Tag Archives: Alfalfa

GMO And Cardboard Food


May 24, 2015

Folks in Jackson County, Oregon are having a fit. The people of Jackson County voted last fall to ban GMO (genetically modified organism) crops. Alfalfa growers are ticked off. Lawsuits are filed. Having planted “Roundup Ready” alfalfa, a perennial plant that is productive for years, GMO farmers claim a potential devastating income loss.

Roundup Ready crops like alfalfa allow farmers to spray their entire field with Roundup (imagine a crop-duster plane), killing the weeds while leaving the resistant crop alone. Some folk argue there are problems with the GMO plant itself and they don’t want it fed to the livestock of they eat or provide their milk. Others question what widespread, non-specific spraying (of any type really) is doing to the soil, water, and air. Interesting enough though, is in time the arguments may mean little because weeds are developing an immunity to Roundup. Which might mean that about the time GMO alfalfa is normalized, Roundup will not be effective, and chemical companies will have developed a new herbicide.

There are alternatives though and I hope folk begin to recognize them. I’m not wholly against herbicides, however I am against wholesale use with little regard for tomorrows folk who must use this same land. Farmers could decide to quit large-scale herbicide use and accept a few more weeds and a little more work, and the consumer could pay a little more for their food. However, this would call farmers and consumers alike to change their practices. Alfalfa wise, farmers would have to learn old practices of allowing weeds to go as far as developing a seed head and then cutting their crop before the seed ripens. Done well, the plant (often) thinks it has reproduced and does not therefore put another seed head on. Continue reading

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.

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

Flowers and Rain

September 19, 2010

Having cut hay the other day and then having rain most days since, I probably should feel unhappy.  I cannot say at times I do not.  Yet, something about rain this time of year is special.  Moderate temperatures, clouds and midst settling into the hollows of the ridge, the sharp line of the ridge against clouds moving high above, makes one settle down for a moment and enjoy the smell of damp earth.  Where the grays of midst and clouds, the browns of the ridge, and the golds of grasses don’t get it, then there is the bright flowers of garden and flower beds calling for attention and a moment, a bit of silence, and shear enjoyment.

© 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 dave@justlivingfarm.org.

© David B. Bell 2010

Venus south of Pahto

August 19, 2010

Venus is just to the south of Pahto and even with her peak when I shut down the tractor and finished baling for the evening.  Forty bales of Alfalfa and about the same of orchard grass sat in the field in the moonlight as the tractor and baler wound down.  Stars, moon, and planets help give a magical feel to the air as I walked from the field to the house.  A wonderful way to end the day.

Today, though, with nearly a hundred bales in the field it is time to pick them up and stack them for the winter.  Our charity for the month is Noah’s Ark homeless shelter in Wapato.  Anyone who would like to help move bales from the field to the stack is welcome to come by (please call first) and help.  We will donate $.75 for every bale (the cost of having someone pick up bales) picked up and stacked to Noah’s Ark.

Second Cutting of Alfalfa

June 27, 2010

The alfalfa is now down.  The grass field will go a little longer before we cut it for hay.  The forecasted temperature is for seventies and eighties this week, so the hay should dry down fine.  If temperatures and wind stay as forecasted baling should begin mid to late week.

© David B. Bell 2010

Proverbs raining Understanding, Grace, and Hay

May 29, 1020

On and off, we’ve had a fair amount of rain since Wednesday.  As rain often is this time of year, it has benefited some and not others.  Some without benefit are those who have cut hay or who have baled but the bales remain in the fields.  Questions arise for those folk. Is it going to rain too much?  Will the sun come out and stay out?  Will the wind come and dry the hay?  Will the undersides of bales mold?

I grew up in southern California.  The landscape of my youth was full of canyons.  The drainages, we called washes, were sand and gravel.  Over the ages these washes wandered back and forth creating canyon floors of, yep, sand and gravel.  From sand wash floor canyon forming ridges raised, fingering their way up to the mountains.  This is a dry and arid land; a land where rain came seldom and first drops often vanished upon touching the ground.  Growing up in arid canyon’s meant rain became important to me.  More often than not, rain was something good.  Waking in the morning hearing water drip from roof eave was comforting, and exciting.

The rains of the last week, have me looking around and wondering what it means for others who have hay on the ground.  How do they feel?  What does it mean emotionally? mentally? spiritually?

Yet, I imagine my thoughts are as much about me as they are about my neighbor.  Who am I emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, when the rain isn’t lived out as my childhood memories would have it?

Ancient proverbial writings are not a bad place to turn to in times of wondering.  Hebrew teachers living long before the Christian era used these writings and stories to teach their young folks basic stuff like how do we get along with one another, with the environment, and with ourselves?  Like today, the teachers of Proverbs understood individuals, communities, and nation states did not always live up to the ethic principles they set for themselves, and as a result, the wellbeing of people and of creation were lacking.

The writings of Proverbs, though, strove for something more than ethics.  Proverbs often strived to awaken that something residing deeply within ourselves that hungers for perfect relationship with the created universe.  These writings awaken us to the possibility that if the people of creation could grasp, could fasten onto a moment of pure understanding, a foundational shift in all of creation—bringing forth exhilarated oneness, is within reach.

The Proverbs keep on hanging-on, through the centuries, for the day, for the moment, when all that is explodes with a gladness, a delight, a blissfulness that makes creation and Creator one forever.

Imagine humanity, earth and sky, fire and water, wind and silence, plant and animal, rock and star becoming fully, intentionally, one.  Somewhere in this imagination, somewhere in believing the realm of all good is attainable, do we begin to hear proverbial poetry speaking to the hope and knowable created goodness flowing in and through and around all we are in the midst of all creation.

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.
The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first,
before the beginning of the earth.

When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.

Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—

when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,

rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
(Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31)

The ancient proverbial writings are not the cure for angst when clouds rise up over the ridge and drops of water fall one after another into windrowed hay fields.  Yet the wisdom of an ancient people reminds us, reminds me, the firm skies above and the fountains of the deep are not a transgression upon us, but simply us.  There is perfectness where we perceive imperfectness.  Not to say everything happens for a reason, that is far too simplistic.  Rather, there is the unexplainable, that which is mystery, flowing in and through and around us giving us life, relationship, and connectedness.  If we open ourselves to that which cannot be taught, only perceived, then we find our sister, our brother, in the next cloud folding over the ridge.

© David B. Bell 2010

Raking with Hope

May 19, 2010

We had good wind all last evening and night.  I thought the wind might have taken up the moisture in the hay from the day before.  So, I went ahead and tried raking the outside rows of the field.  I would say ninety percent of the moisture is gone.  However, the grass can use another good day of drying and a day wouldn’t hurt the alfalfa.  The National Weather Service is now saying a strong and fast moving cold front is coming through this evening, bringing with it very strong winds and scattered showers and thunderstorms.  I’ll look forward to the wind and hope the scattered showers scatter somewhere else!

© David B. Bell 2010

Planning, Rain, and stuff that Matters

May 18, 2010

Rain isn’t what I hoped for today.  Considered generationally, there are folk in my past who might think me a little funny knowing I’d rather not have rain.  My grandfather farmed the windy arid panhandle of Texas.  In those days, sixty to ninety years ago, if one was to farm in that landscape it was dryland farming.  Rain mattered.  You took it when you could get it.  Certainly, rain could come at the wrong time, just as harvest began for instance, but more times than not, folks welcomed rain.  Harvest rain, though, is where I’m at today.

Hay has been cut and down and drying for nearly a week now.  I figured another few days and then baling.  After last night and then this morning’s continuing rain, chances are baling will not happen until the first of next week.  I am hoping this is neither good nor bad, but rather a moment to live out one more part of life that can neither be scheduled nor manipulated to what I prefer.

I never really knew my dryland grandfather.  I imagine knowing or not knowing my grandfather could not have been planned anymore than I could plan for rain ten days out with absolute certainty.  And maybe the unplanning of life is where life becomes full.  The idea goes against business and political practices where planning for return-on-invest and votes become mathematical constructs.  Life, though, might be best lived when the unplanned is experienced as soulful richness when blended with the planned.  Where planning gives health and wellbeing by having a full pantry or root cellar and unplanning allows one to lift their head to the sky, open their mouth, and taste the remembrance of an ancestor.

© David B. Bell 2010