Sunday, May 28, 2006

My button is about to pop

Just like a Thanksgiving turkey's little timer thingy, my navel is coming close to popping out. Pretty much any day now. I wish this meant the baby were ready to be taken out of the oven, but alas, I have another two months to go. These sentiments occur to me right now especially because we're experiencing a late spring heat wave - 93 degrees and hair-curling humidity. And I'm sweating all over this keyboard.

Sorry I haven't been at the computer for a while - I had to undergo some minor surgery and haven't been up to blogging for the last week or two. As I refuse to turn this blog into a diary of my aches and pains (oh, my bursitis!), I won't go into any further detail on this matter, because trust me - you don't want to know. Or maybe you do, in which case we can communicate directly. At any rate, I'm very happy to be up and around again, because one can only hold so many Lord of the Rings film festivals for themselves so many days in a row before getting a little goofy in the head.
So, with thanks in much part to my steadfast husband and kindly roommates, I'm back in business as they say, and spending a good bit of time enduring the heat very close to au naturale here at our little farm tucked away in its green valley, making me ultra-aware of the fact that my belly is HUGE! Plus the fact that I seem to knock into everything with it these days. Like people at the grocery store. 3-D, coming at you!

By the way, did you know that most of the weight a pregnant woman gains in the first several months of her pregnancy is due to increasing blood volume? Isn't that nuts?

The baby continues to do well (from what we can tell anyway), frequently waking me with heels to my ribs and some sort of tai chi maneuvers. Jay swears he felt a fist punch out, causing a temporary tumor to rise from my belly and then go back to whence it came. My midwife Paula says the head is firmly planted in my pelvis and unlikely to shift much at before being born, which is a good thing as head first is definitely best for a complication-free birth. Unfortunately, not such a good thing for complication-free urination on my end, but what can you do? Also, I had no idea how many choices were involved in giving birth (how do you all feel about vaccinations? Any advice?). Sheesh, as if there weren't enough to worry about bringing a small person that you helped create into the world via birth canal.

Wow, tons of progress has been made here as far as planting and gardening go, little thanks to moi. Check out the farm life photos link Chris posted over to the lower right (under the "links" heading) to see how things are looking. Our garden design was very artistically rendered by Chris, and then Becca came up with the idea to add rocks to the paths, along with some very wise-looking, primitive-feeling petroglyphs here and there. Vegggies are already starting to come up, and we've partaken of radishes and rhubarb, along with a good lettuce crop, fresh out of the garden. I planted nasturtiums in the retaining wall blocks and in front of the barn, and they're quickly springing forth, making good progress every day, especially with the sun and storm pattern we've been enjoying.

My dad will be celebrating getting his doctorate next week, and around that time we'll be enjoying visits from Nathan and Barbara and Anna Gray and her boyfriend Ryan. Looking forward to seeing them!

Love and fat grazing horses to all,


Thursday, May 25, 2006

A few changes

I just wanted to point out a few changes Chris made recently to the site. You've probably noticed that your comments are now more easily viewed in the column to the right. We appreciate the dialogue and want to encourage your ongoing feedback!
Also, while we'll continue to post photos within our entries, there is also a photo link and video link (in the righthand column as well) so you can see more photos and view video more easily. Chris has also added some fantastic links/resources. If you have suggestions for other resources or blogs or sites we should add, please send them!
Thanks for checking in with us - we love that you're a part of our virtual farm community.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Three Sisters

There is a ton of information on the web already about the Three Sisters garden, but since I want to start keeping a better record of what we're up to here, I thought I'd add my own description.The "Three Sisters" consist of Corn, Beans and Squash. Native Americans (I'm not sure which particular groups) would plant these three crops together because of their complimentary nutritional value and how each member of the guild benefits the others. The beans climb the corn and convert nitrogen from the air into plant food. The squash acts as a living mulch, keeping the soil moist and weeds in checkspan>

Our good neighbor Bill disked about an acre of our field for us, on half of which we planted trees. It will eventually turn back into hay, but I thought it would be good to make use of its temporary receptivity and plant some food there. I chose the Three Sisters because of the above benefits and that it is a relatively low maintenance form of gardening. The field is located just far enough from the house that we wouldn't want to be walking back and forth that often.

After doing a little research, I discovered that there are as many ways of making this garden as there are people telling you how to do it. I took a little from each, but relied most heavily on Toby Hemenway's book, Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, and also this article from Mother Earth News. Basically I made 56 mounds (4 mounds deep and 14 long) on the South side of the field. I would guess that it takes up about 1/10 of an acre, but I could be way off. The mounds are about a foot high, 20 inches wide, and 5 feet away from each other in all directions. I tilled up the soil with some added manure and compost and then raked it into a flat-topped mound. After finishing the mounds they looked like this:I put the corn kernels in a bowl of water and let them soak overnight. The next day (with some help from my lovely wife) I planted four kernels in the center of each mound and set a stake in the middle to mark where they are. (As we discovered last year, the weeds can grow up pretty quickly and hide the mounds.) I also planted a variety of sunflowers around the edges of the garden to give it some shelter and added beauty. Here is what it looks like at this point:
After a week or so when the corn is about 4 inches tall I'll plant the beans on the edges of the mounds. A week after that I'll plant the squash. I'd say the whole project has taken about four hours thus far, and there is really not much more to do. There will be some minimal weeding in the beginning, but after a few weeks the squash should take care of that part. If it's really dry for a stretch we'll probably have to water it, but again, the squash will keep the ground moist throughout shorter dry spells.

We are working towards being able to subsist on what we grow, and I see this garden as a significant step in this process. Corn, beans and squash all store well, and are all good for you as well. The corn and beans that aren't eaten as they ripen can be left to dry where they stand. The squash should keep for quite a while if kept in a root cellar. I'll try to update as things progress. If anyone has suggestions or comments I'd love to hear them.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Tree Inventory

"If I believed the world were to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today."

-Martin Luther

Thank you Matty P. for that quote, which brilliantly dovetails the recent faith discussions on the blog and this here topic, posted mainly for record-keeping purposes: listing the trees we've planted since we moved here. So with no further ado, here they are.

Spring 2005:
-A weeping willow (planted in front of the barn, a birthday gift to Jay from his parents)
-A young cherry (planted on the east side of the quonset building)
-A young plum (also planted on the east side of the quonset building)

Spring 2006:
-300 baby pine/spruces (planted as a windbreak in 1/2 acre of our hayfield directly to the north of our outbuildings)
-3 young cherries (planted on the south and east sides of the house, birthday gifts to Jay from his parents - a way to remind Jay of those famous cherry blossoms in Portland)
-Two apples (a Macintosh and a Honeycrisp planted down near the garden to create a bit of an orchard along with our other apple trees)
-A young mock orange (to be planted at the northeast corner of the house)
-A young oak (planting location still to be determined)
-Two pine seedlings (planted as future landmarks by the firestop at the top of the driveway, taken from Chris' cabin in honor of Ellis and Thelonious)

And I'm sure there will be more!

Love and a pasture filled with sunny dandilions to all-


Friday, May 12, 2006

Sooooo ... faith

I've been wondering ... can faith exist in a vacuum? Or is it possible that faith can only exist in relationship to its old friend doubt? What do YOU think?

Unrelated or perhaps related: something that just popped into my mind:

I remember when I lived in the Seattle area I'd drive across the 90 or 520 bridges and I'd see Mount Rainier looming larger than ever like a pale wraith - as if it had grown since the last time I'd seen it - and I'd slow down and want to pull over and gape, and I'd wonder, how can all of these people just drive by this mountain staring straight ahead with their busy faces on, like they'd seen it before and therefore couldn't appreciate it again?

Similarly, as I type this my child rolls around in my womb and I think, how can this possibly EVER feel like a mundane experience? I've got a living being making waves INSIDE OF ME.

I'm loving my life right now. New intellectual and philosophical challenges to wrestle, new life in the woods and the fields, great conversations, fresh cohesion among the family here, lots of pure hyperactive joy with the baby (the one on the outside).

That's it for now. Thanks for indulging me...


An Ecstatic Experience

I just picked some fresh young spring rhubarb - the first crop to be harvested directly out of the garden this year. It's simmering on the stove as we speak. Joy! Rapture!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Video of Ellis hungry and tired

Click on the title above or click here to see the video.

Monday, May 08, 2006

My middle name is Thomas

My parents named me Jason Thomas Collins. Thomas comes from one of the twelve disciples - the disciple who is known as the doubter. In the gospel of John, Thomas needs to see and feel the wounds in Jesus' hands and feet to believe, as he was not there during Jesus' first appearance to the other disciples. I am not saying I have not witnessed many magical, mystical and spiritual experiences, but I am a doubter. It is not that Thomas did not love Jesus - that was never in question.

When I published the blog "Happy problems still can be unhappy," I was nervous. The things I think and feel are harsh and difficult; they are not easy for me. I was most concerned about the impact my words would have on three men I love and admire: my dad, Ted Nordlund and Dennis Plies. I do not desire to dismiss their love for Jesus, their work and their impact on me - I would be a fool to do that. Yet, the things I say and think and feel are hard. I like hard things. I grow and bear fruit because of the hard things.

Just like Thomas, I too love Jesus. I love Jesus so much that I do not take that love lightly. In fact, I take my desire to live a life like Jesus extremely seriously.

Living on the farm and choosing to try to seperate myself from typical American culture and civilization makes me question everything. This kind of living and thinking often feels like a losing battle. Part of separating myself is deconstructing and reconstructing everything. Everything includes religion. What and who really is Jesus? This question and answer nutures the essence of who I am to be.

I know Jesus' essence is love, but perhaps I am too short sighted. I can not stop seeing the pain in people and our careless treatment of the environment. I doubt if there is an answer or hope for the end of humanity's sorrow and the earth's moaning. What do I do with this doubt? How does Jesus influence me in this frustration and dispair?

My family and Charis' family had an awesome conversation with me about all of this; conversation is what I desire, need and fills my soul, conversation that is hard and asks difficult questions and can end without answers. They were right in that Jesus is not all about the cross, blood, death and sin. Jesus is about love, redemption and grace. I see that I do not accept, know or understand the true love, redemption and grace that Jesus has given them. I am too proud, stubborn and angry.

Bonhoffer said grace is not cheap but costly. I agree. This costly grace should radically effect the way I live my life in relationship to others and my environment. How do I live a life of hope and a life that works toward reversing suffering and destruction?

Ellis Pictures and Video

Video clip of Ellis drinking out of a glass.

An ode to my beloved and beyond

I just wanted to take a moment to write about my profound respect for my husband, Jay. His sometimes brutal honesty in his quest for an authentic faith is an inspiration to me. A grappler, a scholar, a collaborator and a facilitator in the truest sense of these words, he has the courage to share his doubts, his fears, and his dark nights of the soul on his spiritual journey in order to encourage related discussions among his larger community - in other words, all of you reading this right now. He constantly pushes himself to achieve deeper levels of understanding in this way, challenging assumptions and asking questions. I deeply admire his candor.

Soon, with the birth of our first child, our life job descriptions will change forever. We will be parents for the first time, and we will navigate complex choices regarding what values we will teach our child, and how we will teach them. I feel the heaviness and joy in this responsibility has sent us both a little deeper into the woods regarding our faith, which is always a good thing in my mind, as I am my best self when walking through the trees here at the farm, forests that technically belong to our neighbors but in reality belong to God, to themselves, to all of us creatures. Can an occasional shift of paradigm in regard to matters of faith be a healthy thing? Can we embrace what is sacred to us and many others and still wonder about and question their traditional interpretations?

If you profess to a core belief of any kind, do you have a story of a faith-shaking doubt, of a period of time where you just weren't sure if or what you believed? How did you cope? What was the outcome? What did you learn? I don't expect many to answer, and you can certainly contact me personally if you'd rather not participate in a roundtable blog; I understand completely, as I know these questions touch on very private corners of our lives. But I'd love to learn from your experiences, and I know Jay would too.

I close with a quote from Jim Wallis' book God's Politics, and then a riff on that quote from my good friend Dennis Plies.

Here, Wallis recalls when he and other spiritual leaders were jailed for praying in the Capitol Rotunda in protest of legislation that would hurt the poor:

I smiled as I looked around the massive jail cell and focused on what seemed to be a very vigorous conversation going on between Baptist preacher Tony Campolo and Jewish rabbi Michael Lerner. I moved closer to hear. They were discussing Christology, the theological topic concerning the nature and identity of Jesus Christ. ‘Who was Jesus?’ is still perhaps the most provocative religious question in our interfaith world. Tony and Michael were deeply engaged together. Was Jesus the very Word of God made flesh or a great Jewish prophet? They clearly didn’t agree and were not likely to convince each other anytime soon.

But the amazing dialogue taught me something very important. Perhaps the best place to discuss theology is in jail, after you have all been arrested for acting on your faith. Act faithful, then talk about why you have faith and what your faith means.

Dennis' thoughtful response:

“Act faithful, then talk about why you have faith and what your faith means.” This is gorgeous. Take that into anyone’s arena. Some folks’ heart is the issue of immigrants, the state of education, how ethics or non-ethics are practiced in corporations, ecological concerns, noise control near airports, the plight of the oppressed, the lack of justice, and on and on. What is it that causes me to act faithful, and then can I talk about why I have faith in this premise and what that faith means—action? Having the ability to listen to you without judgment for what moves you, then listen even more intently as you share why you have faith in this cause and what your faith means ...

...exciting to me was that they (Campolo and Lerner) were able to dialogue about a reality without having to slice Jesus up or down, having the inner freedom to talk about Jesus’ person and identity. This can be applied to any topic or person if we choose to be free enough so that our own identity is not marked by what others say of someone we love or honor.

Charis again now: The question, then, is how do YOU define faith?



Thursday, May 04, 2006