Wren Adi's blog

agriculture versus wild foraging

I've spent the past seven years building my gardening skills, and the past five years standing firmly behind permaculture as a solution to saving the earth. I love gardening. It calms my anxious mind, so it has made so much sense to me that being physically active and working outside with plants is my heart path.

Last summer, I showed up at Teaching Drum, permaculture certified, with my Newcomb's wildflower guide in hand, looking for someone to teach me something, as I've done my whole life.

But no one wanted to "teach" me anything. They wanted to create the space for me to learn more about myself, and find out what I really wanted to learn and do with my time.
I knew that I wanted to gather wild food and learn practical, primitive crafts, such as hide tanning and basketmaking, so I structured my days around that.

Even now I struggle with creating my own structure here, which means figuring out what I want to focus on, and pushing myself through the fumbles of learning something new, and then not feeding the thought that's often in the back of my head that says, "You're wasting your time. Time is money, Wren. Your input is only worthy if there's output."

Last year, we gathered hundreds of pounds of wild leeks(ramps), wild rice, black walnuts, cisco fish and sucker fish, and deer meat, and our freezer was packed full of food for the winter. Aside from this, we ate seasonal greens such as milkweed and basswood leaves, and berries here and there.

Throughout it all I wondered how wild gathering fit with gardening.I imagined having my own land in the future; hunting, gathering, and gardening.

processing sinew

Northern Wisconsin has reached the middle of the coldest time of the year. To know that I am halfway through feels like a bit of a relief. The sun is gradually rising earlier every morning, giving a very subtle sign of the distant spring. Right now, it's hard for me to see the beauty of winter. My hands are cold, and my face is cold, though I feel incredibly alive in the discomfort.

a photo from the ice storm in Michigan
We've been eating a lot of fish lately, which I've been enjoying, but it's nice to have a change sometimes. Yesterday, we picked up a a very young deer that got hit by a car. I spent the morning skinning and butchering the deer, outside in the cold. I cut off the backstrap for dinner-it's the most popular part of the meat because it's so tender and tastes the best. While in the process, I decided to save the sinew. Sinew is the tough piece of tissue in the meat that can be dried, pounded, and used as a really strong thread for sewing. The backstrap and the achille's tendon contain the best quality sinew.

I laid the sinew on a board to dry by the woodstove.
pounding dried sinew from an achille's tendon

What does eating a 50 cent donut really mean?

A few days ago, I made a much stronger commitment to myself than I ever have before. The commitment was about healing my relationship with food.
I went into town yesterday to take a book order to the post office. When I got there, I realized I had forgotten to bring the address with me. I asked the woman at the counter if she had a phone I could borrow to call someone back at the Drum who could tell me the address. She said, “No.” 
I felt angry at myself that I had wasted time and gas to drive into town. I stopped at the gas station to get gas, and when I went in to pay, I saw donuts sitting on the counter for 50 cents. I chose not to get the donuts after convincing myself that they were no good for me, and remembering the commitment that I had made to myself.
When I got back in the car, I felt really sad. I realized that I usually look forward to going into town so that I can get a special treat that isn’t at Teaching Drum, but I chose not to this time.  I felt sad because I didn’t want to be in town. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the individualized, broken culture of “town.” The special treat I looked forward to was just distracting me from really seeing that. 
What does the eating the 50 cent donut really mean? 
It means I’m lying to myself about my feelings, and about the reality of my participation in a sedated culture. Sugar is a drug. It gives us that high just long enough to think that we’re content in our lives; content with our 9-5 jobs, with living for the weekend, and by the clock; with our television dramas, or the obsessive hype about weather or celebrities. As if there is nothing else to talk about. Ever wonder if it’s just a distraction?  

Christmas 2013, for me, is...

An ice storm in Michigan.

 No electricity, in a candlelit cabin in the woods.

Lots of vegetables cooked over the fire in the woodstove, long walks, and winter craft projects.

...and warm fuzzies from the holidays this year, to keep me warm through the rest of the winter.

Winter is Here

About two weeks ago, I came up to Wisconsin from Missouri after being gone for a month. A friend from Teaching Drum picked me up in Milwaukee, and we spent the day there before heading further north.

at Lake Michigan, in MilwaukeeThe temperature was -5 once we got up to Teaching Drum, and when I stepped out of the car, I felt the hairs in my nose freeze. It was the night of a dead moon. I felt ready for a good night's rest. I made my way down the familiar, dark and narrow path to the cabin where my bed lay. When I finally lay down, I slept lightly, because I was cold. I found more blankets, and then slept well through the rest of the night. When I awoke in the morning, it was -11.

The next day I started to settle in. I put on my thick wool pants. I rendered bear fat and cleaned and cooked fish for dinner. I felt happy and at home again.

from the quiet cold woods to the warm hilly ozarks

I've been living at Teaching Drum for about 2 1/2 months now, and I'm currently in Missouri visiting friends at East Wind, and family in Kansas City.

Being away from Teaching Drum has helped me look at my life there more objectively. I spent a lot of emotional energy there trying to catch up to others, and getting down when I perceived myself falling behind.

I think that going through the yearlong makes people more adaptable, creative, and strong-emotionally and physically. I haven't done the yearlong, and most of the people I live with right now have.
I've seen my clanmates run from place to place, do push ups, climb trees, eat fish heads, canoe for miles on the lake without exhaustion, and then at the end of the day, speak their truth even when they are afraid.

To get an idea of some of the people I live with, here's a video someone at Teaching Drum just made, about running in the woods. It's called intuitive running.


I was recorded to be in it for the shadowing piece, but then wasn't put in it because apparently I'm not "very easy or fun to shadow" because I'm not very expressive when I talk.

So, the more I pushed myself to become stronger and heal my emotional wounds, the more I got victimized and closed myself off from others.
We're all a little too hard on ourselves, and I'm guilty of that. I want to remember that I can choose to be kinder to myself.

I recognize my strengths and weaknesses more clearly now. I have grown stronger from being at the Drum. I've been running a few days a week, and doing strength training on the off days. I've been eating wild caught fish and deer, and loads of veggies. I've become more assertive and confident in myself, and also more aware of my unhealthy patterns.

When I was

When I was at the library the other day I started reading an article in Psychology Today entitled, "Are You Too Good For Your Partner?" At the beginning of the article, and woman asks her friend, "Why do I want to be with people who aren't interested in me, and the people I'm not interested in, want to be with me?" Her friend responded by saying, "You're an 8 chasing 10's, and you're being chased by 6's."

At first, I thought, "Hey! Maybe that's me!" and I questioned the truth in advice I had been given by someone else about how I don't accept love from those who really love me, and I seek acceptance from those who don't love, and how that mirrors a lack of acceptance for myself.

I also questioned the simplicity of a numbered scale in relationships.

Maybe it's true that I am lacking in self acceptance, and it's also true that relationships aren't that simple. Everyone doesn't fit under a number that relates to someone else.

However, I've noticed the tendency of my mind to put others above or below me. Honestly, when I'm looking for a partner, I'll note their intelligence, their confidence, and their passion and self motivation for learning. I'll look at other partners they've had in the past. I want to know if we're equals, or if I am inspired by them. Maybe my instinctual nature wants to find the perfect mate to reproduce and evolve with.

I also thought about how I spent time too much time in the past really liking people because I had put them up on a pedestal. Were they a 10, and I was an 8? I think I just created that idea in my mind.

What does it mean to be a 10, anyway? I think on the days I'm feeling confident in myself, I'm a 10. If I'm feeling down on myself, and unexcited about life, then it makes sense that I would be unattractive, and my number might be lower.

I have resolved that we're all ever changing and evolving, and it doesn't make much sense rate and compare others.

What's going on in my life these days:

I've been feeling inspired by friends and people around me to follow anything that brings me joy, despite difficulties, mental or physical, that it will take to get there. I've been running regularly; pushing myself to run up hills, speeding up, gradually increasing my distance, and listening to my body when it tells me it needs rest. I started practicing sitting meditation again. I often get caught up in a frantic energy. It feels like an inability to take a full breath, and an inability to focus. Then there's the struggle of my mind trying to control it and judge that feeling. Meditation helps me slow down, and let go of the mental judgements.

My Continuing Relationship with Town Food

I'm now more aware of the super old patterns that I have with food, and I'm learning that repeatedly breaking a pattern really brings change. I get a lot of cravings when I go into town and see "off diet" food, and then I feel stressed because I'm trying to decide if I should give into it. When I do give into it, the food (usually chocolate or a baked good) doesn't taste as good as I imagined it, and then I feel sick almost immediately afterward. Then I feel guilty and self judgmental about it.

My practice of breaking the pattern: When I catch myself craving something, instead of reaching for it, I take a deep breath, experience the feeling of craving. Then I ask myself what will come from actually eating it, and remember the past food indulgences. After that, I can watch the craving pass, and then I feel relieved.

The food in town used to be this forbidden thing for me. I would try to stay away from it for as long as I could, and then mentally punish myself when I ate it. I also felt sadness about wanting to just "fit in" with the majority of Americans who eat that stuff, and feel healthy and not stressed around it.

Budding Trees

walnut harvest

A bunch of us piled into a van, last week, for a 6-hour road trip down to southern Wisconsin, to gather black walnuts from trees that line the roadsides. We camped out in a friend's yard, and gathered walnuts all day, every day, for a week. It was an adventure that was filled with friendly farmers and small town folk. The most memorable parts of it were when a group of teenagers TP'd the trees around our tents in the middle of the night, and when we were on our way home, our trailer broke down from being old and overloaded with nuts.

I found this nut while gathering, and noticed its heart-shape.gathering
some of our nut harvestthe end result!

everchanging suns

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE I was born on October 5th, 25 years ago, at home, in Prairie Village, Kansas, around 1pm. My mom said the temperature was in the 90’s. It was one of the hottest days of the year. That’s all I really know about my birthday, other than the memories I have of celebrating it every year.

The temperature was in the 40’s on my birthday this year, in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. I bundled up in a coat, hat, and scarf. My birthday wasn’t memorable. There was no right of passage; no sudden, or big change in my life. It rained all day, and I was cold and wet. Five people left Teaching Drum a couple days before, and I felt lonely.  I felt “victimized.”  I felt fearful about winter coming, about aging, and about being stuck in old patterns. I started to question if Teaching Drum was where I really wanted to be.
This morning when I awoke, I thought about how I wanted to change my perspective. I wondered what lesson there was to learn from the sadness that came up on my birthday. Every change in my life is an opportunity to grow stronger and more adaptable. In the absence of so many people, I am learning to become more comfortable being alone. In the absence of sunlight and warmth, my body and mind are gradually adjusting. Cold is just cold. I don’t have to put the word “bad” on to it. I don’t have to say “I don’t like it.” It can just be an experience I am having. 
New Experiences
I feel healthier, physically and mentally, living in a place that doesn’t have the option of wheat, dairy, or sugar as food. I’ve suffered from stomachaches and headaches for years when I ate that stuff. I’m happy I don’t have to go to the supermarket everyday and be overwhelmed with brightly colored packaged food products, lined up with magazines on how to shrink your waistline.

Lake Superior


The Great Gitche Gume. The largest of the great lakes.  31,700 square miles of blue. Shiny pebbles along the shore, the calming sound of the waves, and wild grapes!

September comes to a close. October brings colder weather, red leaves, people coming and going out my life, children growing and changing before my eyes, and myself changing and growing in more subtle ways.

Wild Plant Harvests on the Lake

A friend and I did some some exploring yesterday on Hiles Mill Lake. We were looking for a section of mountain maple trees located above a floating bog. We wanted to go out there to gather seeds for edibility tests. We paddled for about 1 1/2 miles, and then waded into the bog. What's neat about the floating bog is that it's bouncy. It reminded me of being on a moon bounce when I was a kid. What's a little scary/exciting is that it is difficult to see how far you will sink in until you step down. I fell into a deep spot a couple times when I wasn't being completely aware of where I was stepping. Once we made it through the bog, we climbed up a path of fallen trees into the mountain maple forest. It was a really beautiful day, and we collected a couple bags of seeds.

This whole area is surrounded by lakes. Almost every time we go out to gather wild edible plants, we explore a different lake. I'm enjoying the opportunities to get in a canoe. I'm getting better at canoeing, and I'm getting stronger. I really like being out in the sunlight, and on the water, with a view of all the colors of the fall trees.

Three Worlds-the new way, the old way, and the dream world

I rode one of the community bikes out to wolf lake today. It was silent there, except for the sound of the wind whipping over the water, and the fluttering of quaking aspen leaves. I felt thirsty. I stepped toward the shore, and lay onto the the small rocks with my palms down, in a push-up like stance, and my face over the water . I opened my mouth, and then a wave came and woke me up with a splash in the face. I decided to bring the water to my mouth with my hands, and then I splashed more water onto my face. Afterward, I looked up and out across the lake with a view I had never had before. It felt really good to feel so connected to this huge source of life. My source of life. Water fuels me. I need it for my very survival.

I’ve been slowly transitioning the bacteria in my stomach to wild water. I’m following a very careful protocol. I’m aware of giardia and other risks, and I don’t recommend trying it without someone very experienced and knowledgeable to guide you.

I took a walk along the lake. When I felt like I was done walking, I thought about how I didn’t want forget the feeling of the cool wind against my face, the brush of the ferns against my side, or the soft moss.

When I left Wolf Lake, I walked up to the paved road. I got on the bicycle, put my headphones in, and then rode off. The song, “The Crane Wife” by the Decemberists started playing. It reminded me of the unforgettably, loud and beautiful sound of the crane singing while flying over the wild rice a few days before.

wolf lake

Ricing Moon and the Healing Circle

Alex and I spent the whole day today canoeing and gathering wild rice from the lake. I've been ricing for about two weeks now, and it looks like today was probably the last day. The stalks are browning, and the rice falls light. The wind was coming in heavily from the north, blowing white caps on the water that chopped at the canoe. We used all our strength to paddle against it, and once we got to the shore, the wind lay low, blocked by a stand of trees. I looked around and noticed the color of the trees. Yellows and browns spotted the coast, and a few specks of red maple leaves showed their fall colors. I felt chilled. I wished I had brought an extra sweater. Fall is here already! It's beautiful...

Photos from last weeks wild rice harvest:

The long Wisconsin winter

Fall gives a reminder of the incoming white season. The snow will start falling in October, and continue until April. Sometimes it snows in May or June. In the middle of winter, the temperature will drop down to -20 at night. I’m afraid of feeling cold. I want to make peace with the cold, but I’m not sure how.
Maybe this winter will be an experiment, to see how well I can acclimate to change and discomfort.

Summer's End at Teaching Drum

It's the end of August, and the weather up here is warm during the day, with cool nights, and few mosquitoes. There's a lot going on right now.

The blackberries and bunchberries are ripe. I've never had bunchberries before until now. They are small red berries that grow in a cluster, on the floor on the woods. They taste mildly sweet, and have a creamy texture. They're fun to just grab when I'm going for a walk.

I am holding a small handful of blackberries. I'm standing still, and the mosquitoes aren't biting! I'm enjoying the weather. There's so much to look at, and I've been taking a lot of photos, as you can probably tell from this blog post.

The wildflowers are blooming, too. When I moved in, I was welcomed into my room with a bouquet of wildflowers.

Some are starting to wilt, now.

This is anicha

I finished my first vipassana course a few days ago. A vipassana course consists of ten days of silent meditation, for approximately 10 1/2 hours each day. I had the intention of doing emotional healing and developing a stable meditation practice to help me cope with chronic, and sometimes paralyzing anxiety that I've experienced ever since I was 13. I imagined the course would be difficult, but I could not have imagined how incredibly emotionally painful it would be, and the realizations I could only have by fully experiencing the pain.

I shared a piece of land, a meditation hall, a dining hall, and a dormitory with about 40 other people. At the beginning of the course, we turned in our electronic devices and reading and writing material. We agreed to not in engage in physical exercise, and we agreed to practice noble silence, except to ask questions to the teachers. Noble silence means to abstain from communicating with others through speaking, eye contact, or touch. These guidelines were set in place to make it easiest for us to clear our minds.

On the first day of the course, I rose at 4am and walked to the meditation hall to begin my sitting practice, as according to the daily schedule, and directed by the teachers.
By the afternoon, I was in the midst of a battle in my mind to stay awake, and I was failing. I was forcing my eyes to stay open, even though we were instructed to sit with them closed. My whole body ached intensely. A heat and throbbing pulsated in my head. My neck and back ached, but the most pain was in my legs. My stomach began to turn, and I felt the urge to throw up. I wanted to run out of the room screaming and crying. When I was almost to my breaking point, a gentle bell rang for a five minute break. I pulled my body up and out of the room, crying, my mind wrapped up in fearful thoughts of my possible inability to complete the course, and guilty feelings for wanting to give up so quickly.

I had intended

I had intended to keep updating my blog throughout my travels, but my inspiration to write started being expressed through written letters to friends back at Twin Oaks.
I deleted my facebook yesterday, and now I think I will put more energy toward writing, and more of the connections I am looking for.

When I left the Possibility Alliance months ago, I continued my sitting meditation practice, even though I didn't have others to share it with, and I was longing for that. I guess I would call it spiritual community. Unfortunately, that need doesn't feel fulfilled for me in religious churches, though I can get something out of it when I attend.

My practice slowly waned when I was at Teaching Drum. There was no one to sit with. When I'm alone in my practice, I have trouble focusing, even when I know that regular meditation and spiritual practice in my life benefit my mental health hugely.

I started running again-it became my practice. It takes patience and steadfastness as meditation does. When I am running and practicing sitting meditation regularly, I am doing really well. But, I struggle to keep these two things in my life regularly.

My unhealed emotional stuff was revealed to me in a way it never has been when I was at Teaching Drum. Teaching Drum is a small community that hosts a wilderness immersion program every year. I spent about a month there in June.

Coming Back to Life

I just spent two weeks at The Possibility Alliance and four days at a Restorative Circle seminar at the Peace and Permaculture Center in La Plata, Missouri.

Last week I started reading a book by Joanna Macy called Coming Back to Life. The book, and my experience the past weeks has impacted me a lot. The book discusses modern industrial society as full of people 'asleep' from the pain of the world. Years ago, when I first started looking at where everything I consumed came from, I felt shocked and overwhelmed, and powerless. We live in a culture where most people are subconsciously aware of ecological devastation, factory farming, slave labor, murder, etc, but if we come to full awareness of the fact that pretty much everything we use and practice in modern society contributes to all this pain, would bring us into great despair. At some point in my life I let myself feel this, and I cried and cried, and now I don't let myself feel it too much anymore.

Reading the book has reminded me of how it has fit into my life. I know I'm not where I want to be yet, and I don't know if I will ever get there, and I try to be patient and accepting of that. I noticed I am getting closer though. I can sense this because within the past few years I have challenged myself more in facing pain. My time at the Possibility Alliance this year was very different in a way than it ever has been since I first started visiting there five years ago.

The Possibility Alliance is an electricity free, petroleum free, substance free, quaker-ish community. They live a lifestyle that encourages humans to live to their highest potential.

The entrance to one of the gardens at The Possibility Alliance 

and I travel on

I took a PAL (personal affairs leave) from Twin Oaks about ten days ago.

I felt very content at Twin Oaks after being there almost two years, but I also felt a desire to explore some more communities, and gain some more primitive living skills.

Twin Oaks is a community of about 100 people. Sometimes I think of it as more of a village than a community. I've yearned to be in a close knit family, or a group of people who work together and support each other to grow and learn. It seems like I would need a smaller community for that. I also want to be in a community that focuses on emotional healing. There are so many people at Twin Oaks, going in all different directions. There isn't as much community as I want there. There isn't a main goal or purpose of the place. I think this is true just because it's so big. I think it could be possible for me to create that there, but I am not sure. That is part of what led me to take some time off to find out what I really want.

There are some people in Virginia who I really miss already..

My first stop is at East Wind Community. I lived at East Wind for six months before I moved to Twin Oaks.

We arrived at East Wind after driving for 16 hours. We came upon a large bonfire of people singing and playing guitar. I felt so happy to see my old friends again. People were visiting from communities throughout the country; from Emma Goldman in Seattle, from Sandhill in Northern Missouri, Acorn in Virginia, and now us from Twin Oaks in Virginia. It was a community gathering. We sang along as people passed the guitar playing Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Neutral Milk Hotel until late into the night.

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