Around 3 am on the tranquil morning of June 22, she was born to Shady Grove's Esmerelda, daughter of Soaring Heart's Blessed Thistle: Shady Grove's Blessed Summer. Sweet tempered, she graces us with her presence this year, much like the summer we are being blessed with thus far. I know tough times are coming on the land; I know record heat waves are hitting most of the country and around the world. I want to do what I can while I can, and hope to bring healing, strength, and resilience into the hard times.
I am haunted by the ghosts of my Landcestors,
over who's bones I sleep.
Sleepless nights I cry their tears
over lost children sent to boarding schools, never to return.
Over children of children this land they cared for,
Over the children of those children's children who are not here
in my place.
Wounded by the Occupation,
non-human species annihilated, displaced, relationships destroyed.
Apocalypse has already happened.
Spirit, set the specters free! I fly with you; fly with me, soar with the roaring wind,
Storm with the vengeful seas,
Shake with the fracked cracked Earth,
Awaken us all.
This land is yours, forever.
Pipeline resistance is currently center and front for me, in the struggle for social, racial and ecological justice. I have been examining the bigger picture, delving into the sociology, history, and individual stories of the ages-old struggle. My friend Mijeong just told me the story about King Sejong of Korea in the 1400's, who wrote an alphabet for the people. Prior to that, the written language was in Chinese characters which did not match well with the people's spoken language and was used only by the elite and powerful. When he opened up the realm of the written word to the "ordinary" people, there was a lot of suppression from these powerful elite. We were talking about how human life on Earth is imbued with this same struggle throughout time and place: between the greedy and the compassionate. Mijeong and I talked about how the difference now is, the extent of the destruction the greedy are able to wreak upon the entire world. They now can threaten all life on Earth through their exploitative ways and through their philosophy based upon a "use it all up, and move on" mentality.
This philosophy was at a huge peak when the European invaders took over Turtle Island. It is still the same philosophy that is used today. It seems so senseless to wantonly destroy the air we breathe, and the water we drink, the beauty we see. It seems insane to poison the food we eat, to steal the possibility of future generations to live, to destroy the possibility for life for so many species of creatures we share this world with. Many Indigenous People voiced their incredulity when experiencing and witnessing the White man's attacks upon this land in the 1800's, which they simultaneously claimed to love (see Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee). And yet, it makes perfect sense to those who are clinging to the philosophy of using it up and moving on. They might even think they are able to move on: there may be a way for humans to live away from this Earth some day-- though I hope that it is done by humans other that the exploiters. The philosophy they hold dear is one of a virus that kills its host, and finds another, and it is the basis for an Economic system reliant upon "Growth". So many of us are not that way, and throughout time we have been fighting against that way. We have been starved, marched, hung, gassed, corralled, and shot; we have been brainwashed, assimilated, subdued; we have cleverly fought, survived, diversified our tactics, communed, clung to love, and given, and nurtured, and found nurturing.
The fracking, mining, and drilling, the transporting, the processing, the exporting, and the burning of fossil fuels right now is probably the most exploitative, dangerous, threatening activity to life on earth, other than using nuclear weapons, at this time. The powerful elite are relentlessly pursuing this destructive path, reminding me of the mentality of the men who killed thousands and thousands of buffalo and took their skins and left them, carcasses to rot in the sun, partly for their valuable hides, but mainly to try to destroy many Indigenous Peoples' abilities to provide for themselves. It's the same people who invented Manifest Destiny, who now use Eminent Domain for their same purposes. It's the same people who took slaves and empowered and enriched themselves off their labor and lives, and called themselves "civilized". Colonialism is a name for these people with this philosophy of conquest, with Capitalism their tool. Colonialism is powered by fossil fuels right now, Earth's blood turned to poison and pumped through these artificial veins and arteries and turned into wealth for the aristocratic. Its time to stop feeding the beast some call Colonialism, others call Capitalism, and gas and oil are its favorite food of this century. Everything else, all the battles for health care, fair taxation, racial justice, sexual orientation justice, feminist justice, social justice, environmental justice....these issues are all traced back to the same thing, and the enemy is the same: the enemy is named Exploitation and Greed. The tools used by Exploitation and Greed are propaganda (including amplifying ignorance and fear and desire), politics, and religion, to name a couple. The symptoms of Exploitation and Greed Illness are fascism, poverty, wealth inequality, intolerance, and violence, to name a few. If we want to survive long enough to have a chance to overcome the enemy, we must protect what is at the heart of keeping this beast alive at this time, what it is exploiting to stay rich and powerful: the Earth herself.
I have recently begun a Quest. For me, the definition of Quest is an inner and outer journey based upon a Question. The Question for this Quest is: How do I, personally, decolonize, and contribute to my People's decolonization? I am far from the end of the Quest. I only just barely found the question! However, that was one of the harder parts. As wise folks often say knowing the right question to ask is the most important part.
Before I discovered the question, I read Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which my daughter gave to me. It turned out to be a resonating voice to influence and strengthen my pathways. She writes of plants from an Indigenous and from a botanist's perspective, and weaves our relationship throughout, tracing the history to the roots of our dysfunctions, and to the roots of the solutions for health. She gave me a glimmer of a direction I could follow. I began to seek the question, and it slowly formulated into "How can I decolonize?"
The next big thing that directed me was a gift from Historian and Chepenefu David Harrelson, at a lecture about Chepenefu, the Kalapuya people of this area of the valley. He gave a short summary to this mostly white crowd, of their history of 500 generations living in the Valley. One of my favorite things he said was, "these are our Ancestors, but they are your Landcestors." In embracing these words (or perhaps allowing them to embrace me) I feel a sense of responsibility to my Landcestors. A sense of connection. A sense of receptivity, reciprocity, and a sense of determination. This is a feeling of decolonization, and it is a good one.
I've read some articles on decolonization and though some specific points are made on "how-to", it is mostly a raising of awareness of the need to do it, and then an urging for each person and group to figure it out for themselves how to do it. So, I am left with a question. That is good. Frustrating, but good. There is no clear answer. This has not really been done before on a large scale, as far as I know. I am convinced it must be done on a large scale for our survival on Earth. There are grey areas, confusing. How to learn the Indigenous ways but not appropriate? How to connect with our own Ancestors that are Indigenous to those places we came from? How to heal the rift that broke us from our connection to them, thus our connection to healthy relationship with the Earth? How to live our Indigenous-from-overseas traditions/heritage/culture in this new land in a way that honors and promotes and compliments the Indigenous People's traditions/heritage/culture on who's land we now live?
Last week I spent two days at the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde at a history and culture summit, and brought my questions with me. I listened. I bring my questions back home with me. I listen.
Today I was working in the orchard gardens and the plants began to tell me somethings. They kindof gave me a list:
1)Listen to us. Listen to our People.
2)Follow the Honorable Harvest.
3)Thank the land and your Landcestors and keep asking them how they want you to walk and work this Earth.
4)Learn about how the Indigenous Peoples of your land managed the land and think about ways you can do that or promote or restore any of that.
5)See if you can coordinate and share and follow direction, in the land you work, of Indigenous Peoples in your area. Every area has the People, they are not gone. They are still here, and may be removed to a bit of a distance but you can find them. Remember it is their country, our People are occupying it.
4)Plant native plants. Plant non-natives in a way that does not disrupt or that compliments native plants.
5)Remember that Permaculture is not at all new, it is the way Indigenous People's managed the land for eons, and was highly perfected way beyond what we are doing. Learn from it and reference it and credit it.
This is just a start, a small one. But I am excited to begin the journey.
So much has happened; it was a whirlwind summer of making cheese, gardening, making more cheese, hosting Blackthorn's Bounty--that is, running the garden with my son, Brendan, and having some of our products go to market. And making more cheese. The cellar has 26 wheels in it now, and we have eaten a lot of the ones I started with making in the Spring. I can only make enough for our own/family/friends consumption, as we eat it all year. Some of the cheeses age over a year in the cellar. I wish I could share more and that there could be more of us small farmers producing our own community's dairy products. Commercial dairies on a large scale are cruel for the animals and create large amounts of methane, increasing greenhouse gasses and accelerating climate change. I do teach cheesemaking and animal husbandry, and hope to see more people invest their abilities into being able to produce food in ways that are less damaging to life on Earth.
The Summer brought the excitement of family visits, weekly Restoring the Relationship workshops, and also the experience of a total eclipse, shared with a wonderful group of people.
Click on the last picture for a gallery of more pictures from 2017 Growing Season
....And Philosophizing the Loss....
This was written in July:
A couple days ago I was in the orchard gardens picking berries and singing, thanking the bushes and canes for the berries and feeling full with the reciprocity existing in my relationship with this little bit of the Mother Earth. I was moving away from a section of raspberries, heading between the almond trees, when I nearly walked into a honeybee swarm. Excitement mounted. Heart pounding, I texted Bri, our assistant bee keeper, letting her know. She was not available, so I made plans: got together a hive, and set it up under the swarm. I invited the bees, telling them I would love to offer them this home and would do all I could to keep them from harm.
Later, the bees were checking it out. I thought I would wait and see if they would decide to go in of their own accord. But then evening came, and they stayed put, hanging to the branch. I have been keeping bees for 4 years and have never had experience with capturing or luring a swarm. Nothing I have done with bees has ever seemed to go as planned and nothing I learn from books seems to tell me what bees will do in each situation. I decided to wait till morning.
Next morning, there they were, still hanging. I decided to put them in the hive, thinking at the time of how they are a partly domesticated animal and may need to be manipulated. I sprayed them with sugar syrup. I made the top box empty of frames, and just pulled the branch into it. I was figuring this out as I went; the branch was too thick for me to cut one-handed as I held onto it with the other hand. It snapped, and the motion got some bees flying, but it made the branch go more into the box. I then could clip it, and shook the bees into the box, layed the branch in front of the entrance for the remaining bees to go in. They went in to a large extent. I put in the frames and put the lid on. I looked carefully for the queen amongst the remaining bees on the branches, and didn't see her.
I was pretty sure I got them with the queen. They seemed in. The bees flying around seemed to be going in, too.
Later I was in the pasture getting the goat kids ready to go to their new homes, and a loose cloud of bees flew overhead, moving up the hill and into the firs.
Today, the hive is empty.
My exuberance turned to dismay. I felt that the magical space of connection and communication and reciprocity in Nature that I had been in when I first saw the swarm was somehow diminished, mocked, made to seem false.
As is my habit, I search for the lesson. Am I not meant to keep bees? What is my lesson? Over days I am sorting it out, philosophizing the loss that comes so heavily with beekeeping. I am thinking about how the relationship is for me, between me and the garden plants and me and the chickens and me and the goats. With them, I feel more able to successfully pursue a symbiosis-based relationship than with the bees. And then I reflect on the historical relationship of humans with goats. Goats and humans co-evolved in a sense. We have had a mutually beneficial relationship to a large extent over many many many generations. It doesn't go against the grain for me to keep goats in a healing manner, respectfully, thankfully giving and receiving. Bees, however, are a wild animal that is barely domesticated, and the relationship has been based on humans manipulating the bees to get the honey, often going against the bees own biological imperatives: we focus on not letting them swarm, in order to get more honey, which keeps them from being able to practice replication and natural selection and even mite control. When a swarm happens, a local queen is raised, with genetics for survival in that particular area. When a colony swarms, there is a break in the brood cycle which lessens parasite loads.
We also put boxes and boxes of bees into trucks and ship them here and there to mono cultures of almonds in California, blueberries in Washington. Foraging on mono cultures is not healthy for bees. Being shipped in trucks is immensely unhealthy for bees.
To top it all off we poison the food with pesticides.
Here, I am trying to do it differently but my striving is not often rewarded by abundant honey or even colonies surviving.
The lesson is to learn not to judge success by gain or loss. I remembered I had a scrap of paper laying on my cheesemaking table where I had jotted myself a note months and months ago:
"True success is not measured by gain or loss, but by experience, beauty, and love. "
farm photos this week
I Just went to the Benton Co. town hall meeting with Senator Ron Wyden. I am reflecting on why it left me vaguely dissatisfied, despite the fact that Ron has been pretty much as good a politician as possible these days and I am proud of him for fighting hard for all of our rights. I think that the dissatisfaction comes from something that seems clear to me now after listening to his answers to so many troubling questions: where the Democratic party has failed us, is, it has failed to identify and boldly and vigorously address the very root of the problem. The biggest root, I would say the tap-root, being income inequality: the broadening of the base of poverty, and the concentrating of the point of extreme wealth. This is what is underlying issues of race, of health, of crime, of mental illness, and of discrimination. Where income inequality is high, so is 1)social immobility, 2)distrust of our fellow human, 3)ill health, 4)crime, 5)mental illness. See Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land, for references to income inequality and its relations to the above.
The Occupy Movement addressed this and was ignored way too much. By Democrats.
Today I make this commitment; this is my promise, to you, my brothers and sisters, elders and youth:
Every day, I will do at least one thing that makes my heart race with fear, that requires me to be brave to do it anyway, one or more thing that exposes racism, religious intolerance, sexism or injustice. One or more thing that speaks up and speaks out for compassion and empathy and understanding. Every day that others in our world have to be afraid and brave just to live, just to practice their beliefs, just to have the color of skin they were born with, just to keep their homes safe, just to go out in public, just to have clean water to drink and a future with hope to show their children.
Yesterday I started, with calling representatives--for some that may not be scary, for some of us it is. Today I put on my pink Pussyhat and went to the farm store. Many farmers in rural Oregon are very intolerant, xenophobic, and sexist. I felt shaky and scared, exposed and vulnerable. I had thought through my possible scenarios for how to deal with it if I am confronted when I wear this and/or my Black Lives Matter shirt in public. This is my plan: If someone says something rude, I will say "Could we have a civil conversation, without insults? I think if I could explain to you what this hat (shirt) means, what it stands for, you might not feel so threatened by it." Then if they agree to converse I will explain something like this: "It means I stand for compassion. It means I stand for equal rights. It does not mean I want to take away your rights or your choices on how you want to live, it means I want to be able to have rights and choices for how I want to live. "
I want to be able to explain and use logic. Could they understand that, on the issue of Life, there are many many people who believe that Animals are as important as Humans? Whether they are or not cannot be proven, it is an opinion and a belief, and a judgement. Many of these people believe it so strongly that they choose not to eat meat, seeing this as a crime against Life (I myself eat meat because I feel it is a natural part of being an animal, however I have great compassion and also still think animals are as important as me. I know I am just another animal, just a very complex one. I know animals have consciousness and feelings. I eat meat and feel I pay a moral price for it, a price that comes from, and with, painful understanding). How would people who think abortion is a crime against Life feel if those people made it illegal for them to eat meat? That wouldn't be fair or equitable, because everyone should have the right to practice their beliefs and to not have others' beliefs imposed upon them.
I have a feeling that the people who are intolerant feel threatened. They have been fed propaganda increasing their fear. They think by giving others equal rights their rights will be taken away. Their "way of life" changed. None of the demands we are making for equal rights are demands for others to lose their rights. No one is telling them they must marry the same sex, they must have abortions, they must become Muslim or Buddhist. We are demanding that the greedy ultra rich must not keep their hold on the power, keep corruption in the government, must not keep feeding propaganda to the masses of semi- or hope-to-be privileged, must not keep fear and hatred alive in order to turn the fearful into hateful mean intolerant armies.
To get back to today, I was in public with my pussyhat and I got some dirty looks. In the parking lot a man went by and insulted me, but he wouldn't stop to converse when I asked him to. After the farm store, at another store with generally more liberal people, I had some positive interactions, especially with another woman wearing a pussyhat. I shared with her my experience and approach and it helped. I am more interested in reaching the "other side" than the people who agree with me, but we do need to give each other solidarity and support. Just not isolate ourselves in those circles, though.
The experience also makes me think about how ridiculously naive I have been, and how wimpy I am now, too, when I get just a tiny fraction of a glimpse of how it must feel to be a woman wearing a hijab in public here now, or a black or Native person in many places. I am so empathetic that I cry every day for all the pain and wrong-doing and lack of understanding in the world. I want us all to cry. I want us all to feel it.
No more can I be neutral, do-gooder maybe, but somewhat hidden. It's all or nothing, now, folks. So, here is what I have to say: It's f###ing ugly right now in our Country(world), but IT's NOT NEW! The ugliness is on the surface now, is all. You know what irks me at the moment, folks? What irks me about this is when so many of ya'll cling to self-congratulatory myths of Greatness of this Nation and its foundation. It was founded on the slaughter, murdering, marching, corralling, degrading, culture-breaking ("boarding schools":prison camps imprisoning large proportions of more than an entire generation of children for the crime of being a Native child.) of the millions of the Native inhabitants that were here. Concurrently, it was built by populations in the ranges of 4 millions at a time of African slaves, for over the course of more than 200 years. After slavery, the culture and well being of these peoples and the Natives have been broken and harmed and the wounds not addressed. The government from the beginning was of Patriarchal Domination. The struggles for freedom and justice and rights have been desperate, ugly, hard, and not well liked by establishment, especially when contradictory to its economic interests. Hitler and fascism in Europe was tolerated --and fascist propaganda methods perpetuated (to this day)--: from my studies it looks like he was considered a "lesser evil" to working-class movements and revolutions after WW1. Until Hitler became too big of a threat to world powers and economics, he was tolerated.
Throughout all this time there have been compassionate people, struggling people, helpful people, desperate people, brave truth speakers. They exposed. They contradicted. They hoped. Most just managed to survive, often by going along with the cruelty. Those are most of our Ancestors.
We need to move on as a species, and will not, on the basis of myths any longer. Only on the basis of truth. Painful, real, truth. Why? Because the myth is a coping mechanism we no longer need, it is holding us back. Why? Because the myth is created to make us feel better about ourselves, comforted in our illusions, while we perpetuate the system that destroys, that continues racism, intolerance, injustice, hurting the helpless, destroying Nature and Her creatures.
WAKE UP . GET UNCOMFORTABLE. Yes, it hurts. It's not going to not hurt. I myself, am raw.
I am NOT Proud to be American. I am Thankful to be American. I am Glad to pay my taxes. I am Honored to do my share. I have NO right to anything anyone else does not have a right to. I am Humble to be an Earthling.
I believe throughout all human history, every one of us has Ancestors who were the cruel dominating ones, who were the passive non-resistors, who were the brave compassionate, and all the spectrum in between. Now is the time to choose: which of those Ancestors' spirit/message/guidance do you want to embrace and embody? Which do you want to forgive but NEVER FORGET? Which do you want to understand with the heart that has lived their lives?
"When you've got a dream like mine
Nobody can take you down
When you've got a dream like mine
Nobody can push you around
Today I dream of how it used to be
Things were different before
The picture shifts to how it's going to be
When you know even for a moment
That it's your time
Then you can walk with the power
Of a thousand generations" --Bruce Cockburn
Right here on Shady Grove Farm, Corvallis. I offer complete wool processing instruction including washing and carding in my spinning lessons. You can continue with knitting, and soon to include dying and felting experiences. See products page for details. I also trade for time spent in labor on the farm or for your home-made products. Internships also include fiber experiences!
please click on Ordu's picture to see full gallery!
Natural Farming is a term I prefer to Organinc Farming. Both are open to interpretation, however. Organic farming has become a profit-driven method that is causing the approach to degrade. Many approved Organic practices are not healthy to the Earth or its people and critters any more.
I ask myself, why do I use hand tools instead of rototillers, motorized mowers, or chemicals, whether termed "organic" or not? I ask myself this when I am not quite keeping up with the thistle or burrs, when my arms are aching from shoveling, when I lose half of somethings I am growing to insects or voles or whatever other wild element I am unprotected from. The answer I come up with, sometimes with resistance in part of me, is, It keeps me even with nature. It is a fair fight! Not that I view my farming as a battle with nature in general, but there are definitely sometimes some aspects of that when you get down to it. I am continuously "battling" several varieties of plants I don't want--i.e. so called weeds. I am battling the rodents with my fearless team of hunters, the cats. But it is a natural struggle, and an even one, practiced in all of nature in its shaping of ecosystems, and shaping of organisms through selection. When I do what I can by hand and barely keep up I am keeping a place in my little world for the snakes, the praying mantises, the wasps and the bees. The system begins to work for me. Pests become balanced out by their predators and competitors. Now that I have been doing this for a few years I am seeing the results and it is heartening.
I also have become sensitive to the fact that there is a cost to everything. No matter what. You never get something for nothing. The cost may be payed right up front, or it may get passed down a generation or two, or it may be payed by other innocents. But there will be a cost. The cost of what I get in natural farming I am paying for with my own labors, with my composting, with my mulching, with everything I put into it. I am paying up front as much as I can. The cost for a motorized lawn mower is way more expensive than most folks realize. Think of the metals, the labor, the shipping, the fossil fuels. The cost of using it, on the immediate environment, is also expensive: the destruction of predator's homes and food goes beyond their ability to recover. I acknowledge that it is very appropriate and still attuned to the philosophy I am expressing to use mowers and other motorized equipment-- especially on larger pieces of land--and still be able to help things in the constant flow to homeostasis.
Yesterday and today the wind was blowing so fierce. My heart felt sore: afraid, and lonely.
Today, I saw the first ashmead's kernal apple had fallen, golden and warm. I took a slice, from this tree only planted a couple years ago--it was my first taste. OH MY GOD I felt like I never tasted anything so delicious though certainly I have; still, at that moment I felt so.
Here is the poem that has come of it all:
sweeping my ability
to help those I love
out of my control and away, farther, disconnected.
You are blowing my capacities
into some distant dream.
You are flailing my confidence,
and my faith
to scattered bits.
Then, I am
flying with you
hair going wild,
voice cackling, screeching,
I gather the bits I still need,
let the rest blow,
What a wonderful busy Spring on the farm it was this year. It was so good to have more rain and coolness than the last couple years, giving my young perennials and fruit trees a chance to get more well established. I also enjoyed showing off the farm with a couple tours for the first time, young as the whole project may be I am eager to share it. The Willamette Women Farmers Network, Master Gardeners, and a small 4-H group came.
While my sister and nieces visited, we had 2 chicks hatch from under my broody hen! My sister picked a million berries here, strawberries, raspberries, and tayberries! My nieces and I dyed wool from Orwen and Ordu and made felt. I made lots of cheese and still am.
Be sure to click on photo for more!
Soaring Hearts Blessed Thistle, before giving my a half gallon of milk this morning! Click on the image to see a couple more.
The sheep were shorn finally after another year of having a delay because of some trouble with the shearer coming through. Tom and I have decided to learn at a class at the Black Sheep Gathering and will be shearing them ourselves next year!
Bessie's Buckling went to his new home early, to be bottle fed and spoiled! Bessie gave this much milk after nursing only her doeling all day!
Yes, I have been getting my garden in, and weeding, and doing what little I can for the bees, and the chickens, and the yard, and Tom, but the goats are definately dominationg the obsessive thinking that goes on in my brain! Kidding, milking, adverstising kids, taking pictures, making cheese, caring for them all.....Here are a couple of those pictures but there are so many more on my facebook page and on the mini nubian page and on my computer desktop! If you click on it you can see more:
Two more doelings! I could hardly believe it, had to keep checking at first! Esmie did great for a morning time labor and delivery, with only a little assistance. She is being a wonderful attentive Mom, too. The girls are sturdy within only a short time from birth, and so adorable with gorgeous coloring and looong floppy ears!
These girls are so cute and playful! They still need a new home! Seegersong is giving them a lot of her nice creamy milk but now I am getting some too, and made my first cheese of the year: delicious fresh feta.