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.
Our garden area has expanded over the past few years with the addition of chickens, rabbits, and goats. The expansion continued with the addition of a Community Garden. We have invited 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. 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.
View the video about our Organic Garden: We Are the Dust of the Earth
Three of our volunteers 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.
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
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
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
Thoughts from the Garden – December 2017
I sit before this blank page during these Advent days of waiting. I wonder whether any words will come, and I breathe in patient hope. Images float through my mind as I listen to the snow melting off the roof of the Honey House and drip into the small puddles that have gathered below. Pictures – of the orange sunrise over the landscape whitened with snow, of friends gathered to celebrate the season, of a warm fire in our new brick oven, of the smiling eyes of a loved one – dance through my memory as the past couple of days pop in to say hello. These pictures are accompanied by images and words that take turns swimming through my mind: “Pipe Bomb Explodes,” “Missile Threat,” “Ravaged by Fire,” “Sexual Assault,” “Refugee Camps.” Headlines, all of them, and the list goes on. And this doesn’t even include the list of personal headlines that are shared with me as stories from friends, family and neighbors.
I’ve always been mesmerized by the thought of incarnation. The beauty of it is what touched me first. God, here, dwelling among us, within us, within all things – isn’t this the definition of beauty? A few days ago, though, I stood clapping, waving my arms, and cawing like a crow to scare away starlings who were eating all of the chicken’s food. If that didn’t make me look whacky enough, I also gave them a stern talking to. When I finished my rant, they were still in the trees waiting for me to walk away so they could resume their feeding. At some point during my scolding, I told them that they were invasive and don’t belong in this part of the world. Even as I was saying the words, I recognized that they are only trying to eat, and really, they are only invasive because of the greatest invasive species on the planet – human beings. I was humbled, then, and as I walked away, I called out to God, “Incarnation – what were you thinking??”
Incarnation – God becomes flesh. What a preposterous idea. Why would the God of the universe becomes something that can bleed? I went for a walk with Mary Lou and Celine this morning. I picked up sticks to throw for Celine, who proudly retrieved them and brought them back to me or laid down to chew for a while. As I write, I can remember the feel of the cold, damp wood that was recently part of a tree. I can see Celine’s clear Border collie eyes looking at me in hope that I would throw one more stick. I can feel the cool air on my cheeks and the small raindrops on my ears. I remember this, and for a moment, I glimpse what is true. God – here, dwelling among us, within us, within all things – is beauty. What about the times when suffering carries a gun and shoots? When fear straps a bomb to his chest? When insecurity drills another hole into the earth? When pain drives a truck into a crowd? When vulnerability abuses a child? When anger nails his hands to a cross? Why would the God of the universe become something that can bleed?
I’m falling in love, free falling is a more accurate description. I love the sound of his deep voice, especially when he sings off key. I love the feel of being wrapped in his strong arms, and I love looking into his eyes. I love coming to know and be known by him. Mostly, though, I love him – mind, heart, spirit, energy, passion, flesh and blood.
I can only love because I, too, am flesh and blood. I can only love, truly, when I inhabit my body. When I plant a seed in a patch of soil, when I hold the hand of a grieving woman, when I carry a bucket of lifegiving water, when I knead a loaf of bread, when I wrap a loved one in an embrace, incarnation is happening in my body, in my flesh. Then I look around and see with the eyes of God. I see a man preparing a meal for a neighbor and listening to her sad story. I see a dad kiss his son on the head before dropping him off at school. I see a wife bring a cup of coffee to her husband. I see a Sister use her voice to speak for justice for the oppressed. I see God at work everywhere with our hands, our feet, our hearts and our voice – within our flesh. It is through this embodied love that I’m learning that despite every heartbreaking headline, every hurricane and wildfire, every #MeToo, every act of terror and violence, every way incarnation proves to be excruciating yet again, love is. Though times are troubled and darkness is thick, there is something indomitable in our very cores.
Incarnation comes out from behind the shadow of the cross and into the light of resurrection. I have a small scab on my pinky finger from when a hammer landed on it a couple of weeks ago. I’m fingering it and wondering at the changes over time. My flesh was bleeding, and now it is nearly healed.