Friday, May 22, 2009

POTATOES AND THE WIND

People associate Russet Potatoes with Idaho like Wisconsin’s Cheese and Florida’s Oranges. Idaho covers a lot of area. If you could flatten out all the mountains it would be the size of Texas. Only a few parts of the state, however, are just right for growing those beautiful bakers that can be found in the poshest restaurants, and also make up most of those fries and chips you consume.

Potato photo from google images. Southeast Idaho is downwind of the Snake River plain. For eons the wind has gathered up fertile top soil and stacked it against the continental divide. The deposits of dirt are higher in altitude than the rivers. so the fields are usually watered by center pivot sprinkler systems.

These huge mechanical monsters are sometimes over a quarter of a mile long. They run on electricity and pull water out of deep wells. Entire fields are sprinkled in a way that assures consistent growth. Photo from Google Earth There are so many center pivots across the Southeast Idaho agricultural area that it looks like this from a satellite view.
The big white buildings that dot the countryside are potato cellars where the spuds are stored until they are marketed or cut up for seed for another year’s crop.

As I said, the soil has been drifting up against the Rocky Mountains forever. And the wind seems to blow relentlessly here every spring. California gets The Santa Ana, France has The Mistral, Italy has The Sirocco, and Canada gets The Chinook. We just get WIND. In the spring low pressure systems often form over Wyoming. The air is pulled eastward across the mountains. The effect is increased when the jet stream flows like a river over our state. Rude people say the reason the wind blows so hard in Idaho is because Wyoming sucks. And I guess technically that could be true. Here in potato country we try not to complain too much as we drop sour cream and chives onto those fluffy bakers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SHOOTING DUCKS

Advanced warning--bird photo overload.
My 70-300 Nikkor zoom lens has been burning a hole in my camera bag, begging for an opportunity to digitize something moving and far away. There is a game reserve a few miles from my home where fishing is not allowed until June. I drove there the other day and had the place pretty much to myself except for a LOT of wildlife. I have tried to identify the birds in these photos using Kaufman’s Field Guide to Birds of North America. Please feel free to point out any errors.
Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Gadwalls
Common Merganser Red Breasted Merganser(I love the mergansers. They dive for minnows and have the coolest hair. They have an attitude of bravado that goes with the hair).
These ponds are a favorite nesting area for Sandhill Cranes.
The noise they make sounds like someone starting up a chainsaw. They are huge birds and do quite a showy, joyful mating dance.
Of course with all the ducks, there were predators. I think this is a sharp-shinned hawk. I tried to stay as still as possible and after a while was rewarded
when a family of otters
came out on the bank to play. I knew there were bald eagles in the area and hoped to see one, but finally ran out of time. As I stood up to walk back to the car…
an eagle flew out of the cottonwoods just behind me. Most likely he had been there for quite a while, probably laughing at me. I only got a couple of blurred photos before he was out of range.
He landed on a dead tree far across the pond and scared the daylights out of some Trumpeter Swans.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

SEPARATED AT BIRTH

My house herd of Holsteins have been watching with much interest the escapades of Fred and Bessie and their travels to Iowa on Jeannelle's blog and their return to Flea in Oklahoma . My town cows also thoroughly enjoyed the Dairy Headlines from Fred and Bessie, especially the--WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT COW “FRIENDSHIP”? They wish F&B a safe trip in their bubble wrap back to Oklahoma. And now, to the reason for the title of this post.
Years ago Trudy joined my house herd as a birthday gift from a family member. She has a sweet personality and fetching pink toes. Although she always seemed a little lonely.
Then last summer, after my mother passed away, I was going through her collection of small pitchers. There were some bought as souvenirs from trips, and some received as gifts. One, called Judy, looked strangely familiar. I brought her home and introduced her to Trudy.
Notice the resemblance? My guess is, since my mother's birthday is three days after mine, the two were bought together and given to each of us for our birthday. "It was like looking in the mirror," said Trudy. "Yes," said Judy, "there is no need for a DNA test here!"
And the final order of business: Jeannelle of "Midlife by Farmlight"...see above...posted a nice photo of a blue shingled barn caught in a "drive by shooting" on her way to Fort Atkinson, Iowa. I asked her permission to use it for a watercolor painting. She was kind enough to agree. The painting is done! I took the liberty of turning the barn around and parking a Ford 3600 tractor in the pasture (since it matched the blue of the barn so nicely). This painting turned out well enough that I may frame it and enter it in our county fair. I have had work in a gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and a few other small galleries. However, marketing art turns it into a lot of work, so I just put the good ones in a box, or frame them and give them away.