Sunday, July 22, 2012

Meeting God

The news is sobering - wildfires raging across Idaho and other western states in cattle country.  We saw a photo of cows caught in the inferno and can’t imagine facing that. The news isn’t much better in the middle of the nation as the drought drags on. You could worry until all you did was walk the floor wringing your hands.

And though we worry, we go about our days busy with mid-summer tasks like always. Unlike our neighbors, we got rain last week with some great cloud displays. And even though we had hay down, we loved every drop. The windrows dried out enough to run the baler again, but the bales are none too pretty. The cows won’t care this winter, though.

We got a kitten from a neighboring ranch to deal with our gopher problem around the house. I'm surprised by how much we've enjoyed taking turns with her on our lap. She purrs non-stop. "One of the best sounds on earth,” Mark said. A kitten is a self-prescribed slow-down button. As if there was nothing more to do than pet a cat.  

The black-eyed susans are putting on a show at our front stoop and the peas are on in the garden. Now that’s something to celebrate!  

We buried my Uncle’s ashes last Sunday. It was a sticky hot day until the clouds moved in to create a perfect evening. At the humble service, I read a passage from an essay on death written by the founder of The Science of Mind, a blend of religion, science and philosophy. The last two sentences keep running through my mind, and with all that's wrong with our world, I am reminded that everyday tasks done well are all we really need to concern ourselves with.

It is a happy thing to believe that no man need prepare to meet his God; he is meeting Him every day and each hour of every day. He meets Him in the rising sun, in the budding rose, in the joy of friendship and love, and in the silence of his own soul.   –Ernest Holmes

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gardening the Ruth Stout Way

I’m having fun with my vegetable garden. Mark brought me a big bale of hay to mulch with. Ruth Stout, my gardening guru, proclaims rotting hay her favorite mulch. The bale is from last year’s crop, from the top of the stack which means moisture has gotten into it and made it less valuable.  

Stout didn’t start gardening until she was 45 and didn’t discover her “no work” methods until she was near 60. Okay, so her “no work” still involves a lot of work, but nevertheless I love her unique approach to gardening.

She was born of Quaker parents in Kansas and came to gardening fame in Connecticut. She lived to be 96 years old, undoubtedly propelled to a long life by puttering in her garden. She claims “no fertilizer, no poisons, no tilling, no weeding, no composting, and little watering” make for a garden like nature intended. Her savior is permanent organic mulch. Put it on your garden wherever you are in the season, generously and often. Mulch fertilizes the ground as it breaks down, moderates soil temperatures, discourages weeds, and holds moisture in.

I follow Stout’s methods and quit tilling years ago. I rake the mulch to the side in the spring and run my hoe to make a furrow, spread seeds and cover lightly and that’s it. In the fall I lay on several inches of leaves from Grandma’s lawn followed by a couple of passes with the manure spreader. Now I’m spreading hay between the rows. On these super hot days, I feel good knowing the ground is shaded and moist around my plants.

I get pretty misty eyed about the whole covered soils thing. Bare ground is the enemy; just ask those affected by drought and flood. Healthy covered soils are what we work towards in our grazing strategies. And in the spring when the sand blows off the neighboring spud ground, I know we need to modify current farming practices to allow for more covered soils. I’m all for modern agriculture, we just need to remind ourselves about solid ecosystem principles while we’re at it.

Last fall's mulch on the left, new hay on the right

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Butting Heads

Mark and I are butting heads recently over ranch management - nothing new there. I think any husband and wife team working together experiences the same difficulties. I grant he’s the boss, but I love this place too and I do enough grunt work to deserve a spot at the table.  Yesterday following yet another argument, I was convinced I needed to get a job in town. I was sick of not being listened to and was going to go where I would be appreciated! Heck, I’m getting older and less employable all the time.

But even though I threaten and look at the help-wanted ads from time to time, I really want to be here. I know a hot meal at noon makes ranch work a lot brighter for everyone. I can fill in when needed and keep pecking away at jobs that always need done without hiring another body to keep occupied year round. I work cheap and don’t require work comp insurance.

I think it’s a ranch wife’s lot in life. We can see alot from behind a sewing machine darning wranglers, or weeding a row of green beans, or entering one more feedlot bill into Quickbooks. And even though we work alongside our husbands, herding cattle or feeding cows, we process our world differently. And isn’t that a good thing? Our vision is sometimes crystal clear when our mate’s is cloudy from too much shoveling and swathing. Sad part is, if I question Mark or suggest an alternative to his way of thinking, he thinks I’m being critical. And try as I might to modify my approach, it still garners the same blocking response. 

He does read and enjoy my blog though. He once told me that he likes to see me writing. He said, “it needs to be recorded”- meaning our life.

I got out of his way yesterday. I got a cut and color and took Anna to The Villa for lunch. Then we hit the stores for the rest of the day. Talk about a change of pace! I was just getting the hang of shopping when Anna had to reel me in. “Let’s go home, Mom!”   

I got these photos when we moved the main herd out of the dry farm and onto open range. The cows ran into a band of sheep at the first watering pond. Lovely scenes all.

yup, that's us

friend or foe?