Thursday, June 30, 2016

Day 183 of Year 2016

Today is exactly the middle day out of the 365 days of 2016. May we celebrate and review the part of the year past. Here at MuRefuge we have been so fortunate to host many avian families. Two broods of Western Bluebirds have been raised. Oh how I wish I could have gotten a picture to share: 4 youngsters and a parent sitting atop the trellis for Sasha and Tatiana's honeysuckle with the other parent sitting in the oak tree. 

Western Holly Grape (Mahonia pinnate) full of berries
Same bush denuded of berries by the hungry,
growing Western Bluebird offspring.
And there is also the family of Tree swallows being fed by Mom and Pop in the bird box Dwight situated in the dead curly willow just on the other side of our East most fence. There are lots of flying insects about for the parents to catch and quickly feed their babies.

And in the native clematis hiding the meters in the front of the house there is a California Towhee nest as well as one in the Roger Red grapes growing on a trellis on the patio.

Our resident cat has been living contentedly at MuRefuge for many years. He picked MuRefuge over the place across the gravel road where he was brought as a kitty for the then young female preschooler; she is now a teenager. She named her kitty John, then as he moved across the road he was first called Jack then Jax. None of those names really suited him nor did he respond to those names. 

So for some while I have been considering renaming him, yet again. Now that he has recovered nicely from a severe upper respiratory infection, the time seems right for a name change. The final nudge came recently when I read a blog post on the importance of naming animals to find a name for MuRefuge's cat. 

Not uncommonly when I use a reference book, the book falls open to the page of importance. Thus when I opened Flower Essence Repertory the page that appeared was the one for Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata [yellow]). The "Positive qualities" of this flower essence are "Essential or 'empty' consciousness, deep awareness of the inner Self, capable of transformation and change." These attributes seem to describe MuRefuge's cat. The following morning when this handsome male cat arrived at the garage door for his breakfast, I tried "Sage." He looked at me and I heard him say to me "You got it." Sage seems quite pleased with his name. Dwight and I are trying to break our habit of calling him Jax and honor his wishes to be called Sage.


There is a stunningly handsome buck in the neighborhood. He was trotting down our gravel road on a midday recently. His harem has produced a few offspring this season. A few days past a first year doe lost her baby deer who died just outside our South fence, reminding us all of the natural cycle of BEings on the planet and that not every baby survives.

As we review the half year past and contemplate the remainder of 2016 may we

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Solstice

"The summer solstice is the time of greatest light.  
It is a day of enormous power.
The whole planet is turned to the brilliance of the sun.

This great culmination is not static or permanent.
Indeed, solstice as a time of culmination is 
only a barely perceptible point.
The sun appears to stand still. Its diurnal motion seems to nearly cease.
Yesterday, it was still reaching this point;
tomorrow it will begin a new phase of its cycle.

Those who follow Tao celebrate this day to
remind themselves of the cycles of existence.
. . . 
All of life is cycles. 
All of life is balance."

"Solstice" from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations. Deng Ming-Dao. 1992.

For any of you who have grown mint,
you know it will spread, spread, and
spread some more. Recycling  this antique
wheelbarrow is good for the planet
and having mint readily available just
outside of our kitchen is just right.

At this zenith of Summer the Oxheart carrots (an heirloom carrot) are ready for harvest.
Here is one of my favorite way to eat them.

Carrot Salad with Parsley/Lovage and Mint 
(recipe adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.Deborah Madison. 1997.)

3/4 pound carrots

3 T. Nana Mae's Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar 
with herbs from MuRefuge's herb spiral previously steeped for addition complex flavor

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

2 T. Flora 7 Sources 100% plant origin Omega 3-6-9 with EPA & DHA
(of course, you can substitute organic olive oil)

1 T. fresh and chopped parsley or lovage, the latter adds a delish and unusual flavor

2 tsp. fresh and finely chopped mint leaves

Wash carrots and scrub with a brush then grate. Mix the vinegar with salt and pepper
then wisk in the oil. Toss with carrots, lovage and mint. 

This may be served immediately or refrigerated for later.

Western Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta californica) flourishing near the duckpond.
This planting is the third go round on this Certified Wildlife Habitat, MuRefuge,
where the appearance of these nuts is a first time occurrence.
So as we each celebrate this Summer Solstice with balance may we

Monday, June 13, 2016

Human Silly-ness, aka "Progress"

Farewell to Spring (Clarkia amoena)
“When will we give up the artificiality of 
our tiresome lives 
and cleave instead 
to what is natural? 
All the achievements 
of man are only monuments to overwhelming pride. 
There has not been a single man-made item 
that has been a necessary improvement to the earth. 

We don’t need all this ‘sophistication’ 
in order to live with Tao. ... 
We ignore the natural order of our own bodies and minds 
and close ourselves ... 
We lament that we are lost and alienated. 
Ironically, the answers are right nearby. 
If you just go to the nearest tree and contemplate, 
you will easily see the secret to natural living.” 
Tree, 365 Tao Daily Meditations, Deng Ming-Dao, 1992.

In April I went to a well attended event at Tara Firma Farms located West of Petaluma in the hills then still a vibrant green and the air washed the previous day by a late rain brought by El Nino conditions.

Joel Salatin, whom I first heard speak many years ago at one of the early Bioneers Conferences in San Rafael, and Paul Kaiser, co-owner of Singing Frogs Farm, right here in Sebastopol/the “West County,” were the speakers that drew me to attend. There were other speakers, of course, including  Mark Squirethe new owner of Tara Firma Farms, which previous to registering for this day I did not know existed just a short drive from MuRefuge.

Joel is an entertaining and incredibly informed speaker. This perfect place: sunny, warm, with a gentle breeze wafting over all of us sitting on straw bales in a green pasture, AND Joel sharing his insight gleaned through observation, experience and historical reading . . . what a wonderful afternoon spent. The information he expounded upon about the nature of grass and the activity of migration herds back before Europeans slaughtered the Bison into almost extinction brought into focus our human silly-ness. The relationship between the native grass prairies and the migrating Bison reminded me once again how Perfect Wild Nature is.

Grass in its “baby phase” and its mature phase when the seeds flourish and ripen have little nutrition for such four legged mammals as the Bison and cattle. It is the “juvenile phase” that provides the maximum nutrients for these BEings.  When huge numbers of Bison inhabited North America, they migrated, starting in what is now Mexico onto the United States grasslands and up North into Canada and Alaska. The native grasses of these regions differed in grass species but all were native to the specific region. Joel shared from one of his readings of early explorers/settlers their witnessing Bison covering an area 50 miles in length and 20 miles in width; another documented millions of Bison seen all in one area.

There are groups of people today who say there are too many such animals living on the planet polluting our atmosphere. In actuality the present day numbers are minuscule compared to those existing before the pre-European explorers. The belief of Joel Saladin, and mine as well, is that it is not the number of cattle but rather the human silly-ness (of course, Joel did not use this phrase) of the present day agribusiness practices used in raising these animals: containing these animals in feed lots and feeding them grain that the cattle cannot digest.  How many of you have eaten dairy, grains or some other food that you could not digest and your became bloated with much ensuing gas eliminated. Well, cattle react similarly to grain. Grass, especially juvenile grass, is much more easily digested. Thus cattle are now labeled as a major cause of greenhouse gases in the form of methane. There is also the issue that these animals are often unhealthy and carry diseases which after they are  slaughtered and consumed by humans can cause illness or possible death.

When I went to nursing school in Omaha, Nebraska when the stockyards still were in existence, the smell often wafted to the area where the school was located. My stepfather always said the smell of manure was the smell of money. Well, the smell of the manure from the stockyards and from his pig farm was so much less offensive than the smell of the present day feedlots . . . oooohwheee!!! The smell of the present day feedlots is 1000% more odiferous than the stockyards of 1960's.

In the distant time of huge Bison migrations, the herds ate the green nutritious grass of the low lands near water, then at nighttime moved upland to minimize the predation of its members by wolves. As this Wild Nature behavior took place, the urine and feces elimination took place on the hill tops feeding the soil upland rather than accumulating in the lowlands near the water sources, demonstrating yet again the ingenuousness of the Wild Nature of the Bison to the health of the land. In tune with their natural instincts the health and wholeness of the planet was not compromised as they are by the present day human silly-ness of feedlot beef. 

Sad but true, the only remaining remnant of massive hoofed four leggeds migratory behavior exists in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Africa.

This picture of the migrating Wildebeest was taken 
by our friend, Steve Sweaney,
 earlier this year in February when he and his wife,
Judy Withee, spent a few weeks in the Serengeti.
Human silly-ness was exemplified last week as monstrous sized equipment arrived in the fields South of MuRefuge. The agribusiness equipment was so large it could hardly be turned around in the small fields. This massive equipment was a first we have witnessed for the harvest of hay which has been occurring in the late Spring/early Summer for years. These huge "toys" fueled by petroleum add mightily to greenhouse gases.

This agribusiness equipment reminded me of the saying, “the difference between men and boys is the size of their toys.” 

I grew up in the Southwestern corner of Iowa not far from the Missouri River. Living there I saw much hay cut and baled, some years even participating in the process. The bales were picked up by humans and stacked on wagons to carry them for storage in a barn. This monstrous array of equipment used here included a machine to take these huge bales, probably the size of nine of the old time size bales, and shrink wrap them in plastic. This particular harvest of hay has been in the past, and I assume will be this year as well, used to feed dairy cows designated as organic. Plastic  is not organic!

This is Dwight standing next to a shrink wrapped hay bale in the field South of
MuRefuge. Beyond the Oregon Oak trees is our house.
"What if . . . the whole construct of human progress is a sham?" 
Scents and Sensibility, Spencer Quinn, 2015.

This quote reverberates and rings true me as I look out onto the golden field of mowed grass to the South of MuRefuge dotted with the huge shrink wrap hay bales.

The other speaker who drew me to Tara Firma Farms was Paul Kaiser, the co-owner of Singing Frogs Farm, who proclaims himself to be a geek. Paul  and his wife Elizabeth’s focus on their farm is feeding the soil so that it is alive and vibrant, which in turn grows alive and vibrant food sold right here in the West County (of Sonoma County, California). He is mesmerizing to listen to as he expounds on the research he has read and internalized, as well as on the implementation of healthy soil practices at Singing Frogs Farm.

It is helpful to know that Paul does not come to farming from an agriculture based education, rather he immersed himself in forest restoration. The concepts he learned he now applies to restoring the soil at Singing Frogs Farm.

One of Paul’s loves is planting woody plants which provide year round “homes” for beneficial insects, aka good garden bugs, since these plants have flowers over an extended period of time. He shared that most predatory insects, aka bad garden bugs, flourish on annuals, plants that all flower at the same time. So if one has a garden to feed humans, what a glorious idea to plant native flowering bushes and perennials. By choosing and planting many different varieties of native plants that each flower at different time of the year near and/or around your vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, you support the life cycle of native pollinators (of which there are over 19,000) and other beneficial winged creatures. By offering year round habitat for these beneficial insects one can usually minimize the destruction of your berries, fruit trees and vegetables by the predatory insects, or bad bugs. Diversity and balance is the key. It is the way of Wild Nature and perhaps a way to minimizing human silly-ness.

California Wild Rose (Rosa californica)
“I’ve been having my morning coffee 
out on my back porch. 
Previously, I would have it in front of the computer 
while checking email or browsing Facebook, 
but this morning I was struck by all there was to see. 
Birds in and out of the tree, 
a bee collecting pollen from my drooping sunflower, 
squirrels calling to each other 
and racing along the power lines, 
gorgeous clouds nearly covering 
the deep blue end-of-summer sky. 
There was so much movement and so much noise ... 
I noticed as I came in this morning 
that there was a small smile on my face 
rather than a furrow on my brow. 
I hope to carry the peace with me through the day. 
And now I want to tell everyone, 
‘Just go sit outside! 
Do you know what’s out there? It’s amazing!’ 
But then I think ... 
it seems to be the kind of thing, 
perhaps like faith, 
that you just can't force upon another. 
You can live it 
and revel in it 
and be available 
when someone comes along 
and says ‘what’s the fuss all about?‘ 
But you just can’t force a person to be amazed 
by the chaotic dance of some unidentified insects 
in the rising sun.
... and if you haven’t already put it in your book, 
one of your days should be 
have your morning coffee outside.‘“ 
Personal email from Jessica McMaken to author. 
Living Earth Devotional: 
365 Green Practices for Sacred Connection, Clea Danaan, 2013.

May our connection with the natural world and its Wild Nature magnify as we