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Yesterday Nick & I had the great pleasure & honor to chat with a visiting venerable friend of Green Gulch. Wes Jackson & his grandson Jacob eating plums at the bottom of the 3rd field! I couldn’t actually believe it was him (the Wes Jackson?, I said, when we introduced ourselves).

He proceeded to tell us of the incredible progress being made in developing perennial grain polycultures that will mimic the natural grassland prairies of the midwest. For decades The Land Institute has been pioneering this move away from annual agriculture.

In telling us about the project’s use of computational technology to do the complex selections necessary, he recited Gary Snyder’s poem, For The Children, which seems a fitting way of closing the loop with our Zen practice & agricultural practices. (To his grandson by way of explanation he said, Gary Snyder is a Buddhist Poet.)

For The Children

The rising hills, the slopes,

of statistics

lie before us.

the steep climb

of everything, going up,

up, as we all

go down.

 

In the next century

or the one beyond that,

they say,

are valleys, pastures,

we can meet there in peace

if we make it.

 

To climb these coming crests

one word to you, to

you and your children:

 

stay together

learn the flowers

go light

–Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island

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Ripening/Relaxation

“Things ripen of their own accord.

One day I was on the way to my teacher Sojun Weitsman and saw a small plum tree where the fruit was hanging heavy but still green. I said to my teacher that I felt like the plum: I was ripening, but not there yet.

Sojun replied: ‘The difference between you and the plum… is that the plum doesn’t worry about it.'”

-Robert Meikyo Rosenbaum, from Walking the Way: 81 Zen Encounters With The Tao Te Ching

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It feels like every day these days is a Big Harvest Day.

The pulse of life is fantastic here in the Gulch. Robust, complicated, poly-vocal. The sound of ocean wind has been a near-constant soundtrack of late. The American Robin (so many jolly, cocky robins!) song struck me today as particularly beautiful: trilling like a parable of simplicity. And human speech, engine sounds, footsteps, the salad spinner.

What is an appropriate harvest of all this sensual abundance?

How do we respond in the face of such overwhelming beauty?

We try breathing deep of the clean moving air.

We try smiling, making eye contact & warming our hearts (especially here in the summer-disguised-as-winter) & with cold fingers continue harvesting spinach before the sun crests the hills above the fog.

We renounce clean clothes & look like overly happy outlaws, immigrants & itinerant monks.

We bow-in & bow-out of the day together.

We bow to each other, toward the inside of an open circle.

When in doubt, bow.

For bowing is to fall in love.

This love fills bodies & minds,

all space

the biggest harvest of all.

(Deep gratitude to the farm crew for their great & continuous effort to soften)

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The Moment Monument

Welcome back to the blog!, I say to myself, absent these months…

I declaim: This has already been a special season on the farm in 2016!

We are currently–& have been at it since April–building a moment monument.

This means that we have been rejoicing in almost every moment at our good fortune to find ourselves together & able to interact with such special ground, within & without.

Let us count the blessings.

Earth, air, fire, water.

Being alive.

Living in the midst of a community devoted to sincerity, even at its most difficult.

There has been a parade of Green Gulch farmers-of-the-past who have returned to spend a few hours or days with us. This is the blessing of real connection. A connection to people, a place, a schedule of manifesting liberation (zen sitting practice), wholesome activity, the act of seeing.

In short, reunions are a monument to Good Work.

Here time is told on wood, with reverberating bells, with silence & laughter & work & joyous, reflexive, wildly diverse forms of bowing.

We are entering the post-solstice waterfall of activity as a farm body. Harvesting does not keep pace with the un-invited plant growth. The ‘firsts’ for most of our crops has come: broccoli & cabbage the newest cast members of the farmers market ensemble as of last week. New-dug Red Gold & Purple Viking potatoes in a week or two. Beets are filling out. Finochio is gradually going white & full. The lettuce is rampant, full & happy.

As for ‘weeds’: chickweed snarls lovingly around every crop stem. Groundsel flourishes in the sweet white alyssum pollinator rows. Nettle cuddles with vibrant, hairy potato plants, setting seed in what seems like minutes. Purslane subdivides like quicksilver & covers our 4th field like a terrifying Persian rug. Red-root Pigweed Amaranth grows muscles  along the wet side of the valley. And the white of Poison Hemlock undulates along all the wet spots in the watershed, speckled brown & green stems growing up to 10′ tall.

The 5th field remains a demanding conundrum. Lovely new irrigation pipe is watering in a mixture of introduced forage grasses, native wetland plants & cover crop gone feral (we’ll have a lot of rye in the 3rd & 5th due to my missing window to cultivate in March!). We were supposed to plant into that ground this week, but it is not meant to be.

Outside my window stags have begun to concentrate. The annual stag party where they awkwardly gather around the food trees & eat-down the plums & apples; breaking branches as they hover on hind legs & browse  fruit, leaves & branches to gum down.

This is also the halfway point, more or less, for the farm apprenticeship. And the farm crew is wondrous to behold. Every year it is the best crew ever, I don’t know how that happens.

We have been challenging ourselves to take responsibility for the incredible produce coming out of the land, to remember what the we looked like in April (pre-beards & wild pigtails); the fields were still in cover crop, the mornings wet & cold, trying to recall what it felt like to not-know each other in the ambient, lymbic, community-based way that we do now.

I have great gratitude for all the people who make it possible to have a practice community like Green Gulch. The union of physical land work with contemplative practice is rare in our modern world. This temple watershed is an extremely special refuge & inspiration to me & so many. Thank you.

We hope to see you at one of our markets: Friday, 9-2 in the Mill Valley Farmers Market at the CVS on Blithedale; Saturday, 8:30-1:30 in San Francisco at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market; and Sunday, 11-12:30 at Green Gulch after our public program, beginning with zazen instruction at 8:15.

So good to hear from Elicia, our most consistent & creative of farmer friends.

Thank you for sharing the vision & opening the invitation to join you in Colorado.

(Please support her work however you can.)

Thank you each & all so very much,

Qayyum

Wild Plum Way

This Is Our Way

 

Our Way is

to be ridiculously kind

to tend our wildness

to be faultlessly generous

to be quiet

to go beyond

to stop thinking so much

to forgive as a first & last response

to take responsibility

to exert for fellowship with all beings

to mobilize hidden energy

to pick up after others

to not waste anything

to endeavor toward the ideal

to relax with what-is

to open to possibilities uncountable

to follow the breath

to seek harmony

to speak of beauty

to wander deliberately off the path

to honor our elders

to celebrate time being

to relinquish control

to tend soil

to uplift & caretake all things

to aspire toward universal happiness

to hear birdsong every day

to dote on everyone

to honor the elements

to notice lightplay

to accept discontent like weather

to treasure the used & discarded

to shelter the migrant

to sing

to sleep

to know the moon’s bright mystery

to swim

to saunter

to tell the truth of freedom

to speak truth to power

to respond appropriately

to acknowledge

to confess

to share the bounty

to invite others in

to go beyond

to manifest life wholeheartedly in breath

to hear the dharma of the inanimate

to persevere in joy

to dedicate our lives to others

to eat wild plums

to taste wild plums

to share wild plums

to paint wild plums

to offer wild plums

to offer wild plums

to offer wild plums

to be everyone uniquely

to be together always

to be always together

to be on the side of love

to be together.

1,083 miles away

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Over a thousand miles away from Green Gulch – and at 7600 feet above sea level – two former Green Gulch farmers are farming, together. I’m entering my second year as the garden manager in this relatively new farming program in Southwest Colorado (it’s my sixth season farming!), and am thrilled to get some Green Gulch company in the field from Emily Haefner.

Emily – a Green Gulch apprentice from last year – has joined the Old Fort Market Gardens’ farming program as a farmer-in-training, or FIT. She’ll take care of a little over a quarter acre, with two fellow FITs and minimal involvement from Old Fort staff. (Or that’s the idea, anyway. I’ve been up in the plot almost much as the three farmers in these first few weeks of the growing season.) Text messages fly and our binder fills up with notes about what’s been accomplished. We’ve already had irrigation problems, planted potatoes, and built pea trellises. Emily sees everything that needs to be done. The quarter acre is in the incubator farm plot, surrounded by a very tall deer (and elk!) fence and the beautiful cottonwoods and scrub oak of the La Plata River Valley. To the north, we can see the snow melting off the La Plata mountains. A few 12,000′ peaks, our neighbors.

The incubator farm program provides low-cost access to land, water, and mentorship to beginning farmers. Incubators can take up to 5 years at the Old Fort to build a name for themselves in the region and transition to owned or rented land. Realizing that many people wanted or needed more experience before starting their own farm, even with the safety net of the incubator program, we decided to offer a guided farming program with a basic crop plan and a lot of freedom.

Our last frost date isn’t until June 10th, so we begin the season slowly and cautiously with hardy plants and lots of row cover. Broccoli, peas, spinach, potatoes, onions, and leeks are in the ground. One of the FITs, Brandon, is sharing his knowledge of indigenous foods from his home of Black Mesa, Arizona, and yesterday decided it was safe to plant some Navajo White corn, but not yet the beans and squash that we’ll grow from seeds he’s saved.

Sadie, the third FIT and barista extraordinaire, contributes excellent recordkeeping, an inescapable memory, and touching humility. We all have so much to learn from each other, from the land, and from this first and experimental year of the FIT program at the Old Fort.

Who would like to join us next season? There’s a collection of us former GGF-ers in southwest Colorado area: Emily, Elicia, Danny, Sarah, Michael, Minna, formerly Betzi, and maybe more to come. For former apprentices, future farmers, and friends: come visit, or come farm.

Wish us luck for temperatures above 32 degrees ’til September (that’s about all we can hope for) and for cultivating and receiving that deep joy of farming together in our current circumstances, a joy that all the readers of this blog know well.

Much love and luck to the current Green Gulch Farm crew: for the first time in 5 years, I have no idea who most of you are.

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