Tag Archives: Land

Zucchini’s Cunning Effort to Populate Creation


November 1, 2015

Early in the spring we put out three zucchini plants and two crookneck. More plants than we normally plant, but we figured we would get through them just fine. However, a freeze came along. Figuring the plants had died, we put in five more. The days were busy in the spring and we didn’t get around to pulling the dead ones for a week. When we did, they all had the beginning of new leaves, so, we let them grow.

Anyone who has grown a zucchini plant knows what happened next. Nothing is as proliferate as a zucchini plant. Once it gets procreation of seed on its plant mind, it cannot shake it loose. Now, I like zucchini as much as the next guy, but after having zucchini every night for three weeks, options are tenuous. I told a recently retired friend about our hardship. He was in the process of cleaning up his library, and when he arrived at the coffee shop the next week he handed me a zucchini cookbook, with a smile. Knowing him for the gardener he is, I wondered if there was bountiful laughing behind the smile. I still do. We got by two more weeks on that cookbook though.

Keeping up with the zucchini was hard during the early weeks. Impossible in the later weeks. Wheelbarrows full of squash, two or three or four feet long, headed back to the goats each week. After dumping them, took a square head shovel, and chopped them into three and four inch pieces. That worked well, the chickens and goats ate and ate, for a couple of weeks. I guess zucchini has its limits for everyone—except the soil.

By mid-summer we found zucchini plants in the pastures. Obviously, these plants were from the last year’s natural chicken sowing efforts of the few zucchini we dumped. Which gives wonder and fear to what the soil will do next summer with the extraordinary number of seeds the chickens must be spreading this year.

With zucchini stacked on the back porch, the laundry room half-full, and the hardly able to open the pumphouse door without them tumbling out, I wondered how to tell this story. Then Gene Logsdon wrote The Good, the Bad, and…the Zucchini last week. Sooner or later, every writer who grows zucchini has a zucchini story. Logsdon nails the zucchini story this year. So, instead of wondering how to tell our story, I invite you to hear a story of intrigue, humor, scheming, and zucchini’s cunning plot to invade every nook and cranny of the world. And I will go have a slice of zucchini bread.

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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.

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Sageness in the Canyon Landscape of Prickles, Songbirds, and Sunlight


February 22, 2015

When I am in southern California I take a few hours and walk a canyon. On the backside of two weeks of traveling and meetings, I finally found myself walking a southern California canyon on a Saturday morning. Entering the north-south canyon before sunrise, I hoped to hear the canyon awaken as the sunlight made its way from ridgetop to canyon floor. Also, its being a southern California canyon just outside of Camarillo, I hoped to have it all to myself for a little of a while.

I hiked this same canyon in September. Showing the effects of the ongoing drought, the canyon was dry and brittle. Normally, hiking these canyons in the fall, there are the jewels of prickly pears hidden in the crevasses of northern exposures. Pears make hiking a wonderful taste. This particular canyon has an abundance, ripe for the picking. They also have an abundance of hairlike prickles called glochids, near impossible to see, covering them. Should you pick a pear, the prickles from the fruit detach and leave you with a handful of stickers. You can get around this by lighting a match and burning the prickles off. However, it being a brittle dry fall, it did not seem wise to start any fire, even if it was only a match, so I did without pears.

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Walking With Dead In A Landscape Of Art

November 23, 2012

This month began with a Field Trip for a few of the My Future students.  Many of their artwork made up a Dia de los Muertos alter presented in downtown Yakima.  Like with other artful students, My Future youth helped create an alter asking and answering questions of life and death.

Being present and intentional with Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) calls an artist to consider the rightness or wrongness of their art.  For one whose ancestral culture is that of Dia de los Muertos there is a normalcy to participating in a long tradition of art that plays at that edge of death and life.  But for those of us whose culture is of landscapes other than that which birthed Dia de los Muertos the question must be asked, can we be artful and not disrespectful?

Many American Indians remind non-Indians their participation of Indian practices is a fragile one.  From sweats to sage smoke, flutes to the four winds, American Indians recognize many non-Indians appropriate their practices—Such appropriation not always for financial or social gain, rather, acts, such as the use of cleansing sage smoke, are done without embodying the fullness of the sage’s landscape.  Due to centuries of appropriating bodies from sacred burial sites for scientific study to decades of claiming religious and social practices for non-Indian events and ceremonies, American Indians rightfully question when non-Indians produce Indian-like art.  Such history calls the artist to carefully question their participation in cultural art that is not their own.

So it is fair to ask why does Dia de los Muertos have such a large presence in the art of My Future?  Fair and important, because the directors of My Future, Belinda and myself, are white, non-Indian, non-Latino/a, and Dia de los Muertos is nothing if not indigenous and Latino/a.

Not appropriating culture art is tricky for artists, because an artist’s being is wrapped around the constant wonderment of landscape.  Wonderment often leads to eternal questions of life and death, hurt and joy, love and rejection.  One instance of art where an artist found life and wonder outside his culture of birth is Starry Night.  In painting Starry Night the Dutch artist Van Gough beckons the observer into an intimate relationship with the French landscape.  Van Gough presents a landscape of swirling cypress, mountains, and sky, which calls the observer to open the door of finitude, walk out the angular home, church and steeple in favor of entering the cosmos of mystery and wonderment.

Another instance is Woody Guthrie’s song This Land Is Your Land.  Guthrie moves beyond the landscape of birth and asks the listener to consider the landscape of a continent.  Similar to Van Gough, Guthrie calls the listener to an experience of wonderment so large the listener must become fluid where tactile and emotion become one.  In this context of grandeur sky and land, plants and clouds, and water and voice, Guthrie destroys concepts of ownership and No Trespassing signs.  Artists, by nature, reach into the landscape in which they find themselves to mold and breathe life as to beckon us into creations texture.  Such reaching in, though,matters because embedded in the landscape is culture, and it is this life of the ancients which calls the artist to enter into a landscape conversation which strives for art to jump the chasm of appropriation and become an appropriate reflection of culture.

The landscape of My Future is one of America.  Not the nationalistic U.S. america, but peoples America of North, Central, and South America.  This is landscape of an imagined borderless continent where youthful artists walk freely because walls fade and land speaks freely.  Such a landscape does not assume, but speaks the voice of teacher.  This relationship, when done well, allows the student artist to awaken to their place in the culture of landscape.  This place of learning helps the student become a non-assuming artist who embodies the landscape’s voice.

Doing our best to listen to landscape does not mean culture is never appropriated, but rather, My Future staff and students hope their Dia de los Muertos art grasps to reflect their conversation with the landscape, presenting art that is reverent.

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.

Wild Horses of the Yakama Nation

By Tamalyn Kralman

April 27, 2012

Last Saturday the JustLiving Farm and Yakama Mission hosted Spring Horse.  Spring Horse brings amateur and professional photographers together to experience the wild horses of the Yakama Reservation and to enhance their gift by developing ongoing relationships.  These photographers give us their unique perspective of the landscape.

Spring Horse 2013: April 20

By Roger Lynn

By Roger Lynn

By Doris Steeg

By Roger Lynn

By Tamalyn Kralman

By Roger Lynn

By Roger Lynn

© David B. Bell 2012

Dialect: Life, Community, Landscape


April 24, 2012

Belinda and I will spend much of the day placing irrigation mainline and backfilling trench.  That is all of the day except for a few hours this morning.

Not that long ago I read an essay on funerals.  The writer compared funeral services he experienced back east to those of the west.  He spoke to a belief of eastern funerals having a higher degree of ritual and communal comfort than western funerals.  In part, he supported this line of thought saying the ritual of spreading ashes (a western ritual in his estimation) did not provide the community groundedness as, say, occurs when the congregational family comes together and provides food and comfort in the fellowship hall after a burial service.  When I finished the essay, I could not help but to think the transplanted eastern writer missed the values and richness of culture—east or west.

Landscapes speak to individuals and communities with their own unique voice.  The landscape of forested Arkansas simply speaks a different language than an arid western landscape lying east of the Cascade mountain range.  More so, the dialect of the arid eastern rain-shadowed Washington Cascades is different from the twang of the arid eastern rain-shadowed California Sierras.

This morning the twang is apparent.  Belinda and I have the afternoon to place irrigation line because there is no My Future after-school today.  There is no after-school today because a community member died and school canceled.  Instead of school today, the whole community is invited to the school gym for funeral services.  For this community, in this landscape, the end of life is so important it is okay, even supported, to close school and businesses so everyone might gather, remember, and grieve together.

So, this afternoon, when Belinda and I gather to place pipe into the earth, there is a fair chance our groundedness is more than standing waist deep in the ground, but also that we have become entrenched in the deep care of our whole community.

© 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

A Handsaw Winter Sky

January 14, 2012
JustLiving Farm

I can’t get over winter days when I watch the sun rise, Mount Pahto shimmers to the west as if showing off a new coat bought at the last snowfall sale, full moon blessing mountain above its northern shoulder, and winter blue sky unfolding.  Such days awaken cold and frozen, but as the day yawns and picks itself up, the thermometer moves above freezing and the day is perfect to get done a few of those chores best left to ungloved hands.

Last spring I didn’t quite get the haystack bulkhead done before we started loading hay against it.  Over the holidays, we sold the last bit of the haystack in the uncompleted area.  So, for the first time in six months I could finally get back to it!

The nice aspect to this chore is the haystack is a long way from electricity.  Well, not so nice when the bulk of the work was going on, but great for this season.  For such distance means a handsaw.  Sure, I could get the generator out or I could go buy one of those fancy cordless circular saws, but sometimes it is just nice to grab a saw by the handle and enjoy the feel of steel against wood.

Perhaps what I like best about sawing wood on a sunny blue-sky day is remembrance and reflection.  I can’t help but think that daddy and his daddy before him each picked up a handsaw, much like the one I am using—hand saws haven’t changed much in a lot of generations, and sawed wood.  Daddy was a carpenter in addition to everything else.  He crafted the wood toolbox that now sits in the shed out back.  This toolbox didn’t sit in the shop, but traveled from one jobsite to the next.  What amazed me, growing up, was the toolbox had a tray that slid out from the back holding five handsaws, each for a specific job.  As I got some age on me, what then amazed me was the realization some of those saws had been sharpened so many times their blade width got smaller as it moved away from the handle toward the tip.

Any longer, the art of sharpening a handsaw is a lost art.  I remember driving to town with daddy to drop off dull saws or pick up sharpened saws.  The building was across the road from the train depot and restaurant—there wasn’t a whole lot more to town than that.  You had to walk up a set of wooden stairs to a loading platform and then go into the saw shop through a wooden door that slid off to the right.  Daddy was a quiet man, best I remember, but I remember having a lot of time looking around the saw shop while he and the man who sharpened saws talked.  We would walk out of the shop with sharpened handsaws and saw blades for the old 77 Skill saw.  Today there aren’t many folks who sharpen blades of any kind.  Few people use handsaws and most circular blades are carbide tipped; when the owner is done with a blade they toss it away and head to town to buy another—our throwaway societal structure doesn’t do much to support the saw blade sharpening industry.

I don’t often take daddy’s handsaws out and use them.  I choose to use my own and leave his alone, I guess because they are more of a tool to pull youthful memories to the present rather than to saw wood.  And that seems to work well for me, because when I take my own handsaws down off the wall and head out to saw wood where there isn’t electricity, I feel a little more tied to those men who went before me, and a little more tied to the relationship they had with the land, the mountain, the wind, and family.

© David B. Bell 2012