February 2014

Rain! this morning;
only a smidgeon,
but it smelled so good!
And reminded us
that it can rain here.
(Just this week
the weather service
upped our drought status
another notch,
to moderate.)
This afternoon
has been the warm side of cool,
faintly sunny—
most enjoyable.
Strange to be preparing
for another winter storm,
but nice to have a mild afternoon
to be outside,
fortifying the supply of birdseed,
carrying firewood up to the porch.

Red-Winged Blackbirds
sing as if it’s spring;
little Goldfinches,
seem unaware they’re about to get
a winter blast.
As I look around the landscape,
I realize it looks
peaked. “Peak-ed,” we say
around here
when a person’s face has lost
its color.
Winter has drained color
from the landscape;
today, even the sky seems peak-ed—
almost white in the west.
In the city,
trees are budding.
But the Osage Orange,
the Hackberry trees here
are not.
Winter holds.

I think it wise to stop
and take in its peaked-ness,
to appreciate more fully
the flashes of color—
the shiny red head of the Woodpecker,
the glowing crimson Cardinal,
the Goldfinch’s yellow belly and head;
the greening
that is sure to come.


There are reasons
I’ve decided to spend a little time
regularly, some weeks,
in the city.
Mainly, I want to be engaged
with people living in the city.
Friends are in the city.
Most people
are in cities,
so I want to know:
how do we live in the city
so that all can thrive?
Though it is a good question,
it is a troubling question,
for me, personally,
since I would rather not bother;
I love being on the prairie
and wish more people could be there.
But this is unlikely to happen.
So this is not about choosing—
once and for all—
country or city.
I will never be able to do that;
I love the natural world in the country
and I need to be engaged with people in the city.
It is my life’s conundrum.
Knowing this may not always be the case,
for the time being,
I get to have a foot in both.

I have settled in a neighborhood
with friends close by.
This morning was my first exploration
on foot.
And suddenly,
the sparse apartment
doesn’t feel like a motel room anymore.
It feels like part of a neighborood.
I walked a block
to Douglas Park—
a full block of park,
on a hillside.
There is a playing field,
concrete paths,
gazebos with picnic tables,
a shiny, colorful playground,
I was glad to see cedars,
some as worn as they are on the prairie,
still allowed to stand.
There is a planting of crepe myrtles
and other trees—
as another winter storm is predicted—
are planted throughout the park.
It is not, however, a forested park.
And I know some neighborhood friends
with an understanding of permaculture practices,
are concerned that water
flows down the hill
and into the gutters,
while bags for water
are wrapped around tree trunks.
Swales and berms could slow that water
and trees could be planted there;
but, alas, there is this low-lying playing field
in the center….

DSCN3061Hilly Douglas Park

DSCN3069Crepe Myrtle Planting

DSCN3071The Playing Field, and beyond, Deep Fork Creek and Centennial Parkway







Another significant feature in this landscape
is Deep Fork Creek,
which parallels the Centennial Parkway
at this point in the city.


Deep Fork behind the apartment

Both are directly behind
my dwelling. The landlord
has seen six deer and a red fox
there this winter.
I keep watch,
and look forward to learning more
about the Deep Fork,
the watershed here,
the ecosystem and its parts,
the neighbors—
human and others.
As I walked by this morning,
one neighbor greeted me with
And, above the din of the parkway traffic,
I heard,
then saw,
a male Cardinal,
shining in a tree.
Then, on this beautiful morning,
slightly homesick
for knowing how beautiful it is on the prairie,
I heard an insistent, unfamiliar call.
instantly distracted from the homesickness in my belly,
I walked slowly around a corner
to see if I could see who was calling
and there was the bird who so often
accompanies me—
singing a city song,
I guess.
It was Mockingbird.

The Cedar
is an enduring member
of the prairie community.
Eastern Red Cedar—
Juniperus virginiana—
is native to the prairie.
Some, a little further east,
near Sand Springs,
are around 500 years old.
Most of the trees on the prairie
live along creeks.
But cedars pop up in the grasses
—which are allelopathic,
toxic to many other species—
and, now that we have built fences
and given up controlled burns,
they proliferate.
Once planted
as shelter belts
and around houses,
they remain
long after humans have moved away—
lone reminders of a time
when this community
was home too
to many human families.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe location of a neighbor’s house, long ago

Our paternal grandfather
brought four cedars
from Kansas when he moved his family
here to the farm. Two remain,
as do we
two sisters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo cedars and a Hackberry, east side of farmhouse

Half a mile south,
down at the Floral Ridge Cemetery,
rows of cedars on the west and north
shelter old tombstones,
some fallen, some leaning,
some where words
have been removed by years of wind and rain.


The cedars in the center of the graveyard
are worn too—
pushed northward by the prevailing wind,
ripped and gouged by storms.
Yet they heal,
and still provide food and habitat
for a variety of neighbors;
their strength and character,
for all who remain





And so I would like to be as plain as possible. What I am against—and without a minute’s hesitation or apology—is our slovenly willingness to allow machines and the idea of the machine to prescribe the terms and conditions of the lives of creatures, which we have allowed increasingly for the last two centuries, and are still allowing, at an incalculable cost to other creatures and to ourselves. If we state the problem that way, then we can see that the way to correct our error, and so deliver ourselves from our own destructiveness, is to quit using our technological capability as the reference point and standard of our economic life. We will instead have to measure our economy by the health of the ecosystems and human communities where we do our work.

— Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle


Thousands of Red-Winged Blackbirds
weave across the prairie sky—
sometimes in throngs miles long.
They flash black
then seem to disappear
then flash back again
as they fly their way low
above the grass.
Sometimes their shadows
flicker about the rooms
in the house
as they fly overhead.
They fill winter branches
with black leaves
and fill the air with
heart-stirring chatter.
They are a winter signature
here on the prairie.


Sometimes I fear for the little birds
who come to feed
at the bird feeders I fill each day.
I fill the feeders at a time
the black birds have already quieted for the night
and the littler birds can get some supper.
The large flocks of Red-Winged Blackbirds
can clean the ground of the birdseed
strewn there
in minutes.
There is always a tension for me
when the big flocks are feeding.
I thrill when sunlight strikes
that spot of red tucked in their black wings;
their fluttering around the feeders
as they vie for another seed
is fascinating.
But I am always anxious for those who fly away
from the feeders
as the bigger birds alight.


two friends visited—
one in the morning
and one in the afternoon.
Our conversations were a balm,
and compelling;
each friend
was thrilled and compelled too
as she caught sight
of the Red-Winged Blackbirds
at the bird feeders.
They each recognized the birds,
mentioned they don’t get to see them
in the cities where they live,
and watched the birds—
so close,
at the feeders—
with much gladness.



The wind blows powerfully
emptying trees
of dried branches;
the ground is now littered
with kindling.
There are waves
in the bowls of water
set out for birds,
the dog, cats.
Birdfeeders had to be removed
from trees; birdseed strewn
only on the ground
(with a mind to where
it would land
in the wind.)
Porch pillows and rocking chairs
had to be secured.
We now know where everything loose
is on the old barn.
Inside the barn,
chickens, guineas and rabbits
must endure constant racket—
a howling even louder
than the guineas’ penetrating squawks.
The blue sky is a theater
of constantly changing cloud formations.
Traveling home from the city
earlier this morning,
the wind almost blew the car out of my lane
a couple of times
and I drove through patches
of brown, dust-filled air—
always a sobering sight,
reminiscent of legendary Dust Bowl Days.
I dare not hang clothes outdoors to dry,
lest they end up east of here.
Maizey can’t seem to decide
whether to stay in
out of the turbulent air,
or go out and see what
she can do about it.
The tipi
still stands, flapping;
a cedar branch
has fallen beside it.
Walking into the TBW
(as they say,
a bit sarcastically I think,
over at the Blakley farm:
“The Blessed Wind.”)
is a carnival ride.
Nature has our attention.
So, we hammer down loose things,
secure what would blow away
and hold on,
in awe.









This Saturday—22 February—
Ann will be sharing everything we’ve learned
(so far)
about raising chickens:
feeding them,
housing them,
free-ranging them,
protecting them from predators,
incubating eggs;
the thing about diverse breeds;
what to do about aggressive roosters.
We’ve learned a lot
in the last five years
through hands-on experience
and are happy to share what we know.
And introduce you to the ones
who live here…
And share a lunch
made of—what else?—
Register on our website:

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