Tag Archives: Advaita

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.


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.


Vairochana Farm becomes Mountains and Waters

3 Jun

Dear Friends of Vairochana Farm:

Things are happening here. I’ve talked about the plantings and all – but inspiration has been moving. The name is changing to Mountains and Waters. It is clarified into the Alliance, described here, and the actual practice of farming. The words below are sufficient explanation.

Mountains and Waters Alliance begins with a vow:

We accept our place in the community of life;
we ally ourselves with mountains, waters, and everything that lives,
for the protection and restoration of the whole earth and all beings,
human or nonhuman, known or unknown, near or far, born or to be born.
We make this request
of animals, plants, waters, mountains, valleys, clouds, rocks,
individually and collectively: to accept our vow of support
and join with us in this protection, restoration, renewal and regeneration.

There is a fundraiser for solar panels. You can donate here  http://www.youcaring.com/fundraiser-widget.aspx?frid=362647

The donation page has plenty of explanation about why the solar panels and not something else. It would really help us a lot if you would make a donation (any size; literally we make money with anything over 32 cents) and share this with friends who might like to support the work we’re doing.

2015-05-02 13.38.01

the bluffs, from across the river.

I’ll post again when there’s more news – the change in name and language (but not intention), and of course when we actually get a website with the new name. Right now most of my time and volunteer time is going to protecting the new trees and berries, planting food for this year, and a little bit of land care, the most urgent. We’ll have two summer residents soon. And the world is beautiful.



River bluffs, from the other sideThe lilacs have bloomed!

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.



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 VairochanaFarm@riseup.net 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!


Vairochana Farm Apprentice and Volunteer Schedule spring 2015

13 Feb

Hi everybody,

Here is a rough schedule of farm apprentice events for the spring, with extra opportunities interspersed (like this). But feel free to ask about another time. All spring we will have these things going on:

  • land care and later foraging
  • farming: first prep for orchards and gardens; later planting of same; later taking care of them
  • construction: more living spaces in the main house, because we have people coming to visit and/or live here

For all events:

  • Please register (email is best, shodo.spring@gmail.com) to get details and arrange carpooling.
  • Wear outdoor clothes suitable for weather.
  • If you’d like to come Friday night, contact Shodo (shodo dot spring at gmail dot com);
  • otherwise we’ll start Saturday morning 9 am, optional overnight, and continue Sunday to 5 or dark.
  • We can work around local church commitments. Optional zazen Sunday 6 am.

sketch of design - 2014

Saturday, March 14: Some of us will carpool to a workshop in Amery, WI: Building a Regenerative Farm. It’s a perfect way to start off a season of learning.

Extra: (March 15: tap trees for sugaring – maple, box elder, walnut)

March 21-22: Work weekend focusing on maple syrup making. Expect to take home a pint of syrup – probably box elder or walnut, that’s what most of our trees are. Wear old clothes, bring rubber boots.)

Extra: (April 11-12: Land care – buckthorn removal and replacement, and erosion restoration at the old land bridge – if weather permits)

April 25-26: Site preparation for planting the orchard in the field by the road. We’ll work together with the professionals to strip till, create micro berms and swales, and bring in materials.

Extra: (May 4-6: Professional team will plant trees in the east field. Volunteer help is more than welcome.)

Extra: (May 7-8: plant berries and flowers in area north of driveway)

May 9-10: planting trees, follow-up, and berries. We’ll follow the plan laid out to complete the orchard. Depending on time, there’s also a buffer strip to plant, and the whole berry section (with flowers for pollination). The berry section will be fenced.

Extra: (late May, TBD: follow-up care of orchards and berries. Likely also some foraging – nettles at least, maybe other wild foods. )

There are also these non-farming activities offered:2014-12-02 Rohatsu

Sesshin – just sitting, 6 am – 9 pm, with 2-3 hours each day of mindful work:

February 21-25, March 23-27 (Monday to Friday), April 20-24 (M-F), May 25-29 (M-F)

and these off-farm activities:

Mountains and Waters Zen group in Northfield, 1st and 3rd Wednesday evenings 6:30-8:30 at NBMC: Feb 18, March 4 & 18, April 1 & 15, May 6 & 20, etc. Come 15 minutes early for instruction; 313 1/2 Division St, easiest to enter from Washington Street.

I am speaking on April 12 at Northfield Unitarian Universalists. 10 am, 113 Linden St S. (Call me if you need accessibility information.) It’s possible to sit at NBMC and slip in a few minutes late to the service.

I hope to see you, here or somewhere.



Reflections: Moving forward, in context

24 Jan
The Cannon River

The Cannon River

It’s been a quiet period: information coming in, little going out, gestating. It’s included consulting with experts on development, organization, marketing – and waiting for construction of the chimney for the masonry stove.

The brief report is that we are going to restructure, so the farm and land activities are formally separated from the residential spiritual community. The farm has a new mission/vision statement, here. And although we need major fundraising to create the off-grid house and buildings, that will be postponed while we strengthen our people base. And we’re thinking about names, now that there are two entities. Could be Compassionate Earth Farm, or Vairochana Farm, or I don’t know what else.

Visitors (recent and near future) include possible apprentices, residents, and supporters. We have not yet settled on a farm manager.

We do have a nonprofit sponsor for the farm, so donations can be received here. We’ll be applying for conservation and farming grants, and will do the first plantings this spring.

And the water heater is not working. I had wanted to get a solar water heater working before this happened. I’m away, visiting grandchildren, and will decide what to do (repair, replacement, or transition) when I get back.

This is the season for planning. That includes conferences. Yesterday by phone I attended a gathering of the Savanna Institute, a research project on woody perennial polyculture agriculture. At the end of February is MOSES in La Crosse, the big organic farming conference; I’ll be there to learn and network.

You can help by:

  • Sharing information with your communities and networks. This could include inviting me to talk with a group.
  • Come help us with the maple syrup (probably March), with minor remodeling (any time), tree planting (later spring), or perhaps (locals) become an farm apprentice and help us regularly for a year.
  • Help build the new websites.
  • Donate money, food, or equipment. (Paypal account is VairochanaFarm@riseup.net. There will be a list later for equipment.) Or sign up to support us at iGive.com.
  • Help think of names.
  • Join for sesshin (meditation retreat) which happen once a month. (Next two: February 22-25 and March 22-25, with orientation Friday evening. Partial participation is okay.) Or give support – cooking, bringing food, whatever – during a sesshin.
  • Send energy and support.

There’s also the outside world: intensifying climate change, mass extinctions, and business as usual: The KXL pipeline, the many tar sands sites, fracking for gas and oil, disappearing indigenous women, Black men killed by police, Palestine…. if you pay attention instead of seeking blame, the heart just breaks. What are we becoming?

I think that climate change is making the violence and everything else worse. Every animal, including humans, becomes more violent and less rational under stress. Here is a glaciologist explaining that it’s too late to stop the loss of the West Antarctic ice shelf. There’s sea level rise. This talk, by scientist Jim White, spells out the severity of the situation, including the fact that changes can be very abrupt, and that we are already in a time of rapid climate change. A crisis denied still has an effect on everyone.

Joanna Macy identifies three basic responses to the environmental crisis: holding actions (marches, protests, civil disobedience, and more), creating alternatives (Transition movement etc), and consciousness change. We find our places, each of us.

Love to you all.


Gratitude and more

1 Dec

On the verge of entering Rohatsu sesshin – the annual, traditional seven-day retreat remembering Buddha’s enlightenment – I have a few thoughts to offer, and a poem.

Yesterday was beautiful and warm. Finally I had the energy to organize the office and to make space for a third bedroom. And then I walked outdoors, with only a light jacket.

Cannon River, early winter 2014

Cannon River, early winter 2014

Roy Dopson left this morning, after a ten day visit. It was lovely. We would sit together in the morning, and after dinner would simply find ourselves in the zendo again. His wish, for being here (my words): that it be a place for deep spiritual life, more than anything else. He will come back next fall, after working the fire season. In addition to being a firefighter, Roy is an Advaita teacher. His website is here, with some very interesting thoughts: http://www.onesteppath.com/

Our mutual “yes” provokes many thoughts and images about what will be happening here. I imagine practice periods of three months, five-day retreats, visiting teachers. The farm plan is in process, and the conversion of the house will begin very soon. The nature of the community, how it will welcome guests and short-term residents, all are forming – and will be discussed after I come out of the retreat. Right now it is time to sit, to go into the silence, to allow things to be as they are.

And these words from Walt Whitman speak so well to how it is in my heart these days.

“This is what you shall do:

Love the earth and sun and the animals,

despise riches,

give alms to everyone that asks,

stand up for the stupid and crazy,

devote your income and labor to others,

hate tyrants,

argue not concerning God,

have patience and indulgence toward the people,

take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,

or to any man or number of men—

go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families—

re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,

and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;

and your very flesh shall be a great poem,

and have the richest fluency,

not only in its words,

but in the silent lines of its lips and face,

and between the lashes of your eyes,

and in every motion and joint of your body.”

–from Preface to “Leaves of Grass” (1855)

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