Our May-June 2016 Newsletter
Much Ado About Earth



Spring Come Early at Turtle Rock Farm

Our March Newsletter

It was an exciting day
at CommonWealth Urban Farms.
The community prepared
for a special visitor,
spreading wood chips on a muddy path,
sweeping leaves and sticks
from the garden entrance,
filling an Oklahoma-made basket
with tender turnips, radishes, baby carrots,
micro greens and a card
with all our “thank you” messages.
All this
because Thunder player Kyle Singler
was coming to donate
$10,000 to CommonWealth!
He had visited the farm
a few weeks ago
and evidently liked what he saw
because we soon received word
that he had decided to make
a significant donation.
Friends, volunteers,
Closer to Earth youth
and others in the CommonWealth community
greeted this tall, friendly young man
who explained during the presentation ceremony
that friends in his home state of Oregon
were urban farmers
who taught him the value of growing
nutritious food locally, right in the heart
of the city.
We exchanged gifts—
a giant check
and a basket of food—
and toured the garden again,
lush and green
even now, mid-January!
We posed for happy photos
and widened the friendships
and the CommonWealth community.

The funds will be used
to build a hoop house
and improve CommonWealth’s
infrastructure. Kyle noted
that CommonWealth is near “my backyard”
and that he wants to support the community
that supports the Thunder team.
We hope he knows he’ll always
be welcome here.

DSCN9369Awaiting arrival

DSCN9372Friends in CommonWealth community

DSCN9373Closer to Earth youth

DSCN9380The Presentation ceremony

DSCN9401Farm Tour


DSCN9366Lia Woods and Allen Parlier, CommonWealth Urban Farms

More photos here, on The Thunder OKC website.


So, there is this group in Oklahoma City,
a group that has been meeting for two hours weekly
the last three years. They have this vision
that there is the possibility to enable systemic change
in Oklahoma toward a more just and flourishing
human and ecological society. They call it
The Human Community Network.
I have had the privilege of engaging in their weekly
discussions the last few months and attending
the monthly gatherings that began a couple of months ago.
When I invite people to come to the monthly gatherings
(you are invited too!)
and when I talk to people following a monthly gathering,
very often there is this quizzical conversation
and some comment along the lines of
“I just can’t grasp what this is really about.”

This blog post is one effort to explain
the inexplicable. Since this is about
there’s no linear, step-by-step, goal-oriented formula
for what will happen in The Human Community Network’s
Oklahoma Project.
Change doesn’t work that way.
And because, to my mind,
the person who best explains the way change does happen
is Margaret Wheatley,
I’m going to let her to speak,
especially from the piece she published
in “Kosmos Journal” last summer.

Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.

This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage and commitment that lead to broad-based change.

Researchers and social activists are learning that networks
are the only form of organization used by living systems
on this planet. Out the window,
the belief that it is only through human will and intervention
that change happens.
“Networks create the conditions for emergence,
which is how life changes,” says Wheatley.

Emergence. Understanding emergence
has brought hope
and energy
and a way forward.

In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, preconceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a {larger} or comprehensive level.

What The Human Community Network
hopes to do then in its Oklahoma Project
is bring people together from many areas
of social concern and effort
to network together,
especially around three areas:
Economic, including eradicating economic corruption,
establishing worker equity,
reclaiming lost human resources
and reframing ecological innovations.
Political, including engaging and networking local citizenry,
preparing emerging leaders,
initiating institutional reformulation,
interconnecting network of movements.
Cultural, including student-focused public education,
recovering missional focus of faith-based institutions,
social and ecological grounding of academic curriculum.

Those are the current processes of concern.
How will this happen? What’s the process?
What is this group going to do?
Wheatley teaches a way to catalyze
connections to achieve large-scale change:
Focus on discovering pioneering efforts and naming them as such.
Connect these efforts to other similar work.
Nourish this network, especially through creating opportunities for learning and sharing experiences.
Illuminate these pioneering efforts so that many more people will learn from them.
Networks are the beginning.
Eventually, networks develop what she calls
Communities of Practice. From Communities of Practice
new systems
suddenly, surprisingly

This system of influence possesses qualities and capacities that were unknown in the individuals. It isn’t that they were hidden; they simply didn’t exist until the system emerges. They are properties of the system, not the individual, but once there, individuals possess them. And the system that emerges always possesses greater power and influence than is possible through planned, incremental change. Emergence is how life creates radical change and takes things to scale.

So, we don’t know the outcomes.
The next new change
because everything in the system
contributes its values.
No one can predict or cause
the next emergence. It’s a collective
every part contributing and responding
from its values.
The more connected the kindred parts are,
the greater the chance
that the next change
will contribute to the world
we want.
In The Human Community Network’s
monthly gatherings
and its upcoming Symposia,
we will share experiences,
learn from each other,
nourish and support our efforts;
in Wheatley’s terms,
move into “Communities of Practice”
and see what emerges
toward a more flourishing
and just Oklahoma.
Wheatley’s thoughts on
Communities of Practice:

People share a common work and realize there is great benefit to being in relationship. They use this community to share what they know, to support one another and to intentionally create new knowledge for their field of practice.

These Communities of Practice differ from networks in significant ways. They are communities, which means that people make a commitment to be there for each other; they participate not only for their own needs, but to serve the needs of others.

In a community of practice, the focus extends beyond the needs of the group. There is an intentional commitment to advance the field of practice and to share those discoveries with a wider audience. They make their resources and knowledge available to anyone, especially those doing related work.

I find great hope
and inspiration now
in the “not knowing”
a formulaic, step-by-step process,
and great excitement to see what
will emerge
as people in education,
people in criminal justice reform,
people in local governments,
people in the LGBTQ community,
people working in sustainable agriculture,
people in faith communities…
in other words, progressive Oklahomans
come together
to share and learn
and support
and enter the dynamic
of emergence and change
in living systems

The speed with which people learn and grow in a community of practice is noteworthy. Good ideas move rapidly among members. New knowledge and practices are implemented quickly.

The third stage in emergence can never be predicted. It is the sudden appearance of a system that has real power and influence. Pioneering efforts that hovered at the periphery suddenly become the norm. The practices developed by courageous communities become the accepted standard.

The speed at which knowledge development and exchange happens is crucial because local regions and the world need this knowledge and wisdom now.

So, join us
as we continue to network
and practice
and catalyze change
in Oklahoma’s economic,
political and civic systems
to create a more just
and flourishing life for all.

Go to The Human Community Network fb event page
to “like” it,
invite others
and tell us you’re coming
to the next monthly gathering,
THIS SATURDAY, January 16,
1 to 4 p.m., Room 151
Walker Center
on the Oklahoma City University campus.



Our Latest Newsletter
November 2015
Celebratory Days at Turtle Rock Farm

We are not foreign
to harvest machinery breaking down.
It is to be expected
every year
during wheat harvest.
But it never dawned on us
that the pecan harvest might
come to a profound halt
due to equipment failure. It did.

Shaking the first tree of the day

DSCN8297Grands watch their first pecan harvest

Ann’s sons, Brok and Ben,
and their families arrived on Thursday
energized about the celebration
and the good work
that is pecan harvest. Especially
this year, with a bumper crop.
Friday we were in the pecan grove
until nightfall,
shaking trees, collecting pecans in tarps
then hulling and sorting them.
All hands were busy, including three
who figured out the hulling
very quickly. We brought home
1200 pounds of pecans on Friday.




DSCN8313Lunch break
Brok, making a theatrical plea to end lunch break and get back to work

DSCN8344A day’s harvesting

Saturday, everyone was eager
to get back to the grove. That’s
when it happened: something broke
on the tractor’s PTO apparatus
which runs the shaker. We called
a couple of mechanic-minded friends,
but no one could figure how to fix it.
The tractor had to be hauled to Perry
to be diagnosed on Monday. By then
family will have returned to their homes
in Colorado.


Leaving the pecans hanging,
we spent two days, hulling and sorting
the pecans from the husks,
the Kansa from the Pawnee.
We moved the operation
from the grove to Ann’s front yard
and enjoyed the conversation,
the work,
the gorgeous autumn weather,
the light on the pond next to us
and, immensely,
each other.
If love makes pecans taste better,
these will be the best.

A week into harvest,
we have collected 1000 pounds
of organic pecans. Primarily two varieties:
the rounder, plainer Kansa
and the pointier, more marked, slightly larger Pawnee.





The natives aren’t ready for harvesting
and by the time they are
there may be no more energy
to harvest them, especially since
they are smaller
and getting the nutmeats out
is tedious. The wildlife
may get most of them.

Ann sorting

After they are harvested,
the pecans have to be separated
from any husks
and sorted,
then dried. They are drying
on screens in Ann’s garage
and on sheets in Frank’s garage.


Friends Ruth and David Atterbury
came last week and helped with the sorting.
Juliette Hulen helped Sundaywith the harvesting and sorting.
Oklahoma City University students
are scheduled to help soon
and Ann’s sons and their families
arrive mid-week for three days
helping harvest
and celebrating this year’s
abundant pecan crop.


We’ll keep you posted.
(And if you want to come help,
just let us know!)

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