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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Our January 2014 Newsletter
A New Year at Turtle Rock Farm

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Our August Newsletter:
An Uncommon Summer at Turtle Rock Farm

New plantings (leeks in back) in raised bed garden

The thing about gardening
is that you have to pay attention.
Every year,
the garden is different
because the weather is different.
There are guidelines,
based on what’s gone before,
and then you have to notice
what’s happening
today, this spring.
Experience is a great teacher
and remembering what has gone before
is essential—
and then you have to be aware
of what’s happening now.
Ann, our gardener, has learned to pay attention.
Each year she gains knowledge
and last year she took the Master Gardeners course.
Perhaps her greatest wisdom
is holding that knowledge and hard-earned experience
alongside the awareness that this year,
as every year,
it will be different.

Fred, Carol and Alyssa planting in the north garden

Instead of a steady movement
from cold to warm,
this year the temperature
skyrocketed early-on and then plummeted.
Onions, peas, lettuce, potatoes went in early,
but Ann knew better than to trust
the early warming
and has waited patiently to do the warm-weather planting.
Knowing it can rain too much,
or not at all,
but that usually it does—eventually—
she waited for rain.
Despite predictions and showers all around us
we didn’t get rain until
this week.
The historical last frost date is April 15,
but she watched and waited
and finally this week
the rest of the healthy seedlings
came out of the greenhouse
and were gently planted in the damp soil.
One day—a cooler one, after a shower—
relatives Fred and Carol, visiting from Wisconsin,
helped Ann and Alyssa weed around the potatoes
and put in the tender plants:
tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, winter and summer squash,
watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, cilantro, basil.
The garden gets a little bigger each year
and each year there are new varieties
added to the mix.
You never know
when or if it will rain,
what insects will arrive,
and so, you don’t know what will grow
to its fullest potential
in this year’s conditions.
Planting a variety helps secure a harvest
of some kind.
At this point,
the garden is the biggest and most varied
Ann has planted.
Potato plants and lettuces are lush and beautiful.
The new plantings are adjusting
to windier outdoor conditions.
When the soil is a little warmer,
bean seeds will be planted
and the garden will be “in.”

Potatoes in the foreground, then lettuces
and the tender, new plantings

The first moments of satisfaction,
celebration
and hope
came with the first showing of green
in those little pots in the greenhouse.
They are heightened this week in the planting of the gardens
and they will increase at the harvesting of first fruits,
the serving of them at table
or the putting them by for the winter.
Those moments of
eating the fruits of labor and care;
sunshine, rain and soil;
those moments of satisfaction, celebration and hope,
are occasions for gratitude.
Thanks—to Ann,
to all who garden,
and to this good Earth.

While the fruit trees
and the melon vines
have been able to produce
apricots, strawberries, peaches, apples, cantaloupe and watermelon
this year,
and the early crops – garlic, onion, potatoes –
did well,
the plants in summer’s vegetable garden
have struggled
to bring on squash, kale, green beans, tomatoes.
We’ve had some Armenian cucumbers,
some eggplant,
some peppers,
but no green beans
and most Oklahomans we know
are grieving this year’s
almost non-existent tomato crop.
Too much wet early-on
(too much hail for some of our friends
who had to replant their gardens),
too much hot for too long
and now not enough warm weather left.
Lots of apricots put up for the winter,
for which we’re grateful,
especially since there are rarely apricots
due to our late last frosts in northern Oklahoma.
But only a few tomatoes put away
for winter meals –
only some small Romas
grown in another part of the state
that we bought through the Oklahoma Food Coop.

We are trying to raise as much of our own food as we can
and purchase organically-raised, humanely-raised
locally grown food at Farmer’s Markets
and the Food Coop.
The fall garden is in
and the greens are coming up.
The basil is looking better than it has all summer
and we are still harvesting okra
and peppers.
But we will not have preserved
as much of summer’s garden
as last year.
We can understand
the pioneers’ plight
when they struggled through those years of devastation
from heat, drought and grasshoppers.
It’s not so bad for us as that,
but we understand much better now
the challenges of growing food
sustainably.

With the abundance of summer growth
this is an opportune time of year
to practice what we’ve been learning:
that Earth and humans benefit
by eating less meat
(using it, as Thomas Jefferson advised,
as a condiment rather than the main course)
and eating lots more vegetables.
And so our guests
at Turtle Rock Farm
are eating Gazpacho
grilled vegetables with pasta
tapanade made with eggplant and chick peas
corn and black bean salad
wheat salad
lentil salad
potato and green bean salad
pizza with grilled vegetables
fruit sorbets.
We eat many vegetables and herbs from our garden
or the gardens of other Oklahomans
through the Oklahoma Food Coop
or directly from the farmers themselves,
like the honey we get from Everett.
As guests eat fresh vegetables
seasoned with fresh herbs
they exclaim what a joy it is to eat this way
and when they are leaving
after a day or two,
they tell us, “And I feel so healthy!”
There’s not the slightest feeling that they were deprived
or had to sacrifice.
Rather, they have a joyful experience at the table.

One of the books we’ve read recently
is Sharing Food by Shannon Jung.
Our health and Earth’s health
and all of creation’s health
are interdependent, writes Jung.

Our dependence on air, on water, on food, on each other and on God is integral to health and bodily well-being. Acknowledging and living in support of all life is essential to honoring our individual bodies, which are only relatively individual. Our health depends on the health of others. Only for a time could we suppose the validity of ‘apartheid thinking’ whereby one sector of life benefits at another’s expense. Indeed, all life is related. The quality of the air we breathe, the meat or fruit we eat, the chemical content of the water, the life-giving or life-destroying quality of our relationships with others – how could we not suppose that these were part of our health? Rebecca Todd Peters indicates the way a person’s health and communal health are integral to reach other. ‘Post colonials recognize…a moral universe in which individual actions are understood to have communal effect – for good or ill – and in which the well-being of the community is taken into consideration before individual decisions are made.’

The reality of a shalom creation, in which all beings have a role to play in the well-being of each other, and the future goal of restoring such a shalom express a mutuality of interdependence. We are to strive for justice for all because all are God’s beloved creatures. Honoring the body is a way to get in touch with God’s goodness and the sustaining of life.

It is no wonder
that while eating less meat
creates a healthier planet,
our bodies get healthier as well.