I am but a part of the whole,
a single piece of the grand, living organism we call nature.
I flow with the dance of life,
carried by ancient and eternal energies,
extending infinitely into the past and future.
Who am I but an observer of this great spectacle,
a dancer in this cosmic dance?
I am infused with the responsibilities of a human being,
but I am not in control.
As an animal has an intrinsic nature,
so too do I have my place in this scheme.
I am here to assist in the will of the divine,
and so granted abilities of the heavens.
But I recognize my limited capacities,
my necessary finitude.
With understanding comes the unknowable.
Always, there will be a higher power.
My body is mortal, and one day it will die.
The patterns of nature are ever in flux, going and returning.
I am not separate from these realities,
and my being will go just as it has come.
But as I flow from life into death,
the energy given to me on loan will be transferred
back into the reservoir of abundance from whence it came.
And by this transmutation, new life will emerge,
as alive and conscious as I am when I record these words.
I will pick up where I left off,
continuing the flame of being, the will of the eternal.
Death is only real
to the extent you identify with your current permutation.
Do not be afraid,
we are part of the greatest show the universe has yet seen,
and the best adventures are always yet to come!
This week Katie taught us interns about the magical world of honey bees. And I have only one thing to say – bees are trippy! This is not the first time I have learned about these fantastic little insects, but this time I was able to see them with a new perspective. Not only do I appreciate them much more after learning about their crucial function in any healthy ecosystem (as well as our human food production) as major pollinators, but I am also fascinated by how they display characteristics of a “super-organism.” This term not only implies that a single bee cannot survive on its own, separated from the colony, but also that each “unit” of the organism exists for the survival and benefit of the whole, rather than itself. The worker bees, the most numerous of the three major categories of bees, work non-stop their whole lives, executing the major functions that allow the hive to survive. Two behaviors (or beehaviors, as Katie would put it) in particular amaze me. The first is that each bee larvae, upon hatching from its birth cell, gets right to work! They have such deep-rooted instinct that they know exactly what to do the second they are alive – no training needed. This phenomenon gave me the impression of the super-organism as being an incredibly well-oiled, efficient machine. How impressive! The other behavior that amazed me was that when swarming and looking for a new hive site, bees will do a little “waggle dance” to communicate potential locations to other bees. This dance contains directional information relative to the sun so that other bees can go check out the location. When enough bees have seen the location and a consensus is reached, the whole swarm will move to the new site. WHAAATT??? Amazing…
Obviously, bees are incredibly intelligent creatures. Life continues to amaze me with its variety, complexity, and dazzling beauty. This particular example gives me ever more certainty that nature is intelligently organized beyond all human comprehension, and that we should trust its abilities to thrive and provide our needs!
The chickens are heat stressed. They are producing premature eggs, not eating the feed as much, and “Roosty” is driving us all crazy, but that part could be a normal thing. I’m loving this whole experience of the chickens, even if Roosty is attacking me. It’s so real! It’s painful and fearsome at times, but it’s real. Chickens aren’t faking it. They are upset, or stressed, or happy, and cool or satisfied or sweet, but they are never fake. In this world of fake news, they produce 100% real tweets and sometimes they are real pains in my neck, but they make this experience so wonderfully simple.
I started to think about how the chickens stay cool and how they feel in this heat. It’s close to unbearable for me and as I watch the chickens cool off in a dust bath or waddle in a wading pool, it occurs to me how similar they are to me. They need water to cool off, just like me. They need to walk around and get all their frustrations out, pecking at each other or getting smacked, just like I would if I was cooped up all day. (Ha! No pun intended.) They need to jump and get a drink at the pond and move their legs around and eat and peck and dig up the lot and peck at little bugs too. I do the same, minus the pecking at bugs. So to the industrial chicken farmers out there…How can chickens possibly be happy and produce great products when they are stuck in a box and stuffed with other birds where they can’t move around or their breasts are so big that they can’t even get up off the floor? It makes no sense. Those industrial birds can’t be happy! Those birds don’t get a swimming pool or a rambunctious rooster giving them exercise or even a chance to eat a grub or caterpillar once in a while. But our chicks do. They get all of that, and a side of greens from time to time, plenty of water and pill bugs, and a protected and shaded area just so they can have dirt baths in peace.
Aside from ad hoc heat wave from time to time, they are doing pretty well. They are working it out and living their real life, living their ups and downs and then getting over it by the end of the day. And that, makes a real, good egg.
Dating apps make the process of finding love efficient. In our efficient obsessed world, I understand that this would be appealing, but on a farm, efficiency can be a four letter word. For example, when we talk about irrigation. By its very nature, emitting a little water to 40 spots in a bed ensures that all the seedlings will be given sustained and predictable nourishment and water (love). When we’re talking about dating, giving a little love (water) to 40 potential dates, all spaced out evenly, but predictably is kind of…well, gross. This is supposed to be a quest for love, not a quest for an average sized, but sustainable head of lettuce! Judgement aside, while folks are experiencing dating success with this methodology, “Emitter love” (as I like to call it) or spreading a little bit of equal and predictable love (water) to a line of takers just doesn’t seem in alignment with my soul. That is, until I heard about flood irrigation.
We learned about flood irrigation this week and while it is time and water heavy, it makes a whole lot more sense on and off the farm. The cons of flood irrigation are that watering the soil all at once for a long period of time is resource intense. It doesn’t evenly give out water to measured spots, nor does it use the least amount of water to deliver. But flood irrigation has so much more to offer. Sure, it doesn’t deliver the minimum of what the plant needs, but it fully hydrates the soil around it. It feeds the top soil roots, absorbs way down into the earth and hydrates the soil that’s reaches the tips of roots, it contributes to the bank of groundwater, it becomes a part of the larger cycle of water on the planet (though condensation, rain, absorption) and spreads out far and wide to reach plants that may or may not have had water in a long time. When whole plants are nourished deep down in the soil, those root networks have far more nice things to say about how happy and hydrated and nourished they are. It’s communicated to the rest of the soil world and water gets transferred to places that we never knew existed. So to give a ton of water (love) to the immediate circle, flooding them with nourishment, letting their cup runneth over, allowing them to transmit and share that message spread far and wide through the root (social) network has a lot more reach and provides for/sustains broader life systems along the way. It requires giving a steady consistent stream of effort to flood your circle (friends, family, relationships) with so much nourishment that there’s an abundance of heart. And yet, aren’t those the best friendships? When you give freely and effortlessly without measuring how much you might get in return? Isn’t that the way love operates too?
Emitter irrigation serves a specific purpose. To breed and nourish a particular seedling. It’s not designed to water all or serve all. That’s not the goal. While this is good for agriculture, it is problematic in a larger humanitarian way. I’ve never been talented at giving just a little bit to a lot of people. It’s probably why I struggle with small talk. I’ll be the first to admit that flooding my circle with love, attention, care is a lot more effort, time and sweat. In the end, however, it’s better for the soil of my friendships and relationships. I can’t help but wonder, what if we all spent a little time flood irrigating our social circles with love, not knowing if it ever will come back and reap rewards, but trusting that it sinks deep into their soil, nourishes their root systems, and travels far and wide so that maybe, just maybe, it may touch a special heart.
What should be done with a Rooster who is repeatedly attacking its human care taker?
Beyond being an early morning alarm clock, a Rooster does have other functions, one of which is to protect it’s flock from would be daytime predators like hawks, rodents, cats, dogs or whatever else. You see, chicken nor roosters can see at night without light so otherwise, the rooster can only protect during the day. Perhaps that is why as soon as the day breaks he makes his presence known.
Lately, as soon as Roosty, as affectionately named by Reshama is released from the pen, he goes on the attack. That might be okay if he weren’t attacking his bigger, stronger and not to mention hungry human custodian. As soon as Reshama starts collecting the eggs, Roosty charges towards her very aggressively. Is he telling us that he doesn’t want us in the coop taking his girls’ eggs? Maybe, but when I collect eggs why doesn’t he charge me? Sometimes when Reshama is not near the pen nor the eggs, he targets her and boldly goes where no rooster should go. Perhaps her shrieks can be heard across the farm, sorry partner. But in her defense, Roosty can be intimidating when he stands at attention, flairs his neck feathers and darts towards you faster than you’re expecting. In fact, I have recently started standing on guard as she collects to prevent any surprise attacks.
Today however, Roosty has gotten feisty one too many times. I usually let him knows who’s boss but today he didn’t seem to care. He didn’t care about my size, stature nor my fearlessness and charged towards me, not once but twice! Oh no he didn’t! Well, yes. Yes, he did! I quickly put my boot in his face but luckily there was no run-in between the two. As I resumed a normal stance he tried it again. Where was Reshama to see that he wasn’t just picking on her, but that he was an equal opportunity annoyance? This time I took up arms. I grabbed the rake and charged him, chasing him far into the orchard. The nerve of him! I don’t even eat yardbird, but I know plenty who do.
If the culling should start soon, I nominate him, who we have lost our affection for. I don’t even eat yard-bird, but I know plenty who do!
After our last nutrition class, there was a collective feeling of unresolve. There is a massive amount of information to process about the issues and possible issues regarding our current society’s food systems and suffering health. If the issues are not in the chemicals used to grow food, it’s in the resources and waste created to distribute the food, or marketing propaganda, etc., etc. At times it can feel productive sorting through the science and literature, but lately it leaves me with a hopelessness. How can I live a healthy life? How will I know that I am healthy? What does health even mean when life is an unfolding of decomposition? Gahhh!!!
I would surely be lost and cascading without the support of others.
I sense that the majority of people are “asleep” to these realities. It’s no fault of theirs. But as an individual who feels the need to stay exposed to the issues (with whatever limited perspective one can have) it is overwhelming. I want to use the energy I have to make differences where it will count most. I am sure that beginning to learn self-reliance by growing food is the way forward. If nothing else, I hope to live a life that may be an example for our posterity that leans in the direction of balance. Sadly, it’s difficult to imagine humans actually helping our natural systems. A morbid thought has been circulating for awhile: the greatest offering we could give the planet is to die off.
Nick Hummingbird’s class has been streaming through my awareness since last week. It was greatly moving. The native people have been horrifically oppressed, and their culture has been largely wiped out; their sense of balance is needed more than ever. I feel compelled to focus on learning native plants and cultivating them. It should be a no-brainer; we can regain lost “wild” nutrition, save water (as they are drought tolerant), and also respect and reconnect with the native environment.
There are a couple of solutions cropping up: bring back the natives and shift value to building community. Some more music around the farm would be fun too! ;0
This week we were graced by the visit of Nick Hummingbird, a descendant of local Native American lineage, who shared with us some of his personal story as well as a great deal of indigenous knowledge, wisdom, and insight. I was again reminded of the terribly unfortunate, sad fate that fell upon the indigenous North Americans at the hands of European conquerors, and I was moved by a sense of deep responsibility to help heal and restore what that which was lost.
I have for some time now been studying forms of perennial agriculture, such as food forestry, which seem to me to be the most sustainable form of growing food that I have heard of or seen. Variations of “food forestry” are apparent in records of indigenous people around the world, from the Amazon, Southeast Asia, Africa, North America, and elsewhere, although they certainly did not call it that. Many anthropologists have suggested that these “horticultural societies,” as they have labeled them, occupied a very long period of human history and may have been a bridge between the classically imagined hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. These societies, which still exist today, were intimately integrated into their natural environments, not only living off the land but actively participating in the management and general stewardship of it. This was certainly true of the native Californians as well. The current political boundaries of the state were and are home to dozens of unique cultural pockets, each with an adaptive strategy to live in productive harmony with the local biosphere. After Nick’s heartfelt talk on the subject, my interest in native flora and fauna has been piqued. Although I knew that native plants would certainly play a part in a Southern Californian perennial or food-forest system of agriculture, they (for whatever reason) did not seem to me to be capable of filling a central role. Now I am interested in learning more about indigenous Californian land management practices and how native plants might be able to play that central role. The oak tree especially comes to mind…
Perhaps the most profound idea I took from Nick’s talk was the idea of a culture of place. The Native Americans lived in different regionally distinct cultures, each molded to the needs and appropriate modes of behavior dictated by that environmental region. The environment, in fact, shaped their way of life. Of course, this is how any and all cultures originally took form, as expressions of the regions that gave birth to them. Human beings, according to the current mainstream anthropological theory, were conceived in Africa and later spread throughout the globe. Being the highly adaptive species that we are, we learned how to live in creative harmony with each specific region, or else were not able to continue. I say ‘creative,’ here, because the dichotomous idea of human adaptation versus human alteration (with regards to the environment), is not exactly true. There is a middle way, exhibited by numerous indigenous cultures, of human integration. They became an integral part of the environment they lived in through an active participation with it, not a total separation from it, a separation occurring either through staunch conservationism or radical exploitation (incidentally, the two ends of the extreme which we now see so often). The environment creates not only the bounds for living, but also the opportunities to engage it. Although among these traditional societies there is a great deal of respect for the divinity of nature, there is also a sense that humans are a part of that sacred dance, and that they play a crucial role in fulfilling its greatest potential; a compliment, not a detriment.
If there is anything wrong with the current society we live in, it is the one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter, cut-and-paste, homogeneous, corporate, monopolized, centralized, globalized approach to life it takes. This “culture,” if it can even be called such, is destroying the true cultural diversity that it espouses to promote. By imposing its ways, beliefs, and attitudes on every other society it comes into contact with, it destroys the natural diversity that is the wellspring of life and human health. If our species was born on a uniformly cemented and sterile planet, perhaps this approach would make sense. But our planet exhibits the most exhilarating variety of topography, geography, climate, flora, fauna, and people. Why should we erase all of that for a vacuous ideals of uniformity, predictability, and standardization? The only possible future we may hope to imagine will be the return to the primacy of culture of place. Although much has been lost, and many wounds still remain in the collective psyche, we may yet form new communities of people, who, although different in background, culture, and knowledge, can create ways of life that respect the environments in which they exist while simultaneously entering again into the active dance of stewardship.
I’ve never had a problem being alone but I’ve realized over the last few years that I have a problem being still.
Part of it comes from being an only child, latch-key kid. I remember when I was young and my parents were working late, I’d turn the TV on to pretend like I wasn’t alone and to mask all the sounds that I immediately assumed were monsters or burglars.
But it’s more than that, of course, since the invention of smartphones I’ve slowly strangled that muscle that made being alone and still magical.
And ever since I realized it was happening, I’ve been trying to work on that muscle, to bring that ability back. But I have to be honest, it’s been hard, y’all! Often when I try to be alone and still, I just can’t get my mind to settle.
It thinks about the things I should be doing instead. It thinks about what it should do after this. It thinks about anything and everything besides being present inside of the body it exists with and within.
I’m most successful at the farm, and I’m trying to carry that over into my life outside of it.
I think that it starts with my way of seeing. At the farm, I can’t just skim and scan the way I’m used to when I’m on a digital device. I have to look deeply and carefully when searching for produce to harvest or checking for pests. Seeing becomes about quality rather than simply quantity.
And the things that I am looking at, I have to look at not just for a moment but over time. Because most of what we do at the farm isn’t instantaneous. I have to actively wait, to be present and still, and see if that leaf curling really is what I think it is and is the solution I found working or is it something else? I have to wait and see if the deep waterings for the Moringa trees are helping to establish them or did the sad, wilting one really not make it (spoiler: it DID make it! Moringas are amazing).
So if you see me out in the fields and I don’t seem to see you or I don’t acknowledge you, please don’t take it personally! I’m probably practicing being present and still. 🙂
Last week Rishi called out, “Guys, come over!” He had a wheelbarrow full of soil, freshly excavated from the plot behind the orchard against the back fence. He explained that it was soil extracted from the composting toilet, where composting worms had been living and doing their duty. Rishi felt the soil and took a deep inhale, saying, “we’re rich!” We smelled it for ourselves and to our relief – it was an odorless and (or not shitty at least) dark-colored soil!
I have been acquainted with composting toilets before and generally embrace the practice of using them. But, it has been raising questions in me: What kinds of animal manures contain pathogens? What can go wrong with the human composting processes? How long have we been composting human waste? Thankfully, we have the internet. And our cyberspace does contain a robust quantity of poop information.
So, composting toilets are generally divided by their temperatures; thermophilic are high-temperature types, while the majority available commercially are low-temperature systems known as “mouldering toilets”. At it’s simplest form, we can collect the waste in a receptacle and add it to our compost pile (thermophilic). This can only work in locations where there is land to hold the outdoor composting unit and with someone who is willing to handle the waste… And most people today want nothing to do with the backside of their system (literally). The term fecophobic that has been created to describe those with no tolerance for the use of human waste as compost in general and especially for compost used to grow food. The root of this phobia is what I have been seeking. Every fear derives from some “bad” experience. Interestingly, in the Chinese language there is no derogatory word for feces like ‘shit’ in English. Although there has been a history of composting toilets depicted for ancient China, there is no evidence of such practices. According to a report from a hygienic committee in Shantung China, there were only three techniques for human waste management recorded in China. There was a method of drying (nitrogen depleting), applying it raw to crops and feeding it to pigs, the latter two have shown to be unsanitary. The oldest type of composting toilets were the Vietnam Double Vault, installed in rural Vietnam in the 1950’s to improve rural hygiene.
Human feces have the potential to cause disease-causing microorganisms (pathogens), the likelihood of which is directly related to the health of the humans the feces derive from. The pathogens need a host, or similar conditions to the host (such as temperature) to thrive. Therefore, to eliminate the risk of an outbreak, the waste must reach temperatures well above a normal internal human temperature or for a length of time beyond the lifespan of the pathogens. Thermophilic composting has the greatest certainty of eliminating the pathogens. I was curious about how diseases can proliferate, and read about the Disease Triangle. The Disease Triangle describes the three conditions necessary for a disease to spread. The pathogen is one of the players, and they need a host to replicate in the right environment. When these three factors combine, the pathogen can thrive.
So, a bit of research has confirmed for me that there is no reason to fear using our waste for compost. If we follow the guidelines for the needed duration of time and temperature to allow any potential pathogens to subside, we find ourselves rich with healthy and useable soil. The phobia is indicative of our disconnection with the natural processes we are participating in, whether we choose to embrace or not. Let’s choose embrace!
Every day I am learning how to let go. I am learning how to accept that which I cannot change, even though I so wish to do so. I am learning how to listen to myself, to let my true nature be what it will. I cannot force things ahead of their time; everything unfolds when it is ready. Transcendence of death can only be achieved by the full acceptance of it, and in a similar way, transcendence of life can only be achieved by an equal acceptance. In so many ways, I have been taught to dictate my life, to decide when and where and how the energy of my being should express itself. The teacher was often myself, or a part of me from which the origin is as mysterious to me as the cosmos, but which nevertheless I took part in. Could it be possible that there is nothing to teach? Could it be possible that my own being, in all its imperfection and confusion, is already complete? Is it possible that by enforcing and holding myself to the standards and ambitions of my finite intellect, to the ends of progressing and improving my state, that I will find no better way of impeding it?
More and more, I realize, the goals and accomplishments I wish to achieve will not be found through ardent self-discipline, bullheaded thinking, or pious denial of my own limitations and true nature. It will be found, rather, in the full embrace of my true life force, the energy which fills me and propels me through this matrix of reality. If it does not ring true to the very core of my being, it is not God’s will. If I must masochistically endure self-imposed structure to achieve an end, it is not the Tao. If I must sacrifice my soul for the future “good,” I am only selling it to the devil, and that future will only ever be an energetic dead end. The way forward is here. The key to the future is the present moment. The beginning of all growth is peace.
How much of today’s problems are created in an attempt to escape yesterdays? How much of the suffering so pervasive in our society is self-created? Perhaps the solution to our modern predicament is not a solution at all, but rather an acceptance. Perhaps solutions are the real problem. Our lives are already filled with solutions. Solutions for this, solutions for that. But solutions beget problems, and vice versa. Once your mind is oriented in this dichotomy, all you will ever see in life are problems, inadequacies. Yesterday’s progress becomes today’s anachronism. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” the saying goes. How much of the world have we tried to “fix?”
This is not to say that there is no good and bad in the world, that there is no difference between right and wrong, or that life is futile. Rather, I am insisting that the only “right” way of living life, the only true way to any real growth, is by letting go of your need to control its direction. There is a path, a purpose, a higher thing which we are all meant to become, but only in total faith of our cosmic, divine being, in total trust of the self, will it be found.