- The Farm
- The Alliance
I noticed, suddenly, that I am at war with the way things are.
Last summer, I noticed being at war with buckthorn, grasses, and pocket gophers – beings of nature that act like civilized humans, taking all the space, destroying what gets in their way – and interfering with my food supply. This was a disturbing realization, and I’ve been studying it.
Now it’s clear that my war is bigger. I’m at war with the whole way things are, particularly the human world. I’ve made a noble cause of it, called “healing the mind of separation,” and “releasing human arrogance,” but truth is I really really want the civilization around me to change or perhaps self-destruct before it destroys life on earth.
Suddenly I saw my own war, saw how I am just like the system that shaped me – not free – and still part of the problem.
Actually, it’s a relief. As I wrote beautiful words about what the problem is and how we need to change, there was a little uneasiness. Now I know why. Something inside me had to move. I had to fall down, had to lose my hubris. So I’m glad to be present with this uncomfortable awareness.
So I write today from the middle of uncertainty and unraveling. If I waited for the answers to become clear, that would be waiting to return to hubris. But I can meet you here in the empty space; we’ll see what offers itself. Meanwhile, life continues.
Requests and practical things
Housesitter wanted June 11-July 1, while I’m at the Sakyadhita Conference. A little work, a wonderful space, and garden vegies or foraging. Otherwise, someone to do a little work (house plants and mowing) during that time – volunteer, barter, or paid.
Donations: If you would like to support my travel to Sakyadhita, anything will help. Seriously – from a $20 donation we get $19.12; from $5 we get $4.55. Here’s the link for donating, and much more information.
A ride to the plane (for Sakyadhita) June 11 morning, and back July 1 about 9 pm.
Residents and/or farm managers – Possibilities are still open. Please contact me if tempted.
Strawberry plants, raspberry plants, and various other things are available for purchase – or freely given to volunteers. Just ask.
Farming and volunteering.
These are dates for group volunteering. You can arrange to come at other times. PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU PLAN TO COME.
May 27-28 Planting garden, pulling buckthorn, maybe weeding. Take home healthy berry plants for your own garden.
June 10 A short day, 9-2 or so. More of the same.
July 8-9 We’ll start at 10 am with a 2-hour presentation on permaculture. Then get to work – after lunch.
July 17 & 26 A student group will be working here 9-5. Your company is welcome.
August 5-6 Early harvest? Stockade fence? More orchard work?
Sept 9-10 same as August.
Oct 14-15 Definitely harvest.
Nov 11-12 Late harvest and closing down for the season.
How it works:
The projects named may change. If you have a particular skill or crave a particular kind of work (chain saw, building, digging, planting….) let me know. Ask if you need carpool help. There’s a serious possibility you might go home with berry starts, herbs, or something else, if you want. AND LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU PLAN TO COME.
Retreats and teaching activities
June: No retreats because I’m traveling.
July: retreat at the farm July 15-19 (ends at noon). Please note: when alone, I just sit zazen all day. When people join me, I can offer zazen instruction, introduction to Zen, dialogue, and mindful work opportunities.
August: retreat at the farm August 19-23.
September: retreat at the farm September 16-20
October: retreat at the farm, October 21-26.
November-December: to be arranged.
June 7, July 5 & 19, August 2, 16, & 30: The Northfield group will meet less formally during the summer, open to questions, discussion, and topics. We’ll still meet 6:25-8:30, with sitting meditation at beginning and end. Please bring your questions. Located at Northfield Buddhist Center, 313½ Division St, Northfield (park in rear).
June 24 or 25: At Sakyadhita International Conference of Buddhist Women, I’ll be offering a workshop. It’s in Hong Kong, so you probably don’t want to come.
Sept 1-4: I will offer at least one workshop at Gathering of the Guilds, a Midwest permaculture gathering held just three miles from here.
January 13, 2018: One-day retreat with Red Clay Sangha in Atlanta, Georgia.
January 14, 2018: Dharma talk, Red Clay Sangha.
I’ll post other scheduled talks on the calendar here. If your group would like to arrange a talk, workshop, or retreat, please get in touch.
I’m sharing a ceremony, written by Zen teacher Ed Brown, meant to be performed before or during the inauguration itself. Please feel free to add, subtract, or change anything. It begins with an explanation.
On the occasion of the Inauguration of Mr. Donald Trump—
Where our attention goes, energy flows. So let us give careful thought to where we place our attention—and possibly choose
to place it on the highest principles and values of our country.
I invite any of you who feel inspired to join me and others on inauguration day to attend to Donald Trump’s vow in a prayerful ceremonial context. Our attention will be on the duties of the president’s office, not the person holding it. The presidency is about serving all people of this nation in the highest alignment to our nation’s established bright guiding principles.
For those who want to contribute in a positive way to what may be a challenging day emotionally, the text below is offered as one possible way of enlisting ceremony to invoke heartfelt prayer.
On the inauguration day, Mr. Trump will be taking the oath of office, speaking a Vow, the intention of which is that he be in alignment with the founding principles of this country and those who have labored to make it so.
Words are powerful, and the spoken word can be even more so. A Vow spoken during ceremony, is meant to hold the person saying it to the intended meaning of those words. There is great power in that, whether the person saying it knows this or not.
Should you feel so inspired on inauguration day to attend to Trump’s vow in this ceremonial context, the words below are intended to provide a profound and sacred framework to what is happening. Depending on those participating, please utilize the appropriate portions of the ceremony.
A possible Buddhist Ceremony for the Inauguration. (Use what you choose to use.)
Invoking the presence and compassion of our ancestors
In faith that we are Buddha
We walk Buddha’s Path
Homage to all Buddhas in the ten directions
Homage to the complete Dharma in ten directions
Homage to every Sangha in ten directions
Homage to our first teacher Shakyamuni Buddha
Homage to the succession of Bodhisattvas and Ancestors
Homage to Eihei Dogen Zenji
Homage to Shogaku Shunryu Daiosho
May their presence and compassion help to sustain us.
Let us recite the names of Buddha:
Homage to the Dharmakaya Vairochana Buddha
Homage to the Sambhogakaya Lochana Buddha
Homage to the Nirmanakaya Shakyamuni Buddha
Gassho Homage to the future Maitreya Buddha
Chokei Homage to all Buddhas in the ten directions, past, present, and future
Homage to the Mahayana Saddharma Pundarika Sutra
Homage to Manjusri, the Perfect Wisdom Bodhisattva
Homage to Samantabhadra, the Shining Practice Bodhisattva
Homage to Avalokitesvara, the Infinite Compassion Bodhisattva
Homage to the many Bodhisattva Mahasattvas
Homage to the Maha Prajna Paramita
Having invoked the presence of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Ancestors
to join with us, we offer our shared prayers for the safety and well-being of our
country and all its people and creatures.
To do this we focus our attention on the following listed Principles and
Alignment with them, through all the dimensions, no matter what situation we are in.
Specifically, as we visualize our next President on Inauguration Day, with his hand upon the Bible, swearing his Oath of Office, we call in these Highest Principles of our Democracy, to witness his vow, that he, as our new President, may be aligned by and to these Principles, for the good of all in the execution of his duties.
In support of our prayers, we call on these witnesses, who hold this truth to be self-evident—that all people are created equal—
* The U.S. Constitution
* The Masons
* The Bill of Rights
* The Supreme Court
* The Iroquois Confederation
* “We the People”
* The Bible
* Lady Liberty
* The Office of the Presidency
* The Liberty Bell
* Those who hold aloft a light, in a time of human ignorance.
* The Land, America the beautiful
* “Of the people, by the people, for the people”
* We Shall Overcome
* Black Mesa
* The Mind of Liberation
Chanting of the Sho Sai Myo Kichijo Darani (auspicious darani for averting calamity)
No Mo San Man Da Moto Nan Oha Ra Chi Koto Sha Sono Nan To Ji To En Gya Gya Gya Ki Gya Ki Un Nun Shifu Ra Shifu Ra Hara Shifu Ra Hara Shifu Ra Chishu Sa Chishu Sa Chishu Ri Chishu Ri Sowa Ja Sowa Ja Sen Chi Gya Shiri E Somo Ko x3 with drum
Dedication: May the merit of this ceremony and our chanting permeate throughout space and time holding our country, its peoples, and all beings in blessedness
All Buddhas, ten directions, three times.
All beings, Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas,
Wisdom beyond wisdom, Maha prajña paramita.
Yesterday Conor and I spent the afternoon in the strawberry patch. We dug up plants and moved them to an open space (that Paul had weeded) in the next row. We dug up diseased plants (mites, I believe) and moved them to the sun garden – quarantined. We weeded, and we gathered pine needles to use as mulch. We stopped after doing one section fully; lots more to do next week.
What I noticed is that you can’t do these things in a hurry. You have to slow down and be gentle with the plants. When I let go of my hurry, it was easy and pleasant.
Well, here is the rest of the year, almost. As well as I know. December is not clear.
May you be happy. May you be at peace. May you know the joy of your own true nature.
Warmth and love,
Winter has blended into early spring, warming and cooling unpredictably. Tapping maple trees started a month early, but the repeated cool spells mean the sap is still flowing, still requiring attention. Activities are tapping maple trees and boiling sap, checking for new growth in woods, orchard, and garden, and harvesting the first nettles and dandelions.
Living with the Earth: 40 days
The point of Mountains and Waters Alliance is to learn to live with the earth, together with all beings including rocks, trees, rivers, meadows. This is real, not a metaphor. The 40 days this spring have the intention to make it real for us. We will be doing what we do not know how to do, and inviting teachers who may help us – while the real teachers are the hills and meadows themselves. Zazen is the backbone, and the home place, for this experimentation.
In the first day, an opening retreat, some of the meditation time will be walking outdoors in receptive mode, just as we sit zazen in receptive mode, or listen to each other in receptive mode. There will be chanting practice, first with each other and then as an offering to sacred places outdoors. There will be a day of learning to work with plant devas to make flower essences, and many days of land restoration under the guidance of the nature spirits – which means learning to receive their messages.
I hope some of you will come, for some or all of this time, to help ground Mountains and Waters in right relationship. It’s the most beautiful time here.
First I called it “Earth-based Zen Practice,” then I changed the words and tried to make it a little more clear, here.
Notes from the Farm:
Sugaring has been the big activity here. We have over a pint of black walnut syrup, nearly a gallon of box elder and half a gallon of maple – with an equal amount to be made from sap that’s waiting to be boiled.
Stinging nettles are up – they’re tender when tiny, but require a lot of washing. I’ve had one meal with nettles, and made a pint of nettle pesto with too much garlic. They will be a primary food source shortly. I’ve been studying Sam Thayer’s foraging books, experimenting sometimes. I really liked dandelion roots and crowns. Instead of burning the fields to clear my way to the nettles, I decided it’s better to whack down the old plants and use them for straw; we need straw. My two-hour experiment with the scythe went better than expected.
I planted elderberry sticks along the outside of the orchard – they’re supposed to discourage deer, and of course they’re edible if I can get there before the birds. I’ve got some Asian greens and some arugula, peas, and potatoes outside, and blue flags in hopes of flowers at the pond by the house. Indoors the tomatoes are tiny, two peppers and a few onions and I really ought to get methodical about putting in more seeds. But finally the
energy is there; even though I’ve had the flu for a week the land is now calling me to it, and there is gladness.
Both writing projects are finally finished. There is still accounting, taxes, and organizing the office – but all those are part of this work, right here. The big outside distraction is an election campaign. Once again I’m allowing myself to hope that a certain candidate is what he appears to be. Zen reminds me: “Don’t believe what you think.” And don’t expect happiness from external things.
But I’m a delegate to the county caucus, and am spending too much time following the whole thing. In the same way I follow climate change but try to ignore what I learn, and follow the murders (five this month) of indigenous environmental activists. I place their names on my altar, along with an old friend and a person in “The Jungle” in France who committed suicide. All this news comes through Facebook, as does news from environmental and other movements here in North America, from people I have met or feel like I know. The courage and determination of people who are giving everything, and the sorrow and cruelty in the news, breaks my heart in so many different way.
Living comfortably in this beautiful place instead of being on the road, on the front lines of protests or hunger strikes, all I can do is include them somehow.
Others practicing with the earth
Suddenly, everywhere I look, Zen people and spiritual people are addressing climate change, our relationship with the earth, and colonization, injustice, and the like. In particular, the very traditional Zen Mountain Monastery is devoting its spring practice period to “our one home, this great earth.” This letter describes it, and the talks are well worth hearing.
Thank you all for your support. Please know you are welcome here.
Shodo Spring for Mountains and Waters Alliance
It’s been hard to write.
There’s an idea that I must put on my public persona in order to write these blog posts. Be cheerful, newsy, upbeat. I haven’t been able to do that.
Today my friend James McGinley made a comment – after a lifetime in the marketing industry (which I hadn’t known) trying to figure out how to say things so that people can listen, he’s quit, to just live an honest life. Today I will listen to that. Today I will take the chance that you want to go deeper, and that I might have something worthwhile to share.
Big things in the so-called outside world
One thing is that I’m watching more and more news about climate change, and other environmental problems, and feeling less and less optimistic about our chances of stopping the disaster. By that I don’t mean saving civilization, I mean preventing the end of the natural world as we know it, including human life.
The Mountains and Waters Alliance is based on a premise that civilization is mortally flawed in this way: we think we are separate from all the other beings (often from other humans too) and that the rest of the world is a resource for us to use. We approach as masters, not members. This is the flaw that leads to the situation we are in now, with dangerous environmental situations, politics of rage, extreme racism, and a desperate search for simple solutions.
My proposal is that we completely give up that point of view, unlearn everything we’ve been taught, and learn to listen to the trees, rocks, rivers, microbes, fungi, birds, predators, even mosquitoes. That we allow them to lead, and we follow with our whole being. That we listen more to indigenous peoples and less to civilized ones, because the indigenous have fewer layers to remove, but really to allow ourselves to not know what to do.
I imagine that there might yet be a way to change what’s happening, if we get out of the way. I also imagine that, if it’s actually the end, we might go there more human. But I’m still seeking salvation and am embarrassed about that. I’m particularly embarrassed because I’m trying to lead something. There are others with the same voice, all ahead of me: Charles Eisenstein writes eloquently, and I still love Daniel Quinn’s “living in the hands of the gods.” I want to learn this, living in the hands of the gods. Maybe that’s the thing that undermines all my efforts to be sensible and practical.
It’s time for me to go back to the zendo and back into the woods, at the same time as I continue to reach out to people. Opposite directions. Meanwhile I need to make money this summer. And it’s almost time for maple sugaring, followed by all the farm and land work – which I love.
So this is the plan, as well as I can say:
There was a fundraiser for solar panels, and it ended with about $600 short. I decided to make one last appeal – but am just getting around to it now. Meanwhile a homeless, activist friend sent $50. I’m thinking that this amount could easily be raised by $10 and $20 donations. The link is here: Donate. And just so you know, if you don’t tell me whether you want to take the tax deduction, I’ll do it at $50 and up. With gratitude for any amount. (Break-even point is about 35 cents.)
For four months this winter, Roy Dopson lived here. He repaired the culvert under the driveway, which had looked like a big expense and possibly an emergency. He dug up a lot of buckthorn. He has left me with probably next year’s firewood as well as this year’s. He did some weatherization on the house, and practically ended the mouse situation.
Two days ago Roy left to be teacher in residence at Mountain Valley Retreat in Southern California. He was going to leave a month later, for his firefighting job, but he’s gone now.
So I build my own fires again, shovel my own snow – and rebuild my body. I think about finding people, and try to be patient. I put up notices in some appropriate places. Some guests are coming for parts of the spring, and there is support and encouragement. Most recently a carpenter offered to do work for an incredibly low price, because he likes what I’m doing, so the wood cook stove will be going in soon. Maybe I can afford to have him do some other work too, making more space for guests and eventual residents.
Here is the link to the 2016 calendar.
Here is a link to the spring convocation, April 15-May 25. (I’m having trouble with words: convergence, coming together, or convocation, calling together? I think there’s a word I haven’t found yet.)
I’ll close with some of the words I wrote, trying to express this work for possible fundraisers; I don’t know if they’ll like it, but the words look good to me, as a prose version of the vow:
Blessings and peace to you all, whatever you are doing, wherever you are.
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.
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.
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.
Spring is finally here. Outside barefoot today – back to normal tomorrow, but the forecast is pleasant.
This is outdoor work time. I’ll be posting less often, probably once a month. There will be gardening, orchard planting, and
caring for the land. There will be volunteers, and visitors are still welcome. But organizing and fundraising can wait until fall, along with big projects like finishing the house renovation/solarization.
Volunteer dates include April 24-25 and May 9-10; activities include planting the orchard and berries, taking care of erosion in the woods (replacing invasives with natives), gardening, and whatever we may like at the time. Monthly 5-day retreats continue, and July 18-19 is scheduled for a joint teaching retreat with Justin Merritt (a Theravadin academic) and me co-teaching.
Sugaring season is almost over. Black walnut syrup is just about the best thing you ever tasted,
and next year I’ll tap more walnut trees. Foraging season is on; today I gathered and ate baby stinging nettles, and they’ll be feeding me well into the season of wood nettles, morel mushrooms, and the rest. Wandering in the woods season
is officially on; it’s a least a month until the mosquitoes appear.
Thank you all for your support.
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.