Artful Land Care

Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Coffee & Microwave 1

In JustLiving Farm, Reflections, YCM on May 8, 2016 at 8:00 am

160508a

May 8, 2016  

Morning coffee has me thinking about giving up the microwave.  Our maker of electromagnetic radiation gave up the ghost about six months ago.  However, having returned from Ireland to a grant-based job—meaning the job could go away as the grant wrapped up—our daughter, Katherine, stayed with us until she obtained a non-grant job.  Which meant, we used her microwave.  It was bound to happen and sure enough, Katherine moved out with a non-grant job in tow.  As the Volkswagen bug headed down the driveway with an outstretched arm waving out the driver’s window, I saw the last of the microwave through the bug’s back window.

I figured I knew how often we used the microwave.  However, I never thought about how the microwave effected contemplative life.

When I finish chores in the morning I make a pot of coffee.  Then sit and read or write.  Inevitably, I forget my cup sitting beside me and the coffee turns cold.  Not a big deal, I put the cup in the microwave, set it for 20 seconds.  Hot coffee!  One does not need to pay much attention with a microwave on the counter.

No microwave and my like for hot coffee have led me toward drinking coffee thoughtfully.  Spring mornings allows for sitting at the outside table and listening to early birds sing as the eastern sky brightens.  A transitional time arrives each morning when rabbits leave the pasture and head back to the safety of the wild landscape.  Some mornings the owl arrives late to the roost and her swooping image is more than a silhouette.  Sipping coffee, watching, and thinking and may not be the way of the traditional contemplative, but it does lend to a quietness. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Bettering Structure By Stepping Back

In Reflections, Theology on April 24, 2016 at 8:00 am

160424

April 24, 2016

We had a busy afternoon last Sunday.  The Democrat’s came to town to work out the next level of delegates for the State and national convention.  Since we were delegates for this first round, Belinda and I figured we should show up.

I am a Hilary guy and argued on her behalf with my neighbors, for a number of reasons.  Foremost, because she is a woman.  It is a simple arguments, but one which has governed other conversations this last year.

In 2017, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will vote for a new General Minister and President (GMP)—think of the GMP of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) like the Pope for Catholics, but a much, much smaller organization.  When 2017 roles around, Disciples will have lived with their first woman (ever) for twelve years.  Moving toward the next GMP takes years and the search is on.  I find my arguments for the next GMP are the same for Clinton.

My argument begins with that calendar like poster on the wall in my second grade class.  Flowing from left to right and top to bottom were pictures of US presidents starting with George Washington.  The poster, other than with a few more presidents is the same that hung on the wall of my children’s class wall, and I assume one can be found on elementary school class walls today.  There is really only one difference between the poster on my wall and the poster today.  My day had pictures of white man after white man after white man after white man after white man, whereas today instead of ending with a white man it ends with a black man.  If Disciples had a similar church poster it would look much the same, white man, white man, white man, white man, white man, white man, ending, today, with woman. Read the rest of this entry »

The Contemplative Of Warm Teats

In Animals, Reflections on April 10, 2016 at 8:00 am

160510

April 10, 2016

Milking is not my place of redemption.  I never got to know God when rising at four on a cold winter morning and heading to the barn to milk cows or goats.  The lack of connection probably had a lot to do with cold fingers and a love for warm weather!

Because of my lack of love for milking, I managed to never do much of it.  My father and Belinda, though, did quite a lot.  Belinda was milking sixty or so goats in southern California when I met her.  Dad grew up milking cows in the landscape of the Texas panhandle.  Belinda has many great stories of milking.  Daddy, not so many, but then there is a lot of difference in winter weather between southern California and the Texas panhandle.  Winter is winter though, and both talk about the redemption of milking on a cold winter morning is a warm teat.

Milking is milking, but there is as much difference between cow and goat teats as there is in their milk.  Cow’s teats are slender and fit a medium sized hand fairly well.  They are tough though, and the action of milking, rolling fingers from top to bottom with a bit of pulling action, develops hand strength.

A few days ago a neighbor stopped by the farm and picked up a ton of hay for his cows.  He supposes milking has its ups and downs, with more ups than down.  An up was during his teenage years.  The daily pulling of teats, he figures, gave him such hand and forearm strength that he had an advantage over his high school wrestling opponents.  No longer a young man, when I look at his hands and forearms I am good with not having him as an opponent all those years ago.

The goat teat is softer and more funnel shape than the cylindrical teats of a cow.  The difference in teats between species is fairly obvious.  From cow to goat to hog to cat they are all uniquely suited to their young.  After talking to milkers though, I imagine teats are like fingerprints, they are all unique to the individual animal—no two, quad, or dozen are alike.  This uniqueness is apparent when talking to milkers.  Read the rest of this entry »

Showing Up

In JustLiving Farm, Reflections on March 27, 2016 at 6:55 pm

160327

March 27, 2016

About a dozen folk were already in the high school when we arrived.  This was caucus day.  Caucusing is still a bit weird for us.  Before we first came to Washington State, we simply went to the local high school and placed our ballot.  Now living in a caucus state, we sit with folk in our community, argue for whom we believe would best represent our community, and choose delegates for the candidates selected.

Caucusing began an hour after we arrived, so we watched as folk arrived and slowly filled the tables of each precinct.  We sat at the 4001 precinct table.  Folk filled the tables to the north and south, and to the east and west.  We waited.  When time came to caucus, most all the tables were filled, except one to the west, which like ours, had two people.

There is something about showing up.  This Easter day, the day after caucusing, has much to say about just showing up.  No one chanced showing up at the tomb, but the women.  Showing up though meant they had the opportunity to speak with a couple of dazzling men (Lk. 24:4).  That morning, those women lived through something no one experienced before or ever again—except through the stories they told.  There is something about showing up.

At the end of the day, for the hundred or so square miles of our precinct, two people chose two delegates.  The same held true from the precinct table to the west of us.  Sure, how few people were at the tables have a lot to say to just how many democrats live within these hundred square miles.  Yet it also has much to say of what it means not to show up.  The power of many is relinquished to the few.

The experience has much to say to those who wonder about the value of my vote.  For on this one day, in the State of Washington, the delegates who are to represent the people of hundreds of square miles of the American landscape, who in turn will help decide who the next president of the United States might be, were decided by four people.

There is something about just showing up.

Gold in Them Thar Commodes

In Reflections, Theology on March 13, 2016 at 8:00 am

160313b

March 13, 2016

I never notice it during the summer. Well, maybe never is a little strong, but for the most part I do not. When I think of it though, how does one walk pastures and not notice it? After all, folk who know a lot more than I say that for roughly every thousand pounds of weight, a steer produces close to 9.8 tons of manure.

Let’s see now, we have roughly eight or nine thousand pounds of steers on the farm. 9.8 tons times 8 and you have…well, a lot of shit. Just imagine what must be going on with urine.

With those numbers, one would think mountains of manure would cover the farm. However, the moment manure hits the ground it begins its work of fertilizing. During irrigation season or rain season or when snow melts, cow pies break down fairly fast. The break down is best though during the growing season. This stuff is full of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—combined you get roughly twenty pounds per ton of manure—and the pasture soil and plants eat this stuff up.

Recognizing that whole circle of life thing, it is nice to know the soil gives grass the will to live, the grass does the same for the steer, and the steers manure in turn enhances the wellbeing of the soil. Makes one rethink the value of shit.

Manure is more than steers, goats, and chickens though. You would think healthy humans naturally know this truth with their daily bowel movement. However, I imagine few folk living with modern bathrooms give it much thought as they push the toilet handle. Gene Logsdon gives a reminder in his book Holy Shit that this was not always the case. At one time, the worth of human manure for fertilizer was very valuable in China. So much so, that when your neighbor invited you to their home for dinner, the neighborly thing to do was to visit the bathroom before you left. Really! You can’t make this shit up! Read the rest of this entry »

Evenings of Lefsa, Pozole, And Black Eye Peas

In Reflections on December 20, 2015 at 10:58 am

15.12.20

December 20, 2015 

When fall reaches the latter days of December life in the valley is more winter than autumn. Days are noticeably shorter than a month ago. Temperature highs are two layers of long sleeves and a vest on warm days; all that and a coat, hood, and gloves—and there is still a chill in your britches—on cold days. The night air is no longer a fall crisp but moonless and frigid whose clarity lowers stars to where you can see their breath.

The calendar on the kitchen wall speaks about the solstice being hours rather than days away. Morning fog lifts off the frosted back of steers as they eat hay spread upon snow covered pasture. Cows and thrower of hay, alike, need not a calendar to tell them winter has arrived in the valley.

Now is the season of stories and food.

Folk have long known the solstice as week of storytelling and food. In the time of year where little to no food is grown, now is the time to gather the folk in warm space, square up the food, tell stories and gain a little fat—for the coldest of days are ahead.

This week is the time trade in the gossip and like of the political and business in favor of new and old stories of friend and kin. Perhaps hold on to a Christmas cookie or two, but bring in the heavy hitters like Lefsa, Pozole, and Black Eye Peas—sustenance to sustain good solid stories of naked babies, the fall hunt, and lovers. Gather the folk—maybe more than once—and eat and listen and watch. Watch the winkled elders who grin at the story, who close eyes, nap for a moment, and who look at one another with those clear eyes of age and smile with a knowledge we may know one day. Watch the young lovers who sit near one another, who feign listening, but are too full of one another to pay much attention. Storytelling is nothing if not also the real time stories played out in the tellings.

In a few hours comes the longest of nights, a magical time of sorts. Might as well enjoy it to its fullest. Gather, eat, notice the cat lying in the warmth of the woodstove or heater vent, and listen…listen, for the spiritual is possible during this moment of enchanted seasonal change.

Considering the Purple Cow Pill

In Animals, JustLiving Farm, Reflections on August 9, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.08.09b

August 09, 2015

Soon there may be a new solution for problematic burping. A Purple Pill, of sorts, except for cows rather than humans. Folk might have heard it said that cow farting contributes to high methane levels, which depletes ozone. However, the cow methane problem comes from cow belching rather than their farting.

Being a ruminate, cows have a four stomach digestive system (actually a four compartment stomach). Ideally suited to grazers (cows) and browsers (goats), the rumen (the first stomach) allows cows to eat a lot of grass at once, not chew it, and store it. Later, when they are relaxing, they cough/burp up a cud (a mouthful of that non-chewed stomach stuff) and properly chew it. Thus, a cow does a lot of cud chewing and burping.

Figuring the United States alone has roughly 40 million cows, about 30 million beef cattle and 10 million dairy cows; there is a whole lot of burping going on. Like humans, cows digestive system have a complex community of microbes in their stomach helping break down food. One of those beneficial microbes creates methane in the process. To counter this methane development, some folk are proposing an additive to cattle feed to reduce the microbe’s ability to produce methane.

Hmm, it isn’t enough that pharmaceutical companies have convinced us humans to take a pill so we can ignore our bodies normal warning sign of when to lay off some foods. Now we are going to give cattle a little purple pill as well.

Contrary the popular stance, the methane burping problem is not a cattle digestive problem, but a human digestive problem. Consider the 30 million beef cattle. The 30 MILLION CATTLE who exist on American soil exist because the U.S. population is having a problem eating meat sensibly. All it takes to eliminate the methane problem is for U.S. folk to eat less beef. An easy solution if it were not centered on changing people’s gastronomic normal.

Life is much easier for humans if they place blame on creation other than themselves. Cattle, after all, are doing no more than being cattle. Humans, though, have to go a long way to justify eating double and triple decker hamburgers rather than single patty burgers or eating16-ounce steaks rather than 4-ounce steaks. The production of 30 million cattle is not a cattle problem, but one of human over consumption. Read the rest of this entry »

Mystery In the Nooks and Crannies Of Garages and the Everyday

In JustLiving Farm, Landscape, Reflections on April 19, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.03.15

April 19, 2015

There was always a bit of mystery in Daddy’s garage. Having free range, we kids were in it most every day for one thing or another. It was a normal place with a bit of an edge.

Daddy fought in WWII as a young man. For him, as a parent, that meant more untold stories than told. Directly after the war he spent a few years in the States. But being single and of sound mind and a carpenter he headed to the middle-east. Like much of the world, the area was ramping up since the war had destroyed much of the infrastructure. He ran construction projects ranging from pipelines to housing for the better part of a decade. When he came home he brought carvings, rugs, old (at least old to us kids) films, and intricately made boxes. Time to time daddy might tell a story, but like the war stories, he kept Arabia pretty much to himself. Which made the garage all the more interesting.

We kids always had our own agenda. The garage was our first stop for whatever tools we needed to fix a bike, work on the treehouse, or build another live-trap to haul into the hills. It was in the midst of our stuff that we came across his stuff. Though it didn’t happen often, it was also not unusual to be looking for a drill bit in the drawer of a handmade toolbox and come across medals from the war, or looking for a handsaw and find a carving wrapped in a small Persian rug.

Age didn’t matter when you came across a medal or a carving for the first or umpteenth time. The imagination wandered. Because a story was seldom available, these items from times past and landscapes unknown brought mystery into the moment. The bike or treehouse was forgotten and the mysterious led the imagination to that place of wonderment and questioning. Funny, isn’t it, how the non-story can bring about intricate and surprising stories? Read the rest of this entry »

Sageness in the Canyon Landscape of Prickles, Songbirds, and Sunlight

In Art, Landscape, Reflections on February 22, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.02.22

February 22, 2015

When I am in southern California I take a few hours and walk a canyon. On the backside of two weeks of traveling and meetings, I finally found myself walking a southern California canyon on a Saturday morning. Entering the north-south canyon before sunrise, I hoped to hear the canyon awaken as the sunlight made its way from ridgetop to canyon floor. Also, its being a southern California canyon just outside of Camarillo, I hoped to have it all to myself for a little of a while.

I hiked this same canyon in September. Showing the effects of the ongoing drought, the canyon was dry and brittle. Normally, hiking these canyons in the fall, there are the jewels of prickly pears hidden in the crevasses of northern exposures. Pears make hiking a wonderful taste. This particular canyon has an abundance, ripe for the picking. They also have an abundance of hairlike prickles called glochids, near impossible to see, covering them. Should you pick a pear, the prickles from the fruit detach and leave you with a handful of stickers. You can get around this by lighting a match and burning the prickles off. However, it being a brittle dry fall, it did not seem wise to start any fire, even if it was only a match, so I did without pears.

15.02.22b Read the rest of this entry »

Bending Gates and Bending Wills or High Tailing It

In JustLiving Farm, Reflections on January 18, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.01.18a

January 18, 2015

Last October I picked up a number of weaned steers. They came from an Angus herd, raised on grass, and certified natural. Just the animals I look for to bring to the farm.

I trailered them to the farm and unloaded into the holding corral where they would stay for the next two weeks. Giving them a chance to settle down and get use to the new landscape and people (and giving us a chance to see if the new animals are sick before turning them out with the herd). I kept my distance from the corral, other than to feed, figuring the trailering and new space is enough stress for a day. Figuring out humans could wait a day or two. Just the same, I keep an eye on them with binoculars in case something comes up.

I noticed one steer in particular kept its tail in the air and its head raised all day. While a high sense of alertness might serve well on the high range, a raised tail is not a good sign for our farm. An hour after arrival, where the others have their heads in the hay trough, he is moving about and edgy. By the end of the day, the others are well fed, watered and quieted down—not him.

After two weeks everyone continued to look healthy and mostly settled in. Not as settled as I’d like, the one continued to have its tail in the air every time I fed. But I figured once they were on pasture, with acres of space to roam, his tail would drop and everyone would claim the calmness of the existing herd. Read the rest of this entry »