August 2012

Chicks and Keets under heat lamps

New Digs alongside high tunnel:
roosting condo for older chickens (to the left);
younger chickens have been moved into lower condo

Teenaged Guineas and Chickens

The three chicks
and two guineas
that hatched
a month ago
and have lived in a pen
in the pond house
where Ann could keep
a close eye on them
have graduated,
to a bigger, outdoor pen.
They’ll live in that pen
until they’re old enough
to join the adult hens and rooster
who free range
during the day
and come home to the pen
at night to roost.
The free-rangers
and the young ones
live next door to each other
in a chicken condo
next to the high tunnel.
The older chickens
went through the same
progression of housing
and now are out and about,
eating bugs,
scratching the earth,
and laying eggs—
at the moment,
small, blue-ish, green-ish, brown-ish
We are quite happy
to have eggs to share
and happy to have
these happy companions
doing their good work.

Rooster, free-ranging in the garden


Thor and Fru Fru when they lived in the same pen


They sit on either side
of the gate that opens
to the barn
from the outside pen—
he, inside,
she on the outside
with their family.
When the second litter in a month—
another six bunnies—
were born,
we separated Pappa,
putting him in the rabbit village
in the barn
with its web of burrows,
built by previous occupants.
He’s been there, alone,
for a month or so
and it is poignant,
from our perspective,
that they still come to the gate
to be with each other.
Our thought was to move all the males
into the barn
with him,
but we had to wait until they were old enough
for us to tell who is male and who is female.
Ann and Frank caught all 9 bunnies,
checked them
and put the 3 males in with pappa
and left the 6 females with mamma.
Sad as it is
that Thor and Fru Fru
still seem to want to be together,
we’re not ready
for more offspring.
So separating the sexes
before they get old enough
to make bunnies themselves,
and giving Thor some company
is the best we can do
at the moment.

When Ann went back to the barn
for nighttime feeding,
she discovered one of the teenaged male rabbits
in the alpaca pen!
It had found its way out
of the rabbit village.
When it hopped back home,
we filled in every hole
we could find.
But this morning,
he was hopping around in the barn
hanging out with a cat,
which, at one point,
held its paw on the stilled rabbit’s back.
We found another hole,
and waited until the rabbit
had negotiated its way
past guineas and Silkie chickens
and hopped home.
Then we covered
the hole.
We’ll see if it finds its way
out again.

Because we bring fresh fruit and vegetables
when we enter the rabbit pens,
they come running
and often one or two will allow
us to pet them
as they eat
or as they seemingly wait
for food.
Some take after mom
and are black;
some have taken after pappa
and are black, gray and white;
one takes after someone else
and is a fuzzy white and tan.
Some are fuzzy, like mamma,
and some have her lionhead mane.
Some are sleek like pappa.
They all are an absolute delight.
And they produce lots of great manure—
enough now to share
with friends
starting to compost.
That’s why we brought them here
in the first place.
Little did we know
we’d fall in love.

Fru Fru and some of the family
sharing watermelon rind




It is another
cool, August morning.
I do not say that
without savoring
the very notion.
Let us not take for granted
that we are having
66 degrees at 7 a.m.
on August 29.
And while the hummingbirds
vying for their sips
at the feeders,
a glint of shining green
as the sun catches their feathers,
I’m beginning to see evidence
of season change
in other bird activity.
Many of the Barn Swallow families
have left,
though a few remain,
dipping and diving,
for which I’m grateful,
since we have another generation
of mosquitoes.
This morning
it was the Mourning Doves
that captured my attention.
The Mourning Doves live here
but seem quieter,
as if they’re somewhere else
in the hot weather.
This morning two were
and flying fast,
tree branches,
one on the tail of the other,
speeding faster,
then through another tree,
matching each other’s every move.
For a moment,
I let my heart soar with them,
laughing out loud, delightedly.
It freed everything inside me.
I assumed I had joined a dove couple
on a joyful cool morning romp,
and then a third dove flew
in and sat on a branch
and seemed to watch.
That was when I realized
it wasn’t a dove couple
flying in marital syncopation,
but two doves
chasing one another.
I smiled.
Happy trick
my mind played;
my heart,
the benefactor.
Every season,
every in-between season,
I cherish the good company
of birds.


If you haven’t already,
I suggest you get acquainted
with The Great Turning.
I first studied the movement
in seminary,
in Thomas Berry’s
The Great Work:

Berry views history as ‘governed by those overarching movements that give shape and meaning to life by relating the human venture to the larger destinies of the universe.’

The Great Work of a people or era is the creating of such an overarching movement. This generation’s Great Work, he argues, is the transformative effort to change human-Earth relations from disruptive and destructive to mutually enhancing and beneficial.

Many others have also
taken up the work,
sometimes tapping it,
The Great Turning.
In Joanna Macy‘s words,
the Great Turning is
to “shift from the Industrial Growth Society
to a life-sustaining civilization.”
David Korten has also written
The Great Turning. From Empire to Earth Community,
in which he writes about
moving into an “Era of Earth Community,
characterized by peaceful partnership.”
One distillation of Berry’s thought
is published by Sierra Club:
Creative Energy. Bearing Witness for the Earth.

The Great Work is a learning
that we continue to study
and turn into.
It inspires and undergirds
our mission at Turtle Rock Farm
and every seemingly small attempt
at sustainability.
From our effort at beekeeping
or composting;
observing dung beetles
or the Milky Way,
we are compelled by,
committed to,
the hope that the human race
is ready
to make a turn
toward a desire to learn from
and live with
the entire, great, web of life.

Our family has traditionally,
done the good work
of growing food.
When farming practices
and climate change
created the Great Dust Bowl,
our grandparents
almost had to give up the farm
but managed to hold on
through the crisis.
Our father then studied agronomy
to learn better agricultural methods.
That farm exists today.
Ann and I
have returned to it,
here on the mixed grass prairie
in north central Oklahoma.
It is our turn
and the great turning
is at the heart
of our learning
about how to grow food
in these times
of environmental,
energy and economic upheaval.
There is much to consider,
much to learn.
We will be learning,
and sharing,
about permaculture’s restoration agriculture,
and forestry agriculture,
when Mark Shepherd,.
whom we met in eastern Oklahoma last spring,
comes to the prairie
this fall.

In the meantime,
we recommend this 45-minute documentary,
“A Farm for the Future”,
which you can watch online for free.
The film does an excellent job
of laying out the problem,
showing the connection
between fuel and food.
Yes, the young English woman
whose turn it is to consider
how to grow food on her family farm,
lives in a different ecosystem.
But we are very excited
because we hear from Mark
that the kind of farming/gardening methods
explored in the film
can be adapted
for Turtle Rock Farm’s
savannah-like biome.

While we are often
overwhelmed by the challenges
before us,
we remember Thomas Berry’s call
to the Great Work,
and hold with him
the fervent belief
that the human species
can take up the effort
to make the turn.
It is a commitment voiced plaintively
by the young English woman in the film.
We resonate deeply with her,
there, on her family farm
in Devon, England,
so far from our family farm
here on the Oklahoma prairie:
it’s our job,
she says,
to try.

Snow on the Mountain in the Pasture

Heading up Zig Zag Lane

The dogs and I headed up Zig Zag Lane
while the sun was still high,
the air still,
I hoped to see Monarchs;
I’ve seen a few already
and know
they like to stay awhile in the trees
along the lane
as they fly north
from Mexico.
I saw no Monarchs today,
but Zig Zag Lane
shows other signs of transition.

Prairie Nettle

Cedar Berries

Snow on the Mountain

Grasses are drying—
green and golden
in the late afternoon sun—
and sunflowers are blooming,
but so is Snow on the Mountain,
and the purple flowers on the prairie nettle.
Cicadeas still sing
and grasshoppers spring everywhere.
I hear them land
on the dry Johnston Grass.
Dragonflies, thankfully,
(there are still mosquitoes)
are plentiful,
flying elegantly amid the graceless grasshoppers.
But Cedar tree boughs hang thick
with winter berries
and the scent of fresh cedar
mixes with dry grass
and dry earth;
autumn’s spice is in the air.

It’s dry.
Storms that surrounded us
the last two days,
that towered above us
and thundered and flashed,
failed to deliver much rain—
barely 1/4-inch worth.
Ponds are very low.
Exceptional drought,
they say.
My concern about the drought grows—
since I read this morning
that scientists are watching
a climate change pattern
in which we get more rain in the fall
than in the spring
And yet,
we missed a soaker

This morning,
someone said to me,
“Summer’s over.”
“I hope not,” I said—
and I have no idea
why I said that.
I am so glad
the temperature has dropped,
though the humidity has been so high,
I am dripping after a few minutes of outdoor tasks,
or a walk on Zig Zag Lane.
I came down the Lane
looking for Monarchs,
looking for signs of autumn.
And I do see transition.
I look forward to the beauties
of fall,
but evidently,
I’m not ready to let go
of summer.

Supper on the porch,
in the cool of a breeze
stirring again;
I watch the chickens
make their evening rounds,
listen to the cicadeas’ sleepy summer serenade
and watch
the hummingbirds
chase and dive bomb each other
for their moment at the feeders.
Maybe that’s why I’m glad
it’s still summer:
the hummingbirds
are still here,
though their summer days
are evidently numbered.
something white catches my eye:
I look up,
my jaw drops:
Snow Geese.


Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

John Muir

Dead Fish Last Year at the Big Pond

The Big Pond Last Fall

By this time a year ago,
the drought had progressed
and the 10-acre farm pond
our dad built with his bulldozer in the 1940’s
had come to the end of its lifespan.
It had been dry for a month.
The fish had been gone
for two months.
During the winter,
the dam was rebuilt,
the water catchment system improved,
parts of the pond reconfigured
and with a couple of three-inch rains
last spring,
it became the Big Pond
With the continuing deep drought
this summer,
the pond depth is down again,
but there is still water,
and we hope there will be
for a long time to come.
Turtles and snakes and frogs
have returned.
Egrets have visited.
The Great Blue Heron
flies over once in awhile,
keeping an eye out,
we think,
for fish.
We’ve been waiting
for the end of summer
to fetch the baby fish
from the state fish nursery.
And yesterday,
Ann drove to Cherokee,
loaded up the fish
and brought them home,
where we released them
into the Big Pond—
5,000 tiny Blue Gill.
1,000 tiny Channel Catfish.
More will be brought
next spring.

Oklahoma State Fish Nursery at Cherokee, OK

Releasing Fish in the Big Pond

We set the bags of fish into the water
where they floated for a few moments,
giving the fish time to adjust to the temperature.
Then, without fanfare,
we opened the bags
and let the fish out
to swim
in their new home.
It was a quiet, poignant
moment for us…
because we almost lost this cherished pond—
indeed, there was loss
and it was painful to experience;
because Ann and her family did a great deal
to bring it back.
If they had done nothing,
it would have returned
to prairie.
So, honestly,
the restoration of the Big Pond
has been much about sustaining human
body and spirit,
around a habitat
we appreciate
The process
has not only restored
the family tradition
of living next to
and enjoying
the Big Pond,
it will help us live on the prairie
as the effects of global warming
The restored pond
provides water catchment
for watering garden and orchard,
as well as the food supply of fish.
We hope too
it serves well
the species
who live their lives here,
whose presence
we have missed.

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