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Winter in my Heart

20 Nov

Cold weather has finally arrived here; our long perfect summer is over. But there’s another shift that I’m feeling more deeply.

Last weekend I was ready to post photos of the work from our volunteer day: wide open woods no longer clogged with buckthorn; a new bedroom in an open space downstairs; the first fires in the masonry heater.

I couldn’t do it.

I came out of that beautiful day to learn of the Paris bombing, then the Beirut bombing. Then I heard about the police killing of Jamar Clark, and went down with friends to join protests Sunday evening at the Minneapolis 4th district police station.

That wasn’t the worst. Nor was even the bombing of Nigeria the worst. No, the hardest thing is watching my country turn into the scariest place I’ve ever been. Maybe it’s always been like that: polls from early 1900’s show majority of Americans didn’t want to accept German or Jewish refugees after the wars. State governors and some cities are refusing refugees; Donald Trump proposes name tags for Muslims and is still leading in polls.) I feel like I’ve been transported to some science fiction dystopia. Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here keeps coming up in my mind. Anger and hate are going in all directions, on two fronts: police/Black lives, and Muslim refugees. I understand that if a terrorist wants to enter this country, they would probably pretend to be a refugee. I just think that it’s more important to stop creating terrorists, stop making people hate us.

All week my friends have been going back and forth to the Minneapolis protest; some were there on Wednesday when police maced protesters. A Unitarian minister who took food on Wednesday says it was very peaceful with just a few people agitating – that was before the mace and rubber bullets. I’ll go for the NAACP march today. (Update: 800 people, very peaceful. Lots of food, a dozen campfires and several tents, very clean, and apparently a few agitators trying to make things look bad.)

A little information, by the way, for those who might be receiving reports of any kind. Yes, Jamar had a history of domestic violence, had even been in jail for it, was trying to turn his life around (says his father). One of the police officers involved had been sued for violence and false arrest. (I updated this based on most recent reports.) The rest of the information offered is not reliable, as far as I can tell. Probably he was in handcuffs as 12 witnesses say, but it’s conceivable he was grabbing the officer’s gun and the witnesses lied. When the video tapes are released, we may have more information. Regardless, it’s customary to give a person a trial, not shoot them on the street.

The situation of racism in this country is now officially in our faces. What is an appropriate response?

Any answer would be incomplete. My words here barely touch the surface of what I’m thinking; others have written well already. Maybe later I’ll have something to offer.

And, although my heart is aching, I’ll share some photos.

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Fall colors are bright now…

22 Oct

Fall colors are bright now, days are sunny, nights clear, and still above freezing. If there is a climate change lottery, Minnesota won it this year. And I do my best not to think about what comes next – just be ready. Soon I’ll go out in today’s brilliant sunlight. I’d send a photo but I’m operating with a primitive phone. At 507-384-8541, my old number, fortunately. When I have time I’ll get a smartphone, but meanwhile I’m getting by.

Here are some of the things my donors have said:

  • “I am very moved by what you are working on.”2014-10-14 14.05.12
  • Thank you again for your visions – and your willingness to do what is necessary to carry them to fruition.”
  • …we must all get into this fight to save the earth.”
  • manifesting interconnected awareness within the work of daily life”
  • A monk once asked a Master, ‘What is Buddha?’ The Master replied, ‘Pass me the hoe.'”
  • I am deeply grateful that there are people like you, who reconnect us with nature and who are part of the healing.”
  • and quite a few of “I want to visit, to help, to sit with you, work with you, learn from you….”
  • And this last: “Please accept my donation as financial support, but also as moral support, faith and encouragement, and as an indication that the benefits of your great efforts are far reaching and unknown.”

The efforts are indeed great, and I have been discouraged more often than I have said. The reminder that there are benefits – that other people are hearing, seeing, supporting – that the vow is shared – it matters a great deal. I only find out when they tell me, and that is happening now. And the money – this week I was simply blown away. The fundraiser is now at almost $4000. Another three such checks and I can proceed with the loan; another 25 and the solar panels are paid for (becoming an income stream). How many people do I know who believe in me that much? It will be people who both deeply understand the vow, and who trust me to carry it through. And, of course, have financial ability themselves. One Zen teacher, having little, sent me all the dana from her recent retreat. With every gift, my heart keeps opening. The message is “yes, do it.”

The only foundation I’ve asked directly is interested – after a couple more years of stability. I can now believe that will happen. It seems as though the hardest time is over. Most of the orchard trees are alive, the berries eaten with great appreciation, The garden harvest is in (potatoes drying on the basement floor, under sheets), and the temporary root cellar is in place. The siding is almost finished, over the insulation which will seriously cut heating costs. The chimney is almost done, to be followed by the wood cook stove (both projects headed by a friend who is for all effects a volunteer – is going to use my land for his hazelnut plantings, which only enriches me).

Community

Finally there is a second resident. There are others likely to come around in the next few years. Roy Dopson works every summer as a firefighter in Canada. Previously he wintered at an ashram. He’s an Advaita teacher, promoting enlightenment (very un-Zen in words, completely compatible in most ways). Last fall he visited and cut a lot of firewood. This fall he is doing heavy work, pulling up buckthorn, mowing with scythe and other, and today is repairing the culvert which I must have mentioned. I’d been fearful of the costs and of the possibility of the driveway caving in under somebody’s vehicle. He has some masonry experience, and believes he can fix it to last 20 years. And he has made a video encouraging people to come here and practice. His intention is to teach, as is mine. His website is http://www.onesteppath.com/. I had wanted to live with peers. So here we are. It’s going well. We merely want to find a way to deal with immigration so he can keep coming back.

Of course there are others. Two people have expressed willingness to help with fundraising, which is my worst skill other than perhaps accounting. Various people have worked at modest pay, which is why the orchard and garden are doing well.

This month we were able to focus our volunteer days on pulling buckthorn – returning the woods to a healthy state – having taken care of the orchard and garden emergencies. I hope that this winter we’ll find time to do some carpentry, carving out another one or two bedrooms with real walls and doors. Spring – more buckthorn, plant replacements, and collect on the NRCS grant.

Zen

This fall I offered an “intensive” in Zen practice. The numbers are still small in the Wednesday evening group, but the group is increasingly stable. Nine people came to an introductory day at the farm. I’m clear now that for the next while I’ll teach Genjo Koan – a long love of mine, and one I’ve studied enough to be able to teach. I’m committing time to preparation, and it’s a joy. The first and most important thing I have to offer is the Dharma; everything else is means.

There are just a few zafus here, but now we also have several sitting benches, made by a casual laborer with carpentry skills (following my model, with recycled wood).

There will be another 3-month practice period in winter, probably starting mid-January. Silent sesshins continue at the farm once a month, and probably some more one-day or weekend retreats.

Speaking and teaching

I’ll be speaking at the Northfield Buddhist Center on November 8. If you want me to speak or teach, feel free to contact me – especially: Twin Cities area; Atlanta, GA area (mid-Dec to mid-Jan); Cleveland, OH (now and then); New Mexico (July 2016), and for other places you can always ask.

Personal

Last. weekend I went to my 50th high school reunion, in Cleveland, OH. I was a little nervous because I went to a parochial high school, and because that was a difficult time for me. I found friends – some of whom had been strangers then – and felt welcome. I feel healed in a deep way from the isolation I’d lived with them. I’m not feeling so articulate, but taking that time from work, and the trouble (40 hours on Greyhound!) was one of the good choices of my life. I’m back home now, and the universe feels just a little better aligned, things just a little easier.

Warmth and appreciation,

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

Can You Help Us Now?

8 Oct

Dear Friends,

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.2015-09-24 17.56.04Siding Sept 25 2015

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.2015-09-15 17.54.13

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 River Sept, 2015tour 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.

Mycelium - mushrooms

Mycelium – mushrooms

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 Berry patch Oct 2015plant 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 IMG_2847[1]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 IMG_2636hazelnut 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. Harvest Sept 15 2015

Nothing today about news of the world. Another time.

Love and blessings.

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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