Tag Archives: Mountains and Waters Alliance

Strawberry meditation

25 Jun

Yesterday Conor and I spent the afternoon in the strawberry patch. We dug up plants and moved them to an open space (that Paul had weeded) in the next row. We dug up diseased plants (mites, I believe) and moved them to the sun garden – quarantined. We weeded, and we gathered pine needles to use as mulch. We stopped after doing one section fully; lots more to do next week.

What I noticed is that you can’t do these things in a hurry. You have to slow down and be gentle with the plants. When I let go of my hurry, it was easy and pleasant.

Today, Conor and Paul and I got compost and put it on almost all the potato plants: the newly planted, and the ones that are a foot tall and need to be covered. One pickup load, moved twice – in and out. We started in the cool of the morning, ended at 91 degrees – and then took naps in the cool house. Paul’s mother picked him up and told us there was a heat advisory out. I was unable to work; Conor cleaned the pantry where the last potatoes were either rooting or rotting. We talked about things to do when it’s too hot for outside – but the heat wave seems to be ending.

In the outside world, England has decided to leave the European Union, and people are warning of dire consequences. I’m not following too closely. Things are falling apart – the question is how fast. At the compost site there was a man who looked way too old to be shoveling compost, and somehow we got to talking. He had been a stockbroker, and now has a hobby farm, invests in physical things, and warns me to be cautious of the city people who will come looking for food when the time comes. He also pointed out my tires, which need more air and were dangerously unstable on the ride home.

News

There have been an unusual number of contacts from people interested in moving here. Some have appeared and disappeared, but others continue. So I’m looking at actually making more bedrooms in the wonderfully cool space downstairs.

We had the flower essence workshop, with four students, and it was good. Lined up with my intention to form relationships with the nonhumans. In my “lessons” with the land, I’ve started to think of how to related to the grasses, to the mosquitoes (they want full attention, was Friday’s message), to the buckthorn (I promised it a grove somewhere on the hills – but there are two magnificent trees right in the cleared area, and I don’t know what to do.) Talking and listening with each of the many plants requires a calmness that I don’t seem to have. But I continue. And continue to sit zazen every morning.

Going to Indiana for the Zen ceremonies was, on the one hand, wonderful, and was also what I did instead of sitting a three day retreat. Next month I actually go to a 10 day retreat in the mountains, where I don’t have to lead or cook or anything, and it looks like the deep rest that I need. We’ll be back on schedule in September.

After the buckthorn pulling, there’s open space in the woods that’s just lovely, a space for listening and creativity. Most of the trees we planted are doing well, a few seem to have died, and I don’t know what happens next. This fall we get more ostrich fern and other smaller plants; I brought spicebush from southern Indiana to potentially plant as an undergrowth shrub to replace honeysuckle and buckthorn. And mosquitoes have finally appeared – late June – mercifully!  There have been storms – almost tornadoes. The house is solid, and some of our elder trees have been hurt. I don’t yet know how to receive this damage.

More and more it makes sense to operate in this way: accept what’s offered. Instead of controlling what gets planted, I respond to what comes up. So the gift tiger lilies are alive and probably will bloom next year. Last year’s oregano and mints are flourishing, as are basil and lovage and several others. The many little maple trees have no destination yet, but undoubtedly will go somewhere in the woods. Letting go is happening.

My friends Rick and Beth came to learn flower essences, and are going to come Sundays to meet the herbs that live here, for herbal remedies. I just feel gratitude: what will make this work is people who have an independent interest in something here. I can be a learner and helper with them, instead of having to be in charge of everything.

The solar panels are up and will be turned on this Tuesday. I start paying back the loan at that point, but also start making extra electricity to sell to the power company.

I’ve written two small grant proposals, and bought domain names: Now you can search for MountainsandWatersAlliance as a .org or a .net, and for MountainsandWatersFarm.com, and they’ll all go to the blog which passes for a website. One of the grants is for help creating a real website. A volunteer offers to help write grants: extreme gratitude and relief.

Because although I’m capable of learning things, there are too many things to do for me actually to learn and do them all. Part time office manager Juli is taking care of the numbers that I had been simply neglecting, and also helping me get more online presence. I’m still in charge of farm and conservation matters, the house, volunteers (I’m falling down here), teaching, Zen teaching, and the general direction of it all.

And it’s time to check in with the Advisory Council about some of the steps forward. At two years, it seems like the hard survival part is done, and it’s possible to move forward into doing the work.

Coming Events

Well, here is the rest of the year, almost. As well as I know. December is not clear.

  • Saturday mornings are farmer’s market in Faribault, unless (like today) I have nothing to sell.
  • Volunteer weekends are posted here. Northfield Zen groups are in the same place.
  • July 3: I give a Dharma Talk at Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul.
  • August 20-21: retreat of some kind. To be determined.
  • August 22-24: sesshin (silent sitting)
  • September 18-23: sesshin (silent sitting)
  • October 14-19: Lee Lewis offers a 5-day sesshin here, “Land Ethics.”
  • October 22-23: I offer a workshop at the Women and Spirituality Conference in Mankato, “Becoming Part of the Earth Again.”
  • November 6: I give Dharma Talk at Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center, Northfield.

 

May you be happy. May you be at peace. May you know the joy of your own true nature.

Warmth and love,

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

Mid Summer

17 Jul

First the begging (an old monastic tradition), second the photos and farm stuff, and last some thoughts.

I sent out an update on the fundraiser, https://www.youcaring.com/mountains-and-waters-alliance-362647/update/344245. And it includes a recipe. Hint: some people send their tax-exempt donation without me bugging them. That’s really nice, it allows me to take care of the orchard and even have some time for teaching Zen. I do understand I have to get past my terror and call. Oh well. First let me tell you about the free way to support Mountains and Waters Alliance. If you click here you can get the information. Please do that if you like what I’m doing. Next week I’ll start hounding people.

And – to sign up for blog posts, you go to the page (you’re here) and go down the right side to “Entries RSS.” Click and there’s a place to sign up.

IMG_2731[1]It’s finally summer, hot and buggy, and I’m grateful that the house is naturally cool. We work, groups of 2 or 3 of us, sometimes volunteers and sometimes “casual labor” which means friends who work for a lot less than they’re worth. So the orchard trees are staying alive, and we’ll have the rabbit fence up protecting berries, well before winter.

The garden is producing vigorously; Asian greens have gone to seed, lettuce is IMG_2706[1]abundant, rhubarb might still have another harvest. The rabbits are eating the strawberries. There are wild raspberries, dandelions, daylilies, hostas, and just today sumac tea. I probably could still harvest a few nettles, but the season is pretty well past and I haven’t had time to go out. I wonder when the first tomatoes will turn red and when to dig potatoes – and what I will do with them all. I’m learning to grow food, preserve it, and give it away. Selling produce? Another thing to learn.

IMG_2712[1]And we are mulching the trees, pulling weeds out of the tree tubes, taking care of the perimeter trees – and, occasionally, pulling out buckthorn.

Yesterday a volunteer made two high-quality bug hats, and left pattern and cut pieces for four more. If you are laughing, you clearly don’t understand what it’s like to walk into the Minnesota woods. Bug hats can change your outdoor life.

Today I learned that Rick knows tool sharpening, and he taught Dan, and then I taught both of them to scythe, and then we worked like mad in the hot sun.

A friend showed up from the past, a Zen priest who became a Theravadan monk. His life is completely reorganized. In particular, if nobody gives him food he doesn’t eat that day. If he wants to go somewhere, a lay person has to drive him. All his time is available for study, meditation, and service. I really like that, even though I’m not drawn to the lifestyle. In Zen, we study, sit zazen, and do service, but if there are no donations we go get a job or something.

I’ve been reading lately. The Lankavatara Sutra – a core text of Zen, known for being hard to understand. This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. And remembering A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit.

The Lankavatara points to the basic fact, which most Buddhists can tell you about, that we are not separate from each other and everything we think is going on is an illusion created by the mind. (I’m still in the first chapter, this is definitely not a full summary.)

This Changes Everything connects the dots about what’s happening with the climate and how our whole economic system is set up so that ruining the earth is the only possible outcome – unless we change the economic system. For example, a state like Minnesota that sets up an energy program to encourage locally-built solar panels can be sued for setting up a trade barrier interfering with corporate profits. There have been many such lawsuits under the WTO (World Trade Organization) and they win. The TPP will be worse. Everything we do to protect the environment can be a target. (okay, not everything. Most things that local governments might do.)

The farm was accepted into Minnesota’s solar energy program this year. We want to actually use it: it might not be there later. And that’s why we’re having a fundraiser for the solar panels.

People are visiting. Sometimes they volunteer for a few hours, sometimes stay a night or two, sometimes leave a donation and always a gift of themselves. Sometimes we have a conversation about longer visits or even becoming residents. I am learning to be patient about this part, waiting for things to develop. I’ve learned that even people who haven’t been here feel connected. And that’s why I’ve posted the vow in the blog where you can print it and even sign it. I don’t quite know what this is yet. I’m listening for its movement, listening to it breathe. Sesshin starts again Sunday evening, settling down again on the ground of reality – as my teacher says.

With love,

Shodo

Living with the Earth, Living with the News

2 Jul

IMG_2710[2]Strawberries started about a week ago, sweet and delicious. Rabbits found them a few days later. Yesterday we started to put up chicken wire, dug into the ground and along the bottom of the fence. Meanwhile the wild raspberries have started, and the peas.

In the past week, after 9 people were murdered by a young white man who pretended he was coming to pray with them, was it the 8th or the 9th southern Black church up into flames? Some of them were not found to be arson. How can this be? I ask. What world are we living in, where Black people are ready targets, where church burnings have resumed after a 50 year break, and – I will not list.

We’re still asking donations for the solar panels (which really means, for the whole endeavor), here: http://www.youcaring.com/mountains-and-waters-alliance-362647#goto-updates A tax-exempt option should arrive soon, and will be announced. I watch some of my friends organizing, traveling to the front lines wherever they are, and I think this venture is tame. But those friends are the ones who encourage me most. Mountains and Waters (the alliance, the farm, the Zen community) is a matter of building a space which is to be used – first for the opening of consciousness, aka the practice of Zen and all its relatives, second for learning and teaching a way to live in harmony with the planet, and finally for a refuge when refuge is needed. I have accepted responsibility for food and making shelter, hard as it is for me.

In the orchard, we had put up a roost for hawks and owls, inviting them to hunt the gophers – but so far only tiny birds have landed there. We have a couple years before the fruit trees are big enough to be interesting to the gophers. So mulching is the focus, protecting the baby trees from extremely vigorous weeds and grasses.

I’m reading Forever Free, a book on the Reconstruction era, during and after the U.S. Civil War. I’m struck by how lively and hopeful people were, by the sense of creativity and a new start, by Congress’s willingness to do things that would today be considered radical. That time it was President Andrew Johnson who stopped it. Last night, a film on Daniel Ellsberg, and I thought how today he would have been imprisoned – the illegal spying on him would be legal now, and he would be imprisoned or exiled like Manning or Snowden.

Nights are cold, days are warm and beautiful, and it rains often enough that the plants are vigorous. It’s a summer paradise.

Droughts are elsewhere, nearly the whole state of Alaska is burning as is much of Canada, California is running out of water while Texas floods, and island nations are preparing to relocate.

On last week’s volunteer day, two of us went into the woods and pulled out buckthorn (vastly satisfying to see the woods opening up) while one worked on mulching the orchard. But next time (July 25, and then August 15) we’ll need to focus on the tame areas – orchard, berries, garden – weeds, deer protection, rabbit fencing and ever more mulch. I handle it in two ways: T.R., working with me part time, has taken on more and more responsibility. And I just let go, again and again. The rain has been an incredible blessing.

This month’s retreat will be July 20-22. In place of the August retreat, I will spend some days on the Love Water Not Oil tour http://www.honorearth.org/love_water_not_oil in northern Minnesota. I’m hoping some people will come with me, making this act of solidarity and prayer the first official event of Mountains and Waters Alliance.

In order to support the farm until more people come to live here, I’ll be going back to work – private practice – in a way that hopefully will support the larger goal.

I’ve added a poster of the vow, the text of the brochure, for those who might like.

Aspiring to shorter posts….

with love

Shodo Spring

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