Artful Land Care

Archive for the ‘Seasons’ Category

Of Spring and Dandelion

In Seasons on April 15, 2018 at 10:00 am

Wait for the right moment: Length of day.  Temperature.  A drenching spring rain.  Two days. From the ground they spring, abundantly, with fortitude.  Their numbers shout, no-matter-what-you-do we will out populate your work and survive and win.

Prior to rain, one rises, here and there, and tells all who’ll listen of what is soon to transpire.  Rain turns prophesy to reality.  By the hundreds dandelions are everywhere.  The abundance of flower is such that it is impossible not step upon one during a morning walk across a dew watered field.  Their abundance changes the spring greenscape into a landsky of yellow stars.

Dandelions fill the valley, but true abundance comes in the place of disturbance.  Native ground allows seed to settle and have life here and there.  However, pastures and hay fields where soil is opened by hoof and harrow sanctions exceptional seed to soil contact.  The yellow of hundreds of pasture dandelions extinguishes all doubt winter is of yesterday and spring is of now.

Being a wholly edible plant, one would think the dandelion virtuous and desirable.  Perhaps it is our local food store privilege.  Perhaps it is simple laziness.  Perhaps it is desire for an immaculate monoculture green lawn. Whatever the reason, the yellow dandelion flower raises the ire of many.

No ire for the goat though.  Dandelions are a goat’s plant of wonder.  Entering a pasture after dandelion flowers have risen is a goat moment not unlike that of a child spilling their candy upon the floor after a Halloween outing.  Such good life is unbelievable.  Such good fortune!  The low-lying flower is especially theirs.  While sheep will eat dandelion, they have little enthusiasm for its bitter leaf. The low lying character of the dandelion holds little interest for cattle because the distance between nose and teeth is greater than the height of flower and leaf.  But for the goat.  This is the flower of the gods…mmmm.

The spring dandelion is a bold reminder of life after a long winter.  The audaciousness of the lion’s yellow tooth smile beside its gift of total edibleness brings vivacity to sight and belly.  Winter is gone.  Spring has come.  With the pluckiness that comes with others thinking it a lowly weed, the dandelion is nothing if not confident enough to sidle up beside the daffodil and claim William Wordsworth’s poem, I wandered lonely as a cloud, as its own.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils

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Full Day Sunsets and Dreams

In Reflections, Seasons on October 1, 2017 at 10:00 am

“It’s been a full day,” is a comment of norm as fall’s setting colors settles into the evening sky.  We’ve joked that this has been a season of maintenance as one farm implement after the other begs attention before returning to the mettle of its work.  There’s been as much time on the stick welder as there’s been irrigating, baling, moving cattle, and harvesting the foodbank garden.  Then when pasture work backs into pastor work, “It’s been a full day” falls into the air as easily as boots fall to floor.

Yet, when it comes to balancing a backyard supper plate of garden vegetables and beef cooked over wood coals and watching the West’s evening color show, there is an ease to the day.  The anxious grandson takes as-little-as-possible time to eat and runs off with the dog.  As they head toward the western lightshow it seems their romp leads them to heaven.  Maybe it does.

I wonder, does the wellbeing of those “It’s been a full day” evenings last?  I like to think so.    Those elders who do not cling to societies claim of forever young and seventy is the new fifty, regularly have a good word alongside one of ache.  They claim those full day sunsets as a gift.  A type of gift that cannot be claimed by the youthful.  Fullness of age lead them to stories of yesteryear, running with the dog, the pleasantries of love and wonder, and for the sly of heart, sex.  Like grandchildren, the forever young often miss simple evening colors while the elders speak of distinctions between subtle smells of the orange sunset and its burgundy kin.

Hours after dog running the grandson will lie flat on his back and dream with the imagination that comes with three years of life.  Soon afterward I follow with a more aged imagination.  I like to think these full days will last until the end of days, whenever that might be.  There is not great necessity that either body or mind be in the best of working order as those days role in, as much as having the fullness of imagination blending yesterday’s work—running with the dog or welding a broken shaft—to the dreams of this full day.

Perhaps the mettle of an elder’s grace is no more than that: to have the imagination to dream.  Whether our age is 3 or 103, whether we run with the dog or sit and watch the dog run, whether we balance our plate on our knees or have someone feed us, as long as we dream of sunsets and full days we know pleasant stories of love, wonder, and—surely for the sly 103-year-old, sex.

Spiritual Thermometers & Coffee

In JustLiving Farm, Landscape, Seasons on December 14, 2014 at 8:47 am

14.12.14

December 14, 2014

There is a basic thermometer hanging outside the kitchen window. I like its simplicity, though I have to put on my glasses to know the temperature closer than a plus or minus five degrees. The location allows me to grind coffee and imagine what the temperature might mean for a days work outside.

The thermometer has had a workout this autumn. Cool weather dropped into our valley mid-October. Temperatures have bounced from six degrees (I had my glasses on) to the thirties ever since. It being mid-October, the cold felt as if it were catching up with autumnal colors. We had an exceptional fall with trees taking on colors early. They held on to color for a long time, giving each morning a bit of brightness that called one to morning chores.

Morning chores include walking and checking on the animals. The regularity of chores lends themselves to spiritual practice. Hot coffee in hand on a cold autumn morning enhances morning practice. I choose heavy clay mugs on such mornings. The heft helps hold heat, but coffee cools quickly. It matters little. As light coffee bitterness gives way to cutting cold, crisp air sharpens ridge to sky like a second graders paper silhouette. Cattle move about eating grass and the bright cold raises the light crunch of hoof to grass. Crunch harmonizes with scratch as chickens look for bugs below leafs or cow pies. Purr chimes in as Lucy, the farm cat, rubs against a steer’s leg. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Sunflower Snow

In Art, JustLiving Farm, Seasons on January 23, 2012 at 7:31 am

January 23, 2012
JustLiving Farm

I walk by them every day.  Each spring we plant more sunflowers than we will ever harvest.  This isn’t so hard, a sunflower or two will produce all the seeds we’re going to eat for a year.  We plant the rest for birds to partake during late spring and early winter.  By now, they have figured out how to get the last seed out of the flower head.  So, I walk by those stems and flower heads that were so green and yellow last summer, each day, without thinking much about them.  Then the sun came out.  With sunlight touching the snow buildup on each head the sunflowers presented a beauty that comes after life has slipped away.

© David B. Bell 2012

Chile Relleno Mornings

In JustLiving Farm, Seasons on April 29, 2011 at 6:31 am

April 29, 2011

Early spring tastes like a mild Chile Relleno with a dollop on vanilla ice cream on top.  The day is sure to be sunny, warm, and mild.  Before warmth, though, you have to wade through the cold.  Spring mornings give wonderful flavor; you feel the sharpness of the last vestiges of winter in a heavy jacket, raising memories of icicle days.  As morning moves to spring afternoon, hawks fly warm updrafts, the jacket is shed, and mild warmth engages the senses pulling up seasonal memories of squash and tomatoes that are sure to come again.  Sometimes, there is little difference between dessert and meal.

© David B. Bell 2011

The Art Of Easter Eggs

In JustLiving Farm, Seasons on April 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm

April 17, 2011

There is much to think of during this next week.  For those of us who call ourselves Christian, the week holds a few additional reflections in store.  Then for the youngest of us, who are not overly concerned with the theological implications of the week, there is but one thing to look forward to at the end of this week.  Easter!  Easter Eggs!  Laughter!  Family!  And most importantly, the Easter Egg Hunt!

In honor of that hunt for multicolored eggs laid up against a fence post, nestled into a tuft of grass, or hanging out in the crook of flower branches, here is a way to keep those happy eggs healthy and colorful.  Instead of going to the store this week and picking up a dye set, here are some other unique ways of coloring an egg for the Easter morning search.

Before boiling the eggs, search around with your children or grandchildren and gather the following list of items for coloring.  Then, when boiling the eggs, place them (only one color item at a time) into the pot.  When the eggs are hard-boiled, they have been colored as well!  Of course, if you have come by the farm and picked up eggs, the hen colored some for you.

Enjoy the week ahead, honor your reflections, and have a wonderful egg hunt next Sunday!

A few natural food dyes:

Purple Grape Juice, Red Zinger Tea, Red Onion Skins, Red Wine, Canned Blueberries
Red Cabbage Leaves, Spinach Leaves, Orange/Lemon Peels, Carrot Tops, Ground Cumin
Ground Turmeric, Chamomile Tea, Green Tea, Coffee, Black Walnut Shells, Black Tea
Yellow Onion Skins, Chili Powder, Paprika, Beets, Cranberries or Juice, Raspberries
Canned Cherries, Pomegranate Juice

Mornings silence speaks Blessing

In JustLiving Farm, Seasons on December 18, 2010 at 8:14 am

December 18, 2010

Quite nestles in during early morning hours before landscape awakens.  The cold air and falling snow softens sound.  This morning is one of those mornings when you feel alone and special walking to the barn in crisp hushed light.  Even the sound of boots moving through snow is swallowed by the morning air.  The animals have little notion of doing much with snow just outside the barn, so entering the barn is silent.  In silence, snow blesses landscape.

© David B. Bell 2010

La Niña whispers Cold and Wet

In JustLiving Farm, Seasons on December 6, 2010 at 1:13 pm

December 6, 2010

We now have had a few days with the highs above freezing.  The valley snow is melting while the north side of the ridge is grudgingly holding onto its snow.  Fourteen days of snow this time of year makes one wonder if the la Niña predictions of a cold and wet winter are true.

Wearing a Hood on a Cold Morning

In JustLiving Farm, Seasons on December 3, 2010 at 8:36 am

December 3, 2010

A slight change in weather brought fog to the farm and surrounding landscape.  Little change in temperature though.  Introducing fog to freezing air changes the face of the landscape.  Not so much a new face, but more like your grandfather going a few days without shaving.  Vegetation is as it was a few days ago but now ice particle upon ice particle have highlighted contours bringing out character unnoticed before.  An ever so slight breeze keeps the windward face open while ice encases the remainder like a hood with strings tightened around the face.  Ice accumulates and flows to the leeward, giving the one rooted in place the appearance of movement.  Frigid, closed in, fog filled mornings brings about a certain gracefulness.
© David B. Bell 2010