August 2013


Raised Beds

Raised Beds

Cattle Panels

Cattle Panels

Raccoon Prevention Fence

Raccoon Prevention Fence

Blackberries and Mint

Blackberries and Mint

Composting Bins

Composting Bins

Garlic Drying

Garlic Drying

Heirloom Butter Beans, Fresh off the Vine

Heirloom Butter Beans, Fresh off the Vine

Shauna and Sunflower

Shauna and Sunflower

Our friends Shauna and Jim Struby live in the heart of Oklahoma City.
A journalist, Shauna has been writing about the environment for more than 20 years.
She remembers, as a child, living in Nigeria with her missionary parents,
being carried out at 2 a.m. to see a lunar eclipse, hearing her parents explain
this special, wondrous event. She remembers every summer hiking and camping in New Mexico.
This early-grounding in the natural world has been gift
that she returns now,
in her writing,
in her leadership with Sustainable OKC, Transition Town OKC and Oklahoma Sustainability Network,
and in her own person life.
Vacationing still in New Mexico and enjoying the natural beauty there and anywhere she goes,
she and her husband Jim also have turned their small back yard into a vegetable garden.
They know deeply the value to the planet of eating local food, growing some of your own food
(less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.)
And they’re doing it the permaculture way, the natural way, without poisons—
even though they are plagued by grasshoppers and other chompers,
and, most dramatically, by racoons. Not far from a large creek, Shauna says their backyard
is a “raccoon highway.”
So, rather than poisoning the raccoons (and the soil and atmosphere,)
they do their best to protect the garden by surrounding it with bird netting.
It gives this part of their .16-acre lot a unique look. Shauna calls their garden
“quirky, but purposeful.” Every inch is well-considered;
every challenge met with a solution based on creating a healthy environment for all.
So, in one corner, there is a composting process, with cardboard, kitchen scraps, leaves
and horse manure, which is hauled in, dumped in their front yard
and transferred to the back with wheelbarrows.
Along the fence are blackberries and mint. A new asparagus bed
is being developed along another fence. A 300-gallon rain tank
collects water for the vegetable garden, so that they have to use only minimal city water.
A sitting area in the middle of the backyard is surrounded by raised beds on either side.
Eight 4×4-foot raised beds are covered with cattle panels, bent high enough
to grow even Arrowroot and Okra. Panels are covered with shade cloth to protect it
from Oklahoma’s increasingly intense sunlight. Happily, they’ve also discovered
that hail pops right off the shade cloth. The cattle panels are handy
for trellising vines like tomatoes and pole beans.
They harvest vegetables much of the year. You can see Shauna’s beautiful photographs
of the bounty, as well as her blogs about her garden here: ThinkLady.
Also, look there for her recent cover article on Global Warming published
in the Oklahoma Gazette. Or find it here.
I am grateful for and inspired by the Strubys’ dedication and integrity.
They not only communicate and educate about climate change and sustainability,
they live it—despite limited space in a raccoon thoroughfare!
For them, caring for the planet
is among the highest of priorities.
No excuses here—not even that one heard so often
about “what the neighbors will say.”
Thank you Shauna and Jim!

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The Common Wood-Nymph
is fanciful—
but then what butterfly
isn’t!
Imagine designing
something as varied
and always beautiful,
always eliciting
delight
as butterflies do.
The sub-species here on the Oklahoma prairie,
says John Fischer,
Oklahoma butterfly and moth guy,
has the yellow patches
around the eyes on the forewings.
Those who live farther east,
have no yellow patch,
only rings around the eyes.
She will lay eggs singly
on leaves
and the caterpillars
will hibernate
until spring.
In fact, short, thin green caterpillars
are clinging to screen doors these days.

Common?
All the more wondrous then,
this life.

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DSCN0943Sunflowers

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The prairie is stunning
these days.
We are in the last days
of August
and it’s green.
But that’s only part of the story.
Sunflowers stand six feet tall,
thick along roadsides,
next to Johnson Grass, just as tall,
and covering pastures
amidst masses of shorter, white Snow on the Mountain,
bright yellow, Curlycup Gumweed.
Broomweed, still green,
is soon to pop open its tiny yellow flowers
and the prairie will take on another dimension—
great swathes of white
among great swathes of yellow.
Already, for miles,
the prairie is a bouquet
the likes of which we haven’t seen in awhile.
Three years of drought,
even Red Cedar trees were dying—
an indication of the depth of the dry soil.
The wondrous thing about the prairie
is that seeds—adapted
to the cycles of drought and flood—
lie in the soil
for years
waiting for rain.
This summer’s uncommon, steady rains
have given those seeds the chance to flourish.

It must be said…ranchers,
who are focused on feeding cattle,
would not be happy about the “weeds.”
But the soil—
helped by sunflowers alone,
as their roots grow six feet into the earth;
and bees—
who love the amazing sunflower blossoms
(the “heads” are actually hundreds of little flowers
mathematically arranged
to produce the most flowers, seeds);
and wildlife—
which will have considerable new habitat—
are going to all be healthier
for the ecstatic growth.
These prairie bouquets
speak to the wonder
of prairie life.

 

green buildings

While in northern New Mexico
a couple of weeks ago,
we visited the Earthship village
a few miles west of Taos.
We fell in love with the Earthship idea
a couple of years ago
after seeing a presentation at Oklahoma State University
by Earthship founder Michael Reynolds.
So it was thrilling to get to see a whole community
of Earthships on the high desert.
(We even saw Michael sailing by on his motorcycle
as he left the construction site of a new experimental Earthship,
to go home, presumably, for lunch. Embarassingly,
we all shouted at each other, “That’s him!”—exposing ourselves
as the sustainability groupies that we are.)
An Earthship uses local materials—
clay rammed into old tires, straw bales,
aluminum cans, glass bottles—
to build a structure
that can be off-the-grid.
Solar panels and a wind turbine,
generate all the energy needed.
Water from rain and snow
is used by the inhabitants
and then—all of it; even sewage—
filtered and reused
in the house and garden.
Earth-sheltered,
the Earthship includes a garden,
around the sunny side of the living space.
They are beautiful;
too, the most sustainable contemporary buildings
in the world.
And they are built all over the world.
You can start to learn about them,
and see a video,
at this link: http://earthship.com/design-principles
It’s a dream to build one
at Turtle Rock Farm.
Better dream:
a whole village
of people living in Earthships
here,
on the Oklahoma prairie.
(It may ultimately be the only way
for humans to live on the Oklahoma prairie!)

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Taken from the entrance to the model Earthship,
at headquarters, outside Taos, NM
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The entrance hallway garden

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Tires and aluminum cans
in walls being constructed
in an experimental design
of a new Earthship
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We can choose life. Dire predictions notwithstanding, we can still act to ensure a livable world. It is crucial that we know this: we can meet our needs without destroying our life-support system…To choose life means to build a life-sustaining society…To choose life in this planet-time is a mighty adventure…this adventure elicits more courage and enlivening solidarity than any military campaign..,

…we may find ourselves moved by the wisdom traditions of native peoples and mystical voices in our own religions, hearkening to their teachings as to some half-forgotten song that reminds us again that our world is a sacred whole in which we have a sacred mission.

When we know and revere the wholeness of life, we can stay alert and steady. We know there is no private salvation. We join hands to find the ways the world self-heals—and see the chaos as seedbed for the future.

—Joanna Macy, Molly Young Brown
Coming Back to Life. Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World

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Oldest Rooster

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Chicks and a Keet Hatched in Incubator This Week

Fowl tally:
17 hens
4 roosters
12 mature guineas
9 adolescent guineas
9 chicks and 1 keet, born this week
30 guinea eggs in a nest

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The youngest of the hens
are now laying eggs.
Theirs are darker brown
and, yesterday,
one blue-specked brown egg!

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A guinea hen
is sitting on a nest
with 30 eggs in it.
It’s in the barn,
so hatchlings will not
have to negotiate tall grass.
But they may encounter snakes
and cats.
We will keep an eye on them
when they hatch in a month or so,
and if they start to disappear
we will move them out of the barn.
With chickens and guineas,
always,
there are situations
that need to be addressed.
Most of the summer,
herding the six youngest adult guineas
back into the barn at night
has been challenging—
hilarious,
absurd,
say our guests.
They seem to be getting the hang of it
finally.
Ann brought a fireplace screen out
to put next to the door they enter
and that has helped tremendously.
Guineas aren’t the only ones
slow to adjust.

20130820_092326Mamma Cat Sharing Food with Chickens

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Kitten and Chickens

Now,
the situation needing attention
is that the hens have discovered
the cats’ food.
We usually feed the cats first,
on a shelf
too high for dogs to get the food.
But the shelf is next to the chickens’
door to the barn
and when we open the door,
the chickens scramble to the bowls of cat food.
And eat it all
right then.
Cats would leave some
to snack on throughout the day.
So we’ve had to make changes,
though the cats don’t seem to mind
being close to the birds;
Mamma Cat rubs up against
one of the roosters.
Instead of opening the door for the chickens
and then feeding the cats,
I have been feeding the cats first,
putting up with the roosters’ ruckus
until the cats have had a head-start.
In the evening,
after the hens go into the barn for the night,
I sneak the cats some more food.
But I know the cats prefer to nibble,
so I’ve been thinking of another place
to feed them.
It can’t be where the dogs
or goats
can reach the food.
It can’t be near where
the wild birds eat.
Today,
I put a bowl of cat food
atop the rain barrel
near the back porch.
Community,
community,
community.
Transition,
transition,
transition.

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Johnson Grass

Having been to the mountain top,
on retreat a week ago,
learning more deeply
Joanna Macy’s “Work that Reconnects,”
I awoke today
with that clarity
that sometimes comes
between sleep and awake.
This would be a quiet day
alone
and so the angst:
I need to be more engaged
with people
doing “the work that reconnects”
us to each other
and all who live on the planet;
helping people come to know
that connection
deeply.
It’s urgent;
how can a day alone
help?
My morning welcoming
on the porch
wouldn’t do. After that,
I knew I had to walk.
Maizey went along;
Joe, with cancer,
is not up to it.
An unusually wet
and cool
summer
(71 degrees at 7 this late-August morning!)
and everything has flourished.
Johnson Grass is what’s as high
as an elephant’s eye.
Snow on the Mountain,
Sunflowers
fill the pastures.
Other grasses are taller,
their heads fuller.
Dragonflies,
Grasshoppers
and two little orange butterflies
are company
as we walk.
The breeze is light,
cool.
There is a pool of muddy water
beneath the bridge,
muddy ruts
on Zig Zag Lane.

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DSCN0852Flourishing and Abundance
on the Prairie this Summer

It is a sweet morning walk
and my restless heart
is soothed.
For today
it is enough
to be in the natural world,
to enjoy it,
to be grateful for it.
Step one
in “the work that reconnects.”

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