Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rough Times at Rough Branch. (Request for help!)

This is an e-mail I recently sent out to some friends about a garden project with which I need assistance--there's still plenty of room for helpers! If you have time and inclination, all assistance will be gratefully accepted!

From: kxm
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 11:05:19 AM
Subject: Rough Times at Rough Branch. (Request for help!)

2008 was the "Year that Wasn't" out at Rough Branch,* but I'm hoping to call on some good-natured good will to see if I might turn the situation around.

Back in the olden days, when folks needed a barn raised or to complete some other big project, they called on their community for help, and folks would come together to get what needed done, done.

The Amish still do it, and so do the rest of us, albeit rarely to raise a barn. I find myself in need of some serious help, and I'm hopeful that some of you may think that the following proposition sounds like a fun time, because, you know, it could be!

Rough Branch Wall-Building Work Day!

I need to terrace my garden into three flat sections, and build a retaining wall along the north side of the garden to control water flow, as well as create a usable bed on the side of the garden which I intend to fill with native plants that attract beneficial insects. David Geisler, owner of Gorgeous Gardens and a kind friend, will be directing the project, since my math skills are abysmal, and my engineering skills are questionable at best.

If you and your kith and kin are willing to come help me, even for an hour or two, during the day of Saturday, April 18, I'll provide some food and beverage at the end of the day (you can come back for it if you need/want to). It will involve digging, lugging rocks, lugging retaining wall block, cutting retaining wall block, tamping down rock, driving metal stakes into the ground, and moving dirt, so it won't be easy work, and it's gonna take a full day.

But many hands make light the labor! (And the job more fun!)

In return for your labor, I'll provide some lunch (though this may be a bit utilitarian), and then we'll have a nice feast at the end of the day, and, yes, I will provide beer. I have to discuss details with David (like start & end times), and will provide them as soon as I know. Please let me know if you're willing and able to help out (and what time, if you know) because if I can't assemble a work crew, the project can't go forward. David is giving me a nice price, but it assumes that I'll be providing peoples and comestibles. :-)

With love and gratitude,


Generosity begins with our recognition of our debt to others. -Master Hsing Yun

* Flagrantly stolen from one of Wendell Berry's "mad farmer" poems, "Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, the Mad Farmer Secedes From the Union," Rough Branch is the name of my "farm" (you can call it a garden, I call it a farm).

Howdy y'all!

I talked to David, and we're on for Saturday the 18th. I've tried to delete those of you who said that you are not available next Saturday, but apologize if I left you on the list and you already said you can't help. I saved e-mail responses, but I forgets sometimes when people tell me things.

So -- David says I should have folks start to show up around 9 AM, and he anticipates that we'll work until something like 3 PM or so, depending on how much help we have, how efficient we are, and any snafus. Please reply and let me know if you can help, and WHEN. I have one person down for 12-2 (that's you, Steve), and a few general yesses and maybes. Ideally, it would be good to spread folks out throughout the day, but hey, I'll take the help when I can get it!

As I say, there will be foods and drinks after we're done (mom's helping with that), and we'll have something to nosh on for lunch.

Many thanks!


Focus, not on the rudenesses of others, not on what they've done or left undone, but on what you have & haven't done yourself. ~ Dhammapada, 4

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Why is this place called Rough Branch?

Rough Branch is a reference to Wendell Berry's "mad farmer" poems. Berry is an agrarian populist poet, and advocate for sustainable agricultural practices. I don't agree with every position he takes, but his reverence for the beauty and balance of the natural world, for the preciousness of the life that runs through it (including our own), and of the community that sustains both the land and each other, speaks to my heart.

Over the past few years, I have sunk myself into the soil in my back yard, and into the community of neighbors that surrounds it, and it has begun to restore me. My garden is not just a plot of dirt providing vegetables for the salad bowl, it is an act of love, a place of profundity and awe. If you knew about the ecosystem that lives in but one gram of good earth, you would be humbled, literally, to the ground.

Berry's poems are passionate calls to live--deeply, profoundly, fearlessly. To step out of narrow-minded egotism, to secede "[f]rom the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation, [to] secede into care for one another, and for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth."

And so I have made my own nation small enough to walk across. I have named the small corner of the earth I steward Rough Branch. I have declared myself free of ignorant love, and I secede...

From the union of power and money,
from the union of power and secrecy,
from the union of government and art,
from the union of science and money,
from the union of ambition and ignorance,
from the union of genius and war,
from the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
the Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

There is only one of him, but he goes.
He returns to the small country he calls home,
his own nation small enough to walk across.
(From "The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union")
The Mad Farmer challenges us to reconnect, to resurrect our land, our communities, and our souls.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
(From "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front")
All quotes from Wendell Berry.