July 2012


The animals
stay in the shade
except early morning
and late evening,
when they go out
to eat grasshoppers
and search for blades of grass.
During the day,
alpaca, goats, chickens, guineas,
sit together
in the slightly less hot
open-ended east side of the barn,
where there is a little breeze.
The rabbit family
stays in the burrows
they have dug in their outside condo,
appearing now and then
in their pen
for drinks of water,
nibbles of food.
The air temperature
has been 109 degrees
the last couple of days
and there are heat warnings
and predictions for continued hot—
even hotter—
temperatures
and little, or no, rain.
The grass is crunchy
underfoot
and we are concerned
about grazing
for the goats and paca boys.
We are deciding
which vegetable plants
to keep watered
and alive
for fall production.
We hear reports that there
is not one iota of moisture
in the earth
two feet down.
(There’s no way we could dig a hole
in the hard earth
to see for ourselves.)
Water levels in farm ponds,
are, once again,
diminishing.
Wildfires are now
burning in Oklahoma.

We knew it would come:
August.
Traditionally hot and dry,
it is ever more so.
When I was in college,
(a journalism major)
I heard two things
that I suspected were true
but didn’t want to believe:
that newspapers
would become extinct
and that this part of the world
would become a desert.
Denial
of either possibility
is now impossible.
If we can deny the effects
of global warming
every other month,
August is our dose of reality.
The good thing
about having the courage
to face reality
is that then we can
make changes.
We can decide
what it is we can do
to reduce our individual
burning of fossil fuel
and carbon production
into the atmosphere.
And we can decide
to let the powers that be
(corporations and governments)
know that we are willing
to do what it takes
to not allow the carbon
into the atmosphere
that producing and burning oil
from the tar sands
beneath the Boreal Forest
would bring about.

This planet that is our home
is one living organism
of which we are a significant part.
Our part is to see,
wonder at
and celebrate
its beauty,
its intricate systems,
its interdependence,
and to pay attention
and speak up
and take action
when it is threatened.
August
reminds us.

Here,
suggestions
for August reading:

Bill McKibben’s recent article in Rolling Stone.

About the environmental significance of the Boreal Forest.

A book by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone
to help us face our challenges
and move into action: Active Hope.

And,
one way to get involved: 350.org

 

 

The difficulty is in the order of magnitude of change that is required of us. We have become so acclimated to an industrial world that we can hardly imagine any other context of survival, even when we recognize that the industrial bubble is dissolving and will soon leave us in the chill of a plundered landscape.

None of our former revelatory experiences, none of our renewal or rebirth rituals, none of our apocalyptic descriptions are quite adequate for this moment. Their mythic power remains in a context far removed from the power that is abroad in our world. But even as we glance over the grimy world before us, the sun shines radiantly over the earth, the aspen leaves shimmer in the evening breeze, the coo of the mourning dove and the swelling chorus of the insects fill the land, while down in the hollows the mist deepens the fragrance of the honeysuckle. Soon the late summer moon will give a light sheen to the landscape. Something of a dream experience. Perhaps on occasion we participate in the original dream of the earth. Perhaps there are times when this primordial design becomes visible, as in a palimpsest, when we remove the later imposition. The dream of the earth. Where else can we go for the guidance needed for that task that is before us.

 

Thomas Berry
The Dream of the Earth

Coming up in August—
two sustainability workshops:

Earth Dinner Workshop on August 4.
We’ll look at our food system
and how to cook food
that’s healthy for humans
and the planet.
Much of the day will be spent
in the garden and kitchen.
And we’ll eat—
fresh, locally-grown,
delicious food.

Vermi-Composting and Fall Gardening on August 18.
Ann will teach about gardening
in raised beds
and her favorite way of composting—
with Red Wiggler Worms.
You can spend half a day and make
either a raised bed and hoop
(to extend the growing season)
or a Red Wiggler home,
or spend a whole day and make both.

Both workshops are fun—
good for people and the planet.

Sign up on our website:
www.turtlerockfarmretreat.com

A Sliver of Orange Moon

Maybe it’s because it’s past dark
before the air cools enough
to enjoy being outside.
But propelled I am
every evening to go out,
sit under that vast canopy of stars,
watch the moon gently move
to the western horizon.
One night,
while it was still very new,
it turned from golden orange,
to burnt orange,
to almost red
before it disappeared.
Now, half illuminated,
it is glowing brightly.
The Milky Way
is coming into view again,
showing a small swath of hazy white.
It will climb and brighten and widen
as summer moves along.
By ten at night,
the air temperature has dropped
and the breeze feels soft
as I sit blissfully,
head bent to the sky,
trying to take it in;
trying to grasp
that we are part
of that swathe of sparkling stars;
trying to fathom how long
this magnificent universe has been
developing;
trying to let all that beauty
into my soul;
trying to comprehend
how important a job it is we have,
to stop
and see the summer sky.

We know some wonderful grandparents.
We think they are especially wonderful
because they spend time
with their grandchildren
in nature.
This week, our friend Diana
brought her granddaughter, Audrey, for a 24-hour retreat.
They stayed in the strawbale hermitage,
which is a beautiful place to stay,
but it is about 300 square feet,
has no wireless
and no tv.
After an hour or so,
on a 103-degrees day,
Audrey asked the question
that opened the door:
“What did people do without tv?”
“They entertained each other,”
said wise grandmother Diana.
By the time I got to the hermitage
with a basket of books and art supplies,
Audrey, who is almost 9,
had written a play
and when I arrived
I was offered a chair
from which to watch the performance.
Diana read the play aloud
as Audrey starred,
as all the characters—
farm animals and cats and dogs
and our neighbor’s horses.

Audrey as a horse

When I left, Audrey had named
a new cast of characters
for another play,
in which her grandmother
would star.
In the heat of the day,
art supplies came out
and masks were made.
By late afternoon,
we were in the pond,
swimming around islands
to escape from a sea serpent.
Audrey stayed in the pond
after the adults wore out
and we watched her
explore what is at the bottom of the pond,
going under the murky water
to bring up sticks mostly.
She entertained herself.

Next morning,
Audrey was there
for the animal-feeding
and watering
and egg-gathering
and while Diana
packed up their belongings,
Audrey fed Johnson grass
to the goats.
Fortunate little girl.
Fortunate Earth—
with this little girl,
so comfortable in the natural world,
present.

We grew up swimming
in farm ponds.
At the Tonkawa city pool,
we took swim lessons,
but when it came to swimming
at home,
Mom and Dad
would cinch so tightly around us
those bright orange life jackets,
the things would ride up
against our chins,
and then they’d pitch us into the water.
Farm pond water is not clear;
it’s brown
and, by this time of the summer,
swimming with tiny particles of algae—
too murky
to see anybody below the surface.
So we wore those orange jackets
in the pond for years.
We knew there were snakes
and turtles
but our parents told us we were bigger
and they wouldn’t hurt us.
And they never did.
(We don’t have poisonous water snakes
and Dad removed any snapping turtles
he saw.)
We did get nibbled by fish
and one summer, or maybe more,
Mom had to pull leaches off  our backs
after we swam.
The only constant thing
we were a bit uncomfortable with
was a thick layer of gooshy mud
on the bottom.
Nevertheless,
on those hot Oklahoma summer days
we headed for the pond
(and even the cool mud felt good.)
There are many, many, many
wonderful memories of swimming in the pond—
though, in recent years,
pond swimming hasn’t been as much fun.
Farm ponds have a life-span
and this was sixty-year-old one
had silted in over the years
until it was very shallow.
With last year’s drought,
it went dry.
Our neighbor spent several months
last year pushing dirt with his bulldozer
to rebuild the dam
and make a better drainage system
into it from the pasture runoff.
The pond will never be as deep
as it was in its youth,
but it is definitely swimmable
and the weather now calls us
into the pond.
Family and guests
are enjoying it
immensely.

Last weekend,
Ann’s son Ben and his wife Abby
and their friends Reed and Diana
were home.
They hung a rope swing
on a tree
alongside the newest, deepest
part of the pond
and spent hours
perfecting their splash.
We also had
a cardboard boat regatta,
which kept some of us cooler
than others.
And we swam—
every one of those triple-digit days—
for hours.

Robber Fly

We noticed a very large insect
sitting on the arm of a rocking chair
on the front porch:
large, bulging, glowing green eyes;
long, segmented red and black body,
long, brown, veined wings.
Later, it landed on the screen.
It is an impressive-looking creature—
especially, evidently, to wasps.
It’s a Robber Fly
and they kill wasps.
It’s wasp season here
so it’s no wonder
this amazing creature
showed up.

Great Egret

Great Egret at Dusk

Three Great Egrets,
with their very long, crooked necks,
have come to the Big Pond.
When the pond dried up last summer,
all the fish died
and the pond won’t be restocked
until this fall.
Still, the Egrets have come
and we hope they stay.
We enjoy
summer’s visitors.

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