Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beans, beans, beans


A frog in the corn is an indicator of adequate irrigation ... I hope ...


I find the broad beans rewarding to grow but a little difficult to process. I was asked what is the difference between broad beans and favas. To me, it's all favas but the little ones are "field beans" and the big ones are "broad beans."

The pods are bendy but fibrous and do not snap like green beans, nor to they zip open by pulling the "string" as one does with peas. I resort to sliding a knife down each one and kind of folding each bean out, one by one. The pods will go right back in the beds, under straw.

It's best done with music and cider, I find. Today we have Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations.


I have a small fan suspended from the ceiling, aimed at the drying rack, and will rake the beans round till they re dried past molding. They should be able too sit in a half gallon mason jar through the winter -- or two or three winters, if need be.

I'll sleep well tonight, and I'm sure I will dream of beans, beans, beans.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

New potatoes are the best


We water with soakers but also freshen things up a bit with a spray nozzle. 

The garden, along with everything else, is trying to dry up. It was 101F here yesterday. Eugene had an official record at 98, so I think we had a record too. And no relief in sight for the next ten days.

It's quite the emergency. I have friends who have moved to motels for the duration, or are camping along streams and sitting in the water.


Things are maturing much faster than it says on the packets. Peas quite suddenly decided they were done, and I hauled the brush to the poultry for their inspection. They always eat about half the foliage before they're jaded, so it's worth the effort.


Broadbeans are also done, quite suddenly as well. I have gathered all I can use as fresh or frozen and will pick the rest for dehydration (they make good "roasted nuts" in winter) and as seed for next year. The last half row will be seed, and they should dry in the pods, so it's separate pickings.


As the day advances, I put a wet cloth in the back of my coolie hat and also hose myself down from time to time. These garden shifts are short -- half hour on, half hour off. I chop and drop the stalks and will return the empty pods to the mulch as well, then add new straw.


Broadbeans are not well known here but we find them to be our most reliable crop. They are quite good for most people -- a few react to them or at least to the foliage; I don't. I usually steam them alone or with rice and serve with a little butter or salt.

Around here we can plant them any time from November to March. They come up when they are ready to do so, which is quite early, and you can as a rule plan on having them out of the garden by July. Leave the roots in the ground if you can, instead of taking them away. By next year, the bed they were in will have slightly elevated nitrogen available to some other crop, not to mention improved tilth.

Next, I had better lift the potatoes. They show signs of maturity as well, and anyway the gophers have moved in. I will just have to tell myself that new potatoes are the best ...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Trying to protect the house

Trying to protect the house from heat,
Riding ladders, she paints a white roof,
Yes, and during heat waves, hangs tarps.
It is her ambition to refrain from power,
Not to use the loud machine that sits
Gurgling in every moneyed window.

This is privilege thinking, of course.
Out across the world, they that live

Pounding cassava or rice in stone bowls
Rarely think of heat but that it's there,
Older than plants, animals, themselves:
The other side of cold, a condition imposed
Everywhere at once. As if a fish
Could think of water, or a bird, air.
The privileged swim in personhood and ease,

Toss a ball and kids in the van and go,
Heavy foot on pedal, wheel, and tarmac, so
Even changing the very taste of seas.

Have you nightlong sat, polyester off,
On your hand nothing, sunset to sunrise
Under the stars' turning, wordless, empty, yet
Satisfied? Her roof gleaming, she would dare hope
Even a little thing may help pound rice.



Other Mother's Day



She is almost thirty, and arrives
Here, where waves are sold to tourists,
Ever stronger, ever more sure than



I, who look back, now, most of the time.
She stretches, cat-like, knowing as she does




All time and objects are hers. How am I? I
Lie a little, watching a gull sail off,
Mention the easy sunrise, hiding a limp
Or cough or skip of the heart, or plan for
Shedding of things no longer holding me,
Things my hands once understood, or




Things I knew to say, sing, throw, mold, be.
Here is a shell for Beloved. It's not chipped,
I'll take it to her. I'm a passageway now,
Really a conduit, a path, a test, a mirror.
The young one looks back, smiling.
Yes, I have evidence. I've done well.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

What matters is what you do


I have a favorite mug, big enough for soup or rice, and drink tea and coffee from it. It's big enough for retirement. A friend made three, in Pennsylvania, and our cousin sent them to us. I picked the black one, Beloved picked the gray one, and Last Son got the blue one. He didn't get to pick one; seniors must have some privileges.

This mug is a bit front heavy for me, even though the clay was worked very thin; but it's nice in both hands and a terrific hand-warmer for winter mornings. It's not bad in June, either, and I stumble out in my robe, hair disheveled, eyelids swollen and cup wobbling, to have a look at the riot of plant life in the kitchen garden by the slanting light.


it's raspberry season and I'm falling behind already on those and also the peas. So I had a friend over and herded her through the beds. Thoughtfully, she brought two large shopping bags, and was a great help.


While she harvested, I brought bolted lettuces, chinese cabbages, and spinach, some of them three feet tall, to the chickens and ducks. Susannah, the goose, who eats grass primarily and whose diet is getting a bit coarse for her, spots me with the lettuce and shadows me as I walk along the fence, demanding that I give it all to her, but she gets one head which she must share with the ducks, and the other two heads are for the two batches of hens.


We have never had corn knee high by the fourth of July. This year is different; waist high in June. This is not necessarily a good thing. The earth is drying out when we should still be in our rainy season. I don't know if I'll be able to irrigate in August. I can visualize going to the river with carboys.


Meanwhile, I divert a cupful of the water for my own use, and drink it as coffee while admiring the scarlet runners.

An eagle flies past, harried by a raucus crow.

My friend and I found a deer mouse's head in the pasture. No body; just the head. Who dropped it there? Too small, maybe, for the eagle, it could have been lost by the neighborhood screech owl, or a passing Cooper's hawk or kestrel. It was nobody's business now but that of the insects. Already the ants had marked a trail to the bounty.

We stopped in the zendo.

"This is all built from scraps, mostly other folks' fence boards."

"I see; it's very nice."

"Everything here is not quite quite. The floor is uneven, the Buddha is vague looking, the bell doesn't have a very good tone. So it's all a bit like me."

She picked up the "bell inviter" and sang the bowl experimentally. "No; it's good enough. What matters is what you do."




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It all depends

In the mornings before going out walking with Toto, I have been ambling down the tunnel between the grapes and the Gravenstein, snapping off grape tendrils that reach for the tree and tossing them into the compost bin.


There is generally light at the end of the tunnel and it is the morning light in the lower garden beds. Their best exposure is eastern, so it's bright early down there.


Moving soaker hoses takes me down to the end of the corn block and I can turn around and look back the way I've come. The barn shows as just a hint of red at the other end of the grape and Gravenstein tunnel.


I may work my way back along the potatoes, pulling weeds for the chickens' breakfast, or along the peas, having a breakfast of my own. Or perhaps along the tomatoes, tucking their new growth back into their cages.

It all depends.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Uchiyama is right


While moving hoses, I found this tomato turning. What's remarkable about that is that it's about sixty days ahead of schedule. We are in a small heat wave, which is unusual for June here; also there was no winter to speak of and these tomatoes (Stupice) were planted a month earlier than they ordinarily would be, so if this was ever going to happen, this would be the year.


While dragging hoses I carelessly knocked a young turnip out of the ground, so hosed it off and hung it on the fence to take in for lunch.


 The cherries are also ahead of schedule, so I'm doing acrobatics. This is the pie cherry tree; I'll also hit the Royal Annes. They were billed as Bings, which are all anyone (including us) ever wants, but all our Bing trees grew up to produce pale Royal Anne look-alikes, so that is what we will call them. Who knows what they are. Good, anyway.


Once you are in the tree, you can pull loaded branches toward you if you're patient. Fruiting cherry branches are quite supple but if you're hasty with them, they can break. Looking from the top of the ladder toward the garden, I can see the corn, potatoes and tomatoes coming along. I should also pick peas today.

Looking in the other direction, I see my neighbors have their hay down. They did it all in one day instead of the usual two, with the tractor rumbling far into the night, headlamps glowing.


Uchiyama says that there is no past and no future, only this supremely real instant in the present, in which the self that is the self is the ground of being, in which one is one with all things. I pick one cherry for me, and savor it while smelling the drying hay.

Yep, Uchiyama is right.







Friday, June 05, 2015

Through the eastern window

 I am weeding, which is a two-part process. Some weeds I know the chickens are fond of, so I cut or pull them and make a pile to take to the poultry zones. The rest I "chop and drop." Here you can see some chopping about to commence, while a bundle of amaranth rests in the trellis till I'm done and can be transported to the henyards.


When we arrived here two decades ago, there was a ratty pie cherry tree near the street with a number of dead branches. It has been featured in this blog a number of times and may be a friend to long-time readers. This year it has ripening cherries a little over two weeks ahead of schedule.

I thought I would do some cutting back but it was fourteen years before I did anything about it, during which the tree generously fruited every year, one big pie's worth. We didn't always get these, due to a thing: if you wait for the day that you will get the most and ripest cherries, the birds will strip it the preceding afternoon.

I pollarded the tree in 2007, after discovering two whips right below where I wanted to make the cut. Got some good firewood and since then the tree has responded nicely, with plenty of cherries after about a two year layover.


In the late afternoon I mowed the courtyard with the push reel mower and tied up some vines, then covered the last four south and west facing windows with burlap for the summer heat. After that, Toto and I went out to the zendo to visit our quiet friend.


We rang the bell, did some silent sitting, and rang the bell again.

What I think about when I think about the religions is that the core message, when the texts that some of them have (suggesting to kill or discriminate against those who are different or hold different views) are taken away, is to do no harm.

No religion, or shall I say, no form of pietism (in which one or more gods, spirits or realms are held to be superior to other beings or places) is required to come to that conclusion. One need not be obedient or subordinate to any being or realm to conclude that what is right and decorous is to do no harm. You may work within any religious framework or none at all.

My son tells me that "none at all" is best where Occam's Razor is concerned. I get that. I also think that in Zen we have a framework within which there is room for "none at all."

The lists of suggestions to be found in Buddhism toward following and staying on a path to non-harm are, I think, handy and a basis for good training. I suspect it can be helpful to sit still and bring my best available attention to that core, and so I'm investigating -- seeking confirmation as to the utility of a practice which for decades I admired from, as it were, afar.

We left some water in one dish and some vetch flowers in the other and tiptoed away. A pair of towhees watched the whole business through the eastern window.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Full of themselves


So it is June. We are harvesting peas, greens, garlic scapes and rhubarb regularly, and a few raspberries, cherries and pie cherries have appeared.We would be eating goumis but a freeze hit all the blooms and left us just one tiny berry, which I reverently brought to Beloved for her to eat, as she has first choice of all orange things.


The broadbean shade plan seems to be working, as most of the lettuce and other spring things are holding out well; the arugula and Chinese cabbage bolted anyway, however.


Looking across the Rose Gate into the lower garden we see (or don't see) blueberries, peas, potatoes, corn, sunchokes apples, pears, a cherry, raspberries, quinces, rhubarb, grapes, scarlet runners, green beans, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, dill, peppers, broadbeans, lettuce, kale, spinach, onions, leeks, Chinese cabbage, mangels, garlic, comfrey, beets, chard, arugula, radishes, turnips, broccoli, assorted mints.


The soil is damp and loose and a heat wave is coming, so this is the day to attack weeds. Because we have a matted straw/clippings mulch with a lot of woody material in it, hoeing can be frustrating, and it's a large garden to try to weed with hands or hand tools. So I have pulled apart my Japanese sickle for now and hammered it into the ferrulled end of an old hoe handle. With it I can inveigle the blade in behind one or more weeds and pull toward me, feeling a very satisfying "snick" as the cut is made beneath the mulch. Roots thus left in the ground are more useful to soil fertility and condition when left in place than just tossed on top of the mulch or thrown, with their foliage, over the chicken fence.

The sickle is still handy for harvesting greens and veg, too. It has a beveled edge and sharpens quickly. Everyone should have one.

I'm now at the age where, every year, I'm a little less up for this. The weeds, on the other hand, are young every year and full of themselves