Artful Land Care

Posts Tagged ‘Seasons’

April

In Landscape on April 28, 2019 at 10:00 am

When the sun warms and turns to April there is little reason to travel far from home.  Yet spring is the time of year when church, business, and non-profit meetings come out of the woodwork.  Created within each of us, I imagine, is a springgene of sorts kicking in an emotional calling to engage in spiritual search.  Sometimes with others.  Sometimes alone.  After winter’s indoor confinement and outdoors heavy coat and boots and pants and gloves, the light jacket of spring pulls upon an ancient inclination to watch newborn grass break ground, rabbits browsing upon breaking leaves of greasewood, or a hawk catching an updraft.  However, much life has shifted from the body’s seasonal nature; too often we are left with little more than meetings and conferences to fill our post-winter emotional and spiritual needs.

Luck has it my away from home April meetings were canceled.  Allowing springs call to give an ear to wind and an eye to landscape.  Such good fortune should not be wasted but known for the joy to use winter’s learned skills of living quietly and slowly.  In this season of rapid change, a bit of gentle listening and watching may just bring one close as Creation crafts birth, remembrance, and reconciliation. Yesterday’s mundane of cold and motionless explodes in this season—minutes, hours, days—to movement and action.  To miss a spring moment is to miss a multitude of unknowns.  The thought has me turn my collar up against a light but chilly breeze, leave the farm behind, and walk toward the ridge.

The drainage ditch is flowing unhurriedly as I reach it.  A hen mallard slips from the reeds and ten hatchlings furiously paddle behind her. She stops paddling, the current carries her down through the brood to the last hatchling, she groups them up and moves them further upstream away from me.  A good move, the ridge is downstream.  I turn and walk away from them.

To the east a farm still has three-foot cornstalk in the field from Novembers harvest.  Folk have turned cow-calf pairs into the field who now feed on  the dry cornstalk.  Grasses will soon have the height and sugars to become this season’s feed.  Maybe the stalk will be enough, without buying more feed, to get the cattle to grass.  The farmer to the west has stored feed remaining and is busy discing last fall’s cornstalk into the dirt.  With a steady sound of a tractor behind me I reach the old wood-plank bridge that crosses a branch of Toppenish creek.

The creek is high, but its movement even less visible than that of the ditch.  Cresting its banks sometime in the last few days, the creek tells the flood plain of warmer weather upstream.  The road on the other side of the bridge has water flowing over it for the next thirty feet or better.  Crossing to dry road means getting wet.  Just how wet depends if water comes over my boot tops.  I take the chance and hope for no more than two or three inches of water.  A couple steps and I know luck isn’t mine today as boots fill with water who remembers itself as melting snow forty miles upstream.  Fine then.  I’ll count on a decent circulatory system and feet warming boot water.  Soon.  At water’s edge I leave the dirt road and walk downstream.  Finding a piece of ground twenty feet from a small eddy I sit down. Grasses rise above my head. Read the rest of this entry »

Home

In Animals, Seasons on December 31, 2018 at 7:56 pm

A light rain fell last evening.  Intermittent puddles line the bottom of the irrigation ditch.  The path alongside the ditch is damp and near muddy where vegetation has never taken hold in the alkali crusted soil.  As the alkali eases, small lime-green ground hugging plants keep mud from building up on boot soles.  The small plant doesn’t show up before nights cool down into the twenties.  Might the cold trigger their growth?  I wonder as I hunch in the cold and scan ground more than horizon.  I should have got down on my knees and drawn leaf details long ago so I could identify the plants.  Probably laziness on my part, but I’d rather think there is greater beauty in the not knowing.  I certainly have never enjoyed the beauty of poison oak as I did during my first fall introduction. Green with a tint of red, the oak’s beauty calls for closeness and touch.  I traded beauty for warning a day later when I learned what the oaks red does to skin.  Perhaps it is best to learn what that ground-hugging plant is all about, what its official scientific name is, but I leave pencil and paper in pocket and walk on to live with tomorrows conversational awkwardness of describing this moment with, “well, you know, those little green plants that lie on the ground when it gets cold.”

I seldom negotiate my way down the slope of the irrigation ditch. After untold millions of gallons of water over the length of the irrigation season the ditch never dries out before the next season.  Should one be foolish enough to slide sown the ditch bank they would find a muddy bottom that builds up on the bottom of one’s boots.  At about two inches thick the journey becomes tedious.  More so when the clump of mud breaks off it leaves one walking as if wearing a pair of high-heeled shoes with one heel missing.  Better to figure the ditch bottom is best left alone until after the first hard freeze.

Other life has a different opinion.   A scattering of footprints travel the length and crisscross the ditch. Someone has spent a good time in the bottom of the ditch, but from atop the ditch bank the individual tracks are hard to make out.  Clean, clear tracks are best in a little mud.  And the scattering of tracks is as attractive as any red tinted leaf.  I slide down the ditch bank.  Only to have my feet slide out from beneath me.  I fall back and use the rest of the bank as mud slide to the bottom.  Once at the bottom and now that the seat of my pants is muddy I find little reason not to take a closer look.  Sitting in the mud I see a mass of small thin three fingered tracks.  Quail have been using this spot as a crossing.  Preferring walking down, across, and up the ditch bank rather than flying across.  Read the rest of this entry »

Midsummers

In Seasons, Theology on August 26, 2018 at 10:00 am

There’s something about a summer sky that calls one to think of what is good.  There is too much talk about what is bad.  That’s plain enough listening to NPR in the morning or the evening news.  Too bad folk cannot find more good to talk about. Too bad too many people who should be leaders are so puffed up about themselves that themselves is all they seem to have to talk about and that just comes across as bad.

Midsummer clouds are unlike those of any other season.  They carry plainness of sureness.  Unlike spring clouds who puff themselves up as something to be reckoned with, the midsummers low and unassuming billows beg certitude.  Their simple ordinariness and off-handed confidence calls the wise to find shelter when day slides to evening and the lingering heat vaporizes and swirls into thunderheads.  Then is a time to wait.  And listen.  What was once shy and indifferent unfolds across the heights lighting the nocturnal and hollering just because.  Good listening lies in the reticent and reluctant.

At the edge of rough thorn grease brush stands a morning rabbit taking in low, driftless midsummers.  A hawk circles as they gather above; one into another.  Only to stretch and pull apart on the back of a breeze rising. Holding back, not making too much of themselves; rabbit and hawk wonder how these who linger quietly might be so presumptuous in the dark.  Both grounded and flighted struggle to concentrate on danger and hunger as the morning midsummers beg a seldom enjoyed depth of blue from the rinsed summer sky.  A firmament of poets.  A firmament which lies the backs of children and elders to the ground.

Firm ground to back.  A wisp of the poetical.  Good in the summer sky.  A thought. A wonder.  A “what if.”  The sacrament of the low and driftless might be enough to realize Good creation if the puffed and simple, friend and enemy, neighbor and rival lay upon the terra of their being and wondered at the enchanting of the midsummer.

A Cold Landscape

In Doctrine of Discovery, Landscape on December 30, 2016 at 8:29 am

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In five days I visit a landscape different from my own.  Belinda’s folk hail from North Dakota and the landscape is something of her own.  For this southern California boy though, walking into a winter place that locals call cold is likely an understatement.  When I visited the Dakota landscape in the past I found much of it in line with the stories of Belinda’s folk.  Today though, there is something different about the south-central landscape along the Missouri River.  From a distance, it speaks of change.

A landscape of change interests me.

In this season, when US Christianity struggles to speak and act in favor of Creational justice, there are people in a rural landscape who have placed it front and center and have garnered attention for doing so.  Some folk, both local and global, believe they have achieved justice if the current refusal to issue DAPL a permit to cross the Missouri remains in effect come February.  At the surface, my interest lies with the people who believe that as untrue.  For they seem to be the folk who understand care of people without care of land and water and wind may well be a form of mercy, but not justice.  Below the surface, my curiosity lies in the water, land, and wind itself.  There is little action of substance in my home landscape that comes about through people alone.  Any inkling of justice seems to arise only when humans ally their voice with the voice of the landscape.

I wonder, what justice does the water and the land and the wind of this landscape of Belinda’s folk have to speak?  A question, I think, worth a journey.  Why does this landscape call for justice in this this season, in the life of my children?  A question I believe that is worth a pilgrimage.  Yet maybe most important, what if my landscape is calling for the same, but because it is mine, because I see the same ridges each day, because the ridges’ changing shadows amuse and mystify me, I am not able to hear her cry for justice?  What if a visit to a landscape not my own has a word that fractures the barrier between my ears and my landscape’s voice?  Can one not risk journey?

 

Seasonal Change

In Peace & Justice, Poetry on March 20, 2016 at 8:47 am

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last of winter sun
whispers, my sky color
is soon of ground

 

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.

Gate

In Art, Landscape, Poetry on December 13, 2015 at 9:00 am

15.12.13a

after days of snow
warm wind and rain
come breath of sky

Welcome

In Art, Landscape, Poetry on November 29, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.11.29a

soil lines
beckon wonderment
of foot, mind, spirit

 

Sipping Tea on a Dog Chewing Autumn Afternoon

In Animals, Art, JustLiving Farm on October 25, 2015 at 10:00 am

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October 22, 2015

The last sun tea is on the porch. If there was any doubt last week, there is not this week, it is autumn. Cool morning temperatures and the leaves are changing color. Two trees are already bare—looking naked next to those full of leaf—and irrigation ditches are dry.

Fall speaks to the sun tea’s seasonableness. There is something fitting about how slow seeping tea over ice suits a summer afternoon. Much like how boiling water over a tea bag fits a winter evening. There is a sadness though, as I walk by the mason jar on a fall day and notice there is hardly enough sunlight-heat to change water’s color. A reminder the heavy warmth of sun that buries self into soil and ripens summer tomatoes is again a wait until spring reality.

There is a comfort in knowing the change the landscape is experiencing. Insight gifts a time of preparation before freezing makes the soil impossible to dig. However, there is also something about the naiveté that comes with having not yet lived a winter. Sage, a five-month-old, red, something or other dog, is now a farm companion. Neighbors who live next to a busy hop season road found a throw away litter of pups five months ago. A too busy road led to Sage coming to the farm to live out her life.

Fall is a furiousness time. Different from the constant movement of summer, fall has this is the last chance to get chores done before the first hard freeze or snow that covers that one item your looking for.

As I rebuilt the temporary winter fence that allows cattle and goats to graze the stockpiled hay field, Sage ran from one end to the other and back, repeatedly. While I spliced two ends of fencing wire, she ran back flopping down into the alfalfa. Not breathing heavy, like any self-respecting fifty-something would after a full out eighth mile run (well, okay, this guy ain’t running nothing full out…), she sat in the green of full afternoon fall sun acting as if this is the best day ever. Clearly, she has no concept of cold of winter lying just round the corner!

15.10.25b Read the rest of this entry »

Meating Reverence At the Intersection of Life and Death

In Animals, JustLiving Farm on April 26, 2015 at 8:00 am

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April 26, 2015

Most calves arrive on the farm arrive in the fall. Many of our neighbor’s spring calves sell at that time, so fall is a good time to buy. Fall, a year later, is butchering time.

During the year I walk the pastures and slowly develop a relationship with the steers. Each walk gives me a chance to see if anyone is off their feed, has a runny eye, or a dry nose—better to find a problem at the start than after it has settled in. These walks lead to a comfortableness between us. Comfortableness matters on butcher day.

Our goal at the farm is that none of our calves’ dies of natural causes. (At least not natural from a steer’s point of view.) Growing up, I never gave much thought to steers raised on the family place, but my folks did. They did not name steers, though they didn’t stop us kids. It was their way of having some distance in the human /steer relationship. They knew the steers were not going to die of natural causes and a no-name steer is easier to kill on butcher day. Good idea, but none of that ever worked out. It seems that if you live with an animal for eighteen months, more or less, relationships develop, whether you like it or not.

Daddy never liked butcher day, mostly because of the relationship gained whether you like it or not. Daddy never killed a steer. Instead our neighbor, Mr. Riggins, dropped by early morning to handle the killing. Once done, daddy, Mr. Riggins, and us boys would skin and quarter the beef.

Today I understand Mr. Riggins and daddy’s butchering relationship was based in the human/animal relationship. Mr. Riggins didn’t have the relationship daddy had with the steers. This separation made killing much easier for Mr. Riggins than daddy. Many folk raising animals for meat need a Mr. Riggins and mine is Johan. Read the rest of this entry »