Category Archives: Landscape

Sipping Tea on a Fall Afternoon

15.10.25a

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 Continue reading

End Government Days of False Honor and Reclaim Soil’s Family

15.10.11

October 11, 2015

Funny (in a non-funny way) how many people and State governments have learned a flag (Confederate) has the ability to destroy justice and people and that there is integrity of removing it from the public life, but continue to hold on to and honor a day ruin—Columbus Day. Some are going to talk about this day of history that honors humanities quest of exploration and adventure. I would not be surprised to see the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria compared to Friendship 11, Apollo 11, and Space Shuttle Columbia. Others will speak of the day as a day of conquest, subjugation, and genocide. While others will move for a governmental name switch to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, like the City of Seattle did in 2014.

Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day, I am not a fan of either. I find governmental days of recognition little more than fluff when it comes to justice. Few folk give them serious thought. After all, there is already Native American Day—just a few weeks ago (September 25). What special events or education opportunities were in your community on that day? What did you attend? (Really, feel free to post!) Alongside, Native American Heritage Month is all next month! What might your congregation, non-profit, or business have planned? What event do you plan to attend? (I’ll give two suggestions found in the Northwest: JustLiving Farm is screening of who are my people a film Emmy Award winning filmmaker Robert Lundahl on November 05. And Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is offering the Collins Lecture in Portland on the Doctrine of Discovery with Robert J. Miller, George “Tink” Tinker and Kim Recalma-Clutesi on November 19.)

Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Day is but a symbolic move. Does it matter? Well of course it does, but it benefits the government much more than people. Does anyone believe the City of Seattle is going to make substantial change that would have governance structure become accountable to American Indians? Or fund better education for American Indian children? Or fund better American Indian health, mental care, spiritual care, or care for family structure? What I am getting at is while Indigenous People’s Day sounds good, it is a day of governmental structure, which allows governments like Seattle sound and look good while maintaining oppressive policies against American Indians. Meaningful insight is not going to come from the government, but from the people. I’ll take Idle No More or #BlackLivesMatter any day over one more government holiday (that does not honor a person of resistance). Continue reading

Elk Parts

15.10.04

October 4, 2015

Elk parts. They come once a year. Archery season opened a few weeks ago and rifle season follows it up. My bow hunting friends are saying this is a season unlike any other. The elk are not traveling normal trails or hanging in their normal high country valleys. Maybe there will be few elk parts this year.

I never imagined elk parts growing up in the rural canyons of southern California. Our deer are small in stature and when it comes to meat, they are little more than a big rabbit compared to an elk. Though small is size, being of a landscape of canyon sage, the flavor of their meat rivaled any Cascade elk. The black-tailed deer of sage country may not be the biggest of deer, but they are right up there with the smartest of deer—and a hair coat the blends beautifully with the sage landscape. The cageyness of these deer meant many hunters spent their time enjoying the landscape and returning home to eat beef. That might be why I never saw another hunter in the ridges and canyons around home, and why “I’m going up north to hunt, these deer are to small and not worth the time,” was often heard leading up to hunting season.

I knew I was not in the landscape of my youth when hunting season rolled around my first fall in White Swan. Growing up rural, forty minutes from town is one thing, living in a rural town is something different. The proximity of folk to one another in town (even a town of 500) leads to a different way of thinking than the open country. The old adage that everyone knows everyone in a small town carries a bit of truth. One of those truths is folk have a very good idea of which neighbor struggles economically and who does not—including their dogs.

When the first elk came out of the hills, that first fall, and after they were quartered and cut into steaks, roasts, and jerky, many hunters went about town giving their meat to the elderly and families who struggled. The knowledge being, the hunter is capable of hunting again and many others are not.

Two events made me notice how this new place was different from back home. One, two hunters showed up at the parsonage and offered us meat for no other reason than placing value on the community’s spiritual leaders. Place matters. When two elk roasts were lifted out of the back of the pickup, there was more meat than any one deer I hunted as a youth. My place was no longer the landscape of canyons and sage. Continue reading

Making Right What Never Changed for the Landscape and Her People

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August 13, 2015

I first met Denali when Belinda, Katherine, Rebecca, and I hiked her backcountry. The backcountry is a wide and open landscape without trails. Denali Park is similar with only one road in and the same road out. Buses provide all transportation within the park. Thus, day hikers, backpackers, and folk who want to see the park inside from the bus all ride together. When hikers reach a portion of the park they want to hike, they yell out, the driver stops, and they jump off and watch the bus head on down the gravel road. If they are not alongside the road when the last bus heads back out of the park, well, they get a free night out.

One rule of backpacking the park is to not camp within sight of the road. With that in mind we jumped off the last step of the bus our first of six mornings in Denali, crossed the road and dropped into a drainage. Giving the caribou wide berth we headed across the rising plain. After fourteen hours of hiking drainages, tundra (which is like hiking across a carpet with basketballs below), moving through heavy brush, crossing glacier water creeks that left your feet numb, we topped a slight rise bordering a wide brushed drainage to the east. We looked behind us. We could still see the road. Well, it is a wide and open country. We turned back to south and had little doubt we had another four or five hours of hiking before we reached topography hiding us from the road. We looked at each other and silently thought, “Can anyone see us from the road?” Enough was enough and we made camp.

That evening we cooked and ate supper. Afterwards we placed our food about a football field away from where we cooked. Then we set up the tents another stone’s throw from our cooking area and the food—in triangle fashion. A long day behind us, the road in sight some ten to twelve miles away, the sun still hours from setting, we bedded down.

A light mist gave the morning air a grayish tinge. Animals, mostly caribou, were on the plain grazing. It was quiet. After a while we gathered the food and cooking gear, made oatmeal and coffee, and watched caribou move toward the hollows. As backpacks settled on shoulders as sore that morning as they were the evening before, we headed off toward hills rising in the south. Maybe this evening we sleep out of sight of the road. Continue reading

When Cows Garden

15.07.05a

July 5, 2015

We rotate cattle from pasture to pasture. As long as their numbers are balanced to land, rotational pasturing allows for healthier pasture, abundant grass, and more cattle per acre.

After five weeks, we began our second pass through the pastures a week ago. A week later we moved the cattle to the next pasture. With the grass and weeds eaten down, we found a zucchini squash plant blossoming in the middle of the eaten pasture. Standing by itself, green leaves, yellow flowers, and a couple zucchini, the cattle had eaten around the plant without a bite taken. Given who cows are and given the zucchini plant’s poky nature, perhaps it isn’t too surprising the cows left it alone.

My reaction to finding the zucchini in the middle of the pasture was one of surprise. When I told Belinda later she thought I was trying to get something past her. But there the plant grows, out of place, a good eighth mile from our garden.

Each summer, we cut up leftover squash and throw it out to the chickens. They do a fair job of eating all the meat, leaving only the skins on the ground. I imagine a chicken walked out into the pasture last summer and while turning over cow pies looking for bugs pooped out a seed or two. With water, a bit of soil, and natural fertilizer, the seed obviously found a home suited to its growth.

The unrelenting need to reproduce is amazing. Whether it humans, animals, or plants, life does not give up until it recreates itself.

The cattle may have left the zucchini plant alone because of the sticker-ness of the plant. It just might be though, they too are amazed to find a zucchini plant in the middle of their pasture. Or maybe they also find it a simple gift to have yellow flowers in their midst. Perhaps I give the cattle too much credit, yet I’d rather than not live with the idea the world is better off believing cattle are as wanting as ourselves to have a bit of unusual beauty in their midst.

 

Forever Learning, Forever Teaching

15.06.21

June 21, 2015

[Post By Selys Rivera: Yakama Christian Mission Intern 2015]

There it sat, promising it could get me to where I needed to go if I only had the patience – a 1986 Nissan pickup truck.

The yellow paint was faded with age. The trunk suffered from something similar to tendinitis. The steering wheel sometimes took a bit of muscle, frustration, light perspiration, and mumbled swear words to turn. The driver’s side door was temperamental, refusing to lock from the inside and only locking from the outside when it felt like it. Despite all of this, though, the old King Cab had some fight left in it yet.

There was only one inconvenience keeping me from eagerly taking it for an exploratory ride around Yakima County. The little yellow intern truck David and Belinda Bell had lent me for the summer had a manual transmission. Since I only knew how to drive automatic, I knew I had some learning to do if I was going to be a productive intern for the Yakama Christian Mission.

I was suddenly sixteen again. Every driving skill I mastered in the last five years was set back to a beginner level. It was more than the difficult aspects too, such as driving in reverse or doing a three-point turn. I couldn’t even press the gas without making the truck jerk, sometimes stalling in traffic. My face would turn the same shade of red as whatever stop sign or light I had jerked to a standstill in front of that day. Each time, I felt like the truck was taking me by the shoulders and shaking me in frustration. My goodness! Get your act together. What an embarrassment.

The truck wasn’t the only one frustrated. I wanted to shake the truck back. “Don’t you think I’m trying?” I mentally retaliated. “Give me a break! This isn’t as easy as it looks.” Then my left foot would prematurely depart from the clutch and the truck would stall again. I smacked my forehead against the stubborn steering wheel several times. Continue reading

A Kitchen of Culture, Life, And Conversation

15.05.10

May 10, 2015

The kitchen is a favorite room of mine. Hard to imagine it isn’t everyone’s. Good food, good company, and good talk roll over the counter top and fill the house. Not a big room, but open with movement between kitchen and dining is hardly noticeable.

Our home is a back door home. That is, it is one of those homes that a knock on the front door means someone has arrived who has not visited before. After the first visit folk come to the back door. The back door leads straight into the kitchen, so it naturally the homes main room. Which suits us just fine. Folk soon learn that when we are expecting them to give a quick knock, walk in and walk in and grab a cup of coffee or tea—if we’re out in the pasture we’ll show up before too long. The kitchen/dining space is space where friends and neighbors sit laugh, argue, converse, and eat good food.

Spring break groups often have a stint or two in the kitchen. Spring means March, which means wind that blows so hard an outside conversation is next to impossible. During the summer, groups hang out in the barn and converse, but the barn is full of hay and equipment in the spring. So the kitchen fills up with thirty folk and we talk about justice in the landscape.

Every once in a while a group leader contacts me and together we will work to develop a unique spring break. A few years ago a pastor in Watsonville, California called and we developed a spring break where the kitchen stimulated the weeks conversation.

Each day the community baked or fried a cultural bread. Each bread: Wheat bread, fry bread, tortillas, etcetera promoted conversations on culture and we folk carry have different worldviews. The type of bread, its ingredients, and its making helped folk to think about how bread is reflective of a people’s poverty and prosperity. Continue reading

A Landscape of Dented Buckets and Grain Sacks

15.05.03

May 03, 2015

We were driving through the Nova Scotia countryside in November taking in farms and farming practices. The practices and work we saw was much like the work of small farmers back home. Most farms were multi-crop in addition to dairy, beef, goats, or sheep.

The workers of the land told a story of animal health and land balance. Dairy and beef farms did not hold thousands of animals, but like crop acreage, were in the tens and hundreds. The farms we drove by were much more like the farm of my mother’s youth than industrial feedlots and mono-cropland found across the US. Rather than miles of feed bunkers with animals living in mud and manure, Nova Scotia animals were on pastures.

We traveled a two-lane road without a centerline. Rolling hills transitioned into wooded land and the landscape steepened. Soil held fast with grass pastures in cleared homesteads. Harvested corn stalk covered a few acres on most every farm. The fenceline opened upon a two-story, 1920’s or 30’s home. White, with a small porch sporting styles, rails, and posts, the home spoke a carpenter who did not hurry his work. Fifty feet or so away, a white barn rose out of the ground. The wife and husband walked in rubber mud boots, topping out just below the knee, toward the barn in. A dented galvanized bucket swung in her left hand and his right arm wrapped was around a sack of feed.

We stopped. The feel was a familiar. When someone we do not know shows up at the farm, Belinda and I wonder what is going on. The same feeling was in the air as we approached the farm couple. Like anyone showing up at the farm back home, the first question that must arise is, “are they lost?” Yet, it is Nova Scotia and not central Washington, so it may be just as normal to ask, “Tourists?”—I’m not sure, do folk visit Nova Scotia to spend days driving the countryside? I hope so. Continue reading

Mystery In the Nooks and Crannies Of Garages and the Everyday

15.03.15

April 19, 2015

There was always a bit of mystery in Daddy’s garage. Having free range, we kids were in it most every day for one thing or another. It was a normal place with a bit of an edge.

Daddy fought in WWII as a young man. For him, as a parent, that meant more untold stories than told. Directly after the war he spent a few years in the States. But being single and of sound mind and a carpenter he headed to the middle-east. Like much of the world, the area was ramping up since the war had destroyed much of the infrastructure. He ran construction projects ranging from pipelines to housing for the better part of a decade. When he came home he brought carvings, rugs, old (at least old to us kids) films, and intricately made boxes. Time to time daddy might tell a story, but like the war stories, he kept Arabia pretty much to himself. Which made the garage all the more interesting.

We kids always had our own agenda. The garage was our first stop for whatever tools we needed to fix a bike, work on the treehouse, or build another live-trap to haul into the hills. It was in the midst of our stuff that we came across his stuff. Though it didn’t happen often, it was also not unusual to be looking for a drill bit in the drawer of a handmade toolbox and come across medals from the war, or looking for a handsaw and find a carving wrapped in a small Persian rug.

Age didn’t matter when you came across a medal or a carving for the first or umpteenth time. The imagination wandered. Because a story was seldom available, these items from times past and landscapes unknown brought mystery into the moment. The bike or treehouse was forgotten and the mysterious led the imagination to that place of wonderment and questioning. Funny, isn’t it, how the non-story can bring about intricate and surprising stories? Continue reading

Sidle Up To The Fenceline

15.04.05a

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.

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