April 2009




Not literally the first radish I ever grew but the first thing I have grown from seed for many years since before the liver transplant and before the end stage liver disease, maybe 4 or 5 years. Ergo very satisfying.

While I have been focusing on berries and nut trees, there is also the impatient, need it now side  of me that demands immediate results hence the desire to plant annual vegetables. Of those radish certainly is the most passionate — hot and spicy and only a month to harvest.

Eaten as I wrote this, all that remains is the picture and its siblings, many of which may make it to full size — this one sacrificed young to my impatience.

” O tongue, praise the glories of Lord Kesava. O mind, worship the enemy of Mura. O hands, serve the Lord of Sri. O ears, hear the topics of Lord Acyuta. O eyes, gaze upon Sri Krsna. O feet, go to the temple of Lord Hari. O nose, smell the tulasi buds on Lord Mukunda’s feet. O head, bow down to Lord Adhoksaja.”

Mukunda-mala-stotra, Sutra 20

“Justify my soul, O God, but also from Your fountains fill my will with fire. Shine in my mind, although perhaps this means  “be darkness to my experience,” but occupy my heart with Your tremendous Life.

“Let my eyes see nothing in the world but Your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for Your service. Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise Your great mercy. I will hear Your voice, and I will hear all the harmonies you have created singing your hymns.

“Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough that I may live in Your service; I will give the rest to the poor. Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving You glory.”

Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions Press, 1961):

We had announced an asparagus planting party at the temple for Sunday morning but Krishna had another idea. The soil was still a bit too wet and working the clay soils of New Vrindaban when wet ruins their structure and takes years to recover.

It was borderline, and considering that we had another couple of days before predicted rain,we  deferred tilling it. Plan B was mulching the berries and nut trees that had already been planted.

Several devotees came out to help.  Three young guys from the Pittsburgh yatra who had come down for the Sunday program came out after doing hari nama parikrama around the grounds.  Ananda Vidya, full time book distributor extraordinaire in town for some rejuvenation, came out. We even had Das (AKA Dasartha das) make a special trip from Pittsburgh specifically to get his hands dirty in growing food for devotees.


We spread newspapers on the berries and used last year’s leftover hay from the goat’s summer pen to cover it. We also scooped up leaves from the  gutters of the brick roads to use, a great source of harvestable organic matter plus it was multitasking because the gutters do need to be cleaned as part of routine maintenance.

Soma used his truck for hauling the hay and I used Vidya’s wash tub collection to clean the gutters.  Hari Bhakta was naturally there as were his two children, so we managed to get a lot done which is always enlivening.

From Ganesadasa:

Vrindavana. Land of Krishna and His pastimes, gopis and cows. The holy Mecca for all Hindus. The beautiful Yamuna river meanders through its fields, past Kesi ghata and the other places of pilgrimage. Land of serenity, bhajan and meditation. Place of peace. Right? Think again.

Three nights ago my western friend who has spent the major portion of the past 20 years traversing this & other holy places of India, was awakened around 2am by the loud sound of cows mooing and screaming. When she went to her 4th floor window to see what the ruckus was all about, she saw those cows running helter-skelter for their lives up and down the road she lives on in Chaitanya Vihar, a relatively new government development in the area.

What she saw was nothing less than shocking, and horrified her. A group of local Brij-vasis were hurling rocks and pieces of brick at a  large truck and then running for their lives. The truck was staffed by eight men armed with submachine guns and other rifles and because of the heavily armed opposition the local people were worried for their own lives and severely restricted from doing anything much.

The men in the truck were stealing cows and calves on a main thoroughfare, right outside Radha Dham, one of the largest apartment complexes now in Vrindavana.

This is not a new thing. It used to be done in the outskirts of remote villages where hardly anyone was around and the picking was easy. Now, up to eight trucks at a time, all plied by unconscionable submachinegun-toting dacoits, pull up in the middle of populated residential neighborhoods to apply their craft of cow rustling. Even in the most holy city of Vrindavana where Krishna’s cows have remained the zenith of India’s ‘sacred cow’ image.

It is happening all over the country. Five years ago there used to be around one thousand cows wandering around the precincts of Manipal, the well known university town five kilometers outside Udupi, another hallowed Hindu town Now that population has been reduced to forty. In Maharashtra, cattle stealing goes on big time. And why shouldn’t it. Each cow fetches about Re.40,000 and is shipped to places like the U.A.E. and even some western countries. The ’employees’ in each truck share about Re.10,000 for each cow, so it’s also lucrative for them. The thieves either brake the legs of the cows or calves and throw them into the truck or stab them with syringes loaded with tranquilizers to prevent the cows from resisting further.

But now Vrindavana!? Hasn’t this crime gone too far? And what are the police and other political authorities doing about it? Apparently not much. The above-mentioned story happened not more than 400 meters from a police check-point; all within hearing distance of the screaming cows and calves.

One simple community effort would be to supply all the chowki-dhars and residents with whistles, to be blown as soon as any of these trucks is detected. The Army &  police, armed with their own weapons, could confront the armed dacoits, whenever the alarm was sounded. All it would take is one shoot-out. All the dacoits could be killed. Once the word got round to those who contract for such downright theft, it is doubtful that they would be willing to risk their lives so often.

Asramas & Goshallas
There are more goshallas per capita in the town of Vrindavana than any place in the world. In Sant Colony, where this author is presently residing, every second dwelling is a goshalla with at least 5-10 cows in each one. There are thousands of mandirs and hundreds of asramas occupied by thousands of sadhus who supposedly promote spiritual life, the spiritual equality of all living beings AND why GoRaksha – the protection of cows & bulls – is one of the quintessential items to the development of human virtues. Milk is considered by Vedic texts to be amrita and a miracle foodstuff. It is said that all the Devas reside within the body of GoMata. Even her stool & urine are used to bathe the Supreme Godhead with in abhiseka ceremonies. Panca-gavya and panca-amrita are glorified throughout all Hindu texts. Vrindavana is also the birthplace and kernel of the Hare Krishna movement.

And WHAT are these local sadhus doing about this grossest of atrocities? Cows and bulls are considered the mothers and fathers of human society. What adult would stand by and watch, while their parents were abducted in front of their eyes? Why are the asramas and their residents not banding together and forming protest committees to confront the politicians and the police superintendents? Why is the very fabric of India being allowed to be torn apart right in the most holy city of Vrindavana, while so-called spiritual societies all go about their daily business of preaching about the importance of cows in spiritual life?

Two days ago in the Raman Reti area of Vrindavana precincts, the Jagad Guru Dham Kripalu mandir sponsored a huge feast and celebration in which thousands of the sadhus in Vrindavana were fed a sumptuous feast replete with expensive sweetmeats and who were all then given an umbrella and a large shopping-gift bag containing stainless-steel lotas, bed sheets & new cloth.

Is it not possible for organizations such as this and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) with their extensive political connections, international memberships, huge Hindu congregations in London & elsewhere and their western brainpower & penchant for rallying against injustices, to devote some of their resources and manpower to orchestrate some coordinated protests outside their local, state and national MP’s offices, the police and the Army and to petition these men to stop this act of societal degradation? Where is the willpower to resist the thuggery? If this is NOT stopped in India & stopped immediately, Nature’s remedy will be that Indians will find themselves embroiled in endless wars just as the West is, after 100 years of gross animal slaughter for palatal enjoyment.

The famous English playwright George Bernard Shaw, put the law of Karma succinctly;

We pray on Sundays that we may have light
To guide our footsteps on the path we tread;
We are sick of war, we don’t want to fight,
And yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead.

From Time magazine:


Put aside that titillating vampire lit. Author Beverly Lewis has come up with a new magic formula for producing best-selling romance novels: humility, plainness and no sex. Lewis’ G-rated books, set among the Old Order Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, have sold more than 12 million copies, as bodice rippers make room for “bonnet books,” chaste romances that chronicle the lives and loves of America’s Amish.

Lewis has just published a new novel, The Secret, set in the idyllic village of Bird-in-Hand, which debuts on the New York Times paperback best-seller list April 19 at No. 10. Spurred by her success — and that of best-selling authors Cindy Woodsmall and Wanda Brunstetter (whose new book, A Cousin’s Promise, is set among the Amish in Indiana) — more than a dozen other Christian-romance novelists are eschewing Sex and the City-type story lines for horse-and-buggy piety. “There still isn’t enough inventory,” marvels Avon Inspire’s Cynthia DiTiberio, who edits Shelley Shepard Gray, a recent entrant to this genre. And there’s no shortage of demand: romance fiction, of which Amish-themed novels command a growing share, generates nearly $1.4 billion in sales each year, and that number is rising.

Readers come away from bonnet books with an easy-to-digest history lesson and, jah, a little Pennsylvania Dutch dialect. There are occasional strident notes — a character or two who sound as if they’d be more at home at a Starbucks than at a Singing. But at their best, these books capture the quiet faith that suffuses Amish life. Which is not to say the Amish don’t ever have fun. Most of the books are set during the characters’ Rumspringa, or “running around” years, the time when the Amish lift the stringent rules for courting youth.

Lewis’ books in particular are an antidote to overstimulated nerves. The Amish (who number about 230,000, mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana) are notable for what they reject — from televisions to electric kitchen appliances to zippers — which means a quiet environment for readers. The pace is slow and soothing; no conversations in Bird-in-Hand are interrupted by a ringing cell phone.

Still, simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean serenity. In The Secret, Lettie Byler, a troubled wife and mother in a devout Amish home, is, for some mysterious reason, depressed and tearful. Eventually she disappears into the night, in what is “surely the most remarkable tittle-tattle to hit the area in recent years.” Englischers (i.e., the non-Amish) might have steered Lettie into a psychiatrist’s office for a course of Prozac. But Lettie’s large family has other modes of counsel: talking and cooking and harvesting and raising barns and praying together. Her 21-year-old daughter Grace holds the family together with her steely determination; Judah, Lettie’s uncommunicative husband, suffers her absence deeply.

It hardly sounds like the stuff of controversy, but Lewis’ novels have been banned by some Amish leaders in Ohio because of theological differences. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that has not prevented the books from reaching an Amish readership. Lewis has received thousands of letters over the years from Amish fans. “I don’t want to mislead you, Mrs. Lewis,” confided a correspondent. “All of us are reading them under the covers.” Barnes & Noble’s religion-book buyer, Jane Love, confirms that sales are particularly strong in Amish areas.

Lewis came to the subject as a matter of genealogy. Her grandmother was a horse-and-buggy Mennonite who was shunned by her community for marrying a covenant preacher. “It was a very courageous move for her,” says Lewis. “She was 18 when she left. She took off her head covering, and she decided that she was going to wear a simple gold wedding band, and she was excommunicated.” Lewis’ first novel, The Shunning, which told that story, was a surprise hit that sold more than a million copies. In all, she has written 87 books, many for children and teens.

Like her fellow chroniclers of the Amish, Lewis proves that it isn’t necessary to lace every scene with lust to keep the reader’s attention. Grace’s suitor in The Secret tenderly proposes to her without ever having kissed her. “‘Tis mighty gut,” he says with deep affection. “Will you agree to be my bride?” That scene is not likely to be repeated outside Lancaster County anytime soon, but Bird-in-Hand is an appealing place for a jaded Englischer to escape to for a while — which is part of the romance, after all.

I have been cameraless for a while. When we went to the Richmond craft show, I tried taking some pictures but it didn’t work. That is why when we got to Bhakta Rasa’s on the way home, I couldn’t take a picture of him.

FYI, here is one he took with his cell phone that he emailed me later for those of you who haven’t seen his smiling face for a while.


That is him without the hat.

I finally got around to buying a new camera. When we went to the Maple Syrup Festival I took the documentation along to read and managed to misplace it. I have been waiting for it to turn up and have looked any place it might remotely be but have never found it.

I took some pictures and hooked it up to the computer but, unlike my last camera, it doesn’t invoke a wizard that steps me through getting it into my photo software.  I finally figured out a workaround that is awkward but I can get pictures now, though I still feel there is some shortcut I haven’t figured out. The camera documentation is like scripture — the descending method of knowledge transmission, where it is all laid out, rather than the inefficient  ascending method, where one has to figure everything out.

Weeks have elapsed while all this transpired but there was one picture I wanted to take and so I finally am back to getting my own pictures for my blog.

During the winter we save our wood ashes and spread them out in the garden. Not too thick, as too much of a good thing can be bad, but they do supply potash (the K of NPK, chemical fertilizer) and lots of trace minerals brought up by the roots of the trees.

When the ground is frozen, I go out and spread them. In order to keep track of where I have spread, I use a large wire basket to mark the place where I finished the ashes spreading session. I use the basket because it shows above the snow most of the time.

All winter the deer have been freely coming into the garden and grazing the rye cover crop that is planted there.  The last time I spread ashes was about a month ago.  Since then the basket has protected the rye from being grazed by the deer. Here is a picture showing the difference between the grazed and ungrazed rye taken this morning.


The difference is dramatic and a clear example of why I am spending a lot of time and money on a deer fence.

I walked around looking at my berries and found at least three that had deer damage on them. I was a little surprized as I thought they had plenty of other stuff to eat this time of year but I suspect they were just curious.

We got back on the fencing some yesterday and have it all tacked up and the rabbit fence around the bottom.  Still have to do the gates and a small section that ends at the back of my concrete block garage where  I will need to anchor a piece of wood  to staple the wire to.

The plan is to run an electric wire just above the rabbit fence to keep raccons from climbing over but I might wait on doing that until I see they are actually doing it.

Today I planted the sand cherry with red leaves—
and hope that I can go on digging in this yard,
pruning the grape vine, twisting the silver lace
on its trellis, the one that bloomed
just before the frost flowered over all the garden.
Next spring I will plant more zinnias, marigolds,
straw flowers, pearly everlasting, and bleeding heart.
I plant that for you, old love, old friend,
and lilacs for remembering. The lily-of-the-valley
with cream-colored bells, bent over slightly, bowing
to the inevitable, flowers for a few days, a week.
Now its broad blade leaves are streaked with brown
and the stem dried to a pale hair.
In place of the silent bells, red berries
like rose hips blaze close to the ground.
It is important for me to be down on my knees,
my fingers sifting the black earth,
making those things grow which will grow.
Sometimes I save a weed if its leaves
are spread fern-like, hand-like,
or if it grows with a certain impertinence.
I let the goldenrod stay and the wild asters.
I save the violets in spring. People who kill violets
will do anything.

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