Blog

The Sacredness of the Seed

Recently, I was listening to a lovely man discuss the plans for his upcoming back yard garden. It sounded really impressive! Compost turning barrels, raised beds with custom soil ingredients, test kits, electric fences, seed sprouting stuff, specially imported worms & beneficial buggies, red mulches and black mulches and row covers OH MY! I felt rather overwhelmed at this ginormous (LOVE that word!) garden event. I asked him what he thought the cost would be. “Oh well”, he said, “You know the anecdote about the $64 tomato!”

Turns out he really gardens as a hobby. Something to get into on a Saturday afternoon. He recognized that with the complexities of his garden system his food it not really economical. And wonderful for him! Any time spent with Gaia is healing time. Just stick your fingers in some dirt for a few hours, you’ll see…

But this got me thinking. We are all painfully aware of the high cost of organic fruits and veggies. Quite frankly, I do my best but cannot myself buy 100% organic due to the exhorbitant costs. But what about we gardeners and gardener wanna be’s that would like to save some money and eat vibrantly healthy food? Does a homegrown tomato REALLY have to cost $64? The answer is no. No indeed. I know this from years of partnership with the dirt I have ownership papers on. Well, the bank and I. Yes, I mean my yard.

My Dad taught me how to garden. My Dad was a quiet, gentle man, with an occasional tendency toward surliness. Dad and I would work in the garden together after school. I confess my siblings and I were not very gracious about eating the harvest. My Mom didn’t know to look for cabbage worms in the broccoli heads and served them both to us one night. That was the end of our desire for garden foods. Such is the attitude of the abundantly well fed, yes? In those days, we used 7-dust (HORROR!) for pest control. It worked about as well as my organic bug control methods do today. Only we just didn’t know then. We trusted that it was good and OK and even better that what Nature (that unreliable wench) could do for us.

We humans complicate things. It is in our nature. Part of our modus operandi. Why do we do this? I have my theories. I can sum them all up in one word, really. Ego. That urge to matter, to be greater than the rest, to rise above the crowd, to have control in a frighteningly uncontrollable world. It’s OK, that’s how we roll. Our ego serves a really good purpose. But there is a huge relief and release in being freed from the ego, even if just for moments.

Which brings me to my topic. The sacred and magical power of the seed. Every year, as I kneel down upon the dirt, head bowed as I plant, I am truly humbled by the seed. Some of them are so small I can barely see them. And in that seed is a miracle of abundance. A summer full of food. If I wish, jars more in the pantry & freezer. And all I really need to do… is stick it in the ground. Really. Earth will do the rest. She does it all over the place- just look around. Sitting, dirty and tired on the Earth, after a day of planting I feel whole, somehow. For me, gardening is a partnership with Gaia. Holding those tiny seeds and knowing from years of practice that they will feed me, my neighbors, my animals, and maybe even you. You, who also started from a tiny seed. The practice of gardening puts things into perspective for me. Especially if I keep it simple and don’t overexcite my ego-mind with shiny garden-toys that promise to do better than Nature has been doing for millenia…

I have a garden partnership every year on my borrowed dirt. Seven 4×8 raised beds, which make more food than I can eat or sell or give away. I also plant herbs in various spots around the farmita. With these herbs I make medicine and nutritious products like herb infused vinegars, cordials and honeys. A garden does not have to be huge to feed your family. I promise. You can plant a garden for very little cash. Let me share some of my frugal and simple ways to plant.

Use raised beds. They keep things easy. Don’t over-think this. Lumber screwed together into a rectangle. Cinder blocks are great too because you can plant pretty wild flowers in the holes. Wild flowers attract beneficial insects. That’s right- no need to buy them. They grow right in your yard. Line the bottom of the raised beds with pads of newspaper about 1/2″ thick. This blocks weeds from below but allows roots of your plants to sink into deeper earth.  If you don’t have any dirt you can put in the beds, start with peat moss, poop and compost. Start in early Spring or late Fall so that this mix has time to mature. Lets say…  a minimum 5 to 6 inches of total soil. This is OK to start with- don’t worry you’ll make more every year.  Mostly peat, a thin layer of poop, and some compost.  I must tell you, you can NEVER have too much compost. Oh yeah- the poop. Horse, cow, chicken or goat that has sat around for a while. Really, you don’t need much- a 1 inch layer will do. Too much poop is not good- it can burn your seedlings and the Earth may not have enough time to deactivate the bacteria in a deep layer of poo. You know someone who knows someone who has LOTS of poop they would like to get rid of.  Layer these ingredients, no need to get all sweaty and frantic mixing, and cover with a thick mulch of straw.

I use straw for mulch. Not hay- that will sprout. Had that happen SHEESH what a mess. Straw used to be really cheap. Now you have to search around to get it for $3 to $5 a bale. No worries though- a bale goes a long way and the straw can be reused. Old straw is great because it decomposes and enriches your soil. Pile 4 to 6 inches of straw all over your bed(s) and just make holes or rows to plant in. Great weed control and moisture control. Simple. Not shiny, simple.

Compost. You might have to buy compost this year if you don’t have any. It comes in bags. But seriously, make your own. Please try not to panic about compost. Here, too, Nature does most of the work if you let her. Look around your yard and find some material to make a container with. This should not be air tight. I use heavy guage fence material, make a circle with it, and use those plastic hand-cuff things that hold so well to close the circle. I have also used 4 wood pallets stood on end and tied together. They make a great size and you can often get pallets for free. Any material that allows air flow is fine. Then put stuff in it. I put leaves, grass, and kitchen scraps that my chickens won’t eat into my compost pile. I also put surplus poo in there. I never put garden and lawn weeds in my compost pile intentionally.  I NEVER worry about the ratio of brown to green or any of that stuff! Nature knows how to rot stuff! Every year, I open the fence, and scoop out the rich dark soil from the bottom. I fluff up the rest and it’s ready to rot for the season. I use whatever Nature has blessed me with at the bottom. It is always enough.

Bugs. Nature insists she will feed ALL her children, not just you. Surrender to that from the start and you’ll do better with the bugs. I have tried all the organic sprays and powders and will tell you that my home made controls work just as well- or better. Here they are. Dish soap in a hose end sprayer. Buy the dollar store soap. It kills aphids, worms, all the soft bodied bugs. Coat the plants with it- don’t forget the underside of the leaves. Wood ashes in a ring around tender seedlings keeps slugs & ants away. Hand picking. Yup that’s right. Put on gloves if you like, fill a jar with hot soapy water, and pick ’em off. If you must have something stronger, try Gardens Alive for their product PYOLA. I do keep a bottle around but use it sparingly.

Weeds. Hand pull them, it is a form of meditation. Eat them, many of them are more nutritious than what you are growing in the garden. If you feel the need for Round Up- DON’T. It is deadly. Just smell it, your body will tell you. I use a propane weed burner. You can find one on Amazon- Weed Dragon. Instant results that last as long as weed killers and take the same amount of time to apply.

Finally, know this, friends. You are really not in charge. No matter how many gadgets, chemicals and sprays you use. Gardening will teach you this, will destroy your ego. Nature is wise beyond our understanding. One year there will be drought. Next year too much rain. Some seasons the bugs will make you simply mad. Then there is that little fawn who, like you, was watching for just the perfect ripeness to eat the soy beans. Surrender to the process and let Nature teach you her ways. She will gently, patiently teach you the sacredness of the seed.

A Truth… and nothing but a truth

Recently, a Facebook friend posted one of my favorite Kahlil Gibran quotes. It comes from the mystical book “The Prophet”, and is an excerpt from the poem entitled “Self Knowledge”.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.” 

And, as often happens when I read anything from Gibran, my attention was taken, again, by this quote as I pondered it’s deep meaning. Recently, one of my Guides reminded me that all streams flow, directly or eventually, back to the ocean; and all paths lead, directly or eventually, back to Source.

“Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth.”

There are so many ways to experience truths. We live in an abundant Universe. I often think about of all the fascinating beliefs & teachings that I have experienced that are in direct conflict with my own beliefs & teachings. Finding a path that speaks deeply to the heart, and immersing the self in that path by learning the practices and doctrines of that path is a way back to Source.

“I am ignorant of absolute truth. But I am humble before my ignorance and therein lies my honor and my reward.”

But there is also danger in becoming too attached to my truths. Think, if you will, of the parable of the blind men who are asked to describe the nature of an elephant by each exploring just a small part of the elephant whole. Think also of all the chaos and conflict through humankind’s history caused by strong attachment to belief in The Truth. When I become certain that I know The Truth, I have closed myself to exploring any of the uncountable truths in the Universe; I have opened myself to certain conflict with others.

“You are blind and I am deaf and dumb, so let us touch hands and understand.”

If all paths truly lead back to Source (directly or eventually), then each of you is a fellow traveler, walking your own Journey to Mecca. Your experiences, beliefs, degrees, trainings, opinions and religions are a piece of the Universal whole.

“Some of us are like ink and some like paper. And if it were not for the blackness of some of us, some of us would be dumb; and if it were not for the whiteness of some of us, some of us would be blind.”

As we meet on our Journey, I pray that I have the wisdom to listen to and accept your truths. And I hope you do the same for me. And that we will be gentle with each other, accepting the gifts of the shared human experience. And together we will discover the truths of the Universe.

“It takes two of us to discover truth: one to utter it and one to understand it.”

 

All the delicious quotes & artwork are by Kahlil Gibran.

Of Mountains and Meditation

2011 was a heck of a year. By November, I was exhausted physically, mentally & spiritually. By mid December, I was wondering how I would get through each day. One of the most common things I ask people to do during herbal consultations is… “give yourself a break when you need it.” Time for a break.

HibernationWinter is a time for hibernation. It is the cycle of Earth, and we are of the Earth. Why, then, I wonder every year, do we gear up our activity beginning in November? This year’s energy seemed even more frenetic to me than most…

I often take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off. It is an appropriate time to rest, and less is going on in the business world than usual.

Aengus in his vestDespite tight finances- a sign of our times it seems- I decided to take a solo retreat to Natural Bridge, VA. My plan was to rest, hike, meditate and refresh. Well… not quite solo I suppose. My sweet terrier Aengus McKee came along with absolute unbridled delight. And a new highway-cone-orange vest. And his Christmas present- a purple squeaky cow. He is a most cheerful traveler and hiker, quite the athlete. Wonder how he came to be mine… Or I to be his…

I won’t bore you with a day-by-day dialogue of my 4 day trip. I’ll get straight to the good stuff. Or the top, as the case may be. Wednesday, December 28th dawned bright, clear and cold. Aengus and I were packed, fed and ready to go by 10am, after it had warmed up a bit. Our destination? Devil’s Marbleyard, a 8.3 mile loop in the Jefferson National Forest. Details and a map can be found where  I found them- HikingUpward.com,  a most excellent hiking site for the Mid Atlantic area.

We drove a few miles to the trail head, and got right to it. Despite the chilly temperature (weatherman said windchill would keep it feeling like 30 degrees all day), the sun was out and the air was dry. Soon I was working up a sweat.

The first 2 miles were a constant ascent. I panted my way up, past and over lovely creeks to the marbleyard. Quite impressive, with boulders as large as trucks in places. Look at the right edge, near the top of the photo. That’s a man in a blue jacket- that small dark spot.. Good frame of reference. To the right of this huge pile of boulders is a very steep, rocky trail, bordered on the right by a stream. Lovely. Exhausting. Aengus and I climbed sometimes straight up, hand over hand. Once with him tucked against my chest because he couldn’t quite make it over a wet, slippery rock.

Hound GuideAt the top of the marbleyard, the trail continued steeply upward. It is at this point that a handsome hound dog, decked out in a GPS & radio collar, joined us on the trail. This dog was very calm, with a quiet serenity in his brown eyes. He did little of the typical dog thing- no excited jumping about or greeting of Aengus. He simply approached me, gazed up at me with steady eyes, and waited as I reached out to pat his head. Once through that formaility, he turned and led the way up the trail, staying just within sight and stopping to look back and patiently wait for us, for about a mile. Finally, he slipped away into the woods and I met nobody else- two or four legged- for the rest of my hike.

Finally, I reached the top of the ridge where the AT and Gunthers Trail intersect. Tired & sweaty, I stopped to rest a moment at this open junction. A fire ring and some downed logs surrounding the ring showed that backpackers camp in this clearing. A handy sign pointed to the AT trail ———> to the right and Gunther’s Trail <————-  to the left.

Only… I couldn’t FIND my trail, Gunther’s trail. The AT trail, to the right, was clearly there. To the left, there appeared to be a trail, past the camp. But it disappeared into the undergrowth, never to reappear. Aengus and I crashed through the leaves and stumbled over rocks, hoping the trail would reappear. No trail. My printed map indicated that it was an unmarked trail (meaning no blazes on trees as a guide) and I became worried. What if I lost sight of the clearing? I could get lost. Should I give up on my journey and simply back track down? Was I just being silly and the trail was close by? Three times I returned to the trail sign at the clearing, three times I set off leftward, as the sign indicated, hoping to find the trail. Finally, frustrated and tired, I sat down on a log in the camp.

My mind was in an uproar. My body was tired and sweaty. My dog was annoyed. Aengus is an “onward” kinda guy, and my inability to decide ‘which way’ didn’t sit well with him. His motto might be “I’ll rest when I’m dead”. I got quiet. I went inward. I soothed the mad voices of my ego-brain into reluctant silence. I asked for Guidance.

It occurred to me that this was an exact illustration of my recent life. Climb, pant, sweat, crash onward, lose my Path. Crash some more. Become frustrated. Back track. Ego-mind screaming “What the heck am I doing wrong where is the @#%&* PATH! It should be RIGHT HERE!” And then finally, finally, surrendering the reins of my Ride to a Higher Power.

“Help me to see the path” I quietly asked as I turned inward, into the pool of connectedness and knowledge. I stood and surveyed the clearing with softly opened eyes. “Help me to see the path” I asked again. I felt drawn to look again at the topographic map stuffed in my coat pocket. I looked at it calmly. An awareness opened within me. The path does not appear to be going along the ridge, as the pointing arrow indicates. It appears to cross a gently downward sloping area first. I turned slowly in a circle. The only ground that looked to be gently sloping was BEHIND the sign. Not to the left. Not to the right. I walked behind the sign, then a little further, a little more. And there it was. I saw it come into focus, like magic. It was clear, no question, that this was the trail. I laughed and gave thanks to my Guidance. And started down my path (and Path) again.

I spent the rest of this magnificent hike in deep meditation and communication with my Guidance, and in pure awe of the beauty of our planet. As I surrendered to the quiet power of Gaia, my ego-mind became quiet and my heart was opened. In this place of surrender, I received answers to many of the questions that had been worrying me of late. If you like, for a moment, quiet your mind, take a slow deep breath, soften your heart, and join me for these last few miles… I’ll meet you in the Field, friend.

 

 

Chair-Entity of the Board

Recently, as many of you have undoubtedly noticed, I have been working to improve the visibility of that part of my life that helps me to pay the mortgage. I could simply have said here: “Building my business” or “Increasing my marketability”. And those things would have some truth. But today, as I pondered this part of my Journey, I realized that I have something to express that is not clearly, cleanly encompassed by those familiar phrases.

(One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice–)

I have spent a great deal of these last 15 years looking closely at my life and deciding what works and what does not. What has been success and what has been failure. Not always an easy, comfortable or pleasant Journey. One which has often had me feeling squirmings and crunchings in my belly.

(though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried.)

It is no longer possible for me to differentiate my “job” from my “Journey”. For me, a Journey is a path of light, often visible only to the Journeyor. And truly, what else is there? My job on this planet, in this lifetime, is to become aware of my Spirit-lighted path and to walk it. Simply. Only. It is not my job to look for, worry about or judge any Path but my own. Or to seek from others acceptance of my Path.

(But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible.)

And yet… I live here, on a material planet, full of bills, responsibilties & social paradigms. And what a siren song this social media soup! What sweet & sugary snacks, these apps & shiny glossy high tech toys! What tangy teases, the apparent successes of others!  “Draw me a map!”, I say, “Show me how it is done!” I shout, “Give me your secrets, oh Wise Ones!” I implore, gleefully, as though those things were winning lottery tickets that I could have if only I got the RIGHT sequence… pattern… people… places… look… group… identity…

Good Goddess, tie me to the mast. Please.

(It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind,)

There is a balance. I am a child of Light & Earth combined. I live on a material plane, kept safe by the necessary, annoying and ever present voice of Ego. Striving for my entire life toward that Bright Light of the Creator, with my feet anchored firmly on sweet Mother Earth. I am duality. I am something not completely of Light or Earth, but a new thing that celebrates & makes manifest the Sacred Union of both.

(the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own,)

 It is very important to have the support, advise and affirmations of others. To surround myself with those whose lives I strive to entrain with. Important to look at the Journey of those who are on some part of the Spiral where I (think) I wish to be.

(that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do–)

But I cannot forget, lest I lose the Light that guides my Path, that the Chairman Chair-Entity of the Board lives within myself, whispering quietly, patiently, sweetly. And only I can hear it, and only for myself. And that finally… It’s the Journey inward that really counts.

(determined to save the only life you could save.)

 

Many thanks to Mary Oliver, unwitting and unknowing member of my board, for the poem within this blog- “The Journey”

It’s the Journey…

Here we are. A blog. My small business consultant said I need to blog. I wonder… does the world need another blog? Does anybody READ these things?

Well, after all, I am paying her for her expertise.

So welcome to my blog. I shall tell you about herbs and chickens… healing and honey bees. We will cook wild weeds and ponder wild thoughts. We will make tinctures and hold workshops. And hopefully you will actually READ this thing.

By the way- need your own small business consultant? www.swallowtailconsulting.com and tell her Kristen sent you. But read my blog first. She will be so pleased 😉