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.