It’s time to bring the most recent post on this blog back to Green Gulch – which is where I happen to be again, here for a few months, just since January, and at the brink of my own transition.
In human news, Qayyum Johnson, our beloved farm manager, is shuso! The shuso is the head student for a practice period, a kind of teacher training opportunity in which the shuso can “share the teaching seat” with the senior teacher – in this case, Abbess Fu – who’s leading the practice period. Qayyum gave his first dharma talk last week – a talk inviting all of us to get in touch with our bodhicitta, or wish to awaken. A joyous collaboration among many of us helps the farmwork happen so that Qayyum can put some of his immense energy toward being in the practice period.
The farming news here is the unseasonable warmth, the unrelenting dryness. I came back to Green Gulch prepared with winter farming gear; my years-old, used, on-sale Goretex rainjacket holds up well for a few hours in heavy rain, and though my rain pants are pretty badly ripped, I thought they’d get me through another season. But aside from a wet weekend in February, we haven’t had a drop, except what the eucalyptus can steal from the fog. We’ve mostly gotten away with not having to irrigate the cover crop, which is good, because the ~1960s pump that we rely on for summer irrigation is on the fritz.
The cover crop – and our winter plantings of chard and kale – seem to be responding to the warmth and the clear days, growing beyond our wintry expectations to armpit height, and blooming. The bell beans blooming means it’s time to mow and disc the cover crop into the soil, before the plants back take up the nitrogen they’ve been putting into the soil in favor of making beans. Now that I’ve managed to operate the tractor we call ‘New O’ well enough to move some compost piles, I watch longingly as Sara Davis pulls the disc at high speeds, lifting the bucket up when she makes a turn. The tractor looks at those moments like a big beast lifting its neck to yawn. Already we’re looking ahead to our first planting in the second week of April, when we plant out the starts we sowed last week. The stretch of field it’ll be in is already bare ground, waiting.
The dino kale is blooming, and all of our winter greens growing fast enough that our kitchen and community can’t keep up with the cooking and eating. Tomorrow I’ll wake early and drive the decrepit box truck on my first solo Tuesday town trip, making rounds to a handful of restaurants and Rainbow Grocery, delivering chard and kale and cilantro and rosemary. Every week the truck returns full – of boxes that we diligently reuse, of produce purchased from a vegetable distributor that supplies us that all we can’t grow (which, at this time of year, is most things), and City Center’s compost buckets. I’ve been advised to take all precautions not to let those buckets spill.
The farm these weeks is a whirl of preparatory energy: the warmth is letting us start everything early, urging us to an unseasonable busyness and flush of energy. My words for the seed sowing ceremony mourned winter, conjured all those days a seed spends as a seed before we celebrate its sprouting. With the robinsong and blooming beans and longer days, the signs say that winter as an incubation period is over. We tumble forward into the year, half-baked.