It has been 1 year and 4 months since last was sent the Ananda Farm newsletter: The “2019 Year-in-Review.” Apparently, 2020 was skipped altogether. Not to worry, the moment has arrived. There are perhaps enough words that follow to induce a peaceful slumber in even the most caffeinated night-time youtube resident. As always, no pressure. Feel free to skip this altogether. And yet, for those brave enough to continue, please enjoy this now evidently less than annual offering:
State of the Yoga Farm Address – Feb 2021
Greetings good friends and great farmers,
The spring of 2021 is nigh upon us, like the awakening dawn, after a strange and sometimes seemingly endless dark night. Will 2021 be different than its predecessor for our fair island, nation and world?
For simple yogi-farmers, one need not spend too much time in the contemplation of such things. Problems in this world are the inevitable fate of a humanity steeped in the bitter tea leaves of duality. Day on one side, night on the other. Success and Failure; Loss and Gain; Sickness and Health. These shall, throughout creation and for all time, alternate like waves on the bosom of an infinite sea.
Whence we know this, we can, and do, learn to accept that which comes of itself. And also we realize, that whatever it is, it’s opposite likely isn’t far off around the corner. From this place of acceptance, we can aspire and truly inspire to move the pendulum back towards the center from its current extreme, whichever ‘side’ that may be. Towards goodness, truth, and most importantly, God, for those centered enough to use The G Word without attaching personal, egoic ignorance to it’s (His) purpose.
For many friends and family amongst us, the pandemic, politic, and polarization of people in 2020 has been all-consuming. How many have set personal records for time spent staring at the computer screen (Yes, the phone is a computer)? Doing ‘research’, scrolling through ‘feeds’, reading the news and olds, ‘playing the part’ to fix the world’s woes, by discerning all it’s evils and those corresponding ‘doers’ of evil, be they super-virus, or super-villain. Ultimately, however, the wise will wield the sword of discrimination.
What does this reality, of postulant pandemics and pestilent presidents, to do with you and I? Well, in truth, they shalt carry as much, or little, weight as we give them. For some, the answer to that is great power, too much power. Where is thy peace of mind, oh little children of Mother Wisdom? For others, a life well lived, is yet and still, a life worth living. A keen focus on positive directions in my own life; Compassion, Friendship, Acceptance for the lot of my own friends, family, and frenemies, too. Herein lies the question and opportunity before us:
Can my own life, and how I actually live it, be the solution the world truly needs, right now? Can we be that solution, together?
While the world recovers and rejoices alike from the conclusion of it’s 2020th episode since Jesus Christ’s initial pilot (and earthly exit), we each and all are faced with a decision regarding this world that we live in; and more importantly, which world we want to live in. For in spirit and truth, the Yogi comes to realize, all that one places in his heart and mind, becomes his reality. Becomes the reality.
How we perceive this world – through which lens we look through each day – shapes and creates the very world we experience and live in. Am I a victim to it and the ‘evils’ therein? Am I calmly observing the greater plan as it unfolds within and all around me, ever ready to do my part, in this life that has been gifted to me? Sometimes, and perhaps all too often, we waffle in between.
Is turning off the news or the constant stream of conspiratorial causation, simply burying one’s heads in the sand? Maybe. Or perhaps, it’s our feet, covered not in sand, but in a warm blanket of life-giving mulch; And our eyes, lifted up unto the hills, the tree tops and the vast panorama of sky, from whence cometh all goodness and God. We choose the reality of this world, by the very focus of our own thoughts.
IF, and it is a big if, we can pan-out from the immediacy and all-too-oft indignance of our own beliefs, it may be that even amidst chaos of confusion and disagreement, we find each our own direction and inspiration for how to live in this world; in the spirit of universal love and kindness, which both embraces the world, and transcends it. This is Yoga. We are Yogis.
When Adam ate of the tree of knowledge, of good and evil, he thenceforth was removed from the garden of Eden. And yet, despite his removal, was the garden not still, always there, ever awaiting the human heart and hand, to steward it once again?
Meanwhile, for an aspiring yoga-farm-ashram in the 21st century, one can ill afford the time and energy required for dwelling too much in the mind of worldly ‘knowledge’. Rather, whence embraced by the Mother of Life itself in Nature – the darkness and confusion of worldly separations flee in the presence of personal clarity, divine purpose and even, Faith, in the Cosmic Plan.
A great paradox of this life – is that while countless suffer, and struggle, and even perish under the pressure cooker of ego-centered life on earth – we are yet all called to Love; called to Joy. Which then, is the truth?
The farm itself, amidst all such circumstances that 2020 had to offer, thrived, in expansive, albeit challenging new ways. The Joy of Ananda farm was that of an expanding farm-village and yoga-ashram; a group of souls cooperating and embracing life together. And sludging through sometimes, too, when required, on the way to joy and transcendence.
Is it wrong to Joy, when there is so much non-joy shared in the world today? Is it wrong to Love God in brother sun, sister rain, and the infinite stars? In the garden and in the goats, and in the birds of the air, when so many know and insist the sky is falling?
Invitation to Joy
One morning, in mid-spring, as a group of us sat around the farm table, playing yahtzee, eating second breakfast, and before re-commencing on the projects of the day – the farmers took to laughing so hard, and having so much fun, that we openly wondered – “is this wrong?” “Are we allowed to feel joy when there is so much suffering?”
At the time, so much was being stated of social distancing and self-isolation that we didn’t even know if farmers markets would happen in 2020. The first in Everett had already been cancelled. We, too, already cancelled spring farm events, and withheld farm stipends. We were essentially income-less, and without prospects. And yet, the joy sprang from something deeper inside each of us; a kind of knowing.
We all knew we had everything we needed. We had each other, a blessed and expanding piece of earth to care for together, a common purpose in growing the holistic and universal brotherhood-colony solution, and a shared-Joy in fellowship with our One God, worth its weight in gold. I doubt any of us would have traded the joy that morning for gold, even if we could.
Henceforth, while still doing the diligence of acknowledging and sympathizing with all that the world has been through – and in truth, what so very many are still going through – consider yourself, nonetheless, in this very moment, cordially invited, to joy with Ananda Farm. Take a seat at the farm-table of spirit; roll a yahtzee; embrace the sun and the rain; and let us look forward with new hope, to new life and love in this coming of Spring.
Farming the simple life.
So what actually did happen this year on the farm? To be honest, and upon first reflection, I have no idea. Spring of 2020 feels at least a lifetime or three away. I do recall, that right about the time the pandemic struck, we were farming (and building, and herb-crafting, and animal-husbandry-ing, and…) And right about the time of “flatten the curve!”, we were farming. When mask mandates started and all gatherings stopped, we were farming. When battles raged with the local health department and in Washington DC, and on facebook and twitter, we didn’t even know most of the time. Because, you guessed it, we were farming.
You see – this amazing year taught us something else very tangible. That when this man-made world, made of sticks and bonds, stocks and stones, and the countless creations of Adam, falls apart, as it all one day must – we are ultimately left with very little. Our relationship to Life itself, our Mother in Nature, and to each other – These are things that continue. And those fruits which grow from these natural and righteous relationships, are the true fruits of the vine, that together we may reap, enjoy, and share.
The farm itself did not cease operations, nor did it demand social distance from itself. In fact, it pulled us in ever more closely, and as such, it expanded. And so too, we found out, did the community demand for the solutions it represents.
Contrary to the understandable impetus of most folks to stay away from one another – it seemed that no one wanted to stay away from the farm. It was, rightfully so, for many an isolated family and friend, a haven. Outside, natural, and full of vitality and prana, the farm functioned as refuge for countless visitors whose lives had been upturned. This was, highlighted in its most extreme, by those who not only visited the farm – but moved in!
3 Bright young Yogis began to call the farmstead home: Brian, Alexa, and Kyle. With good attitudes, diverse skills and interests, all realizing the higher truths of meditation, community, and holistic farm-life-solutions, while making definite and inspired contributions to the farm family as a whole.
Also arriving were beautiful, devoted parents, Jaidhara and Vahini, with a parental willingness to feed an extended farm family in the kitchen (“Jai Hummus!”), and the very first farm-child, an angelic, hobbit-haired four year old named Gabriel.
And, a blossoming true-green yoga-nature-farmer, Navashen Jones, who after many Camano visits, spent the entire season with us, leading the massive squash harvest 3 times a week, attending nearly every farmer’s market of the season (more than 50!), and stewarding countless gardens and friendships, before returning to his homeland in California in October, to pick up the seeds and scythe anew at Ananda Valley Farm of Half Moon Bay.
Meanwhile, new friends and spiritual-family took to Haven Place and elsewhere, nearby, on Camano. Others, already here, settled in and began to grow the village from within each individual homestead. All of these, culminating in a land-blessing on Christmas day – which spanned 7 properties, and included over 20 great souls, joined in the spirit of spiritual village, each with their own unique role to play.
Over at the “Haven West” homestead, vast new gardens are sheet-mulched and ready for this seasons planting of flowers, popcorn, peppers and more; an orchard and new beautiful greenhouse now flank the driveway entrance, a wood shed out back, a meditation space and a shop in the middle, tv-show-worthy home renovation and continued land beautification, all as precious fruit of the efforts of Dambara and Manisha, Celeste Sophia and Uncle Vihaan.
Across the farm, projects have continued in prolific fashion. The heroic “Pyle” (Parto and Kyle) tandem efforts culminated in the construction of a new perma-porched bungalow-cabin with loft, home now to Kyle and Alexa. Also around the farm, a brand new potato box filled with taters for the winter; new cedar/bamboo wood sheds at the barn, ‘footed’ on native-farm rocks; a sitting-porch off my own bedroom wall, replete with custom benches for sanctuary and smaller-satsang; a brand new bright-yellow paint job for all of haven house and the herb shop; a new slab fence running along the entire long driveway as you arrive at the farm; beautiful new farm signs (with more to come); the birth of two baby alpacas (Ophelia and Krishna); the addition of some 30+ more chickens bringing the total flock near 80 birds, and the corresponding establishment of chicken ‘retirement’ village in the front orchard of Alpaca Land; the breeding of our 3 ‘big-momma’ alpine goats; and of course, the continued, ever-stabilizing presence of Tulsi-dog and his cute, highly energetic sidekick, Barley. Barles, Barley Darling, Barling, Barles Barkley, Buddy Barley.
Meanwhile, in our greater community, in a COVID-inspired back-to-the-garden movement, the farm aspired to become the plant nursery at all three of our farmers markets, as well as at the on-farm store, for bi-weekly open hours. Through the nursery was shared many dozens of fruit trees and berries, and hundreds upon hundreds of herb, flower and vegetable starts. It was also the most abundant farm produce year-to-date, including planting some 700 pounds of seed taters.
It’s hard to imagine that just over one year ago, we were just moving into the rebuilt herb shop kitchen, thanks to the inspired and steadfast efforts of coordinator-Hailey and builder-Jacob. It has become so highly functional and indispensable in farm operations, that one can scarcely remember a time before it existed. Though, certainly, when I think hard – I can remember just how chaotically-abundant the farmhouse kitchen was in its absence.
Production has since ramped up on all fronts, including soap, candles, all medicinals and farm-remedies, new farm ferments, the homestead bakery, and beyond. New products also included a respiratory elixir, dried herb blends, stovetop simmer, and much more than can be recounted by little old me.
If one sure lesson be distilled from last year, it may well be that one would be foolish, indeed, to ‘predict’ the future. To quote Shakespeare, “If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, then speak to me.” And, Abraham Lincoln, in reply to his son Robert’s futuristic-prognostications: “I’ve found that prophecy is one of life’s less profitable occupations.”
Rather than presumptions nor proclamations, sinister or saintly in nature, of what the world future holds, we’ve been given instead a formula for how to live each day – in community and in farmily. To do that which is in front of each and every one of us; to tune into the greater good, the needs thereof, and thenceforth work together with Joy to accomplish them; And to dream big with the Universal Vision of Life itself, and make those dreams real each day, by how we live our actual lives as integrated beings on this all-loving mother earth.
For this outwardly meek and mild nature-farm-haven, the human heart, mind and soul can yet easily become filled to overflowing with the aspirations and inspirations of what the future can be. In just a few days, hundreds of new trees and berry bushes will begin going into the ground throughout the Camano homesteads; apples, pears, plums, cherries, walnuts, hazelnuts and more – many of which will also be available in the farm nursery very soon. The veggie, herb, and flower seeding in the greenhouses, and the tremendous new plant-grow light-chamber in the barn, have begun this week.
One cannot presume, but surely can imagine, that for this no-till community farm, 2021 will be it’s most productive season yet, both in the growth of the garden and her in the people.
Lajjana – the beloved farm grandmother and peace-harbinger for us all – has a tiny home sited, designed, and rising upon the horizon line to shine into manifestation.
Delightful Glenda still pours the candles, and spreads her literal and figurative light, and especially her love, of Yogananada’s Farm with everyone with ears to hear.
Paean and William, pillars of this Camano nature-cathedral, have officially welcomed a baby son on January 19, Leo Alder Breckenridge, into life on earth – becoming the first farm baby, and an incredible blessing to this greater farm family.
Prior to motherhood, after which all other ‘creations’ may well pale in comparison, Paean launched the now prolific online farm store with Brother Parkle in Hong Kong; with sister-Peony, she oversaw the bulk food buying club out of the barn; and with us all, she lead the farm choir and instrumentalists at our meditation Temple in Bothell, amidst pandemic protocols.
William, meanwhile, has taken to heart the old adage, “The best fertilizer is the footsteps of the farmer.” In addition to covering literal ground, with footsteps, mulch, and tree alike, he is the primary chicken-father, and the most excellent and committed Ananda land-steward and groundskeeper. Here, Here!Brother
Jacob, meanwhile, along with Sita ma currently spearhead a homestead-renaissance down the road Cedar Haven – with a newly installed simple pump to hand pump water when the power goes out, new wood and tool sheds, a mighty and diverse flock of 15 chickens, a magnificent wood cookstove in the kitchen, an impressive fence that encircles the entire 5 acres, and an epic closet of all-religions. On the farm, Jacob is an excellent farm-building-consultant, and with a new shop at Haven West, he continues to beautify and functionalize the farm, and will no doubt play prominently in the creation of Lajjana’s tiny home.
Peony and Parto, master ‘sherpas’ of the little farm-mountain that we ascend together, carry on in alternating forms of Sustainers, with countless daily to-do’s; Creators, with new inspirations each week; and even as mini-Shivas, burning up that which has run it’s course. Peony has stepped into a prominent teaching role of Yoga and Meditation at the Temple in Bothell, while still managing to lead the farm kitchen, steward gardens, serve abundantly in the herb shop and greenhouse, make the farm granola and home-made peanut butter, and milk the goats; Parto, in addition to being enrolled at Everett Community College again, has become a budding building and farm-consultant for nearly-every project imaginable. His homemade Christmas gifts alone were inspiring beyond imagination of expectancy. He is a great Son.
And finally, there is Hailey, the farm’s cosmic motor, ever realizing inspiration anew, for how to turn Nature into Nurture, and how to share it far and near. Peering into 2021, signing up for markets, and scheduling farm-days, rallying and organizing the farmers into the greenhouse to seed the spring; working with the county and builders alike, to permit the 2021 farm projects. The cosmic melody of farm-love ever hums in Hailey, for which we are grateful, whether on the beach in Baja, giving Sunday Service in Bothell, or on a late night walk with the dogs. We are, indeed, blessed, for this beautiful farm family.
The formerly dense hillside of the goats now calls to us, for the goat fam has cleared blackberries and girdled many a tree. Now, new bramble thickets further north on the hill await their arrival. Meanwhile, our spring task shall be to thin the current goat yard trees, harvest firewood and timber, mulch branches in berm-terraces that lay across the contour of the slope, leave the stumps in-place to hold the hill and fertilize it by their own decomposition, and then REPLANT, with Chestnuts, plums and asian pears, mixed with the remaining native maples, firs, alders and cherries. Gradually, as we work our way up the hill, to the eventual peak, a future site of the tiny home village on the western hilltop gleams in the morning sun, perched with a bird’s-eye atop the ananda farm valley.
Oh such joy, to have a living canvas called earth, for whom we can steward, care, and enjoy in God’s natural abundance. There have even been whispers even, of two little piggies, calling the farm home.
The seed from which we grow
For all the outward projects, fun, activity and community involvement – there is but one foundation stone which cannot be removed, and shall ever be refined, so long as the village shall thrive. This is that which makes us a Yoga Ashram – and can be found each day, in the 6 o’clock hour, as Yogis awaken from their night’s slumber – to gather in one of the houses, sing the name of God, and still all the restless preoccupations of the heart and mind. In these still moments together, our opportunity is to build a bond which transcends even the service and inspiration of the farm itself. To be united – much as the farm is, as one united whole of people, animals, plants, soil, fungi, and life – in the One Spirit which permeates all of this, God’s glorious Creation.
More than any other wish, one hopes that for all of us farmers, and for all farm friends near and far – we make and keep our commitment to Spirit in the inner silence, and that we grow in this connection together, as one family on this one farm-planet.
That means you, too, beloved farm friend.
In Ever-Grateful-Service, wishing each and all a joyful 2021,
Zachary on behalf of all the Ananda Farm Family.
Some wisdom from the Master for 2021:
“The heart’s natural love is the principal requisite to attain a holy life. When this love, the heavenly gift of Nature, appears in the heart, it removes all causes of excitation from the system and cools it down to a perfectly normal state; and, invigorating the vital powers, expels all foreign matters-the germs of diseases-by natural ways (perspiration and so forth). It thereby makes man perfectly healthy in body and mind, and enables him to understand properly the guidance of Nature.“
– Swami Sri Yukteswar –