Together Again

How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to sit together.”
– translation of Hebrew song Hine Ma Tov

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Our first Friday evening Shabbat dinner all together in a very long time – what a pleasure to share a wonderful meal surrounded by blossoming flowers and green grass!

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This May saw a joyous reunion of our crew of core members! Sheefra returned from a year in North Carolina and Tracy returned from several months of travels in Arizona and California. Jaydee and Mike each took some time to travel in the fall and winter and had been holding down the fort since then. We were also re-joined this spring by Justin, who interned here several years ago and has been working and traveling since then. He has been enthusiastically working in the garden and gratefully nurturing himself to heal from the stresses of travel and work. What a gift it is for us to have someone recognize the profound healing of a cooperative lifestyle rooted in living nagdeo! In a sense, we have all spent some time away and felt called to return, realizing that there is nowhere we would rather be than with each other where we feel seen for who we really are and supported be our best.

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Peeling cedar bark off of logs that are about to be milled. We’ll use the bark to build “primitive” shelters and for basketry.

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Backyard milling. We met a gentleman in Portland who wanted to cut down a bunch of trees in his yard to make room for a building project. We arranged for a miller to come to the site and make boards, some for us to use and some for the landowner. It was sad to see such beautiful mature cedars get cut down, but we did our best to offer our joy and gratitude to the trees as we worked with them.

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Mike holding his birthday pie made by Sheefra

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Cherry cream pie!

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Buckskin sewing moment

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Cherry Rhubarb birthday pie!

 

A Space for Grief

Grief and joy walk hand in hand, and you cannot have one without the other.  -Sobonfu Some

It has been a stormy end of summer and fall, with many powerful changes afoot for all of us at the farm. Each of us is experiencing major transformation in different ways, and many astrological forecasts have indicated storms that can shake and release the parts of our selves and lives that do not serve. (For more about this, see Stargazer Li’s blog and podcasts: http://stargazerli.com/2016/11/gratitude-amidst-the-storm/)

A lot of old patterns and stagnant energies are moving and changing, and with that comes a lot of emotion!  It is important to honor and make space for our feelings so that we can ride the waves and come out joyful on the other side. To this end, we hosted a small grief ritual on the full moon in November, informed by the teachings of Sobonfu Some (www.sobonfu.com), a West African keeper of ritual who for many years has facilitated grief rituals throughout the American west.

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Grief altar from Seattle grief ritual with Sobonfu Some, 2015.

Here is the story of what we did at the grief ritual we created at the farm:

In the afternoon we cleared out a corner of a room designated for the grief shrine or altar. We cleansed the space and asked permission from Spirit to build a grief altar there. Then we gathered black and blue fabrics and pinned them to the wall to create a cone shape similar to the one pictured above but smaller, draping them down onto the ground. We set candles at the edge to mark the boundary (you don’t want to cross it during the grief ritual because it is seen as a portal to the Spirit world and we want to remain living) and a bowl of water with a candle in it in the center (to absorb the grief energy).

Everyone had arrived by early evening and we shared a brief meal together. Then Tracy taught everyone a song, based on the song Sobonfu teaches coming from the Dagara tribe, with these lyrics:

Hey, you are not alone now.
Hey, I am here beside you.
Hey, we are not alone now.

This song is set to a backdrop of drums and shakers, which we did our best to keep going throughout the whole time although we only had a small number of people so at times nearly everyone was visiting the grief shrine.

Next we gathered facing the grief shrine and lit the candles on it. We invoked the Spirits of Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Mineral, Nature, the Moon, and Grandparents and Children. Each of these beings was addressed by whoever felt called to step forward and say a prayer inviting that spirit and its unique gifts to be with us and assist us in doing our work with the shrine.

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Then we began singing the song, and the shrine was open. Whenever someone felt a lot of emotion welling up, they went to the shrine and sat or knelt on the ground, and simply let their feelings flow toward the altar. Meanwhile, someone from the rest of the group followed them and put a firm hand on their back, witnessing their process and keeping watch over them, and being available should they request to be held. Everyone visited the shrine, sometimes multiple people at a time and sometimes just one. Some people screamed, some people sobbed, some people sat quietly, but all had a friend behind them to witness and support their process. (If the supporter began grieving, they raised two fingers for two people to step in and support them and the person they were helping so that they could step aside and kneel to grieve also.)

This went on for several hours, with the song continuing the whole time. We had agreed in the beginning to close the shrine at a particular time so that most people could be present all the way through the end. When it was time to close, we all held hands and stood facing the shrine singing the song extra loud and slow for the last time. Then we thanked the spirits for being with us and helping us to process our emotions, speaking aloud.

One person who felt grounded stepped into the shrine and picked up the bowl of water, passing it with eye contact to another who had volunteered to pour the water out on the earth. The person who poured out the water was asked to take a shower with salt water and change his clothes. When he came back into the room he was welcomed with cheers, smiles, clapping, and a lively round of “This Little Light of Mine”. Then he laid on the ground and we massaged him, expressing our gratitude for releasing the heavy burdens we had stored in that water.

(In the ritual Sobonfu facilitates, each person speaks the grief or griefs they are dealing with into a bundle of small items – items from nature, or from their personal life – and this pile of grief bundles gets buried at the end of the ritual. We didn’t do this because our shrine was only open for a few hours and we wanted more of that time to be available for grieving. Instead we treated the water on the shrine as our collective grief bundle.)

We cleaned up the space a little, chatted or sat together, sang a few songs, and then people left. Everyone was instructed to bathe with salt water and wash their clothes with salt water when they got home. The shrine was left up in case it needed to be opened again in the coming days, and after that we gathered all the items that were on it and either laundered them with salt water or soaked them in salt water for a day.

This was a very powerful experience for everyone, and all the participants said they felt really supported and also much lighter afterwards.

You can create this at home, all you need is a space and some fabric, candles, and a bowl of water. You can even visit your grief altar alone, or have a permanent one set up somewhere that you can open and visit whenever you need to. Just be sure to ask permission from Spirit and make a clear distinction when you open it and close it, with Spirit invocation at the beginning and thanks at the end.

Spring Transitions

It’s not the technology, but the feeling in the heart of the (hu)man, that really counts.

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Nagdeo Farm went industrial this spring! (Well, in 2 of our 16’x16′ garden blocks – the rest of the soil on our 10 acres went largely undisturbed by farm machinery).  The past couple years we’ve done all our soil prep and bed prep in the garden by hand and animal, but this year we found a cute old rototiller at a garage sale that we couldn’t resist. Our neighbor fixed it up for trade, and here’s Mikey on the test run in our potato plot.

We’ve been reading Mutant Message Down Under with two of our interns, Sarah and Blue. Our saying above was derived from this passage:
“…How you feel emotionally about things is what really registers. It is recorded in every cell of the body, in the core of your personality, in your mind, and in your eternal self...Giving water to a dying plant or animal, or giving encouragement, gains as much enlightenment for knowing life and our Creator as finding a thirsty person and providing nourishment.”
We would add that giving water to a dying person with resentment or animosity in your heart is not a gift at all and can even be an act of taking emotional energy from the other person. We try (with plenty of mistakes) to apply this to everything we do.

In general, we prefer to do things by hand in the garden, working together. Sometimes we also use modern technology. But whether we’re using a bone digging stick or a rototiller, we try to make sure we are grateful, centered, and joyful when we do anything. If we are too tired, grumpy, or otherwise off, we try to simply breathe and address our feelings until we can interact in the world with love to give.

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This year’s spring surprise: Emu Egg!

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No, it’s not painted. And yes, one egg took up the entire pan. Our emu, Charlie, is over 20 years old and supposedly infertile. But miraculously this February she popped out this huge blue-green egg!  It was the fluffiest fried egg you ever tasted. We saved the shell.

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Transitions

One of our long-term residents is moving away. Sheefra headed back to the southeastern US to seek out new adventures and reconnect with old friends. The move seems to be in alignment for everyone, but it is sad to see one of our main residents go. Below are some wonderful moments we shared before she left: a rare rainbow we stopped to witness together; digging potato rows (bottom left); and singing while we planted the viburnum opulus, or cramp bark, tree that she left in our care (bottom right, with mugwort in the foreground and strawberries in the background) . We’re still in touch with her by phone and email and will always remember the sweet moments we shared with her here at the farm. Check out her blog: http://www.secretsofthedoe.wordpress.com.

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planting potatoesmugwort viburnum

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Snapshots of Spring

Here are a few photos from around the farm this spring…

Below: baby beets (left) and a young burdock with dandelion seed resting on it (right).

 

Below: Stinging Nettle (urtica dioica), AKA Nature’s Multivitamin. 

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We ate a lot of nettles this spring (usually boiled briefly like broccoli), starting in January. They are soooo yummy and nutritious!  High in calcium, iron, and vitamin A, with many other vital nutrients and minerals and even a little protein. Overall, excellent for fortifying the blood and liver, assisting the kidneys (diuretic – make sure you drink plenty of water if you’re eating them) and a great aid to detoxification. This herb can help clear up your skin, bolster your energy, and bring you joy with its magic and beauty!  A major help in spring fasting and a great addition to a normal diet, with the added benefit that regular consumption of it throughout the pollen season can prevent the emergence of allergies. Normally we harvest extra and dry them for use through the rest of the seasons, but this year we just ate them fresh.
Right now most of them hover at shoulder level and are flowering (not so good to eat but still makes great tea!). More about this plant in fall, when we harvest the dry stalks for making string!

Below: juvenile storage onions (left) and rapidly growing mixed brassicas (right). 

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Brassica family plants include kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi and are all highly nutritious and tasty (great source of vitamin C and other important nutrients).  Onions and garlic are in the allium family of plants, most of them with the classic pungent smell and excellent medicinal qualities (immune-boosting and anti-parasitic among other qualities). Although we didn’t plant them next to each other this year, these two pair well in the garden – alliums deter many of the insects that commonly eat brassicas and they have similar soil needs.

Below: JD with our new dog, Scout. 

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He’s an older dog, mellow but still active, very good-natured and overall a great fit for us. We weren’t really looking for a dog but he came up free on craigslist and we decided to give him a try. He seems to fit in great!

 

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Well, that’s all for now. We’ll check in again with late summer.
Nagdeo!

Letting Go of Summer

Poppies

The poppies bloomed 2 weeks early,
and thus began a season of long, hot days and much fruit.

Although we’re well into fall, we thought it would be nice to share a little about our summer before jumping into the fall update.  We hosted several short-term WWOOFrs, including Sara (left, with Mikey), Emily and Nick (middle picture, top right), Megan (right, with Blue), Justine and Chloe (lower pics) who were visiting the U.S. from Switzerland.

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Our dear friend Chris came back from LA (he lived with us last summer). Brandelle came to us from Atlanta and stayed all summer. Blue joined us near the end of summer and still stops by between traveling adventures.

Here is a little of what we got up to:

BrandellBeets    Jared weaving for website   Sheefra hidetanning

dance flipped  Jaydee picker shed   ChrisPorky

(from top left, clockwise): Brandelle with some of our early beets; Blue weaving a laundry basket; Sheefra softening a deer hide; impromptu dance improv session in the yard; jaydee standing by an early 1900s picker shed, one of 2 that we will soon bring to the farm; Chris riding “Porky” the pig.

It was really hot this year! We ate 10 huge home-grown watermelons, and spent a lot of time at the river trying to cool off…

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We topped off the long summer with a harvest party! Lots of kids and their families showed up and we bobbed for apples and ran 3-legged races.

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AppleBobbing girls

 

Here is a video our friend Alana Kansako-Sarmiento made during late spring:

 

 

Spring Growth, Surprise Piglets, and a New Apprentice

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 Fruit trees are blooming, the grass is green, and everything feels alive with new growth!  
What’s new on the farm?

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During the winter we renewed our commitment as a group to make time in our daily rhythm for what we value most.

What our days look like:
Rise and share our dreams,
stretch,
take a jog on our perimeter trail,
and have breakfast.
Work together on projects around the farm, enjoying the process and each other’s company as much as possible.
Come together at sundown for a gratitude meditation and dinner,
singing or reading aloud/philosophy discussion,
and massage.

With the rapidly-approaching warm spring, our season for vegetable planting has begun! We’re eating greens out of the greenhouse and have onion and brassica starts going. Here’s the pigs and our dude crew working up the first beds for roots and greens out in the field. And a sweet pic of our surprise batch of piglets! (We sold our boar in January, not realizing he had sired another batch of babies.)

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Spring is also the beginning of our farm intern season and so far has brought us a wonderful new apprentice, Joseph.  He’s been reading and discussing Richard Bach’s book Illusions with us, which inspired this interview:
“Victims of Circumstance or Co-creators of Every Situation: Which View Serves Better?” 
Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf8WrejbzH8
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yO_xYUqCjQ

Other recent happenings include weaving and felting classes, and making really yummy pork/alpaca breakfast sausage!

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Here are a couple videos of other recent activities on the farm: 

Spring Blueberry Planting  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qze3eOSdjA
(A hummingbird arrived shortly after this video was made and hovered around us and the blueberries, sipped nectar, and perched on the branches next to usMagic!)
Making Cedar Shingles  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D31G0u7WHZA

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Winter Cozy

‘Tis the season for warm fires, quiet projects, reading to each other, reflecting and philosophizing!  

What we’ve been reading and discussing this season:

Tales of Adam by Daniel Quinn – A collection of fables. Adam teaches his son Abel how to act in harmony with the law of life. See the video below to hear Sheefra read to you from this book.

The Ohlone Way by Malcom Margolin – An overview of the way of life of the San Francisco Bay area indigenous peoples. Click the link to hear Sheefra and Tracy discuss an excerpt.

Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead – The classic and controversial anthropological study of adolescence and sexuality. Despite the controversy over the accuracy of her report, she describes many cultural practices that we find instructive. For example, adolescent boys in Samoa join the aumaga, the band of young men who are learning how to be men. They are challenged to learn the skills they will need to be successful contributors (such as house construction, hunting and fishing, or oration/cultural record keeping and storytelling).  The aumaga provides an interesting example of a cooperative approach to adolescence. Joining the other boys in a group encourages some competition as they test their abilities (the younger and less skilled want to keep up with the older and more skilled), but no one wants to seek out power and prestige through out-competing the others too much. If they excel too much and act too mature, the adult men will invite them into the circle of chiefs where they will have to take on more responsibility and far more rigorous expectations for their behavior (despite gaining more prestige and power). This prevents the boys from being competitive against each other in the pursuit of honor and recognition. Each one is supported by his culture to take time to enjoy adolescence, experiment and learn, and join the mature adult men when he is good and ready (which he usually does want to do, since the adult men are more honored and respected in the community).

Farm Projects: Soil Amending, Transplanting, Trail Work

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On clear days, we’ve also been enjoying some great outdoor projects on the farm: liming the fields and transplanting (above), improving the perimeter trail around the farm and enjoying taking a morning jog on it together, butchering ducks, clipping and sorting basketry willow, and various construction and maintenance projects.

Our Family: Supporting each other to Heal

We’ve also hosted a visitor! Our friend Randy is staying with us for a while. We’ve had some great times dancing and singing at karaoke and just sharing a laugh or a story. This visit has also proved to be a fruitful exploration of treating Diabetes through diet, exercise, and cooperative living. See our interview below for more: