You arrive with the apple blossoms, fresh and pink.

What will you prune? What will you nourish?

Those may not have been her exact words, but that is the sentiment that has stayed with me from Lauren’s words the welcoming ceremony on Day 1 of the apprenticeship. You can imagine how easily those words return to me, every time I weed or hoe or plant or seed. I suspect that one could come here, to this place called Green Gulch Farm, without any intention to discover or transform themselves, and the magic of the place would do its work on them. But that suspicion will never be confirmed. The people who come are explorers and spelunkers of the inner and outer worlds. Just rubbing elbows with these folks as we sharpen our harvest knives or touch finger tips as we pass boxes of loose spinach down the bucket brigade, the earnest diligence and authentic curiosity of these people nudges you open. Or it nudges me open, anyway. Is this the way the morning mist nudges the seedlings out of the earth? Is farming really this much metaphor?


Farm Buddha



Garden Altar



The Talmud says there’s an angel that bends over every blade of grass and whispers, “Grow, grow!”



Tibetan Cherry Tree. Woof!



At Green Dragon Temple, there’s always an altar where you need one.





The farm & garden from the trail above.



The Farm Altar. Every morning we bow in here after breakfast.



Window to the optimistically named Tidy Shed.



My go-to source for info about edibles, Farm Apprentice Hannah, braves the wild cucumber! Careful folks, it’s mildly toxic.



Is it not so awesome? Can you believe this thing is native?



Walk to the beach. Oh California!



Muir Beach


Me after an enthralling Native Plant Walk with the excessively inspiring Head of Grounds, Sukey. Drinking Douglas Fir tea (so citrusy!), donning Clingweed crown. I love it here. I love being outdoors, sinking my hands into the soil every day, surrounded by people dedicated to understanding themselves. And dedicated to kindness. Kindness! Truly remarkable.


The farm apprentices have been given the chance to write a dedication for our biweekly plantings this season.  I gave the offering for the 5th planting on June 11th.  Thinking of what to say gave me space to reflect on what it is that I want farming to be from a spiritual perspective.  By and large, the tasks for farming apprentices are fast paced, repetitive and in the realm of action.  I enjoy this.  But  I was happy to shift to a greater scale and think of what farming means to me, what it connects me to, and if and how it can be an instrument of sustainability and good.

At the same time, while here at Green Gulch, I’ve been connecting more and more to my indigenous spiritual practices and beliefs, which is shaping how I see and interact with the land, the people who walked before us, and all beings.  It felt good to write the dedication to mother earth and ask for her permission and blessings.  Writing this helped me realize that farming connects me to the past, present and future through the ancestors who lived and worked in the land (past), the actual present day plants, farmers and all beings in need of nourishment, and my wish for the cultivation we do help to provide a sustainable home for the future generations.

We planted a half acre of mixed vegetables and a half acre of squashes the day prior.  All together about 13,000 plants.  May they grow happy and strong.

The pictures are of the 5th, 4th and 3rd planting, planted in 2 week intervals .  They show how beautifully and drastically the plants grow every two weeks.


A Blessing for Planting 5

Mother Earth, Pachamama, The Apus of the hills surrounding this valley, Great Mystery, Life Force. We offer you incense, bows, words and our hearts.

We ask for permission to use your land on this the 5th Planting Day at Green Gulch Farm. We honor you and ask for a blessing for the growth of the plants, seeds, the farmers and all life that nourishes us. Mother earth: You are home and giver of life to all. We are family in your valley: the plants, the farmers, the soil, waterways, the air. All species and phenomena are brothers and sisters, mother, father and child. Giver and receiver. We are not above or beneath each other.

We honor the presence of those who walked before us, our ancestors, without which, we and this farm would not exist. May their lessons of both harmony and discord never be forgotten and teach us. Please guide us and let us feel your presence.

We honor the life of the plants, seeds and soil. Thank you for your endless giving and medicine that sustains our life. We ask that all their needs to grow be provided. In this year of drought, we ask for sufficient water and food for us and our brothers and sisters who are thirsty and hungry throughout the world.

We recognize that our work will cause both life and death. Forgive us any harm to you and to our brothers and sisters. Know that our intentions are good and that we are learning. May our work contribute to a home of sustainability and goodness for the unborn, our future children, the future generations of this earth.

Please awaken us to care for you and our family, as you care for all of us. Please guide us in our path to good and awaken our hearts to recognize that we are one and we are you. 


DSC00145 DSC00143 DSC00138 DSC00129




2013 farm apprentice Colby made a surprise guest appearance in the 4th field during our Friday morning harvest & helped Emila & Kogen land a giant Samantha lettuce from the back of the field. He’s begun a start-up CSA farm with friends an hour & a half north of here & showed us a picture of his first box, replete with herbs, lettuce, turnips, radishes, bunching greens… a thing of real beauty!

He also brought some high-tech thing called a smartphone that one can both talk into & take pictures with… glory be, look at those smiles! We are so fortunate to have this life together.

Busy days on the farm: bowing in, sowing, planting, hoeing, laying out drip, watering the greenhouses, cleaning up, bowing out. Covering beds with reemay, closing up the hoops, emptying hoses, moving pipe, spreading gypsum and feathermeal, transplanting off the tractor, spraying out flats, making potting mix. We began the week with our biggest Monday harvest of the season and gave a successful shot at bunching our weedy first spinach planting by considering words from Janisse Ray’s fantastic book, The Seed Underground:

Every story has a substory, sometimes many substories, and one of the substories of Yanna (“the Sweet Potato Queen”) is generosity. In my investigations, generosity is a trait that I’ve found almost ubiquitous in seed savers, many of whom realize that in order to preserve genetic diversity, seed must be shared. They also seem to realize that we need people to become passionate first about gardening and then about sharing seed, and that sometimes a gift sparks a passion. In fact, maybe generosity is the story and seeds are the substory.


I am so grateful to the crew for allowing for the busyness and dynamism of farm work under a beginning farmer (the definition for this is anyone who has been farming less than ten years, no age limits). It is actualization of the perfection of generosity. I hope we inspire in each other a profound respect for the land and elements that sustain our lives. May we seed a passion for gardening, seed-saving and the endlessly expansive practice of generosity.

I hope we all learn to love bunching, pulling, cutting, washing, sorting, trimming, packing, lifting, loading, unloading and selling vegetables that people will eat. It’s so satisfying to give someone food that you have grown. It is good to give.


Next week we begin giving veggie boxes to our neighbors at Muir Beach.



The job of enju (garden manager) is most difficult and extremely troublesome. Only people who have the mind of the Way have served in this job. People without the mind of the Way cannot fill this position. The garden manager must always be at the vegetable garden to plant seeds in accord with the season. With the face of buddhas and ancestors, they must have horse and donkey legs, like farmworkers and fieldhands. Without holding back their own life energy, throughout the day they must carry spaces and hoes, plow and till by themselves, and haul manure. They can only wait for the vegetables to ripen, and then must not miss their time. When they plow the ground and sow seeds, they do not wear their two-piece robes, one-piece robes, or their okesa. They wear only coarse workclothes. However, when it is time for the whole community together to chant sutras, do nenju, go up in the hall for the abbot’s lectures, or enter the room for dokusan, the garden manager must definitely go along with the assembly. They must not fail to practice. Morning and evening in the vegetable garden they must offer incense, do prostrations, chant and recite dedications to Ryuten and Doji, without ever becoming lazy or negligent. Even at night they sleep at a hut near the vegetable garden. Workers provided for the garden are sometimes rotated according to the supervision of the work leader and must be trained by the garden manager. Truly people with the mind of the Way and people of great renown have filled this position. Fellows of little ability and the crowd of mediocrities have never served in this job.

–from Pure Standards For The Temple Administrators, Dogen Zenji

We cannot be proud of our practice, and we don’t need to be too humble about our lack of practice or understanding.

We are just as we are.

Our practice is to take one step toward the infinite, the absolute, moment by moment one step at a time.

-Shohaku Okumura

Circling the Mountain

Yesterday slightly less than the full farm crew circumambulated our local mountain, Mt. Tamalpais. Ooh la-la, what a treat to be outside with these beauties on a remarkably beautiful day. Being Zen students, we got up & left before breakfast was served, chilly on the trail at 7:15 in the foggy dew. It ended in full sun, relieved by the shade of Muir Woods, back to the cars with a foto-opportunity at 5:40 or so. Only two farmers went MIA.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here’s my jottings from the day.

It is solved by walking.

7am. A female turkey preens on a sunlit slope where we meet-up & map-out our pilgrimage route. The koan: What is pilgrimage?

7:15. Deer Park Fire Road. Owl, shelf mushrooms. Noticing how the mind notices. Trails shaped in blackberry bramble vanish into larger human trail. Flowers & parasitic climbers. Heavy-breathing runners like another animal species. Owls, more invisible than possible. Orchids, moss, old wood, fallen trees.

8:15 Lonetree Spring. Pantoll Ranger Station & bus stop.

Modernity: bathrooms that still use water instead of waterless technology even here in the arid west. We are mad for waste. Shuttle buses, bikes with thin tires. Riders in specialized clothes. The shine of fetishes stands out on the mountain’s plain rumpled robes.

Up Old Mine Road—hollow log like a shaman’s promise. Turkey calls & quickly into arid oak tree leaf litter. And always birdsong & breath, breath & mountain being. Returned to body over & again. White clouds thick & low—no Golden Gate, no bridge, just radio tower & scroll painting painting of fisher folks’ boats in Sausalito harbor nets.

Serpentine outcropping after unbelievable grass-laced views of cloud-covered bay. Boats on harbor, dragonflies & lizards appear. The men-lizards muscle-gaping, doing push-ups with reptilian straightforwardness (sans irony). Stub-tailed lady lizards stunted in tail & their role as audience-of-calisthenics. Orange poppies & a spaciousness that blows out the old dust of self thinking, self concern, self obsession.

10:05. Light making islands & flanks of hills dark green with almost black portals between trees. An ocean of blessings on the moving mountain. Life goes on & on in all directions & is always like this behind the illusion of feeling stuck, old, dead, confused, stinky with cul-de-sac vision & musty with funk.

12-noon. Portrero Meadow (or maybe not). Simmons, Ben Stein trails. Acorn Jays art work. Luncheon in dappled oak crunk & exposed rock. A fox makes way for us hungry interlopers. Beanitos, Nutty Delight, the Suitcase Under Jey’s Bed manifest in a backpack in the woods.

Fern Gully. Dripping springs, electric wires. Hot exposed fire roads with toe-stubbing slope, feeling muscles in the legs to stay upright. Down down past Throckmorton Firehouse to Mountain Home Inn.


scent of manzanitas




turkey vultures.



old people

human talk echoing

through quiet woods

voices fade

sound of creek returns.

4:15. Ocean View Trail in Muir Woods State Park after parking lot rendezvous & water-fountain.

Through the nature mall. End of hike. Could it be any more different than it used to be? But then the story of the Kamakura Buddha plaster-of-Paris replica in one of the groves by one of the social groups of the past (men with special hats, mustaches, etc.). It was put up in what was known as the Bohemian Grove in 1892 and mostly gone by the early thirties. Can you imagine?

The redwood tree slice on display in the tourist mall was born in 909 ad, fell over in 1931 (maybe).

Do the math.

Jays hide acorns & a forest is sown.

Don’t forget you can get anywhere by walking.

Solvitur ambulando.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.