Thursday, July 30, 2015


Laying atop dormant bunch grasses at MuRefuge,
a stone purchased in December, 2014,
from the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, Santa Fe, NM,
Flowering Red Buckwheat
(Eriogonum grande var. rubescens)
According to the Celtic calendar August 1 is the third of the four seasonal cross quarter days. The ancient midsummer celebration of Lammas (old English for "loaf mass") honored the new harvest by baking bread. 

No matter what the calendar reflects, the season is turning here at MuRefuge earlier than "usual." For the past month to six weeks autumnal behavior abounds here with the crows congregating, as well as the deer, in the field South of her property line here in the West Sonoma County. The grasses on the hill sides are golden brown. The tinder dry vegation is fueling a plethora of wildfires all around California. Cal FIre says the wildfire season has started several months earlier than "usual." Back here at MuRefuge the typically late flowering natives, planted to provide nectar for the butterflies migrating South, are already in full bloom.
California Aster 'Point Saint George' (Aster chilense)
California Goldenrod (Solidago californica)
Tom Stienstra, the Bay Area outdoor writer, recently published an article in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle regaling the predictions wildlife make about our weather here along the West Coast. He gave many examples of fish and birds migration patterns that alert us
to the coming changes and suggests these are more predictive than the forecast made by meteorologists.

As we "take time to look" and experience the early turning of the seasons,  may we 

Saturday, July 25, 2015


"Why do humans garden?" is a question I am asking myself since three members of the local Milo Baker Native Plant Society came to see MuRefuge as a possibility for inclusion in a 2016 native gardens tour. No word from any of them . . . nada. The lack of communication from these individuals and the organization has set the stage for an inner inquiry about the process of gardening in general. 

I grew up with a family garden that was grown to provide food for us not only fresh but preserved as well. My mom gardened as her mother did. 

My Grandma Haynes in her garden in Wesley, Iowa,
on July 26, 1967. The pole behind her held a very large martin house.
Her birthday was February 17, 1883 and she passed January 02, 1968.
So my gardening is informed by this history which is not a surprise. As those of you who have read the very first blog post know the gardening process here at MuRefuge expanded to include healing of not only myself but of the land as well. 

When I began stamping in the '90's,
this is one of the first I purchased.
I still use it on cards I make and
the reminder is still poingnant.
When the house was built on this three quarters of an acre, the dirt was scraped away leaving not very healthy soil. My very early childhood was less than idyllic and my early adult life was fueled by adrenaline. So arriving at MuRefuge very ill with an autoimmune disease uncurable by Western medicine and the land in a degraded and abused state, my "gardening practice" became one of restoration. In that process I found myself aware of energy flow . . . of my own, of the land and of the other BEings about.

The garden evolved as did my healing, both becoming alive and vibrant. Many of the original plants brought to MuRefuge did not survive. The plants taught me what wanted to grow here and others demonstrated a desire to live here but in a different spot, microclimate if you will. So I became aware of the microclimates of this very small piece of land through a cellular process aka body based. I learned the effects of wind, water and soil composition. I learned of the naturalizing process food plants go through: if you bring seeds from a distance land those plants through their seeds will acclimate.Pimento peppers which originate from a much hotter climate than here where the marine influence provides a cooler one was my first teacher in this realm of learning. Year after year I harvested the earliest ripening pimento pepper and saved the seeds to plant the following year. This remains my practice so we now have lush delicious thick walled sweet pepper to enjoy cooked and uncooked in a variety of dishes as well as preserved for enjoyable Winter eating. When my mom visited one time in the past when these luscious fruits were ripe, she ate so many she actually became ill developing a severe case of diarrhea.

Native plants abound here at MuRefuge. Most of the species were chosen to provide food for all the other BEings who also call this place home. The many different varieties of manzanita flower continuously over the cooler months, providing nectar for the Anna hummingbirds who are year round residents.

The "hedgerow" along the South property line is planted in the wettest part of MuRefuge's land.The various bushes provide berries for the berry eating birds. My favorite is the Twinberry bush which is a native honeysuckle. The tubular double flower provides nectar for hummingbirds and the berries provides food, too.

 The Blue birds love the black ripe berries. 
We have watched a mother Blue bird pluck a ripe berry
and feed it to her open mouthed offspring.
The vegetation planted here at MuRefuge and now flourishing provides an energetic web that one who is sensitive to qi can feel as one walks through the garden. As I have had many tours here at MuRefuge, I am continually amazed by the various responses from those who visit. It is obvious to me that some experience the healing web, aka wild matrix of qi. The three women who visited from the Native Plant Society did not seem to be aware of the web or perhaps did not find it healing or maybe they were looking for a garden with something other than what MuRefuge offered? Mu Refuge is a wild garden by design with not much tidiness nor beauty if one views it from the traditional horticultural perspective arising out of the historical European gardens by those who have studied this gardening style or contain human DNA from those ancestors.

Gardening is a personal activity informed as I alluded to earlier in regards to my gardening roots. Reading two awesome gardening books has offered me an opportunity to see into the lives of two exordinary women each living in not only different centuries but different parts of this country as well. Here is a bit about each of these two books.

The photograph taken by Gilbert L. Wilson of Sioux Woman,
Buffalo Bird Woman's daughter-in-law, is on the cover of
Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians.
Anthropologist Gilbert L. Wilson, in meticulous detail, transcribed
the knowledge Buffalo Bird Woman, born in 1839, generously gave to him.
From the introduction by Jeffery R. Hanson: "Following an annual round, Buffalo Bird woman describes field care and preparation, planting, harvesting  processing, and storing of vegetables. In addition, she provides recipes for cooking traditional Hidatsa dishes and recounts songs and ceremonies that were essential to a good harvest. Here first person narrative provides today's gardener with a guide to an agricultural method free from fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides." There are illustrative drawings and photographs.
For me this book was powerful and instructive about living simply and how hard those Hidatsa, a Siouana linguistic tribe located in now North Dakota along the upper Missouri RIver, women worked growing food in a place near Minot, where we all know it can get very cold in the Winter (and hot, I might add, in the Summer). This area is now a huge reservoir. Buffalo Bird Woman shares her tribe's origin stories (Hidatsa means "willows") including those of the corn, squash and beans seeds. And from a different perspective, these seeds from lands way South in Mexico, and perhaps further in South American, were brought North and naturalized by a process similar to what I have done with the pimento peppers here at MuRefuge.

Carol Deppe has been gardening in Corvallis, Oregon, since 1979.
She has a BS in zoology from the University of Florida and a PhD in
biology from Harvard University. She is an "Oregon plant breeder" who
"specializes in developing public domain crops for organic growing
conditions, sustainable agriculture, and human survival."

I must first say I loved this book, especially since she raises ducks for egg production and for pest control as do I. And I was struck by the similarity of how her book is organized in much the same way as Buffalo Bird Woman's. Of course, much of the updated information and knowledge is informed by science: what we now know about plants' habits, for example, and about cross pollination, and about plants needs of healthy soil and crop rotation. Her gardening stories are precious and her sharing of resources immensely useful.

As we go about our gardening, in whatever manner we do so, may we

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Simple not Easy

While I was sitting one morning this week past, a mom fox ran along the far side of our South fence carrying a rabbit in her mouth perhaps to her den to feed her offspring.

A family of six Black headed Grosbeaks are frequenting our bird feeders each morning. Titmice, Nuthatches, Mockingbirds, Gold Finches and, of course, the rowdy Blue Jays all get a "bite to eat" and sip of water. Chickadees are obviously nesting here at MuRefuge somewhere not yet identified or at the very least nearby. The seasonal changing of the bird population here at MuRefuge reminds its human BEing inhabitants of the natural rhythm called wu wei in the Taoist tradition. Literally wu wei means non action or non doing. A practicing Taoist describes this term: "cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world. . . . it is a kind of 'going with the flow' that is characterized by great ease and awake-ness, in which without even trying, we're able to respond perfectly to whatever situation arises."

Each day situations present themselves during our day offering us an opportunity to awaken fully and BE with wu wei, which is simple not easy.  Each of us can chose to BE awake, using the opportunity or not. I am reminded of the process by an adage from my high school band instructor: "practice makes perfect only if you practice perfectly." Now for this One who often perseverates upon "perfection" the meaning takes on a whole different perspective when One considers Tao Perfection, aka wu wei, rather than mere human perfection.

The Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly and the Monarch butterfly practice Tao Perfection each time one of these butterflies lays her eggs. Each choses the particular plant species which will nourish and protect the emerging caterpillar which evolves into a beautiful winged creature, the butterfly. This is the simple and perfect practice of species survival. It is not easy, this process from egg to caterpillar to butterfly. Nor is it easy for these BEings to negotiate all the obstacles presented to them (such as Roundup which is the human easy approach to ridding their property of weeds).

Pipevine caterpillars of various ages munching away at the Californina Pipevine's leaves.
A tiny Monarch caterpillar gobbling up a local milkweed leaf.
Rejoice! There are many holes in the milkweed leaves.
Unfortunately the Monarch caterpillars are not as numerous as the Pipevine caterpillars.
Simple not easy. I am a baseball fan, to be more exact, an Oakland Athletics'  baseball fan. Simple not easy adjusting to a low payroll team that trades their prime players because they cannot pay them what the high payroll teams will pay them. This is the natural cycle of the Oakland A's: members of the team in their prime leave every few seasons. This season has been instructive to me watching these young baseball players honing their craft. Practice makes perfect only if you practice perfectly. The young shortstop now playing for the A's is hard working; everyone who has know this young man since boyhood agrees. He shows up early and stays late learning and practicing. Oops, practicing but not perfect practicing until the stellar infield coach was hired after the season started. My oh my, how evident the perfect practice of going with the flow is when one watches this shortstop's footwork and movements on the infield during a baseball game now as compared to the beginning of this baseball season. Yes, he still makes errors. However, the errors are not from imperfect practice but rather from honing his craft and establishing new body memories of how to play shortstop. Simple not easy.

Another reminder for me of simple not easy: our going on nine years old yellow billed female fawn and white duck has a tumor growing at the junction of her right wing. She is evidence that that life of a duck begins with birth or in her case hatching and flows unimpeded towards death. 
The morning routine of the four oldest female Indian Runner ducks heading for their pond, aka old bathtub.
The top duck in the picture is the female with the tumor beneath her right wing.

Here she is beginning her day after leaving the her deluxe duckhouse one recent morning past.
She stretches out and flaps her wings, even though the right one no longer flaps as it once did.
She is the one on the far right beneath the flowering currant bush.
Fresh green lettuce for breakfast is enjoyed by all.
On the left is the duckhouse where trays with the organic soy free laying pellets
will soon be set for this morning ravenous flock.

She is okay with her process; even appearing content BEing with wu wei. She clearly enjoys her flock, MuRefuge, and us "kind" humans who provide her a safe environment in which she is living her life. I realize I want to make her process easy. Surely there is something I can do to make it easy. Then I am reminded how our doing something was for our dog, Rose. (*click and you'll have a link to Rose's story on this blog) Her leg was amputated for bone cancer. Of course, Rose's short time with us was a simple lesson in not easy. 

The natural process of BEing in physical form has a simple flow. Doing is easy and can provide one with a sense of "taking care of a situation" and keeps one busy with a flurry of activity providing an illusion of importance. Simple, on the other hand, takes "practicing Perfectly" this ageless Tao, "Perfect Knowing" that when a spirit, aka soul, inhabits a physical form the natural flow is birth or beginning, a middle, and an end or death. This marvelous creature, the old yellow billed female fawn and white duck, is reminding me of the temporariness of physical form, aka body, and how simple it is to BE with this natural process.

As we flow in the Taoist wu wei, may we