October 2012

Last spring
friends and volunteers
to help us raise the ribs
for the “high tunnel”—
a tall, unheated greenhouse.
In one day,
with many hands,
we built the structure
and covered the top
with shade cloth.
Ann, Erica, Frank, Randy and Michael
have worked many hours
since then getting the doors
and the roll-up sides installed,
finishing the framework
so that the plastic covering could go up,
replacing the shade cloth,
for winter.
After a week of strong winds,
finally there came a still day
and we pulled the plastic over the roof
and secured it.
With summers that are too hot and dry
for producing fruits and vegetables
in the garden,
and with warming winters,
the high tunnel will extend the growing season.
We might be able to grow vegetables
long into the fall,
and winter,
then much earlier in spring.
Right now,
greens are plentiful.

One of the things we’ve learned
about sustainability,
and sustainability
in extreme weather,
is that everything
all the time.
All is experiment.
You just keep adapting,
keep trying.


Our November Newsletter:
Autumn Surprises at Turtle Rock Farm

We’ve been watching
the moon
growing fuller each evening,
glowing brighter.
Then last evening,
as the western sky
filled with color,
over our shoulder,
there was moon,
in full splendor.



Once in his {her} life a man {woman} ought to concentrate his {her} mind upon the remembered Earth, I believe. He {She} ought to give himself {herself} up to a particular landscape in his {her} experience to look at it from as many angles as he {she} can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. {She} He ought to imagine that {she} he touches it with {her} his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. {She} He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He {She} ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.

We Americans need now more than ever before—and indeed more than we know—to imagine who and what we are with respect to the Earth and sky. I am talking about an act of the imagination, essentially, and the concept of an American land ethic.

We have become disoriented, I believe; we have suffered a kind of psychic dislocation of ourselves in time and space. We may be perfectly sure of where we are in relation to the supermarket and the next coffee break, but I doubt that any of us knows where he {she} is in relation to the stars and to the solstices. Our sense of the natural order has become dull and unreliable. Like the wilderness itself, our sphere of instinct has diminished in proportion as we have failed to imagine truly what it is. And yet I believe that it is possible to formulate an ethical idea of the land—the notion of what it is and must be in our daily lives—and I believe moreover that it is absolutely necessary to do so.

—N. Scott Momaday,
“An Ethic of the Earth” in Moral Ground,
edited by Kathleen Dean Moore @ Michael P. Nelson


I’ve lost track of the possums
we’ve trapped
in the barn.
We also trapped one skunk.
But for a week now
we have not trapped
a predator—
though we smelled a skunk
in the alpaca pen yesterday.
Mr. Darcy wore the scent
all day.
Five guineas are still alive
and have been released
from their sequestering
and are doing fine
in the barn.
But we’re keeping
all doors closed,
for now at least.
Baby chicks,
to replace all the chickens lost
at the farmhouse,
are growing fast,
learning to relish insects
we toss in their indoor pen
at the pond house.
In several weeks
they’ll be ready to graduate
to a bigger pen
and we want that to be a safe place.
The barn is old
and difficult to secure,
though we try;
my, do we try.
Our intern, Michael,
suggested we build a chicken house
inside the barn—
a place the chickens could roost at night,
when skunks and possums and raccoons
come calling.
Michael has now built
the chicken house in the barn.
It will be a few weeks
before its residents arrive.
We think we can keep it secure.
And we hope they like it.
It’s quite fancy!
Thanks, Michael.

New Chicken House Inside Barn

Inside of chicken house inside of barn

Chickens’ back door

Chickens’ front door

It seems we humans
have a love-hate relationship
with the weather,
(as well as other things.)
We love the weather
when it is pleasant
and we find pleasure in it.
We hate the weather
when it is unpleasant
and interferes with our comfort.
I’m going to practice
observing the weather
without adding myself
into the equation;
without judging if it’s good weather
or bad weather.
I’m just going to pay attention
to the weather.
This morning,
at 5:53
it was 73 degrees F.
The wind was blowing at 10 mph
with gusts of 22.
At 6:53,
it was 53 degrees F.
Wind was blowing at 20 mph
with gusts of 36.
At 9 a.m.,
it was 47 degrees F.
Wind was blowing 20 mph
with gusts of 31.
It’s overcast.
The leaves are blowing off the trees.
Sheets drying on the clothesline
are snapping.
Going out,
I need a hat and jacket.
The animals are huddled
under bushes
and other protected places.

If the universe
is the Source of Life
manifesting love and creativity
through this one magnificent organism
of which everything is a part,
then if I hate the weather,
I hate myself
and every other thing
in the universe.
So I don’t hate the weather
Or love it,
I’m practicing
seeing it
as it is:
wind blowing,
temperature dropping.
There it is.
It’s kind of a relief
not to have to decide
anything about the weather—
whether it is a bother to me
or a great pleasure.
It’s simply
what it is.

Could it be
that my resistance
to what is happening in this moment—
in this case,
the weather—
(whether I’m holding onto it
because I love it,
or resisting it
because I hate it)
is keeping me from knowing Truth
as it is revealed in this moment?

Lights on the farm house porch

Here on the prairie
we are constantly aware of
the weather.
Because we are exposed
and there’s not much around us
to obstruct,
we feel it.
Weather is central
to our lives.
We consider it
as we make plans for the day,
and change our plans
as the weather changes.

We had a hard freeze
early this year—
the first week of October—
but since then
it’s been unseasonably warm.
The leaves on the Hackberry
and Chinaberry are golden
but there’s a disconnect
with the temperature.
Instead of crisp autumn days,
it’s been hot.
Mornings are balmy,
warm and humid,
like spring.
Then the winds kick up,
like spring.
We’ve had a week
of windy days
and it doesn’t settle much
at night.

I notice on my city visits
that the weather
is not at the center
of awareness.
While I’m looking
above streets and buildings,
to the sky,
and noticing shifts
in air and light,
or catch sight of a bird in flight,
when I casually share my observations
with city friends
my comments seem to jolt.
It’s then I realize
how much the weather
is central to my life.
No wonder,
that the effects of climate change
seem so real,
so telling,
so pressing.

In the last two weeks,
predators have killed all the chickens
at the barn,
and three guinea fowl.
These massacres happen from time to time,
but with continued exceptional drought conditions—
we have received 10.28 inches of rain
in the first 9 months of this year;
our 30-year-normal is 36 inches;
last year, we received 19.61;
average temperatures are 10-12 degrees above normal—
we see changes in behavior
in the natural world.
For instance,
at the pond house this week,
two chickens have been missing
when it’s time for them
to come into the hen house.
Two days ago,
at 5 in the evening,
a good hour and a half before the sun disappears,
Ann found a coyote
at the steps to her patio.
It was headed to the chicken house.
and alerted,
Ann investigated further
and discovered a trail and a pile
of the chicken feathers
from coyote suppers
the two previous nights.
The coyotes
are evidently hungry
and willing to change their habits,
coming much closer to human habitat,
to get a meal.

We’re leaving porch lights on
these nights.
Those porch lights
are a signal in the dark
for the coyotes to stay away;
they also beckon us
to change our behaviors.
Living on the prairie,
it’s easy to see the connect
between fossil fuel use
and coyotes at the hen house door.

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