Let me show you the lay of the land—
the growing things—
at the CommonWealth Urban Farm
community where Turtle Rock Farm
now has a presence. We’re new arrivals,
still settling in,
getting oriented to life here—
plants, animals, birds, people—
discovering our part.

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The food forest was planted
in an empty lot years ago.
Nuts and fruits
are now available to all
in the community.

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The Central Park Community Garden
(CommonWealth Urban Farm
is in Oklahoma City’s Central Park
neighborhood) is open to all in the area
who want to grow food or flowers in a bed.
Fruit trees
and an herb garden
are well-established.

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Flowers, attracting pollinators,
front most of the gardens in the community.

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Many vegetables are grown
in back and front yards.

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The CommonWealth Urban Farm
and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
is more than one-seventh of an acre.

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The farm will be expanded
as the soil
in another empty lot is remediated
from chemicals used long ago
to kill termites. A variety
of sunflowers grow there now.

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Sunshine and a slight chill—
what a beautiful morning,
the first of CommonWealth Urban Farm’s
Saturday morning Garden Schools.

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Learning from Lia
is an enriching event,
as she shares from her 30 years
of gardening experience
and her gardening philosophy,
which is to work as part of
and support
the existing ecosystem.
Soil gets the most attention.
In fact,
simultaneously,
around the corner
is the composting operation.

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Every Saturday morning,
from four to a dozen volunteers
show up, snow or shine,
to unload rotting vegetables
collected during the week
from Whole Foods and others.
They push wheelbarrows full
to bins in the back of the lot
where compost cooks,
in various stages. Standing atop
the large bins, volunteers chop
the vegetables with a shovel,
add Cedar chips
and wait
until harvesting, when the rich,
new compost is filtered through
a tumbling screen
then applied to the vegetable garden,
where, around the corner, Lia
is demonstrating for the class
how to plant potatoes, onions,
leeks.
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After class,
volunteers who come
for the weekly CommonWork
plant
rows
of potatoes,
onions,
leeks…
Saturday morning
at CommonWealth Urban Farm
community
is thrilling.

The 2015 gardening season
has begun. Ann planted
kale, spinach and lettuce seeds
in the raised beds in the greenhouse
and beets, lettuce, kale, swiss chard,
basil, parsley and tomato seeds
in the house, under grow lights.
Already, the almost-forgotten
challenges
of gardening
are apparent: mice are
nibbling on the tiny sprouts
in the greenhouse.
Gardeners must have hardy
souls.

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I stopped by CommonWealth Urban Farms
in Oklahoma City a few days ago.
Front-yard winter gardens were
producing greens, broccoli;
veggies growing too
in Smart Pots lined up in the driveway.

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Lia Woods was in her potting room
transplanting tiny sprouts in tiny,
home-made earthen cubes
to their roomier earthen homes
in flats. CommonWealth farm
is more-than-a-city-block-big;
thus, flats and flats and flats
of sprouts.

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We who love vegetables—
locally grown, organic vegetables—
are grateful for our gardener friends’
hardy souls.

 

 

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Our July-August Newsletter
Summer (Sorta) at Turtle Rock Farm

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Ann’s garden in the high tunnel
has so far escaped grasshopper
devastation.
A few grasshoppers have found the plants—
big yellow ones fling themselves
from leaves—but
the invasion has not reached a critical
point.
So we are enjoying tomatoes, chard, basil,
cucumbers, eggplant, peppers…

We know from friends who are the most successful
organic gardeners
we know
that grasshoppers are not only destroying the plants
but are also eating the row covers
covering the plants to protect them
from grasshoppers.

This is the third year of our grasshopper
devastation. This is a cool, wet summer; and
we thought they thrived in a dry and hot
habitat!
Turns out, as weather changes,
due to climate change
due to global warming,
the grasshoppers are an indicator species
for scientists. And turns out,
grasshoppers develop better in
warmer temperatures. And,
there are grasshoppers
who like cool-weather climates. And,
because weather is changing,
grasshoppers are re-distributing. They’re
on the move—and longer summers,
give them that opportunity. We might have
cool-weather grasshoppers
this year!

So…It’s not simply the giant devastating events—
fires, floods, extreme storms—
that point to the impact of changes in climate;
these masses of chomping, flingy
insects do too.
One benefit of grasshoppers
in the prairie ecosystem:
more food for birds.
So, while humans have to figure out
how to grow food in changing conditions—
why aren’t we in the U.S. cooking those grasshoppers?!—
people in other cultures love them—
the prairie birds are happy.
Yay! More birds!

 

Gardeners and farmers rely
on weather patterns
to make critical decisions
around plant selection,
planting.
With global climate warming
we’ve been adjusting.
Summer temperatures
climb high enoughthat photosynthesis
stops.
So,
with warmer winters,
and earlier springs,
many have been planting
a month earlier
than the “normal” pattern,
so that there is fruit
before the summer heat;
then we try to keep the plants alive
so they can fruit again
in the fall—
or we plant again
late summer, for fall production.
And yet
we know
that global climate warming
means extremes,
unpredictability.
The weather this April
has reminded us.
We had warm days in late March
and early April
and now that we’re reaching
the “normal” last-frost date,
freezing rain
and freezing temperatures
hit—
and freezes are still in the forecast.
What worked last year—
getting plants in the ground early—
is a challenge this year
(covering them up at night,
for one thing,
and hoping for the best.)
To continue to make adjustments
will require paying
close
attention,
and abandoning expectations.
The unpredictability,
the extremes,
of global warming are forcing us
to pay close attention to the natural world—
our home—
and work with it.
May we be humble,
faithful,
students.

Hope springs eternal
with the coming of spring:
hope,
again,
for home-grown tomatoes,
freshly-dug potatoes,
brightly greened greens,
sweet melons,
tender green beans,
crunchy cucumbers;
food
harvested just before suppertime;
food
grown in happy, rich soil
that has been amended
with soil created from kitchen scraps
and leaves
and processed by Red Wiggler Worms
and that is free of toxic chemicals;
food
that brings home to us
the joys of living
in the great circle of life.

Saturday, March 10,
Ann will teach a workshop
on gardening and composting—
including how to use Red Wiggler Worms
for composting
(her favorite way.)
Gardening will focus on how to garden
in small spaces
much of the year.
You can come for half a day
or the whole day.

To catch hope
and enjoy
the Great Circle of Life
(and get started on gardening
and composting)
register at our website.