Finding Roots


As we walked by the dining room, the sounds of thirty young men chanting “Ram Yam Kham, Om Ah Hum” with their deep resonant voices came flowing through the windows. The sound went down into my heart and I stood there shaking. We three, twenty year old girls had been trying to “find” where the men hung out in this monastery. Not understanding why these gorgeous,sensitive, burley, men weren’t looking for us . They were so different and unexpected. We had no warnings to stay away from them and had no experience of men that paid us so little mind.

Invited to Odiyan by the patron to help plant an area we had never seen before even in pictures. It was already disconcerting enough to just drive the windy coastline up, seeing almost no cars. On and on we went finally getting really scared when after an hour of no cars, a jeep drives by with about six big men in it, most with guns pointing up into the sky. Where were we ? Where were we going ? Finally a glimpse of what looked like an out of this world UFO, The white Stupa over on the hillside and some views of a shiny copper roof.

This first view of there, now thirty one years later, has stayed in my mind and the sound of the men chanting has stayed in my heart. I found my roots there and a community much like what the farming communities of old knew instinctively. How to work together, how to believe in oneself and my abilities. To gain confidence from hands on work and jobs accomplished from start to finish. Moral ethics required to live in a small community with integrity . What I was looking for in my culture, a sense of place and purpose and of participation in something larger, was all found here. But I still wonder how to instill it in my world and my children’s world now.

What we have lost through the decimation of rural culture and livelihood is enormous. No wonder teenagers are tattooing themselves and piercing their entire bodies. The world of TV, video games and texting has not given them a culture to interface with, only a cloud culture and no ground. The confidence to drive tractors and do important tasks that support the family and the communities well being. The moral character to represent their family and community. The entrepreneurial experience to start small industry and the creativity and problem solving ability necessary in rural life. America has represented this spirit
and creative, innovative genius, yet now has turned it’s back on what it takes to develop it in our culture. Come back to some ground and plant some vegetables, cook most of your meals, don’t buy processed goods shipped hundreds of miles.Teach your kids to cook and use local fresh ingredients. Buy enough from your local farmer to support their efforts. Say through your actions that you want this rural culture to be alive . Maybe we can bring back a community spirit that will inspire our children and give them the roots to succeed .

Food Sovereignty

We have the right to eat what we want, right ? No we certainly don’t . It is not the governments job to “protect” us from the choices we want to make. If I want to buy some milk from my local dairy it should be my choice, the Farmer should not go to jail for selling it to me. This is just protecting the big corporations from competition, even us little tiny guys.

Bring back rural economy, freedom to consume what we choose.

Help our alternative county, sign this Food Freedom petition.

http://www.mendopendence.com/2011/09/16/sign-petition-to-the-mendocino-county-board-of-supervisors-a-right-to-food-of-our-choice/

Thanksgiving-All local, home grown

This year we decided to host our families Thanksgiving Dinner. It didn’t matter that we did not have a big enough space to sit 25 people, much less a warm space to even get that many people inside.The most we’ve ever squished around our table was 10 and it was very difficult to crawl in and out of the kitchen then. We would just have to build it.

So began our January of this year. Trading for services, since we didn’t have the money. Cutting trees, milling the siding and wood for a table, doors and eventually cabinets( not by Thanksgiving). We started to close in the large roofed area where the oven is. Adding the sink and creating a space to make the bread and cook near our baking oven. Slowly arising out of the ashes and sawdust, a room took shape. We now also, through the help of a good friend, joined our wood slabs together to build a large table 11.5 feet long. The benches are still in the works as are the doors.

Lately the momentum of our farm has almost swept us away. We tried hard to keep this year focused on two projects, fencing a larger garden in and hopefully readying it to plant for this year ( also making a huge mountain of compost to amend our sandy virgin soil ); Then the oven area getting walls and warm for our crowd on Turkey day.

The adventures and stories involved in all this and the people who have helped it to happen this year could fill a book. But thanks to Chris San Giovanni, Amie Heath, Drew and Corina Common, Katie Norton and Margarita, Bobby Smith milling our wood, Bob Askew for making our Table.My sister Annie Woods for the Tablecloth and silverware and design vision. But mostly my husband Dennis for his constant support and willingly putting up with me.

Then came the food, it was almost easy to look past this part and just figure we’d eat bread. So growing now in the garden are two large beds of purple onions, a long bed 4×40′ of potatoes red, russets and yukon golds. We’ve ordered three turkeys through Mendocino organics CSA http://mendoorganicscsa.com/. The free range birds will not be as large as the commercially raised birds.The butternut squash is starting to get harvested as well as the acorn and delicata squash. The pumpkins are very small and I hope I have enough warm weather to get them to develop. Although I just found a wonderful pie recipe using butternut squash. Lettuces are in. It’s probably too late for more beets than we already have in the ground. Although I’m going to try for some carrots in the next couple of days. Parsnips, parsley, thyme are in the ground and romanesco broccolli are doing well. Peas are planted and starting up the fence and another bed in flower in the garden. Food has not been the hard part.

We’ve come a long way. The reality of trying to create takes a huge effort, like birthing a baby each time a new thing is created. At a certain point if you are doing good work your one step towards God is matched by his nine steps back towards you. The first step is the hardest but the bounty and abundance of the response is all worth it.

Ethics and Morals in eating Meat

Tomorrow we are going to butcher four Moscovy ducks at our place here.

It brought up different reactions in each of us. It was a request of our budding chef, volunteer Katie, who wants to learn as much about Farm to Table as she can. She saw nothing wrong with killing an animal to eat it, since she has made the choice to eat meat. Our other volunteer Margarita, who has witnessed home butchering, felt only sympathy for the animals. Me, the one who as a Buddhist has not killed any animals for many years, ( although I do throw slugs and snails to the chickens, then they can kill them) has considered this a lot.

Because we are a meat eating family, especially my husband, we eat grass fed, local animals, that I know have been raised humanely and kindly. Yet because I believe in the Biodynamic principles of gardening, and the value of animal manures in the compost to enrich the soil, is very important to me. It inherently brings with it the dilemma of animals whose value is no longer meeting the farming needs; and the old chicken that is no longer producing eggs needs to go into the soup pot. So that said, I knew I’d be sometime facing this moment. I’m going to see how it goes.

We then got on the discussion that taking another life creates violence within us. Then on the topic of guns. Which Katie abhorred, Margarita thought looked cute as a decoration and that I had to live with in my gun collecting Vietnam Vet husband.

Since keeping animals, especially for milk or dairy, brings with it the inevitability of babies born that won’t stay or have a long term place on the farm. The question arises as to how to humanely live a self sufficient lifestyle. Treating animals with respect and kindness and with careful husbandry is first and foremost to me. But the sanctuary I worked in seems to not fit here, and supporting animals that have outlived their usefulness is not smart farming.

The next question is whether we will put their viscera, blood and feathers on the compost pile? Are we not getting back to the roots of organic and traditional farming ? Shall I start to pick up fish heads and guts from the pier ? Why not, I regularly buy fish meal and blood meal containing fertilizers. Especially since I’ve realized that even though I was buying “organic” chicken manure, for gardens I was working in, it didn’t mean the chickens had been fed an organic diet. So therefore the manure bags were polluting my gardens with antibiotics and fly spray and the round up sprayed on the GMO corn.

Self Sufficiency Is Hard Work

So five years into building our farm and working outside to afford our farm. Plus living a self sufficient life, living off grid while doing this. Growing the majority of our food year round . Wildcrafting for local fruit; blackberries, huckleberries made into jams and frozen for mid winter feasting. Bartering and trading for anything from salmon and local rock fish, even abalone to lamb and goat cheese also lemons and wine. Our half a beef and the wild pig Dennis shot carrying us through. I find our meals to have become more and more gourmet and inspired. Needing abundant creativity and a very diverse garden to keep the meals interesting.

More and more I read and think about traditional lifestyles in rural France and Italy. How local food markets were based on a high standard and a reputation you didn’t want to ruin by offering a lesser grade product. Our tastes here in America have been ruined by old food overly processed, too much sugar and salt, not to mention mold . It will take careful eating practices to regain our taste buds in favor of fresh foods. I noticed I wasn’t that interested in vegetables; they didn’t seem to have any flavor. My kids too now love vegetables because they are fresh and flavorful. Growing traditional heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruits, brings back subtle flavors lost in our current market produce, grown for shelf life and ship-ability.

The work day is long and hard but the richness and integrity of living this type of life is so abundant . The pay is little for what we are producing but what we need is coming and a feeling of working within a community is developing. Doing good work trying to be kind to each other is bringing us closer and we all help to make this vision develop .