October 20, 2010

One weekend

Autumn at Korinji...and this past weekend has seen the last of our major construction for the year. The interior framing is now truly and finally done, and we'll soon knock out the last of the support bracing to reveal a completely open space.

It's been a long, hard year of work. One more week to go: October 22-31 is our final call for a crew in 2010. However, during that time we've also scheduled visits from local roofers...it's indeed possible that we'll begin that project before the end of the year. Still, for now we can take a small breather.

Though some of us might confess to feeling slightly run down and ready for a break after many months of constant activity, we continue to balance our work time with enjoyment of the land, and of each others' company. This enjoyment, and the friendships which have grown through our work, are aspects of our Korinji project which are perhaps less obvious. To remedy that, we thought it might be interesting to describe exactly how a typical Korinji weekend goes. Rather than describe it solely with words, however, I'm here able (thanks to J.C. Epong) to share some images with you. I hope this will give you all a sense of what it's like to come up for a weekend to labor beside these amazing people who are building Korinji...

1. Friday

Mike Malitsky and I both pull up at 3:30pm, just in time to take delivery of a load of lumber. We immediately set to work. Mike preps the site for our weekend - setting up the compressor and nail guns, running cords - while I tighten all the nuts on our substructure bolts with a ratchet wrench: a long overdue job that needed to get done before winter.

As it has almost without exception since the beginning of Korinji's construction, the weather agrees with us. What a gorgeous fall day, with temperatures in the high 60's or low 70's: certainly a fine day to work in the woods.

Our mutual assignments take us up to 7pm or so, and with the light failing we retire to a campfire for dinner and talk. Korinji volunteers, I've found, tend to be well-read and interesting folks: this evening the conversation ranges from the Roman conquest of Judea according to Flavius Josephus, to early Christian history, to Buddhist philosophy, vegetarianism, life in late Soviet Russia, the Irish diaspora, and dogs. We run out of energy long before we run out of things to talk about.

Since most of our work crew tends to arrive on Saturday, I treasure these quiet Friday evenings with their peaceful mood and quiet forest atmosphere. On this occasion we'd earlier in the day rigged up some work lights inside the building. Now we suddenly find ourselves amazed to look up and see - for the first time - our building lit from the inside.

2. Saturday

The main crew arrives Saturday morning: this time it's J.C., Sergey Petrov and Dan Bogdanovich. Karen Radtke arrives a little later, with dogs in tow and fresh brownies for the crew which vanish quickly. Over the course of the day we finish boxing out our joists with 3/4" plywood (the main goal for the weekend). A few of the crew get to work removing the remnants of scaffolding still affixed to the building from our roof construction.

That evening, we once again adjourn to our dinner spot: the stone fire-ring (constructed last year by Rodger Park Sensei from Ann Arbor) which has seen such constant use. It's time for the traditional Saturday evening work crew party.

Our dinner consists of potluck fare pulled from individual coolers and packs. We share everything. Sergey cooks his famous borscht. Mike grills something non-vegetarian that will never be served at sesshin. J.C. produces home-made hummus. I chop kindling and heat up a rice and shitake stew. We eat chocolate and cheese, dark rye bread and brown rice, radishes and nori. Reflecting the typically diverse makeup of our crews, "cheers" is said in Russian, Hebrew, Tagalog and several other languages.

As the campfire burns to embers and work crew members depart until morning, great horned owls begin their nightly performance. Faolan, Korinji's half-lab/half-border collie mascot, returns from a mysterious hour's absence covered in mud and burrs. The evening winds down with a great feeling of satisfaction at the work accomplished that day.

3. Sunday

Morning comes too early and too bright, even for October. The work crew gathers on site, and a quick communal breakfast of oatmeal and matcha heated on a propane stove gets us moving. Though most of the work is done, there's still enough for a Sunday to be sure. A few solid hours are needed to finish up and then pack everything away. Everything is set now for the sealing of the building which needs to take place later in the month.

Finally finishing around noon, and after a final lunch of leftovers washed down with Sergey's strong black tea, we're ready to say our goodbyes. Walking down the trail toward the parking area, we can look back across the ravine now that the leaves have mostly fallen and see Korinji up above us. This first view will be what future visitors see from below as they walk down the trail - perhaps arriving for sesshin - toward Korinji's gate.

Turning back up the trail, the cars aren't far. But in these last moments we tend to walk slowly, even to linger. There's always a reluctance to leave this place.

Luckily there's still a lot of work to be done, and a lot of time to be spent at Korinji in the future.

We welcome you join us October 22-31, and especially for the zazen, ceremony and celebration we'll conduct on the 30th. Email Korinji for more information (info@korinji.org).

October 11, 2010

Planting a garden

Work has begun on Korinji's food and medicinal garden. The garden site - a southeast-facing, gentle slope above the future residence, has been marked and cleared. It's a unique spot. Most of Korinji's land is rocky, forested ravine with clay and sandy soils. The garden, though, has a thick layer of nearly black, loamy earth. Apparently this layer is the remains of cow manure and hay deposition over many years that the spot was used for pasture by a local farmer. This history also means that our garden location is already open and sunny.

Eden Roemer, a Korinji supporter and volunteer, has begun designing the garden. Here's some more information from her:

The planning has begun for Korinji's vegetable and herb garden! The design is a fusion of the French poterage (or kitchen garden), the traditional Midwestern vegetable garden as well as other aspects that will further define and refine the layout.

What is exciting about Korinji's garden is that it is deeply rooted in the theory and practice of companion gardening. Simply put, this means that the placement of each plant is specific to its particular needs as it relates to growth enhancement, nitrogen giveaway, and pest-controlled ecosystem. Companion gardening is a type of organic and sustainable farming that is not new - just an art that has been more or less abandoned as a result of the use of pesticides.

As this new paradigm of self-sustainability evolves an awareness that is more self-aware and connected to the earth, Korinji will lead by example through the creation of its own independent food source that is environmentally friendly, self-sustainable, and constructed in harmony with its natural surroundings.

There is a saying among farmers that what a garden needs to grow is a little "loam, light, love and luck." Given the intention, energy and passion of the Korinji volunteers (not to mention the amazingly rich, nutrient-dense Wisconsin soil) there should always be an abundant harvest.

For more on Eden and her work, see her site Raw Earth Living.

Just now while posting this, I've received word that another of our supporters has been buying up purple coneflowers (echinacea) with the plan to over-winter them in her garage and plant them at Korinji in the spring. Wonderful!

Now we just need to start planning the bees we'd like to keep...