My last blogpost worth that name is from March 14, and I haven’t figured our Riot since December last year. One of the reasons for my silence was overall business (explained below), but the main culprit was that all the sites I maintain were hacked (same server). We had to shut down the Green Team site completely, saved most of the Transition Wayland site, and the blog, well, as you can see, most of the sidebar features have disappeared and, as you can’t see, the editor is a right mess, but here’s an update anyway.

Here’s a roller coaster run-down of events.

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On April 21, my parents-in-law arrived from Chennai, India. On Tuesday, my friend and fellow blogger, Katharina, dropped off the 15 chicks that remained in her care – she was on her way to DC and the Reject and Protect Rally. On Wednesday, add to this menagerie my friend R’s 16-year-old, mostly deaf dog for dog-sitting. And me and R saying our goodbyes and leaving all this to them, not to mention the care of the garden and chickens, and the hundreds of seedlings in the basement.

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Where was I off to, that was so important that I could leave all of them, especially Amie (for the first time for so long)? It was Stephen Jenkinson’s Orphan Wisdom School, and I will have to write more about that later. R and I were there, all wrapped-up in the goodness and sorrow of words, till Sunday, when we drove back in one non-stop haul (11 hours). R extracted her dog from the sleeping house, and I crashed, exhausted. The house returned a little more to somewhat normal when Katharina took all but our four chicks back a couple of days later.

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That Sunday Earth Day happened (more on that later too), along with Amie’s orchestra concert at Jordan Hall, and her grandparents’ surprise 40th anniversary present(s) and surprises(s).

Amie named the chicks and started “training” them. Always a joy to watch.

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Our days warmed, with some summery days thrown in, especially Mother’s Day, which we spent out side working in the garden, planting, among other things, lots of strawberries and blueberries. I also finished the drip irrigation in 90% of the garden, all of it running smoothly off the top IBC tote, simply by gravity. The chicks too enjoyed their first outing into the big world.

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I picked up new bees too: two packages. What a joy it is to see them fly again. In other bee-related news, Katharina, who is also a fellow beekeeper, roped me into helping her out with helping the young artist Jarrett Mellenbruch set up and maintain his Haven project at the deCordova museum. More about that soon, too!

My parents-in-law went back to Chennai, and the house is emptier. I like a crowd of animals, so I am glad for the bird song in the house: the chicks, though they now look more dinosaur-like, still squeak quite sweetly. And there is one more bird…

We finally got a friend for Amie’s parakeet, Kiwi, who lost his mate a few months ago. Kiwi had spent some time at Katharina’s (we’ve a veritable animal exchange going here) where he received a mirror, and he had fallen deeply in love with the bird in that mirror. That is why Amie decided to get a green parakeet, female though (hopefully), who looks like that mirror bird. Introducing a new bird is always tricky, so we had them in separate cages at first – having bought a huge new cage. But after some hours Kiwi was trying to push his heard through the bars, and they were singing to each other, so the next day we let Kiwi into the new cage and all was well.

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That’s my quick run-down of events. Lots to flesh out. I will do so, soon, promise! Now let me click the “publish” button and see how this looks!

Today, just now, in fact, four us met to talk about “inner work”. The question was: what do we need? Not just us, but our community. We talked about how we often feel judged and marginalized simply because we voice our doubts, fear, grief, helplessness. About how there must be others in our towns, struggling with these feelings, but alone. They might think that there is a problem with them, that it’s depression. But, as Jenkinson says, “what if there is nothing wrong with you?” What if it’s not their psychological problem, but a whole community’s cultural problem? What if what you’re feeling is not depression, but grief, and you have a perfectly good reason for that grief? What if we as a group started speaking a bit more openly about our grief, owning it, valuing it? What if we started building a whole new culture. We might create a space where people can come and talk, a safe room like Francis Weller describes, with a floor where we can stand with our grief and not feel like we’re in free fall. More organically, a place and community, in nature where we belong, where grief can enrich us and blossom along with its sister, joy.

Yes.

I’m so glad I picked up Barbara Hurd’s books, Stirring the Mud and Entering the Stone. I’ve started reading the first one and was hooked as of page one. She alerted me to the wetlands, bogs and marshes, and the marginal areas, high-traffic, super-diverse, home to species of the two biota that overlap there, as well as to “edge species”. Humans, she points out, are not such an edge species. We don’t feel comfortable in the undefined, not-one-or-the-other places. We don’t like to be on edge.

I like the idea of the edge. We’re not talking the kind of place where one thing stops and something else begins, a clear edge like a cliff, or the horizon, or the doorstep where indoors becomes outdoors. We’re talking of two edges in fact, in the case of the wetland, the edge of the land, and the edge of the wet,and an overlap, where it’s both wet and land. A nest of being, being-neither and being-both.

Can we think of ourselves in such a place? In between two stories, in both stories, and in neither, all at the same time. We are undefinable. Saints and hypocrites and average human beings in the twenty-first century. Let’s put others on edge. Everyone who thinks they know where they are, in terra cognita, when they’re with us and we’re at our best (with our talk of grief and danger and immeasurable joy) will suddenly find they have wet feet!

I also read, in Paul Shepard, that the ferocity of territorial species is highest in the very heart of their territory, and less on the edges, where the work is one of balancing territoriality with sociality, security with vulnerability. On the edges of the territory are the common spaces. This should give us courage. There is a way of being on edge together. We may have forgotten it – we who have paved over the wetlands, colonized the whole world into one territory, retreated deeply inward via the internet and psychotherapy – but that is our culture‘s error. We know that deep inside we are still human. Let us learn again the way of the edges, where give means take, take means give – one wild and fecund circle!

 

 

As gardeners we often don’t get to work in a field.  It’s a different thing altogether to work in a field than in a garden. There is all that space, sky, sun. You walk from one end to the next (diagonally, so as to get the most out of it) and throughout the soil is soft and pliable underfoot. There is also a lot of work, so in this field one gets to grow not just food, but community as well.  And of course, none of us being farmers, we also grow an attitude of adventure, a tolerance for making mistakes, a thirst for experimentation.

A lot has happened with the Transition Wayland community garden plots. We began with two weedy plots, pulled all those weeds, rototilled it, then sowed heaps of dry beans. The beans came up beautifully, and we watered and weeded, and then they were eaten, probably by the bunnies. The weeds then took over and we pulled and mowed them, then sowed buckwheat as a smother crop and soil conditioner. While that took in about 50% of the area, (the rest became weeds), growing to shoulder height in some places, we decided to not grow grains there but to turn it into a permaculture (perennial) garden.

This was the state of the garden on Monday:

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Friends brought a weed whacker (we couldn’t locate a scythe) and a rototiller and two hours later it looked like this:

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Today – in the surprisingly hot sun – we evened it all out, raked out some more of the straw, then sowed winter rye. Everyone got to throw up those smooth seeds in great arcs of fecundity!

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Here’s a close-up of the intrepid farmers:

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Aren’t they just silly?

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A group of us hammered out the mission of our Community Garden plots today. What a lovely meeting, dreaming, brainstorming, opening reference books… and all the while freeing the oats. So good to have something to do with the hands while conceptualizing.

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We started by putting together a mission plan, a dream:  why this garden? how will the work be organized? why would people want to work in it? what will it yield? what is its philosophy? how does it fit into the context of the foodshed and our organization’s mission? Below is an overview of what we came up with:

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By our next meeting we will have investigated the plants that were suggested and others, and we’ll be ready with our growth and function charts to design the garden in the space.

We had a full, full house this weekend, with SIL and friends visiting and dropping off their daughter for a week’s holiday at what Amie and I now lovingly call “Camp Boredom,” a.k.a. “Camp Mama.”  The addition of one has skyrocketed the ratings of this camp for both participants and organizer. I listen in on their play, only see them for meals and snacks. Put two single children who have known each other since the birth of the youngest together: sparks fly.

At the last meal before friends and SIL had to leave, I couldn’t resist. I debated whether I’d do it because I usually don’t make a show of my emotions, but here it was: “I’d like to make a toast!”

Here’s to sharing abundance with friends.

Forking up the mostly local food on the table, basking in the finally perfect temperature under the umbrella in our backyard, looking around the table at the smiles and laughter and deep, deep ease of the company, I had that feeling that I get a lot these days: this is the sweet spot and somehow I get to live in it! What follows is gratitude, clean and joyful, coupled with a little bit of the less bright how-did-I-deserve-this?

Reading Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics I am expanding my insights into this complex set of emotions (if that’s what they are). I have so many thoughts on the subject, it boggles my mind like any convoluted metaphysics. It’s a sheer gift and you know you’ll never be able to repay it but that shouldn’t stop you from working hard to maintain it, to keep the giving going.

I’m learning more and more that joy is the key to this. Eisenstein says something that turns even the most tragic catastrophe of this world into a gasping realization:

We live in special times. There are seven billion of us, all gathered at the same time. Sometimes I think that every human being who has ever lived is now incarnated here for the big party, for the big transition.

I don’t take that literally as I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I appreciate the thought and the what-if sentiment of it. It makes me a little more ready for the challenge. It also makes me think that, that I am one of the lucky ones who gets to gather with happy friends around a table loaded with wholesome food, should inspire me not to guilt but to gratitude, which is the only place from which full giving in return is possible.

To fully receive is an act of generosity. To fully give is an act of self-care and self-nurture.

What a GREAT day.

I was up at 3 am when Amie was coughing and then had trouble falling asleep, all the things I had to do running through my mind. Then the alarm rang at 6:30  and at 7 am I was at the Community Garden Plots, which no longer looked pristine like they did June. The thousand beans we had seeded had been chomped down to the ground and the heat and humidity had favored the weeds, both the mints and green weeds in the field and the woodies like bittersweet and gigantic pokeweed along the fence. In fact, the plots looked worse than how we found them at the beginning of the season. It was very discouraging.

(So far it doesn’t sound like a great day, and I’m not fond of sarcasm, so…)

Three friends showed up with a lawn mower and an array of gardening tools and what followed was two hours of pulling, chopping, hacking, mowing and chatting and laughing. In the end we had two huge compost piles of weeds, hands that won’t get clean with even the most vigorous scrub, and a plot that’s again ready to go. What a difference: we wowed ourselves and each other! And I didn’t take a picture, neither before nor after.

Now it’ll be a race against the weeds to find and sow buckwheat, which we decided to put in to smother the weeds and improve the soil. This season we won’t be growing any edible crop anymore, but at least we can make the best preparations for next year. I’ve been calling and leaving messages at the local farms asking for a stray 15 lbs of buckwheat seeds. We’re also going to start plotting some serious fencing.

I came home and gardened (weeded) in my own garden, then my friend L. came by with yet another quart of home-picked raspberries, and I gladly gave her some more kale and also six eggs. Then my friend R. came by and brought beautiful bouquet of flowers from her garden (she knows I don’t grow flowers for their prettiness).

Then Amie and I met a bunch of yet other friends at a local school and all of us (four adults, three kids) picked  at least eight quarts of blueberries. What a treasure! We couldn’t stop thanking the landscape designer who decided on these berries! (And also the masses of rosa rugosa with huge hips ripening). The kids just couldn’t stop picking and eating. They could have gone on for hours. We brought home three quarts and one pint.

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So much treasure! Weeds, flowers, berries, and friends. I am the luckiest person on the Earth.

{UPDATE} 7/12: We went blueberry picking again and then I had enough to make twenty-six half pints of jam, mostly blueberry and some blueberry/raspberry.

Today I spent five hours at our Farmers Market selling BEElieve honey. It was incredible. We sold out in 1 1/2 hour.

What we sold this week was my honey, harvested last year and still left over, even after all that eating and bartering with it. I had twenty-three 10 oz jars (by weight). I’ll harvest the new Spring honey that is still sitting on Hive 3 (the one that swarmed) and/or we’ll harvest honey from another Wayland beekeeper and sell that at next week’s Market. That should give us enough to buy the Maxant 9 frame hand extractor for the group.

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A friend and fellow-blogger made those cute cards with the BEElieve logo designed by Amie.

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Bad weather threatened but didn’t materialize.

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Crowds!

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 Here’s one of our newest beeks, fellow blogger and friend and two of her daughters.

It wasn’t just my friends who came and bought honey, honestly, though they did very generously buy a lot of it. But this wasn’t just a fundraiser, it was an awareness-raiser as well, and as much about community as beekeeping. I must have talked with about forty people about bees, took down sixteen email addresses for our newsletter. Got everyone, young and old, all excited about beekeeping.

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At the end, there was one visitor who kept coming back for the free honey. She came back for a refill five times. The movie has no sound because the background noise was trucks and cars passing.

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 Before tilling

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Our first foray into tilling the two Community Garden plots gathered a dear friend and her neighbor, who brought his small rototiller. After two hours, we had 1/3 tilled. This morning it was my beekeeping pal and a young woman I met through garden consulting work, who brought “Mommy’s Machine” – a mean tilling machine! Half an hour later: done! I staked out the plots for the beans and corn, then raked half.  On Thursday morning, after the rain but before the heat (91!F) sets in, yet another friend and I, and who knows how many more that I invited, will come and sow the beans.

And so I am already harvesting, big time. So many people, some of whom I didn’t know at all, some of whom I had met just once, some friends, are coming to  help with this harebrained scheme! This morning, when Amie was sick and I needed a quick sitter, a friend showed up as soon as she heard.  That’s community!

 

In the afternoon I picked a huge salad for a party we’re going to this evening. All of this is from our garden:

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Amie will eat only greens from our garden. Yesterday after school she got to go with my friend M and I on one of our adventures, which always seems to involve loading heavy things onto trucks or car roofs, having fun with straps and bungee cords, followed by somewhat-anxious driving and a slew of cars lining up behind us (at a safe distance). We were dropping off the extra totes at the school gardens, so luckily it was very local.

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On the way back a grasshopper jumped into Amie’s shirt and it was high drama. M, whose kids are grown up, was quite shaken, I think, though not as badly as the poor grasshopper! Our Amie is cool, though. She refused to squash it and let me free it. Also, her class is doing a unit on community and when he teacher asked who is important in a community, the answers were “fireman, policeman, teacher, etc.”  to which Amie added: “Activist!”

 

growingmap1This Summer I’ll be growing food all over town. The black dots indicate where. The lower one is at the Ecological Food Garden at the popular Hannah Williams Playground, which we established last Summer. In the middle, the left dot is at my house, the one on the right is my daughter’s school’s garden, which I’ll be minding over the Summer while school’s not in session. The most northern one is a friend’s place where one of my hives is located. The one next to that is at the Community Gardens, where I was allotted two adjacent 20′x30′ plots.

At the Hannah Williams Garden most of the plants that made it through Winter.  We’re expecting lots of strawberries, and all the onions are roaring, and the comfrey is humunugous already, attracting lots of pollinators. We’ll divide all these and puts them  in empty spots, spread the wealth that way. A local preschool also wants to bring the kids over to do some planting: there is a whole section set aside for just that kind of thing.

As for our Community Garden plot, they’re indicated by the white arrow.

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On these plots I’ll be growing annual edibles that, after they’re established, won’t require me to hop over there every day – a six-mile trip there and back. They’ll be dry beans (Calypso, Red Kidney, Cannellini and King of the Early, all Fedco seeds), two kinds of sweet corn (which silk out at different times, hopefully thereby minimizing cross-pollination), and Mammoth Grey Stripe  sunflowers (the kind you grown for eating the seeds). I’ll also get to know all the good people who garden there. It’s an extensive garden, with about 100 gardeners (I estimate) of all ages and – I heard – lots of gardening experience and skills.

When I went over there to check on my plots, the head of the Conservation Commission and one volunteer were trying to stake out the temporary plots that get plowed each Spring. I got roped(almost literally) into helping and the three of us made quick work of it. Standing in the field, the turned soil crunching underfoot, talking gardening, food, and the goodness of people: it was good.

Update {5/29}: plots are tilled!