Tag Archives: Farming



Sheep soft on the soft wet grass
between our house and the old windmill

Sheep running in the distance
a long row of cotton candy
pulled by an invisible string

March lambs gambolling
on the sides and tops of dikes

The black cloud of hoof and mouth
gathering over England
strikes as we leave

Watching the news in Atlanta
my farmer fear pulls me back

Memory revises

I stand in the bare fields
look at the bare dikes

Taste the burning wool


No one will be surprised by the report
that farming is a very dangerous sport

What flapping empty fingered gloves
point back to momentary lapses

What limbs with what power
have been taken off by
power take offs

What tendons snapped like glass
and bones cut clean as grass
by unthinking mowers

And what of those neighbours dead and true
who for a minute forgetting what they knew
through red machines combined
with their grain

All these have earned his dusty tear
and many a “who’s next” fear

Year after year, after year, after year

And yet deep in the soils of time
the seeds of his goodness are growing
while the world turns in slow seasons
and he will be ready
when at last they declare
a true war on poverty
and are willing to bomb with wheat



Each spring on our farm
the old father sun turned up his warmth and
melting the frost deep in the heart of the mother

egg babies
thereby created
rose to the surface
to play in the open air
mischievous miscreants all
waiting to jamb diskers and drills
and if they get a little grain to hide in
ambush swathers, combines, and oil pans of
grain trucks

so we had to gather them into
school bus stone boats and wagons and haul
them off to places where they could be with their
older brothers and sisters on the reform school
rock pile

there is still some hope
that someday they can learn to be pillars of the



It’s about the hardest dustiest best work a man can get

The pride of the heeling rope, thrown snake quick from a
good horse and the slow steady pull, dragging the white face
out where the boys with the hot irons
can record the feat

Three hundred cows sing of calves lost and found, and above
all through it all the full strong laugh of one of the boys,
where a slip was made or a kick well placed

At the end of the day, you wrap a rope sore hand around a
spring cold beer, and lean back against the old pole fence
deep in the pain, and the sweat, and the moment

Completely released from the wheel of desire

There’s no place you’d rather be
There’s no one you’d rather be with
and you’re too damn tired to move anyway



They’re not as storied as the Texas longhorn
nor as hairy as the Highland creed

And they’re not nearly so sophisticated
as the latest European breed

They sure don’t calf out as easy as Angus
but all around, they’re all you need


I remember
few things as beautiful
as looking back from the point
and seeing a few hundred Herefords
pouring through a cleft in the hills
down to the home corrals
like a spring flood
red as earth and blood
Rolling with white faced foam


(or Ranching at Eighteen)

Together we were young
and strong and very bold

And together we could drink
more beer than we could hold

We could drive home late and fast
singing every Johnny Horton song

And then fall asleep for minutes
and still answer the morning gong

We would work it out in the hot hot sun
(so easy then did the poisons yield)

As we sweated bales with pith forks
and passed gas
in a thousand acre field



I remember at Christmas getting a great threshing machine
a block of wood with wooden spools nailed to the side
but I loved it as I loved the threshing

All through the long summer days I would walk
the fields with my dog
At night my mother rubbed strong liniment on four year old
legs: growing pains she said, although one always hurt
more and didn’t seem to grow any faster

And the grain grew too, and passed me, and was higher
than I was. And then the harvest and the wonder of it falling
to the binder and the magic of the machine as it tied the
sheaves and ke-chunked them into the carrier

Then the stooking – little teepees covering the prairie again
and the golden warmth of everything

And the threshing machine; they wouldn’t let me too close;
it might eat me like it ate those sheaves and like the men
in the crew could eat, and they could eat
even when it rained

While I sat for hours nose to wet window
watching the great gray dinosaur
deep in the timeless mists

And hot clear windless days when everything sang and
the belt slapped and the machine came to life again
and wagons were on both sides
and the big horses were standing strong and ready
and switching flies with dignity

The sun caught the arch or the long plume of straw and
the chaff lifting and the old hands fed the machine in a
sort of easy sweat-oiled rhyme and the new hands stood
on the sheaves they tried to lift each time

And the old hands laughed, and the new hands laughed
and they were men together



My grandfather came to this country from Switzerland
by way of Brazil, working first in the kitchen of a CPR
hotel in Winnipeg. One wonders if he could have
dreamt that one of his grandchildren would own one
someday: perhaps he did, the pioneers of this country
had such a store of courage and of dreams that we may be
drawing on them still

And then to the prairies of Saskatchewan to try his hand
at farming. Prospered in the 20’s replaced the packing
crate house with a large, verandaed mansion. Planted
ten thousand trees and created a special kind of oasis:
with flowers that bloomed all summer and fruit that
yielded sweet and tangy wines

Widowed early, he raised seven children through the
dirty thirties: Emil and Arnold and Walter and Werner
with daughters Rose and Ann and Earnest lost at war,
who, so the story goes, appeared to him on his death bed

“There’s Earnest now, coming to get me with the wagon”

These things I remember as old family stories

My real memories are much more of the senses. The
senses of a 4 or 5 year old which seem now to melt and
run together. I remember not the man so much as the
aura of the man. The richness of old cheese and tobacco
the feeling of peace and the sweet rhythms of the earth
that surrounded him and warmed me as we sat together
in his favourite room so long ago.