Winter Rohatsu Retreat

When I flew home it was in part to visit friends and family but also to attend the Winter Rohatsu Retreat with Two Arrows Zen Center. Rohatsu is also called “Bodhi Day.” It is a commemoration of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, becoming enlightened. Rohatsu is the Japanese Zen form of this and we do a week long meditation retreat around this time. The number of participants is more than would fit comfortably in our normal zendo so we rent the Wasatch Retreat & Conference Center from the Episcopal diocese of Utah, which is a very lovely building. We have to move all of our equipment but it works really well in their space.

epis zendo 1 shoes outside zendo epis zendo 3

And although it’s supposed to be a mostly silent retreat, we also had time to have fun and catch up with old friends.

zen group 1 zen group 2 Thor & Jen

These are two of my favorite monks, formal and informal.

two monks

I was on kitchen duty for breakfast and also a dinner server. Karen and Mike also spent a lot of time in the kitchen area.

kitchen people 2

The last day we all sported our “No Nonsense” socks. Yes, there is a story behind this ūüôā

sox 1 sox 3

It was nice to see everyone now that I am part of the diaspora from the Zen Center. I look forward to seeing you all at the next retreat.


Holiday food and sorghum syrup

When I went to our Master Gardener holiday¬†potluck, the food I brought turned out pretty well, although I’m sure it’s not everyone’s first choice for indulgences. The bread is whole wheat sourdough made from Jason’s wheat and our sourdough starter. The orange stuff is butternut-tahini spread. Finally, the almond shortbread cookies are based on a recipe I found online. I did modify it to be vegan by using vegetable shortening instead of butter and also used almond and vanilla extract instead of lemon extract.

potluck stuff

Jason and I have been thinking about what we want to plant and process next year. Jason has been growing milo,¬†or grain sorghum, which gets sold as animal feed in the U.S. but is also edible for humans and is gluten-free, though most people here don’t regard it as food. This year he also grew¬†sweet sorghum which can be made into sorghum molasses. We are excited about the prospect of growing our own sweetener instead of having to buy sugar. However, we are still trying to find practical ways to harvest and process this grain for our own use.

Sweet sorghum standing

For small batches, Jason made a seed cleaner from scrap wood that works really well. It’s powered by my Shop Vac, which plugs into the side. The seed gets poured into the top. There is a plank below the top area so that you can slide it to adjust the rate at which the seed feeds through the machine. The hose from the Shop Vac plugs into the side to create a vacuum that sucks the chaff and debris to the side bin as the seed falls to the bottom then drops into the bucket below.

seed cleaner 1 seed cleaner 2

Here are the before and after pictures.

dirty sorghum cleaned sorghum

We still need to work out the steps to get from clean sweet sorghum to sorghum syrup. In the meantime, we bought a small jar of sorghum syrup at Pome on the Range from Maasdam’s farm in Iowa which convinced us of the value of pursuing making our own syrup–it was really good stuff. Maybe a field trip to Maasdam’s is in our future.

sorghum syrup

The little old house

I am writing this because a friend asked me to show pictures of the house that I live in. The quonset, which is on the front page of this blog, is our some-day new house. Currently we live in a little old house that is comfy but won’t last forever. No one knows how old this house is but it’s at least 100 years old.

Jason's front yard 1

There are square nails in the oldest part of the house, which is the living room. Some of the wood trim is original but Jason also added to it, including the entertainment center to match.

living room 2 living room 1

We have lots of Jason’s concrete artwork around in the house. I think it feels very cozy.

bedroom 1

bedroom 2

This is our kitchen, where a lot of the work happens. It’s a very creative place.

kitchen 2 kitchen 1

And the mud room, which is our temporary plant storage while it’s cold outside.

front room front room 2

I feel very settled here. I know the quonset is more practical in the long run for us but I’m glad that it won’t be ready to live in for a little while.

A Trip Home

I went home to Salt Lake City for a couple weeks. Did not Internet access for part of it and it was a whirlwind of activity, so my posts here have been lacking for a bit.

I stayed with my parents in Ogden for part of the time. This is a picture of Ogden Canyon.

Ogden canyon

One of the things on my list to do was stop by Jason and I’s favorite restaurant. He did not come with me but I sent him pictures of the food which might have been cruel.

House of tibet 1 House of tibet 2

I also made an initial trip to the Two Arrows Zen Center downtown. They had recently reorganized how the rooms were but I had not seen it before. I have a strong sense of appreciation for the aesthetics of the Zen Center and it was nice to reconnect with everyone before our Buddhist retreat. I took these pictures in part to re-capture how it felt to go there most mornings when I still lived in Salt Lake. More to come on the Buddhist retreat soon.

Zendo 1 Zendo 2 Zendo 3 Zendo 4 Zendo 5 zendo 6 zendo 8 zendo 9 kanzeon of the sangha room