- The Farm
- The Alliance
The fundraising appeal has brought us to a total of $2016 in donations toward the solar panels. People I don’t know gave money. People I never would have asked gave money. People who have little gave more than I would have thought. The outpouring of generosity, and encouraging words, was inspiring. Still haven’t reached the $6700. Thinking about who to ask. Here is the link to the fundraiser.
And now I still have to look for the people with lots of money, and ask them directly. Some of you can imagine how hard this is. I’ll start after I get a phone.
My phone died. I bought a cheap phone to get me through, but it seems that I actually am going to have to upgrade. The cheap phone doesn’t connect with the wi-fi that makes it possible to use a phone in the house – an excuse to continue with a smart phone. All my phone numbers are in the dead phone – something I once swore I’d never do – I’ll get them back. Meanwhile, my number is 507-339-0152. It’s pay-per-minute, and will be my backup phone in the future.
With minimal photos, then, I offer news from the past week.
On Friday we put the garden to bed. TR, Leo, and Justin, with a little help from me, dug up about a wheelbarrow full of potatoes, harvested tomatoes and some beets, dill and coriander seeds, catnip for tea, squash, broccoli, whatever. They tore down old plants and covered bare dirt. Ready to go.
Saturday volunteers – Roy, Paul, Greg, Fran, and I – pulled up buckthorn in the section north of the driveway. We spent hours at it, and Roy continued on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and there’s a lot more to go. We’ll do more October 24, and I’m imagining a marathon in the spring. I planted a few ferns in the bare spots, but we’ll need a lot more shrubs or the buckthorn will grow back.
On Sunday I went for a hike in the woods, along with TR’s school. We looked over the river from the bluff, and then walked down and actually put our feet in the river. I had not known that was possible. Coming back, we walked through a magnificent stand of sugar maples on the north side of the hill. I long to buy that piece of land – 25 acres bordering the river – but can’t even think of it. (Still trying to recruit friends to buy the 75 acres across the road as well.)
The siding has been going up over the insulation, and though not finished it’s looking pretty good. Tonight we expect that Chris and Justin will take the chimney through the roof. Or is that tomorrow? Anyway it’s happening, and we’ll start using that pile of wood. (Currently yes, we are running the heat.)
Outdoors is magnificent. I took a few photos and will rush back to spend a little time with the buckthorn. Let me mention – the photo doesn’t explain that, where we had thickets of buckthorn, crowding out and poisoning out the understory, now we have space under the large trees. We will bring back native plants next spring.
Love you always.
If you are willing and able to donate any money to Mountains and Waters, I ask you to do it now. Small amounts are fine. Large amounts, from those who can, help us get out of fundraising mode faster.
If the vow speaks to you, you are already part of it. How would it feel to make that more real – to put a little of your actual life energy into protecting the planet for your children/grandchildren/all beings? Does your personal spending include $5 a month (or a day) that you would like to switch to supporting this large vision? (You can skip reading and jump down to donating if you like – the next heading. Even $5 helps.)
Here’s what’s happening, why I’m asking right now. There’s an intention to get the farm completely off-grid – fossil fuels and electricity – as well as to grow food to share, supporting local food security against climate change effects.
We have completed half the house insulation, installed a very efficient masonry heater, its chimney almost finished, and have a wood cookstove ready to install. The orchard and berry patch are started, and the vegetable garden is producing like mad. We’re connected with others in the local food system. I’m leading a small Zen group in Northfield, occasional retreats at the farm, and other Zen activities. The second resident, Roy Guisinger, an Advaita teacher, has arrived. He will be both working on the farm and offering teaching.
The blog now has a list of volunteer opportunities including several that you can do from where you are. If you want to do a working visit to the farm, or to come to a retreat, let me know – here.
We applied for Minnesota’s help for installing photovoltaic panels, and won their lottery system. This means that we pay to install the panels, and then they pay us for every watt of electricity we produce in addition to buying back our surplus. We’re approved for a 9.840 kW system which will cost about $27,500 to install.
Plans are to do the installation next spring. To get approved for that delay, we have to purchase the panels now. So I need to decide whether to proceed or not – within the next two weeks. If I put down $6700, I can get a 4.25% loan for the rest; if not, the interest rate is higher. I’m taking that $6700 as the minimum for going forward with the solar panels.
HERE’S WHAT HELP CAN LOOK LIKE:
Donations to https://www.youcaring.com/mountains-and-waters-alliance-362647 are tax deductible. So far we’ve raised $1051 there from 12 people, mostly people who saw it online, including Facebook friends I’ve never met in person.
Loans at no interest would be very helpful. Call or email me.
Donations without the tax deduction save us 5%. You can mail a check here, saving another 2.9% on the WePay fees. (No complaint about the fees. Sending 5% to Alliance for Sustainability is a small amount in exchange for all they give us and do for the community.)
The iGive campaign is still going on, with the special deal ending October 9. Costs nothing – click and see.
Shouldn’t we be getting grants? I’ve been looking. There is a foundation that is likely to fund Mountains and Waters Alliance in a few years – after we’ve shown some stability. A volunteer will be helping with fundraising in a few months, if all goes as planned. The USDA grants for farms are mostly not working now (maybe later) but we have a small conservation grant, if we pull up a lot of buckthorn (invasive shrub).
Get a job? I’ve been in conversation about it and plan to be working about one day a week, which should take care of my personal expenses but won’t support the Farm or the Alliance. The Alliance, by definition, involves many people: Until those people are here, I work elsewhere.
IT MIGHT SEEM STRANGE for this organization with lofty purposes to be raising money for something so mundane. The reality is: We need to eat. We need to stay warm in the winter. And if we are to participate in this society, to organize, to communicate widely, we need electricity. The panels change electricity from an expense to an income source. Although I love when I can be away from Internet and phone and machines, loved living without a car, at this time those things are needed to do the work.
The last blog post raised the question of whether I should be here at the farm. That question isn’t coming up now.
Fall is here. There have been light frosts, and we’re going to take down the garden soon. It’s still outrageously beautiful outside, and colors are barely beginning. I gave a tour yesterday to Roy (showing progress since his last visit) and to Toby, an intern with Savannah Institute (which encourages and promotes the kind of mixed farming that we’re doing here). Both dug, Toby sharpened the scythe and cut some grass, and left this morning. The sun is shining and workers are coming today.
People tell me the orchard and berry patch look great. I’m pleased and surprised. Leo has mushrooms getting ready in a trash can, Chris is getting ready to plant hazelnuts here for his vision of protein for all, and Andrea brought rescued honeybees that we hope will survive the winter. Andrea also cleaned the chicken house, but the chickens are going to wait until spring. Saturday’s volunteers will pull up buckthorn and plant ostrich ferns that Jayne gave me yesterday at the Zen group. (Most of my plants have come from Jenny…not mentioned here I think. Also mention Allison has given food, produce and canned food, and cooked a lunch for us. I’m trying to keep track of the gifts, but it’s hard.)
I think we’re going to make it. All summer I wondered. There’s still the question of how much damage the pocket gophers will do (or how we can stop them – raptor perches haven’t yet worked, snakes are not interested) and whether the deer will get past the tree tubes or the field mice girdle the trees. And how much watering we’ll need to do if next summer is dry. Still plenty of work to do, and I have promised an article for a Soto Zen women’s anthology, have my teacher’s book to edit, have writing of my own that doesn’t happen. But the hardest is past.
Next year we’ll be selling strawberry plants, raspberry plants, strawberries. Later, mushrooms, Chris’s hazelnut seedlings, lots of nursery trees of various kinds. And we got $40 at the farmers’ market a couple weeks ago. Probably will get a little more, when we have time to go. It’s a way to take care of the produce we don’t have time to put up for winter. And I get to take a walk in the woods. Soon. Maybe tomorrow.
Nothing today about news of the world. Another time.
Love and blessings.
I woke up this morning with the thought: “Is this the most useful thing I can be doing?” I spend a lot of time on the farm – taking care of it, thinking about it, managing people who work with me on it, finding volunteers, looking for money – my whole life revolves around it now. That question often arises.
This morning, there was an answer. It was very clear. The answer was “No.” The most useful thing I could be doing is teaching Zen.
I’m not going to make a lot of words around that right now. The answer came as it is. I will say that for me teaching Zen is the way to point directly to what matters, to the liberation of the spirit.
The question remains whether this farm is the most useful setting for my teaching of Zen. That question will take care of itself.
Fall is in the air. This year I’m in no rush: Summer has been magnificent and I could personally handle months more. But there’s an edge of yellow on some plants, and some days and nights are cold.
Farm: It’s harvest time for the biggest garden I’ve ever lived with. The photos show maybe half of what we gathered one day. Still racing to get tree tubes on and other stuff before the first frost; TR and friends are in charge of that stuff. But I have to process it.
Finally making headway on going off-grid: the chimney for the masonry heater, thanks to Chris and Justin. Next will be the wood cook stove, and then I have to start learning. Meanwhile I found a way to get the solar dehydrator to happen: pay Ryan to build it. Should be done in a few days, and in go the tomatoes. Studying about root cellaring, with potatoes and beets and carrots and pickles to go there, and later squash. And I’m throwing beans, tomato sauce, carrots, corn, and even tomatoes into the freezer, because it’s all too much.
Personal: I’m learning to manage, learning to farm, but long for my real work, which is about Zen, about opening up consciousness, about the big picture. This week I wrote an essay for Sweeping Zen; it was harder than expected because I’m out of practice. I’ll share it after it’s published. For the moment, I’m letting go of money worries, but think I’ll be looking for work soon (after one false start a few months ago).
The Syrian refugees are now on the list for chanting, along with my sister-in-law and a few others. Looking at the world’s suffering, looking at what could be done and is not, I try to be kind to myself as I look and listen for what my own offering is.
Events: The fall schedule is in the previous post, but I’ll just mention October 3, a one-day introduction to Zen practice at the farm, and October 10, the next volunteer day. Hopefully that day will be in the woods, pulling buckthorn and planting beneficial replacements.
Volunteers, wishes, thanks: I most wish for these: a publicity person, a volunteer coordinator, an accountant (or just somebody to keep records), and a mechanically inclined person to fix the tractor. Meanwhile I love the people who show up to do the everyday things, including Allison who sent lunch for the last volunteer day. (So I could mention everybody. Donna and Andrea and Laurel come to mind. Jenny for donating plants and putting them in. ) But this is why I’m wishing for help here – there’s so much to remember!) And I thank everyone who has donated, or shared my information, or organized their schedule so they could come by or so I could have some social time.
Facebook page: Mountains and Waters Alliance. Please sign up if you like.
I’m going to pick some more strawberries. And raspberries, and tomatoes, and squash.
Love to all.
The world is changing, we’re on the edge of fall now, and after 6 weeks of silence it’s hard to know what to say. I’ll be brief, and come again soon.
While Minnesota has had one of its best summers everywhere, it’s been disturbed just a little by smoke from the fires in Saskatchewan – and I know people who’ve spent the summer watching their woods burn. I don’t know the people who’ve had floods, typhoons, and the rest. Syrian refugees are flooding into Europe, and the responses are a frightening vision of possible futures – kindness and welcome mixed with hostility and rejection – and deaths, many deaths. Although there was political turmoil, there was also a 5 year drought, and when people have no food they move – thus the possible future. That future is one of the reasons I am here growing food, but there need to be millions such.
So every morning I offer up the merit of the chanting, and include every part of this world, all humans, particular humans and groups, and ask for help from the ancestors, the earth spirits, and more. Buddhists don’t quite pray, but this is very much like praying and it goes well with working. I do this work at the farm, and little more. In August I gave up the sesshin and spent that time with Love Water Not Oil, going upstream on the proposed pipeline route through Northern Minnesota’s lakes, rice fields, and indigenous-owned, treaty-protected land that is being given away by our state government for profit. This morning I did not attend the court hearing on the Alberta Clipper, because I am needed here.
I don’t know any solutions, I just keep going and invite people to share this life however they may.
Farm stuff first: Saturdays, September 12, October 10, November 14, 9-5 – Volunteer days.
Zen practice events – by donation. Advance registrations are really appreciated
Wednesdays 6:30-8:30 pm, September 16, Oct 7 & 21, Nov 4 & 18 – Zen group meets in Northfield
Sunday evening through Wednesday, Sept 20-23, and October 20-23 – silent sesshin (retreat) at the land
Saturday, October 3, 9-5 – “Introduction to Zen” retreat at the farm
Saturday, November 21, 9-5 – Closing retreat for the Zen fall intensive
Alliance – forming a local group connected with this online program supporting wisdom, courage, and compassion in dealing with climate disruption. Starting soon, dates to be arranged with the group.
The farm is all about abundance now. I probably spend 2 hours a day freezing, canning, and pickling, and don’t even have time to forage nettles or check out the ground nuts. The berries and orchard trees are growing well, mostly. (So are the weeds.) The summer from heaven has been good to all the plants as well as the humans.
I’ve signed up with a direct-to-restaurant sales program, but my quantities are perhaps too small for them. We’ll see. The squash has not yet begun.
People are here a lot, and supportive. Most of the labor is still paid, to people who are friends and who seriously earn their wages. But increasingly, people are coming around who are invested in the vision, who give their labor, pay their teenagers to work here, donate food and supplies, and generally do a lot. The newest of these, Andrea, has blitzed the chicken house (and will bring chickens), spent a solid weekend with me in the berry patch, and planted a rescued beehive near the garden.
There are some conversations about possibly moving in, or moving next door. Right now the only definite is Roy, who will arrive at the beginning of October and spend the winter.
After the summer off, the Zen group resumed meeting, with a sense of cohesion about combining Wednesday night meetings, retreats at the farm, and more into a “practice intensive” described here.
I continue to sit zazen in the morning, and have added a short chanting service as well. When people see the names on the altar, they often ask me to include someone – often recently deceased – and I’m happy to do it. It’s one of the things we do in community: pray for each other, remember each other.
Projects and needs
The plan to get off grid and to grow a lot of food is moving along slowly. Last winter we put in a masonry heater and started insulating the first floor. Right now the kitchen is torn up for installation of the chimney for that heater, and for installing a wood cook stove. Next spring we are supposed to put in photovoltaic panels. Before winter the insulation should be covered with siding – and estimates are running near $10,000, which I had completely not anticipated and am simply unable to face. I’ll deal with it after the chimney and stove are done. We can always just wrap plastic over it, postponing it to next year. Or borrow, take out a mortgage on the farm, which is not advised. Running the savings down to zero is also not recommended.
People are making donations, and the energy of it is encouraging and nourishing. The fundraiser for the solar panels has passed $1000 even with my inability to ask. I did send one letter to one foundation asking to submit a grant for seed money – website development and professional fundraising – and am waiting. My plans to work off the farm are stalled, and perhaps will be reinvented later this fall after the harvest is in. Meanwhile – the world is still beautiful and generous. I am learning, more and more, to let go as it makes its own way.
First the begging (an old monastic tradition), second the photos and farm stuff, and last some thoughts.
I sent out an update on the fundraiser, https://www.youcaring.com/mountains-and-waters-alliance-362647/update/344245. And it includes a recipe. Hint: some people send their tax-exempt donation without me bugging them. That’s really nice, it allows me to take care of the orchard and even have some time for teaching Zen. I do understand I have to get past my terror and call. Oh well. First let me tell you about the free way to support Mountains and Waters Alliance. If you click here you can get the information. Please do that if you like what I’m doing. Next week I’ll start hounding people.
And – to sign up for blog posts, you go to the page (you’re here) and go down the right side to “Entries RSS.” Click and there’s a place to sign up.
It’s finally summer, hot and buggy, and I’m grateful that the house is naturally cool. We work, groups of 2 or 3 of us, sometimes volunteers and sometimes “casual labor” which means friends who work for a lot less than they’re worth. So the orchard trees are staying alive, and we’ll have the rabbit fence up protecting berries, well before winter.
The garden is producing vigorously; Asian greens have gone to seed, lettuce is abundant, rhubarb might still have another harvest. The rabbits are eating the strawberries. There are wild raspberries, dandelions, daylilies, hostas, and just today sumac tea. I probably could still harvest a few nettles, but the season is pretty well past and I haven’t had time to go out. I wonder when the first tomatoes will turn red and when to dig potatoes – and what I will do with them all. I’m learning to grow food, preserve it, and give it away. Selling produce? Another thing to learn.
And we are mulching the trees, pulling weeds out of the tree tubes, taking care of the perimeter trees – and, occasionally, pulling out buckthorn.
Yesterday a volunteer made two high-quality bug hats, and left pattern and cut pieces for four more. If you are laughing, you clearly don’t understand what it’s like to walk into the Minnesota woods. Bug hats can change your outdoor life.
Today I learned that Rick knows tool sharpening, and he taught Dan, and then I taught both of them to scythe, and then we worked like mad in the hot sun.
A friend showed up from the past, a Zen priest who became a Theravadan monk. His life is completely reorganized. In particular, if nobody gives him food he doesn’t eat that day. If he wants to go somewhere, a lay person has to drive him. All his time is available for study, meditation, and service. I really like that, even though I’m not drawn to the lifestyle. In Zen, we study, sit zazen, and do service, but if there are no donations we go get a job or something.
I’ve been reading lately. The Lankavatara Sutra – a core text of Zen, known for being hard to understand. This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. And remembering A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit.
The Lankavatara points to the basic fact, which most Buddhists can tell you about, that we are not separate from each other and everything we think is going on is an illusion created by the mind. (I’m still in the first chapter, this is definitely not a full summary.)
This Changes Everything connects the dots about what’s happening with the climate and how our whole economic system is set up so that ruining the earth is the only possible outcome – unless we change the economic system. For example, a state like Minnesota that sets up an energy program to encourage locally-built solar panels can be sued for setting up a trade barrier interfering with corporate profits. There have been many such lawsuits under the WTO (World Trade Organization) and they win. The TPP will be worse. Everything we do to protect the environment can be a target. (okay, not everything. Most things that local governments might do.)
The farm was accepted into Minnesota’s solar energy program this year. We want to actually use it: it might not be there later. And that’s why we’re having a fundraiser for the solar panels.
People are visiting. Sometimes they volunteer for a few hours, sometimes stay a night or two, sometimes leave a donation and always a gift of themselves. Sometimes we have a conversation about longer visits or even becoming residents. I am learning to be patient about this part, waiting for things to develop. I’ve learned that even people who haven’t been here feel connected. And that’s why I’ve posted the vow in the blog where you can print it and even sign it. I don’t quite know what this is yet. I’m listening for its movement, listening to it breathe. Sesshin starts again Sunday evening, settling down again on the ground of reality – as my teacher says.
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….
Dear Friends of Vairochana Farm:
Things are happening here. I’ve talked about the plantings and all – but inspiration has been moving. The name is changing to Mountains and Waters. It is clarified into the Alliance, described here, and the actual practice of farming. The words below are sufficient explanation.
Mountains and Waters Alliance begins with a vow:
We accept our place in the community of life;
we ally ourselves with mountains, waters, and everything that lives,
for the protection and restoration of the whole earth and all beings,
human or nonhuman, known or unknown, near or far, born or to be born.
We make this request
of animals, plants, waters, mountains, valleys, clouds, rocks,
individually and collectively: to accept our vow of support
and join with us in this protection, restoration, renewal and regeneration.
There is a fundraiser for solar panels. You can donate here http://www.youcaring.com/fundraiser-widget.aspx?frid=362647
The donation page has plenty of explanation about why the solar panels and not something else. It would really help us a lot if you would make a donation (any size; literally we make money with anything over 32 cents) and share this with friends who might like to support the work we’re doing.
I’ll post again when there’s more news – the change in name and language (but not intention), and of course when we actually get a website with the new name. Right now most of my time and volunteer time is going to protecting the new trees and berries, planting food for this year, and a little bit of land care, the most urgent. We’ll have two summer residents soon. And the world is beautiful.
April 25-28 was prep for orchard planting
April 27 was the day of the big machines
On May 5 half the plants arrived, prompting a panic. They were found May 8 and delivered May 11, day 1 of the 2-day planting. May 9 was fencing and garden work.
Current tasks are adding more tree tubes to protect all the orchard and native plant barrier trees – from deer, rabbits, and gophers. (We must have killed some gophers, which sadly was the plan, using dry ice. Since planting I’ve only seen one gopher hole, in the lawn.)
Yesterday, on my day off, all I wanted to do was play in the “Elders Circle” which is defined by two massive cottonwoods. So I made paths, figured out where to plant the willows, pulled up some cow parsnips and wild cucumber, and reminded myself to come back for the wood nettles, now ready to harvest.
And in Thursday’s rain we bought a truck and a bigger trailer.
The people: Federico has been gone a month, Ki left this past week after assembling the water wagon and then fixing it, mad digging and planting in the garden, and a lot more. TR moved to Faribault in the middle of all this, and has been working with me almost daily. A new group of college volunteers will show up tomorrow to finish mulch and tree tubes. People are just drawn here. I try to stay organized and provide good food – new batch of nettle soup to make, still have homemade bread.
See you some time.
This weather – cold nights – means there will be more sugaring, probably a couple weeks or more. The sap boiling went much better since I moved it outside – less smoke, easier to watch, and probably a better fire. It still took all day, and then I brought it inside to finish on the stove. I now have 2 quarts of “box elder juice” – not completely boiled down to syrup – and over 2 quarts of actual syrup. Plus a little more black walnut syrup, which is still the best. I tapped three more groups of walnut trees yesterday, while keeping an eye on the fire, and also started seeds and cracked last year’s walnuts. And listened to the mourning doves, saw small green things starting to come up from the earth, thought about plantings and earth sculpting and encircling the sacred spaces with hedges.
Maddie will be coming back this summer, and maybe bringing friends; Jenny (a local friend and experienced gardener) is going to become part time staff for me because she’s good at so much of the gardening that’s hard for me. There will be a couple of day visits with kids from the local YMCA summer camp. Connections are started for college volunteers and interns. And more. A lot of time is still going to treatment for the car accident, and the car itself will come back from repairs Tuesday. I’m learning to pace myself, and pleased with the support coming from people here and there. Tomorrow starts a week-long retreat, and it will be given not only to formal meditation but also to walking meditation outdoors, accepting the support of the land, and rest.
I want to write wise things, but they’re just not here right now. It’s a time for simply taking care of each day. I want to stay connected with you.
And this still feels right: Please hold this land, vision, and people in your hearts.
At last writing I had tapped some trees, walnut and box elder. The maples are really far away and I was hurt. Last week Maddie and I collected sap a few times. We made a quarter cup of walnut syrup, which was incredibly delicious. We found a
welder who turned the old water heater into an evaporator (firebox) for boiling sap. Monday I spent 7 hours feeding wood to the fire, then poured concentrated sap into my biggest pot and finished it Tuesday indoors. (I also cracked black walnuts and started some seedlings.) Today (Thursday) I’m just boiling it indoors, and will be getting ready for a big outdoor boil Saturday. So I’m contacting volunteers and apprentices to clarify who will be here Saturday and for the whole series of work weekends.
There are some other things, like pocket gophers really like fruit trees. I hear I could have two years before they actually eat them, but it’s one problem. The other problem is that the neighbors think the mud in the driveway is from my construction, not their driveways, and they insist I pay for the rock to cover it.
Money is flying out the door, and I don’t have the energy to organize even a YouCaring campaign. It’s nice to have hot water again, and I think I made the best choice energy-wise – but it cost. I’m hiring a couple of people to help with farm work, and there will be visitors to help as well. You could go to Paypal, to VairochanaFarm@riseup.net, and give money. You could join iGive.com and list Vairochana Farm as your site – and then do any online shopping there. You could send me a check. You could even organize a campaign for me – but I do understand that won’t happen until somebody else is as committed as I am. Everybody is doing something worthwhile, and my current task is to find the people for whom this will be their dream.
Probably the biggest excitement is that Maddie came for several days and will be coming back for the summer; it looks like a good fit to both of us. Anne came and didn’t stay, not a fit, which is a disappointment but it’s good to be clear.
The insulation on the house is progressing nicely, and probably within a month I won’t be surrounded by heaps of dirt. I’ll be borrowing a tractor instead of buying one, which saves money and also feels good in building relationships. There’s a connection with Organic Compound, three miles away, which is four years old and already has a strong community. And other local friends, mostly in farming but also in environment and social justice.
Meanwhile, the people who hear about this project – that I talk with or send information to – think it’s amazing and sure to be a winner. I just have to see it through. So I’m trying to cut back, taking care of my body for full recovery from the car accident, and looking forward to a little more space when the plants are in the ground.
Schedule coming up – farming:
Sugaring weekend: March 21-22
Land conservation (pull buckthorn, plant native plants in damaged wooded area): April 11-12
Prep for tree planting with professionals: April 25-26
Actual tree planting with professionals: Mon-Wed May 4-6
Follow-up: May 7-10 (includes my birthday)
and there’s always something to help with, if you just want to come down.
Schedule – Zen:
Sesshin (retreat): March 23-27 (orientation 7 pm March 22)
Talk at Northfield Unitarians: Sunday April 12, 10 am.
Sesshin: April 20-24
Sesshin: May 25-29
Sesshin includes sitting or walking meditation most of the day, plus a few hours every afternoon of farm/garden meditative work. Partial participation is welcome. You need to register in advance because of meals and work plans. Most people make a donation, based on what they can afford.
Please hold this land, vision, and people in your hearts.
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!
Here is a rough schedule of farm apprentice events for the spring, with extra opportunities interspersed (like this). But feel free to ask about another time. All spring we will have these things going on:
For all events:
Saturday, March 14: Some of us will carpool to a workshop in Amery, WI: Building a Regenerative Farm. It’s a perfect way to start off a season of learning.
Extra: (March 15: tap trees for sugaring – maple, box elder, walnut)
March 21-22: Work weekend focusing on maple syrup making. Expect to take home a pint of syrup – probably box elder or walnut, that’s what most of our trees are. Wear old clothes, bring rubber boots.)
Extra: (April 11-12: Land care – buckthorn removal and replacement, and erosion restoration at the old land bridge – if weather permits)
April 25-26: Site preparation for planting the orchard in the field by the road. We’ll work together with the professionals to strip till, create micro berms and swales, and bring in materials.
Extra: (May 4-6: Professional team will plant trees in the east field. Volunteer help is more than welcome.)
Extra: (May 7-8: plant berries and flowers in area north of driveway)
May 9-10: planting trees, follow-up, and berries. We’ll follow the plan laid out to complete the orchard. Depending on time, there’s also a buffer strip to plant, and the whole berry section (with flowers for pollination). The berry section will be fenced.
Extra: (late May, TBD: follow-up care of orchards and berries. Likely also some foraging – nettles at least, maybe other wild foods. )
There are also these non-farming activities offered:
Sesshin – just sitting, 6 am – 9 pm, with 2-3 hours each day of mindful work:
February 21-25, March 23-27 (Monday to Friday), April 20-24 (M-F), May 25-29 (M-F)
and these off-farm activities:
Mountains and Waters Zen group in Northfield, 1st and 3rd Wednesday evenings 6:30-8:30 at NBMC: Feb 18, March 4 & 18, April 1 & 15, May 6 & 20, etc. Come 15 minutes early for instruction; 313 1/2 Division St, easiest to enter from Washington Street.
I am speaking on April 12 at Northfield Unitarian Universalists. 10 am, 113 Linden St S. (Call me if you need accessibility information.) It’s possible to sit at NBMC and slip in a few minutes late to the service.
I hope to see you, here or somewhere.
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.