Heartland

During the wheat harvest of 1977, when Betty was thirty-two and Arnie forty-five, Betty drove every evening from her full-time job as a subpoena officer at the Sedgwick County courthouse in downtown Wichita to Arnie’s farm. She took over the house, cooking for Arnie and his field help, driving tubs of fried chicken, paper plates, and jugs of iced tea to fields where yellow dust followed red combines. She learned the blowing dirt of the country summer, when teeth turn gritty in the wind and shower water turns brown between shoulders and toes. She rode the combine with Arnie, a rite of passage for any would-be farmer’s wife, and woke up the next morning with clogged sinuses. She sweated through the harvest nights of midsummer, when fans blow hot air through hot bedrooms and sleep is possible only because of how hard you worked.

~ Sarah Smarsh, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth


More on this book:

My Heirloom: I have this tremendous family gift. What am I going to do with it?


I have this tremendous family gift. What am I going to do with it? …

This is the house that I grew up in. And the land that’s around us is something I’m attached to. When I grew up we knew everybody around us. There was a sense of community. I want to make sure that gets passed down as well as the watermelon.

~ Matt Bradford, The Bradford Watermelon Company (Sumter County, South Carolina)

Find story and video on cbsnews.com: The Return of an Heirloom Watermelon


Thank you Susan.

Wow, I am sorry

Death comes with raising cattle: coyotes, blizzards and the inevitable trip to the slaughterhouse and dinner plate. But after 30 years of ranching, Mark and Mary Kaltenbach were not ready for what met them after a wildfire charred their land and more than one million acres of rain-starved range this month.

Dozens of their Angus cows lay dead on the blackened ground, hooves jutting in the air. Others staggered around like broken toys, unable to see or breathe, their black fur and dark eyes burned, plastic identification tags melted to their ears. Young calves lay dying.

Ranching families across this countryside are now facing an existential threat to a way of life that has sustained them since homesteading days: years of cleanup and crippling losses after wind-driven wildfires across Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle killed seven people and devoured homes, miles of fences and as much as 80 percent of some families’ cattle herds.

But for many, the first job after the fire passed was loading a rifle.

“You think you’re done,” he said, “and the next day you got to go shoot more.”

For decades and generations, ranching has defined people’s days. Mr. Kaltenbach would wake up at 4:30 a.m. without an alarm clock…“It’s our life,” Mrs. Kaltenbach, 57, said. “We lost our routine.”

“We did what had to be done,” Mr. Kaltenbach, 69, said. “They’re gentle. They know us. We know them. You just thought, ‘Wow, I am sorry.’”

~ Jack Healy, Burying Their Cattle, Ranchers Call Wildfires ‘Our Hurricane Katerina’


Notes:

Three generations before you are a local

james-rebanks-lamb

There is an unwritten code of honour between shepherds here. I remember my grandfather telling me about his friend buying some sheep privately from another farmer for what he thought was a fair price. Weeks later he attended some sheep sales and realized that he had got the sheep very cheap indeed, too cheap, about £ 5 less each than their market value. He felt that this was unfair to the seller because he’d trusted him. He didn’t want to be greedy, or perhaps as important, to be seen to be greedy. So he sent the farmer a cheque for the difference and apologized. But the farmer who’d sold them then politely refused to cash it, on the grounds that the original deal was an honourable one. They’d shaken hands on it. Stalemate.

The only way out was to go back the next year and buy his sheep and pay over the odds to make up for it, so he did. Neither of these men cared remotely about “maximizing profit” in the short-term in the way a modern business person in a city would; they both valued their good names and their reputations for integrity far more highly than making a quick buck. If you said you would do a thing, you’d better do it. My grandfather and father would go out of their way to do good deeds for their neighbours because goodwill counted for a lot. If anyone bought a sheep from us and had the slightest complaint about it, we took it back and repaid them or replaced it with another. And most people did the same.

Fathers’ names are interchangeable with those of the sons, and surnames with the names of the farms. The name of your farm tells other farmers here as much about you as your surname. There might be twenty farmers with the same surname, so it is immediately followed by the name of the farm for clarification. Sometimes the name of the farm kind of replaces the surname in general discourse. I met a man in a pub recently and he knew my grandfather—“ You’ll be a fair man if you are half the man he was,” he said sternly, then bought me a drink, the accrued interest on some unspoken good turn my grandfather had done for him decades earlier. Anyone new to the community or common would be watched carefully until they showed themselves to have integrity and play by the rules. They say you have to be here for three generations before you are a local (people laugh when they say that, but it carries a lot of truth).

~ James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape.


Notes:

Home

Lake-District-sheep-james-rebanks

I smile at the thought that the entire history of our family has played out in the fields and villages stretching away beneath that fell, between Lake District and Pennines, for at least six centuries, and probably longer. We shaped this landscape, and we were shaped by it in turn. My people lived, worked, and died down there for countless generations. It is what it is because of them and people like them. It is, above all, a peopled landscape. Every acre of it has been defined by the actions of men and women over the past ten thousand years. Even the mountains were mined and quarried, and the seemingly wild woodland behind us was once intensively harvested and coppiced. Almost everyone I am related to and care about lives within sight of that fell. When we call it our landscape, we mean it as a physical and intellectual reality. There is nothing chosen about it. This landscape is our home and we rarely stray long from it, or endure anywhere else for long before returning. This may seem like a lack of imagination or adventure, but I don’t care. I love this place; for me it is the beginning and the end of everything, and everywhere else feels like nowhere.

~ James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape.


Photo by James Rebanks. Don’t miss his other magnificent photos at bbc.co.uk – The Shephard’s Life

no cows to milk

pen-paper-writing

Sometimes you wake up at four in the morning
with all this energy and no cows to milk.
So you just have to get up and
figure out what it’s there for.
Use it or lose it.
If you’re lucky
some part of you will know what to do,
but it’s not the part that thinks its steering.
Make sure you have your notebook and a pen.

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Photo: Anne with Where My Deepest Dreams and Desires Are Hatched

The War

rooster

A cock. A non-castrated capon. A cockerel. A reptilian, evil bastard.

His siren call would come before sunrise, echoing up the mountainside and back down again. And rush in, with piercing cock-a-doodle-do gusts into my room. My eyes, wide open, stare at ceiling. I shiver. The S.O.B. grabbed the psychological edge at 5:30 am.

His battle lines were indisputable. His was the coop. Yours was outside. You crossed the demarcation line, the clink of the metal hook on the dilapidated wooden door, and he was coming.

He attacked all comers.  He feared no one. All generations buckled: Deda, Father, and his pubescent sons.

He could smell Fear. The perspiration would stream and thicken in the soft armpits tasked with gathering eggs in a red, long-handled, five pound Maxwell House coffee can. Good to the last drop!

His flock of fifteen continued foraging, unfazed by the battle preparations. [Read more…]

American Value: Herb Dishman. This is our land.


“It’s a tradition that’s been handed down. Rice farming in the community has been a really big deal.  That’s what has driven our community for quite some time. I couldn’t wait to get into the field with my Dad. That was probably one of my favorite pastimes. He was there. He worked a lot. He worked very hard at what he did. He was always there to give me a hand…and give me just enough room to hang myself. When I originally left to go to school, that was my intention, was to go to school.  Fortunately, I was able to take those opportunities, and branch out and see different walks of life. I went into the restaurant business. Did that for a while. Then I went into the music business. I was always searching for something. Not always knowing where I was going or what I was trying to do. Just going and doing and trying to find that niche.  Where do I fit in? It’s a big question. Eventually when I was working on a documentary much as you guys are doing yourself, we went out into the jungle in Northeastern Cambodia. It’s a rice farming community as well. They plant everything by hand. Everybody is there together. Everybody is doing everything together. To help one another. Yeah, they butt heads, they fight just like everybody else. But their measure of worth is completely different.  And I realized that I had been missing the picture for a while. When it hit, I knew what I needed to do. I didn’t need to be anywhere else but here. Kinda have to figure out what you want to do. That was it.

As it grows. As you harvest. And make preparations for the following year, it’s the cycle of everything moving together. This is our land.”

~ Herb Dishman, China, Texas

~ Music: Bon Iver – The Wolves

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Sunday Morning: The Pedrini Family

A Pasta Story from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo. Funding provided by intrepidtravel.com/italy


A clip that takes us to the hills in Tuscany with the Pedrini Family.

Good Sunday Morning.


Related Post: Sunday Morning: 10 Things We Love About Italy

Witness a profoundly inextricable connection with all living things…

As we traversed rural India at the speed of a couple of miles per hour, it became clear how much we could learn simply by bearing witness to the villagers’ way of life. Their entire mental model is different—the multiplication of wants is replaced by the basic fulfillment of human needs. When you are no longer preoccupied with asking for more and more stuff, then you just take what is given and give what is taken. Life is simple again. A farmer explained it to us this way: “You cannot make the clouds rain more, you cannot make the sun shine less. They are just nature’s gifts—take it or leave it.”

When the things around you are seen as gifts, they are no longer a means to an end; they are the means and the end. And thus, a cow-herder will tend to his animals with the compassion of a father, a village woman will wait three hours for a delayed bus without a trace of anger, a child will spend countless hours fascinated by stars in the galaxy, and finding his place in the vast cosmos.

So with today’s modernized tools at your ready disposal, don’t let yourself zoom obliviously from point A to point B on the highways of life; try walking the back roads of the world, where you will witness a profoundly inextricable connection with all living things.

Nipun MehtaPATHS ARE MADE FOR WALKING: Four steps to take on the road of life, Parabola, Fall 2012.

Thank you crashinglybeautiful from parabola-magazine.


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