Monday, December 23, 2013

Shapes of Life (and Death)

1. Cruising the lake yesterday I came across a snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), about a foot long, basking in the damp grass. I had totally failed to trap any of these guys, but they do threaten the toes of young swimmers so I bundled him into a tote and shipped him down to Bob's creek about half a mile away. Trouble is they seem to have an aquatic GPS so he might come back. I should have daubed his shell with a

Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
 yellow blob. Here he is! Incredible feet. Apparently they snap because they are too big to quite fit inside their shell, so they need to be aggressive. Shame - I like these guys, but I cannot explain to them that the damage they can do makes them unsuitable for this lake. They have no historical claim - they wandered in after the lake was made. Still I feel bad about displacing them. Did I break up a family? If they have only a reptilian brain, would my finer feelings be lost on them?

2. The horses all left two days ago.
Red (Houdini): master of escape
Finally Dena took them away:  Baylee, Bucket, Charlie and Red (Houdini). I had spent much of Saturday a week ago rescuing three of them from the distant neighborhood. Red just breaks through fences, and the others followed. Sad, again. If they had been willing to hang out on 175 acres they could have had the run of the place. That was the freedom through training idea of Vicky Hearne in Adams Task. Great relief to see them go, and yet. Closest to bad feeling with Dena. She did not have the time, support or resources to care for them here. She did not feed them winter hay, which they needed. 
Here is a picture of Red from the previous post.

3. Possums play possum, i.e. play dead. A perfectly preserved dead one appeared near the house. (The fur of another one was by the barn.) What's going on? 

Not playing possum!
I don't like possums. Their grin seems evil. And yet it is hard not to warm to them just a little when they are so vulnerable. The look is just the same as when they are alive. Makes me think we should not judge by appearances. He (she?) always was a mortal creature going about his business. "Who am I to judge", as the pope said recently.
Why are they dead? Rabies? It turns out possums rarely get it. Probably a dog, or two different dogs. My neighbor's dog Pinto killed my cat and could have killed the possum.

4. Four turkeys were pecking in the horse field this morning. A family group? They start very easily, wary of the slightest creak of my door, or crunch on the gravel. Here are three of them.

 And for good measure, a close-up of a male display. If people knew they could do this, I doubt Thanksgiving would ever be the same again. 
How pretty am I?

5. Dying goat. For over a week now an old goat has been lying down. I dragged him into the barn, where the corpse of a recent friend already lay. Cottage renters who were vets gave him all kinds of stuff intravenously. Randall gave him Cydectin for worms. But he has no strength in his legs. Cannot stand up. Euthanasia? I fear he is not long of this world. His eyes are still alert. He does not (even) have a name. I worry if I name him he will die immediately. I will take his body to a necrology lab in Nashville. Just gotta know what's ailing these guys, Herd is down to six. One doe looks bred. Spring kids?

Animals everywhere, living dying. I hope I'm doing the right things by them

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Freedom: Lessons from a horse

Red (aka Houdini) is one of four horses pastured on my big field for the last few months. I like having them there. They keep the grass trimmed and are a pleasant sight for the eyes. But he has been escaping, with increasing frequency. I am in loco parentis, and have now recovered him some 6 times. Today he got out twice, content to stick around and munch. Once he was stuck straddling the fence, with the ineffective electric fence line dangling nearby.
So he will have to 'go'. He is a notorious breacher, with a houdini-like history. If he would be happy grazing 170 acres freely that would be fine, but he ends up on Sunny Slope scaring the traffic. I admire his spirit - he's the smartest, friendliest horse of the bunch, and he's rideable. But we're 'responsible' for him. And he enjoys his freedom 'too much'. This is a truly sad situation. The solution here would probably be to set up a serious electric fence (not just solar charged). DeeAnn will find him another home.

Friday, November 29, 2013


A few years ago Chris and I celebrated Thanksgiving with a large pizza and a bottle of wine overlooking the lake. Six wild turkeys paraded past just as we were eating. The male's display is spectacular - as impressive as a peacock.


Americans eat 45 million turkeys every Thanksgiving. 
That's about a billion since I moved to this country.
President Obama pardoned two turkeys, as per tradition. 
Facts: Domesticated turkeys live about 10 years. \
Turkeys bred for food live a few months. 
Wild turkeys live 3-5 years. 
Pardoned turkeys are selected at birth to be pardoned, and especially fattened up. They are allowed to live out their natural life, but are typically so obese that they last only a year or so.

What's with this 'pardon' thing? For the crime of being tasty
Am I alone in thinking this practice genuinely distasteful?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shambhala latest

This is the latest! Calum made the fancy rock-faced wall on the right. And the sinkhole, with its highly 'organic' associations, has been all cleaned up.
I am searching for suitable meditative sounds.

Adieu II

Yesterday. Goodbye to Johan from Amsterdam. He wrote in the Writers Cabin, was visited by Mandu the irrepressible lover cat, and enjoyed the solitude.


Goodbye to Eric and Rebecca today. Off to Johnson City for Thanksgiving. A great couple who left their mark on Shambhala, on the garden, on the basement and on the coffee table!And before that, to Nikki, and her cats Timmy and Ajah. Nikky totally uncovered Awakening Words at the Peace Circle. By hand. A labor of love. It rose again from the weeds, like Smithson's Spiral Jetty from the Great Salt Lake. Art as renewed/ing event.

New trails

Calum will clear the way for the Kyoto Trail today. It passes by beautiful mossy rocks reminiscent of the moss gardens I saw in Kyoto, carefully tended by monks.  Walking meditation. Need to make a bench. Sitting meditation. Perhaps a bench long enough to curl up on. Dreaming meditation. Is there a common theme here? The moss seems to be cascading over the rocks. Note the attendant icicles.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November has seen a change in the weather. And with it:  pipes (to the cabin), Bob's fence-busting beefalo, escaping horses, garden produce all but ended (except some chard and other greens), and ladybugs invading the cottage and cabin in plague proportions. They are expecting to hibernate but when we turn on the heat they think its spring and reappear inside and out in huge numbers. Paying guests at the cottage just cancelled the whole month on arrival day and left. They are not the pretty things we English call ladybirds, but a more aggressive 'Asian' variety that will dive-bomb and bite, and have a nasty smelling yellow blood. They still eat aphids, but we're out of aphids right now. I used insecticidal bombs in desperation. They died in genocidal numbers, and then came back.

In the last weeks we have had four wwoofers. Nikki (from North Carolina, with cats Timmy and Asia), Eric and Rebecca (from California), and Calum (from England). We have been rotating cooking, and eating like kings. Shambhala now has a clean floor, and a retaining wall behind. I'm searching for a glass dome.The garden is clean and tidy, with a rye cover crop. The basement has been cleared and re-organised. And the Peace Circle's Awakening Words has now been revealed. Some parallel with Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty re-emerging when the water level dropped. Art as EVENT!! A fire-pit is happening on the runway towards the white tree. Terry is making a custom front door, probably in red oak.

Calum mowed around Lily's last sculpture (four blue balls nesting in a recumbent osage orange tree). 

See photos on her website @

Nudging DeeAnn to feed her horses hay and trim their hooves. Horse ownership ain't cheap.
Red (Houdini) escaped a few times until Eric and Rebecca and I fixed three real holes in the back fence. Got to meet my neighbors. Bad fences can make closer neighbors! Reminds me of the Chinese good luck story which starts out with horses escaping. Bad luck. But then the army recruiters come by and the son is off chasing the horses. Good luck! And so on.

Thanksgiving. Going with Hathaway to Gabby's (with Calum), and then to Chris and Heather in Nashville. Should leave a snack for our wild turkeys. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lily Erb is creating sculpture as an Artist in Residence, living in the cabin Sept/Oct 2013

205' x 13', painted steel (now yellow)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Catching Up

I have neglected this blog. So much has happened.
* "Flow" the movie
* Serious progress on Shambhala (meditation space made of cob)
* New shed to create storage and workshop space
* Fencing the sauna with bamboo to enable a white scented  goatproof garden
* Lots more work on the garden: raised beds, watering system
* Major efforts by wwoofers over Spring/Summer 2013
* Preliminary ground clearing and planning for pagoda in 'Japan' incorporating delapidated chimney
* Considering buying field next to pagoda, and maybe the old white house next door on Sunny Slope
* Booking first proper artist-in-residence for September
* Making word signs for Mots Trouvee trails
* Realizing I bought the original farm in October 2002. Scary the passage of time.

Some photos next time.