Category Archives: Chores

Kneading—A Contemplative Practice—Bread


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. Continue reading

Sidle Up To The Fenceline


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 Continue reading

Replacing Gates And What They Have To Say About Us


March 8, 2015

A while back I brought a steer onto the place who could not or would not settle down. Before I sent him down the road, he successfully bent the hell out of one of the corral gates. With longer days settling in (though it is going to take some time for me to settle into daylight savings time) and a mild end to winter (at least for the moment), it is a good time to replace bent gates.

Like too many other things around here, our bent gates are the result of trying to save money. Our lighter gage gates are fine for lightweight animals like our sheep and goats, but they are quite up to the job with a 600-pound steer runs into them. But we all know about that don’t we? You live with what you can afford at the time!

A few years back Belinda and I attended an auction at an out-of-business feedlot. We bid and picked up a number of heavy weight gates. Gates much more suited to a 600-pound steer slamming into them. I figured they would make great replacements for the light gates in the heavy use corrals. Me being me though, well-meaning doesn’t always get the job done. I’m willing to use the excuse there was always something more important to take care of, but of course all that got me was a few bent gates.

15.03.08b Continue reading

Stars of Place

September 27, 2014 (Hubble Image-National Geographic)

I finished baling just after midnight the other evening. An hour earlier, eastern stars faded as a slice of An orange waning moon leaned on the horizon. As I looped around at each row end the burnt orange moon rose and as the baler sucked up the last windrow stars once again began to highlight the eastern sky. As the last bale hit the ground, I turned south, moved halfway down the bale rows, turn the tractor off, and found a bale to lean on.

As night changes to morning folk are not doing much. Tractors are silent, hop drying shed blowers are off, and most folk are home in their beds. Distractions aside, the night sky drawl is perceptible. The intonation ponders what has been and what will be, with emotive creative dignity swirling about holding all in the moment.

Open fields and open sky in the mid of night allows for rest not found in sleep or under the noonday tree. A rest that allows self to open thought crevices normally veiled. Thought not organized but not muddled moves between star and hay field without agenda. Minutes fade, time dissolves, till sky and hayfield are one. Place become mine, theirs, ours.

Work is always of place. Known, work becomes better, place less damaged, and humanity enriched.

Fall’s Fence

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.

Work’in On Labor Day

September 03, 2012

Working on the Bale Wagon today, Labor Day 2012.

Is it labor when one does the work they do most any day of the week and enjoys it?
Is one a workaholic when the line blurs between work and play, and their family, community, and spiritual life remain healthy?
What might our world look like if society supported every person to labor at the work they were created for—therefore loving the work they do—and therefore hardly able to term their labor as either work or play.

© David B. Bell 2012

Spring Showers Spring Work

April 18, 2012
JustLiving Farm

No matter how prepared I think I am I seldom seem prepared enough.  As spring rains dance around sunny days, it seems another chore emerges with each drop of rain.  Much of the work is the same work that comes each spring—like spring cleaning spring chores never change.  But then there is the work you planed last fall for this spring and then there is the work you didn’t have a clue was going to crop up.  Next thing you know you have a great sunny spring day and you’ve settled on the mantra, “one thing at a time.”

No surprise every person I know who farms or ranches—small or large—and also posts on a blog or journal doesn’t post nearly as much once spring settles into their landscape.  Looking back over the years, that reality certainly has been my own and I don’t expect that to change.  As in the past, spring will probably bring on many more pictures than words.

One of the first chores this spring was to bring a fuel tank up to snuff—a new hose and nozzle and tight connections are important so fuel stays either in the tank or the tractor is a must, having the whole thing look a little better is a nice side benefit.

Now, what was the next thing I needed to get done…?

© David B. Bell 2012

1033 New Holland Stackliner

March 18, 2012
JustLiving Farm

Finding the right equipment is a process that takes years, sometimes.  One such case is finding a bale wagon.  For ten years we loaded hay out of the field by hand.  Finally, we got ourselves a bale wagon which made a world of difference!  It wasn’t the best, it wasn’t just what we wanted, but it reduced a lot of the physical work…and that matters when it comes to hand loading a few thousand bales out of the field and then unloading and stacking each one again!  However, with a little more time—and the sale of a few of those bales, we went a bought another bale wagon.  It may not be just the right piece of equipment, but then this is a process that takes years, sometimes.  This is all to say, a new wagon means we must sell our first wagon…and as our first wagon headed down the road yesterday, it was good to remember just how much it changed our lives.  The video below is from last summer’s hay season.

© David B. Bell 2012

Wound a Bit Tightly

February 28, 2012
JustLiving Farm

This morning I am reminded of building temporary electric fencing around the hay fields last fall.  The fencing would allow animals to graze, during the winter months, any field growth occurring after our last cutting of hay.  What I remember best is tying the insulators to the corner posts.  The tying brought me back to a childhood moment when I learned that even if you build a fence that no one will ever see, your work is your work and it tells something about who you are.  Few if any folk will ever notice the tie around the insulator is wrapped tight, but I have an idea a few of those men who watched and commented on my childhood work and are long gone, will.

© David B. Bell 2012