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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Simple Living, High Thinking #11

For the week of August 11th-17th, 2008

Cloud-gazing and green-bean razing, it's all in a week's work. Join us as we take a look into what went on this week in the Small Farm Training Center here at New Vrindaban.

What we got done
-Click here to read the wrap-up of a very enlivening Farm Circle we held this past Thursday on the importance of the role of women in agriculture and in creating varnasrama culture. You're sure to be inspired.

-Tapahpunja was gracious in his efforts to help out with our recent Kids Camp that was held this past weekend here at New Vrindaban. Hay rides and small workshops abounded, and as you can see below, we even got some of the kids to relish hand-washing their own clothes. Truly a marvel experience in our modern times.

-Construction continues at a steady pace in our Workshop Extension in the Teaching Garden. This week, Tom was working on placing the leveling out and placing of wood for silk plating, which will provide a bridge of support between our tire foundation and the wood to be used in the actual construction of the building itself. Tom has also been reinforcing some small sections of the tire foundation with concrete.

Tom will present a workshop on alternative housing in one of our upcoming Farm Circles.

Shawn get his saw on.
-Our harvest this week up top at the Garden of Seven Gates included healthy bundles of okra, green beans, and chard. All this, and more, including new items in-season such as karella (bitter melon), loki squash, and cucumbers can be purchased at our weekly Organic Farmer's Market under the yajna-shalla in the RVC Temple Courtyard. Our Market is open after breakfast until after the Sunday Feast.

-Paws Paws are a super-ecstatic local fruit delicacy here in West Virginia. Click here to check out a short account of the first excursion into the season's harvest with the paw paw acarya himself, HG Soma Prabhu.

What we realized
is not just self-sufficient farm communities in the Vedic model that Prabhupada prescribed for us. Of course, our farm communities can be the most honest and fruitful representation of varnasrama that we can create in this Kali-Yuga, but the real foundation of varnasrama is a strong internal culture of trust and devotion between devotees.

It is absolutely the most important task of our society of devotees to develop this strong internal strength, as individuals and as a collective. We risk getting lost in the essential externals of our seva if we do not have the proper, consistent development of coming in touch with the Lord inside our own hearts.

Our farm communities can be such a catalyst for this kind of internal development. Just the nature of the seva itself entrenches one more in a mode of pure goodness, away from the wireless radiation of the ugra-karma culture. Taking the time to pull the weeds from the earth can help one to really pull the weeds out of one's 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!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Inside the Farm Circle #3

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Braving a few rain showers, we offered all glories to the assembled devotees and guests as we once again gathered in the Teaching Garden for this week's Farm Circle.

Tulasi Manjari gave a short but very informative presentation on the role of women in agriculture, from traditional times to the present day. In her report, she revealed that creating a natural environment based on the land means that women can truly be protected from exploitation in the ugra-karma culture.

Woman is a like a tree with fruits that we should honor properly, as in her natural role as mother and caretaker, she gives the highest example of selfless care. Varnasrama culture and its applications with the land and cows allows women to express this natural role to the highest degree.

Our Vedic mothers are being abused-the cows, Mother Bhumi. It is our prime duty to change this situation. In different situations around the world, women play a key role in the agricultural mood. In Africa, where in many places, self-sufficiency is a must, women are doing most of the key work, like planting, harvesting, and cooking. 60% of houses in Africa are directed by women, and fuller education efforts should be directed towards them.

The woman who is spiritually inclined plays a very big role, for she is a leader in teaching how to dovetail. This is a key part of creating the foundation for creating true varnasrama. Mother Bhumi can be like the goddess of fortune, giving all opulences, if we protect her and use her gifts properly.

A very enlivening discussion then ensued on the role of women in our own community here at New Vrindaban, particularly within a scenario where we would no longer be reliant on outside sources for our foodstuffs. In the rearrangement of the community that might occur, women would take natural roles of leadership in the "culture of care" that would need to develop.

We might find, in this scenario, the most natural dynamic, with men and women complimenting each other to the fullest, transcending our cultural stereotypes and misconceptions. Women would contribute alongside with men on all levels, from managerial to hands-on.

Of course, we don't need a crisis to bring this wholly positive transformation about. What we do need is for the women of our community to get a little ticked off! We need them to take on the roles of leaders to change this community away from one still attached to the mechanisms of exploitation to one of holistic, organic, healthy, potent spirituality.

We then adjourned to a delicious feast of our home-grown green beans, organic Teaching Garden salad, and nice, thick chapatis.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Simple Living, High Thinking #10

For the week of August 4th-10th, 2008

We'll pick a box full of beans and then sing a song about Krishna, as we take a look into the festivities and goings-on this week in the Small Farm Training Center at New Vrindaban Dham.

What we got done
-Click here to read the report on this week's Farm Circle, hosted in the Teaching Garden, as Tapahpunja spoke about our community food and water security, and Adi-Guru spoke about his experiences growing up on a family farm in Punjab.

-This week our Farm Crew took part in a maha-harvest of our green bean crop up top at the Garden of Seven Gates. For four days, our Crew carefully untangled boxes and boxes of beans from the jungle-like foliage. By the end of the week, Tom and Tulasi had boiled and frozen the catch for storage, to be used for temple foodstuffs in the winter months ahead. All in all, we harvested, froze, and have stored 110lbs of green beans just in the last week alone.

-Just outside the Garden of Seven Gates, an interesting project is going on. Inspired by the vision and efforts of HH Varsana Swami and HG Devananda Pandit Das, a small fenced-off area has been erected, and within it will contain the humble forest home of Bodhi, our resident donkey, and a goat friend of his. Varsana Swami is hoping to train these animals in various agricultural tasks as he tries to revive animal power here in New Vrindaban.

This week, our newest apprentice Adi-Guru Das helped in putting up a few locust logs to support the fencing. Here's some pics.

Hauling heavy equipment

-Along with our massive green bean harvest, we've also been picking okra, zucchini, and cucumbers, which will be available in our weekend Organic Farmer's Market, and feel free to stop by over at the Teaching Garden to grab some vegetables for your home. Donations are greatly appreciated.

-Tom was seen today adding concrete reinforcement in between the tires in the foundation of our new Workshop extension in the Teaching Garden. With most of the wood pieces and floor stones now gathered, construction should begin in earnest in the next couple of weeks.

-Here's a few more pics of our new apprentice Adi-Guru in action.

Don't be lazy in front of the boss

Proof positive that farm life makes one effulgent

What we realized
We are what we eat. It's pretty simple, but not a common thought in our world in its present state. You can drive by a sudden cornfield next to the freeway, and if you take notice of the signs, you'll see these are GMO crops. GMO....what does it mean? Genuine people may be thinking these modifications will have genuine benefits, but for me....why stray from the original formula? Krsna has already made the process perfect, so we may conjure up a whole bundle of problems, besides the usual political, economic, and moral ramifications. As Mom used to say, "don't play with your food."

Here at New Vrindaban, we have a dual mandate: To create a Krsna Conscious rural community, based on the melding of simplicity and spirituality, creating our own foodstuffs and utilities, combined with our other role, as a place of pilgrimage for all spiritually-minded people. If we can fully unite these two aspects, by social and financial cooperation, then the possibilities for expanding Prabhupada's dynamic vision for New Vrindaban become limitless.

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!

Inside the Farm Circle #2

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

This week we enjoyed the pleasant late summer breezes surrounded by blooming vines and leafy stalks in the Small Farm Teaching Garden, as Tapahpunja shared words on the security of our food and water supply here at New Vrindaban, and Adi-Guru shared the village vibes of his simple upbringing on his family farm in Punjab.

Tapah began by running down our wet and rainy season so far in our main garden projects (Teaching Garden and Garden of Seven Gates-2/3rds of days in May and June were wet). This caused a interruption of the growing cycle, and some crops, like our spinach, have failed due to such things as root rot and a black mold on the soil.

Still, there are some successes. We have been maha-harvesting our green bean crop, and we've frozen and stored 110lbs of beans for the winter.

In the security of our food supply, importance lies in the nutritional value of what we grow. As always, its not just the externals, but what's inside. The foods we grow and store must be nutrient dense and in the mode of goodness.

Vegetable production is just one aspect. A steady supply of cow manure is crucial. Fruit and nut trees are also vital. Madhava Ghosh has laid out a challenge. If ten people can plant five fruit or nut trees, then in ten years we'll have 500 of these trees.

Tapah would like to see our next step move in the direction of grain production. We could store a mass amount of grains for long-term use. We would need to build a granary, and he also mentioned building a root-cellar as another long-term storage device for our foodstuffs.

We are also now dealing with a rogue element from the local coal industry, which may drill under our ground to get at the soft coal there, to convert it into gasoline at a proposed plant nearby in Benwood. If they do this, our well-water supply would vanish, and we would become dependent on city water and water bills, which is not good for householder and farmer alike.

The most important and tricky element is financial and social cooperation. This can lead to a fuller realization of our dual mandate here at New Vrindaban: to serve as a Krishna Conscious rural community, showing how simplicity and spirituality work together, while we also serve as a place of spiritual pilgrimage. To link these two together fully means unlimited possibilities for Prabhupada's mission.

Adi-Guru then spoke about his experiences growing up in Punjab, considered the "food basket" of India. Every 15 days his extended family would hit the fields, planting rice, corn, barley, and vegetables. It was a matter of duty and kinship.

Their production was entirely organic, with cow dung used as compost. They would irrigate with buckets from local canals. Everyone was involved, early in the morning (5 to 10am), with women and children sewing and the men furrowing.

This ritual was the commonplace agricultural practice in his village, which has over 300 families. Adi-Guru is super-inspired to be back in a rural setting after many years of Mumbai education and life, and he has a wealth of enthusiasm and know-how to share with us.

We then adjourned for delicious local organic prasad from our gardens: green bean and squash subji, chapatis, salad, and a cold mint and stevia tea.

We return to the Teaching Garden next Thursday, August the 15th, with a presentation on Women in Agriculture. Please join us!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Simple Living, High Thinking #9

The goats don't seem to understand they have grass inside their pen as well

For the week of July 27th-August 3rd, 2008

Get out the long-nose shovel and dig in, as we take a look at yet another week at the fun going on in the Small Farm Training Center.

What we got done
-We held the first Farm Circle community gathering of the summer, at the wonderful and warm home of Raghu and Jamuna. For the full report on what went down, click here.
This week the Farm Circle will commence on Thursday the 7th at 630 pm in the Teaching Garden. Be there with your overalls on.

"Those who stay will be champions"

-Thanks to the efforts of Devananda Pandit, we initiated our first morning japa walk to the Old Vrndavana farmhouse. The weather was misty and mystic, and the pace was brisk for the fifteen devotees present last Monday the 28th. At the farmhouse, Devananda Prabhu shared a few stories of the previous pastimes there (former of home of our Jagannath Deities, Radha-Vrindabannath, and such exalted personalities as Radhanath Swami, Varsana Swami, and Mother Hladini). We plan to continue these walks in the next few weeks and hopefully have a full morning program at Old Vrndavana.

Japa in the Old Vrndavana farmhouse

-Construction continued hot and heavy on the workshop pavilion extension in the Teaching Garden. We received seven tons of gravel which we will spread out under the stone floor for support, and Bryce spent all Saturday afternoon filling tires with dirt to finish off the last wall of the foundation, facing the southeast.

Seven tons of gravel

Bryce does his best impression of John Henry

-Tom could also be seen in his natural position and duty, as a stone mason, beginning preliminary work on dressing and leveling small pieces of local sand stone for the pavilion floor.
Look for Tom to give a workshop on stone masonry in a future edition of our Farm Circle, and if you would like to help him and learn hands-on, come see him in the Teaching Garden.

-This Sunday saw the return of the Small Farm Organic Market, camped out in the RVC Temple courtyard for the purchasing pleasure of guests and residents. For sale from our gardens are fresh cucumbers, basil, carrots, okra, jalapeno peppers, beets, chard, kale, and cilantro. Kamalavati also had a big seller with her homemade stevia sweetener. As the harvest begins to hit in the Teaching Garden and the Garden of Seven Gates, look for green beans, tomatoes, and bitter melon to make their debut in the weeks ahead.

Tom can't believe the prices!

What we realized
This is certainly a topic with no uniform opinions, but it is clear that on some levels of our lives, we have what is called an "assumption of civilization." Prabhupada of course wanted us to give up our material attachments all together, to dovetail everything for Krsna, but he was clear that the modern, Western model of civilization, based on consumption and exploitation, was doomed to fail.

In our attempts to create a working model of varnasrama within this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, we have to understand that the healthy future of our movement depends on creating an strong internal culture and model of living that acts as an alternative to the ugra-karma society we live in, of which we are still so attached to in so many gross and subtle ways.

Of course, this doesn't mean we pack up our city centers and devotees and move them out to the farm before the tidal wave hits. But it means we can't always assume we can be backed up by the structures of city life. At New Vrindaban and other ISKCON farm centers, we should be actively moving towards a model of simple living that allows us to stand on our own two feet as far as possible in terms of utilities, finances, and foodstuffs.

This is what Prabhupada wanted. Our farm centers should present a model of Vedic village life that attracts the increasing number of alternative minded spiritual seekers who are looking for a real, authentic way of life beyond materialism.

What happens if the lights go out, the water is shut off, and Wal-Mart and Giant Eagle close? You may shake your head (and I see you shaking your head), but the state of our global society is more fragile than one may give it credit for. In any case, even if there is not any massive societal shift, and things devolve into something akin to Blade Runner, it is our duty to Prabhupada to continue to develop our rural communities as a model of real, eternally minded down-home living.

Our farm projects are an extremely important part of our movement. We must become self-sufficient by growing our own grains and producing our own milk, then there will be no question of poverty. So develop these farm communities as far as possible. They should be developed as an ideal society depending on natural products not industry.
Letter to Rupanuga: 74-12-1 8 Bombay

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, August 1, 2008

Inside The Farm Circle #1

Continuing the tradition we have started in the past few years, the New Vrindaban Farm Circle commenced its 2008 summer series with a warm and inspiring program last night (July 31st) at the humble abode of Raghu Prabhu and Yamuna Prabhu.

Beginning with a mellow kirtan led by Rupanuga Prabhu and Caitanya Bhagavat Prabhu, we then, as a group, dove into our introductory topic as we shared all the different practices and aspects of our devotional lives that are in tune with Srila Prabhupada's vision of simple, village style-life here in New Vrindaban.

The question was: What are we doing in this simple mood, and how we can build this mood in our community? The practical suggestions flowed and moved. Patrick plans to make homemade detergent so he can continue his yatra of washing clothes by hand. It was suggested that devotees could start a Village Garden Parikrama in order to increase the visibility of our many, varied garden projects.

Madhava Ghosh and Soma both shared the benefits of tree-growing, especially fruit trees as an excellent way of creating a strong, sustainable source of foodstuffs. Ghosh also highlighted the growing of perennials like rhubarb and asparagus in one's garden. Yudhisthira shared the immediate necessity of creating a Vedic Village to fully live by Prabhupada's vision of self-sufficient community, and Madhupati shared his own plans for such a village, while also adding that community is the essential word. Without community, self-sufficiency can be just simply selfish.

Tapahpunja shared all the latest developments with our Small Farm Training Center, while Tom brought down the house with "haribols" by sharing his simple but deep realization that our main duty here is to serve each other. Jamuna shared an idea that we create a timeline to a point in the future where our community would be more responsible to the land and the cows, and to work together on the gradual and needed steps to take us to that point.

Jayasri shared her own practice of reducing utility usage, in which her electric bill is now only $6 a month! Raghu shared plans of restoring Bahulavan to its original splendor, rising again as an example of what Prabhupada originally intended for New Vrindaban. He also added that we shouldn't be put down by our various struggles, as "there is a lot of hope in this community."

We then adjourned to delicious organic prasad from our various gardens (vegetable soup, Gauranga potatoes and zucchini, brown rice cassarole, apple crisp) and we offer our thanks to Yamuna, Patrick, and Tulasi Manjari for cooking.

Next week the Farm Circle will commence in the Small Farn Teaching Garden, across the street from the temple, next to the RVC Goshalla. We will meet on Thursday, August 7th, at 630 pm. HG Tapahpunja Prabhu will be the featured speaker. Prasad will be served, and feel free to bring your own offering. Jaya Prabhupada!