Artful Land Care

Posts Tagged ‘Work’

Morning Walk

In Reflections on October 16, 2016 at 4:57 pm


Hay is in the barn.  Baled, hefted on to the flatbed trailer and into the barn less than an hour before the first fall drencher.  Though we have had a few weeks of fall per the calendar and roughly the same per seasonal coolness, it has been summer work all along.  Now with last hay baled life feels like autumn.

The dialect of the early morning fall sky is different from that of summer.  One last watering of the hay field calls for a 5:30am walk to move irrigation line.  Summer speaks of light and long morning shadows as it rises above the eastern horizon.  With a flashlight in the back pocket, a sliver of moon in the dark morning sky and a milky star mass, between southern Orin Belt and northern Big Dipper, settling just out of reach, it is surely fall.

Morning dew soaks leather boots in the morning hour and darkening leather assures damp feet.  It seems it were only yesterday when one could walk barefoot at this hour without a hint of dampness.

Animals who were feeding a month ago at this hour are lying in the field.  After resetting the irrigation line and starting the pump, a few have raised their head and are chewing cud.  No one is in much of hurry to rise.

Returning to the house on a fall morning is worthy of celebration.  Prior to leaving the house, beans were ground and water placed in the coffeemaker.  The walk from field to house is an eastern one.  A hint of sunrise red in the dark sky cause eastern stars to vanish.  Yet it is as if those same stars have visited the house and their illuminance is beckoning through the kitchen window.  The square widow of light welcomes one home.


Gravel Actor

In Poetry on July 17, 2016 at 8:00 am


broken wing killdeer actor
fills the gravel stage
moving audience from eggs

Twisted Wire

In Poetry on June 12, 2016 at 8:00 am

hands of long ago,
repair barb wire fence,
of hands long ago


Wise Fence

In Poetry on May 29, 2016 at 8:00 am

sage leans into fence
whispering wisdom, lean ear
to wire and listen


Where Knuckles Should Never Go

In Poetry on April 3, 2016 at 8:00 am

bolting gearbox to tiller.
naturally sharp tines are
too close to hand


Herd Teachings

In Landscape, Theology on February 14, 2016 at 8:00 am


February 14, 2016

The mamma cow nudged her calf away as I and the dog neared. On down the fence line another yelled at her calf for hanging out near the fence. As we walked, another pushed three calves until they followed her into the field. Mid-winter walks mean most calves are birthed and on the ground learning what it means to be calf.

Being herd critters, cows teach calves how to be herd members. While cows take care of their own, they are not above nudging another’s calf into attention. Instinctively, they know the wellbeing of the herd is dependent on knowledge gained by their neighbor’s calf as well as their own. Herds survive only if they know and engage this simple principle—the wellbeing of my calf is dependent on the survival knowledge my neighbor’s calf. When this principle is not learned, the herd suffers.

Thursday morning, I arrived at the local coffeehouse—a time to catch up with folk, meet new folk, and get a little work done. A friend shared a full-page ad in the Seattle Times taken out by The Greater Good Campaign—coffeehouse mornings mean I don’t have to read every paper to get insights from the local paper, The Seattle Times, and The Wall Street Journal. The ad noted that 20,000 Washington students will not graduate high school this year. Read the rest of this entry »


Earring Cattle: And the Sin of This Generation(s)?

In Peace & Justice on November 15, 2015 at 9:31 am


November 15, 2015

The calves were weaned two three months ago. Standing on a fence rail, looking at calves, I know weaning is never an easy time—for anyone. The calf is on the teat and the next day not. That makes for an upset mama and calf, which can lead to steady bawling for a day or two. When you have fifty cows and fifty calves in the corrals and those corrals are located next to home, like our closest neighbor, no one sleeps well for those couple of days. No, weaning is not easy for anyone. Standing on the rail, I know another stressful event for these calves lies ahead.

Yellowing leaves of autumn trees is the signage of fall roundups and selling of spring calves. Leaves falling from trees mean it is time for me to buy spring calves. Calves will spend twelve to fourteen months on the farm, so I look for weaned calves weighing between 400 and 550 pounds. Weaned because calves gain little, maybe lose, weight during those first days after separation from mama. After weaning though, they come into their own teenage identity and become capable of dealing with the stress that comes with a change of place. (Isn’t moving hard on all of us? Little matter if it is for a great job or family, moving to a new place—even a few blocks away—always gives us apprehension and stress).

The perfect change of place for calves means I choose them from the rail, load them at the neighbor’s ranch, trailer them to JustLiving Farm, and unloading into the corral. Seldom is that the case. More often than not, the calves are trailered from the ranch to the auction barn where I bid and buy. They are then loaded and trailered to the farm. Because life is seldom perfect, we do what we can to minimize stress. Therefore, we make sure the feeder is full of hay and the trough full of water when they unload off the trailer. Once calves make their way around the corral once, and know where the food and water are, we walk away. Belinda and I figure, at that moment, they are not looking favorably upon the two-legged animals who have taken them away from the landscape of birth to who knows where—best to let them alone.

Over the next two weeks calves will eat, drink, chew cud, and sleep in the corral. I move in and out during that time filling the feeder with hay, filling the water trough, and having short conversations. My work during those weeks is to watch their movement, their noses and eyes, and anything else that might indicate a need for doctoring or special care. Read the rest of this entry »


Kneading—A Contemplative Practice—Bread

In Art, Chores, JustLiving Farm on April 12, 2015 at 8:00 am


April 12, 2015

The other day I read an article talking about 10 foods everyone should make at home. Bread was one of the ten. I gotta say I like it when someone says, “everyone should be doing this…” and I am doing it.

Growing up, mother made bread. It was the sixties and early seventies and there was an onslaught of commercials enticing folk to buy easy no work food. Our family, like most, bought and ate plenty enough of this no work food, including bread. So, homemade bread was not a stable during the week, but instead was relegated to weekend food. More like pie.

When we were young adults Belinda and I began making bread. It was a once-in-a-while effort. Encouraged by Belinda’s father and mother, bead made in the home slowly became a norm. If nothing else, Belinda’s father was an opinionated man. A gadget like a bread machines was okay if it were the only way you would make bread. But if you are really going to make bread, you had better get your hands in the middle of the work. He opinionated that if you had time to eat well, you had time to make bread, and everyone has the time to eat well. Any surprise our bread machine has sat on the top shelf in the pantry for a long time?

If there was one thing that kept my bread making practice a once-in-a-while affair it was kneading, particularly the first. Then one day the folks gave us a Kitchen Aid. Now, the Kitchen Aid is just this side of a bread machine, but we choose to think not and in favor of weekly bread, Belinda’s daddy affirmed our thinking. And, after all, it doesn’t do all the kneading. But it does handle the first one and that was enough to get my hands into dough most every week. Read the rest of this entry »


Sidle Up To The Fenceline

In Chores, JustLiving Farm, Landscape on April 5, 2015 at 8:00 am


April 5, 2015

Ray and I spoke across the fenceline for fifteen years. Each Christmas, whether we needed to or not, our families got together. When Rebecca and Andy’s wedding came, Ray and Mary were there. Ray and I didn’t see eye to eye on everything and I am glad we didn’t—made life a little richer, but we when it came to the joy of working land, we had pretty darn the same mindset. Ray passed away a few years ago and his place was split up. We picked up the land—someone else the home and barn—not long afterwards. I think of Ray whenever I am working the place. However, I sorely miss the fenceline conversations.

Ray flood irrigated the land. Each spring he hooked a V-ditcher up to the 3-wheel tractor and pulled ditches. Just like it sounds, the V-ditcher is a huge V shaped metal implement. When pulled behind a tractor it pulls dirt up and out of the ground leaving a V-shaped ditch. Once pulled, the irrigator runs water down the ditch. Siphon tubes then transfer water from the ditch into the field. The practice of ditching and siphoning is laborious. Which has a lot to do with my intention of using sprinklers to irrigate the field.

To flood the land, Ray created a series of crisscrossing ditches. The large supply ditches run the property’s boundary. Changing to sprinklers means all the ditches need filling. To do so, I run a spring-tooth implement up and down the mounds of dirt along each side of the ditch. After loosening the dirt mounds, I use a 3-point blade to turn the soil back into the ditch.

15.04.05b Read the rest of this entry »


From Brando to Arquette: There Is More To Justice Than a Oscar Speech

In Peace & Justice on March 1, 2015 at 8:00 am


March 01, 2015

Okay, truth be told, I don’t watch the Oscars. For the most part, I find the Oscars wanting. They do little more than lift up rich folk and make them a little richer, for which I feel there is little need. However, one may not watch the Oscars, but if you read a paper or watch any television, you’re going to hear plenty about them leading up to and after the event.

When it comes to the Oscars I am the product of Marlon Brando’s 1973 refusal to accept the Best Actor award for The Godfather (and yes the streak of the 1974 Oscars probably influenced me as well, but that’s for another day…). Sending Sacheen Littlefeather in his place, Littlefeather told folks Brando regretfully would not accept the award as a way to protest Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans in film. I, like others, didn’t give the speech as much thought at the time as I have in the following years. What I’ve learned over time, is actors can act in a social justice film, but not have a social justice bone in their body. Therefore, and actor risking their words off-screen (or lend power so one who is voiceless has voice) matters. Only then does an actor build a reputation that matters, for their livelihood on the line.

I read this was a year of speeches on social issues. Fine and well. However, I along with others have a more critical ear today than when Littlefeather gave her ’73 speech. Today there is the “so what” factor, which says, “so what are you going to do now and in the years to come?” After all, what Native American organization do we attribute to Brando’s support today? Any longer, you cannot give a speech and not immerse yourself into the issue of justice. Any less is a self-marketing stunt. Read the rest of this entry »