February 2012

They had been flying overhead
back and forth
all morning.
I could still hear their honking.
When I looked up
from my work
this last—leap day—
of February;
this sunny morning
with the temperature
already close to 60 degrees;
this morning in spring,
when I looked up
I saw, through the hedge of trees
north of the house,
falling softly
on the prairie.
Snow Geese
let themselves down
from the sky
onto the greening pasture grass
and landed softly
in my soul.


One way to get rid of grass
where you hope a garden will be
is to invite pigs to supper.
On the site of the big garden
at the Pond House
we are making preparations
to install a high hoop house,
which is an unheated greenhouse.
So Ann built a temporary fence
at one end of the garden
then called our friend and neighbor
Paulette Rink, of Rowdy Stickhorse Wild Acres,
and asked to borrow a couple of pigs
for a few months
to dig up and eat grass roots
for the expanding plantings.
Last weekend, Paulette and Gary
delivered two beautiful, friendly pigs.
They are a heritage breed:
Gloucestershire Old Spots
(with some Hampshire.)
They went right to work,
rooting at the grass
and seem most happy.
They come to the fence
when we approach,
talking up a storm
in their delightful pig language
and accommodate us
as we rub their bristly-haired heads and necks.

It is really fun
to all work together,
each contributing who we are
and what we have to offer,
we cats, dogs, birds, chickens,
rabbits, goats, guineas, alpacas,
bees, Red Wiggler worms, humans, pigs.

Thanks for sharing, Paulette.

As we set out
on our Sunday afternoon walk,
Maizey, Joe and I,
it was sunny and I only needed a sweater.
Though February,
the breeze was warm
and just strong enough
to softly blow my hair.
I took in the subtle curve of the prairie
on the horizon,
took in the vast sky,
the quiet, straight road.
And I realized
that there is a transition moment
from leaving the confines of the house,
the boundaries of yard,
and barns;
that stepping out onto the prairie
brings  a moment of unsettledness.
In that moment—
usually without being aware of it—
I choose whether to focus on the big picture
or the details.
I usually, at least first, focus on the details:
the dogs, exploring;
which birds are about.
Yesterday, it was impossible to not notice
the Canada and Snow Geese.
Their company of voices could be heard
half a mile before I saw them,
on the Water Retention Reservoir
and then in the sky,
headed to their supper on the wheat fields.
Joe smelled and then flushed out
a large coyote,
who ran across the pasture
and toward Doe Creek.
I headed to the Oil Blossom,
a sort of mesa
that rises alongside the creek.
Her boundaries are historically,
for me,
a place of comfort and calling.
I enjoy being there,
with a little higher vantage
looking onto the trees that line the creek
and the grass greening beneath them.
With trees close,
I laid down
and looked up into the blue, blue sky
and found
at the top,
the white crescent moon.
Even the moon,
so far away,
helps define space
and I felt a cozy at-homeness.
Maizey was not content there, however,
and called me with constant, sharp barks
to leave,
which we did.
Back down in the pasture,
I heard two Kildeer
and then saw them,
They must be defining a nesting place.
When we drew near,
they took flight and circled above us
until we left their territory.
It was then I felt comfortable
broadening my vision,
leaving notice of detail,
and let myself enter into a bigger, undefined picture:
the unboundaried prairie,
the vast bowl of sky.

A group visited us once
from the suburbs of Connecticut
and found the prairie to be very uncomfortable.
A wise friend observed
that there are no boundaries here.
There is a sense of wildness
and undefined expanse
that unsettles some of us.
I, native to the prairie,
when entering it,
first focused on lovely detail
until, in a moment,
it was safe to widen my vision
and allow myself  into the grand openness.
When I did,
I felt I was in touch
with the expanse
of my soul.
And, for awhile,
I soared.


How can we express gratitude to the Earth for all its gifts?

Write a song of praise and sing it in the street.
Say thank you before morning coffee, which is a gift of grace from the water and the soil, which owe you nothing.
Celebrate the season of harvest with feasting, the season of scarcity with fasting, the season of new life with dancing, and the season of ripeness with listening.
For every gift you are given, give something in return: a planted seed, a suet scrap, a moment to notice the moon.
Be glad for ponds.
Take nothing without noticing. A deep breath, a carrot salad, a drink of water or wine.
Write thank-you notes, which is what your mother taught you. Write to the soil, “This is a great gift and your are kind to give it and I hope you are well in the new year.” Bury the note in the garden.
Hold each gift in your hands—fresh snow, a tomato, a child’s crayon drawing; examine it closely to understand how beautiful it is, and astounding. This is how a gift becomes sacred.
Make something of every gift you are given.
Use it, but use it wisely and well.
Imagine, when you awake each morning, what you will make of the new day, that greatest of all astonishing gifts.
Listen closely when the gift is music. Return it abundantly when the gift is love. Touch it gently when the gift is fragile. Protect it fiercely when the gift is vulnerable. Laugh aloud when the gift is joyous. Share it when the gift is truth. Use it bravely when the gift is freedom. When the gift is money, give it away.
Above all, do not pretend to understand why you have been chosen to receive these gifts. This is the mystery of life.


–Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson
Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril

Hope springs eternal
with the coming of spring:
for home-grown tomatoes,
freshly-dug potatoes,
brightly greened greens,
sweet melons,
tender green beans,
crunchy cucumbers;
harvested just before suppertime;
grown in happy, rich soil
that has been amended
with soil created from kitchen scraps
and leaves
and processed by Red Wiggler Worms
and that is free of toxic chemicals;
that brings home to us
the joys of living
in the great circle of life.

Saturday, March 10,
Ann will teach a workshop
on gardening and composting—
including how to use Red Wiggler Worms
for composting
(her favorite way.)
Gardening will focus on how to garden
in small spaces
much of the year.
You can come for half a day
or the whole day.

To catch hope
and enjoy
the Great Circle of Life
(and get started on gardening
and composting)
register at our website.



we’re acting like it’s spring around here.
The winds have returned.
One night the solar shower hot water tank
blew over onto the solar panel,
which, we think, was not damaged.
The winter grass is so green,
we brought the goats out,
tethered them so they could get to it.
Not interested—
and they let us know it.
Eye-itching and sneezing have begun.

Vegetable seedlings are sprouting
in every sunny window.
Ann is building a movable pig pen
so we can borrow pigs
to dig up the bermuda grass
to make a new garden
under a high tunnel
(tall, unheated greenhouse.)
This will extend the growing season.

We rescued a giant bale
of Hay Grazer
that fell off someone’s truck
awhile back
and put it in with the alpacas and goats,
since they had pretty much eaten
their first bale of the winter.
The alpaca chewed on the new one non-stop
until we finally coaxed them into the goat pen
where they could get a rest from it for the night.
Next morning,
they chomped on it more,
sitting down on top of it
when they got tired.
That has given the pasture a little recovery time
and this morning they’re out
nibbling on the shoots
they find.

Rooster will forever,
I now know,
want to attack me.
We were doing so well:
me carrying around a jug with water in it,
him not coming near.
Then one morning
I became complacent
and turned my back on him
without keeping an eye out
and while I was getting the chickens and guineas
(and him!)
some feed,
he landed a full-monty—
both feet solidly—
on my backside.
I will never trust him.

We are enjoying the birds
and have hung feeders to attract
Baltimore Orioles and Eastern Blue Birds.
Have a Blue Bird house to put up.
More baby birds,
more insects eaten.
Saw a pretty little House Wren
this morning,
riding the wind
on the platform feeder.


A friend’s family came for a visit
last weekend.
They fed alpacas,
played on the hay,
loved the mud.

Our greatest joy
was watching them run
and run and run
squealing all the way.


It seems so simple,
but sometimes we struggle with it;
that is, talking and listening to each other.
So, on Saturday,
we’ll use the wisdom
of Parker Palmer,
Thich Nhat Hanh
and Marshall Rosenberg
to teach us,
or deepen our ability
to communicate
with loving kindness.
The teachings are simple—
though not always easy to do.
So we’ll help each other
It’s from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday, February 25
at Turtle Rock Farm.
Register here
by Thursday noon.

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