- The Farm
- The Alliance
Strawberries started about a week ago, sweet and delicious. Rabbits found them a few days later. Yesterday we started to put up chicken wire, dug into the ground and along the bottom of the fence. Meanwhile the wild raspberries have started, and the peas.
In the past week, after 9 people were murdered by a young white man who pretended he was coming to pray with them, was it the 8th or the 9th southern Black church up into flames? Some of them were not found to be arson. How can this be? I ask. What world are we living in, where Black people are ready targets, where church burnings have resumed after a 50 year break, and – I will not list.
We’re still asking donations for the solar panels (which really means, for the whole endeavor), here: http://www.youcaring.com/mountains-and-waters-alliance-362647#goto-updates A tax-exempt option should arrive soon, and will be announced. I watch some of my friends organizing, traveling to the front lines wherever they are, and I think this venture is tame. But those friends are the ones who encourage me most. Mountains and Waters (the alliance, the farm, the Zen community) is a matter of building a space which is to be used – first for the opening of consciousness, aka the practice of Zen and all its relatives, second for learning and teaching a way to live in harmony with the planet, and finally for a refuge when refuge is needed. I have accepted responsibility for food and making shelter, hard as it is for me.
In the orchard, we had put up a roost for hawks and owls, inviting them to hunt the gophers – but so far only tiny birds have landed there. We have a couple years before the fruit trees are big enough to be interesting to the gophers. So mulching is the focus, protecting the baby trees from extremely vigorous weeds and grasses.
I’m reading Forever Free, a book on the Reconstruction era, during and after the U.S. Civil War. I’m struck by how lively and hopeful people were, by the sense of creativity and a new start, by Congress’s willingness to do things that would today be considered radical. That time it was President Andrew Johnson who stopped it. Last night, a film on Daniel Ellsberg, and I thought how today he would have been imprisoned – the illegal spying on him would be legal now, and he would be imprisoned or exiled like Manning or Snowden.
Nights are cold, days are warm and beautiful, and it rains often enough that the plants are vigorous. It’s a summer paradise.
Droughts are elsewhere, nearly the whole state of Alaska is burning as is much of Canada, California is running out of water while Texas floods, and island nations are preparing to relocate.
On last week’s volunteer day, two of us went into the woods and pulled out buckthorn (vastly satisfying to see the woods opening up) while one worked on mulching the orchard. But next time (July 25, and then August 15) we’ll need to focus on the tame areas – orchard, berries, garden – weeds, deer protection, rabbit fencing and ever more mulch. I handle it in two ways: T.R., working with me part time, has taken on more and more responsibility. And I just let go, again and again. The rain has been an incredible blessing.
This month’s retreat will be July 20-22. In place of the August retreat, I will spend some days on the Love Water Not Oil tour http://www.honorearth.org/love_water_not_oil in northern Minnesota. I’m hoping some people will come with me, making this act of solidarity and prayer the first official event of Mountains and Waters Alliance.
In order to support the farm until more people come to live here, I’ll be going back to work – private practice – in a way that hopefully will support the larger goal.
I’ve added a poster of the vow, the text of the brochure, for those who might like.
Aspiring to shorter posts….
Today it is warm outside, warm enough to just stand there and breathe and enjoy, and tonight it is still warm enough to stand outside and stare at the stars for a long time.
Everything is melting. Thus we have put up some barricades to prevent the mud from inundating the driveway and the neighbors. It will truly be a great thing when this insulation project is done and the earth back in its place.
Saturday I tapped some trees for sugaring. They were mostly box elder, a kind of maple, and a few black walnut. Today there is a little sap in the nearest bucket. I haven’t yet built the evaporator (from an old water heater tank) or set up any of that equipment, but there are still some days for that. The supplies are ordered, except I need to collect more buckets from bakeries.
I’m recovering from a car accident. This is the second time that I’ve been overwhelmingly busy and had an accident that, though primarily inconvenient, took time and made things even harder. The worst is over: I have a shop to fix the car, and a paid-for rental car; I’ve had an Ortho-Bionomy session which helped a lot, and am able to have more. And I’m cutting back on the amount of sugaring, to get my tasks within reason.
This evening I met with a Resilience group. We’ve shared learning about practical ways to deal with crisis, particularly focusing on possible climate events. Today one person mentioned Joanna Macy’s three responses to climate change: holding actions (also called direct action – trying to stop the destruction), creating alternative societies, and consciousness change. Everyone in the room is focused on one or both of the latter two; still there was much thoughtful discussion. While we talked, I thought about just how completely this is what the farm is about: offering an inspiring model of another way of life, AND deepening consciousness into the way we are simply part of all life. And I felt grateful to be part of a group that has such conversations.
Blessings to you all as we enter another spring in this time of change.
It’s a little warmer today. Sunny. The days seem very long – light by 6 am and still very light at 6 pm.
I just spent three days at the MOSES conference – Midwest Organic and Sustainable Educational Services – and four days before that in sitting meditation.
Something very restless has settled down. What’s strange is that I felt the settling after getting home from a very busy, interactive, noisy conference with over 3000 people. After the meditation retreat, I was still irritable. And I was starting to question the reality of my thoughts, to want to stop believing them. (Of course I know my thoughts are just thoughts, but I am often caught believing them anyway.) There was a little opening – and then I was thrown into the maelstrom of the conference, exciting and exhausting. Somehow, by the end of the conference I was at peace.
Several people are coming this spring, some thinking about living here now or later. This raises so many hopes – and hope is so powerful. I will do my best to maintain equanimity as we test each other out. It’s so much easier to join a community than to join one person and imagine what the community will be like. Yet that’s what we’re doing at this stage.
And there are little things. Research and decision-making about the water heater, and on photovoltaics, and on maple syrup equipment. Continuing to seek apprentices and a possible farm manager. Fundraising, brochures, and website just get to wait for a while. Now we have an appointment for the water heater, likelihood of some skilled farm help, and a barter for maple syrup equipment. I brought the seed-starting things into the house. It moves slowly, yet it moves. Soon we will actually be doing maple syrup, then planting the orchard, deer fences, foraging, living outdoors again.
The basic task is staying calm, allowing energy to come together at its own pace – while taking care of the day to day stuff. One of these days I will get that grassroots appeal out; one of these days I will contact the foundations that have been suggested. Of course you can always join iGive and let your purchases come here – they’ll give me $5 for everybody who joins and actually shops by March 31, and you can send a few dollars through Paypal – use VairochanaFarm@riseup.net to get to the right place. (Klutzy, I know. A few people have just up and sent me money for the farm, without being asked. I fantasize about asking on Facebook and having thousands of dollars show up. But I will do a real campaign, just as soon as all the fires are out. Probably before – that might be too long. The water heater will be $1354.
The photos are from mid-February but it still looks the same. I can’t imagine spring. But the movements of spring are here – people, energy, even possible markets for our nettles and mushrooms and syrup. And inside me spring is starting; I’m able to work again.
Thank you all!
It’s just like this today…
The water heater is indeed broken, and at 20+ years old it makes no sense to spend $400 fixing it. I had planned to install a solar hot water system anyway. But I was going to do that when it was convenient. So it looks like I’ll be taking sponge baths for a while. In principle this is fine with me; hot water is one of our biggest luxuries. In reality it’s a bit uncomfortable and inconvenient. I’ll be bumming showers and laundry when I can.
The questions are: Will the Weatherization Program be willing to help me with solar hot water instead of propane? (They’re supposed to be about sustainability.) If not, will I give in and let them install the evil fossil fuel appliance? And, either way, how long will it take them to get around to it?
And the other questions are: Where did I put that solar camp shower? Will my visitors get upset if I don’t have conventional hot water by the time they arrive?
A string of visitors are coming this spring, for visits of a day, a week, a month or more. I’m excited about that, and about them. Plenty of room for more. Also, I’m talking with various government people about conservation programs and other things, and happy to have help making plans. (There WILL be a group weekend of replacing buckthorn with friendly plants – stay tuned. Maybe April.)
I won’t bore with organizational discussions – seems to me I said enough about that last week. Or climate change information, even though it keeps coming. There’s a quote from Ram Dass: “We’re all just walking each other home.” I try to keep that in mind.
I cleaned the counters, and the mice seem to actually be gone. But I hesitate to trust it.
It’s snowing again. As it should, at this time of year. I went outside a little, but am too much indoors. And I’m noticing craving – I want a bath – this will be interesting. I did find the camp shower and have put it in the window.
Sometime in the past, I used to write. Now I just catch things that float by, that give life. Here is one from Rumi:
Sit, be still, and listen,
because you’re drunk and we’re at
the edge of the roof.
I did write recently, though, about thoughts: https://compassionateearth.wordpress.com/
Peace to you all.
It’s been a quiet period: information coming in, little going out, gestating. It’s included consulting with experts on development, organization, marketing – and waiting for construction of the chimney for the masonry stove.
The brief report is that we are going to restructure, so the farm and land activities are formally separated from the residential spiritual community. The farm has a new mission/vision statement, here. And although we need major fundraising to create the off-grid house and buildings, that will be postponed while we strengthen our people base. And we’re thinking about names, now that there are two entities. Could be Compassionate Earth Farm, or Vairochana Farm, or I don’t know what else.
Visitors (recent and near future) include possible apprentices, residents, and supporters. We have not yet settled on a farm manager.
We do have a nonprofit sponsor for the farm, so donations can be received here. We’ll be applying for conservation and farming grants, and will do the first plantings this spring.
And the water heater is not working. I had wanted to get a solar water heater working before this happened. I’m away, visiting grandchildren, and will decide what to do (repair, replacement, or transition) when I get back.
This is the season for planning. That includes conferences. Yesterday by phone I attended a gathering of the Savanna Institute, a research project on woody perennial polyculture agriculture. At the end of February is MOSES in La Crosse, the big organic farming conference; I’ll be there to learn and network.
You can help by:
There’s also the outside world: intensifying climate change, mass extinctions, and business as usual: The KXL pipeline, the many tar sands sites, fracking for gas and oil, disappearing indigenous women, Black men killed by police, Palestine…. if you pay attention instead of seeking blame, the heart just breaks. What are we becoming?
I think that climate change is making the violence and everything else worse. Every animal, including humans, becomes more violent and less rational under stress. Here is a glaciologist explaining that it’s too late to stop the loss of the West Antarctic ice shelf. There’s sea level rise. This talk, by scientist Jim White, spells out the severity of the situation, including the fact that changes can be very abrupt, and that we are already in a time of rapid climate change. A crisis denied still has an effect on everyone.
Joanna Macy identifies three basic responses to the environmental crisis: holding actions (marches, protests, civil disobedience, and more), creating alternatives (Transition movement etc), and consciousness change. We find our places, each of us.
Love to you all.
On the verge of entering Rohatsu sesshin – the annual, traditional seven-day retreat remembering Buddha’s enlightenment – I have a few thoughts to offer, and a poem.
Yesterday was beautiful and warm. Finally I had the energy to organize the office and to make space for a third bedroom. And then I walked outdoors, with only a light jacket.
Roy Dopson left this morning, after a ten day visit. It was lovely. We would sit together in the morning, and after dinner would simply find ourselves in the zendo again. His wish, for being here (my words): that it be a place for deep spiritual life, more than anything else. He will come back next fall, after working the fire season. In addition to being a firefighter, Roy is an Advaita teacher. His website is here, with some very interesting thoughts: http://www.onesteppath.com/
Our mutual “yes” provokes many thoughts and images about what will be happening here. I imagine practice periods of three months, five-day retreats, visiting teachers. The farm plan is in process, and the conversion of the house will begin very soon. The nature of the community, how it will welcome guests and short-term residents, all are forming – and will be discussed after I come out of the retreat. Right now it is time to sit, to go into the silence, to allow things to be as they are.
And these words from Walt Whitman speak so well to how it is in my heart these days.
“This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
give alms to everyone that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
or to any man or number of men—
go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families—
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem,
and have the richest fluency,
not only in its words,
but in the silent lines of its lips and face,
and between the lashes of your eyes,
and in every motion and joint of your body.”
–from Preface to “Leaves of Grass” (1855)
This photo is of the east field, along the road, that will become an orchard with apples, pears, and chestnuts plus berries and shrubs, a roadside privacy buffer that also keeps out GMOs and supports pollinators, with poplar, black locust, lilac, rugosa rose, dogwood, and two kinds of willow. I took the photo with my back to the maple-basswood section of the woods.
Today I put two taps in a black walnut tree, picked up another 5 gallons of walnuts, and emailed a farm networker about access to a nut cracker. I also made a batch more applesauce (lots to go still), ate some of the green winter squash, and planted another green plant in the indoor garden – where the celery is vigorous, onions, parsley, and basil quite healthy, and everything surviving in spite of my poor watering habits.
Energy has been going to winterizing – mostly, getting ready for the masonry stove which is to heat the house with minimal firewood (plus insulation and solar gain), and the antique wood cook stove. I never imagined the number of decisions, measurements, small details – and the amount of trust in both my architect and the stone mason. I postponed insulating the foundation because I still have questions about exactly what to do. And because I want to get help paying for it.
There are also conversations about installing a photovoltaic system next year. It is to be paid for with the income generated by selling energy to the electric company.
The other use of my energy is in organizing, writing, focusing, making plans. At the same time I am teaching a little, writing a little, and planning to do more – because it is my teaching that will make everything possible here, make this different from the average permaculture farm.
The second serious visitor will be coming soon: 11 days in late November. May it go as well as the first. It’s time to find residents, who can support both finances and work and create community. There are sleeping spaces for two; two more real bedrooms can be made without much trouble, which means with the level of skills that I have. (But I’m lying: one of them needs windows added, on second-floor level – which makes me a helper not a leader. Of course 20 people could easily spend the night. There are beds for 7.) If I had raised money last year, the interior remodeling could happen this winter while I’m visiting family – but I didn’t.
I’m written a lot about erosion and culverts. Here is a picture of the magnificent work the neighbors did on the driveway culvert – the first side. And I’ll let you know what happens with the land bridge, that magnificent place.
I had oral surgery last Friday, and was disappointed that the whole week was impacted. I enjoyed the rest time, and did not enjoy the pain. Now, making my way back to normalcy, I feel well rested but short on the deep rest that comes from zazen. It was a joy to walk outside today in the sun. And I’m trying to catch up on non-physical work such as writing to you.
I would have chosen to spend this evening in community, in ritual. Next year, I think it will be so.
Blessings as we go into the dark time of the year.