Artful Land Care

Posts Tagged ‘Pasture’

The Contemplative Of Warm Teats

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


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 »


Just Dropping In For Christmas

In JustLiving Farm, Reflections on December 25, 2012 at 9:05 am


December 25, 2012

(Heads up.  Consider this a PG-13 Christmas reflection—for language not nudity!)

We were sweating when he showed up.  Donald and I thought we were hitting it pretty hard, but it was daddy who did the hard work.  Daddy, like so many men who’ve spent their working life out-of-doors, sweated freely.  We kids wondered how he could let sweat would run down his nose, ready to drip off at any moment, and go on working as if it were not there.  Hard physical work mattered for daddy.  He clearly knew the men who worked day in and day out with their hands and body were folk to be respected.  He also understood the importance of education.  Education was important for daddy for a couple of reasons.  One reason, knowledge matters to the wholeness of a person.  Knowledge allows the mind to break through the edges of wondering to fields of questioning.  Daddy didn’t make it beyond high school.  The war came along and like thousands of other young men when the war ended and he came out of the service he went straight to work.  However, I grew up seeing the daily newspaper read end to end each day, an ear-marked  monthly farming magazine, and books on math and science.  The second reason was he understood what respect there was for those who worked physically was quickly waning.  Soon society would hold those who worked a fenceline, placed concrete, framed buildings, or  grew food would be financially displace in favor of those who worked in an air conditioned office.  Though the physical work of daddy’s life was hard, he didn’t act as if it were.  Rather, while he knew there could be too much of it for any person, hard work mattered and was good.  But I digress…we were digging fence postholes in ground full of rock that summer afternoon, when he showed up.

Best I remember, Don and I always enjoyed Mr. Morton dropping by.  A depression era Okie, Mr. Morton had known a hard life.  A kind man with a hard edge, he made his way from Oklahoma to California after serving in the Korean War.  He was and is the only man I’ve known who fit the saying, “He made millions, lost millions, and made them again.”  Unlike daddy who made his thoughts known, but was quiet, Mr. Morton was loquacious and rowdy.  I’d never known any adult before who could cuss six ways from Sunday, be serious, and laughing in the same sentence.  He came up with some of the best off-color rural phrases, many of which I enjoy using to this day; though my community in which I can use them is getting smaller by the day.  And it is from him I learned the word fuck could be used in most any sentence and can be as endearing as it is aggressive.  Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Mr. Morton had a fair disdain for societal norms.  He was also a man who lived in a manner that one never knew his wealth, except, for the generosity he showed his children, his boots, his hat, and his Mercedes.  Yet, these boots, hat, and Mercedes didn’t fit societal norms.  His purchases were practical; they might have cost a fair penny, but they were practical.  His boots, for instance, may have cost a bit, but they didn’t stop him from walking the cow pasture, stepping in a pile cow shit, cussing out the cow for shitting in that particular spot, and go right on telling a story and laughing without giving those shit cover boots another thought.  The same held true with the Mercedes.  More than once Don and I found ourselves in the backseat with his boys bouncing across a pasture after one cow or another with Mr. Morton cussing both the potholes and the cow he was trying to corral—For Mr. Morton, leather is leather and it made a lot more sense rounding up a cow sitting on a leather seat than the leather of some persnickety horse.  On this particular afternoon as Don and I watched him drive across the dry dirt field, we smiled because we knew this rambling freewheeling Okie and our restrained west Texan daddy would shoot-the-bull for a while.  This meant we’d get break from the work, and maybe, a story that would put mamma on edge—should she know!  Worst case, we’d get time to kick-back, talk about whatever ten and eleven year-old boys talk about, and throw stones at the rock beneath the sagebrush.

Mr. Morton never called before he came by the place; he just showed up.  Of course the same held true when daddy visited him.  This was a relationship, which, though both homes had one of those black rotary phones, with a handset in the cradle, and a dial with black numbers, there were few phone calls between daddy and Mr. Morton.  I think it had a lot to do with being depression era children.  Being a time when of few phones in rural homes, neither daddy nor Mr. Morton had home phones.  This lack of phones meant, neighbors just showed up.  Not all visits were a surprise though.  Folks often arranged a visit the last time they were in town or at church on Sunday.  But so very often, visits occurred because a neighbor was walking, riding, or driving by the place and they had a minute or two to drop in and say hi.  Those spur of the moment visitations created relationships and communities that, for the most part, are lost—After all, unique relationships develop when folk just show up, because, there is little telling what you might be in the middle of…maybe fence building, but then again, those rural farming families of eight, nine, or ten were not all created at night!

Any longer, though, few folk just show up.  In our rural landscape, we watched the rotary phone with its curly tail plugged into the wall, become the push-button phone, which then became the cell phone.  By adulthood, my generation was very adept with the phone and it became normal to call your neighbor before just dropping by.  Unlike Don and I, our children seldom got a break from chores with daddy because by the time Mr. Morton showed up we’d already had a phone call and had arranged chores they could get done without us.  “Just the changing times” one might say, but I think this lack of just dropping in is affecting relationships of neighbor, family, and community.

The fear of just dropping in before calling, I see this in myself.  There are times I find myself driving down Fort Road with a spare moment on my hands and I think about dropping in on a neighbor.  Then I remember today’s etiquette of calling ahead before visiting, so, instead of just dropping in I just stay on the road.  One might say, “Well you have a cell phone, you could call!”  True enough, but what do you say, “Hey, I don’t have anything better to do and I thought I’d drop by?”  Now, that’ll make ‘em feel good!  And what about my friends in their twenties who’d a whole lot rather have you text before you call before you drop in?  Yet, as I see it, folk and community have a great need for the unexpected drop in.  You get a hint of the need in most any coffee shop on most any day.  Sit and listen, sometime, to the conversation at your neighboring table (if it isn’t a business meeting).  More often than not, these folk are not talking about world changing events, rather, they are shooting-the-bull, laughing, talking about family and, most of all, enjoying one another’s company.  There is a great need to be with others without having any agenda and no time to prepare thoughts, and just be neighbor—kinda like two boys throwing stones at a rock under the sagebrush.

Certainly cell phones and to social networks like Facebook have their upside, but they shouldn’t get confused with a face to face conversations over the fenceline or across the coffee table.  There is something about having your neighbor show up without any notice, calling you away from your work, and bestowing a surprised blessing upon you of shooting-the-bull.  Best of all, because of the unpreparedness of the visit, you and neighbor become known to one another for your screwy thoughts as well as the insightful ones, and that truly enriches relationship.  And on a good day, your neighbor steals you away from work, places you in the backseat of a Mercedes and rockets across a hoof-dented, gopher-infested pasture leaving your butt as much in the air as on the leather seat.

In this time of short days, when neighbors are tucked in their home against the long cold winter night I like to imagine what might happen should neighbors, cell phone be damned, just drop in on their neighbor.  Probably an interesting story or two…Like the one of three or four old boys who just dropped in one day on newly birthed parents.  They gathered them up and invited them onto the backseat of a bouncing Mercedes.  Inside, they gave them three gifts—two of which were nice smelling oils…always a good thing with a baby in the car—which lifted their newborn spirits.  Then real fun began as they bounced their way across the landscape, for with each bounce the parents captured a glimpse of life with baby beyond the front windshield.  The clarity of life ahead was questionable from that bouncing backseat, but clarity mattered little for in the front seat was an old Okie cussing, laughing, and spurring life on across the landscape!

© David B. Bell 2012

Kidding in Thirty Days more Pasture Today

In Animals on February 2, 2011 at 6:07 am

February 01, 2011

The Does should be kidding in about thirty days.  In anticipation of these last thirty days prior to kidding, we stockpiled pasture last fall—basically, twice, we did not turn the animals onto one of the pasture paddocks when it came up in rotation—so the Does would have  more roughage and maybe a little more protein during the final days of pregnancy.  Therefore, today is the day.  We put up a temporary fence on the south end of the pasture, made sure the fence is hot, and turned the goats out.  The pasture may not be pretty, but the goats are happy.


Finding creative calmness in the Labyrinth

In JustLiving Farm, Soil on September 2, 2010 at 9:10 am

September 2, 2010

Leading up to a wedding, it doesn’t hurt to search for and find a little calmness.  Weddings have their own way of creating energy unlike any other.  This energy doesn’t only arise within those emotionally close to the event, like the spouses to be, but also those who physically come within proximity of the ground on which marriage has its first blessing.  It is an energy heard in the voice, observed in the distant look of an eye or the placement of feet in a conversation, and felt in the touch of a hand on ones shoulder.  It isn’t bad energy, but rather more like the dragged up energy of shuffling feet across carpet shocking both sender and receiver bringing both surprise and laughter.  This energy only gets better with thought, reflection, and inner calmness.  One way to bring greater richness to such energy is through walking the labyrinth.

The labyrinth is an ancient way of walking into wholeness.  Unlike a maze, the labyrinth is not a walk of problem solving.  Rather the labyrinth walk gathers up the walker’s creative center and allows it to flow throughout the body, promoting reflection and spiritual wellbeing.  Ones intuition molds imagery allowing the walkers energy to spark reflection and calmness.  Because there is only one path, one way to the center and one way out, the labyrinth allows for a spiritual journey by centering ones energy.  Walking the labyrinth brings focus, but unlike focusing the lens of a camera, this is like looking at a pebble in a clear flowing stream—all that matters, the pebble, the water, the reflection of the sun, thought, and observation are keenly in focus, yet clarity is found in the art of one’s intuition.  Somewhere in the midst of artful clarity arises calmness which enriches the energy one brings to the labyrinth walk.

So it is with weddings in the air and the search for a little calmness the first labyrinth is mowed into a pasture.

© David B. Bell 2010


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



In Animals, JustLiving Farm on April 21, 2010 at 3:33 pm

April 21, 2010

A good rain last night and the sky looks like more will fall today.  Living on the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range means we live the “rain shadow effect” I learned about in high school.  There is a difference between academically learning about mountain ranges so tall that by the time a storm passes over the range it has lost most all of its water content, and tactilely experiencing it.  Academic means the shadow in interesting, tactile means we don’t often get rain like last night.

When we do, then it is worth getting up early and walking the pastures and hay fields.  The extra water brings the worms and nightcrawlers to the surface.  A walk tells a story about how well the soil is.  Worms, like most critters when they have choice, live where there is good housing and food.  Worms help tell us, by their presence or non-presence, if the soil structure is good and food abundant.  They also tell us if our chemical buildup is too high.  Too much chemical can mean no worms.  Though we do not use chemicals to control pests, weeds, or as a fertilizer, many of our neighbors do.  They are careful and caring in their use, but overspray and drift does occur.  So, the number and health of the worms at the edges of our fields tell an important story.  It is fair to say, I felt good about the number of worms found this morning in the pastures and hay fields.

© David B. Bell 2010


Cool Pasture

In JustLiving Farm on April 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm

April 14, 2010

Nights continue to cool down to below freezing, but days are warming up nicely if a storm isn’t moving through.  As a result, our pastures are growing, but not very fast!  However, it looks like they may be growing just enough, that with rotation, we might be able to keep the goats on a little grass every day.  In the meantime, they are getting along on sustainable alfalfa, just fine.