Saturday, July 31, 2010

Curiosity can. Yes it can.

Yesterday while building the enclosure, I saw some large columns of smoke rising to our north. I went looking today.

A new law banning a large percentage of grass seed field burnings went into effect this year. A few varieties are exempt, and most of these are supposedly grown at higher (remote) elevations. After two years of photographing these fields, I knew right where to go.

I can’t say that I was thrilled with the panorama I had to work with, but here you go:

This wasn’t the only photo outing I planned for the day. There’s a big fest in town that highlights a lot of the local businesses, and I thought I’d try my hand again at photographing people. So, after a little more driving in the hills, I headed south to a road that would take me back into town.

I’ve been on this road quite a bit as well. There’s a park along the way that I’ve hiked in to, and I’ve taken some nice field shots along the way. While I was driving, I remembered something else from this road: an odd, for lack of a better word, compound with several long, open-sided sheds, surrounded by high chain link topped with razor wire. I’ve thought to stop and have a look, but have resisted. Sometimes there are vehicles parked outside of the gate, but more often than not it is unattended. Today there were no cars, so I thought, what the heck, and had a look.

Even though the sheds had no sides, the interiors were dark, Cages were lined single-file along either side on the structures, and below many of them were foot-tall pyramid-like piles. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I began to see the minks. Disgust and fear. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

If one were to google relevant terms, one would find that there has been some activity regarding such facilities in the last couple days. I didn’t know this when I went gawking. Now I do. A little more googling with more specific phrasing indicated that this place is not on the radar of governmental or anarchic organizations. I’m surprised I was free to just amble up to the perimeter.

Well, the trip to the festival was pretty much ruined, and the few photos I took reflect that. I was happy to just get back home.

And something else: I’m going out for some poker tonight.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sustain the Muse

The deer have discovered the compost piles where I am growing vegetables. Bits of squash and tomato plants have been munched off. Not a lot, but enough. The multitude of wire tomato cages I placed around the perimeters proved to be of little deterrence. So today, I built an enclosure.

I won’t call it a fence, even though it is constructed of 7-foot t-bars and 6.5-foot no-climb fencing. Oblong, so as to enclose both piles, and large enough to allow expansion of plants and room for the mower, it is adequate.

Beuys Mound, one of the two enclosed piles, is coming along nicely. The plants have sized up and there is an abundance of baby Beuys Squash.
It looks like the cross-pollination has produced a suitable new variety — new only in that I am claiming so, for I cannot imagine that this particular cross has not happened on other farms. In fact, after a quick google search, I see it is called a Stripetti. (TM lets out a howl.)

This is an unplanned complication to the project, for even though I was intending to sell the seeds, I have been thinking of them as a new variety as well as art. Now I have to re-think this a bit. Granted, the fact that plants are growing on such a pile is most likely original, and as DW has suggested, that may be enough to make my squash Beuysian.

Still, I am given pause.

The theme of the proposal I sent out a couple days ago was how I navigate two worlds, farming and art making, how they collide and parallel each other, and what I make from those relationships. Not surprisingly, I told my story in such a way that artists and art administrators can relate to the process. I wonder if I could do the opposite, that is, make it so farmers can see the value of the art.

By no means am I implying that farmers could not understand. I merely wonder if I can put on my wide-brimmed farmer’s hat in the same way that I so readily don that French beret. (No, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one.) How would I explain a compost pile that contains art magazines and a dead coyote, and make it relevant to farming practices?

I shouldn’t be surprised that the deeper I go into this project, the more complicated it becomes. Nor should I expect something different than what has transpired. After all, was it ever enough that I came from rural roots, that my grandfather farmed and my brother and I helped, or that I grew gardens most of my adult life? Did any of these things make me a farmer?

Yes, I farmed and I worked every bit as hard as any other farmer. Yet, I am not like other farmers who have known no other avocation. I did not have the same level of commitment, distracted, as it were, by matters and thoughts less pragmatic. (Not that this difference necessarily led to today, when nothing I do on our property can be remotely considered farming.) I allowed the indulgence of re-interpreting my practices — even those that were improvements on mistakes or less-effective farming practices from previous seasons. I would not let go of metaphor, and therein may lay the difference, the madness.

Yet this melancholy is ripe with potential, a book perhaps. This is certainly something that DW and I have discussed on several occasions, warning the romantically-inclined against such a venture as we have taken these past seven years (after we sell the place to one of them). And I can think of worse ways this endeavor of ours could end. I have known failed farmers who, finding no other recourse, retire to their barns to find a beam or muffle the retort.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


 “So, you’re the artist for some of this.”

“Ha. Right. You from Emery?”

Emery is a large road construction firm in the area. Actually, it’s headquartered not too far from my home.

“No, I’m just a photographer that likes to take pictures of these marks. Some of the groupings can be really interesting.”

“Oh yeah?”

“You don’t see it, huh?”
He chuckled. “Nope. You from Stayton?”

“Yeah.” We were in Salem. It took me a second to remember that I had a Stayton Wrestling t-shirt on.

“How long?” There’s a lot to such a question. Not in my answer, but the question itself. I added a few years. 

“Ten years. You live there?”

“No, I have family over there. The Acers.”

“Don’t know ‘em. We live outside of town.”

“Brother-in-law is the Principal at the high school.”

“Nope. My kids are grown. Emery have the contract for this?”

“Don’t know.” He crossed the street. 


For the last week or so I’ve been working on an artist’s statement to accompany work I am submitting for a sizable award from a regional foundation. I wrote two drafts and then sent it upstairs for DW to look over. She took the red ink to it, suggested some rephrasing and after some discussion, sent it back. I hadn’t looked at it in two days, so when I started re-reading it while incorporating her changes, I took a very shard ax to it, added some glue, farted out a semblance of a conclusion and fired it back upstairs. DW had another crack at it today, and I’ve just put the finishing touches on it. What is that? Six drafts?

The funny thing is that a fair amount of the statement in the original draft was a cut and paste of several other artist’s statements that I have composed in a much similar manner over the last two years. Each one of those were supposedly finished when they were sent out; yet, very little remains of what was dragged into the first draft of the current statement.

I haven’t hit “send” yet.

Regular readers will remember that in June I had the opportunity to exhibit my video, I Love Art but (Part 1), at a Portland gallery. I wrote an artist’s statement for that piece, and while DW did look at an early draft, I spent a good many hours on two short pages of text, and when it came time to give the to the gallery, I was pretty damn proud of what I wrote.

Not surprisingly, DW is very encouraging when it comes to my art. She doesn’t like all of it, or necessarily like some of the work I get excited about, and to expect otherwise would be unrealistic. Still, there is no one who is a bigger supporter for what I do when it comes to my art. Consequently, she talks to her friends about what I am doing, and when they express an interest, she offers to send them copies of images, videos, and the accompanying materials such as artist’s statements. And I oblige her.

Two friends were to receive copies of I Love Art but (Part 1), so I burned DVDs and printed out the statement. That night I found the statements on my desk. There was quite a bit of red. Two drafts later I have to lose a semi-colon and replace it with a period, and I will be done.

I’m not complaining. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find it irritating, and maybe even a bit scary that I can put something out into the world that is less than… I was going to write ‘perfect’, even though I don’t believe in such a concept. Still, the impulse is there.

So, what do I put in place of perfect? Good enough? The best I can do? How about successful? Yeah, that might work. Successful at communicating an idea clearly and succinctly.

While it may seem like I’m doing no more than thinking out loud, as it were, in the back of my mind I am thinking about my other blog, one which is set up and ready to go, but remains without a single entry. The name of the blog is, simply enough, Post Your Artist’s Statement and the idea behind it is precisely the process I have described in this post. Artists are invited to post their statements along with an image of their art, and then interested parties can ask questions and make suggestions, all with the expressed purpose to help that artist through what is often a difficult task. Great idea, huh?

The blog has been up for two weeks or more. I have made announcements about it and others have reposted my PR. Hundreds of artists have undoubtedly seen the pitch. Nothing.

I have my theories as to why this resource has not been met with enthusiasm, one of which I fear is that it is a matter of ego. Not ego in the sense that one thinks his or her statement is perfect just the way it is; more that there might be a reluctance to submit and admit to a certain degree of vulnerability. The internet can be a vicious place, and even though I make it clear on the blog that trolls will be moderated away, that may not be enough encouragement. Another theory, and perhaps the simplest answer, is that submitting one’s statement is just too much of a bother. Too bad.

While discussing the edits to my own artist’s statements, DW suggested that I be my first ‘victim’ and thereby break the ice. I see her point but wonder if it might seem self-serving to do so, as an attempt at getting more notice of my own efforts. Still, in the spirit of camaraderie, and as a show of good will, this might have to happen to get the ball rolling.

I’ll give this more thought in the next few days. And I know I have to do a little more PR. In the meantime, if any of you folks have input, please feel free.

As for the artist’s statement that I have just finished, I suppose I have delayed enough. I’ll give it one more read-through (the third one since the last “save”) and “send” it on its way.

(Note: This post is a first draft.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


A few days ago I received a message on facebook from a distant relative, 2,000 miles away and of a kinship that would require clarification with a phone call to my mother. No matter, we’ll call her a cousin. I suspect she found me on said social network via an aunt (mother’s sister, so I’m clear on this one) who asked me to befriend her a few months back. I don’t necessarily view online networks as appropriate venues for family members to be introduced to one’s cohorts, or perhaps even one’s predilections or opinions that would otherwise be carefully avoided at the bastin reunion. Yet, I hit “accept” and figure what the heck, how out of line am I going to get, anyway?

That’s assuming there’s a line, of course. If there is, I have a hard time determining it’s placement at times, and perhaps this is reason enough to keep family out of the picture, but like I said, “What line?” And it is because of this, I draw my own line, and inform those with my blood that they are about to enter a world that they may suspect is there, but up to this point they have not experienced first hand.

Or rather, that’s what I used to do. I didn’t this time, and it may be because of the aforementioned distances.

The flipside, of course, is that I am granted reciprocal privileges to snoop about. I did just that with ‘Cuz’.

As indicated, if Cuz and I are related at all, it is on my mother’s side. Cuz and her folks were annual visitors to my grandparent’s farm, and now that Grandma and Grandpa have passed on, stop in on my mother from time to time on their way to see other family members that live in central Illinois. Some of those family members live in the town where my grandparents had their farm. I have a great aunt still there, and an uncle, again a sibling of my mother. He, in fact, lives in my grandparents’ house.

He, too, is a maker of his own lines, for he has no others to judge by, and, not surprising, is somewhat of a character.

One of his lines is in regards to the house. He prefers to limit visitors to those he knows he cannot turn away. Those people are my mother and my aunt. While my mother chooses to stay away unless she absolutely has to be there, my aunt will insist on staying overnight in her old bedroom.

Bedrooms in this house have always posed a mystery for me. You see, there were four children, two of each gender, and two parents in what would be described as your typical, square, four-room, two-bedroom farmhouse. The kitchen is a converted back porch and the bathroom is what used to be a kitchen. Where did they put all of those kids?

Well, my aunt was born the year before my mother moved out, so there’s that. The boys, so I understand, slept in what became the dining room when all of the kids, including my brother and I, were less-frequent visitors. So, they managed. Folks do.

But I was writing about my uncle…

He sleeps sitting in a chair, having the same congenital shoulder degeneration that both my mother and I share. (My mother and I still sleep prone.) And it may be that the chair is the only surface left, apart from my aunt’s bed, that is not occupied by his styrofoam cup collection, old newspapers, etc. The termites have had their way with much of it as well; the bathroom facilities installed in 1972 when we got city water are no longer functioning; and Rose of Sharon bushes have taken over where there once was a yard with grass to mow. You get the picture. He gets it as well, and therefore discourages prying — and judgmental — eyes. (I only have second-hand knowledge of these things, as I have stayed away as well.)

Cuz apparently was unaware of his preference. And it is her we can thank for this photo:
 The caption on the photo was “Chub’s tractor.” That was my grandfather’s nickname. If I remember correctly, it is a 1954 Ford, maybe ’52. As of three years ago, the Bush Hog was still attached.

Folks have stopped and offered my uncle money for the Ford. He’s on disability SSI. He refuses.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Sunday, July 25, 2010

A bit late

Two years and one week ago I started this thing with a host of older posts from the Poker Academy forums and this about this:
Red Cab Pink Van (2007)

A lot and a little has changed, which, I suppose, is to be expected.

Funny papers

Here it is, Sunday, the day not so much an issue or topic, as two days since another little post. I have my reasons, hope, and therefore efforts placed elsewhere. We did have a nice dinner with neighbors, ground lamb and beef working well together in a patty.

Ever hear of Ambrose Bierce? Long dead (disappeared, actually), he wrote of war from the soldier's sensibility. He had grit. He had wit as well.

A friend announced to the world that "The Devil's Dictionary" was her new favorite book. No other details were given, including author. I happened to stumble across his name while reading DW's lefty organ while on the can (easy target). The one and the same as ABove. Project Gutenberg has it has a free download.

I purchased a copy at the bookstore last week as a present to DW. She likes things defined. She, in turn, left it where a good deal of reading gets done, albeit in spurts. I'm making my way through the As.

ABORIGINIES, n. Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize.

ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.
How can one not chuckle?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Next time you're in the produce aisle

Our apples have all colored up. Too bad they are the size of ping pong balls. The scab has decimated the crop, and the coloration is evidence of how stressed the trees are. We are fortunate because we only have four trees and therefore not really enough potential crop to sell, although we have in the past. For orchardists, it is another matter.

"I saw a few apples with scab on them one day. The next day when I went out to check again, I saw more and wondered how I could have missed these apples the day before. The next day I cried all day. We sprayed twice and still got scab. I just want to bulldoze the whole orchard."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sins of omission

For some reason I've never thought much about it except as a waste of time, another cookie on my machine, and my pennies won't make a difference anyway. Then today I received an email explaining how it has been considered the comraderly thing to do, this click through on ads.

"Of course," says DW, and continues with "I do it. And I've always wondered why you don't have ads on your blog."

"Because with the number of readers, it would indeed be mere pennies."

I am not going to spend a lot of time thinking about this, and if I do decide to put ads on my site, I'm not going to spend any time justifying it. However, let it be known that I will henceforth take the couple extra seconds to click through on my friends' sites.

You're welcome.

Monday, July 19, 2010


There’s no glory in it; perhaps the notion shouldn’t even occur. Not that duty doesn’t sometime lead toward that assessment by others; so there is none when no one is witness, and certainly not when it is an uphill battle, no end in sight.

I’ve seen two Cinnabar Moths this year. That is far short of the norm. Beautiful little winged things, deep red-orange and black, they are also known as Tansy Moths, for they are given to lay their eggs on said plants. The eggs hatch into equally stunning yellow and black caterpillars. These then crawl around on the flowers of the tansy (a.k.a. ragwort), munching away and rendering that particular plant seedless for the annual scattering.

I mow a path around the perimeter of the back seven acres. I do this so when DW takes the dog for a long walk back there, she doesn’t have to traipse through what can get to be very tall grasses. I did that mowing yesterday after a few weeks lapse. Usually it is DW that takes the dog on such walks as part of their exercise regimen. I will accompany them from time to time, yet most often I leave it to the dog to keep up with a younger woman with a considerably longer inseam than what I have. Yet, sometimes it falls to me to do the walk, just the dog and me. One such time was about three days ago. While good for the heart, the walk was not necessarily good for my morale, for the otherwise wonderful panorama was spoiled by a plethora of tansy.

Even though mowed three weeks prior, tansy was blooming on the path, which may not be as surprising as I am making it out to be. However, I had taken the dog for her walk just a few days prior (or so it seemed) and at that time I pulled as much tansy as I could see and was rather pleased with the dearth, which I took to be evidence of a fairly good job of pulling and spraying the year before. So, when I mowed the path again yesterday, and I saw tansy scattered throughout the field, much of it flowering, I made it today’s priority. 

I took the dog with me. I did not count the plants. We started with what plants lay along the path, and then moved out into the field, crisscrossing through the tall grass a few times so as to find as many large and small plants as we could. By the time we were finished, the old dog was giving me the eye, for I don’t suppose she had ever a workout like the one I had just given her. So, instead of heading toward the house through the grass, we headed for the east side of the field and that closest to the path.

I should have taken my camera with me. Or, perhaps not, for it would have been awkward to have it around my neck as I pulled and heaved. Yet, even if I were to take a walk with the camera now, unencumbered by dog or duty, it would not be to photograph a job well done, but rather illustrate the hopelessness of the battle, for the neighbors to the east do not practice a similar diligence. For that matter, nor do the neighbors to the west.

No, no valor here. And I did not see a single caterpillar. Just had to tell someone.

Addendum: Perhaps it's too late for this, the bulk of visitors having moved on. Thought of while writing, but forgotten for some reason: Tansy, like Scotch Broom, is toxic to livestock, In that we don't have any such four-legged grazers, my efforts are more symbolic.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Flower fields

I wasn't the only one.

A small orange car coming toward me pulled off the road about a quarter mile away. A woman got out from the driver's side, opened the back seat door, grabbed a camera and went running to the edge of the field and started taking pictures. She turned back toward the car, said something, turned back toward the flowers, and then ran alongside the field, deeper onto the farmer's property.

I finished photographing those fields and planned on heading further east when I happened to watch a truck go up a side road north. I saw more color and followed. As I parked, another car came from the opposite direction, stopped, and a hand with a camera popped out of the passenger side window.

Again capturing the panoramas and angles I could from the road, I headed back to the main road. Next to the first fields, two young women had a camera mounted on a tripod. One set the timer and rushed back to hug her friend, a field of pinks as their backdrop.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Women who love men who love their rides

Today was special.

Because of the relatively mild weather, and no salt on the roads during the winter, we have more than our fair share of vintage rides. Every summer it is not hard to find two or three car shows of a weekend. My biker of a cigar store proprietor told me about this one. And when he told me who was involved, I knew I had to go.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coming around

Berry season is in full swing here. Strawberries are all but done, blueberries are coming on hard, and the vine berries, such as blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, in all of their varietal splendor, are making a good showing this year, just as they pretty much do every year.

We pick up strawberries and blueberries in town from local growers. If I have to pick up something at the Ace Hardware, I also pick up a couple quarts of berries right there in the parking lot. For all others, it requires a special trip.

One of our former clients, John, runs a sizable, rural fruit and vegetable stand northeast of Salem. He’s is a nice guy, a family man, which helps, as this is a family operation, run by he and his brothers. His siblings manage the farm aspect of the business, and John runs the store, overseeing the buying and managing around a dozen employees. It’s not a small operation; nor is their berry selection.

There were four varieties of blackberries, some of which I was familiar, but wanting to try something new, and unwilling to choose blind, I went in search of John’s opinion.

It’s been a while, and my short hair caught him by surprise, perhaps even making him forget my name. It’s been a while. Yet, the conversation started off much the same as innumerable ones in the past: weather and farm productivity. We both agreed the spring was wet and cold, and while I have little in the ground to show, he has a lot with little.

The pumpkins are small even though the new treated seed they used has kept down disease and somehow repelled striped cucumber beetles. Then the pears didn’t get pollinated very well and several apple varieties have been hit hard with scab (to which I can attest as well), but at least we have our families and health.

And the choicest berry? “They’re all blackberries to me.”

Although a mere twenty miles separate his store and our farm, the farming practices are considerably different. Most of the land up there holds vegetables and fruit or filbert orchards. Down here, it’s mostly grasses, hay and wheat. And the drive home via the back roads reminded me of the difference.

It had been some time since I had been on those roads, not since last fall when I was photographing the field burns, but I had been on those roads often enough to see that much of what was fescue last year was now wheat. With the burn laws more restrictive this year, we knew that was coming.

Between the vegetable fields and grass there is a stretch of road on which lives a cluster of German families who are known to live by a very conservative Protestant doctrine. So conservative is this group that they have readily splintered into even smaller groups. However, two things they all share are a strong work ethic and large farms. One of these farms grows flowers for their seeds. The fields are every bit as colorful as the burned fields are brown and black. Within the next few days I will return to this area to do it more justice.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Framing PDX

If I'm going to be spending more time in Portland, I might as well make the most of it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Both ways

A multitude of strung-together expletives punctuated DW’s exasperation. It was out of frustration more than anger, the joy of watching a doe and her twin fawns nibbling on clover and oak leaves in our front yard over-shadowed by the proximity of the road and the cars opening up as they made the tight curve onto our straightway. She wanted to put up signs, more than are already posted, telling folks to slow down.

Not that many would heed the warnings. Our road has an abundance of such warnings for fauna and road features, and for the most part they seem to be disregarded. Long-time readers will remember that our compost piles have typically received the remains of deer that use the woods across the street for cover before they come to our pastures (and hostas) to graze.

DW cares. If forced to choose one word to describe her, it would have to be ‘empathetic’. And anyone who spends more than 30 minutes with her sees this character trait, and probably experiences some manifestation of it as well. So it is with animals as well.

We have a crab apple tree that acts as a respite of shade and food source for the deer. In past years, does have parked their newborns under the tree for hours at a time while they forage about, and they know that this is also the place of special treats such as lettuce, carrots and apples, all left for them by DW. Seeing the mother and her twins must have prompted DW to take a few apples out to the tree at dusk last night.

“Patrick?” I heard her soft call from the yard, and came to the door.

I knew from the look on her face. “The cat is sitting on the edge of the deck.”

The cat has little to do with the deer in this story, except that it too had benefited from DW’s concern. Except the cat did not have the advantage of relative innocuousness, one reason being that it had become a matter for discussion in our household. The cat was a male, a spraying and therefore a testicled male, and shows signs of disease. That’s a lot of strikes against the cat, except that it might also be the same cat a neighbor has been feeding and petting, and taking a bit of a shine to, except for trapping it and taking it to vet for tests, and if free of disease, neutered and perhaps vaccinated. DW had spoken to and sent along a picture to the neighbor in order to get a possible identification, and received nothing positive, including no expressed desire to do more than feed the cat.

DW’s plan was to begin feeding the cat while said neighbor was away this last week. It fed some, then less, then not at all. We assumed the worst. So, when DW called me to the door, the 20-gauge was already propped behind it.

As with a host of similar events on the farm, from a nutria to the remaining birds in our flock, DW has not only wanted to be present for the killings, but has insisted in participating to some degree, which often means that she transports the carcasses to the compost piles. In that she started with more of a city dweller’s sensibilities about such matters when we first moved here, to her credit, she has adjusted to the realities that farm life/death forces upon one.

I grew up with it; she didn’t. And while I recognize a certain gravity to the decision to end the life of an animal on the farm, I don’t experience sadness for livestock and varmints. In fact, for the latter what I experience is more a contempt. (The feral or dumped cats become the latter when there is more than one on the loose for they have a devastating effect on the bird populations. Last year we had fifteen California Quail foraging on our property. This year we have two. I have seen at least two other cats that neighbors do not claim.) DW experiences a degree of grief for all but the nastiest of pests.

If I had my druthers, DW would not witness any of the killings. I want to protect her from grief where I can; and in that desire to protect her, I understand her compassion toward the animals. And I understand why, when anticipating that I would share the above with my readers, she asked that I post a photo of the cat.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A view

Went for a drive, thinking I'd head up Little North Fork a good ways, except the way was blocked at so-so, sooooo I drove and thunk on until I hit the town limits of Mill City, pop. 1570, elev 850' and remembered the bridges. With a little bit of luck I might see some trout and salmon taking the little falls there. Instead, lots of recreators.

Amongst these were two fourteen year old daredevils.
 The camera makes it look a lot farther to the water than it is, I guessed about forty-five feet from the guard rail to the water.  They each jumped three times, quitting just about the time the sheriff's deputy caught wind, the boys having a sense about such things. They then moved to rocks about twenty-five feet above the water. Although the deputy and I are acquainted, I did not snitch.
Other youths were less ambitious, yet all liked having their picture taken.
Other stuff: