DSCN7368
DSCN7371

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_0142

IMG_0143
IMG_0144
IMG_0146
IMG_0148
IMG_0150

The CommonWealth Urban Farm in June
is a riot
of vegetables,
flowers.
And so eating
these days is sheer
bliss.
All those permaculture practices,
all that composting—
all that attention to the soil
and all that good work
by a community of folks
who are dedicated to urban farming
have produced vegetables
that are flavor-full,
healthy,
sublime…
Red and gold potatoes,
broccoli,
greens,
onions,
bok choy,
kohlrabi…
more on the way.
Barely cooking
(or not)
then eating this food—
gorgeous,
fresh,
local,
delectable—
is one of life’s great pleasures.

One happy customer
took home potatoes last Saturday
and when her husband ate them
asked where she got them.
When she told him CommonWealth Urban Farm,
he suggested
she get 10 pounds more.

 

CommonWealth Saturday Garden School
8:30-9 a.m.

CommonWealth Farm Stand, 3310 N. Olie, Oklahoma City
9 a.m. to noon Saturdays

Slow Flowers

 

The cycles of nature
are intriguing.

Last winter,
mice invaded the high tunnel garden
and ate onion tops,
lettuce, kale, broccoli.
Ann trapped 50 of them.
They are at it again
this fall, nibbling away
at new shoots
which never get a chance
to grow.
Now, the mice are invading
our houses. (Yes, we have cats—
a few; fewer, since the coyotes
have been feasting on them.)
We are trapping,
but now the cute little critters
ignore the traps.
Thank you Tricia Dameron,
for reminding us of peppermint oil.
That—a few drops on cotton—
seems to be working.
We are cheering Red-Tailed Hawks,
hoping they prefer mice to the chickens.
But we haven’t seen enough of the big birds,
evidently, to make a dent in the mouse
population. Did see a snake
on the porch, a rather
large one, but they sleep
all winter,
so doubt they’ll be much help as
cold weather comes.
You’d think with more mice
we’d have more of the beings
that feed on mice. But
nature’s cycles seem out-of-kilter,
out of balance.
As predicted.

 

DSCN1757

Beauty and Magical Moments at Turtle Rock Farm.
Our November Newsletter

While we’ve been living in autumn light
for weeks,
the air now feels like autumn air.
And with the cooler air,
Ann can now bring in autumn’s harvest:
pecans,
sweet potatoes.
The sweet potato harvest is her best
ever.
After last year’s bumper pecan harvest,
this year’s (and maybe next’s)
is expected to be much smaller,
and it is.

DSCN1888

DSCN1889

After a full year of gardening
in the high tunnel,
we now know
that it is a great tool
for gardening in Oklahoma
in this era of changing climate.
All winter,
Ann grows gargantuan greens
as well as cold-weather crops,
sometimes using a little extra cover
over the plants
when the temperature dips to freezing.
Already,
her winter greens are growing beautifully.

DSCN1893

This summer,
protected from heat by a shade cloth
and cooled by a solar-powered fan;
saved from destructive bugs who didn’t find their way
through the rolled-down sides of the high tunnel;
watered by a drip system
from collected rain water,
plants produced fruits aplenty.
She is still harvesting herbs, peppers,
eggplants and tomatoes.

DSCN1891

DSCN1896

DSCN1897

Of course,
that leaves no off-season
down-time
for the gardener.
So we offer our deep gratitude
to Ann
for her dedication,
hard work
and passion for producing
lovely food,
naturally, organically.

DSCN1218
Ann giving a tour of the high tunnel garden, including the large community of Red Wiggler
Worms that create rich soil to enhance the beds

DSCN1226

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the High Tunnel with an Extra Layer
of Warmth for Cold Nights

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Lettuce, Greens in High Tunnel this Winter

Gardening
in these days of climate warming
has become year-around
work. Ann has been gardening
all winter.
Lettuces and greens
have grown better
in the high tunnel
than anywhere.
We’ve also been eating
carrots, beets, broccoli
grown in the high tunnel.
Using a cloth over the greens
on the coldest nights
has kept the temperature
almost 10 degrees warmer
than the rest of the space
in the unheated,
but toasty,
greenhouse.
She’s enjoyed working
in shirt sleaves
in the warm high tunnel
on the coldest, windiest days.
Recently, she planted potatoes
and strawberry plants
in the high tunnel
and seedlings in the house.
When the time comes,
some seedlings will be planted outdoors
and some in the high tunnel,
which will be covered in shade cloth,
and the sides rolled up
as summer’s scorch approaches.
We’re hoping runoff
from the current rain
and snow (it may be a blizzard)
will fill the Big Pond again
so she can garden
in the raised beds this spring.
Unless the pond fills enough
to cover the water pump
that serves the outside faucets,
she won’t be able to water
plants in the raised beds.
(There’s one faucet
on the house water system
that is close enough to water
plants in the high tunnel.)

20130222_175650
Tomato Seedlings

20130222_175638
Seedlings

The seedlings
are growing well
under the grow lights.
In the past,
their bright, new greenness
has heralded
the coming of the growing season.
It’s different now:
there has been no down-time;
gardening has continued.
So the seedlings
herald the coming
of a different growing season,
producing different foods
than the cold-weather ones.
It will be a busier season,
since there are more summer plants
(beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants,
squash, basil, melons…)—
and more weeds growing
and more insects chewing
and more need for watering
and times of heavy harvesting,
we hope.

Gardening for the pleasure
of seeing food grow
and eating the freshest food
are reasons enough to garden.
But gardening year-round
is about securing a food supply,
and has begun
because summers have become
so hot and dry
that the traditional growing season
has changed drastically.
In what used to be the height
of the growing season,
photosynthesis seems to stop:
plants don’t set fruit.
It isn’t always possible
to harvest enough food
in the summer
to preserve for the entire winter.
On the other hand,
winters are warmer too.
So, with layers of protection,
foods can be grown year-round.
Dehydrating, canning, freezing
as much summer food
might not be as necessary—
which might actually be better, nutritionally:
food grown in winter
is fresher,
less processed.

Perhaps the sprouts
are symbolic too. While unsettling,
and sometimes frightening,
this time of transition
might also be a time of new ways,
nice surprises.

 

20130122_094521Black Rabbit having its greens with the Chickens

Changes,
tweaks,
adaptations,
remodelings
never end
in the barn,
in the village
which rabbits,
chickens
and guineascohabit.
Because we don’t like to keep
rabbits
in small hutches,
we give them a big pen
on the outer edge
of the barn.
But because that pen
has a cement floor,
we also built them a pen
inside the barn,
where they can burrow.
And now,
again,
they have burrowed
their way out of the rabbit village
and into the rest of the barn,
where chickens and guineas
live.
Chickens and guineas
could always get into the rabbit pens,
so we would close the door to the outer pen
to feed rabbits
their greens.

The hens and rooster
are crazed to get to the greens
when we enter the barn.
A black hen jumps as high as our waist
to peck at the greens bag—
repeatedly.
Now that the rabbits hop freely
around the entire barn,
they and the chickens
eat their greens together—
though we still toss some greens
into the rabbit burrows,
to be sure they get some.

Ann has now built a foyer!
just inside the barn entrance—
at the gate from the alpaca pen—
so the chickens and guineas
will be able to get out
when spring comes
without the rabbits
getting out too
(she built it around a cement
doorstop.)
Life with animals
is a never-ending series
of occasions
to be creative.

20121221_101949

Houdi and Spot with their morning greens

20121221_101655

Rooster, unable to reach the rabbits’ morning greens

 

Things seemed to have calmed down
in the barn.
The chicken population
has dwindled,
but we think we’ve trapped
the culprits.
We now set a trap every night,
just to be sure,
and were surprised
one morning this week
to find we trapped
a large skunk.
Our preventive measure worked:
we caught a predator
before there was evidence
of predation.
The chicken fort
inside the barn
is a safe night-time retreat.
Last night,
a guinea fowl came down
from the barn rafters
and joined the chickens
on their roost inside the fort.

Morning and evening
we bring fresh greens
from the high tunnel
to feed the guineas, chickens and rabbits.
Because rabbits, chickens and guineas
can intermingle
in the two-room rabbit village,
the fowl finish their greens
and then steal greens
right out of the mouths
of rabbits as they nibble.
So now, while the chickens and guineas
are still focused on eating the greens
we give them,
we dash to the rabbit village
and shut the door
to the room where the rabbits
spend most of their time.
The rabbits can eat their greens
in peace.
Rooster has found us out.
This morning he appeared
in the window
that overlooks the rabbits,
safely nibbling their morning treats.
Rooster raised his head
and crowed loudly,
seemingly in protest.
I laughed out loud.
I wonder if he’ll try to beat us
to the rabbit room
next time.
Already, he’s chased Ann and me
a couple of times.
Life with animals
doesn’t stay calm
for long.