Tag Archives: spring

Mountains and Waters Alliance – Winter Solstice greetings and report

21 Dec

2013-01-13 Cannon RiverAs the world changes, as despair threatens, the vision of Mountains and Waters Alliance is being deeply tested and clarified.

Climate change becomes increasingly obvious; violence, wars, and the war on the environment continue to escalate, and the incoming government is not a cause for encouragement. Refugees, wars, refusal of refugees, pictures of hurt and hungry children – these are our daily news. The human capacity to cause suffering is unavoidable. The arctic is sixty degrees above normal now; the summer saw unprecedented wildfires and droughts, and I was grateful to be in a place where climate change meant only fierce storms, fallen trees, raging rivers and floods, and ruined crops. The conflict between corporate greed and a culture based in the earth is playing itself out at Standing Rock, and still unfinished. In a small way I participated in that, first organizing prayer vigil support at home, then spending five days at the Standing Rock camps, joining in prayers and also sitting with other Buddhists. I expect to return when needed, and I do expect we will be needed again.

The plan of offering an example of community based in practice with the earth seems like it belongs to a gentler time, with slower change. The other side of the vision – allying with trees, mountains, and forces larger than human – becomes essential, and that is where most of my time has gone this 2016-08-01-14-57-51year. In July, a wilderness retreat with David Loy and Johann Robinson led to profoundly deepened understanding of communicating and allying with the nonhumans – especially mountains and alpine flowers. My following visit to the Black Hills was more of the same, and forging a conscious alliance. This is the work difficult to discuss, that gives Mountains and Waters Alliance its name. If there is any hope in this time, it lies in giving up the illusion that humans are separate, better, or in control, and in casting our lot with all sentient beings.

A brief report on activities:

The primary work has been learning and unlearning. Pulling out invasive plants, I see the mind of war inside myself. I’ve apprenticed myself to the land, to learn in body that which I’m called to teach about becoming part of the family of life. I seek another mind – parental mind or collegial mind – in my relationship with these difficult plants. In this, the land becomes a learning laboratory. This is what I intend to teach to others, but at this time I can only express it through Zen language.

In addition to this learning, daily sitting and retreats at the land, and the wilderness retreat mentioned above, I participated in a Bearing Witness retreat this fall with local Dakota leaders. My December retreat time went to Standing Rock, and was followed by lying in bed waiting for body and heart-mind to recover. It’s been a time of working underground, enriching the soil to be fruitful later. That deep work is still in process, changing me into someone who will be actually able to offer it fully.

On the farm, we’ve protected the orchard from deer and rodents, tended and harvested berries, continued woodland restoration, and repaired storm damage. The farm house now has wood heat and cooking, solar panels, additional space, and a year’s supply of firewood. The Advisory Council meets monthly, volunteers and other supporters have helped with many projects. Office organizing and accounting is improved, and appliction for tax status is on the to-do list. I’m looking for farmers to lease part of the land, and there are a couple of conversations in process.

I’ve taught and led retreats at the farm, had guest teachers, welcomed volunteers, and networked with other farmers as well as activists and Buddhists. I’ve also taught at Buddhist and other groups, and at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association. The sitting and study group in nearby Northfield has doubled in size. My essay “Right Action: The world is my body” was published in The Eightfold Path (ed. Jikyo Wolfer, Temple Ground Press 2016) And as mentioned, I’ve been involved in peaceful activism on environmental and indigenous issues.

I think a time will come when this farm is needed as a place of refuge and sanctuary. This, in addition to being a source of deep nourishment for the inner work, and a place for teaching, is a reason to keep it and cultivate it in spite of the expense.

The most important work has been nearly invisible. Thus I haven’t asked for money. Yet $1400 has come in unsolicited, much appreciated. For those who want to be quiet partners in this work, you are welcome to support it here. If you want to join in this practice, whether here, at your home or anywhere, please contact me.

Much warmth to you, as the dark of the year turns toward light again.

Love, Shodo – for Mountains and Waters Alliance

Here are two of the many writings that sustain me these days of difficulty. My own voice is still.

The Descent, by Thanissara. https://thanissaradharma.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-descent/

and this, from 1968:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.                         

Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things”

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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

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.

Warmly,

Shodo

River bluffs, from the other sideThe lilacs have bloomed!

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.

IMG_2440

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.

Warmly,

Shodo

Slowing down, outside

1 Apr

Dear Friends,

the river

the river

Spring is finally here. Outside barefoot today – back to normal tomorrow, but the forecast is pleasant.

This is outdoor work time. I’ll be posting less often, probably once a month. There will be gardening, orchard planting, and

Saturday's visitors

Saturday’s visitors

caring for the land. There will be volunteers, and visitors are still welcome. But organizing and fundraising can wait until fall, along with big projects like finishing the house renovation/solarization.

Volunteer dates include April 24-25 and May 9-10; activities include planting the orchard and berries, taking care of erosion in the woods (replacing invasives with natives), gardening, and whatever we may like at the time. Monthly 5-day retreats continue, and July 18-19 is scheduled for a joint teaching retreat with Justin Merritt (a Theravadin academic) and me co-teaching.

2015-03-29 15.32.48Sugaring season is almost over. Black walnut syrup is just about the best thing you ever tasted,

and next year I’ll tap more walnut trees. Foraging season is on; today I gathered and ate baby stinging nettles, and they’ll be feeding me well into the season of wood nettles, morel mushrooms, and the rest. Wandering in the woods season

is officially on; it’s a least a month until the mosquitoes appear.

Thank you all for your support.

Warmly,

Shodo

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.

Warmly,

Shodo

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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