ago.

This is the sunny south—
well, except when it’s snowing.
The fifth snowfall of this season,
big, wet flakes fell
(Straight down! No wind.)
during the night.
By morning, the surrounding woods
was painted white.
Snow sat piled
on thin branches
and weighted down entire limbs.

We watched the birds during breakfast.
Many I’d never seen before:
Purple Wrens, Downy Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens,
White-throated Sparrows, Nuthatches, Tufted Titmouses, the amazing and amusing Towhee.
Some I had seen before:
Goldfinches, House Wrens, a Red-bellied Woodpecker,
Cardinals, Chickadees, Juncos, flocks of Robins (in winter!), Brown-headed Cow Birds
and Red-Winged Blackbirds.
The variety,
the interplay,
was thrilling to watch.
And then we walked into the forest,
now an enchanted winter forest,
that is the Penuel Ridge retreat center.
It’s a much different ecosystem of course
than the prairie here at Turtle Rock Farm.
The pond is spring fed
with high ridges
rising around it.
The trees, lacy in the snow,
towered above the lake
and reflected in the quiet, dark, clear water.
The visit to another straw bale structure;
this one, a round gathering space,
was like meeting a member of the family for the first time.

It was a magical day
in another sacred place
with kind friends
who share a love for birds,
and are dedicated to stewarding
and welcoming others into
a beautiful corner
of this good Earth.

The dry season,
the fallow season,
the season of rest and restoration,
is quite beautiful
on the prairie.
All is exposed.
And then, in afternoon’s most golden hour,
everything takes on a patina
that will break your heart.

The cover crop,
the compost,
dried leaves and straw,
the alpaca and rabbit manure
are out there in the gardens
working away.
those lovely packets of seeds
will be opened
and the seeds planted in soft, moist soil
in tiny pots
Gardening is forever.

Our next gardening and composting workshop
is Saturday, February 19.
You can come for a full day—9 to 5—
and learn about building a raised bed garden
and a turnable composter.
Or you can come in the morning or afternoon
and learn one or the other.
You can come and learn how
or you can come and take home what you make.
See our website for details
and registration.
Deadline—so we’ll have time to get all the supplies—
is February 10.


Maizey and her son Joe,
the dogs who live at the farm house,
are up and running
every time they see my car
on the move.
If I drive north in the pickup truck
or the electric cart,
they stay where they are.
But if I am in my car heading north,
they follow
because they think I’m going
to the pond house.
That’s often where I am going
when I head north.
If I’m going farther,
they follow me to the pond house driveway,
then stand in the road watching
as I drive past it
before turning back
and walking home.
If I turn south from the farm house,
they go back to their place in the yard
and lie down
because they know I’m going a long way south.
(They follow me all the way
no matter where I’m going
if I’m walking.)
But if I’m driving my car north
and turn up the driveway to the pond house,
they follow me,
running all-out,
often dashing in front of the car
as I make the driveway turn.
I have to watch them closely.
At the pond house,
after a drink of the cats’ water there on the patio,
they find a warm or cool place to rest
and wait.
If I quickly realize I’ve forgotten something
and turn the car around to go back to the farm house
to pick up what I forgot,
they do not know what I’m up to
and, having just settled at the pond house,
they run alongside the car
back to the farm house,
then run back to the pond house
with me and whatever it is I forgot.
If I stay the night at the pond house
so guests can stay in the farm house,
they wait
for me to return to the farm house,
spending the night at the pond house
when I do.

This cold day,
they followed me to the pond house
and found sheltered spots
in the sunshine to rest and snooze.
When I was finished with my visit
and started the car to drive back to the farm house,
they raised their heads,
and despite the fact that they were obviously
very comfortable in their sunny spots,
they stood up, shook themselves a bit
and headed up the road with me.
They didn’t hesitate. I was leaving
and so
they would too.
It struck me for the first time:
they are dedicated to this routine,
no matter how it inconveniences them.
Or maybe it doesn’t inconvenience them
because following me in my car
is what they do.

I hold them in awe.

In terms of eco-spirituality, love leads us to identify ever more with the Earth, for love is the great unifying and integrating power of universe. For centuries we have thought about the Earth. We were the subject of thought, and the Earth was its object and content. After all that we have learned of the new cosmology, we must think ourselves as Earth, feel ourselves as Earth, love ourselves as Earth. Earth is the great living subject feeling, loving, thinking and through us knowing that it thinks, loves and feels. Love leads us to identify with Earth in such a way that we no longer need to become aware of these things, for they have become second nature. Then we can be mountain, sea, air, road, tree, animal. We can be one with Christ, with the Spirit, and ultimately with God.

— Leonardo Boff, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor

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