the ugly earring

ug‧ly [uhg-lee] offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance

Tag: Farm life

what has changed

graciela-iturbide_05The path ended here at the farm. She was a work horse, having long abandoned the primp and prep of her past. She let her hair grow long and gray, she stopped plucking her eyebrows, and all her fancy dresses and designer shoes were sold – replaced by an old pair of red ropers, denim shirts and her favorite pair of jeans. When she saw the older version of herself in the mirror – the brownness of her skin, the sunspots, the freckles, the lines on her face – the only dislike was how her nose was transforming into her father’s.

image: Mujer Ángel, Desierto de Sonora, Mexico – Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico



morning dance

A black rooster spends its days in our backyard, watching over the queen hens like a young vaquero with a red buckaroo hat. And when he dances, his wing feathers point downward, and he circles around a hen on the tips of his claws – rooster pirouettes, and the faint sound of Castanets or the cockerel waltz, as they sometimes call it.

The homestead feels, almost tastes, like a farm – four goats, three llamas, three cats, two hens, and the black rooster. This past weekend, we rescued six more chickens, a handful of eggs, and a peafowl egg that we hope will hatch in the next few days. Hints of a harvest in the orchard emerge – fresh lemons and grapefruit in the coming months. Most of the 26 nearly dead pomegranate trees lover planted and cared for have shown life – green leaves and red flowers (…perhaps, we’ll get a pomegranate or two before the first desert frost).

Every morning,  blue work gloves are pulled lean and tight around my hands, and old red clogs tip tap across the packed earth,  leaping across a mud patch left behind from irrigation day and into the barn, scooping up the morning hay. Occasionally, I tango with a llama while the wild birds call, the chickens cluck, and the rooster belts out his manly crow. A young doeling named Pearl makes a dash to eat the leaf that has just fallen from the tree. Three little girls wake, wild-haired and gangly, the oldest holds her baby sister. They look out into the pasture from the sliding glass doors – they’re waiting for the okay to join the morning dance.

image: A Navajo woman holding a rooster. Photograph by Loomis Dean. USA, May 1951.

p.s. “Linguists have speculated that the words “buckaroo” and “vaquero” may derive from Arabic words related to cattle, transliterated by some as bakara or bakhara, and suggests the words may have entered Spanish during the centuries of Islamic rule. The word for cattle in Arabic is Arabic: بقر ‎ baqar, and the Arabic word بقار  baqqār means “cowherd.”

silly chicken

“Ami says I love Buchi even more than I love her,
but that’s just silly.”

a photo taken by her father when she was two.
today, she is three.

words from the worn, torn, well-loved copy
of silly chicken by rukhsana khan

in the hang


“A cowgirl gets up in the morning,
decides what she wants to do
and does it.”
-Marie Lords, 1861

image: “Kitty Canutt” riding Winnemucca in 1919 (here)

farm dress

If this world were permanent,
I could dance full as the squaw dress
on the clothesline.

from: indian summer by diane glancy
image: here

this giving of love to the work of the hands


“As Gill says, “every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist.” The small family farm is one of the last places – they are getting rarer every day – where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker – and some farmers still do talk about “making the crops” – is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.”

Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
image: A farm mother and her child. ca. 20th Century. National Archives

flock mentality

Two of our chickens died yesterday.

The girls watched as he dug two holes far out in the pasture – one for Lourdes, a meek gray cochin hen, and another for Henny Penny (the hen who ate the lizard).

I had a few questions for the teenage boy working at the feed shop, inquiring how and why. The stress of the move? Dehydration? Parasites? The conversation ended with a beautifully sad revelation. The two of them had died near each other and within the same hour. He said it was the flock/herd mentality: chickens sense these things – sickness and impending death – and often they die in pairs or threes.

Lemon, our white leghorn who has looked like death for weeks, was on her way out as well. The girls and love nurtured and cared for her as I made my way home. I spoke to her, too. She’s a scrawny little girl who wants nothing more than to have some babies.  In the old house, she was the brooder and egg hoarder. So, I promised her. (Yes, I did.) If she pulled through  – I’d get her a rooster and she could finally have her nest and some chicks. As the sun headed toward the horizon, we fed her some watermelon, and I watched her slowly make her way to Henõ Penõ, the other remaining one (who was the outcast of the flock and completely unphased by what had killed the other two). Lemon was too weak to perch for the night but curled up below Henõ.

She survived through the night. This morning, she pecked at the leftover watermelon and moved through the yard.

A good sign.

Things are happening here on the farm: the 4:30am animal party – every morning – each animal praising the new day, this lesson of death, two scorpion sightings, the girls cleaning their tree house, llama love, little L’s laughter, and the list of things-to-do-and-fix grows and grows.

image: here

the country

To country people cows are mild,
And flee from any stick they throw;
But I’m a timid town bred child,
And all the cattle seem to know.

~ TS Eliot

image: here

the first morning


coffee and a llama ride.