Monday, April 30, 2012

Zee End: This is the Palouse

So now April and the A-Z Challenge is over. 

I couldn't think of anything on the Palouse that began with "Z," so this will be my wrap-up post. It's time to put Zee Challenge to Bed. How did it go for me? Read about it, below: 

Of the 1900+ blogs that signed up for the challenge (a staggering number!), I at least peeked at all but a handful of them. If a blog warned of adult content, I didn't bother to look at it. If the blog title was obviously something I wouldn't be interested in, I didn't look at it. If someone signed up but didn't post during the challenge, or bailed after 2-3 posts, I didn't bother to look past the date of their last post. 

By the middle of the second week, I had peeked at almost everything.  

I was delighted to see so many interesting sites, on subjects varying from gardening to travel, music, movies, being boomers, visual artists, knitters, rural, people who had gastric bypass surgery, food, mommy blogs and of course, the writers--YA, romance, inspirational, memoir, fantasy. I'm sure I have forgotten plenty, but these are what stand out in my memory. 

A number of people with whom I had already made contact, either through last year's challenge or via some other avenue, also participated. I didn't stop by their blogs, as theirs are already part of my regular blogging routine, which got suspended during the A-Z challenge, but will be returned to, soon. 

Of the 1900+ blogs, I tagged about 250 for possible RSS-ing or following. Then the more painstaking process began. I went back to each of the blogs and decided if I really wanted to commit to following them. 

I don't read every blog I follow every day, but I do look at them at least every couple of weeks, at which time I "catch up" on posts. Of the 250, I'm not sure how many I actually decided to follow. Maybe 50? Fewer? 

The third week of the challenge, I lost all motivation to read and comment on blogs. I did no blogging whatsoever that week. 

Then the final week, on Monday, April 23, I looked at what was left of the long list I'd tagged for possible following and decided to follow a handful of them. 

I was mostly done with the challenge, and so ready to move on to something new. 

Like what? Like getting back to revising my YA manuscript. During April, I received an email from an editor who'd given me a "pass," on the manuscript, however she said she definitely wanted to look at anything else I had written, or might write. Encouraged, I emailed her back, telling her that I'd sent her the manuscript before my critique group had had a chance to revise it, and that I was now revising it based on their input, and would she be interested in looking at it again? She said yes, and now I'm motivated to make some more changes in that manuscript. 

The Inspirational Romance idea is now on hold. My vision for the YA manuscript has changed dramatically since the version read by my critique group and the editor. Besides having an editor willing to take a second look at it, I'm motivated to see how the story will play out, once my revised thematic argument--and all the other projected changes--have been put in place. 

As far as blogging, with the A-Z challenge over, I can now sit back and enjoy my lunch break again, instead of pouring over blogs.  ; )

Today I'm eating food from the Food Co-op. It's a burrito filled with sweet potato strips, black beans, cheese and cilantro. It comes with salsa and cream cheese, and it's yummy in a weird sort of way. As long as whomever makes it doesn't put too much cheddar cheese in it, but loads it down with yam slices, I enjoy it. 

Was participating in the A-Z challenge worth the time and effort? Yes and no. I'm now aware of many more people on the net. My life has been enriched, and will continue to be, because of new people I can visit via blogging. There are also a few new people following my blog. 

But after the blogging Marathon that was April, I think I'll be taking a week or two off. See y'all again around the middle of May. 


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yarrow: This is the Palouse

Wildflowers are a beautiful site in the Palouse throughout spring, summer and fall.  

This one is Yarrow. It's not one of my favorites, as it is so hardy, its behavior is more like that of a weed. 

But I do love the delicate, feathery Bachelor Buttons that grow along the roadsides.

I also love the California Poppies. They open up in the morning and then close up again at dusk. It's almost like magic to see it. I can stand by my mailbox and think there are no flowers along the road in front of me. But then, a moment later, it's like a million lights have been turned on.

Lupines are also very lovely.

So are the Asters.

This fuzzy plant is Mullein, or Flannel Mullein. There is a cultivated variety that is considered never to be invasive, however in our rich soil, it becomes enormous and acts like a pest. Mullein (as are all of the plants in this post) is native to the Palouse. Can you guess one of the uses the pioneers had for Mullein? Before toilet paper was invented?

This is also a native species, aka Dog Fennel. It is a pest, something that farmers spray to eradicate.

This last picture is one of the most noxious weeds of all, Morning Glory, or Field Bindweed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X on a Runway: This is the Palouse

X on a runway.

Oh, I am really having a hard time with some of the final letters. What on the Palouse starts with "X" ?

Beats me.

But I did see, once, on the grass landing strip in Elk River, Idaho, which is a small town on the Palouse, about 55 miles outside of Moscow, a big ole' "X" on the runway.

What do you suppose that "X" means? It's supposed to be a signal to pilots flying above the runway that they are not supposed to land there.

Too bad those "goofy old farmers" didn't see the "X" until after we had landed. I use the term "goofy old farmer" not as a slam against farmers. I happen to know from an excellent source, my husband, that that is what he calls himself and his friends. That's my husband on the left, and our friend Stacey on the right. We'd just landed our RV-7, and Stacey had just landed his Cessna 185, on the mountain strip with the big ole' X.

It was the 5th of July, and they didn't want us to land there because no one had yet walked the strip to make sure there were no booby traps that might catch an airplane unawares. Apparently the town firework display had happened on the end of the landing strip, and fireworks leave a lot of trashy debris.

And my, was that whole town trashed. The 4th of July in the little mountain town Elk River, Idaho is one big party. People invade the area with their campers and fill up all the campsites. It's like an enclosed, enforced all night whoop-dee-doo. My son and his wife and kids, and their friends, attend every year.

My husband and I aren't really into that sort of thing. We like the quieter, more elegant event of watching the fireworks show in Pullman, in the back yard of some very good friends.

But it is always fun to fly into Elk River and order a tall stack of pancakes with homemade huckleberry syrup at one of the local restaurants.

Elk River = huckleberry capital of the Palouse. You can buy fresh huckleberries or pick them yourself in the surrounding countryside. You can buy homemade huckleberry taffy, huckleberry jam and jelly and syrup. Homemade huckleberry ice cream, and probably other yummy things made from huckleberries as well.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Windmills: This is the Palouse


You probably thought I'd do WHEAT for "W", didn't you? Wheat IS king here on the Palouse, but I feel like I've written enough about the grains farmed in our area.

The Palouse is a very windy place. Seeing abandoned windmills like the one above is fairly common.
We are also beginning to see wind turbines on wind farms like the picture below, which is located somewhere on the Palouse, but I'm not sure where.

So far, none have been built in our neighborhood.

Generally the wind farms are located in truly isolated areas. However, someone did approach us about the possibility of doing a wind study on our River Ranch, for the possible location of wind turbines there. If that happens, there might possibly be wind turbines only five miles outside of Colfax.

I'm not sure what to think about the proliferation of wind turbines in the state of Washington. You see vast hillsides of them at the base of the Blue Mountains. You see vast hillsides of them as you cross the Columbia River at Vantage and start up the hill toward Ellensburg.

They're surreal and magnificent to look at.

But whenever I look at them, I also recall seeing the abandoned wind farm on the big island of Hawaii. Once abandoned, the turbines are among the most unsightly things on the planet. I've heard that it costs somewhere around $1,000,000 for each wind turbine that gets erected. I hope to heck that, here in Washington, included in the $1,000,000 price tag is the money to tear it down, should the power company ever decide that the turbine is unacceptable for whatever reason.

Photo credit
Photo #2 credit 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Van's Aircraft: This is the Palouse

Van's Aircraft

No, the Van's Aircraft factory (manufacturer of kits for home-built airplanes) is not located on the Palouse. Rather, it's located in nearby Oregon, near Portland. But I couldn't think of anything on the Palouse that begins with "V."

So to stretch the concept a little, we know of at least four men living on the Palouse who have built a Van's aircraft from a kit. There are probably others. Besides flying in a Van's kit-built, experimental aircraft, flying itself is a popular past time on the Palouse. Why might that be?

Living in a rural area, in order to get "somewhere," it means racking up a lot of miles on the open road.
Or flying there instead.

The top picture is of the Van's Aircraft factory, and I have no idea who the guy is standing in front of it. The bottom picture is of me in front of the R-V7 that my husband build. We've pulled our mini-bikes out of the back, and are ready to head into town--in this case, it's the fantabulous upscale frontier-tourist town of  Whitefish, Montana. (Click link for post about our flying adventure there.) It's the little town that has everything: skiing in the winter. Hiking and boating in the summer. One-of-a-kind boutiques and great restaurants.

But is not located on the Palouse. And so we need to hop in our Van's RV-7 to get there.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

University Towns: This is the Palouse

Bryan Tower on the WSU (Washington State University) Campus. WSU enrolls about 16,500 students statewide. Campus headquarters is in Pullman, Washington.

The administration building on the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, Idaho. The U of I enrolls 11,400 students.

The Palouse is the home of two fine universities: Washington State University and the University of Idaho, which are only seven miles apart.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tractor: This is the Palouse


Well here I am looking very farm-wife-like, not gussied up for anything, but appropriate for the dirty job of helping move farm machinery. I will be retiring from my career as a librarian in August to pursue full-time writing. Well, writing plus what will more-than-likely be a half-time job helping move farm machinery during the busy seasons: spring and fall planting (tractors and farm implements) and summer harvest (combines and trucks). When I help move things, I am a flagger in a pickup--either the front, or the rear, flagger.

We rent about half of the ground we farm, which means farming acreage in about seven different locations. It frequently means being out on the main highway between Pullman and Spokane to get to one of the places we farm. Last Friday when I helped my husband and son move the sprayer, we had to pull off to the side of the highway three times to let traffic go by. We generally pull off the highway when there is a line of about 25 vehicles behind us. Tractors move at only about 9-13 mph maximum.

We have a variety of farm tractors, but this one is the Big Daddy. If I were to stand in front of one of the wheels, it would be taller than I am (5'4"). The nose is many, many, many feet taller than I am, as you can see. In order to get into a tractor, as well as a combine--you guessed it--you must climb an attached ladder.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Steptoe Butte: This is the Palouse

Steptoe Butte:

Steptoe Butte is the tallest landmark in our area, apart from Moscow Mountain. It is a State Park, with a long and winding road to the top. The view from the top is beautiful. 

When hang gliding was the craze, people used to hang glide off of the top of Steptoe Butte. We used to like to go and watch them. 

Wikipedia has this to say about Steptoe Butte: 

The rock that forms the butte is over 400 million years old, in contrast with the 15–7 million year old Columbia River basalts that underlie the rest of the Palouse. Steptoe Butte has become an archetype, as isolated protrusions of bedrock, such as summits of hills or mountains, in lava flows have come to be called steptoes.

In contrast, the island of Hawaii, which is still forming, is only one-half of one-million years old

(Ain't that amazing?) 

This picture was taken from our River Ranch, which is about 10 miles from the Butte. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rhyme Time: This is the Palouse

Rhyme Time, aka Nursery Rhyme Time

Like most places, the Palouse has many towns, and many public libraries.

In my public library district, of which I am the Children's Librarian, I offer 150+ children's programs in the library each year. Total attendance for 2011 was 6800 persons.

Just so you know, no matter where you live, children's programming in public libraries is one of the best deals in town. It's fun, free, family entertainment. It also encourages literacy. I offer five programs in the library each week during the months of September-April.

In June and July, I provide 35 programs, some in the library, and some on Thursday evenings at the local city park. Our park programs are stage performances by professional entertainers, and so again, where else can you go for fun, free entertainment, and have the library foot the bill? Summer Reading costs our library about $6000 annually. The money for the Summer Reading program is raised by the Friends of the Library's twice-annual booksales.

I took this picture at the first of my two lapsit programs, which happen every Tuesday morning. Our meeting room is the Carol Ryrie Brink room of the old building, the Carnegie library, built in 1906, in Moscow, Idaho. Carol Ryrie Brink, who won the Newbery Medal for Caddie Woodlawn in 1936, was born and raised in Moscow.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quilting: This is the Palouse


It should come as no surprise that quilting is huge in the Palouse. There are several fabric stores whose quilt fabric selection is to die for. One of the quilting clubs has its own website: The Palouse Patchers.

My friend Iris has been instrumental in providing quilts for CASA, or children in foster care in the area.
Last Saturday, the Palouse Patchers held their annual quilt show at the Latah County Fairgrounds.

Quilters came from all around. There were many prize-winning quilts. Being someone who is more interested in color as a concept than in quilts, my favorite exhibit was the challenge where members of the Patchers drew a color out of a hat and were then to design a wall hanging that included all values and intensities of that hue. In other words, light to dark and dull to bright. The result was to be able to "read" the selected hue from a 10' distance. Minute amounts of the hue's complementary color could be used.

Some of the examples, above.

My friend Iris's example, below. She drew the color turquoise, which was a color she seldom uses in her quilts, and so it was a real challenge for her to work with that new color.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Palouse River: This is the Palouse

P: Palouse River:

The Palouse River snakes its way through Whitman County, Washington, and Latah County, Idaho. The South Fork runs through Pullman, Albion, and Colfax, where it combines with the North Fork, which has wound through Palouse and Elberton.

The combined river then runs near Winona, and is the river of Palouse Falls (below). Eventually it flows into the Snake River, which flows into the mighty Columbia River, and then out into the Pacific Ocean.

Watch a video of Tyler Brandt kayaking over Palouse Falls, an almost 190' drop. It's scary and amazing.

Newspaper article about the stunt. 

The top picture was taken from our River Ranch, several miles after the two forks combine in Colfax.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Oakesdale and the Historic Mill: This is the Palouse

Oakesdale, Washington:

The little town of Oakesdale's claim to fame, in my opinion, is the historic mill, formerly owned by Joseph Barrons.

When I was raising my family, I used to drive 30 miles to the mill to buy 50-lb sacks of organic wheat from the Barrons. I would then grind the wheat into flour and make 10 loaves of bread every 10 days for my family.

Ironically, the Palouse is one of the largest wheat-growing locales in the U.S., but most of the wheat grown here is soft white wheat, which is shipped to Japan and China to make noodles. Because it is low in gluten, it is also used as cake flour. Also because of the low gluten content, it makes terrible bread! So I bought non-locally grown hard red wheat to make bread for my family.

In the past decade or so, a new variety of wheat, Dark Northern Spring, which is a hard red, bread wheat, has become available for area farmers to raise. It's proven to be a very good crop for us, if spring weather conditions cooperate!

You can read about the mill's history here. It was recently purchased by Mary Jane Butters, who also lives in the Palouse, in Latah County, Idaho, and is famous for Mary Jane's Farm and the magazine by that name.

Newspaper article about the mill.
TV report about the mill.
More pictures of the mill.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nanaimo Bars: This is the Palouse

Swilly's Website.

Nanaimo Bars:

Okay, Nanaimo Bars ARE NOT a product of the Palouse, but originated in Nanaimo, B.C. (which isn't really all that far from where we live)!

A favorite local restaurant in Pullman, Swilly's, is known for all of its food, all of its desserts, and particularly its melt-in-your-mouth Nanaimo Bars.

If you've never had one, click link below for a recipe.

Nanaimo Bar video and recipe.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Manning Rye, the Covered Bridge at: This is the Palouse

Manning Rye Covered Bridge:

This is an old railroad bridge in the Green Hollow area, where it crosses the south fork of the Palouse River.

Ranchers who own acreage on the other side of the bridge from the road are currently using the bridge as their driveway.

The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places in Washington, but is not maintained, and so it's beginning to look pretty shabby.

Our River Ranch slopes down to the Palouse River, and so I took the picture (below) from above the bridge, on our acreage, a couple of years ago.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lentils: This is the Palouse


In case you've never seen a lentil, it's a tiny, greenish-brown, ochre, or red disk. The Palouse area is officially the Lentil Capital of the World. Since I've lived here, lentil growers have organized The National Lentil Festival, which takes place August 17-18, in downtown Pullman, which is also the home of Washington State University.

The Lentil Festival is quite a big deal. On Friday night, you can sample lentil chili that was made in an enormous vat that gets hauled down to Main Street and plunked down in the middle of it. There's a street fair that runs through Friday and Saturday, as well as a whole bunch of other activities.

More information on the National Lentil Festival.

Lentil recipes abound. I have recipes for lentil soups, lentil chilis, lentil tacos. But the lentil-walnut patties, above, are my favorite. They must've been the original "veggie burger," as I recall first running across the recipe way back when I was studying dietetics at WSU in the dark ages.

Click here for lentil-walnut burger recipe.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kamiak Butte: This is the Palouse

Kamiak Butte:

We live at the southern foot of Kamiak Butte, one of the highest points in our area. The butte is a state park, and is great for hiking and a bird's eye view of the rolling hills of the surrounding countryside.

The state park is well-maintained with campsites, picnic tables and playground equipment.

Our family frequently takes the 3.5 mile Pine Ridge Loop, with the summit about 1.5 miles from the trailhead, between Mother's and Father's days.

Photo Courtesy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Johnson's 4th of July Parade: This is the Palouse

J: Johnson 4th of July Parade:

Johnson, a town of about 200, puts on a great 4th of July parade.
Read a short news story about the Johnson parade.

Photo Courtesy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I or me: This is the Palouse

"I" or "Me."

I couldn't think of something that begins with "I", so I decided to insert myself into the landscape.

How did "I" come to live on the Palouse? Originally from Western Washington, I had always disliked the rainy climate and urban congestion of the Seattle area, and loved the drier weather and wide open feel of Eastern Washington. After graduating from high school, I decided to attend Washington State University in Eastern Washington, where I met my future husband.

We were in our senior year. He was majoring in Agricultural Economics. I was majoring in Foods, Nutrition and Institution Management. We met in a class in Logic.

I had never been on a farm, but the lifestyle intrigued me. I came of age when people were interested in the idea of "Back to the Land." Nowadays, for most people, that means urban farming. My daughter, who lives nearby in a town of about 20,000, has a large back yard where she grows a vegetable garden and has chickens and ducks. She used to have three goats, until she became too busy with three children.

For my generation, "Back to the Land" was more a dream of actually moving into the country and living on an old homestead and actually farming for a living, if possible. After college graduation, I married my farmer/rancher/cowboy. It was a romantic time. John Denver was huge, and so were his songs, "Take Me Home, Country Road." "Grandma's Feather Bed." "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."

My husband's family was among the original settlers of the area. His grandfather came to the Palouse in 1873. He and his wife had seven sons and a daughter or two. He was successful enough to hand down a quarter-section (160 acres) to each son--no small feat in the days of pre-agricultural mechanization. In other words, when the Palouse's steep hills were farmed with horses.

During the Great Depression, most of his sons lost their farms. My husband's grandfather was able to hold on to his land. Over the decades, fewer and fewer families in our area have been able to keep farming for a living. Many men farm part-time and hold down part-time jobs. Many wives, like me, work part-or-full time.

Our farm supports three generations of our family. We are not sure whether we farm enough acreage for our grandson to come into the operation in another 10-15 years. Time will tell, but he, like so many young men in our area, may need to find another career, a different lifestyle, to support himself and his family.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Harvest: This is the Palouse


Harvest begins for us mid-to-late July and is generally over mid-to-late August. Unless it should happen to rain in August, which is rare. Our main crop is wheat, although we also grow barley and garbanzo beans. Like almost farms in the area, ours is a family-run operation, however we do hire several truck drivers to help during harvest.

For the men, harvest means long hours working in dust and heat, with monotonous, seemingly endless passes over the fields. I generally go into the field once each harvest and ride in my husband's combine for a couple of hours. For me, it's a wonderful break from my 9-5 job in a library. I love the blue sky. The golden fields. The soft thrum of the header as it spins. The whooshing sound of grain as it pours from the header into a waiting truck.

Before going out to the field, I always stop by the local coffee shop first and get 16-oz Peanut Butter Frosts for the crew. Although I put them into a cooler, they're still pretty much melted by the time I drive several miles out of town to the field and then wait by our grain bins for the next truck coming in to unload. Then the truck hauls me even farther out into the fields. Even if the frosty is somewhat melted, the hot, dusty men always enjoy the treat.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Garbs: This is the Palouse


Aka garbanzo beans, chickpeas. This is a relatively new crop to the Palouse. Typically we grow grain: Soft White wheat, Dark Northern Spring wheat, and malting barley.

We also grow rape seed of the type that will be made into Canola oil. My header has a picture of one of our Canola crops in bloom.

Then there's dry peas and lentils. The Palouse is known as the Dry Pea and Lentil capital of the world. If there's money in it, we grow 'em.

But for the past decade or so, there's been more money in garbs than in peas or lentils. Thus on our farm, the acreage that used to go to the spring manure crops: rape seed, dry peas and lentils, now goes into garbs instead.

When I say "manure," I don't mean manure in the traditional sense, but rather crops that are planted in the spring, whose viney residues help to nourish the soil with different nutrients than you would've gotten from straw (from wheat and barley) after the crop's been harvested. When the ground is turned under after harvest, it's composting for a different set of soil nutrients.

Our garb market is mostly the middle east, but I think that Americans are now becoming more aware of chickpeas and are eating them in salads and hummus. They're very nutritious and delicious.

Photo Courtesy.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Falls: Palouse Falls: This is the Palouse

Falls: Palouse Falls:

Falling almost 200 feet, this stunning falls was created during the Ice Age Floods.

More information about the history of Palouse Falls and the Ice Age Flood.

A couple of years ago, Tyler Bradt actually kayaked off the Palouse Falls and survived!!!

Watch the incredible video of Tyler's tumble over the falls in a kayak. (It is amazing.)

Photo Courtesy.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Elberton: This is the Palouse


Elberton is basically a deserted "town," originally with a population of 500, but now about 10. Its so-called mayor, John Elwood, has been known for making dulcimers and canjos. He makes the canjos from empty tins of Washington State University's world famous Cougar Gold Cheese.

Click for a video of John playing his canjo.
Click for a Seattle Times article about John, Elberton and the canjos.

Photo Courtesy.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Dusty: This is the Palouse


Our area is very dusty in the summer. There are a lot of "back roads," all of which are unpaved gravel. We live on a gravel road off the main highway.

When it's hot and dry, dust gets kicked up when you drive down a gravel road. Harvest also creates dust. Combines stir up tons of it as they chop through the wheat and then spit chopped straw and chaff out the back end, having sifted the wheat from the chaff.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Crop Duster: This is the Palouse

Crop Duster

Area farmers rely on ag planes, or crop dusters, to apply fertilizers, and sometimes fungicides and pesticides, to our crops.

Unfortunately, this crop duster didn't make it far off the runway, but flipped over on takeoff.

The pilot wasn't hurt, but it did put his employer's business into a pinch. It was a very busy time of year (spring) for spraying, and now the business owners were minus one ag plane. (I happened by this scene in 2009.)

The business owners were able to rent another airplane while this one was being fixed. The work still got done and no income was lost.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Barn (Dahmen Barn): This is the Palouse


Our area has lots of barns. This one is located near Colton, Washington. Its owners, entrepreneurs, converted it into a place where art is created, displayed and sold.

There is almost always something going on at the Dahmen Barn ... fine art classes, quilting classes, art and quilt shows, and so on. More information about the barn, including its resident and featured artists.

Photo courtesy.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Appaloosa: This is the Palouse


The Appaloosa horse breed originated in the Palouse region of southeastern Washington and northern Idaho with the Nez Perce Indian tribe around 1877.

Many people still live on farms and own horses in the Palouse. When my husband and I were raising our kids, our girls were big into horses. We owned four--three quarter horses and an Arabian--but never an Appaloosa.

The Appaloosa Horse Museum is located in Moscow, Idaho.

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