March 2011


Days—
has it been a week?—
of dreary.
Clouds.
Cold.
Deep layers of gray.
No rain,
only a little fog;
one misty hour.
All that gray
after a couple of 80-degree days
and blossoms popping.
Then, Spring seemed to stop
and here is Winter
again.

I step into the cold night.
The bracing air
smells of the rich, cool, moistness of a creek
as the sun disappears
and the temperature suddenly drops.
Surprisingly, the sky is clear
and there are familiar companions:
shining planets,
bright stars.
What blessed relief.

Morning is wrapped
again
in fog and thick gray.
But I will not forget.

Chinking the north wall last June
during the straw bale construction workshop

It seems a wonderful way to celebrate both Earth Day
and our straw bale and mud hermitage:
have the dedication ceremony
for the hermitage on Earth Day.
And while we’re at it,
we’re going to learn a few things
about sustaining life on this beautiful planet,
spend some time in the natural world
and then, dance!

Biak and Darcy after last year’s shearing

At 3 p.m. on Friday, April 22,
Paul Wolf will shear Mr. Darcy and Biak Bay,
the Alpaca who live here.
We will also welcome a third Alpaca,
William.
The three grew up together at Heartland Farm,
the Dominican Sisters’ community at Pawnee Rock, KS.
Sr. Terry will also bring two other Alpaca
to accompany William on his journey.
It will be a good day to meet Alpaca.
Joni McSpadden will spin wool
and visitors can also try their hand at spinning.

Renee’s beautiful baskets

Renee Hoover will demonstrate
Cherokee double-wall basket weaving.
Our tipi will be open for visiting.
Diane Butler will demonstrate
wheat straw weaving
and visitors can weave a St. Brigid’s cross,
which were, traditionally,
hung in new barns.
Visitors interested in solar cooking
can make a solar oven to take home.
Besides visiting the hermitage,
the farm, the gardens,
the other animals (rabbits, chickens, Pygmy Goats,
barn cats and our two dogs, Joe and Maizey)
there is a prairie labyrinth to walk
and wildflowers to plant.

Walking the prairie labyrinth

At 5 p.m., Elizabeth Box Price
will lead us in the dedication ceremony
and then we’ll cook hot dogs
from our friends James and Sandy Stepp
at the Wichita Buffalo Company.
The Mudders, a contra band that named themselves
after playing the music for the contra dance held
at the opening of our week-long straw bale workshop
last June,
will be back to provide the fiddle music
for the contra dance,
in the round-top barn.
Tom McSpadden will be the caller.
This contra dance is for beginners
and it’s one of our most favorite ways
to be in community
and to be in celebration.

Contra Dance last June

Let us know you’re coming
(we need to know how many hot dogs to order)
(and you will need driving directions,
which we’ll email to you.)
It’s free, but we’ll happily accept
voluntary donations
to help defray the costs.

Bring friends, family
and spend the day with us
celebrating this wondrous planet
that is our home.

Two Guineas, three Hens and Little Red (far right)

Looking out from the kitchen window
at breakfast time yesterday,
Ann noticed there wasn’t movement
in the chicken tractor.
Sure enough,
a raccoon had invaded.
There was a pile of feathers
and tell-tale scat.
One hen was gone,
presumed dead.
Two were injured, alive.
One was bleeding from several places,
the other’s eye was damaged.
Ann and Alyssa brought them in the house
to be warm.
They fed them antibiotic and sugar water
with an eye dropper.
This morning,
one died.
There is a good possibility the other
will survive.
We’re not sure how she’ll do
with only one eye.
Little Red,
who is living in the barn
and the Alpaca pen,
has escaped injury
one more time.

All winter,
living in the barn,
they ran to us
and plucked the fresh greens
we offered
from our hands.
All winter,
they produced wonderful eggs.
We grieve their injuries,
their deaths.

And now the chicken tractor
will undergo further
modification,
reinforcing.

We hadn’t had rain in months
and a lovely rain fell
the morning that eleven
one- to six-years-old
and their parents
arrived to spend the day at the farm.
While the welcome rain soaked the land,
inside the house, our friend Debra
led the group in songs about nature.
Itsy Bitsy Spider.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
A rain song.
Our friend Jae introduced them
to Red Wiggler worms
and later donned the bee suit
to tell them about bees.

Debra remembered a bee song
and led them around the big table,
arms buzzing.
We showed them the greens
in the greenhouse’s winter garden.
They plucked a radish
and tried a taste of spinach,
then planted radish seeds
in tiny pots to take home,
which led to much free-form playing in the dirt.

By the time a healthy lunch was shared,
the rain had stopped
and we set out for the barn
to meet the rabbits, alpaca, chickens and guineas.

All that
(except the dirt play)
was in the day’s plan,
even the contingency plan, in case it really did rain.
What we hadn’t planned was,
as usual,
the best
and most important part of the day:
mud.

The animals weren’t all that interesting
to the children
compared to the mud puddles.
Watching them,
I remembered what I had forgotten:
that the most important thing—
the thing that our culture
has taken from our children—
is the freedom children must have
to connect with nature
the way they want.
Tromping in mud puddles
is a much more natural connection
to nature
for children.
It might not be completely safe,
and it’s sure to be messier,
but the children’s freedom to discover
their own connection with nature
is the most important thing.
I stood in awe
as our well-intended educational content
vanished,
as parental control was lost,
as children walked, stomped and jumped
into mud puddles,
completely happy,
completely free.

When it was time to go,
they climbed into their parents’ cars
wet,
muddy
and healthier.
And, I hold out hope,
that for every child who stomps in a mud puddle,
who gets closer to Earth,
Earth has a better chance of being healthier
too.

 

 

Global warming is not just another important issue human beings need to deal with; rather, it is the demand that we live differently. We cannot solve it, deal with it, given our current anthropology. It is not simply an issue of management; rather, it demands a paradigm shift in who we think we are. This is certainly not the only thing needed, but it is a central one, for without it we cannot expect ourselves or others to undertake the radical behavioral change that is necessary to address our planetary crisis.

— Sallie McFague, A New Climate for Theology; God, the World and Global Warming

Three bronze-colored hornets,
several giant black flies
were birthed in the house
(and carefully let out
when they landed on the back screen door.)
Hostas, Vinca, Rose, Day Lilies, Peonies, Hollyhocks
and several xeriscape plants
have silently leafed out.
Peas and Onions are growing well.
The earliest pasture grasses are greening
beneath last summer’s dried grasses.

Three of the hens have been moved from the barn
to their summer home in the movable chicken tractor
in the north garden.
Little Red Hen,
who doesn’t get along with others in the chicken tractor,
and the two guineas
now have access from the barn to the Alpacas’ pasture
(and further, if they fly over the fence.)
Already, the Cats have ticks on them.

Every morning,
Phoebe repeats her name over and over,
Mourning Doves coo,
Mockingbird sings from a vast repertoire,
Woodpecker knocks on the Hackberry.

The Forsythia failed to bloom,
as did the Apricot trees.
A Pear tree is in full blossom,
Apples coming along.

Only the wind,
which howls most days
(though not today)
is making a fuss.
The temperature dips
and climbs;
it’s easy to be hot and cold
in the same day.
Sun seems different.
All winter, as if veiled,
it hasn’t quite shined brightly.
And still,
there seems to be a film,
or a dimming.
Spring seems not so much an explosion this year,
as a quiet, subdued emerging.

The wind had quieted
but still it was cool enough
at twilight
to need a blanket
as I sat through the falling light
and stillness
on the front porch.
Welcome quiet settled within me
and my mind emptied,
allowing me to take notice
of the cat community.
I often am aware of their meanderings
to and from the barn this time of day.
But I hadn’t noticed before
their gathering.
They came from different directions,
two together,
one running to catch up with the leader;
three together,
rubbing up against each other as they walked.
They all met at a spot down by the barn,
stood around each other
and just hung out together.
Eventually, light fading,
they all meandered up
towards the house,
some moved on towards the big round-top barn.

Their version of the neighborhood bar,
the coffee shop,
the front stoop,
where friends and neighbors gather
to share the close of day?

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