The duplex
situated on the edge
of Deep Fork Creek
in uptown Oklahoma City
seemed perfect
for two farm women,
each happy to be in the company
of birds, wind, animals
on their respective farms in the country
but feeling isolated from
friends. We would try it
for a few months—
each in town for a couple of days a week,
working some,
visiting friends
or (in Deb’s case, children
and grandchildren.)

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The backyard
looks out onto the creek.
There is one drawback
for women
used to silence,
birdsong,
wind: Traffic roar from the Centennial Parkway
on the other side of the creek.
So our friend and landlord
said he planned to build a nine-foot fence
as a sound barrier.
Oh, but then,
we said,
we won’t see the trees,
the creek,
the deer!
So then,
he said,
I’ll make you a window.
And he has.
Which means the roar
pours through…
but early morning
the birdsong
is louder
and sitting on the back stoop
sipping coffee in the sunshine
I hear Mockingbird and Robin
in between train and truck
and bask in the brilliance
of Deep Fork,
shining
green
before it’s time
to move into the traffic
and conversation
with human friends.

 

The wind blows powerfully
today…
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.

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Boy Scout Troop on sustainability tour in the high tunnel greenhouse…

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…exploring tracks in dry Doe Creek…

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…meeting the paca boys…

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…scooping precious alpaca poop…

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…enjoying the warmth of the straw bale hermitage.

In between bouts of frigid weather,
a troop of Boy Scouts arrived
from Oklahoma City
for their winter visit.
It is their second time to come inside
during the winter
and spend a good deal of their time here
outside
helping us with big projects.
Two years ago
they cleaned out piles of dead trees
washed down the creek bed
during years of spring floods.
This year,
after their morning
sustainability tour,
they planted trees
in the holes Ann and Frank
had prepared
in between the swales and berms
on the hill above the big pond.
It wasn’t warm—
cloudy skies;
the wind whipping over the hillside,
as usual—
but it wasn’t freezing.
And in two hours
they worked out a system
of working together
and planted about 100 trees.

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Ann shows the Scouts how deeply to plant the trees.

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Filling water jugs.

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Planting between swales, which slow rain water so that it can soak into the prairie.

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We are grateful to the Scouts—
and hope that the snow
that fell yesterday
insulates the new trees
from today’s
frigid winds.

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Taking a Composting Barrel Out for a Stroll

To be honest,
today was a day
when Simpler Living
seemed not as simple.
Vermi-composting bins
needed attention.
It was time to spread buckets
of alpaca manure on the garden.
The composting bucket
was full of kitchen scraps which had to be taken out
to the composting bin—
plus, it needed some brown material,
and turning.
Kind of a one-thing-led-to-another
sort of not-so-simpler-day.
And with the wind—
the blessed wind, or TBW,
as our friends the Blakeleys
call the Oklahoma wind—
everything was a little harder.
Clothes snapped—
as did some clothespins—
in TBW.

So, you should know this
(probably, you already do)
about Simpler Living.
Even so,
we must do what we can
to live simpler:
…use less fossil fuel
(and there are gobs of ways
to do that)
…reuse stuff
…buy less stuff
…make your own stuff
…ban chemicals
…use less water
the list goes on longer
than I have.
And though these things make
for a simpler life,
it doesn’t mean they’re easier.
In fact,
in the beginning of changing any habit,
they’re not.
Just as you suspected, right?
That’s why we have a Simpler Living Retreat.
Together,
we look at our culture’s habits,
our own habits,
why we must change,
what we want to change next,
and support each other
as we do.
We’ll do this next,
on Saturday, February 1.
You can sign up here,
or go to the calendar
on our website:
www.turtlerockfarmretreat.com

Even on the days
it seems challenging,
living simpler—
so all can have a better chance
at living—
is worth it,
and feels
very satisfying.

 

The wheat fields
are almost golden.
Combines are prepped
and parked nearby;
farmers wait for the very first
moment
the wheat is ready to harvest.
We have winds
off and on
all year.
But the winds of wheat harvest
are the most welcome;
they finish drying the wheat.
The last two days
winds have blown
hard all day,
quieting at night,
growing strong again by morning.
They blow in hope
and memories
of hope.
It’s a gut thing—
the winds come,
the temperature rises,
the grain blows in the fields
and something deep inside—
a mixture of anxiety
and celebration—
rises in the chest.

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Canola with Greening Wheat in Background,
Earlier in the Spring

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Ripening Wheat

Things are changing
here in Monoculture Land.
Now there is some rotation of crops:
wheat, corn, canola.
More needs to change.
Much more.
Maybe these harvest winds
bring a new kind
of hope.
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Evidence of a Windy Day

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A friend
about 80 miles south
announced a week or so ago
that the hummingbirds had arrived.
So, the day the thermometer
registered 77 degrees here,I filled the hummingbird feeders
and hung them on the front porch.
I sat all evening on the porch
in the warm April air,
luxuriating.
A medium-sized black butterfly
with white-edged wings
flittered lightly.
Then yesterday,
the hummingbird feeders
were coated in ice,
as were the trees,
other plants,
fence wire.
The land was laced
in frozen rain drops.

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Rain fell most of the day
(thank goodness)
and the wind blew
and it was cold,
so more ice formed.
But by evening
the rain had stopped,
the wind calmed,
the air warmed just a bit
and ice chips
popped off the limbs,
peppered the ground.
The low clouds
raised almost enough
for the sun to shine
before disappearing
behind the planet.

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This is April.
Our last frost date,
historically,
is next Monday.
Today,
the air is cold,
the sun shines.

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I wonder how the hummingbirds
fared on icy trees—
and when they’ll be
arriving
here.
Their food
awaits.

I think the world is changing.
I see it this week—
this week of unexpected
challenges.
When wet snow and wind
took down power lines,
Kay Rural Electric Cooperative
responded generously—
with detailed information,
on the telephone,
and website updates
several times a day
about their progress
restoring service.
There was unexpected
kindness.

Making the transition
into Medicare
(I know; I don’t seem 65!)
four people
walked me through
the maze of information
toward decisions,
with patience, understanding
and unexpected kindness.

During a visit with loved ones,
we witnessed hospital staff
extend compassionate care,
kindness
beyond imagining.

Headlines not withstanding,
there is quiet evidence
that we are moving
towards life-sustaining community.
Witness too,
this,
from Mary Oliver,
in Thirst:

In the Storm

Some black ducks
were shrugged up
on the shore.
It was snowing

hard, from the east,
and the sea
was in disorder.
Then some sanderlings,

five inches long
with beaks like wire,
flew in,
snowflakes on their backs,

and settled
in a row
behind the ducks—
whose backs were also

covered with snow—
so close
they were all but touching,
they were all but under

the roof of the ducks’ tails,
so the wind, pretty much,
blew over them.
They stayed that way, motionless

for maybe an hour,
then the sanderlings,
each a handful of feathers,
shifted, and were blown away

out over the water
which was still raging.
But, somehow,
they came back

and again the ducks,
like a feathered hedge,
let them
crouch there, and live.

If someone you didn’t know
told you this,
as I am telling you this,
would you believe it?

 Belief isn’t always easy.
But this much I have learned—
if not enough else—
to live with my eyes open.

I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.
This wasn’t a miracle.
Unless, of course, kindness—

as now and again
some rare person has suggested—
is a miracle.
As surely it is.