Two weeks ago the morning was filled with lots of commotion and kee-aahs as two red shouldered hawks flew in circles over our roof and trees. The female landed on a large branch in the cottonwood. The male did his “sky dance” as he sang and flew in large circles.

Two weeks ago the morning was filled with lots of commotion and kee-aahs as two red shouldered hawks flew in circles over our roof and trees. The female landed on a large branch in the cottonwood. The male did his “sky dance” as he sang and flew in large circles. The big bird descended and flew close to the female, then spiraled up again in another wide circle around the tree only to drop back down near the female and up again he went. The screaming of the bird was intense. He obviously was on a mission. The bird performed his fancy maneuvers a few more times before he plummeted down and landed…. right on top of the lady. Wow. It was quick, they fluffed their feathers and each took a separate branch and faced different directions.

When a friend saw the picture, he commented “You can tell they mated…they aren’t talking to each other anymore…even looking in opposite directions; looks like there is some disappoint there….”

Spring is in the air, but March has so far been wild. Winds, rains, temperatures all over the place well describes the idiom “In like a lion, but will March go out like a lamb?” In ferocious winds last Saturday, the Japanese Peace Garden (JPG) was spruced up along with two other sites in Shawnee. Weeding, transplanting, and esoteric gardening activities were performed by Oklahoma Baptist University students and volunteers who wished they had worn concrete block shoes while working and watching plant trimmings fly away in the 25-40 mph winds.

The Murrah Memorial is being prepared for renovation. Dwarf Yaupon hollies, the Yucca and Rose-of-Sharon were transplanted to the Teahouse. Prairie dropseed bunches, Lyreleaf sages and cone flowers (Echinacea) were moved to native gardens as were the smaller rocks in the Murrah plot. One heavy ironstone was slowly propelled on a two-wheeler into the Deep Fork Audubon Native Prairie. The other weighty rock was actually rolled across the track by two strong students and positioned next to the flag bench to become one awesome end table.

The Shawnee Rotary Club erected the monument after the April 19th 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown OKC. The names of several area residents who lost their lives are listed on the granite stone. The memorial is now ready for a facelift by the Rotarians and the City of Shawnee. When noon arrived, it was hard to believe three students and three volunteers accomplished so much in two hours and hurricane force winds!

Prairies in a natural setting are often rejuvenated by wildfires, but this is not an option for the Monarch areas of the JPG, which sit under the Monarch corridor. The vegetation in the native gardens are mowed once a year in preparation for new spring growth of grasses, wildflowers and butterflies.

Look for the newly refreshed Prairie Circle. Circles in Japanese gardens symbolize enlightenment. Often Japanese gardens employ “hide and reveal” features. The JPG teahouse is partially hidden from sight, but as one walks through the garden, other elements and views can be seen.

The Japanese garden brings into one’s life calmness and nature by incorporating many features. Our dryland Zen garden is composed of rocks and gravel and is currently being refurbished. New landscape timbers have replaced old. A second set will define the narrow beds surrounding 3 sides to present a sense of privacy….and function as an Oklahoma windbreak. The strong winds often try to have their way at the JPG. Although the gravel is too large for an authentic Zen, plans are afoot to find an instrument that can rake those unwieldly rocks into patterns. The Zen garden is a wonderful place to empty your mind of cluttered thoughts and feel free. Try it.

Ready for St. Patrick’s Day? Actually, it should be called Maewyn’s Day. The 5th century saint was not even Irish, but from a Roman aristocratic family. His dad was a member of the city senate of the Roman Empire. They could have been Italian! The lad was taken hostage on his family’s estate in Britain during an Irish raid. Sixteen years old at the time, Maewyn Succat served as a slave shepherd who looked after animals for six years. One day he heard a voice telling him to go home, so he managed to run away, traveled 200 miles, found a ship and three days later arrived at the shores of his home country. The young man walked with other shipmates for 28 days and all were becoming very weak from lack of food. Maewyn prayed for sustenance. A herd of wild boar appeared. This impressed the group. After arriving home, he studied about Christianity, a familiar subject since his dad was a deacon and his grandfather a priest.

Here is when history becomes even fuzzier. Maewyn became a cleric, but seems to have gotten himself into some shady financial deals, which resulted in a trial and guilty verdict. This might have prompted him to leave Britain. Maewyn’s story is he had a vision. A man named Victoricus came toward him holding many letters. One was titled “The Voice of the Irish” and as Maewyn read the letter, he could hear people from Foclut, an ancient Irish forest, crying “We appeal to you, Holy servant boy, to come and walk among with us.” Inspired, Maewyn returned to Ireland and renamed himself Patricius. He later became a missionary and bishop. Despite never being canonized by a Pope, St. Patrick is still greatly respected and honored with the feast day of March 17th.

Everything green, food and drink are what it’s all about. I took the plunge and sent saliva to Ancestry DNA. My spit said thirty per cent of my ancestors came from Ireland or Scotland. Well yes, my grandma was a Dempsey (O’Diomasaigh). She proudly stated they were lace curtain Irish and Dempsey does mean proud! Irish kings are in the family. Years ago, I located one Dempsey castle in the midlands outside Dublin. Caislean Leigh was frequently visited by relatives who marked their names on the fallen castle keep. The former stronghold is one of nearly 30,000 castle ruins that still exist in Ireland…… including the current Blarney Castle (Caislean na Blarnan) in southern Ireland.

Blarney castle was built in 1446. Despite its worn condition, people continue to climb the steps to the top and kiss the blarney stone. They descend with the newfound ability to express themselves with great articulation, or so they think. We are talking about the Irish here and Blarney Castle is a primo tourist site.

Farmer’s Almanac states that peas should be planted on St. Patrick’s Day. While you’re at it, they recommend to plant cabbage seeds as well, but wear nightclothes to assure a good crop. Tip a cup of Guinness stout into beef stew to go with your Irish brown bread. Yum.

So, Beannachtai Na Feile Padraig Ort!

(say: Baa-knock-tee Nah Faye-lah Paw-rick urt).

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Y’all

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at