March 2012


 

First asparagus of 2012

Simply,
it’s weird around here—
beautiful,
and weird.
Yesterday I said the asparagus
died
and now we have asparagus.
As our friend Debra observes,
the normal sequence of blooming
is simply out of line;
many plants are blooming early
and some normally early-blooming plants
are still asleep.

Susan weeding in the raised bed garden.
The revitalized strawberry patch is behind her.

Definitely,
no strawberry plants survived
last year’s extreme winter-summer combo.
Ann and Susan Ross
are rebuilding the strawberry bed.
(Susan has come on board to help out.
Thank you, Susan!)
They’ve weeded the patch,
prepared the soil and begun replanting.
We’re thinking that the shade
from the Redbud trees maturing there
may be helpful
as the warming trend continues.

We’re looking at May 15
as the date for putting up
the high tunnel for year-round growing.
As the climate is warming,
Oklahoma’s growing season—
historically, spring and summer—
is changing.
It’s too hot in the summer
and the winters seem to be getting milder.
So, some growers are putting up
unheated greenhouses
to grow fruits and vegetables
fall, winter and spring.
Too, they can cover them with shade cloth
and hope to be able to grow something
in the summer scorch.
Steve Upson from the Noble Foundation
will lead a workshop
here at Turtle Rock Farm
May 15
on how to construct a high tunnel.
Workshop fee is $25.
To reserve a spot,
(there are limited spaces)
email Ann at annmcferron@hotmail.com.

Rooster in Evening’s Golden Light

Rooster and I
are still not
on friendly terms.
I always keep my eye out for him,
as I think he does
for me.
I carry a water jug
some of the time,
but now that he’s out of the barn
and grazing in the alpaca and goat pens,
I don’t always have the jug
when I’m around him.
About once a week
he rushes me,
in that wiggle-waggle way,
at his top-speed.
If I have water in hand,
he gets a splash,
or several.
If not, I have to turn toward him
and point my finger
and firmly tell him to stop—
then I get the water
and splash him.
That settles things
for several days.
He doesn’t treat any other humans
like this,
though the hens, of course,
and the guineas
often get chased.
Despite his mysterious issues with me,
I am increasingly astounded
by his beauty
as he’s grown into
his full-blown roosterhood.
Perhaps his keeping a close eye on me
allowed me the moment I needed
to capture his handsomeness
one evening during the golden hour.

It’s fun these days—
these days of scary climate change—
to be with people
who are dedicated to growing food
in consideration
of the changes.
The USDA has changed its
plant hardiness zone map,
an official indication—
not that we who grow needed one—
that it’s warming.
After last summer
here in Oklahoma
in which growing food
was almost impossible
(we are just now discovering
that the long-time asparagus beds
are dead,)
it would be easy to lose heart.
And, in moments, we have.
Then spring comes
and hope springs again.
I was at a St. Patrick’s Day party
sponsored by Sustainable Oklahoma City
and every conversation
was about what people are doing
differently
in their gardens this year.
Much of it has to do
with growing under shade.
And mulching.
And water catchment.
And finding new varieties.
(One friend is going to try
tomato seeds from Iraq.)
Everyone is planting early—
two to three weeks before
the traditional last-frost date
(which happened, evidently,
in mid-March rather than mid-April.)

Things are moving along rapidly here.
Suddenly, it feels like time to get all those seedlings
in the soil.
Our neighbors’ pigs
have rooted up much of the bermuda grass
where the new high-tunnel, unheated greenhouse
will stand.
(We’ll let you know the date
for the greenhouse-raising.)
Other people we’ve met
raised tomatoes in shaded space
last summer
and happily share what they’ve learned.
(Plants need moving air too,
and moist air, if possible.)
It’s going to be a busy summer
with a big learning curve.

It dawned on me,
standing there on a front porch
in Oklahoma City
on a beautiful spring evening
surrounded by excited, committed people
talking about growing food sustainably,
that this is a new kind of community.
People are eagerly sharing
what they’re learning
about growing food sustainably
in a warmer climate.
Just yesterday another email arrived
that describes how to grow food
on mounds of rotting wood—
hugelkulture.

So last summer’s drought—
and the frightening thought of another,
as the warming continues—
is the catalyst
for new ideas,
creative, new beginnings,
inspired learnings,
community-building
among gardeners and farmers.

Perhaps we are experiencing
what Thomas Berry described
in The Great Work:

As we enter the twenty-first century, we are experiencing a moment of grace. Such moments are privileged moments. The great transformations of the universe occur at such times. The future is defined in some enduring pattern of its functioning.

We are now experiencing a moment of significance far beyond what any of us can imagine. What can be said is that the foundations of a new historical period, the Ecozoic Era, have been established in every realm of human affairs. The mythic vision has been set into place. The distorted dream of an industrial technological paradise is being replaced by the more viable dream of a mutually enhancing human presence within an ever-renewing organic-based Earth community. The dream drives the action.

But even as we make our transition into this new century we must note that moments of grace are transient moments. The transformation must take place with a brief period. Otherwise it is gone forever.

 

Tricia beside the tipi

Tipi aglow at night

Our houses
protect us,
partially from the natural world.
And we are grateful for that.
One of the gifts
of staying in a tipi
is that we can reconnect
with the natural world;
for when staying in a tipi,
we are more aware of the natural world
in which we really do live.
These beautiful days
of full-blown-spring-in-March,
staying in a tipi
is full-blown-enjoyment
of the natural world.
We and our friends have stayed in the tipi,
but last weekend,
Tricia Dameron was our first tipi guest.

Now she knows the genius
of indigenous peoples
in building such a useful
and beautiful dwelling.
She knows the joy
of sleeping in the natural world
with stars shining
through the smoke hole at the top of the tipi,
and smoke rising into the night
from the fire beside her.
And she knows the sublime sacredness
of sun, stillness, sweet song
as she woke up with the prairie.

She had been hanging around the nest
more than usual.
Then in one day,
there were several eggs in one nest
rather than scattered around all the nests.
The next day,
there was another big batch.
Ann took a few
and put them in an incubator.
So we’re giving that a go.
The third day
that there were several eggs,
we called our friend Deb
who has raised chickens for a long time.
We knew that,
with all the hybridization,
chickens have forgotten
how to sit on a nest.
A couple of years ago,
we had a hen who liked to sit on the nest
and wouldn’t leave.
When she finally decided to get off the nest,
the other hens would peck at her
until she got back on the nest.
This nesting thing
has been confusing,
seemingly,
for everyone.
The black hen was acting
differently, so,
taking Deb’s advice,
we shut the door on her
when she was sitting on the nest of eggs,
so the other hens wouldn’t drive her off
and lay more eggs in the nest.
We gave her food and water.
She seemed content.
That was three days ago.
It takes 21 days to hatch the eggs.
We’re not certain
the black hen is still content.
She moves around,
knocking over food dish
and water.
And she kicks some of the eggs
out from under her.
Sometimes,
when we go to check on her,
turn the water right side up,
I think she’d like to get out.
Other times,
she seems content.
It’s a conundrum:
Does she need help learning how to do this?
So should we keep her confined?
Or are we making her miserable,
to no avail?
Sometimes I hear the hens
talking loudly
and when I hurry down to see what’s going on,
they’ve stopped their commotion.
We are keeping an eye on her
and, hopefully, learning.
Hoping too
she can be a proud mother.

 

Maybe the Western intellectual tradition has made a metaphysical mistake. Maybe we have horribly misunderstood the nature of the world and our place in it. All people hold a worldview, a set of answers to questions such as, What are humans? What is nature? What is the relation of humans to nature? Our answers to these questions matter. For better or for worse, we act and we judge our actions in the context of our understanding of the world.

So, what if we who are descendants of the Western intellectual tradition have been wrong all these years? The Western tradition has asked us to accept three entwined assumptions. First (for a variety of reasons), that we are fundamentally separate from nature. Second (and consequently), that we are superior to nature. Third (and further consequently), that our superiority makes nature unimportant.

But ecological science and most of the non-monotheistic religions of the world tell us that Westerners are dangerously wrong on all three counts. Like everything else on Earth, they say, humans are born into interdependent, life-sustaining relationships with other animals, with plants, with sun and moon and rock. Each has its place, its role, in the thriving of everything else—not a hierarchy, but a dance. Human flourishing dances with the flourishing of nature, like a little girl dances on the feet of her father. Accordingly, human life is utterly dependent on other earthly elements. If so, then people who profess to be concerned about people but not about nature are profoundly misinformed.

Say we are egoists. Say we deeply care about only ourselves. Or say we are anthropocentrists, concerned only with the interests of people. Then we should be deeply concerned about the thriving of all parts of the systems on which our lives depend, from the smallest ecosystems to the grandest workings of time and wind, from the past to the future. Work to ensure the flourishing of nature is work to likewise ensure the flourishing of humans, because all flourishing is mutual.

—Kathleen Dean Moore & Michael P. Nelson
Moral Ground. Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril

Wispy fog hangs softly
along the creek.
Sun gleaming on the wet grass
turns it golden.
Brand new leaves on the trees
proclaim the sweetest green.
Mockingbird concertizes
and Red-Winged Blackbird chirps,
making a circle just above the trees.
Gentle rains this week
and warm air
have brought color to the prairie.
The grass and wheat and trees
are so green,
and above them,
a sky so blue,
clouds glorious,
that it seems our only job
is to stand
and try
to take in the beauty.

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