Artful Land Care

Archive for the ‘Chores’ Category

Red Insulator

In Chores, Landscape on June 19, 2016 at 8:57 am

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June 19, 2016 

Land identification does not change easily in rural landscapes.  When a farm, ranch, or corner store passes hands, folk continue to identify it in the name of the previous owner years beyond the exchange.

Ray’s place became part of the farm a few years ago.  The passing of land and its being used differently meant some fence lines would need to come down and other go up.  However, I found knowing my neighbor well, meant I felt out of place any time I was on soil that once was his.  Because of that, I’ve waited to remove and construct fences.  Eventually, however, the time came to get the work done.

H-braces hold fence lines taut and are the first features built.  Theses went up in the early spring.  A month later T-posts were driven and then wire stretched.  The fence is a five wire fence.  The top two wires are barbwire, the next is electric fence wire, the fourth barb, and the bottom electric.  The pattern works well for a cow and goat operation.  The barbwire keeps cows in place and the goats, who duck through the barbwire easily enough, are stopped by the electric wire.

Wire clips hold the barbwire to the fence posts.  Insulators hold the electric wire to the same posts.  I had a number of insulators on hand from pulling them off old posts; some from the farm and others from Ray’s place.

When working a neighbors place you are acutely aware they are never quite gone.  That has a lot to do with why locals call places by the last owner’s name—even if it has been decades since they last lived there, and why local folk know the land being fenced as the old Brown place.  Fair enough, the working sweat and blood of those people are embedded in the soil they lived and worked on all those years.  One does not need be the best listener in the world to hear those voices of work long after they have left the land. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fathers-In-Law

In Chores, Landscape, Theology on January 24, 2016 at 8:00 am

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January 24, 2016

A fog storm settled in around us as we worked the rail fence. We started setting posts in the last moments of autumn hoping to beat the winter cold. We didn’t make it. The cold barreled in and uncritical chores became critical and the remaining post and railing took a seat. Those chores ended just in time for winter days who freeze nose hairs as you step out of the house.

Cattle are a curious bunch. So there we were trying to lag rails to the few posts we’d set weeks ago, with steers breathing out great buffs of fog as we worked, each settling a foot above our heads. Before you knew it, it was hard to see Belinda at the end of a sixteen-foot board. You think it an exaggeration? Well, perhaps a bit. Just the same…

I could hear Belinda’s dad scoffing at us as we worked. “Four below zero? Well, let me tell you. I was returning home from school one day when mamma stopped and picked me up. ‘Buddy,’ she said, ‘Don’t you know it is 43 below!! You’ll freeze before you ever get home.’ Four below, …hmpff.” My figures numbed inside unlined leather gloves.

My response was non-verbal, Dad has been gone for nearly three years now, “Yeah, well Bud, that’s what you Swedes and Norwegians get for choosing North Dakota when you arrived in this landscape. Some of us had the good sense to head straight to warm land, like, say, south Texas and California.” The trouble with having in your head conversations is you start countering your own arguments and it is no longer Bud but myself saying, “Oh Yeah, then why the hell are you here at the end of a board in below freezing weather? Damn!” I continued bickering with Bud and myself until the last lag screw is twisted in. We packed up the tools and took them to the shed. Then headed up to the house, the woodstove, a cup of coffee, and verbal conversation—I’m sure I will pick up the conversation with Bud another day. Read the rest of this entry »

Kneading—A Contemplative Practice—Bread

In Art, Chores, JustLiving Farm on April 12, 2015 at 8:00 am

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April 12, 2015

The other day I read an article talking about 10 foods everyone should make at home. Bread was one of the ten. I gotta say I like it when someone says, “everyone should be doing this…” and I am doing it.

Growing up, mother made bread. It was the sixties and early seventies and there was an onslaught of commercials enticing folk to buy easy no work food. Our family, like most, bought and ate plenty enough of this no work food, including bread. So, homemade bread was not a stable during the week, but instead was relegated to weekend food. More like pie.

When we were young adults Belinda and I began making bread. It was a once-in-a-while effort. Encouraged by Belinda’s father and mother, bead made in the home slowly became a norm. If nothing else, Belinda’s father was an opinionated man. A gadget like a bread machines was okay if it were the only way you would make bread. But if you are really going to make bread, you had better get your hands in the middle of the work. He opinionated that if you had time to eat well, you had time to make bread, and everyone has the time to eat well. Any surprise our bread machine has sat on the top shelf in the pantry for a long time?

If there was one thing that kept my bread making practice a once-in-a-while affair it was kneading, particularly the first. Then one day the folks gave us a Kitchen Aid. Now, the Kitchen Aid is just this side of a bread machine, but we choose to think not and in favor of weekly bread, Belinda’s daddy affirmed our thinking. And, after all, it doesn’t do all the kneading. But it does handle the first one and that was enough to get my hands into dough most every week. Read the rest of this entry »

Sidle Up To The Fenceline

In Chores, JustLiving Farm, Landscape on April 5, 2015 at 8:00 am

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April 5, 2015

Ray and I spoke across the fenceline for fifteen years. Each Christmas, whether we needed to or not, our families got together. When Rebecca and Andy’s wedding came, Ray and Mary were there. Ray and I didn’t see eye to eye on everything and I am glad we didn’t—made life a little richer, but we when it came to the joy of working land, we had pretty darn the same mindset. Ray passed away a few years ago and his place was split up. We picked up the land—someone else the home and barn—not long afterwards. I think of Ray whenever I am working the place. However, I sorely miss the fenceline conversations.

Ray flood irrigated the land. Each spring he hooked a V-ditcher up to the 3-wheel tractor and pulled ditches. Just like it sounds, the V-ditcher is a huge V shaped metal implement. When pulled behind a tractor it pulls dirt up and out of the ground leaving a V-shaped ditch. Once pulled, the irrigator runs water down the ditch. Siphon tubes then transfer water from the ditch into the field. The practice of ditching and siphoning is laborious. Which has a lot to do with my intention of using sprinklers to irrigate the field.

To flood the land, Ray created a series of crisscrossing ditches. The large supply ditches run the property’s boundary. Changing to sprinklers means all the ditches need filling. To do so, I run a spring-tooth implement up and down the mounds of dirt along each side of the ditch. After loosening the dirt mounds, I use a 3-point blade to turn the soil back into the ditch.

15.04.05b Read the rest of this entry »

Replacing Gates And What They Have To Say About Us

In Chores, JustLiving Farm on March 8, 2015 at 8:00 am

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March 8, 2015

A while back I brought a steer onto the place who could not or would not settle down. Before I sent him down the road, he successfully bent the hell out of one of the corral gates. With longer days settling in (though it is going to take some time for me to settle into daylight savings time) and a mild end to winter (at least for the moment), it is a good time to replace bent gates.

Like too many other things around here, our bent gates are the result of trying to save money. Our lighter gage gates are fine for lightweight animals like our sheep and goats, but they are quite up to the job with a 600-pound steer runs into them. But we all know about that don’t we? You live with what you can afford at the time!

A few years back Belinda and I attended an auction at an out-of-business feedlot. We bid and picked up a number of heavy weight gates. Gates much more suited to a 600-pound steer slamming into them. I figured they would make great replacements for the light gates in the heavy use corrals. Me being me though, well-meaning doesn’t always get the job done. I’m willing to use the excuse there was always something more important to take care of, but of course all that got me was a few bent gates.

15.03.08b Read the rest of this entry »

Stars of Place

In Chores, Reflections on September 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

September 27, 2014 (Hubble Image-National Geographic)

I finished baling just after midnight the other evening. An hour earlier, eastern stars faded as a slice of An orange waning moon leaned on the horizon. As I looped around at each row end the burnt orange moon rose and as the baler sucked up the last windrow stars once again began to highlight the eastern sky. As the last bale hit the ground, I turned south, moved halfway down the bale rows, turn the tractor off, and found a bale to lean on.

As night changes to morning folk are not doing much. Tractors are silent, hop drying shed blowers are off, and most folk are home in their beds. Distractions aside, the night sky drawl is perceptible. The intonation ponders what has been and what will be, with emotive creative dignity swirling about holding all in the moment.

Open fields and open sky in the mid of night allows for rest not found in sleep or under the noonday tree. A rest that allows self to open thought crevices normally veiled. Thought not organized but not muddled moves between star and hay field without agenda. Minutes fade, time dissolves, till sky and hayfield are one. Place become mine, theirs, ours.

Work is always of place. Known, work becomes better, place less damaged, and humanity enriched.

Fall’s Fence

In Chores, JustLiving Farm, Seasons on October 22, 2012 at 7:57 am

October 22, 2012

As we worked putting up temporary fence around the hay fields, it is apparent fall now owns the valley landscape.  First snow has fallen on the foothills to the west.  Wind blows steady from the west.  Sun glitters leaf edge—alfalfa, grass, and neighbors dry corn stalk.

Pulling wire and driving posts this time of year is a gift.  The fall wind hasn’t blown so long and hard that it tiring and obnoxious.  Instead, it heightens awareness allowing for considerations easily walked by otherwise.  Mixed with sun and fall smells, the wind whispers the fence from chore of metal upon metal to plate rim.

In the next day or so, most of the fall fencing will be done and the field transforms from hay to a large vegetarian supper plate.  A time of rejoicing.  Animals have an abundance of feed and we have the freedom of not feeding every morning and evening throughout most of the winter.  Such rejoicing lived time and again when wind and cold push temperatures into the single digits—or worse—and animals feed while we watch from the warmth of house.

Fall joy.

Work’in On Labor Day

In Chores, JustLiving Farm on September 3, 2012 at 11:26 am

September 03, 2012

Working on the Bale Wagon today, Labor Day 2012.

Is it labor when one does the work they do most any day of the week and enjoys it?
Is one a workaholic when the line blurs between work and play, and their family, community, and spiritual life remain healthy?
What might our world look like if society supported every person to labor at the work they were created for—therefore loving the work they do—and therefore hardly able to term their labor as either work or play.

© David B. Bell 2012

Spring Showers Spring Work

In Chores, JustLiving Farm on April 18, 2012 at 7:42 am

April 18, 2012
JustLiving Farm

No matter how prepared I think I am I seldom seem prepared enough.  As spring rains dance around sunny days, it seems another chore emerges with each drop of rain.  Much of the work is the same work that comes each spring—like spring cleaning spring chores never change.  But then there is the work you planed last fall for this spring and then there is the work you didn’t have a clue was going to crop up.  Next thing you know you have a great sunny spring day and you’ve settled on the mantra, “one thing at a time.”

No surprise every person I know who farms or ranches—small or large—and also posts on a blog or journal doesn’t post nearly as much once spring settles into their landscape.  Looking back over the years, that reality certainly has been my own and I don’t expect that to change.  As in the past, spring will probably bring on many more pictures than words.

One of the first chores this spring was to bring a fuel tank up to snuff—a new hose and nozzle and tight connections are important so fuel stays either in the tank or the tractor is a must, having the whole thing look a little better is a nice side benefit.

Now, what was the next thing I needed to get done…?

© David B. Bell 2012

1033 New Holland Stackliner

In Chores, JustLiving Farm on March 18, 2012 at 8:14 am

March 18, 2012
JustLiving Farm

Finding the right equipment is a process that takes years, sometimes.  One such case is finding a bale wagon.  For ten years we loaded hay out of the field by hand.  Finally, we got ourselves a bale wagon which made a world of difference!  It wasn’t the best, it wasn’t just what we wanted, but it reduced a lot of the physical work…and that matters when it comes to hand loading a few thousand bales out of the field and then unloading and stacking each one again!  However, with a little more time—and the sale of a few of those bales, we went a bought another bale wagon.  It may not be just the right piece of equipment, but then this is a process that takes years, sometimes.  This is all to say, a new wagon means we must sell our first wagon…and as our first wagon headed down the road yesterday, it was good to remember just how much it changed our lives.  The video below is from last summer’s hay season.

© David B. Bell 2012