• Category Archives permaculture
  • A Bold Return to Giving a Damn

    Winter and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Tara. Her new puppy. Cold. Snow. Sleep. Gabriella. A Bold Return to Giving a Damn: One Farm. Amazon. New Phone. Wallet. 2024 on the way. Poetry. Road Less Taken. Lines Written at Tintern Abbey. Kubla Kahn. Notes on a Supreme Fiction. Circles. Leaves of Grass. Ozymandias. The Raven. Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. The Wasteland. Song of Myself. The Second Coming. And so much else.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Poetry

    One brief shining: The end of another year approaches, our penchant for deciding calendar dates as the always orbiting Earth’s journey around Great Sol continues, brings us to Pope Gregory XIII who chose in October of 1582 in his well known Papal bull: Inter gravissimas to change the rules for leap years to prevent the Julian calendar’s drift away from the solar holidays, oh you didn’t know, well neither did I but Wikipedia did.



    Gabriella. My adopted Axolotl. She’s swimming in the chinampas canals along with other wild Axolotls who will repopulate the ancient waterways of Xochimilco. I get excited about this project because it’s both the reintroduction of a wild species into its former habitat (see the five Timber Wolves released a week ago in western Colorado) and a project that supports indigenous farming methods healthy for the chinampas themselves. This kind of work will enable our grandchildren to have their best chance to adapt to a warming World.

    A Bold Return to Giving a Damn: One Farm, Six Generations, and the Future of Food relates the story of Will Harris and his disillusionment with Big Ag 30 years ago. The successful transition of his family’s farm to regenerative farming makes compelling reading if you care about the source of your food. This farm is in southwestern Georgia, but it’s an example, not singular.

    The USA Regenerative Agriculture Allliance, Inc trains farmers in regenerative practices. Yes, it’s about good food, food raised without pesticides, fertilizers and other “inputs” that defy the natural cycle and deplete the soil. But, it’s also about how to live in a warming World. Someday regenerative agriculture will use the perennial grains and other crops under development at the Land Institute.

    Want to volunteer in the work of Ecosystem restoration? Look at the Ecosystems Restoration Communities website. They do restoration projects all over the world. The expertise and practical knowledge developed as these organization go about their own individual missions will become the Seedstock for a World that can no longer afford any depletion of natural capital.

    What’s natural capital? An accounting method. That’s right. Accounting. The Natural Capital Project at Stanford University develops accounting methods that define the value of Ecosystems, Oceans, the Water cycle, Forests. Why is this important? Regenerative agriculture is a good example. Corporate farming, by far the dominant model in the U.S. and in most of the World, treats Soil, Crops, and Animals as so many widgets to be manipulated for increased profits. Their accounting methods do not have to take into account the value of the Soil, the Rain, the need for dna diversity in both food Crops and Animals. They don’t have to reckon with the future costs of ruined Soil, the dangers of monocultures in such critical crops as Corn, Wheat, Rice. Maybe they’re not as profitable as they think.

    OK. I’ll stop. For now. But I will return to these adaptive approaches that will help Ruth and Gabe survive in a much changed world.


  • Land, Sea, and Sky

    Yule and the Moon of the New Year

    Where’s the Webb? 99.79% to L2 at 8 am MST. 1900 miles to go. Mission Day 30. Speed now: 450 mph.


    “L2 Insertion Burn

    Mid Course Correction Burn (MCC2) – Begins L2 Insertion

    Nominal Event Time: Updated: Launch + 30 days

    Status: Schedule and Post MCC2 Coverage

    Activities to plan and execute MCC2 – the insertion burn for Webb’s L2 orbit. MCC2 corrects any residual trajectory errors and adjusts the final L2 orbit.

    The James Webb Space Telescope is launched on a direct path to an orbit around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange Point (L2), but it needs to make its own mid-course thrust correction maneuvers to get there. This is by design, because if Webb gets too much thrust from the Ariane rocket, it can’t turn around to thrust back toward Earth because that would directly expose its telescope optics and structure to the Sun, overheating them and aborting the science mission before it can even begin. Therefore, Webb gets an intentional slight under-burn from the Ariane and uses its own small thrusters and on-board propellant to make up the difference.

    There are three mid-course correction (MCC) maneuvers: MCC-1a, MCC-1b, and MCC-2. This final burn, MCC-2, which inserts Webb into its L2 halo orbit.” NASA.


    Monday gratefuls: Marina Harris and her cleaning crew. Alan’s recovery from Covid. His role in the Colorado Ballet. The Ancient Brothers Ode to Joy this morning. Ali Baba’s gyros. Cancer. Prostate and otherwise. Rigel and her meds. January. Winter in its fullness in Minnesota. Colorado has cold December and snowy February, March, April.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Love

    Tarot: will require its own post.


    This damned event keeps getting new legs, fresh legs. In history the U.S. response to Covid will confound future generations. Why didn’t they take it seriously? Even after so many dead. So many hospitalized. So many left with lingering troubles.

    Not to mention of course the number of the unmasked, unvaccinated who want to take over the government. I’ve become news shy. Like many of you, I know. Who wants to read about the brutal murder of Caesar or the Beer Hall Putsch? That is dangerous, of course. It is the uninformed and the passive who underwrite with their absence the fevered path of the few.

    There is a small herd of Mule Deer Does who’ve been coming up the utility easement to eat needles off slash Derek dumped there. When they’re here, the scene becomes instant backwoods. An over the river and through the woods tableau. They’re here right now. The Buck, an eight-pointer, was here this morning. Neither Kep nor Rigel paid attention. Just as well. A chance encounter between a Dog and a Buck can result in injury or death for the doggy.

    Kep noticed them. He walked through Snow, looked. Gave a short yip and came toward the house. The Deer munched Pine Needles, secure on the other side of our fence. Kep came in.

    Rigel has begun to hesitate to walk up the five stairs to the kitchen level. She’s fallen, slid several times and she has the new meds on board. They’re supposed to help, but it appears to me that they’re making her feel strange. Doesn’t help confidence.

    With Rigel’s legs and arthritis and spinal owies becoming more evident. With Kep’s nose undergoing x-rays and possible biopsy on Tuesday it looks like my companions may have rough water ahead. Since they are my grief counselors, sleeping partners, and the biggest part of my interaction with the living world, their troubles are very much my troubles. I’m not getting ahead of anything. Just aware that they, like Kate, like me, are mortal creatures. Like Abraham Lincoln.

    Simcah Torah, Congregation Beth Evergreen. 2021

    Thinking about donating money. What it means. How I decide. Most of my donations go to Congregation Beth Evergreen. There I’m saying yes to community, yes to friends, yes to thousands of years of history, yes to a religious culture cultivated by this unusual gathering. I don’t feel like I’m supporting the church. I’m supporting the chemistry of a place that accepts me and loves me as I am.

    Otherwise I give a bit here, a bit there. Some to Dog shelters, some to performing arts organizations, some to politicians and some to political organizations.

    Deciding that next year and thereafter I’m going to focus my giving beyond CBE in a different way. My largest non-CBE donation was to the Land Institute where Wes Jackson and his crew push toward perennial Crops and no-till agriculture. I’m gonna lean toward these radical solution organizations, ones working with the Soil, with Plants, with agriculture. I value the courage it takes to stand against farming practices that seem so entrenched as to be unmovable. And I value the creative thinking that the Wendell Berry’s, the Mary Oliver’s, the Aldo Leopold’s, the Thomas Berry’s, the Wes Jackson’s represent.

    So this year. CBE and those working on long-term, universally applicable solutions to systemic problems in agriculture and protection of our World: Land, Sea, and Sky.

  • Impermanence

    Yule and the Moon of the New Year

    Where’s the Webb? 791ooo miles from home. 108000 miles to L2 insertion. 88% of the way. .1769 mps. Sunshield: 131 F. Primary Mirror: -328 F.



    Saturday gratefuls: Snow. Fresh and white. A friend’s Dog, cancer. The house changing, transforming. The Hermitage. Brown. Color. Kep’s abundant, luxuriant, always growing fur. The Mountains in Winter. The Lodgepoles with heavy bows. The Arcosanti bell has a white fairy cap. The outdoor table has a round, snowy table covering exactly its size. Medical Guardian. Uncertainty.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The love we have for our Dogs. And the love they have for us.

    Tarot: Page of Arrows, The Wren


    Frantisec Kupka: The Path of Silence

    A friend’s dog diagnosed with inoperable cancer. A friend on her third or fourth round of chemo for ovarian cancer. Kate dead. My own, more tractable cancer. Life. Then death. The way of the animate world. It says something about our need, our lust for permanence that disease followed by death exacts such a toll. But it does. Death is no more, no less prevalent than birth and life; but, it insults us, destroys our fabricated lives.

    When the snow fell today, all day, as it hasn’t in a while, it covered the driveway, my solar panels, this Shadow Mountain. Even our daily views are impermanent, changing often in the temperate latitudes where I’ve lived all my life.

    Ichi-go, ichi-e. Every moment, every encounter is once in a lifetime. The tea ceremony is a beautiful expression, a reminder of this oh, so important truth. Kate will never be here on this plane again. Unique and significant in her quick intelligence, her dry wit, her chesed, her love for me, for Jon, Ruth, Gabe. My friend’s dog, whom I’ve met many times, likewise. Stolid. Built low to the ground. Attentive, but mostly arranging himself near Rich. Each time I met him was a whole moment. Complete and wonderful. As was each day with Kate.

    This summer my friend with ovarian cancer made home-made strawberry ice-cream and we shared it at a table in Mt. Falcon Park, near Morrison. We both had the brand of the impermanent burned into our bodies with blood draws, sleepless nights, worry, treatments. If we could, as the Buddhists I think recommend, lean into the impermanence, grant it the piquancy it brings, the poignance of ichi-go, ichi-e as a home truth, if we could, we might still mourn and grieve, but we might also find room to celebrate the passing of each once-in-a-lifetime instance.

    Kate may 2013

    Each spring in Andover plants would push up from the cold, cold Earth. The Grape Hyacinths, the Daffodils, the Crocus, the Anemones. The Spring Ephemerals. Those plants whose strategy is to store food during a burst of growth before Leaves on Trees and Bushes, taller Flowers block them out. Such a joyous, brilliant, hopeful life. Yet, brief. Ephemeral. Gone in a couple of weeks, three, four at the most.

    Oh, how I miss those delights of the cold, wet days of late Winter, early Spring. I no longer miss caring for the Gardens, but I miss them nonetheless. Those gardens were an immersion, like foreign language immersion, in the ongoing lives of plants, in the dance of life and the inevitability of death. Each fall we composted the dead stalks that delivered food to the roots of vegetables and flowers. They had more to give even though they were now lifeless.

    The Earth gives us daily lessons in impermanence, but we rationalize, smooth over, just don’t see them. I’m writing this now in the 10th month after Kate’s death. Her memory blesses me every day. Her lessons, the things she taught me. The same. I leave the door open on the washer so it won’t mildew. I trust my doctors. I love Judaism and the Jews that I know. Impermanence has permanently changed me.



  • Winter is Coming

    Harvest Home and the Michaelmas Moon

    A Rockies Game. downtown Denver

    Wednesday gratefuls: Jon. Healing, in some ways. Ruth, in Spirit week at her high school. Having fun. Anxious. Gabe, with his first pimple, Nosy. That squash soup I made last year for Kate. Still good, fed us all. Jodi and kitchen ideas. Cold nights. Kep and Rigel beside me.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Autumnal Equinox

    Tarot: Four of Bows, Wildwood


    Monday night we had frost. Tricky. Moisture dripped from the garage eve onto the steps up to the loft. Had on my tennis shoes. Not yet winterized, my mind left out the part where that small amount of Water could freeze, become slippery. Especially on the sole of a tennis shoe. Grabbed the railing, steadied myself. Oh, shit. Went to the results of my recent DEXA scan, bone density. Hoping I have enough bone strength to fall and not break something important. Like any bone in my body.

    That Worm. The one about handling this place in the Winter. Bit into the Apple of my paradise. This is something I have to face, deal with. Choose ways and means to keep myself safe and happy. Rigel, too.

    Not a big deal. Yet. And there are options.

    Our house in the early morning, light on Shadow Mountain

    This is where I want to be. Kate’s last Home. Our Mountain Home. I’m willing to think this through, come up with solutions. One of which entails finding somebody to plow my driveway. Starting again on that one this morning.

    Jodi came. She’s from Blue Mountain Kitchens. I want to inspire my cooking. Make the kitchen a place I want to be. Functional, yes. Beautiful, too. Rustic, fit the house, its location. We talked cabinetry, counter tops, backsplash, storage, prep. I liked her. She had some good ideas.

    Next week Bear Creek Designs, who did our downstairs bathroom, putting in stone and tile, creating a zero entry threshold for the shower, comes out. I’ll see what they have to say. I like them, too.

    Lucas Cranach the Elder, Living in Paradise

    Money can answer many of the questions about that Worm. Protect the Apple. And, I have enough. Not more than enough, but enough, to tackle most of the issues.

    Also needing to get strong bodies up here to move furniture. Table from downstairs to the old sewing room. Kate’s recliner up to the living room. Figure out what to do with the big wooden display cabinet and its glassware. The smaller one and its rocks, including the nice gneiss Tom sent me a while back.

    As I often whisper to myself, I’m getting there. Slow and steady. The tortoise. Not the rabbit.

    Jon, Ruth, and Gabe came up last night. Jon has to get Jen to sign the title to the Subaru so he can donate it CPR. This is happening. Very slowly, but it’s happening.

    Andover orchard in winter
    2011, Andover

    Today though is a holiday. Let’s not forget. Mabon. The Autumnal Equinox. The time of the Harvest Moon. The combine contractors are working their way through the Wheat Fields of the Great Plains. Corn pickers are out in Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois. Soy bean harvest. Apples in the orchards.

    Those gardens with Squash, last Tomatoes, Beans, Onions, Raspberries, wild Grapes. Wicker and wire gathering containers filled, carried into kitchens. The canning equipment taken down from its high shelves. Oh, what a time. Fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts.

    honey supers after the harvest, 2013

    Mabon is a late name for this harvest holiday: Feast of the Ingathering, Harvest Home, or simply Fall. Meteorologists say Fall when September 1st comes. Most of us still follow the old ways, though we may not think of them that way. Celebrating equinoxes and solstices, in their reversed forms in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, constituted a religious rite in many ancient cultures. Anywhere agriculture followed the seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, the Sun and its relation to Earth’s orbit evoked awe and wonder.

    Sukkot, 2016, Beth Evergreen

    No accident that CBE has a sukkah up, open to the sky. A prominent Harvest holiday on the Jewish calendar. And, I learned a year or so ago, once the primary holiday at this time of year, not the High Holidays. Bounty in the form of first Fruits, unblemished Animals came to the Temple in Jerusalem. Sacrifices to the most high god. Think I’ll head over there this evening. Pizza in the hut.

    A week from today we celebrate Michaelmas. The traditional beginning of the academic year in England, the Michaelmas term. The feast day of the Archangel Michael. Tom and Roxann’s anniversary. And, as you’ve often heard me say here, the start of the Springtime of the Soul.

    Guess I’ve had a Jewish sensibility all these years. This does feel like the beginning of a new year to me. I celebrate one at Samain and on January 1st as well. Multiple new years. Multiple opportunities to examine life. In fact, I think I’ll do a Fall Tarot spread to see what this wondrous season has in store for me.



  • Gardner Me

    Fall and the RBG Moon

    Kiss the Ground. Netflix. Not a huge fan of documentaries. Not sure why. I love fiction, not non-fiction books though I read them from time to time.

    But this one. Recommended by long time friend Tom Crane. Didn’t say much new, maybe nothing for me, but it pulled my heart. Reminded me of who I’ve been. Who I’ve left behind.

    Gardner me. That guy that used to spend hours planting flowers, amending soil, weeding the onions and the beans. Cutting raspberry canes back for the winter. Thinning the woods. Thinning the carrots and the beets. Lugging bags of compost. Bales of marsh hay. Planning flower beds so there would be something blooming during the entire growing season. Hunting for heirloom seeds.

    I had plans. I read books about adapting gardening techniques in xericulture. Thought about this idea and that. Read a lot before our move. But, then. Prostate cancer and a cascade of other distractions. Divorce. Arthritis. Kate’s troubles.

    The whole horticulture act slipped into yesterday. And I miss it. Even the cussing at the critters. A notable reminder. Heirloom Tomatoes. Oh, my god. I buy them when they’re good. Five bucks a pound. I eat them like the fruit they are as a fruit. The taste. So good. No comparison to those raised for mechanical harvesting. Not even the same thing, imho.

    Our carrots and beets and leeks and garlic and beans. Our honeycrisp apples. Granny. Plums. Cherries. The onions drying on the old screen door in the shed Jon built. A basement pantry filled with canned vegetables, canned fruit. Jars of honey from Artemis Honey.

    A greenhouse. That’s the only way I could return to gardening. I’m no longer strong enough for the kind of gardening we did in Andover, Minnesota. I’d need plants on a bench about hip height. But I’m seriously considering it. The dogs. Yes. Kate. Yes. But, plants, too. Our own food on our table. Nurturing plants. I’m sad I left it behind.

    We’ll see.

  • Greenman

    Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

    Tuesday grateful: The Lughnasa moon just setting below Black Mountain. That one violet volunteering near our front steps. The daisies. The faint whoosh of folks going to work. Ruth. Her eagerness to see us. Their garden and her joy in it. Seeing Patty yesterday. Banking. Socrates, the teller.

    Gardening. At the end of my time on the Ancient Ones zoom, I surprised myself by summing up my life as having one regret. Gardening. That we hadn’t pursued it here on Shadow Mountain. I miss, I said, growing our own food. Working with soil and plants. I do. Miss it.

    Once Kate and I moved to Andover a transition began for me from city boy to horticulturalist. I wouldn’t have predicted that necessarily. We’d done some perennials at our home on Edgcumbe road. Starting with the small bed I planted in the front yard, finishing during the great Halloween blizzard of October 31st, 1991. Daffodils and Iris, if I recall correctly.

    It’s true I had a big garden back in 1974 on the Peaceable Kingdom, my failed attempt, with Judy, to develop a spot for the movement to have respite care. My only Psilocybin journey happened there. I watched our Potato plants growing. But the Peaceable Kingdom did not last and neither did gardening.

    A bit of gardening at the first house, the one on 41st Avenue, but Slugs took over. There was no gardening at home in Alexandria. A few Flowers maybe, but nothing to remember.

    Andover, though. When we got there, the front yard was bare, as was a sloped area behind the house in the back. About an acre of Woods were doing fine, as undisturbed Woods will do. In between was a large patch of weedy, scrubby Grass with a large grove of Black Locust. They didn’t look good, some of them were dead. BTW: many of the Weeds were actually Hemp plants seeded during a World War II field planted in it.

    We hired a landscape architect who helped us with the bare Land. I wanted to sow a Prairie on all of it. Kate said no, we could never sell it. We settled on two large areas of Prairie with sod and some new Trees in between them, directly in front of the house. On the sloping area behind the house we decided to do a terraced garden. Irrigation went in with all of it.

    In the beginning I wanted to do only perennials. I imagined our house overflowing with fresh cut flowers throughout the growing season. I had a lot to learn. Having flowers blooming from spring into fall requires so many skills.

    I did not want to do annuals. And, I didn’t. Along the way I learned about soil amendments, spading forks and gardening spades, trowels, and hori-hori. Killed a lot of plants. Cussed at Rose Chafers, Japanese Beetles, Colorado Beetles. Along the way I fell in love with the families Lily and Iris and crocus. Learned the amazing recovery powers of Hosta.

    The Black Locust and their small swords taught me caution and how to use a chain saw, a commercial grade chipper, a Peavey, a Swede saw. Hired stump grinders. I cleared, with Jon’s help, enough area that we could imagine a vegetable garden. Jon built us raised beds from the start, anticipating the day when bending over would not be easy. He made some in whimsical shapes, others square, some rectangular. I filled them with top soil and compost.

    We had various compost piles, none of which worked very well. We built one that used split rail fencing and a large metal gate to keep the dogs out. Tully, one of our Wolfhounds, kept finding her way in. But she couldn’t get back out. Strange.

    Speaking of Wolfhounds. Jon built a fence around the raised beds to keep them out. They loved to dig in soft garden soil.

    More on this later. This has gotten long.

  • Deep Guidance

    Imbolc and the Leap Year Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: An extra day in my birthday month. DogsonDeployment and the three folks who responded right away. Seoah’s careful scrutiny of the profiles. Kate’s help with Corrine, who called from DoD. Blue skies and warm temps. Atlas Obscura. The Rocky Mountain Land Library. Jon’s offer to stay with Kate while I take the kids on a road trip.

    Just signed up for a Food and Land Bookclub. My real interest in it is its association with the Rocky Mountain Land Library in next county over Park County. When I bought the books for the book club, four in all, I found my powers returning. Oh, this is what I’ve got energy for my body said. Book titles: Mayordomo: chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico, Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants, One Size Fits None: a farm girls search for the promise of regenerative agriculture, and, The Seed Underground: a growing revolution to save food.

    When we first moved here, over five years ago now, I wanted to garden, to learn the native plants, to hike the mountains, learn the land and streams and wildlife. Prostate cancer, bum knee then knee replacement, COPD. Kate’s various medical dilemmas later. Distracted. Accomplished little of these. Some hiking, not much thanks to the COPD and the bad knee. Gardening here required more physical energy than I have available. My first native plants class got interrupted by my prostatectomy. Life. Stuff.

    I first discovered the Rocky Mountain Land Library in 2015, our first year here. It was only a dream then, an idea concocted by the former owners of Denver’s most loved book store, Tattered Covers. It now has a ranch in Park County, south of Fairplay, a bit over an hour from here. Buildings and projects have begun to come together. It wasn’t ready when I found it and, as it turned out, neither was I.

    During Gertie’s last days I reflected again on my instinctual opposition to euthanasia for dogs. It’s no longer absolute because I saw its necessity as Gertie suffered, but it’s still strong. Were there any other instances in my life where I made choices from an instinctual level?

    Instinct? Intuition? Deep inner guidance? Link to a source of knowledge I can’t access consciously? Instinct in any formal sense is probably wrong, but the feeling involved, a strong compulsion, a certainty that this path was mine, had that flavor anyhow.

    Turns out there were other such choices. When I turned 32, I knew I had to be a parent. Got a vasectomy reversal. Didn’t work. OK. Adopt. First child, a girl, died in a salmonella outbreak at the orphanage. Raeone didn’t want to go forward. She’d just gotten a new job. My deep push made me agree to take care of the new baby myself, no matter what it took. I took him to work with me until he was 18 months old.

    After an Ira Progoff workshop in Tuscon, an intentional stirring of my inner life, I stopped by Denver to see Ruth and Gabe. By the time I left I knew Kate and I needed to move to Colorado. She agreed and so we did. We wanted to live in the mountains and to be in our kids and grandkids lives.

    Other less dramatic instances. Saw a movie while in college that featured Manhattan. Put my thumb out and spent the summer of 1968, the summer of love, not in San Francisco, but in Manhattan. Curator of Asian art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Bob Jacobson, gave a lecture on Angkor. Specifically he showed the amazing stone bas relief sculpture that runs for a quarter mile around Angkor Wat’s great Hindu temple. And in particular the churning of the sea of milk where gods and demons struggle for a magical elixir. Had to see it. When my dad died and left me enough money to do some travel, I went.

    A related but less pressured decision came when I realized I was no longer Christian, that I had to leave the ministry. Had I not met Kate, this feeling would have been tested, but I met her and she allowed me a graceful exit.

    Right now I’m feeling a similar push, perhaps not only to the Rocky Mountain Land Library, but to reawaken the me who woke up for twenty springs, twenty summers, and twenty falls glad for the chance to plant lilies, weed onions, harvest garlic, trim the raspberry canes. The me who woke up for several years and knew tending the bees was in the day’s labor. The me who came here excited about the West, about the mountains, about being in a brand new place. We’ll see where this goes.

  • Get Your Hands Dirty

    Just to show you I’m not only about death and cancer. Here’s a response I wrote to Bill Schmidt after reading this article, “Modernity, Faith, and Martin Buber,” from the New Yorker. He passed it along from his friend Nancy.

    Bill, it took me a while, but I did get around to the Buber article yesterday. Interesting. I’d not read a synopsis like this before.

    He was a contemporary of Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism and the only rabbi excommunicated by the Orthodox rabbinate in the U.S. My kinda guy.

    Martin Buber

    I would put Buber, Dewey, Kaplan, and Emerson together. They all questioned received wisdom, hankered to get below the surface of thought to find the substrata. Dewey (and William James) as a pragmatist might be the outlier here, but the pragmatists were a unique American contribution to Western philosophy and as such took issue with the philosophical tradition they had been given from European thinkers. Buber, of course, is the only one of the three that is not an American, but he took Jewish thought in a direction I think is very congenial with Kaplan.

    In a quick search I couldn’t find any evidence that Kaplan used Buber’s work, but their mutual insistence on a human centered approach to religion, perhaps even in Buber a human/pagan approach: “When something does emerge from among things, something living, and becomes a being for me… It is for me nothing but You!” and on Judaism’s culture, as opposed to dogma, makes them simpatico. “Buber exhorted his listeners…not to abandon their Judaism but to reinvent it.” Reconstruct it.

    This is congruent, too, with Emerson who wanted a book of revelation to us, not the dry bones of revelation to them. Emerson I know had a lot of Taoist influence, don’t know about Buber.

    Mordecai Kaplan

    We might find a distinctly American twist on religious sensibility by looking at all of these thinkers, even though Buber was German. I’d say my project about reimagining or reinventing faith is in this tradition. That tradition seems to say, take nothing from books as true. Test their ideas against reality, test them against reality at its deepest in your Self and at its broadest in the world beyond the Self. Be ready for the sacred to surprise you in the petals of a flower, the flow of an avalanche, the innocence of a puppy. Find the divine within your Self and bow to the divine within the other, be it rock, animal, fungus, or human.

    The gooseberries and me

    In my work I’ve found the soil, the power of plants, perfect examples. When we consider our reliance on the first six inches of top soil, on the mystery of photosynthesis, on the divine miracle that is life whether green or furry or pink or barked, then, we don’t need to go to Luke or the Torah. My scripture and its most profound secrets exist in the wonder of rootlets reaching into the dark for the nutrients held for them in living soil.

  • The Future of Food

    Imbolc                                                                           New Shoulder Moon

    third plate Mentioned The Third Plate a few posts ago. A book by chef Dan Barber, owner of the Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan and a principle in the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester County.

    Rotation Grains
    smoked farmer’s cheese and broccoli pistou
    Maine Diver Scallop
    bacon, winter squash and kohlrabi
    Stone Barns Pig
    tsai tsai, horseradish and pickled grapes
    11 day dry-aged bolero carrot steak
    mushroom, kale and onion rings
    blue hill farm milk
    yogurt, turmeric and ginger
    Malted Triticale porridge
    White Chocolate, quince and Beer Ice Cream
    Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture
    Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

    He uses four big concept areas, pictured at the top: Soil, Land, Sea, Seed to tell a story about what he sees as the future of food. He’s trying to take the conversation about food beyond the now well known critiques of books like Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Aldo Leopold’s The Sand County Almanac, and any number of books published in the late sixties like Eull Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. Throw in Wes Jackson’s Becoming Native to This Place, almost anything by Wendell Berry and the thought world championed by John Muir and Edward Abbey and you can see the big conceptual field Barber has tried to plow.

    He seems on to something. Using examples like the dehesa in Spain that produces jambon iberico, The Bread Lab run by Washington State plant geneticist Stephen Jones, the farm of Klaas Martens who teaches him about reading the language of the soil, Veta La Palma, a Spanish aquaculture corporation set up in an estuary of the Gulf of Cadiz, and Anson Mills, a fascinating concept by Glenn Roberts who uses landrace farming to resurrect old grain crops and nurture new ones, he seems to propose a recursion to localized crops, that is, wheat, for example, that grows best in upstate New York.  This recursion includes animals, too, where their rearing takes on the characteristics that oenologists call terroir in wines.


    This recursion would have chefs take their cues, their menus, from what farmers can grow in their immediate area and from those sites with a focus on sustainability and ecosystem regeneration. The fascinating aquaculture experiment that is Veta La Palma  uses the Guadalquivir River and the salt water of the Gulf of Cadiz to farm high quality sea bass. The focus does not have to be only local or regional but can include instances of food production with ecosystem supportive techniques.

    This seems similar to the disaggregation idea in power production, local solar and wind and geothermal and hydro.  Anything that deemphasizes the industrial and the corporate in favor of the local and ecological.


    He talks about his idea in agriculture as middle agriculture, that is agriculture smaller than corporate, but larger than the small family farm or the boutique garden. He’s trying to get to scale sufficient that it could actually feed large numbers of people.

    It makes me want to cook in the way he suggests. That is, find food grown here in the Rockies, use it along with food sourced from the Veta La Palmas, the dehesas or the Bread Labs, and build our menus at home around it, changing with the seasons. Right now that would take a good bit of work, but it might be possible and it would certainly be worth it.

    A continuing theme.

  • A Horticulturist

    Imbolc                                                                           New Life Moon

    As my melancholy continues to lift, new and old values push themselves forward, wanting to be included or excluded. I didn’t, for example, attend the Democratic caucus last night. Though I did want to be home for Kate, who uncharacteristically has anxiety about her upcoming surgery, Sjogren’s adds an unknown, I also didn’t want to go. Kate pushed back on this, saying the activist has been an important part of me, well, almost forever. True. And maybe, probably, I’ll alter course on this one, but right now I want to focus on other things.

    third-plate-dan-barberIn addition to cooking, the sumi-e (ink brush painting), and working out, I mentioned the possibility of a greenhouse. Expensive, so we’ll see about that. But. I began reading a book I’ve had for a while, The Third Plate. It puts me back in the mental and very physical world of Andover. In fact, the feeling, while I was reading it, was so comfortable, a sort of ah, here I am at home feeling, that I recognized it as an old value pushing itself forward.

    It’s more than just getting my hands in the soil, nurturing seeds. It’s about being part of the farm-to-table movement, about acting on eating better food, about staying connected, directly, with mother earth. While reading this, I realized horticulture was a deep part of me, one Kate and I spent a lot of time, energy and money on, not because we had to, but because it was significant and nourishing.

    carey_reamsBuddy Bill Schmidt will recognize the quote that begins the chapter on Soil: “See what you’re looking at.” Carey Reams, an unlikely looking radical, used to say this. He was the founder of the outfit from which I purchase soil additives, the High Brix Gardening folks in Farmington, Minnesota. He contended, as do many now in the farm-to-table world, that agriculture went astray long ago, moving toward products that fit mechanized food production rather than human nutrition.

    There are too many examples that prove this, unfortunately. One is that the bulk of corn grown in the U.S. either goes for corn syrup or feeding cattle. Another is the development of tomatoes with skins hard enough to stand a mechanical picker.

    wheatThe vast wheat fields of the Great Plains grow an annual wheat, two varieties that work well in steel rolling mills. Not only have these annual crops destroyed the ten feet or more of top soil that buffalo and deeply rooted grasses developed there, but the steel mills which make this crop profitable separate the germ and bran from the kernel, leaving only fluffy white flour. What’s bad about that? Well, turns out the nutrition in wheat lies in the germ and the bran.

    IMAG0619I guess this is the native Midwesterner in me. I grew up driving past corn fields, pastures filled with Holsteins and Guernseys, pigs and beef cattle. The Andover gardens, the orchard and the bees, along with our small woods satisfied this part of my soul. I’m going to investigate local CSA’s, see if that’s a route back into this world. We have to buy groceries anyway, so why not from folks who share a philosophical position close to my own.

    This is different, you see, than being attentive to the lodgepole pines and the aspen, the mule deer and the elk, the fox and the mountain lion. These are part of wild nature and beautiful, also important to my soul. But the world of horticulture, of growing and consuming food and flowers, fruits and honey is, too. A reemerging part of me. And I’m happy to see it, to feel it come.