Almanac of the Wheel of Life: The Farm at Mid-Winter

What does it mean to be a steward of life? It is an unspoken question threaded through my days. Each winter we carry more lives through to the hope of spring. It is the nature of a farm and a family grow, a response to a holy invitation. In our stewardship, we learn to leverage the outward death of winter to build the inner life. Roots and bones. Back to the earth in the compost of the old year, manure and trampled hay, sawdust and wood shavings, in cover crops and dormant roots, even the bones of the dead under the heap or in the earth. Those failures of the past year kindle study and deeper investigations into the principles of agriculture and life. The wheel of life rolls away as a witness to the nature of God, always redeeming death and turning it into the living.

The oblique light comes with a more subtle potency not felt in the haste of summer, illuminating details made bare by the dearth and otherwise overlooked. It is not all romance of slanting light. There is the mud and the death and sickness. There are the broken systems and the unfinished jobs, and the detritus of unclean life scattered everywhere. The butcher sighed and smiled and cried “Ahh, life!” and thanked God as he cut the throat of the lamb. It seems that to live is to accept and know death, and to die is to understand and accept life. It is a mystery that I don’t claim to understand.

“For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be Magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:19-21

A Profile in Plough Quarterly

My family and our work were humbled to be featured in the most recent edition of Plough Quarterly.  There is a profile by Susannah Black, and a feature on Go On: Inner Man Version, an altarpiece I made back in 2003, and also an excerpt of my responses to some questions about our lifestyle, called Farming the Universe.  If you choose to take the time to read some or all of them, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them.

Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, closed position

Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, open position

 

The Farm in Mid-Summer

celebrations of lucerne and other legumes, solar crescents, roots, and the husbandry of even toed-ungulates

sward of chicory, crimson, and white clovers

inquisitive crossbred pig in a paddock of rye and vetch

hampshire pig eating bolted chicory

improvised by a previous farmer, well worn window weight cover chains

nitrogen nodules formed on alfalfa (lucerne) roots

lucerne (alfalfa) roots and crown, pulled from the vegetable garden

garlic, un-earthed

root fire works

sonar malfunction (?) allowed us a daytime visit from a strange and fierce nocturnal beneficient

windrows in the alfalfa (Medicago sativa) meadow

the rusty old New Holland swather in contrast eating alfalfa

I read once that the Arabic word from which the name “alfalfa” came meant “best fodder”

Louis Bromfield justly brought attention to its role as a soil healer. It seems to live up to its names, feeding livestock, pollinators, humans, the soil and its inhabitants, and the atmosphere.

I feel grateful that I get to farm my own patch of lucerne. In the background is a mobile chicken coop with laying hens working the perimeter of the meadow. We’ve learned that alfalfa is a key ingredient in good eggs.

the angus bottle baby

bellows for milk

lambs in the illuminated profile of humid dawn

the young shepherd studies his flock

compact paddocks of soybeans and milo forage, bloody butcher field corn, and the Quonset barn looking at home in the landscape

the great blue heron disturbed from his breakfast, as we head across the creek to do the morning chores

sun in hand

interplay of lensing leaves and the light of 92% totality

solar shield

transfixed

the image of the solar eclipse projected through on half of pair of binoculars proved to be the most successful of viewing contraptions

photographing under the helmet, layers of eclipse and lense

contractions of the dry months

elevated mundane details; oxidations of copper and steel

a barn that is part celebration of geometry, part dog house

the colors of the barnyard hens grouped together over their dawn ration

wax goldenweed of the many cousins in the sunflower family

emergence of the inflorescence of Indian grass

dr. Seuss hairdo of thistle

snow-on-the-mountain

snouts and ears

coreopsis growing in a wheat field we are converting to perennial pasture