Archive | September, 2015

Mountains and Waters – blog updates especially volunteering

24 Sep

Well, first, we have a Facebook page.

Second, I added a volunteer page which includes both dates of workdays (Oct 10, Nov 14) but lots of other options. I was asked to do that.

To simplify, I consolidated the other pages into categories. They should work. Contact info, past event information, and upcoming events (the October 3 intro to Zen retreat day), plus Mission, Vision, Goals, Vow with all my words about what this is about.

Here’s a picture of the chimney construction as it is today. Tonight there should be a few more layers added – every day until they have to go through the roof. Fortunately the weather is being mild.

2015-09-24 17.56.04Soon the siding will go up, covering the insulation before cold weather arrives. The food dehydrator is almost done, and usable once the sun comes back.

I’m gradually bringing my life more into the realm of practicing and teaching Zen. Last Saturday I led an all-day retreat for a women’s group that’s been meeting for years – convened by Nita Wolf, a kind host and excellent facilitator. I was moved by the depth of questions and comments, honored to be invited there, looking forward to the introductory retreat in just over a week.

May your fall be wonderful and your heart be open.

With warmth and respect,





Vairochana – Mountains and Waters – September

18 Sep

Fall is in the air. This year I’m in no rush: Summer has been magnificent and I could personally handle months more.2015-09-15 17.53.32 But there’s an edge of yellow on some plants, and some days and nights are cold.2015-09-15 17.54.13

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.

2015-09-18 14.12.34Finally 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 2015-09-18 11.54.23it. 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.


In the middle of the world’s changes, Mountains and Waters

10 Sep

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.

The World

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.


Farm notes

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 their2015-09-08 19.53.29 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.



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