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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The New Approach for the Global Food Crisis

Alexander Petroff (HG Astotarasata Prabhu), via his Working Villages International project, now celebrating its 2nd anniversary of initial success in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has written a clean and lucid editorial piece on the new approach to the global food crisis.

His vision is vital, and better yet, he's not some stuffy academic professor writing in his air-conditioned office. He's out in the realest part of the real world, helping so many people in so many ways.

Click this link to read his article.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Simple Living, High Thinking #8

For the week of July 21st-27th, 2008

Let's all pile into the back of the van for a crowded but ecstatic journey into the world of the Small Farm Training Center here at New Vrindaban Dham.

What we got done
-This week the whole Farm Crew took a field trip to the Field Day of the University of West Virginia's Organic Research Farm. Bringing prasad cookies and our happy presence, we recieved in return informative workshops on weed management, plant diseases, hand tools, and even a hay-ride tour of the gardens. We saw and networked with our good friends Dr. James Kotcon, Dr. Sven Verlinden, and the one and only "Chill" Will Lewis, esteemed alumni of the 2007 Small Farm Training Center internship program. Here's some pics...

-As promised last week, we had a chance to talk with our main man Tom Bernhardt, who is in charge of the extension to our tool shed in the Teaching Gardens, which when finished, will be used for workshops, fresh bread (from our bread oven), and much more. As Tom explains it...."We have 400 tires, filled with dirt, acting as the building's foundations. To compact one tire with dirt takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes, and the tire weighs about 300 pounds once it's filled. Using the tires like this comes in a mood of reusing and recycling the local materials we have around us, and the tires act as casting for the rammed earth, and they ultimately prevent erosion around the foundation."

"Now that the tires are all in, the next step is to find sand stone for the floor, which we'll get from local fields. We already have the wood for the building cut and milled from local sources and local devotees, such as Dr. Nick and Pracetas. The wood was cut from poplar trees around Bahulavan, and was milled with a Wood Miser saw mill. We also just had a bunch of fill dirt put in for the floor, thanks to Tejomaya and John Blakemoor, who got the excess dirt from their repairs of the community water-lines. It ended up being seven truck loads for a total of 45 tons of fill dirt."

Tom ponders how all this tire-smashing and stacking has lifted his soul

"We hope to be finished by November, including the bread oven, which will have walls made of limestone recycled from walls in Bahulavan. The oven itself will be wood-fired, and made out of clay plaster, like the style of the Quebec bread ovens."

"You can see we're trying to keep it local. Nothing from Lowe's or Home Depot." Tom also added..."Mr. President, tear down this Wal-Mart!"

-Up top at the Garden of Seven Gates, we continued efforts to re-plant a few rows of beans, as the peppers fight off weeds, the tomatoes slowly begin to appear, and the chard finally makes a luscious green appearance.

-Down in the Teaching Garden, we have a few crops ready to go. Beets, carrots, kale, chard, basil, mint, and lemon balm are all in stock. If you would like to bring yourself or some guests into our happy home to recieve some of this wonderful bounty, please feel free. We graciously take donations for these herbs and vegetables so that we can continue to maintain our self-sufficient projects for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada.

-Our two fresh-faced interns, Jude and Kelly from Florida, could be seen this week giving a garden tour to a very enthusiastic bench of Gujarati guests, and they could also be seen soaking up a DVD lecture given by David Blume on how alcohol can be used as fuel. This will be the last week for these two spirit souls here, as they wrap up their internship, and we wish them the best in their quest to make their thumb green for Krsna.

What we realized
As Dr. Kotcon said during the WVU Organic Field Day, "only dull people use dull tools." Keep em sharp!

We had an interesting discussion about austerity while performing the austerity of re-planting beans into the soil at Seven Gates. Tapahpunja regaled us with stories of days-gone-by here at New Vrindavan, the era of ice-cold baths and such, and of how powerful it was for spiritual advancement, if used in the right consciousness. It could also be powerful in a negative way, if used for pride and its various aftereffects.

Sometimes we feel as the younger generation of devotees that we aren't doing enough austerities in comparison to the generation of Prabhupada devotees, but we have to remember that austerity is relative to time, place, and personality. But there is ample opportunity in our garden projects for the kind of good, hard working seva that is infinitely pleasing to Prabhupada.

We can only hope and pray and inspire by our actions and words so that more motivated devotees come ready to get their hands dirty. If you're feeling a little bit on the lazy side, nothing cures those spiritual blues like tugging a few weeds out of the garden and out of your heart.

Please help us out! Your hands, heads, and hearts can help us restore Srila Prabhupada's vision of self-sufficency here at New Vrindaban Dham. We're out shining and even in the rain in the Teaching Garden across the street from the RVC Temple, or up the hill at the Garden of Seven Gates. See HG Tapahpunja Prabhu for all the details.

Click here for more info on the Small Farm Training Center.

Stay tuned for next week's update! Hari Haribol!

Whatever Happened to Whatever Happened to the Bees?

They're still buzzing, right? Check the prasad line at lunch. You may find one floating in your nectar!

Here's a link to an article from Wired on an update to the great bee-disappearance act of the last year that caught the world's attentions and fears.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Assorted pics from the simple life...

As a special treat, we present some assorted pics from our simple life here at New Vrindaban Dham, via the Small Farm Training Center, the Teaching Garden, and the Garden of Seven Gates.
Madhava Ghosh displays his St. Francis mood, allowing the local birdlife to taste Krsna prasad

Tom in his eternal struggle to open the back of Tapah's van

Beans and the tough-to-make-friends with stinging nettle bloom in our Teaching Garden

Tom and friends scoop up a small flood our of the workshop extension foundation

Mr. Tad Dejarneut makes his sign magic

The finished product! More signs to come soon...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Simple Living, High Thinking #7

For the week of July 14th-20th, 2008

Grab a shovel, plow it into some dirt, and smash it into a tire. Then you'll know it's time for our weekly update on the Small Farm Training Center here at New Vrindaban Dham.

(Apologies for the late post this week. A heavy-duty lightning strike wiped out our servers for a few days.)

What we got done
-We would like to first welcome Jude and Kelly, our latest interns coming to us from Florida. They'll be joining us for two weeks to get a hands-on, dirt-and-all education in organic farming. They've already been blissfully harvesting away up top at the Garden of Seven Gates, bringing down some nice okra and chard. Tapahpunja Prabhu has been spending much quality time with them on the educational aspect, even giving them exams! Let's hope the essay questions weren't too tough.

-Our first crop of lettuce and chard was firmly uprooted and harvested. Certainly not the best batch, due to the wet weather, but by quantity there was surely enough quality. What has been harvested is appearing now in the salads during lunch prasad, and the surplus heads into town with Tapah to various soup kitchens in Wheeling.

HG Parampara Das of New Vrindaban enjoys the bliss of simple village life

-On that note, with the last real planting window of our season at hand, Tapah continued his efforts in order to get one last good crop of lettuce and chard before the main harvest, which is going to begin in the next few weeks. Tapah worked with his hands in this regard, hoping that the careful hand-planting will make a difference in getting the seeds to catch hold and sprout in a healthy way.

HG Vyapi Prabhu, with his good wife Rasa-Priya Gopi Devi Dasi, maintain the flower beds in front of the temple, to beautiful effect, but it is exhausting work.

-It's the talk of the town! Led by the efforts of Tom, devotees have been stacking tires and filling them with lots and lots of dirt, laying the foundation for the extension to our tool shed. Once finished (hopefully in the next few months) the extension will serve as a place for workshops, demonstrations, and nice, warm, fresh bread (courtesy of a bread oven).

"Smashing" dirt into tires is not as unscientific as it sounds. It requires a careful and determined meditation, avoiding the mode of passion to prevent getting tired or fried in the formidable heat. Because we are using the good'ol soil of West Virginia (full of rocks and clay and worms), the process takes a bit of time per tire: 30-60 minutes per tire (as opposed to sand, which would only take 15-20 minutes).

Also, as we have different sizes of tires we have gathered from local sources (from truck tires to smaller, ATV tires) it requires a steady check of leveling to make sure the foundations stays consistent, considering the whole building will go on top of it.

Tom and Chris, in the ecstasy of the "smashing" have been coming up with some pretty sure-fire ideas for the final product. We hope to open an organic pizzeria called "Pizza Punja" (heaps of pizza), with an all you-can eat salad bar (give em some scissors and tell em to pick whatever they want from the garden). Some ideas are more serious than others.

Next week we'll have a interview with Tom for ya, as he'll give the full details on what is going on and what is to be done with our workshop extension project.

Tom fixes Chris's croc, keeping it real by using a nut-and-bolt

What we learned
Actually, the delay in this week's blog was meant for us to hear a wonderful class this morning from HG Advaita Acarya Prabhu, who told us that we must flex our spiritual muscles by performing acts of tolerance, forgiveness, and gratitude. He said we should be inspired by the example of Mother Earth, who tolerates so much, and yet she still keeps on giving and giving us the life we live on.

Of course, this is no excuse to act the fool. We shouldn't let anyone trudge on us, and then blindly give away our most vital gifts. The Earth's compassion is based on a selfless love that is but a twinkle of Krsna's divine love, and we should respect and return the favor to our blue, globular Mother by appreciating her gifts and using them in a way that keeps the cycle going and growing.

Unfortunately, it seems as if it will take some kind of comfort-shaking crisis for us all to begin to realize that that we are giving our Mother Earth more than she can tolerate. When she reaches that point, which may certainly come sooner rather than later, she will let us know by her grace and will. But she will be quick to forgive and continue to give if we can show we are willing to continue on in a more respectful, organic, spiritual, natural, and dynamic way. We are laying the groundwork for this better future now by making our ideas come into practical reality.

Please help us out! Your hands, heads, and hearts can help us restore Srila Prabhupada's vision of self-sufficency here at New Vrindaban Dham. We're out shining and even in the rain in the Teaching Garden across the street from the RVC Temple, or up the hill at the Garden of Seven Gates. See HG Tapahpunja Prabhu for all the details.

Click here for more info on the Small Farm Training Center.

Stay tuned for next week's update! Hari Haribol!

Friday, July 18, 2008

European Cow and Agriculture: The Power Point

Here's a link to an informative and well-made power point from the recent European League Ministry Farm report, presented to us by HG Shyamsundar Prabhu ACBSP (Bhaktivedanta Manor, UK)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Simple Living, High Thinking #6

For the week of July 7th-July 13th, 2008

Join us now for yet another enriching and inspiring look into the go-go farm-farm world of the Garden of Seven Gates and the Teaching Garden, all part of the Small Farm Training Center here at New Vrindaban Dham.

(Apologies for no original pics this week. We are having some computer problems in the Club 108 office. We'll have a picture post for your viewing pleasure later this week.)

What we got done
-We are into the final planting phase of the season, and up top at the Garden of Seven Gates we've been busy re-planting cucumbers, squash, chard, and lettuce in places where they haven't come up well, due to the unusually cool and rainy weather we've been having.

-We removed the floating row cover from our winter and summer squash, as they are coming up nice and tall and need the breathing and growing room (especially to get above the reach of the pesky groundhogs).

-The solemn sounds of nature included the necessary buzz of the weedwhacker, as we shaved up the encroaching invaders and vines from the edge of bean, squash, and tomato plots. Bhakta-Chris, in charge of this ecstatic service, was told he "looked like a monster" afterwards, as he was covered head to toe in grass shards.

-In order to encourage our young crop of chard and lettuce to grow and grow, we spent a lot of time this week carefully removing weeds and other non-desirables from the patch. Tapahpunja continues to take the greenest members of the chard-and-lettuce team into Wheeling as donations to our friends in the local soup-kitchen charities (We'll have a special in-depth look at our charity runs in the near-future).

-Down below at the Teaching Garden, Tom is making rapid progress on the extension to our shelter area, which will eventually house a brick oven. The foundation is nearly dug out, and we are surrounding it with earthship-style tires (filled with dirt). Each tire weighs nearly 300 pounds, and with two people filling it it takes 15-20 minutes per tire.

-Tad Dejarneut and his family stayed with us in the SANTEE House for a short visit this week. Tad is an expert signmaker, and he made an awesome Garden of Seven Gates sign in his effort this week. Him and his family will soon return for more artistic service to our project.

-Come on in when you get a chance and check out the beauty of the Teaching Garden in full bloom, from stinging nettles to amaranth to stevia and beyond. Don't forget to ask for a free sample of the chocolate mint.

What we realized
Das anudas anudas anudas....
Like hearing the Holy Name loud and clear, the true spiritual art of the land also directly connects you to Krsna. One can see the deft design aesthetic of the Lord in a beautiful rose or gardenia, and one can also understand that we are dependent upon Krsna for all the necessities. Krsna is giving us the land, water, air, and intelligence to actually cultivate Mother Bhumi in the proper way. It is up to us to unwrap these gifts and not break them or misuse them in a childish way.

We are not only serving our society-at-large by these efforts at spiritual self-sufficiency, but we can even go to a deeper level. The potent potato and the purposeful pepper on the Lord's offering plate, the fragrant flowers we have grown now laid as a garland around Srimati Radharani's neck, and even the countless little pieces of grass used by Mother Cow for her midday meal are all living entities offering devotional service, and making spiritual advancement.

From fulfilling our duty to help these entities in their service, we can practically understand the connection of all things in Krsna's embrace and realize the presence of the Lord in everything we see, making the endlessly meditating yogis envious of our easy and sublime process.

In all aspects of our devoted lives to the land and cow, we must create a devotional mentality at the core, as we see in New Vraja Dham in Hungary, in which the nonsalaried resident devotees are always cultivating the realization that everything they bring forth from the ground, whether its houses or lettuce, belongs to Radhe-Shyam. It's that heartbeat which must now resound in our fledging farm communities and beyond in order to insure the future. The fruitive mentality, with all its gross and subtle snags, only creates a whirlpool in which the community gets dragged down in.

Finally, the torch has to be passed! For all younger devotees and personalities interested in this mission, now is the time to be trained up. To keep our projects in Prabhupada's family, and to insure our momentum continues to build and build, take a chance and join us to offer your hands and heart in our very bountiful sacred effort.

Please help us out! Your hands, heads, and hearts can help us restore Srila Prabhupada's vision of self-sufficency here at New Vrindaban Dham. We're out shining and even in the rain in the Teaching Garden across the street from the RVC Temple, or up the hill at the Garden of Seven Gates. See HG Tapahpunja Prabhu for all the details.

Click here for more info on the Small Farm Training Center.

Stay tuned for next week's update! Hari Haribol!