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Playing in the Woods and other spring retreats – Living with the Earth full schedule

21 Apr

Living With the Earth   spring 2016 events

(Our first event, the chanting workshop with Myo-O Habermas-Scher, was a lovely time with 9 guests. We’re planning a longer one for this fall. People have been doing things in the woods, which are starting to bloom.)

The heart of each retreat is walking, listening, and opening to the land, a meditative practice which will guide every part of our work.2016-04-21 10.59.09

May Day Weekend – Playing in the Woods

We’ll take care of a small wooded area (in the picture), replacing problem plants with Sugar Maple, Plum, Serviceberry and Hazelnut.

Mother’s Day Weekend – Tending the Gardens

In the orchard, berry patch, and vegetable gardens – pruning, planting, transplanting, mulching, even weeding. Friday and Saturday

2016-04-21 10.55.28May 21 – Flower Essences

The deep work of intimately engaging with a flower spirit, through the meditative practice of making a flower essence remedy. Guided by Martin Bulgerin.

May 22-25: Zen Meditation Retreat

The retreat will include silent meditation periods, walking meditation indoors and out, teaching, council time, and a little community work.

 

MORE DETAILS:

 Working Retreats

These retreats combine teaching and meditative time with conscious work, and also play and celebration.  Donations are welcome but your labor is the primary donation. Registration is essential.

May Day Weekend – April 29-May 1 – Friday 6:30 pm – Sunday 6 pm

Focus is on helping to return balance to the land – carefully attending to what it requests. We will be digging, cutting, and pulling up buckthorn and honeysuckle; no poisons. If conditions are favorable, we might do a controlled burn. We add plants that will fit in well. We move about the land in a way that creates a harmonious space.

Mother’s Day Weekend – May 6-7 – Friday 6:30 pm – Saturday 6 pm

Focus: Last year we planted an orchard and a berry patch; this year it’s time to take care of them. We’ll be checking on their health, pruning and transplanting some of the berries, adding companion plants to the orchard trees (apple, pear, plum, elderberry, hazelnut), and mulching/weeding/mowing as time allows.

You can come for the weekend, or come and go. (Sleeping space on floor or outside)  You can enter at any of the walking/listening orientation times, which will be followed by a work period. It would help to know your plans!

  •  Friday 6:30 pm walking/listening*
  • Saturday 6-7 am: meditation and chanting
  • Saturday 7-9: breakfast, cleanup, prep
  • Saturday 9-12 am: walking/listening*; work.
  • Saturday 12-1:30 pm: lunch and cleanup
  • Saturday 2-5 pm: walking/listening*; work.
  • Saturday 5-6 pm: tool cleanup and dinner prep
  • Saturday 6-8: dinner, followed by celebration/ceremony of spring
  • Sunday (Same as Saturday, through 6 pm.)

 

Meditation and Spiritual Practice

Flower Essence Workshop – May 21 – all day Saturday2015-05-02 13.51.31

This will be a day-long teaching workshop. The practice of making a flower remedy is an intense and intimate meditative process, an opportunity to learn a new language and find a way of being with the plant world.

Schedules and fees are not yet set. (Regular volunteers please request a scholarship.) Limited space, please inquire early.

About the teacher: Martin Bulgerin has been making, teaching, and prescribing flower essences for many years. He considers this class as an introduction to working with subtle energies.

Zen Meditation Retreat – May 22-25 – Sunday 6 am – Wed 6 pm

(orientation Saturday evening. Partial participation is an option.)

By donation.

Zazen, Zen sitting meditation, is a way of realizing our life together with all beings. This can be a time to allow our meetings with the trees and land to settle into our bodies. Or it can simply be a gentle time to sit together with all beings. Mostly silent, with a few talks and a closing circle.

About the teacher: Shodo Spring is a local Zen teacher, founder of Mountains and Waters Alliance, and a Dharma heir of Rev. Shohaku Okumura. She led the 2013 Compassionate Earth Walk.

These offerings are part of our 40-day intensive period of living with the earth as spiritual practice, seeking to learn and listen to the voices of nonhuman beings, joining them in finding appropriate response to the present crisis.

 

For all events:

Let us know:

  • When you’re coming! (we need to plan tools and food)
  • Will you stay overnight?    
  • Would you like to come for morning meditation?
  • Would you like to bring a potluck contribution?
  • Do you have a special offer? (make lunch or supper, plan the Saturday evening events, etc)
  • Can you bring an extra pick-ax, garden rake, or Weed Wrench?

Mobility/health needs:

  • If you need a bed to sleep in, or cannot walk on rugged terrain, or need to rest often – tell us in advance, we’ll work out details together.
  • If you have chemical sensitivities, hearing impairment, or any other unusual need, let us know and we’ll do our best.
  • Food will be mostly organic; make no other assumptions but ask in advance for what you need.

Bring:    

  • Sturdy shoes and appropriate clothing including long sleeves.      
  • A hat.      
  • Water bottle.        
  • Work gloves if you want your own.       
  • Possibly musical instruments, poems, or whatever you’d like to offer to our celebration on Saturday night.

We’ll provide:

  • Tools and work gloves.    
  • Meals and snacks, and good drinking water.    
  • Bug stuff (which shouldn’t be needed)

Know this:

  • We do not have trash or recycling pickup.    
  • Scent-free space is requested – please be mindful.

Internships, personal retreats, and additional volunteer times are available; please feel free to ask.

 

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Living With the Earth is not a Metaphor

29 Mar

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 2016-03-28 10.12.54half 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

Boiling sap

Elderberry start

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.

Other Notes
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.

Warmly,
Shodo Spring for Mountains and Waters Alliance

Buckthorn, Maple, and Land Care

25 Oct

2005-10-11 04.06.53Today’s volunteer day was about removing buckthorn, in the sunny 2005-10-11 04.14.35pleasant daylight following a heavy rain. A mass of shrubbery has now become a beautiful open space.  Looking at our feet, we find that there are a lot of sugar maples here – small, completely overwhelmed by the buckthorn, soon to grow in the open space. 2005-10-11 03.38.01

Donna and I joined Roy, who has been working on this during the past two weeks (since the last volunteer day) when he isn’t working on the culvert repair (photos 2005-10-11 04.05.21later).

We planted ferns (given by Jayne) to stabilize  the creek bank.2005-10-11 04.04.54

2005-10-11 04.04.40

Of course there are piles of buckthorn, which becomes wildlife habitat, erosion 2005-10-11 04.06.08protection, and possible source of wood for carving or fires.

This area is right near the bluffs at the big stream. We look forward to adding native plants and creating a pleasant sitting/walking outdoor area. It had literally been hidden under the buckthorn – a solid mass. There are still many similar areas to address, but probably it will be next spring when we have another buckthorn work day.

It feels good to be doing this land care, watching spaces open up, using our bodies in the last of the fall.  The strangeness of pulling up a species to let individual plants die – balanced with making space for others that were crowded out, restoring health and wholeness to the land, inviting myriads of species to live here instead of one. It does, sadly, remind one of human beings. Civilized humans are better in seeing the invasive behavior of others than seeing our own. Here, we aspire to stop being the one species that destroys all the rest, and to return to our place in the whole. Humans have lived this way in the past, for most of human history. Re-learning it is a key part of what Mountains and Waters means.

Blessings to you all. Visitors are welcome.

Shodo

Thanks and more

14 Oct

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.IMG_2159[1]

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 atIMG_2161[2] 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.)IMG_2160[1]

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.

Shodo

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,

Shodo

 

 

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.

 

Events:

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

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.

Zen

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.

Warmly,

Shodo

2015-09-01 22.16.302015-09-07 19.48.252015-08-30 13.41.102015-08-30 15.52.332015-07-25 14.08.13-2

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 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.

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.

Warmly,

Shodo

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