Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our community of monks at Hazelbrand

   the scholarly man 
           who has come to live in our community 
has a heart like fragrant rice.

                                      Merry Christmas Chaz!

to the one who keeps us balanced with humor and grace!
Margaret, Merry Christmas!


10 bales of straw
10 bags of leaves from Atlanta
1 bag greensand
3 wheelbarrows of composted horse manure
laid out t-tape and tubing for drip irrigation - had on hand
priced submersible pump for river
Jason exploring a possible used greenhouse

the coolest 2-foot shovel ever!
new Felco pruners
great garden gloves

Why God Loves Dirt

Advent 4B 2011 Attar of the Lord Krishna
The Rev. Cynthia Hizer
Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, GA

You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and he will be great.”                       

Last week, when the Bishop visited, he asked us “what would your neighborhood
miss, if your church closed?”
and I also wonder, this week, this fourth week of Advent,what would we miss if we didn’t have the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
What would we miss, without the womb of Mary?
I wait for this Sunday, the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, all year long.
I finally get to talk about Mary!

During Advent, until today, we get the apocalypse; we get John the Baptist,
the voice crying out in the wilderness, locusts and wild honey, watchfulness
and waiting. But we don’t get Mary.
So today I come crawling, parched and thirsty for a little feminine divine. 

What would we miss if we didn’t have the story of Mary? When we come crawling, limping, thirsty for the earthiness of Mary, I want that which we have been waiting for, that our parched throats and worn-out hearts are longing for,
a drop of rain on parched earth.

I want the manger and the straw and the sheep and the shepherds, I want a home birth with no medical professionals or birth certificate,
but mostly I want the dark, moist, earthy, loamy material, the medicine, the material life force, the matter – the mother - essence of the universe welling up from the clay of which we are formed, the part of the incarnation that Mary gave to Jesus. 

“You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and he will be great”

Why does Jesus, our savior, need to be conceived in a womb, made of clay,
made of earth?
Zeus didn’t need a womb – he gave birth to Athena through his head.
Jupiter did the same thing. Why is it that the thing that will end our thirst
and heal our hearts, and truly save us, Jesus, is made of the same clay as us, as Mary?

We have Mary not as a symbol of obedient or devout women.

We have Mary, we need Mary, for the womb, the belly in the solar plexus,
the part of our bodies that knows truth, smells justice, knows mercy, instinctively. Jesus had to come from this part of her body, not her head, not her rib, but her gut.
We don’t get the Song of Mary, the song of justice,
 the Magnificat, we don’t get that greatness, from the head.

We get it from the heart, from the gut. We get healing and salvation and a
longing for justice from the belly, from the womb.

This justice is intoxicating, scattering the proud from their conceit, lifting up the
lowly, filling the hungry with good things.
Intoxicating, like the first drop of rain on parched ground.

In India, there is a group of perfumes called At-tars. They are the finest perfumes in the world, made with great labor. The flowers – rose, champa, jasmine, blue lotus - are infused into a base of sandalwood.

So their fragrance is deep and resinous and intense.
But there is one At-tar, the most sacred of them all,
called Mitti. It is the At-tar of the Lord Krishna.

The Mitti is a distillation not of flowers, but of earth.
To make it the perfumers take big mounds of mud and dry them into flat,
parched cakes and stack them in the distiller.

Then they add steam.
And the moment the first drop of moisture hits the hot, dry parched cakes
of mud, the aroma that is emitted is the same fragrance
as the first drop of rain on the hot, parched earth of India at the beginning
of the monsoon season.

This is an electric moment when the heat is still intense but anticipation is in the air, it is the most intoxicating scent for the people,
knowing rain is coming,
that the earth will live again, that they will live.
This fragrance stands for salvation.

We know this smell.
It is the fragrance of the garden on our hands.
It is the fragrance we know in our gut, in our belly,
Because it is the fragrance that God loves.
We know that God loves us because God loves dirt.
we know God loves dirt because God loves justice.
God loves justice and God loves dirt enough to make us from it, and make justice from it and make Jesus from it.

Korea has a love story about a beautiful woman named
Choon-Hyang - spring fragrance,
this beautiful woman is named for the first rain on dry soil.
And for her, Choon-Hyang, it also means the fragrance of justice. Her story is one of justice for the women of Korea.

Lord Krishna says, “I am the fragrance of the earth.”
Choon-Hyang says “I am the fragrance of justice.”
Could this be our Lord Jesus born of clay, born of the womb of Mary, destined to be great?


winter solstice fire 2011

kept vigil in the garden.
laid on the ground to feel the earth pulse and rhythm.
felt the well being.
prayed for peace.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


straw for mulching: check
wearing orange to protect from hunters: check
collards luxuriating in cool misty weather: check
garden ready to nap for a couple of months: check

Monday, October 31, 2011

Deer fencing Hazelbrand Style

Stalks fall down

July came and went, so did August and September. I picked tomatoes, beans, cukes, squash. The raccoons feasted on my heirloom blue corn. They were oblivious to the prayer flag deer fencing 8 feet in the air! Experiment with permaculture garden still a work in progress. I'm trying hard to not succumb to my instinct to turn the soil over this fall, but to let the stalks fall down and layer the earth for a winter blanket. Stalling on cutting trees too. Know it would help sunlight - but cut down trees? I think instead I should move the garden.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hildegard at Hazelbrand

Viridissima Virga, Hildegard von Bingen,
Hail to you, o verdant branch
that burst forth in the rush of the wind
out of sacred prayers.

When your time had come
to blossom on all your branches

the word rang out:

Hail to you,

Hail to you

The sun’s warmth trickled into you
like the fragrance of balsam.

Now that the dogs have passed on, and our house isn’t filled with dog hair and a round space is missing on the couch from where Rosie sneaked up to sleep, we have decided to redecorate. 

We have loved our “Santa Fe” look for almost 20 years -- orange walls, blue checkerboard painted floors. But with the passing of time, and the passing of our beloved animals, the couch and chairs went to the upholsterer, and Margaret went to the paint store.

But first we had to decide where we were going. If not orange and blue, then what? One recent morning, I sat looking out the windows into the woods and pastures below. Well, I tried to look into the woods and pastures below, but my eyes were stopped -- since we live in a tree house with so much green and brown right at the windows that it is impossible, in summer, to see anything else.

Water oaks and tulip poplars and sweet gum trees are the tallest in front of me, except for the pines that hover over everything to the west side. Dogwoods settle underneath. Pungent cedar and juniper and balsam filter in. I love them and they seem to love me, pushing into my living room as if they are part of the family.

St. Hildegard once said, “If you are feeling ill or weak of heart, go sit in the garden, among the green, and you will find rest.”

It was immensely restful, that green and brown. I felt an embrace of God’s green energy, what St. Hildegard named “veritatas” a Latin word that means the greening of the world is God. God’s greening. The surge of green in a blade of grass or a 50-foot tree looming into my window is all God manifesting.

So: Green and brown. It was easy from then on to find paint and fabric. Every season brings its own yellow, purple, red, gold, umber, black, white, gray. But beneath all the chemical processes that turn chlorophyll into every other color, is green.

Now we have a green sofa and brown chair. A green wall, a brown floor. Hildegard would find rest here. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Corn and Beans

Storm coming! I put in my two hours today - planted the heirloom Hopi Blue Corn - 6 rows of it, and a row of old-fashioned Rattlesnake pole beans. I scattered a bit more straw, then sat down and enjoyed watching the storm come in.

the gateless gate

It is a relief, finally, to ripen into the understanding that there is no place to go, to find wisdom. It is all right here. There is no need for a goal, a special place to reach for. My garden, at 60, is what it is. If all I do is prepare a garden bed, it is enough. If I get plants in, it is enough. If I get a harvest, it is enough. Now, finally, none of it is a "have to." No production farm with endless rows of corn to be weeded.

The greatest lesson, which took 60 years to learn, is to rest in, to take refuge in, what is happening right now. Giving it my full attention. Being mindful of this bale of straw, this blackberry vine. The sun now. The rain now. Not some super garden of the future. It is just like the spiritual life - there is actually no place to get to! The place to get to, to be in union with the One - is right here! Where we are in this moment, is everywhere we wish to be.
There is no gate, there is no path, there is only the present. The Kingdom of God is right here, before us.
This is satori.
Isn't it a relief?
Why did it take so long to learn this simple fact of reality?
Read more about Hazelbrand at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

turtles and geese - oh no

I am sad to report that the snapping turtles in the pond have eaten the goose eggs. Mama goose has been sitting on her eggs for a couple of weeks. Papa goose has been guarding - swimming back and forth in front of the nest. But last night - I heard the geese squawkking  - not like them to make noise at night. In the morning, Margaret discovered the ravage of the nest. Now Mama and Papa are swimming together in the pond. We hope they will try again, and maybe move the nest away from where the turtles sun themselves on the bank.

It is the circle of life - we are all food for another, just as we take food. I know the turtles have to eat and feed their young too. I am the one who seems to have the smaller vision here.

All of life is precious. This is one reason why I embrace permaculture - or permanent culture, in which the life and vitality of all plants and creatures is honored as part of a whole - where are are all One, we are part of the cosmic, perfect interrelated dimension and rhythm of creation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flake and Fluff

I learned a new technique today for starting the garden - taken from the work of Emelia Hazelip (check out her video's of synergistic farming). It is this simple: figure out where you want your rows or circles or spirals to be, and lay down cardboard or newpaper. Then cover with straw. That's it! No plowing, no harrowing, no rototilling. Not even turning a shovel. No pulling weeds and activating all the weed seeds in the soil. This method holds all the life going on already in the soil. It honors all the systems already in place for a vital garden.

So this is what I did.
I have to date, purchased 8 bales of wheat straw ($48). The heaviest work was to move the bales from the truck to the garden spot - you might want to find someone to move them for you. This is the hardest work of the day!

I laid newspaper down where I want the rows to be, and laid a bale of straw, and cut its cord. The bale will open like a flower to show flakes = see how I did it here:

Then, I laid each flake out flat until the hay and newspaper were all laid out. Then, I went back and "fluffed" each flake - making it as much as a foot tall:

All told, in two hours, I prepared a garden 32' by 32''. A big garden! I incorporated existing rosemary and rue plants, and a native Winged Elm tree. Then I sat in the shade of the Elm and sipped cool water.