A Man and His Flock

silkie chickens

Through five years of worldly travel, the domestic poultry have always shared the land with me, whether the incessant crowing of the Meso-American feral chickens, the wandering poultry of Morocco, hardy Icelanders in the sub-Arctic, or the small scale backyard chicken flocks of Canada and Europe. The chicken has always been a jovial companion, and a presence of the wilderness to me. The first farm animal I ever met was a chicken, my grandfathers’, and I find in their ancient nature, something deep, grounded, and self-reliant. This spring I wanted to tend to some my own, and started to collect a small flock of exotic chickens.

It started with three Ayam Cemani roosters that I picked up in Wooler, Ontario, then soon after gave them a lady. Since the Ayam Cemani Roo’s were bonded, they took to protecting her together, forming a kind of reverse harem relationship. Then came the Silkie chickens and Banteys from other flock owners in this village of Marlbank. The Silkies came to live on one side of the coop, with the Banteys and Cemani’s on the other. The former being a land race, and flightless are more gentle, and weaker than the more robust Cemani’s and the fiesty Bantey’s. The Bantey chickens are the original English fighting game bird, though I only keep two hens, and we culled the rooster for a winter stew. The birds weathered the last of the cold weather in March under heat lamps, and after about a month, I brought in three Red Sexlinks, which are a hybrid of the Rhode Island Red Rooster, and the New Hampshire hens. They are prolific egg layers, and I have had egg sustainability since they landed on the farm. Usually I can gather a dozen eggs in two days, and I tend to eat 4-6 eggs per day for a protein source.

For 7 years, I had heard of the Ayam Cemani breed with their blackened feathers, black meat, bones, comb, feet, and internal organs. They lived in myth, until I finally saw them in person. The Silkies came with much the same folkloric baggage, a strange Indonesian bird from the island of Java with five talons, black skin, feathers resembling fur, that did not fly, and wore strange plumage of white, grey, gold, or brown with tufts on their head. In the morning, I put two of the smaller silkies on my shoulders to roost, while I poured the chicken cereals into their feeding troughs. They happily perch while I would continue the morning ritual. For the first month I kept them inside their spacious coop, and would free range them a couple hours per day. Then a gift of a chicken tractor was acquired for use in having the chickens with an open bottom mobile coop. I ran this over a small patch of hay field in three day rotations with the black jungle fowl, the red layers, and the fiesty banteys, and they formed a pecking order that in my eyes accommodated every bird, without any harm or fighting. I broadcast a medley of seeds into the earth floored tractor, and moved the birds in three day rotation slots, during this time, they scratched and mowed the ground into a fine tillage, ate the grasses and bugs, and layed eggs into the small piles of clippings they made. At dusk I visit them again to lead them back to the coop, while they follow loyally for their dinner inside, and find their roosting positions for the night. I simply collect the eggs from the shaded partition at the back of the chicken tractor.

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After a couple months of small scale chicken fancying, two of the Silkies went broody, and layed a small clutch of their own. I collected a few eggs from the more rare and less broody ayam cemani, and even a couple Americauna eggs donated from a tree customer. The first hen layed on her clutch for 22 days and nothing happened, so I became concerned. With each successive night and day, still no hatching until the 27th day a full week after normal incubation rates, I decided to crack one egg and see inside. The chick was un-developed and had not fully imbibed the nutrients of the egg. Each of the eggs were in the same stage, with only the chicken fetus in the egg, but not alive. Four of the eggs in the clutch were stolen during the incubation, though I never found the predator, and two were cracked during the jostling around of the eggs by the mother hen. None of these first brood would hatch out a living breathing chick, and it was in order I think of a few frosty nights and radical temperature change during this early season that the egg humidity simply fluctuated too much, and stopped the natural processes of birth from developing, so in this case the egg came first, and not the chicken. The second Silkie hen hatched three mixed eggs, and one died as a stillbirth. I now have one left from this trio, a small black jungle bird.

After this first tragedy, I felt the fathering instinct to nurture and provide, and sought out to add to the flock from the outside. I looked on kijiji in the local area to find new life, and found a farm with African guinea fowl and a Red Golden Pheasant who needed some extra care. So I drove out to their land, in a savannah-esque canadian wilderness on a country backroad, and met their eclectic flock of Guineas, Peafowl, Silkies, Pheasants, and Emus, and ended up taking home five guinea keats, and the sorry looking male pheasant. He was badly beaten up and picked of his colorful plumage by another male, so he was now under my care, and rehabilitation. For awhile, the six birds lived and three chicks lived, in my bedroom at the foot of my bed, so they could be kept safe and closer to me at night. I tended them with all the silent attention a man can give to small fragile animals, and watched them put on weight, peck for their morning grains, and occasionally escape their confines. They now live in a specially adapted coop together, with the other birds for neighbours, and feed on millet, turkey mash, and my specially blended chicken cereal with corn, herbs and seaweed.

As of this writing, they are nesting on the wood chips soundly in their coop, and I have not yet had any real predators, only once ever seeing the silhouette of a larger mammal climbing down from a buckeye tree near the free ranging silkies, which was spooked by my presence and kept its distance. I personally sleep very close to the coop, so they are in my zone 1, and I use permaculture principles in managing the flock, and herbal and plant medicine remedies for their health and well being. I have been experimenting with carrying the Silkies onto a small island in the middle of a pond, and letting them graze for the day. The island is accessible by a boardwalk, with small caves, tall grasses, and a weeping larch tree for shade. I pour their feed on a table stone, and they are protected from day time predators like raccoons or skunks while on the island. The boardwalk can be taken up, so as a moat would surround them completely. The surrounding pond grows is water source while a layer of duckweed on the surface provides a good aquatic vegetable food. The kids that visit the farm during the tree season love the silkies, and I never need an alarm clock when the roosters crow at 5 am to hail the sun at dawn, and I wake to a new day, full of the minute special-ness of a quiet life in the country.

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Usufruct

Usufruct, from Roman and Civil Law, means

“the right of enjoying all the advantages derivable from the use of something that belongs to another, as far as is compatible with the substance of the thing not being destroyed or injured.”
Stemming from two words; Usus (use) is the right to use or enjoy a thing possessed, directly and without altering it.
and Fructus (fruit, in a figurative sense) is the right to derive profit from a thing possessed: for instance, by selling crops, or annexed movables, taxing for entry, and so on.
This is a concept of lawful use that I am intrigued in. With an interest to bring it into use in the modern age. Today, it is hard for a young aspiring farmer, craftsman, or community builder to get ‘back-to-the-land’, without either going in deep debt, or through volunteering to live on someone else’s land and work for them, vis-a-vis working schemese like wwoofing or workaway. The younger generation of people tumblr_pikedcuA6q1romrx1o1_128020-35 just don’t have the money to afford their own land in the country, and it is not getting easier. This is one reason I took five years from my life to travel and see some of the world, earning my salt as I did on others farms before moving on to try something else. A constant journey of karma yoga, and endlessly starting over, until I eventually tried internships. This landed me on a farm for half a year, and grounded my nomadic nature a slight, but even this was never carved out to be sustainable, and led to me coming to a tree farm, to stay four seasons and have a deeper impact on what I started feeling comfortable calling home.
Home can take on many meanings, and I used to carry C.M.’s words with me ‘your home is here you’re happy’. This felt good enough, when for some weeks of my life I didn’t sleep in the same place twice, and tended to move with every moon, following work, and intentionally confronting a life that some would consider nomadic, or vagabond. If I was happy, then I might as well be at home with it all. Then I started to like some places more than others, and have preferences for some countries that felt more like me. Home then became, anytime I was in Scandinavian territory, and I sought out the mountains, vast forests, islands and fjords of these Viking lands that made me happy, and felt ‘homely’. Still, something else was missing, and the need to find land grabbed hold of me. I had read of the land-taking rites in the early sagas of the Icelanders, and had visions of past lives walking onto shore with fire-brands, to encircle a plot of arable land, making blot for the gods, and claiming the boundaries. That felt good, traditional and it catered to the mystical side of me, but unfortunately I could not just arrive on any given shore-bank or acreage of woods, walk around it with fire, call on the Gods and ask for the land. At least not in today’s age. So I remained with my longing for finding land. Could I buy it? Could I inherit it? How do I find a place where I resonate with, so I can start making something of it from the ground up. This is where the concept of Usufruct has come in.
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The idea is that people with the energy, investment and ability to use a land to transform it, or otherwise operate off it using its resources establish a relationship with landholders, whereby this becomes feasible. Land becomes available for others to produce, work, harvest, build etc. on it, because the owners can not do it themselves for any varying reasons; age, proximity to land, lack of community, more space than needed, interest in growth, and so on. These forms of trade are becoming more common and they seem to be a ray of hope in an age that makes it very hard for young people like me to live sane and healthy lives in the country, closer to wildness, and open opportunity for creativity.
Where I am currently farmsteading is an agreement in which this became manifested for the first time in my life. I could run a satellite business, running parallel to the main operation of the tree farm, in order to bring in alternative cash-flow that would compliment my main work. An exchange of labor, valuated at a monetary value would be given, in efforts, to offset accommodation, food, land and tool use. I chose to initiate a market garden/foraging project, and keep a small flock of exotic poultry. The gardens were built using permaculture principles, the chickens and guineas were brought on the land, seeds were bought and traded at seedy saturdays to build up a seed bank in the winter, and then sown into various production areas during the spring.
It worked for awhile, until it didn’t. When the politics of how the market garden would be operated did not cohere with everyone, personal intentions and lack of hierarchy created an unorganized effort, and without a strong mission, the horsepower was simply not available to garden at the capacity needed to maintain a market quota. Perhaps I simply worked with the wrong people, or my ideals of things were too unrealistic while working within the limitations we had. In the end, four separate spaces were created without a clear locus of operation or focalization, and I learned the lesson that democracy does not always work in the garden.
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After all the hustle put in, and the investment of time, energy, and money, I picked up the shards, and walked back into the battlefield, planted a few things more, and created a different kind of garden altogether, not for market but for soil remediation. I started to put my energy into more places than just the garden; like curating a museum of art in one of the old farm buildings, planting several species of trees in the forest nursery, cleaning an old barn and setting up an outdoor kitchen in a carriage house, planting a small orchard and landscaping with rare coniferous trees, and foraging wild edibles from the woods and ponds on the farm.
Eventually I will change out of here, maybe in a month, maybe closer to winter, tumblr_pikiv7S7gx1romrx1o1_1280these details are unknown, but the need for a project that can not only support me, but also potentially a family in coming years, or tribe. Living by the tenets of Usufruct, it could potentially be exported to another location, on a different farm for a much longer period of time. With the right people, it could grow a small company offshoot, maybe agriculture related, or something more industrial like a village complex. I have kept in mind the intention for raising Viking longhalls on a small acreage, raw land, or already partially developed. Off grid infrastructure, and alternative energy could be established, wood stoves, and saunas installed, and permaculture gardens, silviculture, and animals can function integrally into bigger systems of sustainability. These are broader brushstrokes, and plans of the future, that need a lot of effort, and people time. They may also require land outright, bought in tandem with several contributors, but the intentions remain the same. A place that does not simply become a place to live in the country, but a permanent community that passes from my generation, and becomes better and more refined with time. I have seen it done, and I know thattumblr_piki9zdYKs1romrx1o3_1280 many of my readers have the same desires in their heart, so this is a medium for transmission to get it out into the open, that I am looking to start a new world, and these things are better done by the pack.
Those men and women with fierce dedication, trade skills, an industrious nature, strong ideation, and the perspicacity to work in ways that support the greater cause over the egoic self, should make themselves known, Write here
We need to raise new halls, grow our own food, and create the life that our young will inherit. High emotional intelligence, a well earned reputation and a strong dose of the mytho-poetic spirit will go a long way into investing in the community, and this is how it all begins, let us be the new inhabitants of the land!

From Atlantis to Marlbank: Philoxian Mythos

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Marlbank, a small eastern Ontario village of barely two hundred folks, now most known for it’s history as a concrete producer, and its annual lumberjack competition, once was the haven of a band of a gypsies, living on the waterfront of Lime Lake. Nested and invested in the woods that skirt Moneymore Rd, they started a large beeswax candle making factory, inside a century old barn on over 200 acres of mixed and limestone plain. On this land, were several pastures, man-made ponds, moraine valleys, and marl deposits. This was the central hub for the Philoxian operations during their heyday from the 80’s on-wards to the early 2010’s. A large mansion, tree-house, golf course, bakery and organic restaurant, craft workshop, cement factory, and wellness center were also incorporated into the landscape. The Philoxian kingdom was the brainchild of one man, but evolved into a whole community, inhabited by men, women, children, exotic animals, tourists, workers, musicians and artists. What started as a back-to-the-land movement, grew into an entire mythology of being. Hearkening back to ancestral traditions, and bridging new wave humanitarian ethics, the Philoxians fused together a blend of old cultural values, and aesthetics into their own reality, guided by love, and creation.

The original Philoxians were artistic creators, dreamers, farmers, talented musicians, crafters, workers, travelers, visionaries and bridgers of worlds. Their language and speech reminds one of Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi, in tone and ethic. A do-no-harm, ahimsa/Buddhist approach to living with the earth, and its creatures. Many of them catered to the fantastical world, of legends, pre-history, storytelling, and the youthful innocence found embodied in children. They wrote books of far fetched, real grit adventures in the South Americas and Arabic worlds, that would please any Castaneda or Coelho reader without disenfranchising the dogmas of the Qu’ran, the Bible, and ancient  Egyptian scrolls, all bound up together. Though their ideas were quite universalist, they were still rather refined, and carried a philosophy of living closely to the natural world as its main tenet. Members of the community grew productive vegetable, herb and fruit gardens, looked after the heartbeats of many animals in their sanctuary zoo, built natural infrastructure from indigenous resources like clay, wood and bio-cement. They wore natural clothing fibers, and played the music of nature, with old and new instruments, syncing up several ethnic styles into their house band.

I only discovered of the existence of ‘The Philoxians’ and their offshoots last year, and many important details have since emerged; The truths of what broke them apart, and the sobering realities of living among others in a community. The truth of the matter is what they did do, was more than they didn’t do, and rather than follow 17 Best images about painted milk cans on Pinterest ...idle paths of individualism chasing fame, status, profession, riches, or corporate interest. They chose a more modest path of sacred economy, trade, and adopted heritage, often taking pseudonyms, and promoted sustainability, spiritual arts, and good old fashioned, bronze age harmony and worship of the sacral. Their ideas did not rest simply in the realm of potential, but were manifested, and actualized in the material world, condensed down from the spiritual to the realm of the middle earth of humankind.

Like the great siberian shaman, santa klaus, and his winter elves, who were tinkerers and crafters, the Philoxians also had dexterity and skill. So they carved, painted, built, and tooled what their minds eye set them out to do. During the colder months of this Canadian climate, they spent time in their workshops, making children’s toys, painting fantasy-esque and storied art pieces, told stories, and phonetically rendered them down into books. They tended the beeswax warehouse, overwintered the many beasts that shared the land with them, and often traveled to the ancient spaces of the earth, pyramid temple cities, Mayan cenotes, the Egyptian deserts, cool utopian shores of Meso-america. One outstanding feature of the Philoxian kingdom was its animal haven.

Many old timers here in Marlbank remember the exotic zoo, for its camels, wallabies, llama, pigs, goats, wolves, bears, rhea birds, reticulated pythons, alpaca, tigers, tropical avifauna, goats and other furry, clawed or scaled beings. Some of these animals also made the news, like when the Australian wallaby escaped into the countryside of Marlbank, as well as the Siberian tiger, and the Alpaca. Sadly for the last, he was shot by a group of hunters, thinking it was a white tail deer. The story goes, that one of the iguana even started one of the fires the burned down the old farm house (accidentally), by knocking over a heat lamp. Fact or fiction?

Whether it is all true or not, the stories live on in remnants, in memories, in developed photographs, in legacy, and artifacts of which Ilahzandroff had many from his travels abroad. Egyptian metals, Mayan carvings, statues, crystals, and rare treasures, all kept in some kind of sacred world history museum. Their personal collections were some form of Ripleys believe-it-or-not assembly of objects, while the Philoxian stories are so steeped in mythos, that one has to engage a lofty imagination to comprehend such experiences. Luckily, as I read through many of Ilah’s stories in his Alpha, Mu, Omega book, I could directly relate to the peasant lifestyles he merged with surrounding Lake Atitlan in Guatemalan, the Arabic secrecy and hospitality, he experienced in Africa, or the mysterious Mayan landmarks and sanguine, often paradisical feelings of the tropical havens. I could easily empathize with his struggles and breakthroughs, the tragedies of sickness in a foreign country, the exposure to novel culture, the bliss of untamed spaces, and the nomadic, voyagers instinct that still rest deep within every human being to explore, go further, and learn something new everyday. Many of the sacred sites that Ilah, Tawlia, and their crew visited on their travels, I have actually been to in the world, for even as a younger man, I chose to see some of the world (on my own vocation), usually alone, and probing to the heart of the matter to really discover what was to be seen, felt and experienced. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn and moved by the Philoxian myth, because the way we each live our lives may also one day be interpreted, studied, influence others, provoke feeling, and be retold. So it is up to people like the Philoxians, with whom I can identify, to actually create the world we want to live in. In direct experience with karma, family, and the present moment.

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At the tail end of this winter, I became friends with Ilah’s ex wife Tawlia, and learned of his passing, and the recent sale of his house. With many years in honor and friendship between Tawlia and the Golden Bough Tree Farm. Space was offered to house the many Philoxian relics. With no place to go for the paintings, and because of my recent friendship with Tawlia and the interest in the many stories she shared of the Philoxian narrative, I suddenly became the curator of a Philoxian gallery and museum, now installed in a century old carriage house, at the tree farm where I also presently reside. The museum also houses the original Philoxian rocking unicorn, a feature of many trade shows, as well as several examples of the Philoxian signs, and old art pieces,  affixed plaques from archived newspapers, beeswax candles and holders, a light theater box, and one of Ilah’s last works, a 100 foot scroll telling his final visions for the continuation of the Philoxian greater work. I am now working to promote more interest in these relics, retelling some of the stories, and gallery and museum walks, which I feel would be highly attractive to like minded souls.

Aho,

*Here is an old video of Ilah talking about Philoxia for a feature called The Land Between; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rvRCBMjxh8

 

The Man Who “Did Nothing” in his Garden

There was an old Japanese rice farmer Masanobu Fukuoka: The man who did nothing | Food Freedomwith a cone hat, that used to live in the mountains, he also grew citrus and grains, but was most well know for his “do nothing” approach. An approach to agriculture that mimics the natural way of tending and farming the land. What less can I do?, he said, and sought out a way to develop a new Japanese methodology for growing crops. He scythed, gardened amongst the weeds, did not dig, broadcasted seeds covered in clay, and did not flood his rice, or terrace the hills. Along with Geoff Lawton, Bill Mollison, and my friend Steven Martyn ‘The Sacred Gardener’, Masanobu has been one of my biggest inspirations, not for his extremism (or relative simplicity by ancient standards), but for his ease of approach. The zen of gardening. Now, of course, this kind of gardening may have a special place in Japan, but there has been good evidence and experimentation that is has been able to remediate other lands, in several other countries, so I thought I would give it a try.

So this year I decided to build a small garden plot, under 800 sq.feet with these principles as a research garden. On a fallow hay field, I scythed with an old Croatian blade, dropped the hay in situ, mulched with maple leaves, old hay and straw bales from the land, rotten wood punk (redrot), worms, and some light chicken tillage. I did not have to hurt my back, or scrape or weed anything. When the ground had baked sufficiently and started to smother the plants underneath, I planted into the thick mulch by opening a hole with my hand, and putting the plant in. I chose some miner plants to send deep stalks down through the clay; dinosaur kale, and a variety of cabbages and lettuce, other brassicas and nightshade or solanaceous plants like purple cauliflower, romanesco, heirloom tomatoes, tobacco, wonderberry, peppers.

In the beginning, during three separate seeding trials indoors, the flux of weather above and below frost, even until may caused two die offs, of nearly a third of my seed stock. Some things were hardened off too early, and others wilted in the cold, became sunburned, or became eaten by birds, or chickens or a hungry goat. Some species simply didn’t take to the raw field, which has remained uncultivated for over a decade, and only ever grown hay and pioneering plants. I imagine these would be similar issues my ancestors would have faced before fancy technological innovations for even the small scale producer. Dealing with cold shocks, overcooking in the greenhouse, vegetarian animals who nip a bite from every plant, seed viability, and the malnutrition of rocky, clayey fields. We don’t only learn from mistakes, but they are definitely a teaching towards how to do it right the next time.


So far, my garden is not ‘doing much’, but what I can report is that some of the weed composition has changed, and this feels like change. Many of the kale plants have endured severe pendulum affects in the weather, and have established themselves from 1in. starts to more robust leaves, the lettuce seems to be thriving on the periodic rain that falls which is more than last year at this time during a drought. A few rare tomatoes are fortifying themselves but not yet showing fruit, a few tobacco and zucchini starts escaped the hungry eyes of the ruminant goat, and still have a chance, and I have introduced some Shisito, Doehill, Chinese 5-color, and Banana peppers. My chicken flock have loyally tilled the ground on the north side of my garden and opened space for me to broadcast quinoa, amaranth and chia. Not much is sprouting yet, and I wonder if the ground is just too compacted, grass matted or is being eaten by the fliers. On the good side, a few sunflowers have sprouted from the seeds that did not get eaten by the chickens that I throw into the chicken tractor every day.

I expected action to be very slow, and there is change, at least to the soil composition, and biology. Many spiders have moved in, and over time the pH will shift when more organic matter is mixed in to the plot. I don’t know if I will see the fruits of this garden, and it is easy to see how the domestication of growing food means a lot more work, but usually a higher yield. The moral and spiritual question is how much to interfere?

Another lasagna style garden, growing adjacent to the masanobu fukuoka plot is thriving with a little more involvement. With triple layer sheet mulching of cardboard, hay and maple sugar leaves, a longer aging process, the ground underneath is more willing to accept to younger seedlings. Vermiculture, aged manure, mycelium and minerals have been amended to this garden. Though my involvement with this plot so far has been bare minimal, and is primarily the focalization of a friend who is more skilled in soil biology as her primary study, it is another research project, and showing better success rates in these circumstances. I am learning a lot from this garden as well, on how to amend soil with native earth minerals, how to passively bake the weed seed bank in the ground, and soften grass mat. I am also humbled by its easy approach, and simple science, on something that I may not have intuited in 100 years of gardening. There has been a serious effort in this garden to convert the soil microlife, with yield as a second priority. It is to prove that there does need to be a remediation and transition phase from old ground to productive market garden, and one can not miss steps, but we don’t have work violently with the earth either.

To supplement any harvest from the gardens, I have been invested in the foraging and gathering tradition, learning from a wealth of different sources, my main teachers right now being Samuel Thayer, Daniel Vitalis, Euell Gibbons, and the matriarch of this farm, Johanna Koeslag. This is primarily what I have been bringing to market and what has filled my tables. Initiating the season with will tree saps; maple, and birch, then with the first thaws, gathering fiddleheads, ramps, young horsetail, nettle, and trout lilies, giving way to pheasant back mushrooms, morels, and kentucky coffee beans from the forest, amaranth, dandelion root and lambs’ quarters from the compost zones, milkweed from the meadows, and cattail and marsh marigold or bullrush from the swamp. I was lucky to find a few abandoned eggs, of the robin and turkey, but only enough for my breakfast, and I’ve had my eyes on some maral root for medicinal tinctures.

When I gather, I do so in a respectable way that I feel my ancestors would do. Not often taking the first plant if there are few, or if they are ephemerals like mushrooms, practicing not lethal harvest of the wild leeks and cattails, and studying several sources of plant i.d. and conscience foraging practices of wild herbs and forest vegetables, learning to only take a small portion of the most edible parts. It is one tradition to offer pieces of oneself in return to the land, like hair or some genetic material, this also makes me feel more rooted and grounded to place, I collect my hair and leave it in trees for birds to gather for nests. Prior to a lot of my foraging experience, I planted one quarter of a million trees of varying species in four countries, and carried rare, medicinal and shamanic plant seeds to give to several more. I think it is important for there to be a reciprocating relationship with the planetary habitat, and everything is equal karma.

So that is where I am at now, and I am taking each day with a dose of sobriety of the evolution of this project, and what becomes of it. Most of permaculture is design and observation, and less about what you are actually doing, because by its very nature, permaculture is mimicking nature. This is my relationship to farming, as a steward and active participant in human ecology, in lessons on living not only lightly, but more capably with the land I inhabit.

:ARAHARI:

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Hail!
Sköll the wolf that chases the sun reigns in his solar power, and at last swallows his feed. The nights of Hati now swell as Máni is pursued into a new night and a new day. The mark of blazing runes burn from my heart into the world of men and imbibe the teaching runes of the solar :Y:ear as it revolves on itself, and travels back into the sea of night. Today, Allfather and :URth:mother condense in the realm of mythos and magic, and I learn to put a new foot to bare ground where I have not walked before, there where power meets potential and the potency of a magic moment calls in a new reality for me to enter. Odins testing and the joy of Thor live inside me, balanced with Freyjas curious lust and will to power that carves a course where I move in the greater saga of it all. Wyrd and the well seethe with new meaning, the lores of runes speak in loaded spells :ARAHARI: I come to visit the old halls and the new, forever evolving, forever growing, protecting the powers that looms inside, and to defend if necessary, that which must be preserved. Carry the sun at your back and move in a world without fear, weakness or upheaval, and be prepared for anything. Change is the cycle of Jera, and only adaptation will make you stronger, more virile, self reliant, and impeccable. Souls rooted like staves in fresh earth, with thick bark and branches that will outgrow even its own forest. Move in tribal fashion, backed by rigorous self-work, love for brother and sister, skill and orientation. Functioning as does a finely tuned motor, that :R:ides into uncharted yet familiar territory. The sun takes its longest journey above our fields and it is time to open our mouths against the sky and swallow our fill with its vices and virtues, to clearly define where we stand, to make up our mind, and walk in the hallways of all:ways where are greater men, and the Gods imagine us worthy of them. :RISE: to this :SHINE: and set it motion a great ritual of self to SELF, a rite of passage for your own :S:oul to :S:tream :S:unward.

The Strenuous Life

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“What is happiness?” Nietzsche asked. “It is the feeling of power increasing.” You can increase your power by increasing your skillfulness, your competence, and your confidence. And you can build all these strengths through The Strenuous Life.

You can do more with your life.

But winning will never come easy…. And training yourself to do more, to be a better human, a more competent man, a more empowered woman, to get stronger, to break addictions, to accomplish more in your day, to keep a garden and take care of animals, to hold your own in a community that calls on you to serve others, to start and maintain a side business hustle, a website, and a study, to apprentice your skills, to build a healthy marriage, to hold a strong spiritual practice, to figure it out on your own, to rigorously examine the way you live each moment of every day, and to bring life to bitter seeds takes, this takes time and a surmountable amount of courage.

These are things I have failed at during different times of my life. I have let down my brothers and sisters, I have seen social politics fray my market garden project, my plants have died, and some times old vices have attracted me. My spiritual arts have been neglected for weeks for lack of the right feeling, and I’ve struggled to understand the sex feminine. Even the internal work felt like mundane and unnecessary effort at rare times in my life. Yet through all these, I have grown in tremendous capacities, in my ability to do, and be at very high levels. I have set deep roots that entwine with my brothers and sisters lives that can not be dug up, I have thick bark for skin, and my strength, creative force, will, and honor have become identifier marks of my own personal mythos. I have held a wife to embrace the ancient role of the husband, a provider, protector, and lover. Now I tend the lives diligently of not only myself but also other animals, and a garden of plenty. I offer my highest virtues to peers and my tribe and keep strong boundaries against those who wish to tear down. I live a beautiful life in the country, and for the simple pleasures that affords I am grateful. I do not carry debt, and am free from any addictions. I feel the support of my family, that had to be earned, through trust, feelty, hard work, humility and patience yoked together with a strong dose of good karma. My spiritual practice has become refined and potent, as I am informed by the yogic arts. I freely travel, and stay put. I work for what I need, savor what I want, and spend my money wisely. My body has healed and feels strong, powerful, and virile. I can perform the works of three adults and maintain this capacity all year, even if my health becomes compromised.

Before all this came sacrifice, and strenuosity. The need fire kindled for a life spent that would outlive my actual existence here. The call to live greatly, to start the world, the only one you inhabit. To live by the tenets of myth, poetry and archetypes and actually seek the person you want to be by starting where you are. It came through being tough, working hard, dealing with setback on a constant basis, breaking down illusions even if it ostracized me sometimes, navigating the murky nature of other peoples personality, not settling for anything less than the best quality of life I can attain, or letting my boundaries be invaded. My life was forged through radical self love, following instinct, determination to see a means to its end, yoking ties with other allies to mutually bolster our efforts in the world, through joining men’s clubs, community circles, traditional guilds, volunteering my time and labor in 16 countries, intensive study on all important worldly matters, teaching to people that didn’t know me, and learning from anyone I came into contact with.

So what does it all boil down to? It means living a life where you can go to sleep at night knowing you have done more than just enough, that other people have been moved by their experiences with you, to live without the constant regret and dreaming of an easier life, and the complaints of everything that is going wrong, and actually just doing the work that deals with how hard it can be. To embrace struggle as does any other animal through adaptation, cleverness, and grace. To hold within your heart for the moment a feeling a well being, and believing you are strong, standing open, and animate. There is no other feeling like living all the way alive, than making the leap through the hurdles of fear, self-loathing, intimidation, and boredom. You can have more with your life. You can see the world. You can get to that place where you are king or queen, or god of your own domain. I have figured a few potent truths out, and have seen dthe trapline, even been caught in it, but there is only one way to make it through this life, and that is with fierce joy in the face of all the goes dark. Everything you do is relevant, but don’t just think about it, act like it, and keep going!

 

Storied Seeds

 

edited 06/21/19
Storied Seeds is a manifestation market garden/wildcrafting business I have taken on which answers the needs for cleaner, sustainable, local terroir. From fungus to root, herb to medicine, and the flora of fruit and vegetable. Each seeds has its own story and its own skill with which to cultivate. This is a project held in the Marlbank township of Eastern Canada, and I am open to other crew to help me. Taking it’s name from the soil on which I live, the marl of this earth nourishes us, and the plants and forest that have inched in a living here, which influences the character of this endeavor.

This year is focused on one small plot market garden and wildcraft foraging and gathering, while integrating permaculture systems like rain catchment, a windmill water irrigation system, passive planting, microbiome polyculture, utilizing mining plants, and hardy pioneers (brassicas and solanaceae), three sisters plant guilds, a chicken tilled garden for grains, and biodynamic amending. The garden is created using lasagna style mulching systems using no mow, no-till, no digging, in the vein of Masanobu Fukuoka’s “do-nothing methods”. I have experimented with mycelium like the Stropharia ‘Garden Giant’ and ‘Yellow Morel’ . The land sits on the back of the Canadian shield minor, where deep tap-rooted trees and field plants bore down to access the rich store of minerals and crystal energies below, to pull them up to the surface. The forest grows with several volunteer saplings of locusts, maples, pines and cedars, with agro-forested plantations of domestic nut, bean and fruit trees including hickory, oak, black walnut, hazel, buckeye, chestnut, kentucky coffee, pear, cheery and apple, interspersed with a whole gamut of competing grasses, ferns, marsh herbs, and cane shrubs like those of the rubus and ribes.

I am augmenting any harvested produce, from planted seed and starts, with wild edibles throughout the farmers season, as the foragers basket is filled with each passing wave of available pickings; ramps, coniferous and poplar buds, berries, pine pollen, edible flowers, wild ginger, cattails, flowering plants, medicinals, mushrooms and rosehips amongst a band of others. The wild proponent is a strong aspect of living with food sovereignty on the land, and getting into a deeper relationship with nature, and understanding our ecological balance as the human animal. Rather than ‘leaving no trace’, actually leave one’s best trace and vibrating to the frequency of the bear, the hare, the insects, or the songbirds. What is cultivated by our hands in the soils is shared seeds, heritage lineages of plants, farmers market favorites, rare and odd foods, winter storage crops, diverse salad mixes, sweets, bitters, starches, and proteins. With the aim to promote diversity without the loss of continuity.

Look for my table, and take a drive down a country road to find us vending at the Belleville farmers market, the oldest farmers market in Canada, and at the Black Cat cafe in Tamworth, both in Eastern Ontario, as well as on the Haudenosaunee (Kanienʼkehá꞉ka) reserve, at the Shannonville farmers market in Tyendinaga, to bridge connections between growing and providing indigenous food crops and popular domestic staples.

I follow the biodynamic planting calendar for advices on when to plant roots, fruits, flowers and herbs, and to understand the patterns of the sun and moon on the garden plots, so as to keep eyes fit for observation of pattern, and the workings of energetic forces. These methods espoused by Steiner, together with the permaculture principles gathered from near and far, from the great teachers and 6 years of experience form the groundwork for my practice this year, as I look to not only change what is on our table, but change how it got there each week, through deliberation, care, method, intuition, and talent.Order of ATWA: Moondog | Enough About Human Rights

As mentors and learners, the community at large exists beyond the stewards of the land, and extends into every weed that sprouts from in between the leaves of a neatly planted bed. There is a wilderness in the garden that is the best teacher of all things one needs to know. No two years are the same. We live in intentional community to experience our true selves as mirrors unto others, and confront the reality of shared existence on one planet, in a harmonious way, from which we are called into a sacred participation of earth care, and people care, one full of story, and alignment with the greater causes for concern, a life well lived and long. As the ephemeral state of affairs in the garden takes on its annual cycles, we are here watching and participating in the novel becoming, and finding perennial wisdom in the changes that happen to inside us as we go.

 

Incubation

I’m here, as the soilfrost weans its way out of the ground, the budding trees are becoming ripe with potential, and soon we’ll be breathing in pine pollen, harvesting ramps and swatting at mosquitoes. This winter season did not have the lightest grip on me and mine, while my beloved and I weathered the snow, rime and sleet at 66 North, in Iceland. We volunteered almost the entirety of our winter in the service of working on sub-arctic farmsteads, and co-living with the farm animals the island is famous for; the viking sheep, the icelandic horse, and chickens. Two months in the tundra had us bound inside on some days when the climate simply would not permit travel, but in between endless games of crazy eights, icelandic coffee smorgas’ and spending time with the sheep, we made other time to hike in geothermal areas, get really cold, then get really warm, bathing naked in hot pots. I also took the oath, and got married in the Arctic, to my lovely wife Rachel. She is my songbird, garden partner, soil geek, wild lover, and best homesteading wife I could want for. We tied the knot in private, up north, and are diving in to a life filled with rich new experiences, and some weedy ones that we don’t quite understand. We both live a low impact lifestyle, semi-off grid, in southern Ontario country. We haul water, chop wood, plant trees, eat organic farmed food that we either grow ourselves or source from farmers market, and supplement that with wild foods from our ecosystem and ‘backyard’. We also keep some pretty interesting poultry, four Indonesian birds for egg laying, and a small flock of Silkie chickens, as well as a few pioneer breeds and a new addition to our homestead, the alpine nubian nanny goat, Calypso. I’m looking forward into teaching more yoga this year, while my wife pursues her coursework in soil biology. Together we have also birthed a new project, being a medium scale permaculture garden, with out good friend. Look for us at the Belleville and Tyendinaga markets. Life has actually become better and better, conditionally, since my last posting. More time in the being, while the doing also becomes absorbed more internally, with the interesting side effect of writing less and less, and actually seeing more progress towards the living dream.

If a winter vacation in Iceland taught me anything, it was to never take for granted what is always at home. The more stable community, and the hearts and character of the people we have come to know, either together or through mutual contact, has nourished a far deeper root, tapped for strength and sustainability when we find ourselves lucky to find like minds, in a collective society that is so fragmented. Reading Sapiens and Homo Deus last season, also put a few things on the table for me, and shifted many perspectives of we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. I also had to encounter some pretty weedy and thorny aspects of myself, during the long nights and short days in Iceland, alone with my wife in a country we did not speak the language, very far away from anything familiar or homely. Perhaps the seasonal metaphors of solstice and solar deprivation, made us thirst even more for the light, and the brighter aspects of living. The kind of rejuvenation that seeds know about after a harsh entombment under deep snow, to be re:birthed with a spring of flexibility, breathing room, and upward empowerment.

I feel pretty blessed, by love? by god? by nature? probably all of them and no names, but just overall goodness for the life I am leading and the places I’ve been, and this moment right here, writing to the anonymous, and finding it very comfortable to be sitting in a warm room, with a full belly, and comfortable attachments. I had not always been able to say that in all my posts, and I believe this is something I have worked for. I think this has also come from a deeper self-love, and the need for preservation.

I have not always taken the easiest path, and I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and the way I’ve done that is through strenuosity and making a lot of mistakes early. This was not the most comfortable way of getting here, and now perhaps I am allowing for a slightly less stressful and gentler existence. I’ve enter what I am referring as an incubatorship period, which may last 1-5 years, where my wife and I have come to land on a farmstead tree nursery, of which I have been settling on since October. I say settling because there are many changes of lifestyle and modality, that have had to shift to make this happen, and it is tonight that I’ve actually landed. We are ‘incubating’ here on the permission of the farm owners, who have collectively run it for 40 years, where we are in a position of introducing new routines, small business operations, animals, ideas, and effort onto the land. Now, we occupy a tiny home, built of Cascadian pine, oak, and cedar, with minimalist aesthetics, and it is centered as our zone 1 in permaculture approach. North of us is the barn/washing station for our crops and main homestead and compost outhouse, east of us lives our chickens and solitary goat, south of us is the market garden field and pasturage, and west of us is an early carriage house, all of these features being easily within our management zone, and allows a lot of range of control over the comings and goings of the farm. We are still graciously under the direction of our hosts and their tree nursery business, which we deal in like crypto-currency, is our main focus of livelihood, helping to maintain trees through four seasons and twice a year digging them for Canada wide loyal supporters.

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We aim to raise enough money for our own Mongolian style yurt, maybe this year, or the next, but ultimately a haven that allows us full privacy within the community, a safe space that we can grow as a couple, or potentially introduce a third member into our family. We both enjoy modest living and seek to go deeper into the practice, of little to no plastic use, no wifi, cooking on a woodstove, getting our water from the well, raising animals (as companions, teachers, food), and enjoy the subtleties of country lifestyle. I am also deeply coming into awareness of the finer things of life, like the life one lives in their homestead, being able to do this with your beloved and to share an existence that gets us into the garden everyday, working with virtue in our hearts and dirt on our clothes. Then we relax in our rustic setting, nothing is quite perfect but everything is alright. There are kinks in the system, and we just navigate bearing those in mind, and I am learning how to just relinquish the need to micro-manage every aspect of my life, and give over more control to others, to nature’s random forces, to the community as a whole, and especially my wife. To be more compromising without being compromised, and to honor the woman that is her and no one else. We are each other’s mirrors and can call out each others slips and ‘little schmoos’ as Ram Dass would put it, or call on each other when intimacy is most needed. The folky, hygge country lifeway would be pretty accurate to how we see things, but not too seriously.

Honor Your Woman

The farm, aptly named The Golden Bough, is the banner under which all this takes place, and Storied Seeds being an offshoot from the main branch. My wife and I have taken under wing with the market garden project, along with our neighbor, to fuel the rest of the year when the perennial trees are not high on the priority. We will be vending throughout the year at the farmers market on the Tyendinaga Mohawk territory, and the Belleville farmers market, while attempting to bridge the gaps between people and sustainable, organic food, and supplementing our farm production with wild edibles, because this is really where our food systems originate, and what sustained us long before the agrarian age. The Storied Seeds carry a message of ethical food production, non-lethal harvest, bio-diversity, and fresh offerings to those who want real food, herbs, and medicines all year. We look forward to long hot days under the sun, and evenings at clay lakes swimming in white waters, goats and chickens working alongside us while we plant and harvest crops, and getting to the right sources off the farm into a hundred homes. Meanwhile we don’t forget the practice of being here now, and never losing sight what is just with us in the moment, and that everything is being provided within our karmic returns. The bundle of time, remuneration, and satisfaction switch priorities as the yearly mood changes, and this is where it has taken us now, and gives everyone who is still reading here 7 years on a taste of what is happening.

Taking Root: Maturation from an Annual to Perennial Based Lifestyle

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Early in the year when the maple sap flowed from wounds in their bark, the grounds thawed, and animals came out of hibernation, I challenged myself to entertain a market gardener role on a productive bio-dynamic garden based on the agricultural principles of Rudolf Steiner. Fusing magic with method, technique with time based calendrical sowing and reaping. I stored aside most of what I knew about tending the soil and turned an eye to the stars to learn the bio-dynamic methods of annual crop rotation for the production of a farmers market store of fruits and vegetables. This is where I gleaned all the customer experience from those who support the organic and bio-dynamic food movements. In time, I was able to provide the finest heirloom and cleanest food from the cultivated ground, and some supplementary foods from the wild ranges surrounding my trailer home. Crops were picked on Fridays and Tuesday for the community supported agriculture programs, and then kept vital until the following day. Energies had their origin from the source but were hastily expended outwards.

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Managing a market garden means being on plant time, and this is one interesting aspect of farming, and my trans-continental permaculture journey, adapting to several different time zones, paces, and routines. In the garden, the conditions of the soil, rain, sun, and airborne nutrients (as well as social events) decide when to work, and when it is permitted to rest. Over two seasons of this recognition of yearly gardening schedule, and the greater five years of my travels, a pattern of impermanence also becomes prevalent. The annual lifestyle carries with it habits that are born, sown, cultivated, maintained, and reaped, to then lie dormant or go through a period of flux, adaptation or stasis for awhile, these annual cycles practiced in the garden, also have sway in the way I lived the rest of my life for five years. Thee annual, or oft times seasonal opportunities or experiences were also en-woven through all aspects of it, from part time farm placements, to in-temporary partners, highly mobile nomadic travel, short-lasting friendships, and overall a sense of shallow rootedness to a relationship with life and its inhabitants.

Now, I have been experiencing yet another turn of the tides, a new arrows trajectory or planetary perspective. This has seemed to happen in three to six year phases of my existence. This switch in conscious foci has enveloped me with new commitments, more adaptive cultural strategies of living on this planet, and has engendered a deeper root stratum with which to hold fast to the shifting sands of time. It is the transformation, (to use the agricultural metaphor, into one more in line with permaculture), from an annual based lifestyle to a perennial one. This means stronger and more integral relationships with others, my partner for instance, new archetypal energies of the settler, rather than the wanderer/lover/fool, which I have dance with before. Moving ever more intimately with the sacred masculine role of the provider-protector, and getting a better hold on the patterns of one place, one at a time. It can be likened to saving seeds and continuing their lineage for many years into your garden or food forest, or planting perennial crops and trees to last the bridging between generations.

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I think the metaphor of annual cycles becoming perennial has highly symbolic appliance into our personal lives, as the world scrambles to make sense of rapid change, and nuclear individualism threatens the community at large while we attempt to live long, healthy and sustainable lives, ones that I might add are in direct primacy with immediate experience while having an eye on the future of things to come. In also entails less reliance on a consumer oriented cycle of buying and selling, following yearly trends in society, and constantly halting the progress of the innate natural flow of place based living. It is like pouring grit into a well oiled machine that then needs to be taken apart, cleaned and started all over, or continually cutting down forests for gain and preventing the diversity of life to relish in its late expressions.

As I have observed my fellows who have come to the same place in life that I now look out from, and settled into a more refined, provident, and sanguine existence with their respective partners or children, it has waxed and grown in sense to me of the natural proclivity to do just that. Not to domesticate the species human, that is confine to the domicile, but to actually engender, the more lucid and genuine connections to life, love, and all that comes with it. To stay authentic in a very edited world, I have felt the need to slow down, to find myself where I stand, and work on that right where it is, using what I have within arms reach at first, and extending from the trunk to grow many branches back into the middle world, never struggling too hard for survival, preserving comfort while striving to get deeper in, more involved, and altogether a more human being.

24 months ago, this seed had not yet been planted and stratified in my mind to gestate into a full grown plan. I had been happy to simply follow loosely guided routes into the unfolding day with my own self styled navigational system, primarily one of nomadism, wanderlust, novel habits, and open ended relationships. I thought this might simply go on forever, but there was always a feeling that it could all change course, and the seas of fate would wash me onto another shore, maybe it would be accidental pregnancy of a lover, or mental breakdown, a rite of passage, or the sobering view of the worlds problems with a direct call to action for its citizens to do the work, and stop wasting time. It may have also come in the form of maturation, a rise of fathering instincts, and the realization of simple comforts that can be derived from seeing the fruit of your labor ripen before your eyes long term. The completely new habitation of mind, when yoked to the greater loom, and facing a new world, one in which you are not just yourself, the ego dissolves into another, be it your wife, tribe or child. We become cut of the greater homespun, and share a more integrated weave in the textile. Photo 2018-09-06, 3 30 57 PMThe title of ‘From Annual to Perennials is also a bit of word spinning on my behalf to describe the way I have amalgamated my experiences with earth stewardship, permaculture gardening, and long term habit forming creature comfort lifestyles, where there is less stress on the individual and a dispersal of energy and output among the pack living openly in its habitat. This openness creates space for innovation, culture forming, rest, creativity, and ritual, and serves as a free ground for spiritual exploration beyond mere survival and supplement. As we engender more room to grow, and cultivate our lives from the perennial standpoint, we see life as a more permanent place to live, and therefore treat it differently than we would if we were just passing migrants in a foreign land. When we become native to the land, and experience the subtle changes of years, these interests start to ferment and acquire even richer meaning, which eventually builds heritage, sustainability, and wisdom, which is expressed in the forms of family, legacy, and myth.

 

That Time I Didn’t Take the Toad Venom

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About a year ago, I encountered a man who supposedly had something I was looking for. I had been passively seeking out any shamanic practitioners using the meso-American toad venom here in Canada, for healing, therapeutic, as well as psychedelic ceremony. The little know bufo alvarius or Bufo Toad, known to spend years underground in the Sonoran desert around Hermosillo and the chaparral of northern Mexico. The infamous ‘Sapo’, poison or medicine depends on dosage. It is administered into the blood stream through small burns in the skin that are scratched away and smeared with the secretion of the bufo toad, which is collected from its glands. The effects of which are blood cleansing, oft hallucinatory, clairvoyant, and heat inducing. The flush of the saponin chemical is what takes hold of the body. However, this won’t be the space to pontificate about the biology of the toad, nor the chemical constituents of its venom and how it affects the nervous system, nor is it about the long held tradition of use by the Aztecan Indians for visionary and hunting magic, but it is about the kind of relationships we form with the psychopomp, who in other world cultures also fulfills the role of the shaman, the trickster, or the medicine man.

In this global culture, people who are interested in magic and psychoactive medicines/drugs are more and more interested in travel to far off countries and cocoons of the world; the Amazonian rainforest, the Mexican desert, the highlands of the Andes, or the Siberian arctic, and some choose to stay at home, for localized ritual settings, with imported ingredients and plants shipped from the source countries. In this instance, the latter option was more practical for me as I had only returned from Mexico that winter and was not ready to return yet. I found a man, who told me he had some of the dried venom, and made ceremonies in a small yoga studio in a city near where I lived. I decided to book a session with him, I sent the deposit, and he returned a mail with vague directions to the studio, a date was arranged, and I had reserved a spot, I was committed. No turning back now…

On the day of the ceremony, I spent the morning in the garden thinking about what lay ahead of me, this calmed my mind into the potential changes that the frog venom is known to induce in a persons behavior, I knew I could not control the situation once I received it, but meditating on it seemed to create a sense of grace about it all. I arrived at the place of the studio, but only to see several commercial buildings in a kind of generic outlay fringing a large parking lot in a highly urban setting. The name of the yoga studio was no where apparent on any of the business signs, so I ended up calling the man of the hour with further questioning. When I looked up from the call, he was on the other side of the glass in one of the shops ahead of me, itself the least decorated, with no signage, only an A5 printed paper advertising for a therapeutic treatments, and an impromptu office space. He unlocked the door and we shook hands awkwardly. His grip was shaky as he held a Tim Hortons cup in the other hand, obviously much too caffeineated for 8 in the morning. His beady stare seemed to be like insect eyes, which were red from either severe lack of sleep or misuse of opiates. He started to complain about a couple of other individuals that canceled last minute for the ceremony, and discouraged me from joining this one, asking if I would like to reschedule. He led me to the ‘studio’ which resembled a warehouse or factory with high industrial ceilings and concrete walls. The ambiance was not particularly inviting, I rolled out my yoga mat in the center of the room but he insisted I should recline against the wall. He turned on the radio, which was a chaotic strain of brazilian music that was too intense for the mood. Something felt off, in this place, in this man, in the whole fluidity of the ritual, it just did not carry the consciousness that I expected from the use of a sacred medicine.

He exited the room, but it felt like he exited the engagement of the ceremony completely, then another man arrived and met with the same nonchalant hospitality, and was ushered into the studio with me to await the beginning of the rite. The man came back and set out a cloth and set upon it with mysterious looking snuff pipes, and unlabeled mason jars, then turned the music down at request. He scrutinized me for having eaten a breakfast of oats and cacao some hours prior, as this was not rote for the ritual. Apparently fasting was the protocol, of which I was not told beforehand. We were both asked if we desired to continue with the ceremony, the irony was relevant to me, because I instantly asked myself the same question. I had come here because I had pre-meditated this moment for years, yet now I felt a strange air about this whole operation, and actually did not feel quite comfortable. I acquiesced to my better judgment, as did the other man beside me. The sapo man, whom I shall keep anonymous waved his hands and commenced an improvised ‘four doors ritual’ that if not for the cultural language setting, was simply a charlatan attempt at the sacred, made in haste and which such error and lack of reverence, that I instantly lost the sense of grace and humility of presence that could have been preserved pre-ritual, and instead experienced a kind of commodified and watered down version of any brand of known shamanic workings I knew about.

I changed my mind, how I let myself be burned and poisoned by someone as unconscious as this. His demeanor was not the type of a wise medicine worker, his attitude was aggressive and his pace was rushed, he lacked the virtues or vitality of someone who used psychedelic plants and animal substances for self betterment and spiritual growth. His physical representation was like that of someone who did not take care of themselves, or used too many drugs irresponsibly. Maybe I was overseeing the scene, but with matters of this nature, I needed to temper me ego that I could get this sapo in me and talk about it afterwards, and come back to my sense of well being, and the ever important set and setting, that now had everything to do with my decision. While he was burning the first stick to mark the first ‘gate’, I told him that I would actually prefer to wait for the venom until another day. His disappointment came out more like resentment, so he proceeded with the other man who was of a more ordinary civilized type, to burn the gates and smear the sapo into his arm. He asked me if I would prefer to use the hape snuff, so I went with it, I had not come this way for nothing, and I had used the brazilian tree snuff before with interesting experiences. I took the snuff pipe in one of my nostrils and he blew the grey calcined powder through me, then the other side of the nose. Then I received two drops of iboga root extract in each eye, an eyedrop tincture for hunting magic which made my eyes burn…

The burn was lovely mind you, and the snuff was not altogether unpleasant, I felt a lightness of my skull and a loftiness in my entire body as it tingled with electricity and high vibratory energy. If it were not for the industrial style roof, it felt like my body could float out of the room and with closed eyes, I had sensual feelings of being in lush jungle with high canopy, launching from the ground and soaring above it, but I just couldn’t seem to transcend the rift between the physical reality of the studio and the green jungle plantation that tried to present itself. I lay in serene personal silence for twenty or so minutes before being asked if I was alright. I was definitely feeling good. I just focused on my yogic breath, while the man beside me seemed to be enduring some deep discomfort, which eventually led an air of anxiety to the whole scene as the man with the sapo kept knocking on the door of the rest room to ask if he was still breathing. He came out later sweating profusely, and the two started talking about various other chemicals and psychotropic plants they had used, while I simply remained present in the room, and eventually observed the snuff pipes and the mason of hape powder, of which I purchased a couple grams.

This time I did not take the toad venom, the effects of which I had observed in documentarial style footage of the Mexican indigenous and sourced from shamanic plant books by Christian Ratsch, and Terence McKenna. Now was not my time, nor did I know when that time would come, but I learned a lesson from not taking the poison’, in that it is highly imperative to be centered and aware at all times, and think for yourself when it comes to matters of the heart, and the nervous system in this case. That the guru, shaman, psychopomp can also deceive and embody the shadow side of the archetype, the trickster or huckster, out to glean their own personal interests before providing a bridge for healing and transformational experience. It is the plant, or the animal substance that is doing the real great work, not the person, they are merely an agent that purveys these hard to forage antidotes for us to experience, and it serves us well to not back down on our higher intuition and even or lower ‘gut feeling’, when it involves the dynamic interplay of medicinal magic and egoic personalities. Trust the spirit, and the heart when it comes to these things and you will remain unharmed.