Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I drove up to Avalon Farm today in order to spot Mel while she continues to work on a steep and narrow portion of the access road with the tall, top-heavy tractor. She is concerned that the tractor will tip into the ravine while she is working on the high crown of the road, smoothing it down so the road bed is flat. So I am her 911 call, ready to sound the alarm if her fears are realized.

This is my second day on Avalon doing this job. It is such a delight to be able to help just a tiny bit with taming wild Avalon without breaking her spirit or ruining her untouched, organic wholeness. Mel got 40 feet out of the 100 feet in this section of steep road leveled last week, and today she made another 40 feet of progress. Now she has only 20 feet to go, and one more of my trips up there will see the job safely done. She has a good deal more work to do on the road to level it throughout its half-mile of descent into the valley of Avalon, but the grade for the rest of the road is not so steep and the road is wider. So she can work on her own.

We do have a protocol whenever she is working with big tools. She calls before she starts the job, letting us know what tools she is using and where. Then at the end of her working day she calls in to report that all is well. That way we have a fail-safe in place. If we don’t hear from her, we drive up and investigate. So far, this protocol has worked perfectly.

It has turned much dryer since last week. The roadside flowers look dusty and some of the grasses are brown. The crops are further along by far, the apple trees bearing, the tobacco past its bloom and starting to fire up, the corn in tassel and the soybeans coming along well.

I love the look of the tobacco at all its stages of growth. It has a lovely leaf and habit and the blossoms are beautiful. It is too bad that the plant, when used for smoking, is so toxic. The Native Americans think of it as a sacred plant and use it in rituals. Certainly in that usage it is not so toxic, and it feels magical to me as a plant. It carries a lot of power. I never have smoked, so this is not a justification! I just like the plant.

When we were shopping for my bathroom rugs last week, Mel found the perfect welcome mat for inside the front door of Sugar Shack and when I stopped in to meet the new kitty, Mr. J, I could see that it was absolutely perfect! Under Mel’s constant loving attention, the inside of the cabin is beginning to look like a regular home. Her carpentry has created new doors for front and back which close well and lock, and she has painted them red. The inside walls are light yellow. She has begun two storage closets so that she has room to hang her good clothes and to store her things, and they are going to look super when she gets them done. We need some things: a tough bedspread for her bed, a table and chairs that fit in her space, a proper desk and filing cabinet and a better tool shed. She also wants to get new porch furniture, a recliner and a few rockers or porch chairs. But she is content to find these pieces as they come to her for the right price.

This cabin has always been a shack, and no amount of fixing it up will suffice to repair it. But Mel has made it livable and safe for the next five years or so while she builds her own homestead further down the meadow. Then her plan is to deconstruct Sugar Shack after carefully measuring everything and drawing up plans, and then rebuilding it just as it was before on the same site. That way, even if Mick and I cannot afford to build our dream house on Avalon, we will have a little cabin to retire to someday.

I did not see the chicks today because they were inside the coop instead of pecking around outside. Mel asked me not to go to the coop because the chiggers are so bad in that part of the meadow. But she says that they are doing well, rapidly growing to adulthood. The hens are not laying well, though. Perhaps it is the season.

The new cat, Mr. J, is a delightful little being. Unlike Mel’s previous cat, Raffles, who disappeared some months ago, the Jay Man is a domesticated cat who loves laps and sleeps at the bottom of Mel’s bed at night rather than catting around outdoors. He is a pretty animal, a smoke-gray American short-haired domestic cat with yellow eyes. And he’s chatty. He will be good company for Melissa. She is presently pondering what the J stands for! I suggested Jesse and Junie, after an old farmer Mick knew when he lived on his land on Joner Creek, but Mel is thinking Jaguar! Mr. Jaguar has a nice ring to it!

A visit to the outhouse revealed that Mel has spread wood chips all along the path from Sugar Shack to it. It’s such a pleasure to walk along the leveled, cleared, clean path! When I think of what she had to do to achieve that, I stand in amazement. The ground was all chopped up from when the crew built the utility shed some years ago. It was studded with stones and the ground was clay and hard as a rock. She had to use a pick-ax to bust the sod and she got so many rocks out of the area that she was able to build a cunning little flower bed using them. In so many ways, Avalon is sweetening and becoming more user-friendly thanks to Melissa's tender loving care.

After Mel finished her tractor work, I closed my book and we visited the outhouse and Mr. Jay. Then we treated ourselves to a burger at Shipley’s, across the Ohio River in Madison, Indiana, about seven miles upriver from Avalon. It is a lovely drive down into the town and Madison itself is quite charming, the main streets spruced up for tourists. Madison is a tourist destination all year round, but especially during the Madison Regatta. It has many Victorian homes that have been preserved and the architecture of the town is classic river-town brick, also well preserved in many cases.

We used the time as a planning meeting, both for Avalon issues and for the upcoming Homecoming. Shipley’s is a funky, dark, atmospheric old place, narrow and long, with an old-fashioned wooden bar stretching halfway back into the space and antique copper tiling for the ceiling. I had a great time there!

I realized after I dropped Mel off at Avalon and was heading back to Camelot that I had forgotten to sing to Avalon. Gads! How could I have forgotten? I will remember next time for sure.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I drove up to Avalon today amidst a wealth of lovely wildflowers along the fields and roadsides: the mustard yellow of goldenrod, the delicate white of Queen Ann’s Lace and the rich indigo of chicory. The summer is in full spate, with a sauna-like heat and an ever-changing array of fluffy, drifting swathes of clouds. A recent rain had made the ground just right for working with our big tractor, a tall 1975 Massey-Ferguson beast we call M.F.

Mel is not overly concerned that she will make an error on the machine. She is now well used to it and handles it as well as Mick, if not better. However she wanted to work on the steepest part of the access road today, smoothing the crown of the road down to the level of the ruts and then driving over the flat road with the big wheels to settle the roadbed. She wanted to have me on hand on the off—chance that the top-heavy machine, perched on the crown of the road, might tilt over into the abyss. I was her “911” call on the hoof.

I brought up some reading from my Great Office Clean-Up, Papa’s journals for the last six months, which I have barely cracked. However I also brought up a fascinating novel by Catherine Coulter, one of her FBI novels, and was lost to the world, tracking down a psychopath in a business suit and well guarded with power and influence. Nya-ha-ha! The villain was well and truly caught at last!

In the midst of her work, Mel stopped for lunch and brought us both back a box of chicken and fixings from the little convenience store that lives with the Marathon gas station at the top of our hill. The food was delicious and we planned as we ate, chewing through the final decision to buy 4 of the size 16 rims and 4 size 16 tires for Moonshine, our new Dodge Ram, thanks to a generous contribution by Bob R. Mel had found an amazing bargain – 4 rims for $35 each and 4 wheels for $25 each, both used but quite serviceable. Mel called me later in the day to let me know that the truck handles much, much better now that it has the right paws! I was so glad to hear that!

Melissa has outdone herself in industry and improvement of the site since I was last here. Now the floor of Sugar Shack is varnished all one color, a deep mahogany, while the walls are the pale yellow of the first narcissus of the spring. The place is far brighter! And the ceilings, which used to be an odd combination of silver and bare wood, are now white. This has cleaned the cabin up tremendously and lightened and brightened the feel of the place.

Mind you, there is still a roof to replace, if we want the cabin to be dry. There are still shelves to custom-build into the snug spaces with which Melissa has to work, in order to bring order to her storage. But she has carried to the Trimble county dump and discarded the disintegrating furniture from which she kept getting splinters or stabbing herself with joining brads. She had repaired the pieces again and again, but they were on Avalon in the first place because we had discarded them. So now all the junk is gone!

We need a recliner and a table and chairs badly, and Mel could really use some office furniture – a desk, a desk chair and file storage – but she is a thrifty woman and would rather live with less furniture for a while than go buy things retail which she feels she will run into naturally as she visits yard sales in the area.

The drive up and back book-ended a perfectly lovely day on Avalon. Her sweet spirit soughed gently through the full-green trees. I sang her a song or two, and enjoyed the enlivening energy I always feel there. I have been told that Avalon is a psychic scoop, being a long valley completely surrounded by knobs, so that whatever you bring to Avalon is intensified. I must bring a happy soul to her, because I always feel tremendous joy and relaxation there.

Mel talked some about how she is moving so slowly, and feels that she is not getting all the things done she wanted to do this summer. However I know that like most service-to-others-oriented people, she just sets her expectations too high to match. In point of fact, she has done an amazing amount of work there, and it shows!

This was the first time I was here since we lost Russell Crow, our rooster, and two of the Golden Comet hens. The chicks Mel picked up in Cincinnati on her way back from Bob R’s place in Toledo with the Ram are now about half-grown and were happily pecking away at their food in their coop on the porch. They will soon be old enough to introduce to Dusty Rose and Goldie, our remaining two hens, in the big coop.

I did not wander far on Avalon because Mel said that the fields were swarming with chiggers, very nasty little biting insects to which I am allergic. However on a trip to the outhouse over Mel’s nicely mulched path, I could see that the bottom land by the creek was all mown, and Avalon was in good order. All of that reflects a tremendous output of work. And Mel is keeping up with it despite a recent rash of equipment failures. Our DR brush mower, the tractor, the small mower and the truck have all needed repairs in the last month. Go Mel!

She is now looking forward to welcoming Gary and his guests tomorrow. His sister and her boyfriend, his friend Jessica and her boyfriend and Valerie will join him there for an afternoon at the farm. I hope Melissa puts them to use! The guests were in town for the Dave Matthews band concert which occurred this evening.

And then she will ready Avalon for those who wish to visit on Labor Day, after our Homecoming 2008 closes the previous evening.

We need water on Avalon pretty badly, and so Mel’s next priority will be to arrange for a well to be drilled. Her mushroom logs are very dry and she currently has no way except rain dances to get water to them. She fears that she may lose the whole crop because of the aridity. Fortunately our friend, Shane, of the Law of One Community, will be able to help her with fresh starts, once we do have the well.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Jim needed to take a load of storm debris up to Avalon and I had promised Avalon, the last time we were there, that I would come back and sing for her, so we set out after lunch on this unpromising, gray and chilly day, the temperature in the 50s F and the sky stormy. It is the very peak of spring! None of the bulbs has blown yet, so color is added upon color, tulips to daffodils, everywhere. Wildflowers abound, aconite, snowdrops and violets rampant in our yard and along meadows and roadsides. Most trees are blushing light green with the first hint of leaf-buds and all of the fruit trees are either in bloom or, in the case of peach trees, blushing pale pink with the first days of opening the buds. The lilac is coming out now and the forsythia still holds sway along the wayside.

We went up on the Marathon and Methodists route, a country route, staying off the expressways. At each of the first four turns, there is a Marathon gas station. At the final turn, there is a Methodist church. It was the perfect route for gazing at the glory of springtime. Occasionally the thrill of eating so much eye candy would overcome me and I’d start thanking the Lord out loud. Joy poured through me.

Melissa had the tractor on the road with the grading box behind it when we got there. She had said she hoped very much to be able to do some road work today, since this is the longest dry spell we have had. I was so glad to see she had succeeded! I felt badly at her having to stop to let us by, but she said not to worry. She had come to a good stopping place and would start right there tomorrow, if the road was still dry enough to work.

I cannot tell you how happy I felt to see our equipment in use! It has long sat idle and in fact Melissa has been working on just getting our tractor back to working order for a couple of months. A flat tire and a bad solenoid have been replaced, as well as the battery. Attachments and parts have been acquired. And research goes into all of this, as Mel learns the tractor and how it works.

The grading box does a great job! We could see the vast improvement where she had been working. And she has done much more than ride the tractor back and forth. Jim’s system of dams and ditches has been restored, which is many hours of work to do, with much digging and heavy lifting.

Mel is little but strong and tough, used to construction work and experienced at working with tools. She is just learning this tractor, though. She seemed quite competent to me, but she herself feels it will take much more practice before she feels fully confident.

She had prepared some torn greens, raw fruit, raw vegetables and croutons as a treat for us to feed to the chickens, who at first fled, seeing us invade their hen run. But gradually, Melissa coaxed them out with her, “Allez, allez,” and they came close enough to espy the goodies. Then they were ready to come closer and we sat with the five hens and rooster for about a half hour, just talking about Avalon Farm business. It is the closest we have gotten to our new babies.

Mel has inspected the mushroom plugs which Shane brought down from Canada last week and says that they are all just fine; some of them ready to inoculate into the prepared logs while others are not quite ready. This is our first try at a crop we know Avalon can grow and that’s exciting.

Vara planted a kitchen garden several summers back, but we knew ahead of time that until we dig a good well at Avalon, the draught season is too severe for the plantings to survive, while in rainy weather, the garden plot is situated in a dip in the meadow where it routinely floods. Vee moved heaven and earth and spent most of her time that summer carrying water from the creek to the plants and did harvest a bunch of cucumbers and zucchini, which are both extremely hardy crops.

Melissa is now working on the kitchen garden plot, rebuilding the area by adding dirt when she gets it from her road work as well as – literally – tons of compost. Her intention is to keep doing so until there is no longer a drainage problem. She has also finished fencing it. When the last volunteer left in 2005, there were two sides of the fence erected. She finished the job. A fence is absolutely necessary as we have deer and other critters who like young plants.

However she has no plans to grow such a garden this year, which I feel is very wise. She is swamped in construction. She would like to build a pole barn for our equipment. She also wants to build a fence around our pasture so that we can keep alpacas and llamas. In addition to all that, she is far from finished with her plan for improving our access road, which is half a mile long and still in need of lots of TLC.

Everywhere I look, I see Melissa’s loving care reflected. Like many service-to-others-oriented people, Mel is very self-deprecating. But her hard labor shows everywhere! Our peach tree is saved – it was listing heavily and dying – and bearing bloom! A pretty new flower bed has been made from a pile of stones left in the meadow by former volunteers. Paw-paw trees just were planted as well as lots of black locust starts which she got from a forestry program which gives away certain species of trees to farmers in the attempt to put good trees in.

Cedar trees that are not native to this region but were imported have gone wild around here. The idea is to take out the intruders and replant the Kentucky native species. The state and county agents have been to visit and one of these agents has marked many trees for removing in order to clear the canopy and make room for our Kentucky native trees.

All in all, Mel is a wise woman not to try to garden on top of the mushroom farming, road work, tree work, pole-barn building and fence construction!

After we had sat long enough with Russell Crow, Dusty Rose and the four Golden Comets to start getting chilled, we left the chicken run. Mick and Melissa loaded the trailer, now empty of the limb-load, with the creek rocks which Mel has collected during the last week or so. Jim needs them to build a wall for a Jim’s Lawn Service customer.

And I got out my hymnal and sang until they were finished. It feels good to sing to Avalon, who really appreciates it. And it feels good to be resting in the heavenly vibrations of sacred song, just on my own account. It felt very healing.

We had another lovely ride home, staying on another country road, US 42, all the way in to Louisville. Avalon feels full of promise, and certainly full of love and devotion.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


On a beautiful day, I took Tom C and Neil C to visit Avalon Farm. The late winter weather had paled the roadside grasses to dun and the leafless trees stood with dignity and beauty, touching bare fingers to a cloudless sky.

Melissa was working on the access road when we got there, sawing away at a culvert which she hoped to place before dark today. It was so good to see her bright and shining face and her impish grin! She graciously broke away from her work long enough to walk Tom and Neil around, showing them our chickens and rooster, the beautiful chicken house and run she has built, and all the features which they could reach. They could not cross Locust Creek today to see the other part of Avalon which lies on its far side, as recent generous rains have raised it above our walk-across stones.

While they walked about I sang to Avalon, having brought my hymnal. She always asks for my singing, bless her!

Both men felt the magic of our farm! We talked on the way home about our hopes of bio-dynamic farming there, expressing in our lives the principles of the Law of One. This is a precious dream, and we move towards its manifestation with no hurry and no worries, just our intention, firmly set, and our will and faith.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Going up to Avalon is always a joy! And it was a gorgeous day, just cool enough for a light jacket, with a few clouds to set off the blue sky and pretty sunshine to turn the roadside grasses to bronze and gold. Jim had some limbs to drop off along the access road at places where he and Melissa are working to keep the roadway from eroding. I was feeling distinctly under the weather and the ride was just the thing to lift my spirits.

Avalon's half-mile of steep access road is very picturesque, being carved out of the side of a ravine. In wet weather such as we have had for the last week, linns – little wet-weather waterfalls - spring out from the rock facing the road, across the chasm at the bottom of which flows the feeder creek, a tributary to Locust Creek, the big creek that runs through Avalon’s bottomland and, eventually, in to the Ohio River.

We found Mel hard at work at the side of the access road and she and Mick took all the limbs and other yard debris from a half dozen of his customers and dropped it at the spot where there is the worst erosion.

She took a break to introduce me to all the animals – Raffles, our kitten, rapidly growing into a full-sized tabby mouser, Vinnie, our newly castrated steer, our rooster, Russell Crow, and our five chickens, a girl band called Dusty Rose and the Golden Comets. The chickens were glad to see Melissa, who gave them a treat. What a great chicken house we have! Kudos to Mel, who built the whole thing, plus a large run, from scratch and without help. I collected a couple of eggs from her special hinged doors and we tried to coax Vinnie to come near and say howdy, but he was wary.

The farm has a very tidy, loved feeling to it, thanks to Melissa’s constant care and affection and everything looked just grand. She had done quite a bit of limbing on the small cedars which Mick felled some time ago and is starting to accumulate poles to use in building her next three projects, a lean-to for Vinnie, who has outgrown the first one she made him, a lean-to for our equipment and a cabin for herself. Everything has a glow! She has made the place shine. The devas are definitely happy at Avalon Farm.

We looked at well sites. I encouraged Mel to have the dowser look for the best spot close to her future homestead and plan to dig there. It will be expensive, but well worth it (LOL) if we can then irrigate crops and have gray water, at least, for Melissa.

All too soon we said farewell to sweet Avalon and drove home through the first rays of sunset, as I swung my sunshade from the front window to the side window again and again. The road home curves south, then east, and so the sun plays tag with us.

Halfway home I realized I had forgotten to sing for Avalon. She always loves to be serenaded. I shall do it next time for sure!