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What you discover depends on how closely you look. Say that again and again. Truth deserves repetition. You need to see it for yourself. You need to see it in places that you don’t expect to see it. What you discover depends on how closely you look.

I’ve seen a young spring peeper resting on my cuticle, glittering in golden sunshine. I’ve seen an eight-spotted forester moth in flashing flight like a strobe light. But you have to be out there to see it. You have to have eyes to see. She who has ears let her hear. He who has eyes let him read these words. What you discover depends on how closely you look.

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Why do I answer the Northern Bobwhite quail when he calls? He is not calling for me. I’m not trying to confuse him. I’m not vying with him for the attentions of his lover. But he calls and I answer. And it is sometimes automatic and without thinking that I answer him whistling. He is not seeking my recognition but I am giving it. Is it just because I can that I do it?

While the children roam the gardens clutching carrot and fennel, currant and sorrel and listen to Leadbelly sing loud the Bourgeois Blues on hot summer nights, while Phoebe wags her tail and Pallas Athena hides herself in rags I will write poetry when I can.

Heaven help us all, I hope you do too.

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“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Hamlet

Eumaeus is no hero. I try to content myself in service. I offer the prayer, “Help us to become masters of ourselves, that we might be the servants of others. Take our minds and think through them. Take our lips and speak through them. And take our hearts and set them on fire.

There may come a time when I can be of service with garden growing tips, phenological reminders and novel methods for sustainable living on a shoestring. Until then, read The Walden Effect.

There may come a time when I can post consistently and without fail on all the topics that I’m interested in from environmentalism to the price of a dozen eggs. Until then, read Practicing Resurrection.

There may come a time when I can manage all our gardens and livestock to feed ourselves and those in our community, when our milk cow is fat and our herd is moved daily to fresh grass. Until then, read Throwback at Trapper Creek.

There may come a time when each word that I write is pure and in practiced patience crafted to perfection. Until then, read life of the hand – life of the mind.

Eumaeus was not born but sprung fully-armed from a forehead.

Thus, there may come a time when I can give voice to your dreams and take your muddied thoughts, wipe them clean in the grass, wash them in a mountain pool and set them somewhere high enough in firmament that they’ll be visible like some rural-life beacon. Until then, read Ben Hewitt.

I offer my support to these and others still blazing that small farm trail of Jefferson’s dream. My version is the one where we rest under vine and fig while cutting the Bible into strips in search of Truth.

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I paddled out to where the waters come in. I don’t know if a canoe has a stern but my son rode in the front, paddle-less. And we stopped at an old hickory snag still standing in six feet of water. My son stood in the boat, maintaining his center of gravity, and looked down into the holy nest of a tree swallow.

I took my wife out there to visit the nest again the next day. She rode in the front with our youngest, while my 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter kicked slowly across the pond in life-vests. My wife stood too, less gracefully and with some trepidation because she can’t swim, and took pictures down the hole. Mother and father swallow circled overhead. So we moved off a few feet. And they came and visited the nest while we watched.

It is a quiet and wild place there in the back of the pond, where the water comes in from the northwest, ‘beaver creek’. When we glide out there, if we are quiet, we are unusual and non-threatening. And things carry on as if we weren’t there. The muskrats swim circles and bark little barks. Did I tell you about the muskrats barking? I don’t tell much anymore so it is hard for me to remember. But it is good. It is good to have places and times where the rituals of fear are forgotten. In the quiet then, the familiar forms of Man are ignored and at least for a moment you can glimpse the world through other eyes.

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Farm poetry is thus:
Bird netting works on goumi
Wife finishes building the coop
I bought a Savage thirty ought six
Late honey-berries are fatter and taste better than early ones
Tender hearts of garlic scapes cooked with asparagus need no verb to make complete
It is a poetry better lived than written, I’ll warrant you.

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The other day there was an article in the local newspaper. It seems they are selling a type of plastic storm shelter at a business in the community. Someone had purchased one. You sink these plastic storm shelters in the ground. And it was implied that they are good for people who have mobile homes. And someone was interviewed in the story saying that it was a worry when storms would come and tornadoes threatened because there are so many trees. And that person interviewed described how they would sit in their mobile home and resolve, something like ‘if it is my time, then it is my time’.

But now they have bought a plastic storm shelter. And now they will go down in the hole without resolution. And I was reminded of that Bob Dylan song ‘Let me die in my footsteps.’ For it seems that most things remind me of a Bob Dylan song.

And, you know there is nothing wrong with buying a plastic storm shelter, burying it in the ground and taking shelter there in a storm. And there is nothing wrong with staying above ground and making your peace with life. And there is nothing wrong with the philosophy of ‘staying home‘ that we talk about and love. And there is nothing wrong with going “out in your country, where the land meets the sun,” and seeing “the craters and the canyons and where the waterfalls run.” Abbey’s country.

That’s the difficult thing about all this stuff. Nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong. I guess that’s the real reason why I haven’t been writing much lately. It is learning to dance without holding your partners so tightly that I’m trying to master. There may come a time, when right, wrong, fear, ambition and the others dance with me beautifully and no stepping on toes. There will be no leader but we will follow the music. In time, we will follow the music. Until then, wait for me.

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“This is the very coinage of your brain.” – Gertrude (Hamlet’s mother)

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Catalpa speciosa, sing her praises
Now is her season to reign
Rain white blooms down
Remember her fondly again

It is best that we are remembered in our season
When our love has bright tracks
Pointing the way inside
And even the bumblers share in adoration
And are anointed
Marked kings in passing

Kings of June’s first kiss
Flying onward
Spreading the message of love
Catalpa speciosa, remember her this way
When she rains down blossoms
And you walk on flowers
Remember her this way

 

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It has been a while.

My head has cleared a little and my brain has healed enough for me to exercise some. Only occasionally will I feel dizzy. I can’t hear well with my left ear but  that could be from when Chimba caught me with a right-hook sparring, back when I used to box in Ulaanbaatar.

The brain is one thing and the mind another. I can heal my mind with the wheelbarrow now. Load by load, mind is repaired. A tri-axle dump truck of mulch is the best of therapists.

Meditation is a loaded word but I am not afraid. Walking across the orchard, balancing mulch and mindful of the uneven ground, that’s wheelbarrow meditation. There is no need to dwell on anything. The wheel makes tracks in the grass from the furthest chestnut and to the closest peach. Sometimes I dodge the crawdad chimneys. Sometimes I kick them down.

American toads trilled for the first time this spring as I went out with the twenty gauge. I was wearing a fleece over my red flannel robe with box of slugs in the pocket. I’m not trying to hurt the beavers. I’m trying to kill them.

The moon is getting bright, waxing toward blood. It shines on the water when there aren’t any clouds. Sometimes I sit in a plastic chair on the edge of the spillway. On the orchard side and under a cattle panel arbor, I lean my head against the gate-post and rest the barrel on the cedar gate. My eyes focus on nothing. The slightest silver wake shines silently led by a black beaver head. It takes a while to convince yourself that you’re not seeing things. I take a shot but I usually miss by a wide mark. The slug splashes in the water and he dives quick and comes up a little ways off and gives three pounding, angry splashes with his tail.

Once, I hit him with buckshot and he slowly dove underwater and took the next few days off. Now I only use slugs.

The dogs have had better luck killing beaver than I have. Our orange dog got pretty torn up and he’s still licking some deep wounds that we guess came from beaver. Around the time we discovered the wounds, we found a dead beaver drug to the top of the hill by the barn. When I saw it our white dog had already eaten the tail. We celebrated a small beaver battle victory.

These battles with nature are all in our minds and eventually we lose every one of them. Sometimes fighting to preserve the illusion keeps us sane. A strange kind of sanity, like beautiful, bound Chinese feet.

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Yellow-breasted warbler and Northern parula, just in from South America provide the soundtrack to all this ephemeral flower business. I’d been confusing sharp-lobed hepatica (Anemone hepatica) with spring beauty, I think, but you focus on the foliage and it is clear. I’ll have to go back and look for the seedpods of twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) to collect. They make little animal mouths that can be painted to added effect.

So far, it is the year of blood-root (Sanguinaria canadensis) but I saw my first snow trilliums (Trillium nivale). False rue anemone (enemion biternatum) is colonial and almost always has five petals. ‘True’ rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) is found solitary and with usually more than five petals. Remember putty root orchid (Aplectrum hyemale) flowers in the first weeks of June and remember too, the naked flower of wild leek (ramps), round the first of August.

Naming these things in the woods gives them power. It gives them wholly justified power. The deeper I dig in this business the more powerful they become. When the clump of grass-like growth in the upland forest becomes Pennsylvania sedge and the red-tailed hawk soaring over head is ignored for attention to the song of spring migrants, fresh from the Andes, then you know you are in deep. And you measure your life by the ephemeral blooms that you have in your future. “If I’m lucky,  I’ll see the blood-root bloom like this twenty more times”, they say. I love to hear people talk like that. “Go learn the sedges” they tell me. And I just might.

Amazing powers of these plants seem to have stopped the damming of a river in our Indiana. Who knew a fen and some dragonflies could overthrow the hopes and dreams of the pleasure-cruising class? Who knows but some sedges might over power dreams of lake-front property development. But learn their names and you’ll see.

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I think out loud. Very little is sacred to me. Or everything is sacred. But I could drop it all on a dime. Or I could sacrifice my life for it. Mainly, I am just a reflection seeking things to reflect. I’m a mirror looking for identity in the flat images that show on me.

Adyashanti talks about how walking on the ground can restore balance and move energy where it needs to be moved. Bare-feet are the prescription. The earth works the pressure points in your feet. And I think about the voles and moles being massaged as they push swimmingly through the topsoil.

It’s more rodents than I know what to do with.

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“So when are you going to slaughter your next cow?”

Microaggressions’ may be an old academic term being used now by some Harvard students to describe a changing breed of subtle racism in a ‘post-racist’ society. But I see this kind of thing all too frequently in the way that some people try to communicate with me about my life ‘out here’. It seems there is a similar divide, like that which can exist between races and complete with prejudice, stereotypes and lack of understanding when you grow your own food and live in the country.

“How are your crops growing?”

Its not overt. It comes out in the way people search for words, the way that people stress certain words. It is subtle. And like the students confronting racism, a lot of the time you just ignore it. But its there. I can feel it when it happens.

Where does it all come from? The perceived microagressions come from a lack of understanding. They come from values that have left earth and the heavens and rooted themselves in la-la commercial land.

What fixes all this? Maybe the coming drone army or the zombie apocalypse will fix it. It seems that perhaps only the giant propaganda machines may be able to make great strides in changing attitudes.

All I can say is be confident in yourself, in who you are that made the choices you made, the choices that are right for you.

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I sat out in the woods on a throne made of 94¢ cement ‘half blocks’. I looked at the trees, straight trunks of black cherry, black oak and sugar maple. The steam rose off the pan. I filled it to its 4 inch brim and brought it to a boil with sassafras and sycamore.

You might be able to figure out, on average, how long it takes for the volume of a full pan, 3 feet by 5 feet, to be reduced by half and need filling again, topped off with more sap. It seems there is a need, in today’s world, to measure such things, to know how much time. But beware those who measure. Beware the measure-er in yourself.

Tulip logs burn in the fire too. Four foot logs of tulip, sassafras and sycamore lose their moisture. It bubbles and hisses out the cut ends. Then they turn into thick coals. And sometimes I’ll stack blocks from my throne to cover the stove front and hold the coals longer there.

It is best not to measure by the gallon or by the hour. And take your day as it comes, with some logs thicker than others, with tulip wood drier than sycamore and coals with their own agenda. Let the wind blow as it may. Sit on your throne next to your fire. You will know when to add the sap.

And so it was, when the sun on my neck lost its vigor and the birds began their evening calls. I went back home through the woods, through the pasture, across the dam, through the orchard and under the oaks to the drive and then the yard and the porch and the door. And my son was game. There could be little doubt for he constantly asks to take the tent and camp out. And so we did. We took the old Oriental rug and unrolled it on the platform near the sugar camp. We’d learned our lessons camping in the cold, so I made the bed carefully, thick and warm.

With camp set and evaporating tended, we walked down to the pond to bother the beavers and make them smack their tails at us. They obliged. We walked below the pond to hear the woodcock peent in the wetland. And he did. The wind picked up and we did not hear the owls.

Then I sat on my throne in the dark. My son played with fire. He made beautiful ‘rainbows’ of light with the glowing embers on stick ends. He played that way for a long time with burning sticks swinging in ninja-like control. On the dirt and mud road lined with buckets, taps and maple trees he spun and swung in the night next to our sugar camp. He played with fire like a boy who knows how to play with fire. And I watched him from my throne.

The canopy swayed above us and I slept between visits to the fire, walking up the road in the light of the full moon three times before dawn.

There are many ways to get maple syrup, many ways to make it. To my mind though, the sound of dripping into buckets, the dipping of a mug into the sap for drinking, the steam and smoke of fire and evaporating rising into the woods and the tent pitched nearby, these are the ingredients of a sugar camp. I’ve never been to another sugar camp. I was not raised with this tradition and in these rhythms. I don’t know for sure but I think that we’ve got it right.

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