~ by Sn Paramjyoti Howe
Late summer and fall at Ishtadev Niwas is a magical time of the year. All our efforts now are now baring fruit. We shift our focus in the garden, from growing food, to the harvest. To this date we still have copious amounts of ground cherries, carrots, beets, and tomatoes to either pick and eat, store, or preserve for the winter. Carrots and beets go to the root cellar while tomatos are turned into Niwas tomato sauce. The tomatoes are harvested, roasted in the wood fired bread oven until slightly charred, pureed, and canned. We are also doing some dehydrating of green onions and ground cherries. These little efforts make the long winter months feel a little more bearable.
This is also the time of year where we begin planning for the next season. Due to the generous contribution of the Vahana herd (manure), we are going to do some major soil building in the lower garden called Rakhini. The tractor is also getting a new tiller to make that process a lot easier. Once all the gardens are prepped for next season we can then plant the garlic. We estimate that we will put about 900 cloves in the ground this year. For now we wait for the first frost to finish everything off and start to clean up.
It seems that every growing season is an odd one here. Extreme heat at the end of June, a dry July and beginning of August, and a wet end to the summer keeps things interesting and offers many surprises, but the garden is always full of joy and some delicious snack. Today it is at its peek beauty with towering sunflowers, beautiful colours, and lush greens that will soon give way to the fall browns. I think i’ll go for a walk.
- By Sannyasi Paramjyoti Howe
May and June at Ishtadev Niwas, are the greenest months of the year. The rains and warmer temperatures bring a rare lushness to the forests and meadows of this otherwise arid grass land. Wild flowers of all sorts bloom and bring out a whole host of pollinators and other wildlife, especially birds which sing their songs of spring and the air is heavy with the scent of pollen, and flowers. Amongst this sensorial magic we at Niwas begin to grow our years bounty.
This spring has been about game changers in the garden. We have our tried and true crops like garlic, tomatoes, onions, and carrots, and some experiments, like the luffa gourd and urad dhal, but the real change is in the systems. Watering has always been an issue on out dry little hilltop. It is hard to keep the soil wet enough. Raised beds which work wonderfully elsewhere don’t hold the moisture and crops suffer. So this spring we invested in an irrigation system. It consists of both drip style and small emitters that water with precision and efficiency. What use to take hours of us going plant to plant with a hose, or using sprinklers that water a large area that includes walking rows and everything else, is now as simple as turning on the well pump and watching everything get watered all at once with less waste. So far the difference in the garden is dramatic. Another, more experimental, system is the sunbelt woven plastic that covers the bed with holes burned into it for the plant to grow in. The idea is that it keeps moisture and heat in the soil and deters the weeds, so far it works, but we will see how the plants like it. The overall idea is efficiency which hopefully leads to increased productivity.
There also has been a theme of never give up. After a long hard winter and a late may frost the garden and grounds suffered a few casualties. Some trees looked to have not survived, and we all but lost the ground cherries. How ever in the last week it seems things are more resilient than we expected. Most of the ground cherry plants that were lost in the frost have re-sprouted and the trees we thought we lost have some green leaves, though at the base of the trunks. In the end it is never a dull moment on the grounds and in the garden at Ishtadev Niwas.
Otherwise known as the vegetarian staple, "The Buddha Bowl," at 'Niwas we aim to make the commitment to keep all of our Buddha Bowls as "local" as possible, depending on the season.
Always start with your base!
The best Farm bowl starts with a hearty base. During summer and fall season, we like to roast a mix of potatoes and root vegetables from the Farm or from local Farm friends at the Farmers' Market. Some options for your hearty base include (but are not limited to!):
Then select your greens!
There are so many options here! We like to select our various lettuce greens if we cook the base in advance and can let the base cool for more of a hearty salad. For a warm bowl, you can use beet greens, kale, and/or mizuna. They can be fresh or sautéed for some variation.
Then add some locally-sourced veggie pizzazz!
Keep your base and greens company with some locally sourced veggies. At least 2 other ingredients keep the Farm bowls looking beautiful and offering dense nutritional value. Some options we incorporate include:
Protein is a nice addition.
Some local proteins we add include chopped Alpine meadows cheese, homemade Halloumi cheese or boiled eggs.
Fresh herbs are necessary in our books.
We love our fresh garden herbs around here. Our favorite is chopped dill however chopped parsley or cilantro can also add some depth of flavour.
Don't forget the dressing!
Farm Bowl dressing is a staple at 'Niwas. The general recipe we use is:
Buddha and Farm Bowls become such a fun and playful way to simplify your diet, connect with seasonal items, and share ideas with friends. Do you have any tips for your local bowls? We'd love to hear them!
- By Caitlyn Borowsky, Student & Karma Yogi
What have we been up to so far this Spring at Niwas?
Planting, dreaming and preparing Annapourna Garden.
We began this season with planting onion seeds in mid-February followed a few weeks later with a variety of flowers. So far, we are grateful to be nurturing four types of onions, three varieties of lavender, viola, lupins, ornamental oregano, two varieties of snap dragons, portulaca, asters, chilli peppers, and petunias. On the Piscean New Moon we sowed the seeds of basil and tomatoes, which will become delicious Niwas tomato sauce in the last weeks of Summer.
In addition to planting and tending to the seedlings, we are thoughtfully setting the garden and ourselves up for success for the growing season. We are not only tending to the Land in anticipation, we are also tidying up our own actions and energies to make space for the manifestation of abundance and beauty, so we may spend this next cycle offering from a place of simplicity and full-hearted love.
We are preparing the garden beds to hold and nurture new life by clearing the remnants of last year’s crops and using those remnants to feed the compost which will cycle back to the Earth. Currently, 'Niwas feels much like a space of transformation, regeneration and preparation. Personally, I am am feeling Spring’s frequency of optimism and opportunity, especially as I walk through Annapourna Garden, hearing and dreaming of the possibilities that are on the horizon.
The Awakening of Possibility and Opportunity
Although nothing truly dies in Nature, Spring does bring about a tangible experience of vitality and life compared to the quietude of Winter, where activity is slower and beneath the surface. We see new life emerging everywhere, from the fresh tips on the fir trees, geese making their way back home, and all of the onion and lavender seedlings thriving towards the Sun. We hear the various melodies of birdsong among the treetops where silence once hung, and we smell the aroma of pine sap beginning to ooze to the surface of their bark. The potentiality of this new growth would not be possible without the offering of what has come before.
At 'Niwas this regeneration is witnessed most tangibly via…compost! Last years' pea shoots, buckwheat stems and oat straw have been broken down and mixed with a generous amount of cow dung all winter to become a vibrant heap of nutrients for this years crops. This regenerative re-cycling shows us the opportunity of letting go of what has served its purpose and to utilize the breakdown of this ‘death’ to fuel what is to come, what is to be birthed and brought to life.
Today, in Annapourna Garden there is a sacred sense of vacancy and as I walk along the dormant strawberries and hibernating garlic, the crunch of fallen pinecones and the last remnants of snow beneath dirt covered boots treading where bare feet will soon dance again awakens a sense of joy and optimism within me. At first glance, the garden plots may appear bare and empty but if we take a moment to truly listen, we can sense the vast possibilities that await. Those rows of bare dirt and rotten leaves will soon be transformed into an environment bustling and blooming with calendula, cabbage, tomatoes, honeybees, pumpkin, foxgloves, lupins, chili peppers, and bushes heavy with raspberries and groundcherries. This is what I think of when I imagine explaining what 'Niwas feels like. A home for opportunity and growth and abundance for all living beings, not only reserved for Yogis but also for the insects, the dark eyed juncos and crows, chipmunks, goats and the plants themselves.
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