January 2014


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The Shy Ones

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Cochin Hen

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Cochin Hen

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White-Tailed Rooster, Crows-a-Lot, but will probably live longest

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Rooster that Attacks

DSCN2804Rooster that Attacks (on left.)

The youngest chickens
have all grown up now.
Roosters are crowing,
and fertilizing eggs.
Hens have begun
to lay eggs—
lovely small ones
first.
The fanciest—
two Cochin hens—
are gorgeous:
thick with feathers,
all the way down to the ground.
They are shy,
and hang out
(with another hen
and a Guinea Hen)
in the corners of the coop
as well as the corner in their outside pen.
Among the newest ones
are four—yes, four—
roosters. One harassed the hens
so much, he was removed from that community
and placed in the barn,
where he is harassed,
by the Alpha Guinea
and pretty much hides all day
in the other side of the coop.
The other three roosters
are still with their original
coop-mates. One,
with “rose” comb,
has already attacked Ann.
A white-tailed one crows most of the day,
but is more placid—
which probably will extend his life.
Never
do we tire
of watching these beautiful creatures,
observing their habits,
the dynamics of their community;
enjoying and sharing fresh eggs,
rooster stews.

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Last April,
permaculturist Mark Shepard
came from Wisconsin
and guided us through the process
of creating swales and berms
on the prairie hillside above the Big Pond.
Rain came immediately,
to our utter astonishment
and profound appreciation,
and the swales slowed the water,
directed it to pocket ponds
so it could slowly soak
into the prairie
instead of rushing down the hillside.
It was an unusual summer;
periodic rains came in the hotter months.
Though we had no “gulley-washers”
to completely fill farm ponds,
the swales and berms
allowed the rains to slow
and soak
and the grass grew
lushly.

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The time has come
to plant trees and shrubs
along the berms and swales.
Ann and Frank
dug 180 holes
and this weekend
a Boy Scout troop
will help us
plant…
American Plum
Indian Currant
Native Pecan
Red Mulberry—
to further prevent erosion,
provide food and habitat
for bees, animals
and humans.
Maybe this project
will guide us to new,
less-invasive,
healthier ways
to grow food
right here amidst the native grasses,
(without destroying their 20-feet-long roots)
and in spite of the windy,
drought-to-flood extreme conditions
of the Great Plains.

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What would happen
if you committed
to spending one hour
sitting on the shore
of a farm pond
watching
ice
melt
?
I know…first question:
why?
There are so many more
pressing,
important
things to do!
I hear you.

Saturday, during our
Living Mindfully in the Presence retreat,
we each spent one hour
simply observing
what was happening
as we walked
or sat still
in nature.
The wind was fairly strong,
but it was a warmer day
and the ice on the big pond
was melting.
Along the thaw line,
waves blowing against the ice
made a clicking sound—
like a flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds
sitting tree top.
The harder the wind,
the bigger the waves
(they weren’t very big waves,)
the louder the clicking.
Intriguing;
so I made my way through dried, stiff
Sunflower stalks
down to the edge of the pond
and sat,
still,
for an hour.
Ice along the shore dripped,
faster when the wind blew harder.
Bubbles under the surface of the ice
floated.
Frozen slush
broke off from the ice edge
and floated in the water
until it melted.
Waves rose and fell
under the ice
and washed water
over the ice.
Clicking
waxed and waned.
Slowly, the ice was disappearing.

  DSCN2742The Clicking Thaw Line

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Water Bubble Under Ice

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Dripping Along the Shore

And slowly,
much melted within me.
I touched love,
one more time,
and remembered
the most pressing,
most important
thing to do:
be—
no matter
I’m doing.

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Since I attended
a mindfulness retreat
with Thich Nhat Hanh
in Colorado the summer of 2012,
I’ve been using an etool
to help me with this ancient
spiritual practice.
I downloaded (for free)
a Mindfulness Bell app
on my smart phone.
I can set it to ring its beautiful tone
as often as I’d like.
I committed to take three deep,
conscious breaths
and think about nothing
when I hear it,
to re-center myself
in that place deep within
where my truest Self,
my soul
lives,
and where I connect
with the Force of Life and Goodness
that also dwells there.
Honestly, sometimes
I do this
and sometimes I don’t.
Sometimes
I’m grateful for the pause
that connects
and sometimes
it’s an irritant because I’m
right in the middle
of a thought or sentence,
written or spoken.
If I’m with people
who know me well,
when it rings
they hear it too,
know what it is
and we pause together—
silently, knowingly—
smiling,
connected.
(Many of them have downloaded the mindfulness bell
to their cell phones.)
Sometimes we laugh aloud
because the bells’ timing seems
to punctuate the moment
most appropriately,
as if our electronic machines were involved in the conversation,
which, of course, they aren’t; still,
the timing brings welcome chuckles.

I notice this morning,
after about 18 months
of this practice,
an insight:
It seems I have evolved,
a little more.
Maizey, the aged dog
who, this colder winter,
has become a farm house dog,
in addition to being a farm dog,
often rises from her pillow
and comes to where I am
and stands beside me, silently,
asking to be petted.
Or, if she can reach the laptop
where I’m writing,
she hangs her soft jowel
over the keyboard.
Most astonishingly,
I am happy to stop
whatever it is
I’m reading or writing—
no matter how absorbed I am—
and rub her jaw, her head, her neck,
mindfully.

Touching a warm, soft dog face,
looking into her moist, brown eyes,
always
creates a connection—
of tenderness,
love;
inside
and out,
one craving soul
to another.

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Perhaps it’s a sign of the mad intensity—
and yet, the creative possibilities—
of our time
that it took a mindfulness bell app
to train me.
And perhaps it’s a sign
of the Force of Life and Goodness
forever operating in the universe,
that a very patient, deaf, old dog
shows me
who I am
when
I am
in this moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeaver Dam and Wetland on Doe Creek, January 2010

For twenty years
beavers lived on Doe Creek,
at the southern most point
of our farm.
Their lodge helped slow
the flow of the creek
and created a wide wetlands
just above the 20-foot-long
pile of branches
that covered their home.
Drought dried
even the wetland
a couple of years ago
and the beavers had to leave.
With some relief from the drought,
the wetland is filling again,
as is that part of Doe Creek,
though both are far from full.
Sadly, beavers have not returned.

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Beaver Tracks

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Fresh cuttings along the north side of the Big Pond

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Beavers have,
however, taken up residence
at the Big Pond.
It’s been a few years since
they were active here.
Now we find their paw prints
along the north edge of the pond,
just east of the fresh cuttings
they’re making in a grove
of young willows, pond-side.
We have yet to locate their lodge
and are hoping it is on one of the islands.
The Cypress trees planted on the islands,
are safe from beaver housing projects,
since the mammals don’t like
sinking their teeth into them.
One of these warm, windless days
we will take out a kayak
and make another attempt
at locating the lodge.
Too,
we’ll have to consider
wrapping fencing around trees
we want to protect.
One other happy consideration:
If the beavers create problems
at the Big Pond,
maybe we can trap them
and move them back
to their abandoned lodge on Doe Creek!

 

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Out and about the prairie,
mid-afternoon
on a warm and windy winter day,
I see seven Red-Tailed Hawks.
Rather than flying down from tree tops
as I approach,
most of them fly up,
out of tall, dried grass.
I think I know what they’re doing:
waiting for field mice.
The field mice population
is booming this year,
and, with an abundant food supply,
so is the hawk community.
Ann has trapped
(and released—in a place far, far away)
18 field mice
in the high tunnel,
where they had been decimating
kale.
Her trapping has reduced
kale-nibbling
considerably,
giving the greens the chance
to make a comeback
from its severe pruning.

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Every season
of every year,
there is a whole new set of surprises,
out here
where the food chain
is so obvious.

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Taking a Composting Barrel Out for a Stroll

To be honest,
today was a day
when Simpler Living
seemed not as simple.
Vermi-composting bins
needed attention.
It was time to spread buckets
of alpaca manure on the garden.
The composting bucket
was full of kitchen scraps which had to be taken out
to the composting bin—
plus, it needed some brown material,
and turning.
Kind of a one-thing-led-to-another
sort of not-so-simpler-day.
And with the wind—
the blessed wind, or TBW,
as our friends the Blakeleys
call the Oklahoma wind—
everything was a little harder.
Clothes snapped—
as did some clothespins—
in TBW.

So, you should know this
(probably, you already do)
about Simpler Living.
Even so,
we must do what we can
to live simpler:
…use less fossil fuel
(and there are gobs of ways
to do that)
…reuse stuff
…buy less stuff
…make your own stuff
…ban chemicals
…use less water
the list goes on longer
than I have.
And though these things make
for a simpler life,
it doesn’t mean they’re easier.
In fact,
in the beginning of changing any habit,
they’re not.
Just as you suspected, right?
That’s why we have a Simpler Living Retreat.
Together,
we look at our culture’s habits,
our own habits,
why we must change,
what we want to change next,
and support each other
as we do.
We’ll do this next,
on Saturday, February 1.
You can sign up here,
or go to the calendar
on our website:
www.turtlerockfarmretreat.com

Even on the days
it seems challenging,
living simpler—
so all can have a better chance
at living—
is worth it,
and feels
very satisfying.

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