Tag Archives: Work

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

From Brando to Arquette: There Is More To Justice Than a Oscar Speech


March 01, 2015

Okay, truth be told, I don’t watch the Oscars. For the most part, I find the Oscars wanting. They do little more than lift up rich folk and make them a little richer, for which I feel there is little need. However, one may not watch the Oscars, but if you read a paper or watch any television, you’re going to hear plenty about them leading up to and after the event.

When it comes to the Oscars I am the product of Marlon Brando’s 1973 refusal to accept the Best Actor award for The Godfather (and yes the streak of the 1974 Oscars probably influenced me as well, but that’s for another day…). Sending Sacheen Littlefeather in his place, Littlefeather told folks Brando regretfully would not accept the award as a way to protest Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans in film. I, like others, didn’t give the speech as much thought at the time as I have in the following years. What I’ve learned over time, is actors can act in a social justice film, but not have a social justice bone in their body. Therefore, and actor risking their words off-screen (or lend power so one who is voiceless has voice) matters. Only then does an actor build a reputation that matters, for their livelihood on the line.

I read this was a year of speeches on social issues. Fine and well. However, I along with others have a more critical ear today than when Littlefeather gave her ’73 speech. Today there is the “so what” factor, which says, “so what are you going to do now and in the years to come?” After all, what Native American organization do we attribute to Brando’s support today? Any longer, you cannot give a speech and not immerse yourself into the issue of justice. Any less is a self-marketing stunt. Continue reading

Bending Gates and Bending Wills or High Tailing It


January 18, 2015

Last October I picked up a number of weaned steers. They came from an Angus herd, raised on grass, and certified natural. Just the animals I look for to bring to the farm.

I trailered them to the farm and unloaded into the holding corral where they would stay for the next two weeks. Giving them a chance to settle down and get use to the new landscape and people (and giving us a chance to see if the new animals are sick before turning them out with the herd). I kept my distance from the corral, other than to feed, figuring the trailering and new space is enough stress for a day. Figuring out humans could wait a day or two. Just the same, I keep an eye on them with binoculars in case something comes up.

I noticed one steer in particular kept its tail in the air and its head raised all day. While a high sense of alertness might serve well on the high range, a raised tail is not a good sign for our farm. An hour after arrival, where the others have their heads in the hay trough, he is moving about and edgy. By the end of the day, the others are well fed, watered and quieted down—not him.

After two weeks everyone continued to look healthy and mostly settled in. Not as settled as I’d like, the one continued to have its tail in the air every time I fed. But I figured once they were on pasture, with acres of space to roam, his tail would drop and everyone would claim the calmness of the existing herd. 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

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 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

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