Another day, another sunrise over the High Desert
Do you need to weed? It’s not something we want to do, but it’s something we have to do.
Some weeds are pretty, but spread aggressively. I call this one the “Root of all Evil” because it can be hard to pull and develops seed heads almost as soon as it pops out of the ground.
About an acre of our land is planted with landscaping, fruit, or vegetable plants. We need to weed often, especially in the spring. Today I’ll share some tips and tools that may help you when you need to weed.
Need to weed tools
I have tried several seats while weeding, and this is my favorite. You can sit on it as a seat or flip it over and kneel on it.
My dogs like when I sit on it because then I’m at their level. Shelby thinks it’s the perfect opportunity to play fetch with me.
Visitors from near and far converged in Burns, Oregon for the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival in mid-April. I signed up for six tours and events spread out over four days. I already featured the Downtown Walking Tour in a previous post, but this time I’ll focus on the bird-related tours.
Basin Big Day Tour – North of Highway 20
Though I have participated in this bird festival several times, this was the first time I was able to register for the Basin Big Day Tour. Eight participants, guided by Brodie Cass Talbott and assisted by Duke Tuffy, met at 6:00 am at the Fairgrounds for this tour. We returned at 7:00 pm. The goal was to see as many species as we could in that time frame.
One of our first stops was in front of someone’s house, northeast of Burns. We had permission to scan their feeders for birds. We saw lots of White-crowned Sparrows here and elsewhere that day.
A bit farther north, we stopped near flooded fields. A few days before my arrival, snow covered these fields. That’s unusual. Our guide said the weird weather meant fewer birds were being seen, but there was more diversity. More species was what we were looking for so this could work out great for us.
The clouds of Harney County form dramatic backdrops to the High Desert landscapes of eastern Oregon. I just returned from the four-day Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. Though I was there to see birds, the cloud formations draw your eyes to the skies.
Layers of fluffy clouds hung over the Battleground Buttes. Higher elevations in the county received 200% of their normal snowfall. Days before I arrived, these fields were covered with snow.
Farther south, on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, wispy clouds drifted in the wind. You can see part of Steens Mountain in the background. This 50-mile long mountain dominates the landscape.
High Desert oases offer peaceful retreats for wildlife and human visitors.
Lake County Oases
Summer Lake lies at the base of Winter Ridge in Lake County, Oregon. When water levels are high, this alkaline lake measures 15 miles long and 5 miles wide. Explorer, Captain John C. Fremont, named the lake and ridge. Here is how he described them:
At our feet…more than a thousand feet below…we looked into a green prairie country, in which a beautiful lake, some twenty miles in length, was spread along the foot of the mountain…Shivering on snow three feet deep, and stiffening in a cold north wind, we exclaimed at once that the names of summer lake and winter ridge should be applied to these proximate places of such sudden and violent contrast.John C. Fremont, 16 December 1843, Report, Second Expedition
Lake Abert, in Lake County, is Oregon’s only saline lake. The lake can host over 50,000 birds a day. Wilson’s Phalaropes and Snowy Plover feed on the brine shrimp and alkali flies that only live in saline lakes. Like the Great Salt Lake, water levels have dropped dramatically in recent years.
There’s a winter wonderland in my yard near Bend, Oregon. My favorite western juniper is dressed up for the season with a few inches of snow.
Snowfall softens edges while sharpening the contrast. It can also mute colors, as it did in this photo. The structure shines through, even on a cloudy day.
Morning clouds over Bend, Oregon last Fall in a dramatic High Desert sunrise.
In early June, while participating in a Great Basin Natural History workshop, I took photos of the storm over Playa. Playa, located on the shores of Summer Lake, serves as a retreat for artists and scientists looking for a peaceful place to do their work. They also offer a limited number of workshops.
We had an unusually wet spring here in the High Desert. This photograph shows a big storm over Playa. I stayed in the two-story cabin pictured and had commanding views of the Basin and Range landscape. High winds were pushing dust storms into the air near the lake’s shore.
I’ll be showing how I processed this picture three ways with Corel PaintShop Pro 2021. Prior to trying out the various effects, I slightly increased the contrast and brightness.
The first two show the original photograph and the same picture with a Retro effect. For this image I went to Effects>Photo Effects>Retro Lab>Process 2. This effect slightly blurs and darkens the edges and increases color saturation. I thought this effect made the center appear brighter and gave the photo a vintage feel.Continue reading
Trying to choose only three of my favorite photos for this challenge was very difficult. I decided to focus on memorable moments from home.
The first shows a glorious fall sunset behind my juniper tree muse. I like the combination of color, lightness and darkness, and texture in this photo. The branches of the western juniper tree seem to be directing a symphony of clouds.
The second is a close up view of a different juniper tree’s bark. Though some see western junipers as an unwelcome invader in sagebrush habitats, I’m impressed by their beauty. Their rough bark varies in color, as does their wood. Wrinkles add to their character as they age. The birds in my yard are grateful for the shelter and food these trees provide.
The third picture is of my “pet” Cooper’s Hawk. I’ve taken a lot of pictures of her. On this day, she took an extended bath and spent a long time preening her feathers. Her fluffed up feathers, piercing gaze, and stance are not the typical view you get of these raptors. It was one of those memorable moments!
These colorful lichens at Lake Abert look like bits of captured sunshine.
Today I’m sharing a primrose painting, photo, and poem I created. When I was on a field trip in early June, we saw a “field” of this plant in bloom near Crack in the Ground. Tufted evening-primrose, Oenothera caespitosa, usually only bloom at night but on that day, dark clouds filled the skies.
Here’s a watercolor I painted of the flowers.
And here’s the work in progress in my little studio space.
This is the close up photograph I took of these beautiful flowers near Crack in Ground. I’m growing evening-primrose in my landscaping and, so far, the always hungry resident mule deer have not discovered them. 🤞
Here is a Sijo poem about these remarkable flowers.
Awakened when the moon rises over the silent desert
Flowers in sandy soil open, shining like pale lanterns
Enchanting the world with intoxicating scent, until dawn breaks
Do you have artwork you would like to share? Be sure to include the First Friday Art tag.
High Desert voices can be heard throughout Central Oregon if you just pause and listen.
Bold shouts of the many
Quiet whispers of the few
Raucous calls of the many
Here’s a picture of tulips up close growing in my garden. There’s something special about these two flowers.
They are the first to make it to this stage without being eaten by our resident deer!
the path meanders
up a rocky desert butte
embraced by spring clouds
This western juniper looks like it had too much fun on Earth Day. I think it was trying to sleep it off. 😉
I decided to make a tumbleweed snowman from the giant tumbleweed I recently found in my yard. In my previous post, Giant tumbleweed in my yard, I tried to show the scale of this tumbleweed. It measured 7 feet 6 inches across!
Since it’s December, I thought I might as well have some fun with it. We tied it to a tree to keep it from blowing away. I added a smaller tumbleweed to make a head.
It’s kinda hard to see his face so I zoomed in. The branches are spaced far apart on the top tumbleweed so his face is held on with a few twist ties. Can you see his lichen eyelashes and juniper nose and smile?
Here in the High Desert, things tend to last well past their prime. Though this old truck shows signs of wear and tear, chances are it still runs.
This truck is located on rural property along Deschutes Market Road. This is one of 51 “market” roads in and around Deschutes County. These farm-to-market roads were built following passage of the Oregon Market Road Act of 1919. Prior to their construction, farmers navigated many miles of bumpy, rutted dirt roads to deliver their goods.
A label on the truck’s door reads S & M, Land & Livestock. I’m not sure if this was a local company. There were many ranching operations in Central Oregon, large and small, in the 1870-1920 pre-Industrial period.Continue reading
On a desert wander, clouds fill my head. A scrub jay calls to me in its raucous voice and my attention shifts. I stumble over a rock, plain and gray. The rock beckons me to pull it from the sandy soil. Just a rock, I think. Dark and hardened, like my thoughts. It’s stuck fast in the soil and I pry it loose with a juniper twig.
I cup the rock in my hand and feel its weight. Though it appeared ordinary in the soil, it is not. Other hands have held this rock. They chipped away the darkness to reveal a shining edge. My fingers trace its sharpness; an unforeseen treasure from the past brought to light. My desert wander turns to wonder. As dawn breaks, the clouds lining the horizon disappear.
When you travel the backroads in this part of the country, it’s not uncommon to see cattle herds movin’ down the road guided by cowboys. We saw a couple cowboys on horseback moving this herd near Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
You’ll see dust clouds long before you see the animals.
The cattle often stop in the road until they are pressured into moving. Watch for signals from the horseback riders to their dogs herding the cattle. Do your best to stay out of their way.Continue reading
Today I’m featuring portraits of pink flowers in my Bend, Oregon yard. All of these plants are drought tolerant, once established.
The first photo is an ice plant. This groundcover has cheerful starburst flowers and succulent leaves. The leaves turn a bronze color in winter. We had an escapee take root in another part of our yard and it survived without watering.
The second plant is a Woods’ rose. This native 2-5 foot tall shrub attracts bees, butterflies, and birds. Red rose hips develop once the flowers lose their petals.Continue reading
These colorful lichens are growing on a rock in my High Desert yard. So much variety in a tiny landscape!
The Warner Wetlands of south central Oregon are beautiful throughout the year. I dug into my archives to find photos taken long ago there, supplemented with a few recent ones.
You can view wispy sunsets over the wetlands in the summer.
Moody cloudscapes over them in the spring.
Snow and ice covering them in the winter.Continue reading
A rainbow of colorful lichen up close. These lichens grow on the rocks in my High Desert yard. Though they are small, they have a big presence
I’ve been following pronghorn for years. They have much to teach us.
A restless past
In the distant past, I was always restless, bounding from place to place, relationship to relationship. Once I started sensing my roots taking hold, I would break free, fleeing restraints. I sprinted towards the next place or person. Like an animal being pursued by a predator, I found it easier to run.
One day I started thinking of pronghorns, those iconic creatures of the Wild West, differently. Maybe I could learn something from them. They are a one-of-a-kind animal, not quite fitting into any family. I felt that way too and I began following pronghorn.Continue reading
Wildflowers in the desert sunshine
Emerging in harsh conditions
Shining with an inner light
Jewels in the sand
Wildflowers in the desert photographs taken at Gray Butte, Oregon in the springtime.
The challenge this week is to show photos of birds seen over the past two weeks. As spring progresses, more and more birds, and tourists, are showing up.
Here’s a California scrub-jay perched on an interpretive sign in Bend, acting like a tourist. They change the flags displayed on this bridge throughout the year. On this day, they happened to match the jay.
I’ve been seeing this lone swan near the flag bridge for several weeks. It was hard to figure out if it was a tundra swan or the less common trumpeter swan. It finally got within a few feet of me last week. It’s a tundra swan. See the bit of yellow near the eye? They don’t always have the yellow patch, but it’s the best clue.
For comparison, here’s a trumpeter swan we saw this week at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The skin between the eye and bill is thicker and all black.Continue reading
When I was a young child, my grandfather often told me the tale of the Lost Forest. Here is how he told it…
The people of the village disliked them for their beliefs, distrusted them for their appearance, so they fled. The villagers pursued them so they ran faster and faster.
They paused on a faraway hill and sought shelter beneath the sagebrush. The pursuers shouted in the distance. Unsure what to do, they became a part of the environment.
One by one, they stood still and extended their arms with palms tilted upward. Long green needles sprouted from their fingertips. Puzzle-like bark crept over their skin. They wiggled their toes and pale white roots snaked their way into the soil. A shudder ran through their bodies and branches poked through their buckskin clothing.
And then they grew. They shed their human form and grew taller and taller.Continue reading
Close up view of rough & rippling bark of a western juniper tree near Bend, Oregon.