Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fair Trade and Right Livelehood

Right Livelihood

Before I moved to the Quabbin area I was living on Long Island in New York, out towards the East End. If you have ever been there you may have noticed the extreme natural beauty of the place. I lived in Mattituck for about three years. It reminded me of Cape Cod, a place I had spent some of my childhood summers. The beaches, the traffic every summer, the influx of tourists and the sweet desolation of winter. But one thing was different - farms. I don’t remember seeing many farms on the Cape. Out on the east end it was mostly potato farms, cabbage and row upon row of Brussels Sprouts. I love Brussels Sprouts they are like tiny cabbages and I do love cabbage.

But the farms are one of the reasons I left Long Island. Potato farming had left residues of Temic and it had filtered down through the sand into the drinking water. My cats wouldn’t drink the water. I was told not to even shower in the water.

This is the moment that I became aware of food issues in regard to the use of pesticides and the effect agriculture had on my environment and on my health. I decided to move to New England and start to learn how to grow my own food.

It was about this time that I learned about the Buddhist idea of right livelihood. What better way to reach into that idea than with Organic farming. I began to grow lots of different things. My farm is basically in the hedgerow and the diversity of Birds and Butterflies is astounding to me. Every day I am greeted by a green world that offers it’s bounty of food and fauna. Just about a month ago a doe stood yards away and early in the spring mists a Stag just feet away.

I have stepped away from vegetable gardening for a couple of years, though I still put in a few tomato plants and a cucumber or two. And of course the volunteers that pop up in the compost pile. This year there are eight tomato plants and a squashy type thing or two. The true bounty of this small farm is fruit - Black Raspberries, Red Raspberries the size of my thumb, Grapes, Apples, Pears, and Cherries. I don’t sell much of this fruit, but put some of it up for my own pantry and share some with friends.
This is the first year that there has been enough of the black raspberries to make more of them than a mornings topping for a bowl of cereal. I was able to pick about seven cups which was enough for my friend Sue to make Jam. She told me that she had been waiting forty years to be able to make black raspberry jam. They were always so expensive to buy. I picked the berries, she made the jam. We split the jars between us. Now that’s what I call Fair Trade.
As for vegetables, there are two farmers with stands just minutes from my house, both who grow organically. They each sell at local Farmers markets, one in Belchertown, one on Orange, both markets are on Thursday evening. I fill me freezer with food grown less than 5 miles from my house.
Kirtan for me fits right into the idea of right livelihood. What I had thought was a direction that I would be going in for a long time changed dramatically due to life circumstances. It was then and there that I decided to truly adopt the idea of right livelihood as a real principle in my life. Just as I describe in my bio about how I became aware of the lyrics that I was singing, I have become aware of the choices I make and how they affect the world around me. Which brings me to the real reason that I have for writing today. I find that I am bursting with gratitude for the donations that you all give to us every Kirtan. And I wanted to make sure that I took this opportunity to let you all know. Thank you and a billion blessings on you all and those that you love. Thank you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Spring has come and gone. The frost slipped away as the face of the sun showed itself more and more. It has been an unusually rainy season. I have stepped away a bit from gardening/farming and did not put any Tomato plants in until the end of June. I am sure that by August they will have caught up. I honestly don't really like eating tomatoes unless they are freshly picked.
The rest of the garden has outdone itself once again. Lupine and Peony surrounded by Lady's Bedstraw so that the entire cutting garden looks like a bouquet of grand proportions. The black raspberries are now well established and this year there are more than ever. The red raspberries are starting to come on fast and strong. It's almost as if they ripen as I watch. We have had a fair share of sun too and this weather has been perfect for berries. This year we even had a bounty of what I call Fairy Berries. These are Alpine strawberries that have naturalized throughout the back garden. For years there were wild strawberries that have gotten so well established and perhaps intermingled with the strawberries that I had planted and now there are berries about the half the size of a pea. The flavour is intensely strawberry with a slight citrus tone. It's fairy food and I have eaten of it and now I shall never crave mortal food again! As the wheel turns towards Lughnassad I celebrate the bounty of gifts that she gives us. Oh I almost forgot - there are two tomato plants that have volunteered themselves right in the compost pile and seem very happy there indeed. I wonder what type they will be? What great and glorious gifts the mother brings. My heartfelt thanks to the green world for all that it gives!!