Archive | March, 2015

Spring, snow, and sap

22 Mar

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.




Sap, visitors, work

19 Mar

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

Sap boiler from old water heater

Sap boiler from old water heater

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, and give money. You could join 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.

Maddie and Shodo

Maddie and Shodo

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.2015-03-19 insulation progress, Joe

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.

2015-03-05 bluff 2Please hold this land, vision, and people in your hearts.



Spring, maple sugar, change

9 Mar

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.IMG_2193[1]

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.

2015-03-07 17.03.03Saturday 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.

Reflections on process

2 Mar

It’s a little warmer today. Sunny. The days seem very long – light by 6 am and still very light at 6 pm.

old chicken house

old chicken house

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 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!


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