on gardening

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    Spring Weeds Paid Member

    Spring comes to the coast of California in early February, like an over-eager dinner guest arriving an hour and a half before the appointed feast. We have barely recovered from bringing in the November harvest of Baldwin apples and winter potatoes when spring touches the bleak, windswept land. With a mixture of dread and awe, I watch as the white petals of our old plum tree push against their bud casings and burst open, announcing the new season. Underneath the plum is a thicket of spring weeds: black mustard and miner’s lettuce, chickweed and shepherd’s purse, and deep veins of stinging nettle. These weeds run in seams across the cultivated cropland of Green Gulch Farm. Every year in this season I walk the fields, waist-high in weeds. I feel the pulse of the land stirring awake underneath my feet. In the first years of San Francisco Zen Center, Suzuki Roshi encouraged new students by saying: More »
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    Year of the Rat Paid Member

    In early summer, just when gardeners should be tying up the waving tentacles of Marmande tomatoes or pinching back the tips of imperial larkspur, I find myself once again at the periphery of the garden, sowing a fresh border of Good Bug Blend. This miracle mixture of herb, flower, and vegetable seeds is sown to attract beneficial insects to the garden. These “good bugs”—the golden chalcid and the minute pirate bug, the green lacewing and the big-eyed bug—are all natural pest control allies that keep the June garden clean of pernicious troublemakers. But lately I’ve been wondering what my role is in the cycle of predation and rebirth. More »
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    Raven's Edge Paid Member

    IN MEDITATION PRACTICE, as in the garden, often the best learning happens at the edge of what you know, where the sorceress hills at the back of your brain go stone dark and you push through onto new ground. “Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite beyond it,” observed the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson of the garden. This is the landscape I happened upon this winter, standing in the last Green Gulch field before the ocean, when a flock of ravens dismantled my notion of what it takes to make a garden. More »
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    Socrates' Friend Paid Member

    Much as I love to grow rosy-cheeked apples and long stripes of pale green butter lettuce, I equally welcome the presence of poisonous weeds and flowers in the garden. No paradise is complete without the murmur of these dark sorcerers from beyond the fringe: snakeroot and henbane, monkshood and deadly nightshade. Chief among the poisonous plants I respect is Conium maculatum, or poison hemlock, also known as the executioner of kings and philosophers, or “Socrates’ friend,” for the swift and fatal hemlock dose the Greek philosopher was condemned to drink by his political enemies around 400 B.C.E. More »
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    Kokopelli's Sack Paid Member

    For the late-season gardener there is no escape from the great ripening of August. The hands of every gardener are stained tell-tale brown with the gummy residue of unruly Ailsa Craig tomato plants. Try as we may to find a place of repose away from the incessant chatter of the cockscomb plants gossiping with the whirligig zinnias, nothing works. The tendrils of the lemon cucumber push open the stoutest sanctuary door, creep over the threshold, and wind clockwise around the gardener’s wrist. Once, twice, and again . . . the servant is pulled back to the garden. More »
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    Daughters of the Wind Paid Member

    EVERY YEAR around the spring equinox, the prevailing westerly winds begin to gust, battering the California coast just a scant half-mile from Green Gulch Farm. These westerlies are a swollen river of air moving across the face of the Pacific, blowing shoreline sand into long drifts and heaving spindrift spume against the dark bulk of the March headlands. More »