We have recently added a small flock of chickens to our family here. Chickens are sweet birds and make good pets, if you have space and time to care for them. We are strict vegetarians and therefore do not eat poultry or eggs. The ancient Sages of India have advised against eating meat and eggs for all doing spiritual practices for mystical awareness of the Divine. Meat and eggs are tamasic in nature, meaning they dull the mind and increase the animalistic instincts within people when consumed. To ensure a clear mind for deep, illuminating meditation non-vegetarian foods are avoided. Yet chickens have been bred to be slow and fat for good eating. Such domesticated animals are helpless against predators in the wild. We feel it is our duty as people to care for such sweet and defenseless animals. We love our 13 chickens: Neeli, Pottu, Garuda, Amalaki, Durva, Darbha, Bilva, Kala, Neem, Vrinda, Shweta, Kutki, and Shunti. Here are photos of the new coop and run we just finished constructing for the birds. We have included a bachelor pad for our roosters so that we can control the population. We will post more photos of our feathered friends soon.
We have completed the first room in the big house, our sitting room / library. Though the room is not 100% complete, we are excited to announce that the first room is painted and usable. Somewhere between historic restoration and modern adaptation, we have updated the room which was a formal dining room to suit our needs for the space. We have used suitable vaastu colors to help increase the flow of positive energy in the Southeast where our well is dampening the fire element. We have designed the room to be used by guests to sit in and relax and study or to meet and converse with Swamiji. We have chosen colonial style furnishings for this room. A Queen Anne style desk and crewel work chair for Swamiji to sit at and study birth charts or meet with people. A William and Mary style table for guests to sit and study or enjoy a cup of tea. Camel back sofa and Sheraton style chairs for plenty of seating. Residents can sit and meet here and discuss upcoming projects or guests can be greeted here. It is a multipurpose room which suits our modern needs while accentuating the historic beauty of the house. We have exciting plans for finishing touches for this room, but with so many more rooms yet to be completed, this may have to wait some time.
We have completed the first section of our house. Now we have about 10 times more to go. The frame (studs and sills) need replacing due to severe termite damage we have uncovered. It is slow work as we are raising money as we go and doing the tedious work ourselves. But we are making good progress.
Yesterday we tilled the land for several of our gardens. The herbs garden, vegetable garden and tulsi garden. Moreinformation about the herb garden and tulsi garden can be found in previous posts. We are making good progress in the field.
Our next formal garden will be the Meditation Garden. The garden will be comprised of 5,000 square feet of Tulsi plants (Ocimum sanctum). Tulsi, or Holy Basil, native to India is said to possess great spiritual energy which effects the consciousness of people who come in contact with the sacred plant. It is revered by Hindus, Buddhists, and Eastern Orthodox Christians alike. It is said that there are few places which promote the depth of a person's meditations like a field of Tulsi plants.
Our tulsi garden will be 100 feet by 50 feet and surrounded with an 8 foot hedge of Tsuga Trees. This hedge will provide privacy to meditators and prevent distractions from the surroundings. Around the garden will be a brick path and paths will merge through the garden in a cruciform pattern. Hedges of yaupon holly will enclose the garden beds containing the Tulsi. Yaupon holly is a very suitable plant for a meditation garden because its stimulant properties promote awareness. The tulsi fields will be studded with English boxwoods. Several benches will provide rest to visitors and a place to meditate. Eventually we plan to construct a gazebo in the center of the garden to provide additional seating and a shady place to enjoy the spiritual serenity of the garden.
We have started a boxwood hedge around our herb garden, and hemlock hedge around the tulsi garden. Hedges take a long time to form so we wanted to get them started as soon as possible. The boxwood hedge will grow to about 4 feet tall and the hemlock trees we will trim to about 8 feet. Things seem to be progressing quickly here now.
Lining the driveway with nut tree saplings. Almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, butternuts, and hickory nuts to fill in space between the existing pecans and black walnuts. When these trees are producing, we can offer the nuts in puja ceremonies.
We have selected 108 plants with healing properties for our herb garden. We intend to photograph the plants and post information about their uses on the website. This garden is intended more as a display garden, but we will use certain herbs planted in the garden in the production of herbal teas. Herbs we need larger quantities of will be planted in rows separately in our vegetable garden. We have selected several types of plants for this space. 1) Western medicinal herbs 2) Indian Ayurvedic herbs 3) Native Virginian herbs 4) herbs popular in colonial times. We had thoughts of planting separate beds for different types of herbs but have settled on organizing herbs by flower color instead. Many tropical Ayurvedic herbs can only be grown here as annuals and so that bed would have become completely empty in the winter season. Grouping the herbs according to color allows us to group annuals, herbaceous perennials, and evergreen herbs together so that there is often something blooming and always something growing in each bed. The diagram below shows the layout. There are 7 beds in total. Two containing pink flowering herbs, one for white flowers, one for red, one for blue and one for purple. The photo may be enlarged by clicking to see in greater detail.
Each of the seven beds will be surrounded by a hedge of herbs. The entire garden will be surrounded by a hedge of boxwoods. Special Ayurvedic herbs will include ashwagandha and bala which can both be grown as annuals and which both have roots which strengthen all tissues in the body. Native herbs include cancer weed (lyre-leaf sage) and cranesbill geranium both of which we dug up from the lawn and have diuretic properties. European herbs include sage and rosemary which are both good for the mind, in the mint family and also used in cooking. Special colonial period herbs include Clary Sage and Rose campion, both of which have been used to treat bites from scorpions and spiders. With 108 varieties of herb and several hundred individual plants, this garden is a massive undertaking to plan and plant. We are starting most of our herbs from seed as seeds are very cheap and pants are very expensive. Seeking sources for the many rare herbs has been a challenge, but we have secured sources for most.
Business carried us to the West End yesterday, where we took a break to visit the Tuckahoe plantation. The grounds are open to visitors for a nominal cost. The old house and many historic out buildings are well maintained. The grounds include many formal and informal gardens landscaped with plants that would have been grown in the 18th century. Our efforts to restore our old colonial house keep leading us to beautiful and interesting places. It is always insightful and inspiring for us in our work now to visit historic sites like this.
Many thanks to the nice guys at Wow Antiques in Richmond for the new chandelier for our puja room. The glass chandelier which came with the house, below left, was not fitting for the house's Colonial Georgian style. Wanting to help us in our efforts to restore the house, the guys from Wow traded us this very special period appropriate, silver chandelier, below right. They practically gave us this beautiful fixture from their Richmond store where they were asking $1750 for it. The chandelier is perhaps a little fancy for a farm house like this, but perfect for our prayer room, since we are decorating in the height of formal colonial style. My Guru always said that the puja room should be the most beautiful and ornate room in a house. By grace, our restoration project is moving along beautifully.