Tag Archives: Work

Wound a Bit Tightly

February 28, 2012
JustLiving Farm

This morning I am reminded of building temporary electric fencing around the hay fields last fall.  The fencing would allow animals to graze, during the winter months, any field growth occurring after our last cutting of hay.  What I remember best is tying the insulators to the corner posts.  The tying brought me back to a childhood moment when I learned that even if you build a fence that no one will ever see, your work is your work and it tells something about who you are.  Few if any folk will ever notice the tie around the insulator is wrapped tight, but I have an idea a few of those men who watched and commented on my childhood work and are long gone, will.

© David B. Bell 2012

Clay Vision

Brandon’s Monster

February 12, 2012
My Future

There are some things better left said by clay.  I learned this from Mr. Kent, our high school Art Instructor.  Clay dries as clay wants to dry depending on the environment you are working in.  In other words, it dries when it dries.  Probably a lesson for all of us, we control a lot less of Creation than we would like to think.  A great lesson for youth…work the clay, have a vision on where you’re going and what you want, but be free and flexible with the outcome.  You only have as much say concerning your creation as the world allows.  Listening to the voice of clay, or the voice of air, or the voice of humidity is a lesson for all of us?

© 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

Winter’s Com’in

November 22, 2010

With everyone talking about a clear change of weather patterns ahead, it seems like a change from fall to winter is sure to occur—even though the calendar says winter is on down the road a ways—it appeared time to get one or two last minute chores done.  First, was to do one last cleaning of stalls so the animals could enter into the cold days of winter with clean stalls and clean bedding.

© David B. Bell 2010

Putting the Horse Away Wet

November 16, 2010

Most everyone who has spent time around horses knows there is a problem putting the horse away wet.  The rest of us probably know it from watching an old show where a youngster or a tenderfoot learns the lesson they will never forget when they put the horse away wet.  Everyone has some understanding to the reason it happens; the end of the day comes along, you’ve done two days work in one and you’re just wore out.  To get out and get that one last thing done seems impossible.  With an animal, you have no choice but to wipe and curry them down.  With equipment, well, it is much easier to walk away.

It isn’t so much that I walked away from the swather as it was I got it oiled and greased after the last cutting then put away.  Enough done if there was another cutting in the next few weeks, but not enough if it were to be put away for the winter.  Luckily, the weather has warmed up for few days.  So, we pulled the swather up to the shed yesterday and cleaned the alfalfa and grass out of the nooks and crannies.  In a number of places, seed had already sprouted and plants beginning to make their presence known, which led to washing everything down.  Next the knives, rollers, chains and belts were inspected, adjusted, and oiled.

Putting the swather away for the winter isn’t the same as putting a horse away after a long ride.  However, doing both thoughtfully helps lead to either being ready for the next ride.

© David B. Bell 2010

Baler Maintenance on a Fall Day

October 18, 2010

Sometimes I have to give myself a push to get some fall work done.  The baler needed maintenance to be ready to bale in the spring.  However spring and the next baling seems a long time off, and good fall weather lends itself to an afternoon walk.  Then again, spring walks are great too when you’re not cleaning a baler that should have been put away well, last fall

Of Rainbows and Wheelines

June 22, 2010

We bought our wheelines a number of years ago at an auction in Moses Lake.  The lines had been out in the “back forty” for who knows how long.  We broke them down and brought them to the farm and have put them back together again as we have needed them.  Last Friday we assembled four for the field with Sudan, Emmer, and Wheat.  We took them to the field, hooked them up, and turned water on.  We found out how lucky we’ve been.

Three of the four pipe have holes.  Not just a few holes, but enough to make the wheeline look like some type of water show at Disneyland.  Little pin holes, large holes, and cracks threw water upward, sideways, and downward.  Turning the water on in the late afternoon with the sun in the western sky meant we had a multitude of rainbows mixing and dancing with one another up and down the wheeline.  It was quite a sight, and I imagine I should have taken a picture of the wonderful event, but I have to admit, I didn’t see a lot of beauty in the moment.

Yesterday we pulled in a few, replaced the pipes, and got them back in place.  We’ll work on getting a few more replaced today.

© David B. Bell 2010

Worming goats, Intern’s, and Late Nights

June 6, 2010

Belinda and I met the midnight plane from Seattle Friday night.  Well, okay, it isn’t actually the midnight flight, but it does arrive at 11:30pm, so it might as well be the midnight flight.  Though a bit late for us, Frannie had left from New Orleans earlier in the day, which meant according to her time schedule she arrived at 1:30am!  Frannie had just finished a weeklong training with Disciples Volunteers and would be spending the summer interning at the Yakama Mission.  After a week of instruction and learning how to work with volunteers and all that goes with it, she was surely more wore out than us as we headed back from the airport.

Come morning, everyone had a good but short night’s sleep.  Frannie is staying at the farm until next Friday when the Mission’s next intern arrives.  To fill in time between now and then, what better to do than worm goats?

Belinda and Frannie ran goats down to the holding area where hooves were trimmed last week. Then with syringes filled with wormer, they caught each goat, place the syringe in their mouth, plunged the plunger, and then let them out of the holding area.  Doesn’t sound like much, but get a bunch of goats together who really (really!) do not like the taste of wormer and you have a little goat rodeo!  With a break for lunch, and not too many bruises, early afternoon arrived and we had a small heard of wormed goats.

© David B. Bell 2010

When does the Back trump Community?

June 1, 2010

Our neighbor came by late Saturday afternoon with his bale wagon and picked up the last of hay in the field. Timing worked out well.  Rain returned Sunday morning after a few days of wind and partial sun.  We’ll now list the hay in the stack on Craigslist as feeder hay.  The first inch or so of the bales weathered edge have mostly dried out, but remain damp enough not to have them graded (as far as we’re concerned) better than feeder quality.  Dropping the quality of a bale isn’t easy because most of the bale is good hay.  Yet, we figure the bottom line is, some animals do not do well picking around that one to ten percent that is not helpful to their health.

Earlier Saturday afternoon, before our neighbor came, Belinda and I went through the field and loaded the hay bales we thought would be troublesome for the bale wagon, onto our flatbed trailer.  Until last year, this work was typical.  Someone drives the tractor while others walk along and load hay.  Sometimes just family loaded hay and sometimes friends and neighbors came by and helped.  Now though, Belinda and I load the troublesome bales and our neighbor does the rest.

There is an upside and a downside to loading by mechanical means.  An upside, the back feels much better the next morning!  Hanging out with our neighbor for a while is also an upside.  The downside is we no longer have a bunch of neighbors show up all at once.  There is a sadness to this, because when everyone showed up it meant folk became community through working and then eating together after the hay was put up.  There is also a loss because new stories are not begun and old stories are not told.

Does the upside outweigh the downside?  Truthfully, sometimes it does and sometimes it does not.  What I believe is also true, is if we are to keep using a bale wagon, we need to find another way to keep connected and to build community, with old friends, new friends, and neighbors alike.

© David B. Bell 2010

Fences Lost

April 27, 2010

I took down fence yesterday.  And in a way, it feels as if something has been taken.  Not always, but sometimes, when a fence comes down, there is a sense of loss.  This loss isn’t so much a tangible loss—no one came along and took the wire and fence posts—as a spiritual loss.  And when one knows the original fence builder, the loss is deeper.

Sometimes the reputation is good, sometimes not.  A fences reputation has as much to do with the fence builder as it does with job it was built for.  The Berlin Wall, for instance, or the fence being built along the U.S./Mexican border, says as much about the people who construct(ed) them as it does about the fences job keeping people in or out.  Most often, I think, when fences apply to people, their reputation suffers.

Fences on farms and ranches are most always built to keeping something in or out.  Open rangeland, like that around the farm, means animals have the right to roam as they please.  If you don’t want a horse or steer eating your front yard, you best build a fence.  Fences at the farm help keep horses or wandering cattle out of the hay fields.  But fences also are used for confinement.  More than keeping animals out, on the farm, most fences are about keeping animals in.  We use fences to breakdown pastures into rotational paddocks.  By rotating stock, we feed many more animals on a small piece of ground than we could without fences.  Thing is, fences themselves are neither good nor bad, rather, it is how they are used that matters.

I stood along the drive for a fair amount of time looking at the fence.  My mind pretty much made up to take it down.  As I stood there though, I couldn’t help but search for another way of getting tomorrows work done with the fence as it is.  The problem I pondered, though, wasn’t really a work problem as it was spiritual.  Spiritual because my kids had built this fence when they were kids.  Might sound a little strange, but once the fence was gone, there would be a loss of visual memory.  Sure there would be pictures to look at in the future, but every time I drive down the driveway, there would no longer be a visual reminder of when the kids were kids.

Standing looking down the fence line I also realized this was a fence I was “proud” of.  Most any fence will keep animals in a field.  A fence line might stray the left or to the right, the fence post tops might be uneven, and wires might not be taut; but even a poorly built fence will keep a lot of animals in, or out.  Fences do have something to say about who built it.  A lot is said about a fence builder who takes the time to eyeball a straight line, who digs and pound posts straight and level, and who pulls a taut wire.  A fence tells a story about the pride builder has in their work.

Looking down the fence line I heard such a story.  The weather, best I remember, was hot.  The t-post tops were taller than the girl’s heads and pounding them were not easy.  Running one quarter-mile wire after another meant a fair amount of walking back and forth along the fence line.  Yet, while I know they had many other important things in their life to do, they laughed and told stories as the work was done.  After days of work, the fence was done—it was a straight fence, with posts you could sight down and see tops even, one with another, and wire running true and tight.

The fence came down yesterday.  A memory-inducing landmark in the landscape of the farm is now but a memory itself.  Days of hard work, sweating bodies, and sore muscles and hands now exist in only in the mind.  Perhaps having story in the back of the mind is enough.  Perhaps it will exist as long as a fence.  Maybe longer?

© David B. Bell 2010