Monthly Archives: June 2012

Country Frame of Mind

Driving east from Bend toward Burns, I made an impulsive stop at the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, a new set of trails. Well, the trails have been around for eons but they have recently been acknowledged with trailhead maps, parking areas and Bureau of Land Management protection (locals are no longer allowed to dump their garbage and old mattresses there).

Oregon Badlands Wilderness


Since I wasn’t used to hot weather and it was at least 80 degrees, I didn’t hike in far enough to experience the area’s claim to fame—petroglyphs in rugged lava canyons—but I was able to see ancient junipers, a few stalwart desert flowers, and acres and acres of sagebrush. Occasionally the dusty, soft volcanic pumice trail would yield to the underlying black lava that forms the area.

I had tried to text a photograph of the trailhead to Mike, both because he would be interested and for the sake of safety (I was deviating from my announced trajectory and I was alone), but my phone couldn’t find a signal. I was slightly distracted by the fact that the iced tea I’d drunk while on Bend’s fancy main drag just 30 minutes prior had worked its way through my system and wanted out. Forgetting the phone, I trotted over to the nearest large juniper and dropped trou. Ducking behind a tree was an unnecessary formality, as there were no other human beings for miles.

My mind was still in city mode, hurling thoughts about what I needed to do when I got to Burns, when I got home, when I returned to work, in rapid succession. I had forgotten to tag the blog post I’d made hastily while the hotel staff waited for me to clear out of my room. I had forgotten to send an email to my gracious hosts at the Nature of Words. I had forgotten to email my publicist about a trip to New York. I needed to ask my husband something. Oh, and ask him about that, too. And that, too.

I kept walking.

As I continued, observations of my surroundings slowly supplanted the endless banter of current and future obligations. Meadowlarks called to each other. The wind blew my hair and lifted the odor of baking sage to a swirling perfume. My feet crunched softly in the pumice, and the sun beat down on my hastily sunblock-slathered shoulders.

I kept walking.

The wind was huffing across the expanse of high desert; I limited my pace to accommodate breathing through my nose, for the hot air threatened to scour my open mouth of moisture in seconds. It whistled through the gnarled juniper branches and jostled the stalwart desert flowers that managed to survive on a few inches of spring rain.

Stalwart little monkeyflower


I stopped to admire a monkeyflower, which danced playfully in the breeze. It seemed to me that most desert plants grew yellow flowers because they take less energy. I considered the showy hibiscus of the tropics. The monkeyflower fit the theory, true or not: it had a beautiful bright magenta flower but the plant itself was about three inches tall, much shorter and smaller than those with small, yellow blooms.



When my mind had quieted and I’d put a good dent in the water I carried, I turned around. By the time I returned to my car I had entered country mode, and I was ready to continue my journey into Eastern Oregon.

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In the High Country

The first thing that hits you crossing the Cascades into Eastern Oregon, besides the stark beauty of rim rock and sagebrush and the majesty of the Three Sisters and their friends looming to the west, is the dry. Within an hour of arriving in Bend, my thirst is unquenchable and my lips shrivel into little crusts.

At last night’s reading, in the still-relatively-new Nature of Words Center in downtown Bend, one of the people in attendance was a woman who moved here from Nashville. My words about the ease of gardening in the Willamette Valley struck a chord with her.

“I came here in August and saw these little bitty tomato plants,” she said. “I thought they were diseased or something.”

“This is high desert!” countered another woman.

I asked if she liked the dryness as a climate feature, though, compared to the humidity of Tennessee. She agreed, but then her friend asked how it affected her skin.

“My skin is a wreck!” she laughed.

Today I will head east to the town of Burns, where I wrote a good half of Get Your Pitchfork On!, and then north to visit my favorite towns of Baker City and Enterprise. More on that next week! I promise to drink plenty of water.

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Farm-Inspired Art

When friends came to visit us in the Gorge, the beauty of the farm often moved them to take photos or create other artwork.

Gary runs the library in North Bend, Oregon. I brought him some eggs when I went there for work. He loved the colors so much he took some photos for his blog. (In case you’re wondering, those eggs belong to Yolanda, Sylvia and Natasha, respectively.)


Pete attended one of our summer solstice parties and shot this amazing picture of folks gathered around the bonfire, behind our barn. He’s now a professional fashion photographer, and you can see why.


My mother-in-law and my own mom are both masters of rhyme; my MIL-ly writes clever birthday cards extolling the recipient’s virtues, while my mom emails my sister and me adorable couplets about a rainbow she’s seen or some cherries she’s eaten. Once, after I made my parents help plant the garden on a visit, she sent this free verse:

“A drive through beautiful gorge scenery

greetings and visits with the chickens,

manual labor to help create appreciation for the

delicious grilled tuna, mushrooms and superlative

peach-huckleberry pie. A splash of wine and some tall tales to boot.

And what a breakfast! A little more manual labor and another trip back through the

Breathtaking Columbia Gorge on a sunny day.

A very nice visit indeed.”

If you’ve read Get Your Pitchfork On!, you recall the generous individuals who came out to help us work on fire abatement in our woods … with an electric 12-inch chainsaw. Monica recently informed me that she and her wife Karen have “cut down two 60-year-old apple trees on our property with that same ‘toy.’” Okay! Monica created this photo collage after a visit.


When our dog, Phynn, was hit by a car, friends Dan and Melanie sent this card. Dan’s an oil painter whose work is available in Portland. If you can afford it, I recommend investing in him now.


My sister, Linda, is also a shutterbug! One of her thank-you cards featured chicken Yolanda in mid-shake. Action shot!


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Guest Post: How to Get Rid of Grasshoppers

I met Diane Sward Rapaport while I served as writer-in-residence in Harney County, Oregon, in 2009. She has led a colorful life, not the least of which includes managing the band The Pointer Sisters in the 1980s, and has written a number of books about the music industry. Diane mentioned that I missed grasshoppers in my section about insect pests, and she is right! I’ve started a list of things to add in case there is ever a second edition of Get Your Pitchfork On! Meanwhile, I asked her to fill us in.

This is the first of, hopefully, many guest posts. If you are interested in appearing on the GYPO blog, please let me know. Share your moving-to-the-country experience!

Diane is currently working on a book about her time in Arizona entitled Home Sweet Jerome. This post is an excerpt:

How to Get Rid of Grasshoppers

By Diane Sward Rapaport

During a grasshopper infestation in Jerome, Arizona, in the early 1980s, I asked local gardeners what to do and got a number of answers:

1. Shake some diatomaceous earth on your plants. It contains ground-up skeletons of algae-like plants called diatoms, which contain lots of calcium, silica and other trace minerals. When the grasshoppers eat this, it cuts their intestines to pieces and they die.

2. Use an environmentally safe product like Nolo Bait, which infects them and cuts down on germination.

3. Distribute bottles containing one part molasses with ten parts water. The grasshoppers will jump in and not jump out.

4. Spray your plants with a mixture of soap and hot chile peppers.

5. Put garlic in a food blender, mix with water and spray it on the plants.

6. Go out early in the morning when the grasshoppers are sluggish and gather a bunch of them. Put in a blender and spray the plants with the mixture.

7. Get a battery-operated tone generator tuned to a frequency they don’t like.

8. Use more mulch so they can’t hatch.

9. Plant enough for you and the grasshoppers.

10. Put a larger fence around your garden and keep chickens. The chickens will eat the grasshoppers, and besides, then you’ll have fresh eggs and lots of fertilizer.

11. Get toads. Toads will eat anything that moves. There’s a lot of ‘em down at the Verde River.

12. Spray the plants with hair spray. They hate it.

13. Spread powdered sugar on the ground. The grasshoppers will eat that instead.

14. Connect a hose to the exhaust of your car, start it up, and hose ‘em with carbon monoxide.

15. Sprinkle bran on the plants. They eat it and explode.

16. Poison ‘em with Malathion 50 (or other insecticide).

17. “I don’t know. But I’m going to need an answer soon!”

18. If all else fails, you can eat them. Fry them up in a little olive oil—crunchy and tasty if you have good stuff growing in your garden.

After eighteen suggestions for entirely different solutions, I stopped asking. I understood why Jerome is sometimes called a town of 400 people and a thousand opinions.

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