Always More To Learn In The Face Of Near-Term Human Extinction Possiblities: Life At El Rancho Blog

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By Jelelle Awen

“Whenever the need for sanctuary presents itself, tomorrow or ten years from now, you will wish you knew more. So start learning right now, and go hard.” Brace For Impact, Thomas Lewis

It seems there is always so much to learn. Just in living this way there is a constant invitation to learn more. Learn more about both practical things and esoteric things; both external and internal things. What I’ve learned since moving to the ranch wouldn’t be taught in any university. Too bad since it has mostly been things crucial to survival. Or things of self discovery that are, again, crucial to my long-term survival and critical to my future as a co-founder and leader of our community here.

The locals here, most of whom didn’t finish high school and haven’t left the local area, know so much more about crucial things than I do. Things about what grows here; about what weeds, plants, fruits and cactus are edible here; about horses and raising livestock (although I don’t philosophically agree with that one); about how to get the body to work hard, very hard, in high temperatures without getting heat exhaustion; about singing Mexican songs at the top of their lungs at the end of a workday. Their earthy groundedness and capacity for simple joy aren’t taught in western universities, but will be so valuable in facing the changes that are coming.

As there is so much to learn, I feel pressed sometimes over what feels like an ever shortening time frame. Nothing truly significant, no major global crisis, has happened since we hatched our plan to move to the ranch from Canada a year ago. This is surprising to me, actually, as we felt like Chicken Littles screaming about the sky is gonna fall soon to anyone who would listen (most people wouldn’t.) I’m glad nothing major has happened (other than continuing economic tensions in Greece), of course, because there is so much to learn about living on a homestead in the meantime. And, there is so much transformation happening for us in living here. And, we want to draw others to join us here which will take time and mostly the internet to accomplish.

Yet, still, it just doesn’t feel like there are many years left of industrialized society,’ the empire’ as Guy McPherson calls it. In our human history, all empires have eventually fallen, especially when they overreached, leading to eventual under inhabitation and corruption. The empire had something that worked for them in one setting as in Rome, but then, they got greedy and imagined mini-Rome franchises sprouting up extending to all the areas they could imagine around them. The locals in these far off franchise locations didn’t have the same enthusiasm at being colonized and franchised. The actual establishment of the Western Empire happened when the first settlers came, entitledly took what they wanted, and created devastation instead of betterment. This same cycle has been repeating over and over again the last three hundred years or so with the levels of destruction and damage deepening with the rate of industrial and technological advancement.

Empire can’t sustain; it isn’t scalable long term. I’m beginning to wonder if anything really is scalable and especially industrial dependent society established on a planet with restricted resources to support it. Our focus as a species has been about growth and profit at any costs and without regard to any long term consequences. The consequences could be very dire, including the possible near-term extinction of our entire species. Guy talks about this in his book Going Dark. He is a former biology professor who has studied climate chaos (as he calls it) as his life passion and ‘left empire’ and his teaching position several years ago to set up a sustainable sanctuary near Tucson, Arizona. Due to climate chaos, environmental devastation, and the 400+ nuclear reactors that have no means to be shut down responsibly, he believes that it is highly unlikely that any life will exist on this planet by 2050. It’s a lot to take in but, also, it brings a poignancy to the moment. An urgency that every moment matters and counts.

For me, it brings me back to that point about there being so much to learn. Whether near term extinction or just collapse happens or not, this lifestyle is the one that brings me the most nourishment and is the most authentic reflection of who I am. I, too, have walked away from Empire. I plan to live my life, for however many years I have left, centered in this authentic life in union with nature.

Jelelle Awen is co-creator and facilitator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life. Go here to connect with Jelelle on facebookVisit the SoulFullHeart website  for more information about virtual sessions with her.

Summer Season Of Swarms And Storms: Life At El Rancho Blog

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By Jelelle Awen

Today is June 21st, summer solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight and the beginning of summer. It means something different here on the ranch then it did in Canada. In Canada, the beginning of summer is the beginning of better weather. Maybe. Or at least you can count on July and August to be fairly decent. Summer in Canada is beautiful sunsets, hikes, dips in the water, watermelon, gatherings outside on patios, less clothing and usually more sex, an exhale and a shedding of a water logged skin in exchange for a tanned one. Summer is an event because of the tempestuous weather the rest of the year. Summer was always my favorite season and I would mourn deep down in my bones every time it turned cold and rainy again.

Here in Mexico, summer is different. Summer is the rainy season and the low tourism season. It is called the ‘off season’ for that reason. Summer on the ranch will be about navigating the increasingly bulging and rapid river that cuts off traffic and even people at times. Summer means that we can no longer drive our van on the ranch road and need to get rides with the couple who lives here who has a 4X4 and is gracious to give them to us. Summer will be stormy and windy with lightning storms and sometimes tail ends of hurricanes. In some ways, I can’t wait.

To experience extreme weather is to be thrust into the uncertainty of life. A rumble of thunder, a crack of lightening, a gust of wind…violent and uncontrollable. Reminding us of our fragility. The gift of being alive here. And Now. We’ve experienced two storms here that brought this into focus for us, both tail ends of hurricanes. Their power was undeniable. This is a good kind of humbling at times, especially for humans who feel that we must conquer nature rather than be in union with it.

We experienced another extreme here last week after the first rains since March. A huge swarm of flying termites, set free from their cocoons sheltering under the roof tiles. They were a horde surrounding every house. “It’s like the house is on fire!” exclaimed Wayne as I was quickly shutting every shutter that I could. But they got in anyway and we spent a restless night flicking them off of us and spent days cleaning up the wings that they shed. “It was gross,” part of me says. And, it was. But yet, also, it was another example of the uniqueness of experience here at the ranch, things that just couldn’t happen in cities. Some we like better than others, for sure.

The swarm seemed to offer us a message of masses, a group rising, born, arrived. We were hopeful that maybe it represented what we are feeling more and more: a desire for others to join us here in community. We feel the possibilities of expanding our community here to offer others the goodness, transformation, and intimacy that we’ve experienced. We envision building cabanas for people and sharing community space, united by a desire for healing and living sustainably. If you are interested in becoming part of our swarm, please visit our website at soulfullheart.com and contact us at soulfullhearts@gmail.com.

Summer is the season of Magdalene, lover and wife (I feel, as do a growing number of historians) of Yeshua. Magdalene offers sisterhood and brotherhood experience within community. Sexuality without sinful feelings between connected lovers. She invites us to explore metaphysical realms, feel the magic of the natural world, discover our latent soul gifts. And all of these while adoring and inhabiting our physical bodies. Magdalene is easy to connect with as an ascended teacher. She is quite the talker and loves to tell stories and have dialogues. If you want to feel her, just ask her to speak with you or tell her that you’d like to feel connected to her. Imagine a beautiful woman with long, red, curly hair and bright eyes. Imagine her deific smile and earthly laugh. Imagine Her smelling of sandlewood and lavender. Play some Lorenna Mckennit. And, there off you go together.

The season of swarms and storms. The season of connection and community. I welcome it.

Jelelle Awen is co-creator and facilitator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life. Go here to connect with Jelelle on facebookVisit the SoulFullHeart website  for more information about virtual sessions with her.

Cows, caterpillars, and cabbage: Life At El Rancho Blog

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By Jelelle Awen

Nature is a better partner than slave– Gaia’s Garden

I am dreaming of plants. Last night, the big crisis of my dream was about providing a trellis for a runner-type sweet pea plant to weave and wrap around. Would I be able to get it supported before it collapsed onto the soil in defeat? Big drama. My dream was most likely a reflection of an increasing reality this week of troubleshooting and responsive problem solving related to our gardens.

We entered our Tranquila garden a couple days ago to discover hoof sized indents over many of our garden beds. Tranquila is more like a nursery than a garden, with many fragile seedlings and still germinating seeds that still haven’t woken from their slumber. The vacas (cows) had busted through a weak area of fencing (now fortified with 3 higher courses of well anchored barbed wire) and found, fortunately, that little in our fledgling garden was to their liking…..other than all the black bean seedlings and most of the one inch tall amaranth and quinoa plants.

My heart hurt as I cleaned up their damage, especially since I had spent the morning ‘saving’ our first flowering and fruiting tomato plants from hornworm caterpillars, hand picking them off and dumping them in a bucket of soapy water. It felt a bit like we were under siege by nature. I was reminded of the wild setting for which we are attempting to grow our food. We are trying to domesticate nature. I like to feel that rather than a bending of nature to our will. We are in communion with it. This connection is the essence of producing home grown food that is chemical-free, nutrient dense, and, also, doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment.

Nature reminded us this week that it is ultimately uncontrollable. If we get a good harvest of any of our vegetables, it is nature’s desire even as it is also due to our skill and responsiveness (and sourcing good, quality heirloom seeds and deeply efforted compost.) Instead of getting hugely upset at the cow damage, I surrendered to it and immediately noticed something interesting. All of the beds that the vacas had left their marks on were ones that I had planned to replant or change in some way. Every one. The black beans were spaced too close together (something I learned after watching our frijoles negroes in the Rio Garden get bushier and bushier), so I was able to replant and respace them. I wanted to create rows of amaranth and quinoa rather than scattering the seed as I had done originally, so I could see them better as well as be able to provide mulch around the rows. Now I could do that while still preserving seedlings that had survived.

So nature created more work in some ways, but, also, it worked out in the end for the best. It is difficult to get too stressed about anything here on the ranch as resourcefulness and responsiveness just seem to come more naturally than in the western, more industrialized world. Every crisis has a solution and doesn’t push up the same levels of stress and anxiety as the common workplace drama.

We are entering the season of Kali. Kali represents death and rebirth; cycles of change and transformation; temperamental weather and emotional patterns. I was reminded of this also as I felt the edges of how easy it would be for all of our ‘hard work’ on the gardens to be wiped out by animals, a strong storm, or a swarm of damaging insects.

When we get our food from the grocery store, we have no sense of this fragility or of our fortune either. We fill our shopping carts and drive food that has been imported from all over the world home to be stored in our cabinets and fridges. Here on the ranch, because we don’t have refrigeration (other than two zeer evaporative cooling pots) and the nearest grocery store is 90 minutes away, food harvest and preservation is a concentrated and connected activity.

We picked some bok choy cabbage leaves today intending to use them for cabbage rolls for dinner tonight. I share the recipe below. No fossil fuels or chemicals were needed (not for working the soil, the fertilizer, the ‘pest control,’ the harvesting, the packaging or transport!); just our labor, our love, and our time. When we eat our cabbage rolls tonight, this energy will come through and increase our enjoyment and appreciation. Nature does make a better partner (however unpredictable), than slave.

Harvest this week and recipes: Daikon radish, mizuna (asian lettuce), arugula, tatsoi (asian cabbage), bok choy, kale, and cilantro

Right now is about greens and lettuces. Mizuna and arugula are braving the heat to produce leaves of nutritional goodness. Bok choy, tatsoi, and kale provide earthy flavor and plenty of antioxidants. They are so welcome since greens and most lettuce are not sold here in most tiendas in Mexico, only iceberg lettuce and traditional cabbage. Faced with a harvest of greens, we came up with two vegetarian recipes that used them in way that was beyond the usual stir fry and ensalada.

Bok Choy Cabbage Rolls-

Cabbage Rolls:

Eight to Ten large bok choy or kale leaves (two per person), the leaves need to be 3 by 4 inches

one cup of cooked brown or wild rice

one cup of TVP (or tempeh), add one cup of hot water and stir together

one half daikon radish, chopped

stems of bok choy leaves (if using), chopped

cilantro, cumin, soy sauce to taste

Asian Sauce:

Combine half a cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, one garlic clove minced, chili powder to taste

Bring to boil a couple inches of water in a pot with a steamer basket. Combine TVP, rice, and chopped daikon in a bowl and add seasonings to taste. Heat stuffing ingredients over medium heat until TVP is cooked and rice is heated. Lay out bok choy or other greens leaf by leaf being careful not to tear them. Place the leaf length wise in front of you and fill it with the stuffing just along the middle along the spine of the leaf. Don’t overstuff as it needs to be easy to fold without tearing. Fold the side closest to you first and then the two top and bottom edges go in and then roll it the rest of the way (similar to a burrito). Place the rolls carefully in a steamer basket for three to five minutes. Serve with the asian sauce on the side.

Eggs In A Nest-

This recipe has been modified from one provided in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This is an insightful and inspiring book about a famous author who ate only foods produced from her own garden and locally grown for one year.

2 cups uncooked brown rice

Olive oil

medium onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

carrots, chopped

daikon radish, chopped

1 very large bunch of bok choy, kale, chard or other leafy green

8 eggs (if you need to make more eggs because you have more people just poach extras in another pan)

soy sauce, cumin, and salt to taste

Cook rice with four cups of water in a covered pot while other ingredients are being prepared. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a wide skillet until lightly golden. Mix in carrots and daikon radish and cook for a few minutes. Add greens and cook with the pan covered for a few more minutes. Uncover, stir well, then use the back of a spoon to make depressions in the cooked leaves, circling the pan like numbers on a clock. Break an egg into each depression, being careful to keep yolks whole. Cover pan again and allow eggs to poach for 3 to 10 minutes depending on how runny you like them. Remove from heat and serve over rice with guacamole salsa (or without).

Guacamole Salsa-

2 large ripe avocados, seed removed

8 tomatillos (or omit if you don’t have them and substitute with another tomato)

1 red tomato

handful of cilantro

Juice from one lime or lemon

half a jalapeno or tablespoon of chili powder or omit if you don’t like spicy foods

cumin and salt to taste

Boil tomatillos for five minutes or until soft. Combine them in a food processor with the other ingredients until mostly smooth. Serve chilled and is best if used within the hour.

Jelelle Awen is co-creator and facilitator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life. Go here to connect with Jelelle on facebookVisit the SoulFullHeart website  for more information about virtual sessions with her.

The Emerging Me Through Natural Education

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By Christopher Tydeman

In my former life, I was a teacher. I taught a range of ages from 7 to 12. I taught reading, writing, mathematics, history, science…et al. While I was teaching I was wondering if I was really teaching anything at all. I mean, yeah, I was helping with some basic fundamentals that are the building blocks of an education. But the content was a mixture of somewhat useful and interesting to downright drab and boring. I tried my best to bring in something meaningful and engaging but, to be honest, it was a lot of work. It all had to tie into the “Standards” of the prevailing curricula. Oh yes, the Standards.

We want our children to be “competent” so that they are “successful in today’s highly competitive world.” As a former parent to a school-aged child, I bought that with half my heart and all my mind. I passed that down to my students and their parents and care-givers. If they could demonstrate “proficiency” they would have a much better chance of “making a better life for themselves”.

I agree that my use of quotes is a bit tongue and cheek seasoned with sarcasm. That is my intention. Even while I was buying and selling those words, I could feel how devoid of humanity they really were. The Standards System, or Core Knowledge, or whatever the hell they are calling it now, is nothing more than a conveyor belt by which the Industrial Machine can create its submissive robots. I couldn’t participate in that system anymore without being guilty by association.

Why am I writing about this now? Great question. It has been two years now that I have left my teaching career. I am also now just learning what real education is all about…self-sufficiency, emotional awareness and fluency, and a place to discover and nuture our Divinely-given gifts. I guess I just realized I am in school for the first time since I was a child, where learning happened through creative play and experimentation. As an adult, I can add a lot of physical work to that list. This was the education I wished I could have given my daughter and my students. This is the shit that really matters. I knew it mattered because my students went crazy for nature, food, play, and art. They, as well as us older children, were born with the Divine Fingerprint. The desire to be with what we need most as human beings.

Somewhere we forgot that along the way. Convinced ourselves it must be more complicated than that. But as I sit here in Mexico with gardens literally popping out the ground from our own research, intuition, play and labor, I can tell you it isn’t. Granted, it is hard work. I have worked hard before, but this is for our food. Our sustenance and currency. Our hearts and our souls. You can’t get more real than that. I am learning more about myself and nature, as Mother intended. This is the real classroom.

So, I am back to being a student again. That is hard for the Industrial part of me who thought we had it all figured out. Put in the time and retire in peace. But once you feel your true, wild, natural self you can’t stay in the System without feeling the rub, the pain. The un-naturalness of it all. The insanity. This part of me is becoming more aware of how much happier he is now than he was then. I am beginning to feel a new me arising from this transition from teacher to student. From Industrial Self to Natural Self.

At some point I see myself teaching again. Not sure what that would look like, but I know what it wouldn’t. Been there, done that. I see being a part of a new reality for education. One that will emerge from the collapse of the old. For now, I am enjoying the ride of sitting in the student seat. Learning from my SoulFullHeart family, the ranch workers, the animals, the plants, and the Divine. They are the best teachers I have ever had. Time to rewrite the standards from the inside out.

Organic SoulFullHeart Gardens At Rancho Amigos- Jardines Organico De SoulFullHeart A Rancho Amigos

Our Gardens

By Jelelle Awen

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One of the most pressing issues in our modern age is the need for chemical-free, environmentally sustainable, diverse, preserved, and homegrown food. The majority of food stock in grocery stores is shipped in by eighteen wheelers from hundreds and even thousands of miles away. Anyone who has eaten a banana in December and doesn’t live somewhere tropical has experienced transit-based produce. Most stores hold very little back stock, only about three days worth with no regional supply houses available since the ‘just in time’ delivery system was implemented many years ago. Produce has especially high ‘fuel miles’, the amount of distance that it traveled by truck to reach your location. The produce that does reach the stores has usually been genetically modified (even patented in some cases!), sprayed very liberally with toxic substances, and harvested before it was actually ripe. And it tastes about that good too.

Awareness of the dismal state of modern food brings an increasing need for everyone to grow their own organic produce if possible. We’ve had a strong desire to grow our own food organically following permaculture and ecological design principles. We wanted to create garden spaces that would meld conscious design with respect and understanding of nature’s principles. We also wanted to blend modern practices with indigenous and native ones, creating a mixture between the two that would honor both.

We started our first garden project in January, 2015, just a couple of weeks after arriving to live on the ranch. We were gifted a 30 foot by 30 foot space here with a rock wall already built around it. Rather than fill it with linear and straight rows of crops, we created a main, raised, keyhole bed (a ¾ circle bed with a keyhole shape in the middle for turning around) with another raised circle bed enclosing it and raised beds around the edges.

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For compost, we spent many days gathering ‘green’ (kitchen scraps, sheep manure) and ‘brown’ (dried leaves and straw) manure creating a lasagna layering pile system as the organic matter compost to add to our soil. We trucked in silt soil from the banks of the riverside nearby to add to the soil in the garden and the compost. We collected dried bamboo leaves on the ranch to use as our 3 to 6 inch cover mulch (with thicker layers to come as the plants grow taller) to help with water retention and weed suppression. We lined all the paths with river rock to help with erosion and because it looks good. This we call our “Rio Jardin” (River Garden), as it is right next to the river.

We’ve filled the beds of the Rio Garden with three kinds of tomato plants; eight varieties of beans and legumes; three kinds of peppers; greens and cabbages such as kale, arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, bok choy; yams and potatoes, red/green/white onions, cucumber, jicama, daikon and regular radish, and cilantro. We’ve already enjoyed the radish and some of the greens. We look forward to the next few months of harvesting and learning; adjusting and responding. Eating! This is truly our experimental garden with many lessons happening around seed germination, plant placement, and adjustment to the tropical yet arid climate here during the dry season.

The next garden we started is our “Casa Jardin” (House Garden), a ‘zone one’ garden, meaning one that is close to home and therefore includes plants that are used regularly and need more attention. Once we moved into the house we are staying at here on the ranch, we started trucking in soil from the river again because the top soil around the house had been destroyed during construction. We spent days clearing out debris and pulling weeds (that weren’t edible we hope) to clear spaces to plant. In a cleared space right by our outdoor kitchen, we created an herb spiral- a four by five foot mound of dirt with river rocks moving up from bottom to top to form a spiral shape. An herb spiral takes a 30 foot linear planted bed and reduces it to a much smaller footprint. Plus it looks really neat and mimics a shape regularly found in nature (always a good thing when designing garden beds.) We filled the herb spiral with dill, thyme, oregano, basil, cilantro, cumin, mustard greens, green onions. We included some medicinal herbs such as calendula and Echinacea.

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We also created a greens garden bed next to the spiral garden with mizuna, kale, mustard, tropical lettuce, tatsoi, and a native medicinal green called qualite alvaro obregon. Greens are impossible to find here at tiendas (stores), beyond iceberg lettuce, because they don’t store and transport well due to the heat. We have all felt a deep craving for more greens, especially after being used to regular doses of greens in BC, Canada. Radish greens and morenga leaves (a medicinal and edible tree grown here on the ranch) have helped meet this need so far. We filled beds along the path in front of and the sides of the house with sunflowers, artichokes, more mustard greens (good ground cover and green manure crop), and some native flowers. Keeping the four ranch dogs and our own three dogs out of the beds using twine and bamboo fences has been important. How to keep the wandering and hungry ducks from the pond next to the house out of the greens bed is the next dilemma, although we put down bamboo leaf mulch, spray with the pepper-garlic solution, and planted mustard nearby so that will hopefully help. We are still waiting to catch a pato (duck) in action as it tugs on our kale!

And, our grand vision and most recent garden manifestation is a ten minute walk from home called ‘Tranquila.’ A sloped piece of land with large granite rocks, this is the plot of land that we have purchased here at Rancho Amigos. The lot contains a water cistern located over a natural spring so fresh water is no problem. The top soil is dark brown, has some good worms, and the years of cutting down feed grasses for sheep and cows and letting them mulch in place has kept the soil in good shape.

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It is the work of hardscaping, double digging out soil and creating paths that leads us to get up at six in the morning to get some of it done before the hot sun comes up. It is foundational work, work that we won’t have to do again. It is hard, but, it is also satisfying…watching raw land become the infrastructure for our garden. We are planting seeds as soon as the soil has been double dug, formed into circular, raised winding beds with plateaued tops, and sprinkled with compost. We’ve been adding the same mulch back to the beds that we raked from the ground before we started tilling. It forms straw nests around our sleeping seeds and a light blanket of cover for our scattered seeds.

We planted more beans since they germinate quickly, seem to grow well in this climate, can be dried, and are great nitrogen fixers. We planted sunflowers, artichokes, and other tall plants for privacy and shade. We started several trees in bags and will plant them as soon as they are ready to add diversity, shade, microclimates, and environments for wildlife. We planted eggplant, squash, and pumpkin (and soon watermelon) where they will have room to sprawl and spread out. Making a mound, we created a ‘sisters’ planting inspired by Native Americans. Corn, pole beans, and squash form the perfect combination of support, both structurally and in the soil. Scattering seeds across the soil, we sowed quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, chia, and, soon, flax. These will form the foundations of our diet, along with the beans for protein. Joining the party are medicinal flowering plants, more peppers, and tomatoes. Our future plans for Tranquila include creating a small pond in the middle of a natural gathering of rocks, a stream leading to the pond, pathways to the large sitting stones and boulders on the lot, tall plants all along the fence line for privacy next to the ranch road, and whatever else our imagination comes up with! We envision a place where design has given form to the food and function to the wild. A place where we and others can come to study the plants, sit on the rocks, meet in a circle under the shade tent, dip our feet in the pond, and wander the paths, foraging as we go.

We’ve held some books like bibles along the way, combing over them time and time again. Two such books are Gaia’s Garden: A Guide To Homescale Permaculture and Rodale’s Organic Gardening. Yet, also, we’ve been learning as we go, responding to the needs of the plants as they arise and feeling what the land and nature wants. It’s important for us to access our soul’s knowledge of cultivating the land for food; its’ experience with growing food which is actually much more familiar to us than the more recent industrialized experience of easy and disconnected non-food grocery shopping excursions. We’ve forgotten our native roots as hunters and gatherers and buried our instincts about plants and how to grow them in a sustainable way.

Our gardens have brought us joy and peace already, even as they’ve required some sweat and effort. Every seed we plant is like a new baby needing attention and focus until its more mature and can stand on its own. We pick off every caterpillar and unidentified Mexican bug with love and care; spray every leaf with a combination of garlic and pepper spray that bugs hate. We support the garbanzo beans with sticks because we didn’t plant them close enough together to let them lean on each other like they like to. Each plant is held with gratitude and given energetic attention. That’s a lot of babies to care for!

Our gardens have already drawn attention here locally. There are very few personal gardens in this area, even though poverty is a common here. The nearest grocery store is 90 minutes away (when the weather and roads are good) and yet the village closest to us doesn’t stock anything more than a few tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and eggs. The locals who work on the ranch have gone from feeling perhaps a bit confused by what we are doing to more and more interested in it. They ask us many questions about what we are growing and give us tips related to cultivating in this climate. We have already started giving away baggies of cilantro and radish greens and received cucumber and cacao seeds in return. Many more are expressing interest in exchanging with us when the real harvest comes in.

Gardens can invite the imagination to come to play. If we allow ourselves to move beyond the linear rows, typical crops, and pest warfare of mainstream gardening, the possibilities are as limitless as nature’s manifestations. In the garden, there is both a strong sense of the present and the future. We are enjoying the process of creating the infrastructure of our garden beds and paths, which will serve us for many years. The first layer of weed suppressing and water retaining mulch that we lay out begins a legacy of layers of decaying organic matter that will serve the soil and our bellies for a long time. The compost piles we create today serve to fertilize the soil for the rest of its (and our) lives.

It is the gardens that have received most of our time here at the ranch so far and, also, every bit of time spent feels worth the rewards, both in the present and for the future. This legacy of growing chemical-free, ecologically friendly, and truly local food is one that we are proud to be creating and to leave for future generations. Or, at the very least, for the immediate future needs of our hearts and bellies.

Jelelle Awen is co-creator and facilitator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life. Go here to connect with Jelelle on facebookVisit the SoulFullHeart website  for more information about virtual sessions with her.

Building The Ark: Life At El Rancho

By Jelelle Awen

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The ark is about learning what I don’t know; remembering what my soul knows; and using my intuition to feel out the rest.

I have felt like Noah at times; holding a prophecy of a big storm coming and making plans and taking actions to survive that storm. Like Noah, with some foresight and surrender to the Divine, doing something for which most of the culture is not understanding or seeing. My version of the ark was my passenger van and the human and dog companions that came along with me on the journey from Canada to here in Mexico are as treasured as the pairs of animals saved to repopulate the earth. We landed here in our ark on the shores of what feels like our safe sanctuary. A place where water flows not from city taps but from natural springs. A place where exotic fruit grows year round from trees. A place where no insulation is needed on homes or on bodies. A place where having no electricity or refrigeration is not a big inconvenience but a manageable work around. A place where many people ride horses to get around and cars are just another option. A place where traffic slowdown is caused by a swarm of cows not frustrated commuters.

The storm is growing, building strength in the skies of the world. These are dim skies to me right now; they feel far away from the daily realities here on the ranch. But, I can feel the thunder rumbles of war in ISIL occupied areas and the Ukraine; in the economic contentions of European nations faced with growing debt that can’t be repaid; in oil price fluctuations due to diminishing reserves and bubbles bursting fracking empires; in the diminishing fresh water resources around the world and especially the southeastern United States. And maybe the lightning from these events is still far off and hasn’t charred the ground and struck near or in your world. But, as so many people have foretold, the storm that will end this industrial age as we know it is coming. Whether in ten days or ten months or ten years, the world as it being run and experienced right now just isn’t sustainable in any kind of long term picture.

We’ve become so out of touch with our intrinsic nature as hunters and gathers and growers. Becoming so out of touch has made us disconnected about where our food comes from, how it is grown, how it is treated (in the case of animals), how chemicals are used on it, and how synthetic or natural it is. Becoming so out of touch has made us easy victims for the storm that is coming. Rather than being able to tough it out relying on ancient instincts of survival, so many people will be unable to respond in any way that is beyond feeling helpless, hopeless, and immobilized. Many people, sadly, will simply end their own lives rather than have to find the will to survive in a world without all the easy conveniences that they are used to.

This last week has felt like another phase of ark building. The ark this time isn’t about transport to sanctuary; it’s about reconnecting with my human instinct and imprint for feeding myself. The ark now, for me, is about growing my own organic food and incorporating what grows here on the ranch already into my diet, even if I’m not familiar with it. The ark is about learning what I don’t know; remembering what my soul knows; and using my intuition to feel out the rest.

We have all been building this ark with dedication, getting up by the rooster’s call at six am to work at Tranquila, our third garden space here at the ranch. Tranquila is described in much more detail here. We’ve put in five or six hours a day during the hardscaping and shaping of earth phase that is required to sculpt raw earth into a garden space. This is the laying out of floor and wall boards, pounding in of nails process of building our ark. And inside of the ark, instead of just animals, there are beans, tomatoes, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and much more. Inside of the ark is true self sustainability and connection back with a primal instinct that has been numbed by easy living.

As I watered the gardens in Tranquila for the third time today, I felt how I don’t resonate with the idea of being a gardener. For me, it’s not about being something outside of who I am just because I am growing seeds, tending them, harvesting them, and eating them. I am not a gardener; I am a human. A human reclaiming the inner gardening abilities inherent in my soul and embraced by my heart.

Jelelle Awen is co-creator and facilitator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life. Go here to connect with Jelelle on facebookVisit the SoulFullHeart website  for more information about virtual sessions with her.

Death and Rebirth: Life At El Rancho

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By Jelelle Awen

Death is a necessary and unavoidable result of being alive. Every beginning brings an ending. Yet it is hard for most people to embrace death as a natural and sacred process. On the ranch there is death and rebirth all around us. Many lambs were born this winter and some will die from predators and getting sick. Every day we plant new seeds and pull up other plantings due to thinning them out or when they are ready to eat. Death and rebirth can also be metaphorical- a letting go of something that is complete in order to let in a new arising.

We had a death ceremony this week for my husband Wayne’s expression as a painting contractor. He has run his own painting business since 1984, a young married man supporting two daughters with his first wife. Running his own business offered autonomy in one way and yet, always, there was the customer to think of and respond to and many details to hold. For a number of years, he had felt pressed with time and energy, wanting to focus more on our healing work and serving people. As a symbolic death, we burned a painting shirt of Wayne’s in our fire pit and he shared feelings and memories from his career. We honored what his career had produced, the family members it had supported, the clients it had pleased. Wayne felt how he is in an in between space now as his authentic expression emerges from the ashes of his painting career. Out of this death and ending comes a rebirth into a new form, as it always does.

There are now chicks at the ranch. Fuzzy yellow and black beings with rapid heartbeats. I held one in my hand that I had rescued when it ventured outside of its fenced area. I placed it back in with its mother and it quickly tucked underneath her, seeking out safety. This is life in all its chirpy and adorable form. We have started eating eggs again after being vegan for almost two years. It was just too difficult to get imitation meat products and even tofu or tempeh in this part of Mexico (other than driving to Puerto Vallarta). We still haven’t found nutritional yeast here which provided a good source of B12 for us in the past. Eating eggs again yet holding a chick in my hands brought up the death and rebirth cycle again. Appreciating the sacrifice of the unborn chicken (if it was fertilized) to feed my needs.

We are creating our third garden here, this one on the lot that could eventually hold our own house if that alchemizes for us. Our first garden is what we call the ‘river garden’, a more conventional (although still organic) vegetable garden with curved, raised beds. Our second garden is a ‘zone one’ garden, the things that we will eat and pick daily so need to be near the house. We created a herb spiral and a bed of lettuce greens, kale, mustard, radish, tatsoi, and mizuna right by our outdoor kitchen. Our third garden is called tranquila and our vision is to create a true sanctuary with winding paths, clusters of microclimates, a shady area around a tree inviting conversations or rest, a small pond created from a circle of rocks, a visually diverse offering of native and tropical plants, shrubs and trees. Many of these plants I have never grown or even heard of. These are heirloom plants, some from Africa and South America, all able to survive the heat and humidity here.

This is birthing, putting all these seeds in the ground. Watering them from nothing to something. And then, death by pulling and pinching. Sautéing and eating raw. Boiling and baking. The sense of both death and rebirth here makes it feel more alive, less cushioned, and more real.

The bigger context of death and rebirth seems so poignant now with the state that our world is in. Violence and war are a continual reality in many parts of the planet. There is the grand death, the slow dying of the industrial age as it winds down after a feverous and fast paced life. What will be reborn of the human species after this death, whether it is in 1 year or 30 years? What will arise from the ashes of technology? These are important questions, yet, here, the heart beat and rescue of one little chick seems equally important. Or, at least, more immediate.

Jelelle Awen is co-creator and facilitator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life. Go here to connect with Jelelle on facebookVisit the SoulFullHeart website  for more information about virtual sessions with her.

Finding Home And The Unfolding Mystery: Life At El Rancho

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By Jelelle Awen

I’m sitting here at an internet cafe in Tule, a town about 90 minutes from the ranch. Normally I’ve been writing ahead of time and sharing it once I am in town. But, today, I thought I would try just writing and see what comes out. I feel a bit buzzed and heady from being in town, even though this is more like a small village than a town, especially in the western sense. Even the small amount of activity is a lot for me to digest now that I am used to being in the peace and quiet of the ranch. It is amazing what is becoming overwhelming and how quickly.

I have recently realized that this life is most likely the only one I’ve had within an industrial society. The only life where easy electricity, food, water, and shelter were readily available and expected. This explains so much about why modern technologies and conveniences, while I acclimated to them, still felt foreign and uncomfortable to my soul. When I am in our gardens recently, I feel this acess to my soul’s knowledge about growing food beginning to open up to me. I know how to do this, I think, and then I read my organic gardening books for validation. I like to lead with intuition and retreived knowledge first, and book knowledge second. I like for the plants to tell me what they need and want rather than use my mind to deduce it. I feel that this intuitive way of gardening is what is most natural to my soul in past lives as a healer, medicine woman, priestess, etc. Maybe this intuitive way is what is most natural for all people.

Nature is beginning to call to me. Not just in a casual way that happens when you take a hike in the woods, but in a deeper way that invites me to experience both the groundedness of the land and the metaphysical and transcendal aspects of the natural world. I have been curious about exploring parallel universes and other dimensions for a long time, yet felt to focus on my emotional healing primarily and healing my connection with the Divine in a way that was grounded in my body. After ten years of this focus, I can feel a rumbling of curiousity and desire in me to expand my consciousness and see things which cannot be seen by the eyes. This, it feels like, is more familiar to my soul than the logical and practical world I have been raised in.

This weekend, Wayne and I are going to camp out for a night in the hills. To light a fire, to feel the oak trees around us, to take in the soul opening view of the river and the lake. To connect with the Divine and our guides. To see what opens up that won’t be easy to explain to the rational mind. To feel not walls around us but the open air. We’ve been camping quite a bit the last few months but now that we are in a house, which is also very appreciated, we both feel a desire for the open air. And for whatever metaphysical journey our souls would like to go on.

It is interesting how much it feels like home to me to be without easy internet access and all the other things I have been used to. I feel that this sense of home is the core of our sacred humanity and what I call our wild self. We’ve been tamed by industrial society and lost our connection with so much of what makes us and the world sacred. I like the feeling of appreciating the home within me, the home with the Divine, the home in nature, and the home in metaphysical realms. My journey has been about finding home in all these ways and, yet, also to be open to experiencing the ongoing mystery arising in every moment.

Jelelle Awen is co-creator and facilitator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life. Go here to connect with Jelelle on facebookVisit the SoulFullHeart website  for more information about virtual sessions with her.

Poco a poquito: Life At El Rancho

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By Jillian Vriend

Poco a poquito or poco a poco means, “little by little,” in Spanish. The hispanic foreman here at the ranch uses it often and it’s become a favorite of ours as well. Not only is it fun to say (as so many Spanish phrases are), but it seems to capture a deeper lifestyle shift for me since moving to the ranch.

Recently, I was lining the spiral paths in our garden with river rocks that are piled close by. I started doing this to denote areas of the garden that were close to the path and in threat of getting stepped on. We sowed carrot seeds on a slope inches from the path and I didn’t want any unsuspecting foot crushing them. Then, I started lining paths that we created in some of the beds with rocks to denote where it was, again, ok to walk without crushing anything still dormant in the soil. I have been very relaxed about this process, mostly letting my inner child lead the way when she feels like adding more rocks. I was in the middle of adding more rocks when Chino, the aforementioned foreman, came by. He said the word for “path” in Spanish and we communicated through hand gestures that I was, indeed, using the river rock to line all the paths.

Chino offered then to wheel barrow over a bunch of rocks for me. I knew how Chino worked, which was in a big display of strength and grounded push. I knew I would find myself with a huge pile of rocks in a short period of time. I smiled at him and pointed to the bucket I was using to slowly bring them over. Then I used his seemingly favorite expression, “poco a poquito.” This he got immediately, smiled at me, and moved on.

This sense of responding to things needed to be done, little by little, is a different approach than the pushing productivity of the western world and actually in most work projects. While there is a sense of importance about getting our garden planted and harvesting from it, there is also a feeling that nature will take its own time. There will be periods of activity and periods of rest. Periods of big growth and periods of little growth. Indeed, little by little, our garden grows and rather than feel that I am ‘working’ on the garden every day, I feel that I am responding to it in a circular way.

Some days that means adding more stones to line the paths and some days that means not adding any. I trust that eventually all the paths will be lined. I feel like this approach is what I imagine for our next garden, which will surround the house that we are staying in on the ranch. We imagine creating a herb spiral full of basil, oregano, cilantro, thyme, chamomile, and more. Rows of tropical lettuce, arugula, mizuna (an asian type of lettuce), and mustard greens will be tucked near the house with ready shade and easy watering. Perky sunflowers and other flowers will line the walk way up to the house, inviting creatures and people to come in. We want to create a path made of brick from the back walkway to the outdoor kitchen and level out the back of the house by the veranda for placement of some hammocks.

Or maybe not. This is the plan but we’ll see what actually unfolds…little by little.

Jillian Vriend is co-creator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life and author of three books.

Letting Go Of Who You Are Not: Life At El Rancho

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 By Wayne Vriend

It’s been a couple months now just about since arriving at our destination: Rancho Amigos, though my sense of tracking time is way off from what it used to be. It sure doesn’t feel in any way like January, sitting here at 9 in the morning in shorts and a tee shirt on the veranda of our ‘guest house.’ I occasionally glance at the date on my cell phone, when I’m using it for it’s main purpose lately: the Spanish English dictionary app. I haven’t received a call on it for months now. It feels new and strange to not have reason to track the date, or the time of day for that matter.

We have a 250 watt solar panel, an inverter, and 4 very heavy batteries, that works great to power our laptops, run a few kitchen appliances etc. It’s kind of like camping on steroids. The blend of technology on what feels like me to be the edge of civilization provides quite the contrast. I tell myself to enjoy while we have it, because we don’t have the means to replace this stuff when it gives up. Thank God my 8 year old laptop isn’t complaining.

As I write this, I can feel the question of ‘Why am I writing, what am I wanting or seeking?’ or does it have more to do with contributing, giving back? I’ll keep feeling that as I write and see where this goes.

The last several days have felt intensely full. We moved from our tent camp on the ranch into the guest house after the workers completed some bathroom and outdoor kitchen tiling and plumbing connections. It all had to ‘hand bomb’ our stuff up a hill, as part of me likes to call it, as the ranch truck is waiting for a part from town. Then we planted our 900 square feet garden. The garden has felt like such a lifeline. We’re hoping to drastically reduce the amount of fruits and vegetables we buy in town on our weekly trip, in keeping with our budget predictions, more or less.

Back to the questions above: I can feel a part of me hesitant to write, not sure what tack to take. Shall we share the content of what life is like and what is changing externally with some commentary on the internal changes that afford that? Why bother writing about it at all? Is anyone being helped by it? Is part of me hanging on to an old identity of a blogger, writer, and healer as a steadying handrail in the midst of so much change? The questions are all here and baking in the oven so to speak. The answers aren’t clear.

I can so feel the surrender that it has taken to choose this path over the past year, and how that has been a continuation really of the past 10 years…letting go of the familiar when it feels time. When something feels complete in your life, staying any longer inside of that place has a signature feeling of you stagnating, of dying. Something wants to die all right, but only to make way for new life. Death can be so full of life, if we surrender to it. It is actually the refusal to surrender to natural deaths in our lives that brings on a kind of death we were not meant for.

Surrendering into an unknown is avoided for the fear it brings of being with the questions the unknown brings with it. Why am I here? and Who am I? What makes me fulfilled? I’m really curious at this point what another year of this so much simpler life will bring in terms of meaning and fulfillment, how I will perceive myself, and others, how I will perceive my own power in the world around influence or money?

Unanswered questions are the best, so I’ll leave those to bake and yield whatever insights they may. Maybe when all of our questions are answered, the quest of life itself is no more. And whoever came up with the idea that God himself, herself or itself actually knows the answers? What if us questing with our questions is god just goddin’ through us? Huh? Way cool shit man. Way cooler than the ‘to hell with you if you don’t get it figured out right shit.

Letting go of the contextual quest for the moment and just being okay with the sacredness of the content…the changes here and now on the ground, in this phase of life I live. Can you feel the difference? Do you know the part of you that can get lost in content, all the doing of life? And the heart and soul part of you who seeks to rise above it? Both are necessary and need to be baptized into the sacredness of a whole-some you.

As I was saying, about the content:

Internet: Getting the Internet here on the ranch is a $3,000 satellite installation away I’m told, and we’re not so sure we actually want it, even if we could afford it. That leaves us two hours drive away from the internet cafes and means that it has to fit into the trip to town day which has meant for me 20 minutes on line for every 2 weeks. It continues to open out for us how big a step it is to get out of the internet grids 24/7. It makes space for returning to our essential beings, being in nature and in our humanity. It’s kind of like those weird kids of my generation that grew up without TV, and how they were the most creative kids on the block.

Money: I did the last of my painting contracting days in August of last year in Canada, earning crazy good money. Doing something for 30 years enabled a finding of the best situations as far as easy money was concerned, but it also left me in a frequency zone of being a painting contractor, ready, willing and available, that was becoming less and less of who and what I am. Not that I’m real sure of who I am as I said earlier, but oftentimes, it’s about letting go of who you are not, or who you are not any longer. We alchemized and pooled all the money we could for this move to Mexico beginning when we decided to come in May of last year. We have about a year or more of money on hand to buy necessities if we live very simply, and partake of the yields of the garden, as well as the many fruit varieties on the ranch.

There isn’t any money income coming our way that we know of or expect. That’s an ongoing adjustment for me, at times that has felt totally scary, but each time, as I feel the fear and what’s behind it, it opens out into a trust and a rest. It births a trust in who we are and the value that we bring to life and others that will translate into our needs being met, but probably not so much through the fiat currency channels as the means of exchange that we have all become so entrained in. Today for example, I just brought a very welcomed coffee to the construction workers and one of the workers promised to bring me cocoa plant seedlings next week. Another promised me something yesterday from his garden that I didn’t understand. The energy of being in exchange with people feels like the natural and necessary future for us.

Social: Our English works well of course for the four of us on the ranch here, but that’s the end of it. Everyone else here is a Spanish speaker at the moment. The other ‘members’ of the ranch that have homes under construction are still waiting to move in and only visit here occasionally. So we practice our growing Spanish every day with the 4 ranch workers and the 6 construction workers that either camp out for the work week or horseback it daily here. It’s a bit of a euphoric experience to speak English with anyone outside of the four of us.

Pausing here in the writing for now, other things call in the moment….mostly life to be surrendered and responded to.

Wayne Vriend is co-creator and facilitator of the SoulFullHeart Way Of Life.