2019 Year in Review
Greetings Ananda Farm Friends,
Well, a rather extraordinary 2019 Ananda Farm season is ‘in the books.’ Err, not exactly. One peak at the quickbooks for 2019 and you might even ‘cuse us farmers of having next to nothing ‘in the books.’ Indeed, bookkeeping and the ‘natural-farm’ life feel to be some kind of great analogy for the paradox of this world. Yet I suppose the ideal of responsible stewardship would have us manage both the landscape and our fiscal affairs alike, with care and with joy. Thus far, we have done our best to acquit ourselves adequately in one of the two. Let’s talk about the farm life, then.
Though life on the Yoga-Nature homestead hums along in all seasons, and still does in this very moment, the ‘growing’ season of 2019 is one to reflect on.
Now, this isn’t intended to be one of those ‘quick reads’, whereby one restlessly scrolls between facebook, gmail, or instagram feeds. If it were, I’d have sent you more than one update in the last two years. But since that hasn’t happened, I’m obliged to at least warn you: this is extensive, hopefully expansive, and without a doubt, much longer than you are expecting. Maybe it’d be best to save this for some rainy day in a distant time and place; Maybe it is, in fact, too much of a read for you. Totally fair. Scroll right along.
But, don’t say you weren’t invited. For this is your invitation; an invitation to settle down and saunter for a while; take some deep breaths; join us on the old ‘farm time’ of yore; and bask for a bit, with some easy readin’, some fine pictures, and some hope for a better world.
This is 2019 Ananda Farm Year-in-Review.
2019 certainly represents, in more ways than one, an incredible inhale of life for the the greater Ananda Farm community. Let’s start with the people and places.
Beginning last year, a tangible breeze began to blow through the farm, that seemed to waft in the fresh Camano air: “It’s time to build the village.” What that meant, wasn’t clear; but the thought was often inescapable.
Niranjana Kushler, who joyfully and energetically spent much of 2018 at the farm, and Swami Hriman, whose efforts in large part started the farm, joined us simple farmers to put out some feelers; to look into neighboring parcels, and make mention of the fresh breeze blowing in, to like-minded friends who may be interested in a haven house of their own.
Well, the fun started last year, when the ever-ready-to-spring-into-action, Laura Colton, pounced on a 5 acre parcel just southeast from the farm house (and a stone’s throw from the forest ‘Cathedral’). It is a forested 5 acres with a couple fern gullys, a magnificent maple tree-of-life, and a nice ridge trail. For years prior, it has been one of our favorite spring nettle harvesting destinations. Now, it is home to a modest clearing amidst the trees with a 20′ trailer for Laura and her small family of critters.
Like a cat playing in the garden, Laura then pounced again this summer, when she bought a house up north on the island, and moved officially to ‘island time’.
This spring also brought about incredible circumstance for the neighboring Haven property (a 5 acre parcel with house and shop) to come into ‘the farm plan’, at just the right time, for just the right people.
On some Sunday in the Spring, with most all the farm residents away at the Meditation Temple in Bothell, young Olive dog went on a run, and paid an unfortunately-fortunate visit to our neighbor’s trash bins. Upon spreading the trash about (mulching?) his driveway, our kind and gracious neighbor felt obligated to find the proud owners of this delightful, trash-loving dog, to let them know of the great service she had been offering, not once in the past few months.
Fortunately for us, our friend Celeste Sophia happened to be at Haven House on this otherwise empty morning, to greet our neighbor and hear the ‘good news.’ Celeste, responsible farm steward that she is, insisted that she join him in the effort to ‘unmulch’ his driveway with trash. In so doing, she also received the rather remarkable news that due to family circumstance, he would be looking to sell, soon.
During the exact week of Olive’s adventures, we were paid a seemingly random visit by our friends from Oregon, Dambara and Manisha, to deliver a colony of mason bees. This news regarding the neighboring-property came in a timely moment for them as well. Soon thereafter, negotiations to add ‘Haven West’ to the farm frontier were underway.
Now, since the inception of the farm, near 7 years ago, this property has always been in the ‘ether’. Property lines aside, it is a natural extension of the same one farm ‘valley.’
Since taking ownership this summer, Dambara and Manisha have been leading the charge with a flurry of repairs and renovations to their new farmstead, with help from Vihaan, Celeste, Jacob, and many other friends and family as well. Manisha also jumped in on the flower growing team, herb harvesting and drying, and alpaca herding; and Dambaraji revamped the farm website, check it out!
Almost immediately, ‘the portal’ was opened, passing right along the left side of the farm store; and as weeks go by, it becomes harder to remember a time before ‘Haven West’ was a part of Ananda Farm (much as when ‘Haven’ property itself was initially added to the original farmscape).
The greatest benefactors thus far may well be the alpaca fam, who have added a few amazing acres of grazing unto their care.
For all of this, we are sure happy to have Dambara and Manisha join the family, to pack up their home and make a move to the great northern frontier; and no doubt also, to Olive dog, for her innate ability to bring neighbors together.
And well, the fun didn’t stop there, either. The end of the summer saw more homes going for sale on Haven Place. And in the case of two of them, action was taken with expediency! Sita Tocco and Mahadev Kushler, were each, amazingly, able to close on different 5 acres parcels with homes, on the same day, this September. Sita’s new residence, a move-in ready sanctuary, has already been coined “Cedar Haven”, for the impressive and magical cedar tree’d forest that surrounds the house. And the Kushler homestead, a mere property away from Haven house, offers a rather incredible park-like landscape, with stately tree clusters, lots of open space, a front porch worthy of a fine amish rocking chair (or three), and a two story outbuilding that will likely house more farmers one day in the future.
It has been quite a year on Haven Place.
What lies ahead, we cannot know;
but what’s a happenin’ now, it goes to show;
The seeds are a sowin’ and the garden is a’ growin’,
on old haven place, of Ca Ma No.
The farm team itself has been a blowin’ and a goin’ for quite a while now, too. Naturally as we began the year, Hailey, Paean, Tulsi Dog, Rudi-San, and myself resumed our regular positions on the playing field, bracing for what promised to be an unforgettable ‘game’ of summer.
Things began to get wild and woolly, as prince William, known amongst the children of Living Wisdom School as Mr Will, and amongst some of us farmers as Mr Yum, made his transition to farm life in the most victorious way imaginable: By getting married to Paean! And of all the incredible venues available for such an occasion, they chose the farm!
Since making the full time transition to yoga-nature farmer, William has been an absolute mule; not just any mule, a Missouri Mule. Strong, dependable, sure-footed, and an absolute pleasure to be around. He’ll feed the chickens, run the ‘pacas, mulch the garden, fence the goats, dig the hole for the outhouse, harvest the prana mix, bust the cement, make you eggs and greens of the mornin’, drink your coffee that same morning, make you more coffee to make up for it, and do the all the farmhouse dishes that very evening.
June marked the official wedding celebration for Paean and William, and celebration it was. I like to remember it as a beautiful, warm and sunny June day; filled with song, straw bale seats and burlap cushions, an incredible cake, delicious farm fixins’, a last minute appearance from the groom’s parents, and the presence of all 6 Lee family members.
Big brother Parkle Lee showed up for a one week stay, and still hasn’t left, to all of our immense pleasure (though his return ticket is now set for December). Since arriving, Parkle has lead the goat house build-out and renovation, designed greenhouse tents for camping in, winterized a bungalow, built me personally a custom bookshelf for my closet (which had reached a point of desperation!), constructed a new outhouse and a new shoe rack for the always over-populated farmhouse front porch, lead the squash (summer and winter) harvest twice a week, near every week of the entire season, delighted us in cosmic song with strings and keys, and is currently jumping onto the herb shop team and serving as primary goat-friend. His name on his farm snips (felcos) reads “Sparkle.”
Not to be forgotten, is brother Parto, who also joined us in June, to then depart in October. Parto led a one man Renaissance on the farm, painting amazing scenes and images on nearly every available outside wall, from the herb shop to the big shed, and another one that is now known as the ‘astral outhouse.’ It’s also the little things that Parto thrives in; always happy to lend a hand or ear; quietly cleaning and organizing the kitchen; willingly and regularly jumping on the market team; becoming a barter pro at the markets; mastering the art of hosting movie nights with his farm famous popcorn; captaining the bean team, and before that, the pea-picking parties. Parto is, hopefully, set to return by the years’ end, take up residence anew in his royal closet, and enroll at Everett Community College for the spring.
Lastly of the P. Lee siblings not named Paean (who certainly we will get to), is sister Peony, who joined us fresh off the plane from Ithaca, New York, where she is studying to obtain her Doctorette in Physical Therapy. Taking a year off school, at the old Ananda Homestead on Camano Island – couldn’t have made a better decision myself. She jumped right back into the farm kitchen, and started feedin’ the hungry farm nation upon arrival: harvest days, non-harvest days, farm suppers, natural farming workshop – Peony has probably fed over a thousand mouths, specializing in seasonal farm vegetable abundance, prepared in multitudinous, delectable ways.
Both she and Jacob spent a good chunk of the summer at the Ananda Village in California for the transformational, month-long Living Discipleship program, and upon returning in August, she pretty much full-time farm-teamed it for two months, seeing us through to the end of the markets, and always on-deck as a steady hand for the goat milking team. Since markets ended, she has obtained meaningful employment in her field, working for a PT clinic plum over in Lake Stevens, near 4-5 days a week. We of course congratulate her and also wish her to be at the homestead more often than not.
Jacob also returned from the Village mid-summer with Sister P, to complete his own first full year at the farm. In addition to helping run the Everett Market on Sundays (often with the good company of Sita!), he helped the harvest team every Tuesday and Friday. Invaluable, he is, for the farm in his attunement to building, most recently with renovations at Haven West, winterizing the Haven well house, and leading the ongoing Herb Shop efforts.
Earlier in the spring he end-walled the new greenhouses, lead the construction of the new alpaca lean-to, helped saw and gather firewood for the winter, front-porched and roofed the mini-barn/farm store, and installed a tiny woodstove, and a new roof on the porch, at his bungalow (that he and good-kitty Chandra will be warm and comfortable for the winter months to come!)
Meanwhile, Hailey, Paean, Glenda and Lajjana, the ‘rocks’ and great sustainers of the farm, all carried on ‘business as usual.’
Glenda, with her ever-ready Glenda-giggle, special biscuits and delicious blueberry-apple juice. Glenda is an amazing host and tour guide (as countless farm visitors can attest!). She sustains the farm in the areas of growing tomatoes, watering the Haven gardens, pouring the candles (light for the dark days!) and putting-up the harvest for winter.
Paean stayed busy making some hundreds, if not thousands of bars of soap this year, as well as heading up the farm shipping department and often the packaging too (check out the online farm shop). She also leads the choir at the temple and on the farm, feeds all of us with homemade bread from sourdough starter ‘Steve’, is ever-joyful to jump on the harvest and market teams, is actively expanding the farm’s kid ‘ministry,’ and God Knows what else (tonight she baked apple pies!).
Lajjana’s presence as farm grandma has been about as peaceful, joyful and loving as ever. Travels have taken her away for a few months towards the end of this year. First to see family in South Dakota, then to the Ananda Meditation Retreat for seclusion, and now to India at an Ayervedic healing center with Niranjana until December. Though we miss her, to be sure, we most all think of her every single day.
And Hailey, who is ever at the fore, leading us in all decisions, great and small. When decisions must be made, and I myself haven’t the foresight nor ability to make them, she strikes again and again. An engine that keeps us all expanding, engaged and serving in our greater community, leading us in yoga sadhana every Wednesday at the country club (to which you are also invited!) and every Thursday, Raja Yoga at the Meditation Temple; managing countless calendars, outside events, and due dates, and already planning it all over again for next year. She even manifested a new farm puppy dog, buddy Barley, despite my own best attempts at thwarting such efforts!
And I’d be remiss, not to mention some of our old favorites, who were kind enough to visit and serve alongside us this year. Including too many friends to name from the community in Lynnwood, our most blessed buddy Navashen, almighty Lakshmi Ma, Keshava and Suryani, and Shanti Naia, all from Palo Alto; Erin V, Arya, and Anna from Ananda Village; old (farm) timers br Stanley D and sister Sharon K; The Matlock fam and the Breckenridge clan, Swamis’ Jyotish and Devi, and many others, including, hopefully, you!
Well, the farm has been as full of lessons and changes this year, as it has been people and critters. Gardens grow in all directions, but always from the same Source, Brother Sun.
We started the winter and spring with massive tree plantings – some two hundred or so trees were tucked into new homes, throughout alpaca land and the future yogananda pond-shrine; asian pears, plums, apples, cherries, walnuts, and hazelnuts for food trees; alders, maples, comfrey, willows, mock orange, locusts, autumn olives, gojis, jostas, mulberries for diversity and ‘life-support’.
Ultimately, a U-pick food forest, complete with alpaca fence/food hedges, basking benches and bushel baskets alike. And one-day, a universal Schoolhouse-Chapel, for peace and harmony with all people and life, United in our One common, Mother Divine.
Hailey and I were able to sneak away in February, to miss most of the 2019 Seattle Snowpocalypse, for a weekend visit to our friends at the Ananda Farm in Half Moon Bay
Paean and William launched Farm Fridays, hosting children at the farm, sharing education for life through farm skills and nature play, in addition to several field trips with Living Wisdom School from Lynnwood, and an awesome yoga day camp which ended in a farm camp out. Check in with us this year, as the children programs continue to expand. Do you want to build the schoolhouse with us? It’s in the ether…
In April we had 4 kids born on the farm; that it is to say, both Heidi and Fauna, our two momma goats, had twins. It was quite a moment when on a spontaneous visit to the farm, Aunt Carole Bartoo visited the goat house to find two little babies already born in the manger (unbeknownst to the rest of us!). Despite my best efforts to name them Carole and Darryl (in her honor!) they soon became Rusty and Clare. Once Rusty settled down and stopped sneaking through the fence all the time to get into the gardens, he started going by his spiritual name: Juniper. Heidi’s girls, already almost as big as big momma herself, go by Oats and Dosa.
In May, the farmers ventured to Folk Life for our 3rd year in a row, the largest community-sponsored, free festival in the country; we vended all four days, played kirtan out front of the stand, took in the many sights and sounds, and created a refuge in the sacred space of the Ananda Farm booth, amidst the incredible sea of diversity that is Folk Life Seattle.
Back at the ranch, Two new greenhouses went into the New Haven Gardens around March. Basil, tulsi basil, lettuce, cucumbers, early peas, green and purple pole beans, and lots of tomatoes, thrived in their climate controlled tunnels.
Bumper crops outside were in the form of snap peas (oh my goodness!), runner beans (wowza), summer squash (zuchinni, crookneck and patty pans) and asian pears (momma mia!). In these last seven years, I’ve learned never to take the bumper crops for granted – one year of incredible tomatoes makes no promises for the next! Each new growing season offers it’s own unique season of abundance; hard to predict, and impossible to plan, but ever new in joy and gratitude for the gifts we are indeed given so freely.
Apples, interestingly enough, were light this year; this, on the heels of the greatest apple year to date (2018). Indeed, one finds gratitude even in this: value in almost every apple! And the calm knowing, that a year of super apple abundance will come again, and when it does, we will strive to be both grateful and joyful in our picking and pressing.
Of course, the Asian pear abundance of 2019 yet also permitted us to keep the apple press alive and juicing.
Also of note from the garden: The garlic was abundant but smaller this year; the broccoli has really been coming on strong this fall; the kale has been solid all season; we didn’t plant near enough leeks; peppers don’t do so great in the shade of the cucumbers; beans and ‘maters seem to me like they get along just fine (just dive right in there, there’s always more to pick); summer and winter squash are totally awesome; carrots are still tough on the dry island loam (Rachel from Island Harvest calls carrots ‘divas’, and despite my immense love for them, it’s true!); you never can grow too many plums, so best to keep planting more trees every chance you get; fava beans were stocked at almost every market this year, from what I can remember; one feller would come and buy up to 10 pints of ’em at a time; ‘taters are a true joy but near impossible to make money selling (those store taters just ain’t right, btw); but the joy is in sharing them, so who cares!; everyone should grow runner beans (as far as I know there are still some out in the field ready to pick); strawberries and peas in June are a good enough reason for ANYONE to start growing food.
Events and Markets
Started in the spring, with some epic volunteer days (likely the best way to visit and experience the farm), and our annual Earth Day plant sale (trees, berries, veggies, herbs). A handful of ‘Ananda orchards’ are now out there in the world; let us know if you want a consultation in planting one in your homestead/front yard too…
Things really got moving come June, with all three farmers markets underway: Camano (Tuesday), Stanwood (Friday) and Everett (Sunday). Delightful farm suppers too, happened once a month through October, to share the farm through food, harvested and prepared by the farmers, complete with farm tour, music, and the delicious spices of community and joy.
And then came Lavender festival, with some 1000 people attending throughout the day for a lavender-filled fiesta. Distillations, tours, wand-making, honey-infusing, kettle corn popping, hand-churned ice cream, tons of food and treats, u-pick harvesting, and incredible, spontaneous parking lot management. So lavender-filled was the day, that between the lot of us we have virtually no pictures, so you’ll just have to imagine, the lavender field radiating Divine Mother’s love; the omnipresent HUM of the bees; the aroma of lady lavender wafting through the air, healing all heavy hearts, calming and relaxing all restless minds; And a few devoted farmers running to and fro, trying to feed and spread the love here, there and everywhere! It’s actually a miracle that it all worked as well as it did; for this and all those moments of Grace which shine upon us, we are grateful!
The pinnacle of the event season may well have come in September, as the farm played host to author, and foremost Fukuoka disciple and natural farming global-ambassador, Larry Korn, for a week-long Natural farming workshop/retreat. Welcoming about a dozen new friends from across the country, we did our best to integrate them into the farm, and get their hands in the soil! It was an amazing, highly energetic undertaking for all the farmers, and a true honor and blessing to host Mr Korn, as he continued his travels throughout the world this summer to share the need, and especially, the joy of returning to Nature. We ended the week with a ceremonial seed ball launch into the alpaca orchards:
You may enjoy these words, from Krista Rome, regional seed steward and Bellingham farmer, who attended the workshop (and all the morning meditations ;):
“I’m not sure I have the right words to express my gratitude for all that you and your cohorts shared last week. It was as close to a perfect experience as one can get, to match exactly where I was at and what I needed in that moment of my life.
The elements are there in my life and have been for a long time, but have never been well integrated. What I loved so much about spending a week at Ananda Farm and what made my soul sing with glee, was having it all integrated: the relationship with the land, the community interaction/support, and the spiritual practice all interwoven as part of one beautiful and intentional lifestyle. Never mind that community is not always easy or that what you see during a retreat/workshop might be more idyllic than what you experience there on a day to day basis…The point is that it was nurturing to my soul to see that what I yearn for (an integration of all that is nurturing) is true and real and possible. It gives me hope!”
The season of farm events rounded out with an apple festival in September, and the final in-haven-house farm supper of October, where the food, and the music, were especially perfect.
Where do we go from here?
Well, as our seasons shift and turn more within, so too do our own energies and the natural love of the heart, return back to the land and the farm itself; putting gardens ‘to bed’; planting garlic, making and packing many a farm product for the holiday markets (and ourselves!); walking the farm and breathing it in; planting trees and more orchards as the spirit so inspires; ever-working towards completion of the herb shop thanks to Hailey, Jacob and Paean; a new wood shed; upcoming Cedar Haven and Maha-Haven (Kushler) renovations and refinements, and of course catching up on all those countless projects which have been growing on the ever-expanding farm-list, waiting for the coming ‘off-season’ to start making checks marks once again.
It was a great feeling indeed, to clean the gutters, and sweep the chimney, and know that our home at the hearth will be healthy and warm in the coming months.
We are hardly in ‘hiding’ though, as we also have a full calendar of holiday events, including our own Christmas party at the farm.
November 16 – Snohomish Holiday Market
Nov 23rd – Camano Holiday Bazarr
Nov 30th – Terry’s Corner (Camano Market) Holiday Market
Friday, Dec 6th and Saturday Dec 7th – Christmas Party, at the FARM, 10-4pm
Lights of Christmas (Warm Beach) booth – Every weekend through Christmas, starting after Thanksgiving
Every Sunday – at the Temple after service in Bothell.
An opportunity to be Cooperative: Stanwood-Camano Food Coop?
One experiment underway, and throughout this grand summer season, has been to ask our community (you!): “Would you be interested in a Camano-Stanwood Food Coop?”
We ask, not out of any personal interest of our own to take on more projects! But, out of the basic idea, that we do, in fact, have a real need on our island and in our community.
The overwhelming response has been, “YES!”
The next question of course is, are you willing to help create it?
We have scheduled, a first, open-to-the-public gathering at the Camano Library, on Monday, November 18th, at 6pm, to discuss the real possibility of us all working together, to start a Food Coop.
Why a food coop? Let’s discuss! See you there.
An opportunity to be a Pilgrim
A pilgrimage to the barefoot Saints of Italy and Spain, next Spring. Hailey and I will help to lead this, and there may still be a space or two. More Info
I’m winding down here on the practical farm updates, but there are still those lessons ringing in my ear, of another year, lived and learned on the Ananda Farm. Those true purposes behind all our efforts; the real challenges that come up in living community; and the Soul’s-aspiration, ever-striving to stay connected with the Source of all inspiration, bubbling from within, guiding this adventure in right living, and right loving.
It feels to me that when I look out on our strange world today, amidst these strange times, the importance of many such havens as Ananda Farm cannot be over-stated. The willingness of small groups of people to live dharmically on this planet and be truly dedicated to renunciation of each our own, egoic-desires; to serve the greater local community together, in the most universal and practical ways, and to serve one another in that process; to simplify each their own life, and to strive ever-more to meet one’s basic needs, not through slavish-dependence on the fluctuations (and convenience!) of this modern world, but through the community farm model itself, living in direct reciprocity and kindship with our Mother in Nature. The timeless way of life, of the spiritual-village, is not lost and irrelevant in an age of wally-world consumerism.
For the many who are blessed,
to live with less, can attest,
of the increasing freedom and joy,
that owning, and indeed, becoming, nothing, shall deploy.
Yet, the ability to live simply in oneself, has also never been easy. The particular nature of this world is maya itself: delusion. That which keeps us looking for our satisfaction and happiness in the endless movements of culture, time, place, people: the marketplace of this world.
Even on the farm – balancing personalities, ambitions, and habits can be challenging for the most community-minded of individuals. But time and again, one does find, that those who shall ‘win’, exemplify the ever-giving nature, from within. So too, does the farm community, and the greater community of this whole world, thrive, when we live in the awareness of giving to one another; not taking for oneself. Truly, it can be said, community happens in the littlest of service; the tiny moments of each day.
Why wait for the world to come crashing (is it not already?), or for the the balloon of karmic debts to render us bankrupt before the Divine hand of our maker; Or for the almighty fist of our mother in Nature, to show us how we should have been living.
The mission of this farm, and of others like it, is to live the right way, right now. And to experience and realize the joy which that entails. Yato Dharma Tato Jaya – In Right Action Lies Victory.
Yet at the end of the day, for all the ideals, the Ananda Farmily is a simple bunch: yoga-nature-farmers in this new, energetic age of human evolution. And we are indeed grateful for each of you, who read this right now. For through your support and presence in our community, this farm and the high ideals it aspires to represent, are made possible to manifest in this world. What is a farm without the community it hopes to serve?
In this context, I offer the sincere hope that Ananda Farm ever grow in the spirit of universal love and service, to each other, to community, and to our Mother Earth; and indeed, that many ‘Ananda’ Farms, of many different names and fames, shall germinate and grow and thrive amongst all people, in all lands; until, our entire world be one of peace, harmony, and joy.
Thank you for reading.
In Grateful Service,
Zach, on behalf of the Ananda Farm of Camano Island.