Tag Archives: chickens

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.


Pictures from planting

17 May

2015-04-29 water truck and Ki Gillam2015-04-27 east field and Ki GillamApril 25-28 was prep for orchard planting

April 27 was the day of the big machines

On May 5 half the plants arrived, prompting a panic. They were found May 8 and delivered May 11, day 1 of the 2-day planting. May 9 was fencing and garden work.

feeding the crew

2015-04-28 east field tilled

East field strip tilled for orchard.


Garden area, early in process.

IMG_2554Current tasks are adding more tree tubes to protect all the orchard and native plant barrier trees – from deer, rabbits, and gophers. (We must have killed some gophers, which sadly was the plan, using dry ice. Since planting I’ve only seen one gopher hole, in the lawn.)

IMG_2607Yesterday, on my day off, all I wanted to do was play in the “Elders Circle” which is defined by two massive cottonwoods. So I made paths, figured out where to plant the willows, pulled up some cow parsnips and wild cucumber, and reminded myself to come back for the wood nettles, now ready to harvest.

IMG_2606And in Thursday’s rain we bought a truck and a bigger trailer.

The people: Federico has been gone a month, Ki left this past week after assembling the water wagon and then fixing it, mad digging and planting in the garden, and a lot more. TR moved to Faribault in the middle of all this, and has been working with me almost daily. A new group of college volunteers will show up tomorrow to finish mulch and tree tubes. People are just drawn here. I try to stay organized and provide good food – new batch of nettle soup to make, still have homemade bread.

See you some time.



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.



POSTINGS: Farm manager, apprentice program, and chicken houses for rent

9 Feb

Dear Friends,

I’m putting this information here so it’s all in one place. If you are interested in any of these, please contact me at shodo.spring@gmail.com or 507-384-8541.

WEEKEND FARM APPRENTICE OPPORTUNITY – South of Northfield, one hour from Minneapolis

Spend one weekend per month working and learning. Projects may include planting an orchard, land conservation, maple sugaring, water management, and other tasks involved in establishing a diverse woody polyculture farm (aka permaculture or regenerative agriculture).

A year’s commitment is requested; the program will continue for multiple years. Overnight stays are optional. Carpooling will be supported. Expect a combination of exciting learning and plain old work.

This is a no-money project.


Vairochana Farm is looking for a farm manager:

The ideal candidate has these skills.

  • woody perennial polyculture, permaculture design, organic certification;
  • ability to supervise apprentices and volunteers, work cooperatively, initiate new projects, handle essential money & record-keeping;
  • plus grafting, maple sugaring, bees, animals, forest products, putting up food, and marketing.

You may live nearby in beautiful southern Minnesota, or consider joining the residential spiritual community living here in a house transitioning to passive solar. (We don’t have separate housing.)

Please call or send resume and your requirements. Compensation could include opportunity to start your own small farm businesses on our 17 acres.


South of Northfield, one hour from Minneapolis. Two chicken houses for humane organic chicken raising. Rent could include cash, eggs, and/or fix-up help. We could help with chicken care but not do it all.

%d bloggers like this: