Consistent with reverence for the Earth is allowing it to remain in its pristine state without pesticides and pollutants. To learn and to teach how to grow crops organically, we have established an Organic Garden on the Brentwood grounds. We work a natural garden in keeping with our belief that all of God’s creation are sacred and should be treated with respect and care.
One way we can do this is to counter the industrial agricultural industry which grows monocultures of soy, corn, wheat, etc. These industrial farmers use chemical (petroleum based) fertilizers and pesticides. Both of these ultimately deplete the soil of its natural life. Lifeless soil tends to erode easily and of course requires ever more chemicals.
We engage in diversified gardening as a model of sound, natural gardening, planting a variety of crops, rotating them regularly, and using the spent plants, weeds, grass and leaves (all rich in nutrients) to fertilize the soil
. Nothing is wasted. Our natural garden is a good example of sustainability. As a bonus, diversified gardening attracts very few harmful insects and those that do come are quickly repelled by the beneficial insects that are attracted to our flowers.Gardening in this manner keeps ever before our eyes the wonders of God’s creation: the good relationships and cooperation between the plants and animal life; the diverse dying and rising within a vegetable garden, and the beauty of the plants, flowers and trees.(2013)
Our garden area has expanded over the past few years with the addition of chickens, rabbit sand goats. The expansion continues this year with the addition of a Community Garden. We have invited a few interested people to use some of our space to grow their own vegetables. Each person, or family will cultivate a plot sufficient to provide enough vegetables for their consumption throughout the growing season. This first season we will provide natural compost, seedlings and seeds in addition to instruction in growing food naturally. The cost is $10.00 per plot.
Our expansion continues with the conversion of a small plot of grass to a field of wheat. The wheat will be interplanted with red clover which is a good source of nectar for honey bees and other pollinators. We have numerous ideas for the wheat but we know our chickens would be very happy to share in the harvest.
Click to open The Garden Brochure:
Click to view video: We Are Dust of the Earth
New Root Cellar
Three of our volunteers have created an interesting and beautiful looking root cellar in our barn. The root cellar maintains a perfect temperature for storing root vegetables and the outer walls display a beautiful painting of our little garden. Many, many thanks to Ernie Herrington and Lis and Rich Dicce
Thoughts from the Garden
I sit here in the Honey House in the soft lighting of this rainy day. The clock is marking time with its steady ticking as the rain patters the roof and the ground and splashes into the make-shift rain buckets we have outside. I also hear the month old chicks chirping from the barn alongside Ernie’s ever present activity painting, building, mending, creating. Every once in a while, a hen begins her chorus of clucks alerting us to her imminent egg laying. I’ve just changed my wet clothes because Mary Lou and I were tending to the fruit trees, hoping to do our part in this circle of soil life, balancing what we take and what we give.
This will be our third spring since we planted these pear and apple trees. We planted the trees knowing that it could take seven years before they produce a full crop – an investment in the future, an act of hope. What a delight to notice a few raindrop shaped maroon pears the size of a thimble and three round green apples the same size! A small wonder to behold, these tiny promises reminded me not so much of a future harvest, but of my own promise and place.
When we planted these trees, I took it for granted that I would be around to see the fruit. I was young, healthy and had professed my first vows as a Sister of St. Joseph only months before – vows that I thought would be for the rest of my life. Life unfolded, and my prayer to “move always where the Spirit leads” changed my direction. I would not renew my vows a second time. It has now been nearly a year since I made that decision, and I have had time away from this garden and my work here. I have come home, though. An employee of the Sisters of St. Joseph, I have returned to the place and the work where my bones belong.
Seeing the small fruit on the trees touched some deep place within me that has promised myself to God through my promise to this place. I joke with sincerity that when I die, I want my body to be composted here. My hands touch this soil as my eyes gaze upon the worms and roots and rocks. My fingers sprinkle seeds and collect eggs. My ears are serenaded by birdsong and the voices of children. My arms embrace familiar visitors who have become friends. My body is sustained by the fruit of the earth that springs forth from this place as I breathe with the trees and take nourishment from the sun.
I think of Jesus whose life was also rooted in a particular place – whose sustenance came from the land on which he lived. The life of Jesus was a life of dailyness and details, of meeting and interacting, of feeding and being fed. His ministry happened with particular people – a woman at a well, a leper, a man blind from birth. His personal life was filled, too, with particularities – Mary, Peter, Martha, John. And we learn of roads and towns where Jesus was. Jesus didn’t reach out his hand and heal leprosy or erase blindness or hunger from the earth, but he did reach out his hand to touch and heal a man with leprosy. He did spit on the ground and wipe clean the eyes of one who was blind. He did call forth a man who was dead. He did break bread and share it with his companions. He did change the world.
Those tiny pears somehow remind me of my place in this world. In the dailyness and details of plants to water, soil to tend, coops to clean, visitors to welcome and goats to feed, I am living the particularities of my life. I am able to reach out my hand to touch, clean, welcome, empower, and feed. Indeed, I will give my life to it, and maybe one day the great, great grandchildren of the little ones who visit the garden today, will continue to share some juicy maroon pears and crunchy green apples. I don’t know if this will change the world, but with every life together, we might be the only thing that can.
On a pleasant stroll through the relatively deep snow on the day after a cold, windy snow storm, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the life that surrounded me. Not the life that was visible, but the life buried under the snow. Today my thoughts were focused on the thousands of wild pollinators that were nestled under twigs and branches and leaves, some buried in their nests and hives underground. Soon the warmer weather will arrive and our friends will emerge from their winter hideaways and search for nectar in our meadows of wildflowers, our dandelions and clover and then, graciously feed us by pollinating our early peas and blueberries and strawberries. – on and on. – until we eat our last piece of pumpkin pie. I heard myself say out loud “Thank you, one and all.” Mary Lou Buser, CSJ
Most royal greening verdancy.
Rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.
In this circle of earthly existence
You shine so finely,
It surpasses understanding.
God hugs you,
You are encircled by the arms
Of the mystery of God.
Hildegard of Bingen
A few days ago my friend Alice and I were wandering in the garden when suddenly a group of our chickens stopped their feasting on ground bugs and worms and ran quickly and gathered under a hay gatherer that we have displayed on the lawn. Then we noticed another group of chickens running towards the chicken coop and they quickly congregated under the coop. The black chickens were standing perfectly still in the brush in another area. It was ever so quiet, nothing stirred. We slowly looked around. What caused this chicken spectacle? I finally looked up and saw a red tail hawk perched on a branch high up on the oak tree. Still no motion. Finally, the hawk flew to a distant tree and then on to other hunting grounds. One by one, the chickens emerged from their shelters and continued with their own search for delicious treats.
During that time, I experienced God’s hug and felt encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.
Mary Lou Buser, CSJ