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 just had the most ordinary, extraordinary, secular, spiritual experience. It was something I do daily, and something I couldn’t live without. It is an activity that I too often forget to notice and yet one that changes my very being and the shape of the world around me.
I ate dinner.
The very act of eating dinner, or breakfast or lunch, for that matter, is one that ought to have me fall to my knees in gratitude. I ought to kiss the ground beneath my feet and the bacteria in my gut with every bite and sip and swallow.
Most days, I’m ashamed to say, the best I can muster is a brief remembrance of the food that I eat. I remember the ‘life, labor, lacking, loving’ as I picture the animal, plant and soil life, as I imagine the hands that toiled in field and factory, as I remember those who lack the food or company with which I am abundantly blessed, and I pray for the meal to nurture me so that I might myself be nurturing. This evening, though, was different.
Tonight, I ate my dinner in the Honey House. First, I collected several leaves of dinosaur kale, a bit of cilantro, a clove of Georgian fire garlic, a small green pepper, and a yellow crookneck summer squash. While this was sautéing nicely in the pan on the hotplate, I visited the chicken coop and thanked the chickens for two beautiful brown eggs. Next, I scooped some wheat berries into our grinder and ground out a bit of flour which I mixed with water until it formed a nice sticky dough. I laid the flattened dough beside the cooking veggies and then flipped it when it was time to scramble the eggs. Before long, my meal was complete, and I sat on the Honey House porch to give thanks.
As my mental image of life, labor, lacking, loving passed through my mind, I pictured the kale, cilantro and peppers growing in the garden. I saw the summer squash in plot number 10, and I considered the garlic in the patch beside the goats. I thanked the garlic plant that sacrificed itself so that I might have life, and I wondered at the other plants that cased their seeds in a form that was just right for me to eat. Of course the chickens came to mind – laying their eggs everyday in exchange for food, water and shelter. I remembered with a smile the amber grass-like wheat that grew in the field on the hill that had now become my bread. An insect of some sort buzzed by my ear, this sound I usually dislike, but it reminded me instead of the pollinators that contributed to my dinner. Most days we can see honeybees, native bees, butterflies, moths, and wasps busily visiting flowers, moving easily from one flower to the next. Under the ground, the immeasurable life in the soil – earthworms, centipedes, ants, fungi, bacteria – lives in mutually beneficial relationship with the plants. I gave thanks for all of those lives too.
By the time I got to ‘labor,’ I began to eat, as my dinner was beginning to get cold (it was quite delicious, I must say!). There were so many hands, I realized, that brought this meal to my table. I remembered the day Marie helped to plant some of the garlic last October. I thought of Ernie whose hands have built and repaired innumerable pieces of this space and of Lis and Rich who are faithful weeders, edgers and mowers. I pictured Linda and Christina who help to clean the chicken coop and Leydi, Joseph and Mirian who give them food and water. All of our volunteers and donors, and all of those who contribute vegetable scraps to our compost pile, Brian B who delivers manure from his horses, and Brian C who turns the piles with his backhoe – every finger lifted helped to make this supper. Mary Lou’s hands touched every part of my meal, beginning with the soil, and I gave special thanks for the hands of my garden partner. How incredible to be nurtured by the hands of people I can name, people I know and love!
As local as this dinner happened to be, I found myself offering thanks across time and space. Who, I wondered, had grown the food that we feed our chickens? Who saved the seeds for the plants that we grow? Who saved the seeds generations ago and who continued the tradition until a smattering reached our garden this winter? As this meal was digested in my body, my physical connection to life near and far, past, present and future, became ever more tangible.
As I rejoiced in the life and labor that prepared my food, I thought of all those whose food comes from a box or a can. I felt sad for the people whose only options for dinner tonight are food products filled with high fructose corn syrup or genetically modified soy, and I grieved for the ones who will have no food for their meal or to feed their children. As I sat in safety, I remembered those fleeing violence or being victimized. As I enjoyed the solitude, I thought of those who are lonely or alone. And so, I prayed. As I enflesh the food I am given, may I also enflesh the prayers on my lips. May the food I eat be transformed into a life that becomes food for others.
At the Passover Seder each year, the youngest one asks the question, “How is this night different from all other nights?” The answer has to do with the food, how we eat it, and the way we remember God at work in our history and our present. We once were slaves, but now are free. At the Last Supper, I imagine the youngest asked that traditional question, “How is this night different from all other nights?”
When Jesus broke the bread and shared the wine, a new glimpse of understanding emerged as history shifted again. He entreated us – every time you do this – eat, drink, re-member. The words quietly spoken by the celebrant at mass before the bread and wine is placed on the alter rose up within me as I communed with hands and harvest, plants and pollinators, soil and Spirit. “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.” And my response, “Blessed be God forever,” as I ate.
How different was this night from all other nights! And yet, all I did was eat dinner.
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