I’m pleased to announce that one of my short stories was recently published in Placed: An Encyclopedia of Central Oregon, Vol. 1. This slim volume, however, is not an encyclopedia in the traditional sense of the word. It contains a collection of poetry and prose about this part of the planet. Central Oregon includes sagebrush deserts, thick pine forests, winding rivers, and volcanoes lining the horizon. Placed embraces tales of the wild, but also stories related to unique features – like Ocean Rolls from a local bakery.
My contribution is The Toad Queen, written after encountering a Great Basin spadefoot toad in my yard. It is one of the most unique things I’ve observed in Oregon – unlike anything I have ever seen. I snapped a couple pictures of it and gently pushed it off the trail. This creature with such an odd appearance and life history deserves a special story.
If you would like to help support the writing community that contributed to this project, please consider purchasing Placed: An Encyclopedia of Central Oregon, Vol. 1 from Amazon or local booksellers. There are plans in the works to eventually create additional volumes.
Special thanks to local writers extraordinaire, Ellen Santasiero and Irene Cooper, for their work on this project. Thanks also to Sarah Cyr, Cat Finney, and Shelby Little for helping bring this project from an idea to an eventuality.
Like the rest of you out there, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. This week I’m featuring photos taken in a High Desert yard near Bend, Oregon.
If your gaze is focused downward lately, look at the elements of earth in a new light. This layer cake rock is interesting in color and form.
As your gaze moves up, notice the textures you may have overlooked. The multilayered bark of juniper trees always catches my attention.
Though we can’t be together right now, we get the opportunity to watch those who can. These Eurasian collared doves are sharing a tender moment.
We can smile at those taking advantage of the situation. These two mule deer bucks are pausing to share a drink while my dogs are inside.
And when all seems bleak, we may be rewarded by lightness at the end of the day. Spectacular sunsets are a surprise worth waiting for.
If we keep looking up, things should get better. In a High Desert yard, this splash of color emerged after a dark storm – a special gift from Mother Nature. 😀
This feather is about 12 inches long – maybe from a large raptor such as a hawk or owl. The feather rests on a pinecone pillow and bed of ponderosa pine needles.
Sepia tone image with selective focus.
This peninsula of flowers was seen in the Old Mill district of Bend, Oregon. The gardeners do a great job maintaining these picturesque flowerbeds. They brighten up even the darkest of days.
Rounded river rocks
Solitary standing snag
We recently took a short drive west from Bend to visit Dillon Falls. Splashes of color border the river near the falls.
Temperatures were cool and we didn’t see anyone else on this early morning trek.
The short trail to the falls is lined with manzanita shrubs – one of my favorites! They have so much character.
Tangled Ponderosa pine branches also caught my attention.
The Deschutes River winds its way through colorful foliage and cascades through lava rocks. Newberry National Volcanic Monument is located just east of the falls. The Lava Lands Visitor Center (opened seasonally) gives visitors all kinds of info about this region.
We visited Dillon Falls as a treat for my birthday. Here’s a short video taken from the top of the falls and panning to the south. It’s a peaceful spot to see some of our local wonders.
This golden-mantled ground squirrel was not exactly shy. It came right up to me looking for a snack at the High Desert Museum. Yes, it was cute but it didn’t get anything from me besides a photograph.
These wooden wheels are featured in a display at Baker Heritage Museum in Baker City, Oregon. This museum offers visitors glimpses of everyday objects from another time.
Last summer we took a trip to southeastern Oregon where we saw the brilliance of the desert.
Contrasting colors atop 9,733-ft Steens Mountain.
Colorful soils rounding a bend.
Rabbitbrush in bloom near Big Indian Gorge.
Mountain mahogany trees growing on a ridgetop.
Some think of deserts as dull and boring. However, if you look at things in a different way, you’ll witness the brilliance of the desert.
The Bird Weekly Photo Challenge this week is birds whose names start with an ‘a’. I’m sharing photos of American Avocets I took in the spring and fall.
The Migratory Bird Festival was cancelled this year so I had to look in my archives for these photos. One of my favorite field trips in past years was the Circling Steens Mountain Tour. Lots of opportunities to see birds of the shore, fields, and mountains.
Avocets look much different in the fall. Their cinnamon-colored plumage fades to black and white.
I saw these avocets in November at Summer Lake Wildlife Area in Central Oregon. Can you see the dust storms in the distance? I have featured Summer Lake in several past posts. It’s a great place to see waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds.
Rockridge Park, in northeast Bend, is a nice place for walks and more. Bend Park and Recreation preserved features of High Desert habitat in this 36-acre park and added a few unique activities. It’s one of 82 parks in the city.
You’ll see a “forest” of juniper tree trunks near the small parking area. This play area for kids includes black “talk tubes” that connect underground. Primitive cell phones. 😉
I’ve been keeping an eye out for fall foliage and this park had several colorful trees. The maple trees are beginning to turn red and the paper birch leaves are turning a lovely shade of gold.
The trails in this park include a paved one-mile+ trail and more than a mile of unpaved bike trails. The beginner and intermediate bike trails include boardwalks and other obstacles.
There are several comfortable benches along the trails.
The playground is located along the southern edge of the park. There’s a 9-hole disc golf course in another section.
This park also has an 11,000-square foot skatepark with a curving “lunar -landscape” design.
For those of you with canine companions, Rockridge Park is a good place for a SASS walk. Stop And Smell Stuff!
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – A Photo Walk
Bright nasturtium blossoms up close in our High Desert garden. These flowers look pretty and they taste good. They have a distinctive spicy flavor.
This month, for First Friday Art, I’m sharing an American kestrel study I drew in pencil. When I took an ornithology class in college we learned about anatomy by studying specimens in a museum.
These sketches helped me learn more about birds, but they also turned out to be great tools for future works of art. I have referred back to them when working on pen-and-inks and paintings.
Here’s a photo of an American kestrel I saw in Malheur National Forest last year. They have beautiful coloring.
Do you have some artwork you would like to share? Use the First Friday Art tag.
Shooting stars up close. Wildflowers blooming on Glass Buttes in the High Desert of Oregon.
Vaqueros, otherwise known as buckaroos, worked the range in eastern Oregon for many years. The spurs and ring bit pictured were handcrafted by a silversmith in Mexico, circa 1750.
These pieces are on display in the small museum located at the Pete French Round Barn. It’s a great place to visit from an historic and architectural perspective. The barn is one of my favorite local attractions.
Bachelor buttons up close in our garden. I never knew they had so many colors. This flower has such an interesting structure – like a bouquet of tiny trumpets.
I saw a patch of blue in the smoke-filled landscape today. Air quality is hazardous and skies are smoky over Bend, Oregon, but one of my notoriously camera-shy mountain bluebirds paused for a portrait. I needed that today! My main computer decided it no longer wanted to wake up from sleep mode.
Here is the air quality reading yesterday afternoon over Bend.
Here are the readings from in and around Bend yesterday.
Fires are far from Bend, but wind blew smoke our way.
Wildfires are raging over much of the west. We are looking forward to a little rain this week.
Thanks to the firefighters at work on these fires! May they find their own patch of blue.
When I first saw this praying mantis on hop plants in our garden of plenty, I thought it must be a species I had never seen. Its coloring was so light it was almost white. I learned that when some types of mantis shed their skin, they stay white for a short period of time. They can molt 10 times before reaching their adult size. This one will probably turn green, like others I have seen on our property.
Here’s a photo of ice plants up close from my garden near Bend, Oregon. I always look forward to seeing their bright, long lasting blooms.
The Brothers Stage Stop, in Brothers, Oregon, is a little oasis in the high desert an hour east of Bend.
To weed or not to weed. Sometimes weeding is a big job, so how can you tell which plant is a weed?
Are the tall plants in this photo weeds that I should pull?
What about this plant with pretty purple flowers?
Are these two plants weeds?
You can’t always determine what kind of plant it is, but plant ID tools will help.
A good place to start, is the Wildflower Search website. You can narrow down the possibilities by clicking on a map with the general location you saw the plant. You can narrow it down more by inputting if it’s a tree, shrub, flower, grass, etc. Entering the color of the flower and the time of year you observed it narrows it down even more. This site goes into more detail with options including the growth pattern of leaves and the number of flower petals but most of the time, just selecting the options already mentioned helps determine what it is.
Here in Oregon, you can get a paid app for Oregon Wildflower identification. It has similar features to the Wildflower Search site. This app is great to have on your phone when you’re out in the field. Is there a plant ID app where you live? They are a great resource!
Of course you can consult a wide selection of field guides. Use those that cover your geographic area. Here are a few I use. Yes, that copy of Sagebrush Country has spent a lot of time in the field. 😉 If you’re looking for a more recently published field guide, see Wildflowers of Oregon: A Field Guide to over 400 Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of the Coast, Cascades, and High Desert.
Don’t forget to consult your local Cooperative Extension Unit. If you take in a cutting, they can help you identify the plant. At the Oregon State University Extension Service office closest to me, I can “Ask an Expert” by sending in a photograph of an unidentified plant. They’ll help you with plant ID. Cooperative Extension Units have a wealth of information for gardeners. The one here in Central Oregon has a great publication on water-wise gardening that I have referred to numerous times.
I saved my favorite plant identification tool for last. Install the Google Lens app and take a picture with your phone. Open the picture and click on the icon and your screen will sparkle like it’s been sprinkled with pixie dust. Then it will magically show you pictures with names of possible plants. I have also used this app for identifying random antiques, but identifying plants is what I use it for the most. Does Google Lens work perfectly in identifying everything? No! Yesterday I took a picture of a lizard on a juniper tree. It told me it was a pangolin, a type of scaly anteater, on bamboo. 😀 However, Google Lens usually narrows things down and then you can refer to field guides, etc.
So back to my original questions about if I should pull the plants pictured.
Google Lens tells me the first plant is a type of mullein. They are considered a weed where I live. However, birds love the seeds on those tall stalks so I leave a few in the landscaping for them. It’s okay to keep plants that aren’t native if you keep them from getting out of control.
The second plant, with the pretty purple flowers, is spotted knapweed. It is so invasive around Central Oregon that you can be fined up to $750 a day per lot. I pull every one of those I see. The local Noxious Weed Program helps landowners identify aggressive, non-native plants.
The last picture is a twofer. Are these plants weeds? I can click on each plant and Google Lens will tell me what they are. The yellow flowered plant is Oregon sunshine. This native plant grows like a weed, but I love its cheerful color and long-lasting blooms so I don’t pull it. The pink flowered plant is iceplant. It’s an escapee from a landscaped part of our yard. It gets no water where it is but it’s doing great! Both these plants will stay where they are.
Good luck with your attempts at plant ID. Hope these tools help.
Winds shift and winter blows
In from the farthest reaches of
North, carried on cold fronts
Turning landscapes into
Resplendent with crystals of snow
Last fall we were treated to a beautiful Horsetail Falls view on an October day. We took a trip to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to see some of the sights. The Historic Columbia River Highway runs parallel to the river and takes you past several spectacular waterfalls, including iconic Multnomah Falls.
You can take in the views from this comfortable bench or…
Get great photos of this 224-foot tall waterfall from the roadside.
I liked the interesting rock formation to the left of the falls and the layers of green moss and ferns.
You can also get a good Horsetail Falls view from Horsetail Falls Trail #438. This 2.3-mile loop trail takes you past Horsetail Falls, Ponytail Falls, and Middle Oneata Falls.
Check ahead of time before visiting. The site may be closed because of COVID-19 restrictions, wildfires, or for other reasons.
Living in the past at Fort Rock, Oregon.
Rotate the autumn kaleidoscope lens to see summer’s verdant green fade
And mix with blades of rich gold.
Rotate the autumn kaleidoscope lens to see warm reds mute cool greens
And mix with shards of bright yellow.
And if you rotate the autumn kaleidoscope lens at the right moment,
You’ll see all the brilliant colors fill your view