Category Archives: Events

Manes and Memories

By Dorris Steeg

April 26, 2012

It might be the era of my childhood, or it might be the rural area I grew up in, or it may be growing up in the west, or it just may be normal in every U.S. school in every era…

I remember my elementary school playground when I look at this Spring Horse photo by Doris Steeg.  Girls ran the playground from one end to the other, tossing their hair side to side, sometimes with one arm behind them—as if a tail, and whinnying.  These were the wild horses, manes flashing and tails running, of Sulphur Springs playground.  Romping around and laughing, they paid little to no attention to us boys.  Us boys didn’t pay much attention to them either, but just enough, I guess, to store a memory away to surface again another day.  I don’t remember when the girls quit living as wild horses, maybe about the time we boys began paying more attention to their manes.  Yet, when I think about all these years of marriage…maybe the wild horse never really went away.

© David B. Bell 2012


By Roger Lynn

April 23, 2012
My Future

It is hard to imagine the type of day we had for the first Spring Horse event!  Sunny and the slightest of breezes allowed for a day that began with sunrise, ended with sunset, and permitted a wonderful opportunity to experience the valley landscape and a few of its hosts.  From driving to hiking folks lived with the valleys hosts up close and at a distance.  And where horses were not seen, that land smiled in their place.  The day became wonderful way to support My Future: extended-learning art program.

The photo “Youngster” is the first of a few photos to be posted this week!

© David B. Bell 2012

Digging and Horses—Landscape Listening

April 20, 2012
JustLiving Farm

For years we have been using 5” aluminum mainline to supply our irrigation water.  Each year for the last three years we work to place a little more of it underground.  This year is no different.  Having the line underground not only makes life a little easier, but it also saves water, which matters when you consider how much water it takes to grow pasture and hay.  I enjoy this work, but I am really looking forward to tomorrow!

Spring Horse begins at 5:30am.  This is our first year to offer the opportunity to experience the wild horses of our landscape.  Beginning with sunrise, folks from a two state region will head out in hope of seeing, experiencing, and photographing wild horses who make reservation land their home.  A full day of wonderful countryside, horses, and many new folk I have never met.  And that is just cool.  To hang out, introduce folk to the landscape I love and have the opportunity to hear about their home and their landscape.  These conversations always help me attain a little more insight to how others experience creation and how it feeds their spirit; that in turn helps me to become more aware of my landscape, my spirit, and my relationship with Creation—amazing stuff!

Until tomorrow though, a little more digging…

By Roger Lynn (One of our Spring Horse Mentors!)

© David B. Bell 2012

Spring Horse

Photographer David Biddle

March 17, 2012
My Future
Yakama Mission
JustLiving Farm

SPRING HORSE—Yakama Reservation April 21, 2012

Spring Horse is a day for anyone who wants to experience the wild as few have the opportunity.  From sunrise to sunset, you have the chance to spend a partial or full day with photographers who will help you frame a photo of wild beauty.  BUT, you do not have to be a photographer to enjoy the day!  If you are simply interested in experiencing the wild horses of the Yakama Reservation, join us!  Bring your binoculars, spotting scopes, compact cameras, DSLR cameras, whatever fits your needs.

There is no fee for the day, but donations are encouraged.  All donations go to MY FUTURE, the art-based after-school program of the Yakama Mission.

We are lucky to have five great photographers whose photo’s call for pause: David Biddle, Roger Lynn, Jeff Kent, Rebecca and Andy Lee.

Save the date of April 21 for Spring Horse and send an email to to receive further info as it becomes available and reserve a spot for the day!

Spring Horse is a collaborative opportunity provided by the Yakama Mission and JustLiving Farm—Good Spirit, Good Land, Good Food.

© David B. Bell 2012

Farm Kid Day!

March 12, 2012
JustLiving Farm

She moved around slowly.  Very slowly.  Every doe in the herd except her had kidded.  I had thought she would kid two days earlier and I think she thought the same, but so far, nothing.  When I arrived at the barn she moved up to the gate.  The gate led to the area where we bring mothers for a few hours after birthing.  While there, kids get a shot of selenium, iodine on their umbilical cord, and an ear tag.  I think she came to the gate because she thought if she could get in, that would induce her babies.  I opened the gate, and she slowly walked in.

It took a full day, but by the next morning the slow moving doe finally had twins, one doeling and one buckling.  Life seemed better!  After a week of birthing, every doe had a kid on the ground, and no deaths!  Which means…

FARM KID DAY!  Yep, the time has arrived for our annual workday with kids and their mothers.  This is the day when we trim mother’s hooves, give them a good brush down, and cleaned them up.  At the same time kids get tetanus shots, dehorned, and banded.  A very busy two to four hours.  Normally, we have this day on Saturday, but this year we have a Saturday workshop presentation.  So, instead, we are going with a Sunday afternoon.  If you would like to come and help (your kids and grandkids are welcome!), you are welcomed!

COME join us and other folk who support small farms!  Come and help work with the mothers and kids, walk around and learn about the farm, and sit down with us, new friends, and have homemade chili and sourdough bread!  Please call or email and let us know your coming!

March 18, 2012: 1:00pm

Join JustLiving Farm for a day of…
Care for Does and newborn Kids.
Supper of Chili & Sourdough Bread.

RSVP (509) 969-2093 or

© David B. Bell 2012

Flinging a Pollock

September 30, 2010

The ancient Hebrew stories of beginning, speak about creating well.  The tellers of these stories spoke of creation as a time of wonder, ease, thought, care, love.  The angst and hardness many hear in these old stories arise from the days when people struggled to maintain safety, health, and food on the table.  These are times when hardship rather than pleasure defines work.  The creating of creation though was neither chore nor hardship but rather a time where work and play are one.  When the Creator gathers the cosmos and flings it about like a Pollock, creating artful universes that expand beyond our imaginations and flower our dreams, there is fullness and balance—the gathering of work is intimate with the playfulness of flinging.  The gentle lifting of soil, the molding as if clay, the breathing into, is not hardship but the lyrical creation of human.  Raising up water and pulling steams to flow through firs and ferns, tucking a cutthroat trout downstream behind bolder, slipping a rabbit below blackberry vines, gracing the ridge with Red-tail hawk gliding the contours speaks of inspiration.  Such creating is delightful work.  The ancient stories of Creator work speak of hands that are as playful as they are callous, whose work is good rather than drudgery, and whose rest is stepping back from artful creation enjoying the wonderment, thoughtfulness, and questioning what is best next.

The Genesis words “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion,” in a creative landscape are not words of power or chore.  They do not speak of one element of creation trumping another.  These are words calling creation into coexistence, pleasure, and playful work.  They call humanity into creative artfulness.  Subduing and dominion is a call into the creative artfulness of gracefully gathering the earthly cosmos and fashioning relationship.  Such creative action trumps hierarchy causing Creator to walk with creation in “the evening breeze,” where both are one.  In those evening walks one is reminded wind not only serves the breath of humanity, but the breath of the mouse and moose, tree and algae, soil and worm, as well.  Creative blessing flows as such moments and all of creation experiences blessedness.

“God…created every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winded bird of every kind.  And…God blessed them saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.”  Blessing is radical equality formed into creation.  The Creators blessing of humanity is no less and no more than blessing given to animals and plant and water and earth and stars.  Creation is simply, fully, and wholly blessed.

Sunday is the farms celebration of Blessing of the Animals.

Blessing of the Animals
Sunday, October 3, 2010

3pm:                      Gathering
3:30pm:                Blessing our companion animals: cats, horses, dogs, turtles, etc.
4:00pm:                Blessing our wild neighbors: hawks, rabbits, jays, coyotes, mice, etc.
4:30pm:                Blessing our companion animals
4:45-5:00pm:      Rest and enjoy and wonder.

Arrive at any time which best fits your and your companions life.

If you have no animals to bring, come just the same.  Your presence is a blessing to the community and you will be blessed in return.

© David B. Bell 2010

Of Coyotes, Mice, Saint Francis, and Blessing of the Animals

Artist: Leo Politi (Mural on Olvera St., L.A., California)

September 18, 2010

She trots along a windrow to front and side of the tractor.  Pewter gray along the back, her hair lightened as it moved down her side to the belly.  As the dark gray hair slide off her back and down her tail it lightened a little then in the last four inches burst black and bushy.  Pushing up the neck, gray gave way to the brownish gold of newly cut cedar as it slipped between her ears.  Flowing down and across her cropped sleek face, darker and lighter hair blended giving modeled overtones before ending at her black nose.  Trotting, she dives into the windrow, here and then there, after a field mouse who lost its home in the cutting of hay.  The high shady protective alfalfa landscape, home to mice, voles, and gophers, has changed to an open barren landscape as the swather cuts and sweeps hay into windrows and leaving little more than three-inch stems behind.  The only protective cover left for a mouse or a vole is the windrows, and they are unfamiliar space.

A similar truth holds for the coyote.  After hunting the last month and a half in growing hay fields for, she also finds her landscape disrupted.  Where yesterday she could hunt concealed by tall alfalfa, like the mouse, she now is exposed.  Her eyes dart regularly at the tractor as she moves down a windrow.  Hunting is now a risky venture.  A 22 or other varmint rifle is not uncommon in a tractor or swather when cutting hay, and for many, the coyote is a varmint.  How deep, how intense is a hunger that brings her as close as five or six feet from me while hunting the windrow?  Or does she know the farm a safe landscape worked to allow for her wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the voles, moles, and field mice she hunts?  I hope the latter.

Whatever potential danger there is from the one operating the tractor the coyote realizes the hunt is easier now.  She knows the lives of those whom she hunts are as disrupted as hers.  Trotting the windrow she watches for telltale movement of one whose world has been destructed and knows their own may not be far away.  Fear and nervousness are at their height for a mouse at this time—their world is destroyed and they must question when to move, when to run, when to stay still?  And the coyote knows this.  Seeing movement in a windrow, she is far away to see the mouse; so, she stands where she last saw alfalfa leaves move.  Waiting.  Crouched in the hay, the mouse waits as well, struggling with its own emotions and questions: Does the coyote see me?  Is it about to pounce?  Do I stay still or run?—the answer is a matter of life and death.  Sometimes the field mice outwait (or outwit?) the coyote, sometimes not.

Creation has a natural equality that is sometimes wonderful and sometime harsh.  Sadly, this creative equality is mostly lost today, partly due to or maybe mostly due to the faith of my childhood and ordination.  Genesis tells a story of human creation given the responsibility to name animals.  It is a story that has led to two Christian worldviews of dominion.  The first calls humanity to control animal wellbeing.  This hierarchal worldview places animals at a level lower than that of humans.  At this level, animals are objects of control—their creation is to benefit humans.  The second worldview is also hierarchal, but with a twist.  Humanity is the preferred creation whose better state calls for a dominion of caring for animal wellbeing.  In this case humanity creation is to benefit animals.  While control and caring are different, neither visualizes humanity and animals as created equals.  Rather control and caring both give humanity power over animals with a responsibility to dictate their wellbeing.

The coyote and the field mouse speak to something different.  Both might struggle with humanity in the landscape of their lives.  But neither need humanity to control their actions nor care for their wellbeing.  They get along just fine without human dominion.

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited for helping Christianity move away from a worldview of dominion being one of control to one of care.  However, stories from the Fioretti (Little Flowers) of Saint Francis, a collection of popular legends of Saint Francis, helps light a path that might help humanity move beyond care to equality.  One story tells of Saint Francis preaching to his “sisters the birds”:

My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you… you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests.  And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly.  Therefore… always seek to praise God.

Apparent in this legend, Saint Francis preaches to the birds as he would preach to humans.  Saint Francis is confident the birds understand his words as well as they understand one another.  What might be gained from this story is an insight to a total lack of creational hierarchy and rather the fullness of creational equality.  Saint Francis preaches to the birds as he does to humans because the radical created equality of the Creator allows for the understanding of the voice of all of creation by all creation.

Living into such a radical created equality moves humanity from an imagined creative equality to an experienced equality.  In such equality, creation intentionally listens closely and carefully to one another.  In this deeper relationship, the voice of Creator becomes clearer and authentic.  In this state of reality, legend slips away, and story moves from miracle or metaphor, to the normal, natural voice of Creator and Creation.

Hearing creation anew with the ears of modern society is not easy.  A coyote trotting alongside the tractor is a gift, but the coyotes voice, should it choose to speak, cannot be heard over the din of a tractors engine.  Hearing the voice of the coyote or the bird or the field mouse may remain in the imagination for the time being, but steps can be taken to reframe our ears.

The celebration of Blessing of the Animals is an opportunity of reframing ears.  Blessing animals who are closest to us, mentally and emotionally, is a step towards wholeness.  When we give those animals of creation who are closest to us, who have our greatest attention—dogs, cats, horses, fish—a blessing as we would give our children we are better able to imagine an equality of creation where one day the bear, salmon, deer, hawk, coyote, and field mouse is again understood as sister and brother.

The celebration of Blessing of the Animals is not new, nor unique, but it is new and unique to the JustLiving Farm.  On October 3, 2010, the JustLiving Farm will offer a time of celebration and worship in a service of Blessing of the Animals.  This Sunday afternoon, from 3pm until 5pm you are welcome to bring your companion animal, service animal, or farm animal to the JustLiving Farm for a blessing.  Pastors from the Christian traditions of Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, and Methodist will join us in blessing and giving blessing to the Creators creatures.  Come and join us in a blessing recognizing the fullness of creation where for a moment we might fully accept our sister bird, brother coyote, uncle cat, aunt dog, or cousin turtle.

All are welcomed, four legged and two legged, feathered and fin, wiggling and waggling.  Come and spend a time of joyfulness, laughter, and sacredness.

Blessing of the Animals
October 3, 2010
3pm until 5pm
JustLiving Farm
9000 Campbell Road
Toppenish, WA 98948

Please RSVP to

© David B. Bell 2010

Nursery Day

April 19, 2010

Saturday.  The first car arriving around 9:30am and our first Nursery Day began.  A friend arrived with her four children.  She opened her door, got out, and then the kid’s bailed out with the energy only people under the age of ten have.  It’s hard to say if their feet ever hit the ground before they exploded with excited comments, names, and questions.  As Belinda came around the corner of the house, I quickly ascertained the safest thing for me was to guide them toward her and the hot chocolate and cookies!

The day moved quickly.  Soon, others arrived and by a quarter after ten, we had a healthy group full of hot chocolate and coffee ready to get on with the day.  Everyone loaded up on the hay wagon and for the next forty minutes traveled the farm talking about land, animals (hawks, voles, rabbits, coyotes, goats), plants, and people.  When they returned, they headed off to the back of the nursery barn where human kids could pet, play, and learn a little something about goat kids (like, goats don’t have top teeth!).  By the time they were done with goats, it was dinnertime.

The mid-day meal is always good time with friends and neighbors, and this was no exception.  Folks gathered round, grace spoken, and a dinner of beans, greens, bread, and (of course) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was eaten.  The meal was as local as possible this time of year.  The freshest and most local part of the meal was the greens that came from the organic co-op, RicOrganic’s.  The greens were special, not only for their taste, but also because there is something special in eating food grown in the local landscape.  One is inescapably and forever part of the landscape from which they eat food.  On this Saturday, food eaten transformed the soil, water, and plants of the valley and birthed new cells and new thoughts while sustaining old cells and old thoughts.

After dinner, folks retired to the hay barn.  There a piñata hung.  With a foam bat, one kid after the next took turns practicing their batting skills—while parents and friends took time to digest, talk, and laugh.  At the end of the day, the kids may not be better batters, but they went home with stories of goats without top teeth, land and plants, hayrides, and candy.