Artful Land Care

Archive for the ‘Crop’ Category

Of Rainbows and Wheelines

In Crop on June 22, 2010 at 7:17 am

June 22, 2010

We bought our wheelines a number of years ago at an auction in Moses Lake.  The lines had been out in the “back forty” for who knows how long.  We broke them down and brought them to the farm and have put them back together again as we have needed them.  Last Friday we assembled four for the field with Sudan, Emmer, and Wheat.  We took them to the field, hooked them up, and turned water on.  We found out how lucky we’ve been.

Three of the four pipe have holes.  Not just a few holes, but enough to make the wheeline look like some type of water show at Disneyland.  Little pin holes, large holes, and cracks threw water upward, sideways, and downward.  Turning the water on in the late afternoon with the sun in the western sky meant we had a multitude of rainbows mixing and dancing with one another up and down the wheeline.  It was quite a sight, and I imagine I should have taken a picture of the wonderful event, but I have to admit, I didn’t see a lot of beauty in the moment.

Yesterday we pulled in a few, replaced the pipes, and got them back in place.  We’ll work on getting a few more replaced today.

© David B. Bell 2010

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Sudan Grass and Water

In Crop on June 18, 2010 at 6:53 am

June 18, 2010

Summer solstice is just a few days away and morning sunrise is still seeing temperatures in the mid-forties.

Today we are planning to plant a few acres of Sudan grass.  These acres are lacking in organics and are a bit high in alkali.  Sudan does okay in alkali ground (not great but okay) and grows quickly.  Over the course of the summer we’re thinking we might take one cutting of grass and then turn the next growth into the ground to increase organic content.

To water the grass, though, we need to assemble two more lengths of wheeline.  Yesterday we pulled two lengths of pipe and two wheels out of the grass and weeds and started to put them together.  These are old lines and most everything needed replacing.  Some parts were on hand and others meant a trip to town.  We now have everything we need (I hope) and expect to finish the lines today.

Plant grass and start water, not a bad way to live out the day.

Beans in the Ground

In Crop on June 15, 2010 at 5:31 am

June 15, 2010

The never ending spring seems to have made the turn towards summer.  It is hard to find anyone who isn’t welcoming the sun and a little heat.  Folks may tire of the heat before long, but for the time being, warm days are being welcomed in the valley.

I borrowed the seed planters RicOrganics bought last March to plant beans.  No one knows how long it has been since they were last used and it took most of half a day to get them up and running.  But they worked just fine and today we have Swedish Brown, Anasazi, Orca, Red Pearl, and Pinto beans in the ground.

Yesterday we reset the mainline.  Today we water!

From Pasture to Beans?

In Crop on June 3, 2010 at 6:42 am

June 3, 2010

This year is the year to turn over the south end of the pasture.  The grass has never been good in this area.  And before planting grass again we thought we would try dry beans.  If successful, once the beans are harvested the remaining plant will be turned into the soil.  Our hope is to increase the amount of organic material in the soil to better create an ecosystem for future bugs and root structure.  The rain, though, has kept us out of the field until now.

The ground tried up enough get in with a springtooth.  As teeth pulled up soil and grass, much of it rolled over leaving an inch and a half by six-inch clump with a smooth slick edge on the soil side.  Perpendicular passes turned most of soil up at a depth of about six inches.  However when the tractor tire passed over a clump of grass and soil that had been pulled up; the clump would mash out like a pancake under the tire rather that breaking apart.  Today we’re to have a southwest wind at 6 to 8 miles per hour and a bit of sun.  The wind and sun may dry out the soil out enough to work it ready for seed.  However that depends a lot on whether or not we get the rain called for this evening and tomorrow.

© David B. Bell 2010

When does the Back trump Community?

In Crop, JustLiving Farm on June 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm

June 1, 2010

Our neighbor came by late Saturday afternoon with his bale wagon and picked up the last of hay in the field. Timing worked out well.  Rain returned Sunday morning after a few days of wind and partial sun.  We’ll now list the hay in the stack on Craigslist as feeder hay.  The first inch or so of the bales weathered edge have mostly dried out, but remain damp enough not to have them graded (as far as we’re concerned) better than feeder quality.  Dropping the quality of a bale isn’t easy because most of the bale is good hay.  Yet, we figure the bottom line is, some animals do not do well picking around that one to ten percent that is not helpful to their health.

Earlier Saturday afternoon, before our neighbor came, Belinda and I went through the field and loaded the hay bales we thought would be troublesome for the bale wagon, onto our flatbed trailer.  Until last year, this work was typical.  Someone drives the tractor while others walk along and load hay.  Sometimes just family loaded hay and sometimes friends and neighbors came by and helped.  Now though, Belinda and I load the troublesome bales and our neighbor does the rest.

There is an upside and a downside to loading by mechanical means.  An upside, the back feels much better the next morning!  Hanging out with our neighbor for a while is also an upside.  The downside is we no longer have a bunch of neighbors show up all at once.  There is a sadness to this, because when everyone showed up it meant folk became community through working and then eating together after the hay was put up.  There is also a loss because new stories are not begun and old stories are not told.

Does the upside outweigh the downside?  Truthfully, sometimes it does and sometimes it does not.  What I believe is also true, is if we are to keep using a bale wagon, we need to find another way to keep connected and to build community, with old friends, new friends, and neighbors alike.

© David B. Bell 2010

Proverbs raining Understanding, Grace, and Hay

In Crop, JustLiving Farm on May 29, 2010 at 10:04 am

May 29, 1020

On and off, we’ve had a fair amount of rain since Wednesday.  As rain often is this time of year, it has benefited some and not others.  Some without benefit are those who have cut hay or who have baled but the bales remain in the fields.  Questions arise for those folk. Is it going to rain too much?  Will the sun come out and stay out?  Will the wind come and dry the hay?  Will the undersides of bales mold?

I grew up in southern California.  The landscape of my youth was full of canyons.  The drainages, we called washes, were sand and gravel.  Over the ages these washes wandered back and forth creating canyon floors of, yep, sand and gravel.  From sand wash floor canyon forming ridges raised, fingering their way up to the mountains.  This is a dry and arid land; a land where rain came seldom and first drops often vanished upon touching the ground.  Growing up in arid canyon’s meant rain became important to me.  More often than not, rain was something good.  Waking in the morning hearing water drip from roof eave was comforting, and exciting.

The rains of the last week, have me looking around and wondering what it means for others who have hay on the ground.  How do they feel?  What does it mean emotionally? mentally? spiritually?

Yet, I imagine my thoughts are as much about me as they are about my neighbor.  Who am I emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, when the rain isn’t lived out as my childhood memories would have it?

Ancient proverbial writings are not a bad place to turn to in times of wondering.  Hebrew teachers living long before the Christian era used these writings and stories to teach their young folks basic stuff like how do we get along with one another, with the environment, and with ourselves?  Like today, the teachers of Proverbs understood individuals, communities, and nation states did not always live up to the ethic principles they set for themselves, and as a result, the wellbeing of people and of creation were lacking.

The writings of Proverbs, though, strove for something more than ethics.  Proverbs often strived to awaken that something residing deeply within ourselves that hungers for perfect relationship with the created universe.  These writings awaken us to the possibility that if the people of creation could grasp, could fasten onto a moment of pure understanding, a foundational shift in all of creation—bringing forth exhilarated oneness, is within reach.

The Proverbs keep on hanging-on, through the centuries, for the day, for the moment, when all that is explodes with a gladness, a delight, a blissfulness that makes creation and Creator one forever.

Imagine humanity, earth and sky, fire and water, wind and silence, plant and animal, rock and star becoming fully, intentionally, one.  Somewhere in this imagination, somewhere in believing the realm of all good is attainable, do we begin to hear proverbial poetry speaking to the hope and knowable created goodness flowing in and through and around all we are in the midst of all creation.

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.
The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first,
before the beginning of the earth.

When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.

Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—

when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,

rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
(Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31)

The ancient proverbial writings are not the cure for angst when clouds rise up over the ridge and drops of water fall one after another into windrowed hay fields.  Yet the wisdom of an ancient people reminds us, reminds me, the firm skies above and the fountains of the deep are not a transgression upon us, but simply us.  There is perfectness where we perceive imperfectness.  Not to say everything happens for a reason, that is far too simplistic.  Rather, there is the unexplainable, that which is mystery, flowing in and through and around us giving us life, relationship, and connectedness.  If we open ourselves to that which cannot be taught, only perceived, then we find our sister, our brother, in the next cloud folding over the ridge.

© David B. Bell 2010

Haying and Kittens

In Animals, Crop, JustLiving Farm on May 26, 2010 at 8:24 am

May 26, 2010

We stack most of our hay on a pad south of the house.  About a quarter acre in size, the hay gets stacked on the pad during the haying season and then tarped before the fall rains.  Our plan was when the last of this year’s hay was removed from the pad we would regrade the pad and put down gravel.  Hopefully, making it both easier to drive in and out and load hay during the winter and keeping the bottom bales cleaner and dryer.  The plan, I think, was a good one.  There was only one hitch.

With about six tons of last year’s hay left, we were loading a ton of hay when we came to a nest of kittens.  Their eyes were still shut, so we took hay from around them and left them alone.  When the next day rolled around and we checked on them, we found their mamma had moved them.  Then about a week later while loading the last ton of the stack, we ran into them again.  Their eyes were open and they were staring to walk.  This time, we threw a few bales of hay in the horse trailer, place the kittens in the middle of the hay, and hoped mamma would find them.  Sure enough, by the next morning mamma had moved the kittens to the other end of the horse trailer.  This worked pretty well until we regraded the hay pad.

We wanted to make the hay pad a little larger this year.  To do so meant that if we left the trailer where it was it would sit in the middle of pad.  Question was, move the trailer and maybe have mamma not come back or leave it where it was?  We left it where it was and graded around it.

A few days later, a strong mewing came from horse trailer.  Figuring this was normal we walked on by.  Come the next day though, mewing still came from the trailer, only a bit stronger.  After taking a look, there were no kittens and no mamma, save this one.  Grading must have been the last straw for the mamma cat.  She had moved the kittens somewhere else, but missed this one.

Today we move the trailer.  In the next day or so, we will gravel the hay pad.  The kitten?  Well, it lives inside now.  Full belly, walking around tentatively, and mewing with what we think is satisfaction. Reckon it can’t hurt to have another barn cat.

© David B. Bell 2010

Raking with Hope

In Crop, JustLiving Farm on May 19, 2010 at 9:40 am

May 19, 2010

We had good wind all last evening and night.  I thought the wind might have taken up the moisture in the hay from the day before.  So, I went ahead and tried raking the outside rows of the field.  I would say ninety percent of the moisture is gone.  However, the grass can use another good day of drying and a day wouldn’t hurt the alfalfa.  The National Weather Service is now saying a strong and fast moving cold front is coming through this evening, bringing with it very strong winds and scattered showers and thunderstorms.  I’ll look forward to the wind and hope the scattered showers scatter somewhere else!

© David B. Bell 2010

Planning, Rain, and stuff that Matters

In Crop, JustLiving Farm on May 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

May 18, 2010

Rain isn’t what I hoped for today.  Considered generationally, there are folk in my past who might think me a little funny knowing I’d rather not have rain.  My grandfather farmed the windy arid panhandle of Texas.  In those days, sixty to ninety years ago, if one was to farm in that landscape it was dryland farming.  Rain mattered.  You took it when you could get it.  Certainly, rain could come at the wrong time, just as harvest began for instance, but more times than not, folks welcomed rain.  Harvest rain, though, is where I’m at today.

Hay has been cut and down and drying for nearly a week now.  I figured another few days and then baling.  After last night and then this morning’s continuing rain, chances are baling will not happen until the first of next week.  I am hoping this is neither good nor bad, but rather a moment to live out one more part of life that can neither be scheduled nor manipulated to what I prefer.

I never really knew my dryland grandfather.  I imagine knowing or not knowing my grandfather could not have been planned anymore than I could plan for rain ten days out with absolute certainty.  And maybe the unplanning of life is where life becomes full.  The idea goes against business and political practices where planning for return-on-invest and votes become mathematical constructs.  Life, though, might be best lived when the unplanned is experienced as soulful richness when blended with the planned.  Where planning gives health and wellbeing by having a full pantry or root cellar and unplanning allows one to lift their head to the sky, open their mouth, and taste the remembrance of an ancestor.

© David B. Bell 2010

Omen of a Mountains Kippah

In Crop, JustLiving Farm on May 11, 2010 at 3:16 pm

May 11, 2010

No clouds envelop Pahto this morning.  The Cascade Range, from Toppenish Ridge in the south to beyond Ahtanum in the north, is clear with white peaks and ridges against a blue sky.  One long and drawn out cloud floats between the farm and the range.  Pahto has a cap of a cloud hovering above it—a mountains Kippah, promising more than can be seen.

How long will we have clear skies and should the first cutting of alfalfa begin today?  We need at least ten days of good clear weather between cutting and baling and the mountains Kippah seems a good omen.  That and online weather forecasts keep the chance of rain low during the next ten days.  The alfalfa could grow longer and we could wait for a better forecast, but weeds are on the far end of their bloom.  Since we don’t use herbicides in the hay fields, we try to cut at the end of bloom and before seeds ripen, with the hope weed seeds lessen with each cutting.  Since weed going to seed and alfalfa reaching its full tonnage seldom coincide in the spring, we’re thinking of cutting in favor of fewer seeds than greater tonnage.

Cutting depends on the tractor and swather though.  With both pieces of equipment being new to us this season, I don’t know exactly what to expect other than the unexpected.  Air and hydraulic filters were replaced in the JD 4230 tractor yesterday.  Both the tractor and swather were greased and oiled.  The hydraulic reservoirs on each need filling this morning.

Sun, blue sky, and a Kippah to remind there is much good, let’s see where that takes us today.

© David B. Bell 2010