Home page: https://sites.google.com/view/risabear.
Soto Zen service and sitting, very informal, 7:15 pm PST most Sundays through Thursdays, available on Zoom.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The bullying ticket

Okay, so January -- I just wrote a blog post, my longest one ever, and then put it aside for now -- analyzing how civilization maybe organizes around the invention of granaries and how granaries tend to attract bullies, and how bullies attract henchmen with sharp objects, and you get the whole multi-level marketing scheme that has privatized food, water, heat, travel, etc. called class. That a dollar bill is a promissory note that could be called a bullying ticket -- with a dollar (or any currency) you get to bump somebody out of line just because they don't have one.

Hence the interest that some teachers, such as Jesus, Shakyamuni, Francis, Merton, Tolstoy, Gandhi, etc. had in voluntary poverty. Staying, to the extent possible, away from money helps one back away from directly supporting the world-building delusions of authoritarians.

This analysis is obviously not helpful to those living in their cars right now against their will, and maybe some effort put into regulation -- low-income housing, say -- will be helpful in the short run, but there it is: the nonprofits and agencies doing that work are swimming upstream in the stomach acids of the beast.

So you see how thinking about things like food and water can get really "political" in a social-media hurry. Everything is political, but there is no faster way to have those who might need to hear a thing cover up their ears than to sit down across from them and start talking current events and policy issues -- who is getting to bully whom just now, and how that came about, and ways to mitigate perceived abuses.

Which your unwilling audience knows is a time-waster to listen to, because ain't gonna happen any time soon.

So I've tossed that voluminous, extensively thought out and heavily annotated screed, at least for now, and will just make this suggestion: look into democratically managed cooperatives. They're not a magic bullet but they can be hard on the plans teflon-coated bullies may have for you. Also if you can give away something someone might otherwise be forced to buy, please do consider it.

:::

I like to eat off the neighborhood fence lines and the home place to the extent possible, given my cranky body and the deteriorating weather patterns. What do we have here right now?

Lettuce has flourished right through the darkest part of our Northern Hemisphere year. But we didn't put in all that much of it, so we have reserved it as treats for the guard goose, Suannah, who is now twelve years old and walks with a bit of a list, like I do.


Most kale has gone to the chickens, but there's still enough for substantial additions to soups and stews.


We could have fall-planted more chard than we did, but we're not complaining.


Beets have held up well, but I think we direct planted them too close and neglected to thin. I think we do a little better with them in four inch pots, one plant to the pot, set out at six inch intervals.


The red onions bulbed up fine but they are not my thing -- I react to them, but I do okay with just the greens.


To me the star of winter in the beds is the leeks. 


While I for one could sort of take or leave the flavor, I appreciate how they vanish into whatever I'm doing with roots and grains and so on, and it's good to be able to have fresh alliums in the winter, I think.


Winter stuff looks a little ragged when you bring it in, and has to be washed and picked at a bit before it's ready for consumption. But I find it rewarding just to be able, even for one meal, this one morning, to go on strike against the bullying ticket.

Do not arouse disdainful mind when you prepare a broth of wild grasses; do not arouse joyful mind when you prepare a fine cream soup. Where there is no discrimination, how can there be distaste?

— Dogen (tr. Tanahashi)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Also it is no less



Lest anyone practicing other practices be concerned, I don't, or I hope I don't, push Zen as a religious faith. I like facts. There seems to me to be some facts around Zen. So I'm looking into them. I think of myself as kind of an investigative reporter.

I'm of the notion that the present moment is all-inclusively authentic, and can be made to appear to be inauthentic only through delusion, or the will to inauthenticity (which takes place within authenticity -- a form of self-abnegation, if you will).

A flower is a flower, you are you, but also you, beholding a flower, are both you and the flower (also not you and not the flower but that gets needlessly complicated for a blog post).

If you bow to the flower in a ceremonial way, in this moment the bow is authentic and alive, like (and inclusive of) you and the flower. That's my provisional ontology, subject to revision or refutation as evidence arises.

And as there is (IMHO) only ever the present, there's no way you can bow to the flower without the whole universe also doing so, for the universe has a different shape than it would have, were you not bowing, and this is true in both directions: the universe at its inception is the one in which you (will) bow, and at its end is the one in which you bow(ed).

Here's the thing: pick a religious observance, such as the Christian communion. The glass (perhaps containing port, or Welch's grape juice -- I grew up with the latter) is raised, the pastor or priest or whomever quotes "drink this in remembrance of Me" and, well, down the hatch.

This too is a living gesture in the present that has no beginning and no end, and includes you, the other communicants present, all other communicants, the street on which the church building is placed, and the homeless person in the alley behind the church. It transcends (tricky word but let's go with it) what we call time, such that we are present at the original Last Supper, and also at the last Last Supper.

So, that's part of my current take on why I am attracted to interpath dialogue.

But also (again IMHO), secularity is no escape from this ontology; some of us woo-woo types sometimes say things to the effect is "nothing is sacred and everything is sacred" -- often with a little laugh, perhaps hoping not to be burned at the stake -- but, though we may fervently apply Occam's Razor to our fullest Hitchensian extent, a flower may be no more than a flower, but also it is no less.




この法は、人々の分上にゆたかにそなわれりといえども、いまだ修せざるにはあらはれず、証せざ るにはうるこ となし

"This Dharma is abundantly present in each human being, but if we do not practice it, it does not manifest itself, and if we do not experience it, it cannot be realized." (Dogen, Bendowa tr. Nishijima and Cross)



Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The unlimited accumulation of wealth

Guest post by Plato (428-438 BCE approx., The Republic, Book II, Jowett tr. Emphases added).

[Socrates] .... let us then consider, first of all, what will be their way of life, now that we have thus established them. Will they not produce corn, and wine, and clothes, and shoes, and build houses for themselves? And when they are housed, they will work, in summer, commonly, stripped and barefoot, but in winter substantially clothed and shod. They will feed on barley-meal and flour of wheat, baking and kneading them, making noble cakes and loaves; these they will serve up on a mat of reeds or on clean leaves, themselves reclining the while upon beds strewn with yew or myrtle. And they and their children will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made, wearing garlands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods, in happy converse with one another. And they will take care that their families do not exceed their means ....

[Glaucon] Yes, Socrates, he said, and if you were providing for a city of pigs, how else would you feed the beasts?

But what would you have, Glaucon? I replied.

Why, he said, you should give them the ordinary conveniences of life. People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on sofas, and dine off tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in the modern style.

Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is created; and possibly there is no harm in this, for in such a State we shall be more likely to see how justice and injustice originate. In my opinion the true and healthy constitution of the State is the one which I have described. But if you wish also to see a State at fever heat, I have no objection. For I suspect that many will not be satisfied with the simpler way. They will be for adding sofas, and tables, and other furniture; also dainties, and perfumes, and incense, and courtesans, and cakes, all these not of one sort only, but in every variety; we must go beyond the necessaries of which I was at first speaking, such as houses, and clothes, and shoes: the arts of the painter and the embroiderer will have to be set in motion, and gold and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured.

True, he said.

Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State is no longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with a multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want; such as the whole tribe of hunters and actors, of whom one large class have to do with forms and colours; another will be the votaries of music --poets and their attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, contractors; also makers of divers kinds of articles, including women's dresses. And we shall want more servants. Will not tutors be also in request, and nurses wet and dry, tirewomen and barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and swineherds, too, who were not needed and therefore had no place in the former edition of our State, but are needed now? They must not be forgotten: and there will be animals of many other kinds, if people eat them.

Certainly.

And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians than before?

Much greater.

And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants will be too small now, and not enough?

Quite true.

Then a slice of our neighbours' land will be wanted by us for pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?

That, Socrates, will be inevitable.

And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?


:::

This year’s crop isn’t ripe yet.
Last year’s grain’s all gone.
So out I go to beg a peck;
outside the gate, I was on one foot, then the other.
The husband came out and said, “Best ask my wife.”
The wife came out and said, “Ask the old man.”
Hearts hard as that . . .
Wealth itself is a great misfortune.

-- Han Shan (Cold Mountain, Tr. Seaton)

Sunday, January 05, 2020

And perhaps even find yourself happy

This repost is not about economic inequity. It may serve however to alleviate some symptoms of it for some.

I recognize there are compelling reasons why nine out of ten of us are still in town and that's not likely to change much ("Lord knows, I tried," weeps the country blogista), so let's talk about urban simplicity.

Let's assume that you have work. Big assumption right now, I know. If you're running out of unemployment, it might be time to think about making some work. Grab a copy of Small Time Operator and start selling something you can make or do. Because rule one in spending less than your income is have an income. Even if you're a vegetarian selling hot dogs.

Aside from disasters (and you've done your minimum preps for those, right?), debt is likely to be your big issue. It's what's holding you back from heading for the country, if that's what you wanted, or from living the "American Dream," whatever that is. A shortage of disposable income and freedom because of, you know, the student loan, the car loan, the mortgage, and the credit cards. And you're not as happy as you thought you were going to be.

There are lots of strategies for debt reduction. Seek and ye shall find. We've used doubled mortgage payments ourselves, effectively. To make such things work, though, the first thing to do is bring outgo below income. Bring frivolous outgo to a halt and you are on your way.

"Voluntary simplicity" is touted as a proper response to modern malaise, but John Michael Greer's analysis suggests this is what people talk about when they're afraid to take the real plunge and go for the gold: voluntary poverty. Maybe it's anything but voluntary, letting that word "poverty" slip in there, but if your goal is to rise up from slavery (and debt is exactly that), it can be necessary to redirect our pride.

In the reality we've been brought up to, validated not by our own good sense but by a lifetime barrage of television and other advertising, we're supposed to aspire to "more" -- a shinier house, a shinier car, bigger and brassier parties, endless gadgets, and smarter and smarter phones, all of which which we're dumber and dumber to get in hock for. The trick is to voluntarily take pride in, not these ultimately empty and unsatisfactory acquisitions, but the opposite: de-acquisition.

If there are more than one of you, it might take a very, very serious "family meeting" to all get on the same page, but it can be very focusing to open the meeting with, "here's one thousand dollars a month we can count on for the time being; how do we get by on nine hundred?"

Sounds unrealistic, I know. Maybe your line in the sand is three times that, or more. Goodness knows, a buck is not a buck anymore. But that's going to get worse, so ... well, here's a story.

When I had my mid-life crisis awhile back, I moved (with family permission) temporarily to town for over a year. They depended on my income, so I got a budget of four hundred a month (in 1998 dollars). Here's how it was done.

First, we did research on rent. The best deal (cheapest housing) was, as it happened, two blocks from my university library job. It was what is known as a quad: a room with a vanity sink corner, sharing, from a tiny common hallway, a bathroom and kitchen with three other such rooms. They are intended for students who can't afford an apartment but don't want to live in the dorms. With heat, electric and dumpster fees, a set of shelves, a bed, two chairs, and a table, it was under three hundred a month. So I moved in.

I took with me about ten changes of clothes (good ones in which to do library reference work, mostly), a coat, a box of bathroom-y/personal hygiene-y things, a bedside clock-radio, two boxes of good books, a lamp, a couple of bowls and mugs, utensils, a good kitchen knife, a sharpening stone, and a rice steamer. You can get all these at a thrift store. Some of them I did. I also brought along a stout leftover of plywood for a chopping block.

I also took along a bicycle with a rear rack and pannier baskets. I had found the bike, a decent old ten-speed that still knew where six of its speeds were, leaning against a driveway fence with a sign taped to it: "Free. Take me." Best bike I ever had. With it I brought along my bike helmet, cable, padlock, and key, which I put on a keyring with my quad key.

On the bike I rode to the discount grocery store, stopping to top up the air pressure in the tires at a filling station along the way.

Inside the store I grabbed a shopping cart and sought out a twenty-five pound sack of white beans, another sack, same size, of long-grain rice, a ten pound sack of yellow onions, a ten pound bag of russety Idaho potatoes, a pound can of salt, and a family-sized jar of Italian seasoning. I also splurged for some rolled oats and a head of bok choi.

You might think all this would not go home on the bike in one trip, but it can.

I now had more than a month's food, purchased for under fifty dollars, rolling home beside me as I gripped the handlebars.

Sure, people looked at me funny. So? In most places, it's how you roll.

Back at the apartment I set up the steamer on the "dining room" table, near the wall, and loaded it with water. This was a little Sunbeam with a forty-five minute timer -- much better ones are available, but as Goodwill steamers go, it was not bad. Its plastic rice dish was long gone, but I could put a cup of rice or beans or diced potatoes and dandelion greens in one of the bowls, add the appropriate amount of water and some salt and Italian spices, set the timer, and, by and by, take out the bowl and there was dinner -- or breakfast, or lunch.

Waitaminnit! says the careful reader. Surely not rice for breakfast!

Why not? And without coffee or tea, usually. Didn't miss them at all.

Reader: But -- but --

Or beans. Or potatoes. Usually with a few wild onions. And a glass of tap water.

Reader: But you couldn't --

Yes, I could. For months on end. I lost a little weight, but in my case, that was a good thing. None of this required refrigerating, if managed carefully, and though I was charged for it, I never haunted the communal kitchen, which was a howling disaster area non-maintained by my three unmet student roomies. There was no need.

 I should mention our town seems to have a good supply of unattended cherry, apple, pear, plum, and Asian pear trees and no end of blackberries, dandelions, lamb's quarters and such free for the picking, for all of which the bike baskets came in handy. And over time I got to learn how to ask grocers what they were about to throw out. When company came, I felt I was in a position to be generous.

Wind in the Willows. Arthur Rackham. Children's Imaginative Illustrations

Reader: And the rest of your time -- ?

No problem. I slept, or bathed, or ate, or thought, or went for walks or bike rides. Of course, if you are at all like me, it helps immensely to do this sort of thing in a university town. A university town has, in effect, a functional commons. I went to town meetings, galleries, museums, free concerts, free plays, and lectures. I read many books; all those on hand several times and all I could carry back from the library. I spent long evenings in that library, which closed in those days at eleven p.m. (it was only two blocks from home, remember). I had access there to not only books but music, videos if I wanted them (I generally didn't, and kept no television at home), magazines, newspapers, and of course the Internet. I worked on my volunteer project, at my own desk after my colleagues had gone home for the day, and produced first drafts of thisthisthis, and this. I was also in school (full-time employees could take classes for next to nothing), and when I could I would take the bus and go do a stint of parenting and farm upkeep.

Reader [weakly]: On -- on $400 a month?

Yes, with change left over. One family goal was to pay off the country place ASAP. I couldn't spend too much on my mid-life crisis because we were making double payments. It was a twenty year mortgage and the idea was to clear it in less than fifteen. Which we did.

And I want to emphasize that I am telling you this because if you think things through, and have a bit of luck to go with it (I had no major illness during that time), you can live on far, far less than you may currently think you will need, and perhaps even find yourself happy.



盗人に取り残されし窓の月
ぬすっとに とりのこされし まどのつき

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window. 

-- Ryokan (Stephen Mitchell, tr.)

Monday, December 16, 2019

Cheers

“The land knows you, even when you are lost.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer

This has been an odd fall and even odder December when it comes to apples.


There is snow on the hills to the east of Stony Run, yet all the early fall varieties have hung on and hung on (as opposed to just the Granny Smiths*), and I find myself repeatedly wandering out to gather and press -- well, the "press" has been put away, but Daughter has gifted me her old juicer, and it's powerful enough to do interesting things.

No idea what the climate is up to, but we're not likely to pass up a silver lining around here. If there's a lesson in all this Solstice largesse, I hope I'm listening, but while doing so I'll also harvest.
“To garden, you have to be extremely aware of your surroundings, of where you sit and walk and the specific tastes and flavor of the land. You need to understand where the stream runs and how the trees bloom, to take the pulse of your garden, and train your powers of observation. A garden is not natural. It is all artifice. We make it, respecting the rules of nature and the ecosystem.” -- Wendy Johnson of Green Gulch Farm in Garden Design
I dunno, I think whatever exists is "natural," but "respecting the rules" is something I do get: giving up greed, anger and delusion so as to be able to pay attention -- makes sense, don'tcha think? So I've learned to mulch, compost, chop-and-drop and intercrop, but I do still feel rather ignorant of what's going on out there.

There are plenty of vegetables and herbs around this winter. The kale is happy:


but it often is at this time. Notably, so is the lettuce.


Plenty of parsley.


I have gathered the medlars. Not being into making jelly, and having no better idea what to do with them, I put them through the juicer --


-- and chased them with a carrot, a beet, some kale, and a basket of apples.


This resulted in a refreshing drink one might call "Holiday Red," to be quaffed with some Bach harpsichord works. Cheers.


Friday, December 13, 2019

No more moon

For this online Rohatsu I found myself, most of the time, sitting with twenty or so other people (sample here), so that the hermitage became a virtual monastery.


Between sits we walked kinhin, a form of walking meditation that gets the blood flowing and gives relief from sitting zazen -- useful when there are twenty-two sits in two days. In daylight, while purportedly focused inward, I found much going on outside my window. As it was stark reality, it seemed all right to have a look. Horses pawed at washed-out grass. A flicker hammered on the wall right in front of me. Starlings murmurated.


From time to time I would stop and visit the images above the altar. At top, here (obscured by the reflection from outside), we have Monju with his sword of wisdom; at right, Niaoge sitting in the crook of a pine tree, with a magpie; at bottom, Prajnaparamita; at left, Mugai Nyodai's official portrait sculpture.


These are my current personal collection of superhero posters. Monju is said to have said: “Not abiding in appearances is abiding in prajñā-pāramitā.” Niaoge is said to have said: "If you are searching for Ch'an [Zen], I also have a little here." And blew a feather toward his leave-taking disciple. Prajnaparamita personified reminds me of the wisdom of emptiness (no abiding essence through time). And then there is Mugai:
One of Bukko’s students was the first Japanese woman to receive a certificate of inka. Her Buddhist name was Mugai Nyodai, but she is remembered by her personal name, Chiyono. She was a member of the Hojo family by marriage and a well-educated woman who long had an interest in the Dharma. After her husband died and her family responsibilities had been fulfilled, she went to study with the Chinese master. After completing her studies with Bukko, she became the founding abbess of the most important Zen temple for women in Kyoto, Keiaiji.
A teaching story with no apparent basis in fact suggests that before coming to study with Bukko, Chiyono had been a servant at a small temple where three nuns practiced Buddhism and hosted evening meditation sessions for the laity. According to this story, Chiyono observed the people practicing zazen and tried to imitate their sitting in her quarters, but without any formal instruction all she acquired for her efforts were sore knees. Finally she approached the youngest of the nuns and asked how to do zazen. The nun replied that her duty was to carry out her responsibilities to the best of her abilities. “That,” she said, “is your zazen.”
Chiyono felt she was being told not to concern herself with things that were beyond her station. She continued to fulfill her daily tasks, which largely consisted of fetching firewood and hauling buckets of water. She noticed, however, that people of all classes joined the nuns during the meditation sessions; therefore, there was no reason why she, too, could not practice. This time she questioned the oldest of the nuns. This woman provided Chiyono with basic instruction, explained how to sit, place her hands, fix her eyes, and regulate her breathing.
“Then, drop body and mind,” she told Chiyono. “Looking from within, inquire ‘Where is mind?’ Observing from without, ask ‘Where is mind to be found?’ Only this. As other thoughts arise, let them pass without following them and return to searching for mind.”
Chiyono thanked the nun for her assistance, then lamented that her responsibilities were such that she had little time for formal meditation.
“All you do can be your zazen,” the nun said, echoing what the younger nun had said earlier. “In whatever activity you find yourself, continue to inquire, ‘What is mind? Where do thoughts come from?’ When you hear someone speak, don’t focus on the words but ask, instead, ‘Who is hearing?’ When you see something, don’t focus on it, but ask yourself, ‘What is that sees?’”
Chiyono committed herself to this practice day after day. Then, one evening, she was fetching water in an old pail. The bucket, held together with bamboo which had weakened over time, split as she was carrying it and the water spilled out. At that moment, Chiyono became aware.
Although the story about her time as a servant is certainly apocryphal, the part about the broken pail precipitating her enlightenment seems to be based on her actual experience. She commemorated the event with these lines:
    In this way and that I tried to save the old pail
    Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break
    Until at last the bottom fell out. 
    No more water in the pail! No more moon in the water!    
(Story by Richard McDaniel, per Terebess. Poem by Reps and Senzaki, tr.)


Thursday, December 05, 2019

Ready as I'm gonna get

I'm preparing for my first online-based Rohatsu. This one is two days of zazen, kinhin, samu, and oryoki with twenty-two sits. I don't know if I can do that many sits, but it has been mentioned that we can get up and do kinhin, or lie down if necessary, as needed.

I've repaired Gogo-an's Mountain Gate. It's ... more like an idea than a gate, but that's the idea. The "benevolent kings" on either side of the gate are a couple of stones, for example.


I've given most of the vegetables in the two beds to the chickens, as the bugs never went to sleep this fall, laid eggs everywhere and made lace of all the kale leaves. For samu, at least one of the times, I plan to cover the beds with leaves and grass clippings (yes, fresh grass clippings in December).


Jizo is in constant shade this time of year and bits of him are flaking off when there is frost. He doesn't seem to mind, which may be a lesson for me. I'll offer him some leaves during Rohatsu -- no flowers available around here just now. His cloak could use renewing -- if I find something appropriate, I could stitch it up for additional samu.


I've got some other stitching lined up -- but not on the kesa. It's all done as of a few days ago, and I'm waiting for my next assignment -- perhaps the zagu.


Inside, I've added a small table -- it's a bench from our picnic table, actually -- to put in front of the computer for oryoki, the ritual meal. It's parked in front of the altar here to keep it out of the way until needed. The altar looks a bit dowdy right now, but I'll leave it like that until a samu session, and clean it up during that time.


Because of my execrable hearing, I've brought an alarm clock out of storage and plugged it in. I cannot always hear the bells and clappers that announce the next activity, and get left behind, so this is insurance, so to speak.


I'm testing the ten year old laptop for the Zoom connection -- seems pretty stable.


When I'm sitting alone with Zoom I sometimes stare right into the camera. This is called Mirror Zen and was practiced by nuns in Kamakura back in the day. They would meditate in front of the mirror and then write poems. It can be a little unnerving.


There's a lot of sun today. During the Rohatsu it's supposed to rain. I brought in some heavy curtains, though, to help regulate the light during sits and keep out some of the cold at night.


Yes, I use an office chair for sits. I have a blown back and blown knee, both of which are legacies from tree planting days. So it goes.


I've brought in flip phone, food, tea bags, change of clothes, toothbrush and sleeping bag, and turned on the water hose. Ready as I'm gonna get.

_________________________________________________________

The mirror poem of abbess Shido:

If the mind does not rest on anything, there is no clouding,
And talk of polishing is but a fancy.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

All things always change

Gogo-an has been a going concern for three years and may be for another three to five. In five years, if I'm around, I'll be seventy-five and not very able to keep up a rural mini-farm. Work has continued at Daughter's urban house to provide for food production and a measure of "self-sufficiency" so that, should those of the family long in the tooth need to sell out and occupy a refuge in town, said refuge will have been adapted to meet some of their needs as well as those of any others involved.

Gogo-an in its current form
 I've enjoyed part-time hermit work and would like to continue doing it awhile longer. Watching the sun stream in through the eastern window, throwing the shadows of trees on the walls, has been a large part of this work.


At La Finca, the contemplated location-to-be, diverse aims must be accommodated. Renters occupy a studio (projected to later become Son's abode). The covered area out back was spacious but exposed to winter winds, and could provide, with some modification, a room for storage for the renter (projected to later contain the composting potty), for example. We have tried, with each new idea, to meet multiple needs.


The collapsing little tool shed at the end of the former collapsing carport has, for the last three years, also met renters' needs, but I saw in it a potential replacement for Gogo-an. Bit by bit, often working around piles of other people's belongings, I roofed it, let in a little more light, and used its abandoned furnishings as shop tables for the various projects. Fruit trees, meanwhile, have been strategically placed to eventually filter the sunlight at the eastern window that has been so crucial to my inner learning curve.


Exterior work has been easier to access, so I have been updating the building to match the house.


Progress has been made. The shop, consisting of three of the junked bits of furniture, has been at least temporarily relocated into the now half-enclosed patio.


I have moved in a table for a desk/kitchen counter. It was my grandmother's, and family members used to tell me that I collided with it while tearing around her house on a scooter in 1950 and pitched quite a fit about the pain. Welcome to the world, little one.

Morning light, streaming in through the eastern window, already looks pretty good to me.  For the time being, though, if I want dappled shade, I must take up my sticks and go for a walk round the heavily treed neighborhood and nearby parks.


That's okay; I can wait! The Japanese name of the hut means, loosely, "sufficient." It does not necessarily mean "expectations will be met." Something lovely may come of this adventure, or it may not. All things always change.


Beauty is the convenient and traditional name of something which art and nature share, and which gives a fairly clear sense to the idea of quality of experience and change of consciousness. I am looking out of my window in an anxious and resentful state of mind, oblivious of my surroundings, brooding perhaps on some damage done to my prestige. Then suddenly I observe a hovering kestrel. In a moment everything is altered. The brooding self with its hurt vanity has disappeared. There is nothing now but kestrel. -- Iris Murdoch

...recognize the functional value of  structures as tools and vehicles, but... also recognize their temporary nature and refrain from attachment to them even while using them. -- Thomas Cleary, Introduction, The Book of Serenity



Friday, November 01, 2019

October cidering


  So, the Young Man (actually, he's now in his late thirties; time has flown) has become interested in brewing and started out with mead, using local wildflower honey and blackberries that were picked on the premises. It sat in a small carboy, thumping away in the airlock, for a few weeks, and then was transferred to an oak cask that he got over the Internet, for mellowing. It turned out really well, and his friends are praising his work.


I could see he was ready for more, so I mentioned the trees are still groaning with apples for cider. "You pick and process, and I'll kibitz. There are thousands of apples still out there, of five varieties -- they're hanging on late and looking good. Also quince," I added, "which might brighten the flavor a bit, seeing as we don't have crabapples."

This proposal met with his enthusiastic approbation, so a day was set aside for the adventure. First, he gathered a basket from each of five apples (Honeycrisp, Cortland, Gala, Granny Smith and DunnoButPrettyGood) and one Pineapple Quince.



These we shredded into pomace into a tub.


From six full baskets we felt we would get sufficient juice to make three gallons. Well, really seven baskets -- we hit the IDunno tree twice, as its rather small apples promised flavor returns.


We hoisted the pomace and let gravity do its thing. This makes about half the juice you would get from an expensive press, but the chickens get the rich juice and make it into other useful stuff, some of which is eggs.

Never lift more than your old bedsheet will carry.
Note the conspicuous lack of yellowjackets for a change, which usually cover everything in sight on cider day. A low of 25F will do that. I have been known to cider in the garage, to get away from a mixture of wildfire smoke and yellowjackets. It turns out, if they are not protecting the nest, they are pretty mellow and I actually kind of missed them.


Beloved helped the Young Man pump the cider into his carboy.


It made the three gallons and then some. He added slices of Honeycrisp to add some excitement for the natural yeasts that live on the peelings.


There was enough left over for a quick bit of canning, which is how I roll.


The Young Man  then made an offering of the pomace to one of the medlar trees.


No, this isn't too close to the trunk. The hens will do the spreading.


Three days later I called him up. "Your carboy is thumping."

"No, really?? I thought it would take three weeks with the natural yeast."

"Maybe natural likes you? So, come over next week, we can watch bubbles."


A generous and trustworthy mind is like a spring breeze that warms and enlivens. The ten thousand beings encountering it thrive. -- Hong Zicheng