October 2011

Ann and Kim Counting Bugs

Early last June
when beautiful Doe Creek
was full of water,
on the day we spent
thigh-high in muck
seining the waters
to record the numbers
and diversity
of fish,
we also scrubbed
the vegetation along the shoreline
and took a sampling
of macroinverebrates.
They’ve been stored in a jar of alcohol
at the Oklahoma Conservation Commission offices
until Blue Thumb‘s Kim Shaw
brought them to the farm last week
so we could count them.
We carefully washed out the bigger pieces of debris,
making sure we didn’t take discard any bugs,
and then Kim measured out a sampling
and set a grid on top
and a lighted magnifying glass above.
With tweezers, we carefully sorted
through the remaining debris
and removed the tiny bugs
in randomly-selected sections of the grid
until we had found a little over a hundred.
We looked for anything with a head.
Very hard to see the heads of macroinvertebrates.
We’re talking about worms thinner than an eyelash.
We’re talking about bugs that look like vegetation.
It took us four hours to come up with the required
100-bug sampling.
About three-and-a-half hours into the project,
we actually began to see the heads of bugs.
It took that long to condition ourselves
to see what we were looking for.
Great news:
We found a variety of nymph bugs.
Riffle Beetle,
Lung Snail
Gill Snail
Midge Fly
Water Worms
Some of those bugs can live
in low levels of oxygen saturation,
a condition that’s not so healthy.
But some of those bugs —
like Mayflies and Gilled Snails —
can only live in levels of high oxygen saturation.
And there was good diversity in that sample.
So, last June,
when the creek had water in it,
the habitat there was pretty healthy.
(The fish sampling was good too.
See our blog posting of June 3.)

Of course,
there is no water
in Doe Creek now.
The nursery
is dry.


The Prairie in Evening’s Pink Light

In a landscape dotted
with bright new green fields
of sprouting winter wheat
it is easy to overlook
the subtle and beautiful
changes in the prairie grass.
Rich golden autumn light
strikes the grasses
burgundy and gold,
tawny and bronze
and turns the prairie into
a silent symphony of subtle beauty
that makes my heart sing.

Burgundy Grass


There came a fog.
Everything dripped
because of it.
Delicious dripping;
we are delighted with
and grateful for
anyway it comes.

Rooster with his Beautiful Green-Black Tail Feathers

Great Blue Heron Getting Supper
from a Neighboring Pond that Still Has Water

A Bright Dung Beetle

A Bowl of Pretty Eggs

It is telling,
what thrills:
the shining feathers
of a rooster;
spotting the Great Blue Heron
on the neighbors’ pond;
a pond that still has water;
a Dung Beetle
burying a ball of dung
in its underground nest;
a bowl of pretty brown, blue and white eggs.
Amidst the world’s tensions
and tragedies,
simple beauty
simple life

Doe Creek at our Monitoring Site

The Overgrown Beaver Dam

Dry Wetland above the Beaver Dam

Switch Grass Growing in the Dry Creek Bed

Doe Creek
down by the beaver dam
is a sacred place.
Woods surround it
and the beavers,
who have lived there 20 years,
have created a wetlands
that widens the creek to the north and east
and creates a beautiful environment
of healthy water, reeds and dragonflies.
Deer, raccoon, snakes, the Great Blue Heron,
Red-tail Hawks, butterflies, moths
and fish all live here
in cooperation and harmony.
Beaver are a keystone species
for the prairie.
They’ve been here longer than humans
and they, the buffalo and prairie dog
were the prairie’s hydrologists
and played a huge role maintaining
an ecological community here.

The flood and drought cycle
is part of the prairie’s ecological system.
This drought has driven the beavers away.
There is no sign of beaver activity
at Doe Creek.
No footprints,
no new cuttings;
their dam is overgrown.
And no water.
Grass is growing in the creek bed.
The wetlands above the beaver dam
are now cracked earth.
Felled logs are turning gray.

I go there
and hear birds
and trees creaking in the breeze.
Green leaves shine in the sun.
Deep stillness is profound.
This is still a sacred place.
And one day,
we hope,
there will be water
and beavers

I certainly know better,
but it sounds like spring
here on the prairie.
Flocks of Meadowlarks sing sweetly.
Plovers make their plaintive cry.
For the first time since real spring
I heard a Mockingbird singing its repertoire
from atop a Juniper.
This morning I saw a Robin at the water tub.
It’s October,
I know.
We’ve already had a killing frost.
Yesterday, in five miles,
I passed six Red-tailed Hawks
sitting high on post and wire.
A smallish flock of wintering Re-winged Blackbirds
fly in and out of view across the prairie.
Bluejays have been carrying on.
Dove couples have come into the yard
to feed on the first birdseed I’ve put out.
But those dainty pink rose buds
have burst open
and the Meadowlarks are singing
like it’s spring.

Dry Doe Creek
and Abandoned Beaver Dam

The sad reality is that we are in danger of perishing from our own stupidity and lack of personal responsibility to life. If we become extinct because of factors beyond our control, then we can at least die with pride in ourselves, but to create a mess in which we perish by our own inaction makes nonsense of our claims to consciousness and morality…Our consumptive lifestyle has led us to the very brink of annihilation. We have expanded our right to live on the earth to an entitlement to conquer the earth, yet ‘conquerors’ of nature always lose. To accumulate wealth, power or land beyond one’s needs in a limited world is to be truly immoral, be it as an individual, an insttution or a nation-state.

What we have done, we can undo…we will either survive together, or none of us will survie. To fight between ourselves is as stupid and wasteful as it is to fight during times of natural disasters, when everyone’s cooperation is vital.

A person of courage today is a person of peace…It is our lives which are being laid to waste. What is worse, it is our children’s world which is being destroyed. It is therefore our only possible decision to withhold all support for destructive systems, and to cease to invest our lives in our own annihilation…Life is cooperative rather than competitive.

Bill Mollison, Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual


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