Monday, May 25, 2015

She knows the weeds will win

She knows the weeds will win. Sometimes, at night,
Hearing them grow in her dreams, she'll wake, grasp
Even in her two hands, a phantom thistle, or

Knotweed, errant blackberry, or teasel.
Now not able to turn and sleep, she'll rise, throw
On her robe, and step out into night;
Walking the way the slim moon shows her,
She throws aside her garden gate and listens.

There might be corn and tomatoes chatting,
Having about as much to say as farmed things.
Even a whisper among the kales and chard --

Whatever such things say. Beyond are beds
Ensnarled in dock, barnyardgrass, bindweed,
Everlasting morning glory vines.
Dire straits; but there's no sound there.
She knows they're biding their time,

Watching for her sudden return, sickle
In hand, fire in eye, seed packets in mind.
Level them, they fear she means to, or
Leave roots drying in summer sun.

Well, that's tomorrow. She turns now; steps
Into her lightless house. She'll give this up
Not soon, yet knows how it must end.


"身心脱落" T'ien-t'ung Ju-ching shouted,
finding a sitting monk half sleeping.
He meant it kindly, but his urgency
cracked air, a thundernote. "You must
let fall body and mind!" the old
man pleaded. Dogen, sitting nearby,
felt himself moved from a stuck place
toward a resolution he had sought.
He then traveled home, determined
to teach his people the simplest way to let
go. "Sit," he told his students, "just sit.
In doing so you are already Buddha;
there is nothing further to obtain."

What effect the shout may have had
on the sleeping monk, we are not told.

For the Nepali people

For the Nepali people she is sitting, thinking
Of what it must be when land turns to water,
Rolling waves shrugging off millions of hand-laid bricks.

This is impossible to grasp, yet many have lived it,
Here and in many places, many times.
Even she has felt it, feared it, wondered at it, but

Never like that. All her people have died old.
Eating her hot soup, sitting in her chair, she mouths
Prayers she knows are empty, vaguely knowing
Alms are the thing she'd want if she were in
Like case. Where to send? Bureaucrats pilfer with
Impunity, and pallets of tarps lie still on tarmac.

Perhaps she knows a man here, or woman there,
Eking out space amid the piles that were their homes,
Or digging up smashed rice bags to cook for strangers.
Perhaps she could send them something. She won't
Lie; it's not easy for her to talk to banks -- makes mistakes.
Even so, it's now or never to learn to do one thing.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

You can almost hear it growing

A late spring evening on an acre in the country is lovely if one gets to see it. Many of my neighbors, I fear, are indoors watching television, poor things. Toto and I are carrying out a few late chores -- carrying straw to the paths around the summer squash and winter squash beds and weeding, mostly.

Earlier in the day we moved firewood from the woodshed by the driveway to the "house" piles. This is California oak, Douglas fir, Oregon ash, apple and pear prunings, and birch. The birch logs are from a tree damaged in last year's ice storm, which was especially hard on oaks and birches. They were piled on the post office lawn when we first saw them, and we asked for them and the postmistress was glad to see them go to a good home.

There might be some maple and willow as well. Willow burns up too fast to count as firewood, but it makes decent kindling if you dry it for a year or so.

They say not to lean firewood on your house and it is very good advice, except that this house is buggier than the firewood. So it goes.

The evening sun backlights the pea vines. Today we ate our first Sugar snaps of the season -- all three of them.

A longer view of the light in the peas also shows the potatoes, rhubarb, corn, tomatoes, scarlet runners, sunchokes, and apples.

Looking in the other direction. The evening sun only touches the north wall of the house like this for about six weeks of the year. They are my favorite six weeks of the year, and the evening in the exact middle of them I dance barefoot around a fire and offer it flowers, wine, oil, salt, and song.

Back to work for a bit. We're taking out wild amaranth from the potato bed for the ducks and chickens.

All done. Beloved has been away most of the day, but is due home any time now. The swing is the best place to watch for her to turn in to the driveway and enter through the Rose Gate.

Tomorrow it will be time to cut some comfrey for the garden beds. After those two days of rain, you can almost hear it growing.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Very good, in fact

We had a nice little storm with about a fifth of an inch of rain, and air temperatures did not fall below 60F. A quick inspection showed that the slugs have finally shown up (the big snails, usually not a problem, had been filling in for them). I braided my hair to keep it out of my eyes for stoop labor and grabbed my stick (to lean on when bending over) and a basket and hit the beds before too much daylight might chase the little nasties out of sight.

They are easy to find on top of the leaves early in the morning, and you can tell which crops they prefer at the moment and give those an extra going over underneath -- there will always be at least one where your lettuce has sprouted holes.

First I pull a few weeds and line the bottom of the basket with them. Then I start dropping slugs on the weeds. I work up the side of one bed and down the other, weed, slug, weed, slug. Most of the weeds would interest a chicken -- heck, I eat them myself: cleavers, amaranth, dandelion, false dandelion, chickweed. But when dumping slugs into them I intend them for the poultry. This morning I emptied the basket over the fence four times, and while at first the hens were tossing salad left and right, they eventually discovered the protein and are now sated. They'll finish their greens for lunch and dinner.

Sometimes there is a patch of amaranths that demands I kneel on the wet ground to have a go at them. I can put the stick down and kneel on it and not get wet, then use it to haul myself back up.

Later I will go back and move volunteer kale and chard to better spacing, before the clouds begin to break up. If they do. It looks pretty thick up there today.

As I go along I choose a leaf here or there of the more tattered foliage to bring in for breakfast: today, kale, broccoli, chard, Chinese cabbage, with dandelion and amaranth. The holes don't taste at all bad, snipped up into a pancake batter made up of spelt flower and a goose egg. Very good, in fact.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

She was anyway

Across the creek there's not much going on, as Beloved will not start goats until some offsite obligations have been taken care of. So I still mostly mow over there, to keep the ground open (it would fill with blackberries and other invasives if left to itself). At the moment there are three treatments: Cut on a high setting and leave the clippings as mulch; cut with bagger for garden mulch; let go to seed. You can see all three in the above image, with mulched mowing left and foreground, going to seed in middle, and waiting to be cut for garden mulch at right. The grass that has been chosen to go to seed seems to take drought well, so I'm encouraging it to seed that middle section, which does poorly over the summer. I've seeded the low ground to clover, which is most of what ends up on the garden.

Also in foreground is Toto, on alert for the neighborhood feral cat, who teases him.

For several years I gardened in that low ground to the right and tended plum trees left by the former owner. The flood of '97 took all that away. It was almost two decades later that I felt like trying something there again, which was potatoes. I had three rotating patches. But it's quite rocky underneath and I was raising too many potatoes, so now they get only a bed in the garden and there's still too many potatoes. Who knew?

Around to our right is the little Stone Buddha Zendo, formerly the children's playhouse. Toto and I try to get there once a day. I'm not a talented sitter but I mean well.

It helps that there's a fairly long walk, through rain and sun and over a bridge, to get there. One of Dogen's big things is


which can be in English: "studying the Buddha way is studying the self." Which has led in the West to a lot of navel-gazing, something we were prone to in the first place. But Dogen's idea about "self" is that there is not past, not future, just consciousness everywhere right now, and that the thing we tend to regard as the "self" is actually a tiny bit of that. If we let go of that little bit, that ego-self, what we hopefully notice is that we're still here, but now we're -- well, everything. 

It's badly put to try to say or write it.

But to leave the house, walk over the bridge ("other shore reached!"), trudge through the clover in the hot sun or cold rain, step into the tiny room with the tiny waterfall outside the window, take off garden clogs, bow, and sit, provides one with the opportunity to bring the house, the creek, the clover, the sun and rain (and Toto) into the room and be all those things.

Oh, fooey.

I'll try one more time. 

It's not that I get to be Gaia, 'k?

It's that Gaia, along with everyone else (the creek, the clover, the feral cat, Toto, the spider in the corner of the Zendo's window) gets to be me.

Which she was anyway.

There is always enough to do

We're moving most of the remaining available starts out to the garden this week: Jenny green beans, Stowell's Evergreen corn, assorted squashes, tomatoes, and cukes, banana peppers. Many volunteer mangels, Fordhook Giant chard, and Red Russian kale have turned up as well, and some have been moved into the available spots, as we take away radishes and lettuce for consumption.

We do corn in a solid block, four across, for wind pollination. After the corn is established, we'll plant beans and squash in the same bed: Three Sisters.

This is the way things look right now: clockwise from bottom: three beds of greens and roots with a row of broadbeans in the middle of each, for partial shade; blueberries; peas and green beans, sunchokes and apples and a chicken moat along street; Yukon Gold and red potatoes; corn; runner beans and cukes; summer squash; winter squash; raspberries; blackberries, cherries, plums, pears, quince, apples and mulberries in the chicken moat along the property line; rhubarb; grapes.

View of the same area three months ago, with poultry allowed in and patrolling for slug eggs and weeds.

View from the garden swing past geraniums on the Tiny House to the Rose Gate, which has begun its display.

Another chore in progress is the reduction of the knotweed patch to beanpoles (shown drying below), kindling, poultry feed, compost, and mulch. There is always enough to do, it seems.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Two titles to be found in first characters of each line

(Praying for rain)

Perhaps the seedlings were better off inside,
Really. She's never sure what's best for them,
All down the years trying peat pots, blocks,
Yanking down flats from storage, penciling markers,
Ingratiating herself with baked soils,
Now trying perlite, vermiculite, moss,
Getting out lamps and heaters, rotating flats,

Fighting intruding snails, mice and rats
Or even knotweed and morning-glories
Running their tendrils up through brick.

Right now, she wishes she hadn't hurried.
All her helpless babies in cracked clay!
If it doesn't rain tonight, she tells herself,
Never again shall I call April May.

(Waiting for the rain to stop)

While watching forests comb those wet bellies,
All grey and louring, of the heartless clouds,
I wondered how the heavy earth breathes
Thus more than dampened, more than drowned
In so much rain. The very snails could gasp,
Nudging toward such daylight as they might,
Grudged them by the endless drops, dropping.

Fear for my crops, standing in chill pools
Or bent, prostrated, shambled, lying left and
Right, I feel, yet not enough to go and see.

There are tree branches, if I go, ready to pull
Hair, poke eyes, and shower me to my skin,
Every direction, along each path and bed.

Running streamlets ease a darkening land
All river-bound, discovering the slightest slope,
Inland being anathema to them,
No place like home, their wide and welcoming sea.

There all streams meet, mingle, and play.
Ocean the lowest place, where rain may end in

Stillness some times, or leap about, yet bounded.
There it may stop awhile, then one day mist forth
Over the waves and shores, plains and mountains
Putting forth life and death again, a cycle.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sit tight

Beloved is back from one of her journeys and is seeing to the rhubarb and the animals. Here are the Welsummers, still good looking and productive at age three. They are laid back and curious.

New Khaki Campbell ducklings have been brought home and are settled in the "rabbit" cages to grow up a bit before being introduced to the flock. Half of them we are raising for a friend who lives nearby. She'll take them in a month or so.

A surprise rainstorm has developed and is delivering a third of an inch today and another third of an inch tomorrow. I had thought we'd see some "Oregon sunshine" mist and I would set out the summer seedlings, but I've been poorly and should avoid this much weather. So I stay by the fire, drink hot chocolate, and wait.

The young green things are getting a bit leggy, but they will just have to be patient. 

I'd love to get them out of the greenhouse, where they are in danger from mice. Also from towhees who find their way in and beat up the flats with their wings, trying to get out through the glass. I found one yesterday, and some damage had already occurred. I didn't have the hand net handy, so I grabbed the watering hose and sprayed down the bird till its frantic flapping ceased, then picked it up (how tiny! Half the size of a dry one) easily and set it outside. A few minutes later it dried enough to fly away, hopefully none the worse off and a little wiser in the ways of greenhouser folk.

The flats currently in the queue contain "Grandma Jenny's"green beans, scarlet runners, Stowells Evergreen corn, green zukes, yellow zukes, Delicata squash, Carnival squash, lemon cukes, English trellising cukes (not many came up), and a lot of mangel beets.

Sit tight, kids. Your mama loves you.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

We're none the less here

April was much chillier than "winter" here and growth of some, though not all, things has been slowed. The lettuce and other greens seemed chuffed about the cold, which is irritating about them as they also complain when it gets hot. The broadbeans, elephant garlic, and rhubarb however are going gangbusters, but they always do.

I've walked around some and I think we will have decent raspberries, cherries, pears (lots) and Granny Smith apples. The Gravenstein will do poorly, if anything. Most of the other apples I haven't checked. There will be some Jonagolds. The blueberries will be so-so. Still no mulberries, figs or peaches, after years of waiting. Don't know about the plums or the blackberries yet. A lot of the hops and sunchokes have mysteriously vanished. Do gophers eat hops roots?

I have mixed the greens and onions with the broadbeans, hoping the partial shade of the beans will help the lettuce and spinach, etc. not bolt too soon.

By the front door are several columbines, children of one that appeared there a decade back. It's only a squiggle in a drawing by a friend from a few years ago, but its presence was noted. We are all only squiggles, in the end, but we're none the less here. At least until we're not.


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