Friday, September 28, 2007

Rules of engagement

When it’s time to propose, every man has the goal of sweeping his woman off her feet. He visions the smile on her face, the tears in her eye, and the joy in the air after the perfect proposal. Like the Japanese before Pearl Harbor, the success of the incident weighs on achieving surprise.

My plan is simple and foolproof. On the day she redeems her gift certificate for a massage I’ll take her to a nice dinner afterwards and pop the question. When a plan is developed, any alteration must be premeditated. A well rehearsed plan can be executed without flaw or an emotional backlash (in other words, a choke).

After days of tirelessly explaining to her how tired she appeared and her need for a massage, I finally received my breakthrough. Through my telephone, the words “I made an appointment for my massage next Tuesday,” were heard. It was then time to initiate phase two.

Phase two included contacting the restaurant ahead of time and having them prepare a celebratory chocolate cake for our engagement dinner. Phase two also involved practicing my proposal speech to a flawless level; a level that could be unleashed without any mental involvement.

Phase three was the first action phase the day of the engagement. It was time to approach the father the morning of the proposal. Many things go through a man’s mind when thinking of the father’s reaction to asking permission for her hand. She is his little girl, and he would probably like her to remain as such.

Problems with phase three surfaced with the realization that she still lived with her parents, and they would all be home on that Tuesday morning. “How in the world am I going to isolate the father?” was the question at hand.

One of her jobs was to feed an absentee rancher’s animals. That had to be my moment. As soon as she left, I would roar over to her house, ask her father, and hurry back home before she returned. It only took ten phone calls to her house to determine the exact time of her departure to feed.

The eleventh phone call was made to her mother, to confirm her departure. The eight mile journey to her home was one of nervous fear. Nervous for what her father might say, and fear that I might fly off the road at that speed. I approached her driveway just in time to see her turning into it. “I’m too late!!” I hollered.

This kicked me into plan B of phase three. I was required to use the telephone to ask her father. She answered the phone rather sternly. “According to my caller ID, this is the twelfth time you’ve called here in the last 30 minutes, what do you want?”

“Can I speak to your father?”


“Uhhhh, a farming question.”

Phase four was the final phase. Get the massage, go to dinner, and propose after we give our order. En route to the massage, she informed me that she had to return home immediately after the massage, which would leave no time for dinner. Panic set in. “Let’s go to a nice lunch!” I blurted.

After ordering, stomach butterflies had caused me to need the restroom. “Relax, it’s a sure thing, you’ve rehearsed it to a flawless level,” said the good side of my brain.
“You are a crazy fool! She doesn’t like you that much and your little flawless phases are failing miserably!” argued the other side of my brain.

Upon returning from the bathroom, it was time to get things over with. Before I could scoot my chair back in, my mouth started speaking my rehearsed line. My eyes hadn’t found where she was sitting yet. On cue, my hands pulled the ring from my pocket.

The result was a resounding silence. The wrong side of my brain pointed his finger in arrogance. The good side of my brain began to flee the scene.

“Of course I will, Kevin; it just took me a minute to understand what you were asking in that weird monotone auctioneer voice.”

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, June 2007, Kevin Duling

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wheat price tops $10 for soft white varieties in Portland

Prices for soft white wheat topped $10 per bushel this morning in the Portland grain markets.

Of course, our website provider is having more problems this morning, so I can't post the Portland daily grain market report on our main website at the moment. But look for the full report later today on

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wheat price up, Capital Press website down

Update: 3:14 p.m., Sept. 26: The Capital Press website appears to be back up and accessible again and we have resumed posting news updates to that site.

The Capital Press website, and those of our sister papers in Astoria and Pendleton, Ore., are down at this hour due to problems from our web severice provider. But I didn't want that to stop us from sharing news about a new record high price for wheat set today.

Here's the story from Associated Press:

Wheat prices climb to daily trading limit, set record, amid expectations of strong exports

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Wheat prices peaked Wednesday in advance of a government report expected to show robust export sales, with foreign demand for U.S. wheat intensifying as world stockpiles dwindle.

In other commodities markets, oil rebounded from early declines, industrial metals ended in a mixed range and gold declined.

The Agriculture Department reports weekly export sales on Thursday, and analysts expect the past week's reading to come in strong. World wheat supplies are heading for the lowest level in nearly three decades, according to USDA estimates, after major producing regions got too much rain this year or too little.

Dan Basse, president of AgResource Co., said a rush of late speculative buying ahead of Thursday's report helped drive prices to the 30-cent limit at the close of the Chicago Board of Trade and led the December contract to finish at an all-time high of $9.1725 a bushel. The exchange limits wheat price swings to 30 cents in either direction.

"The market is in a demand-rationing mode," said Basse.

Foreign demand for U.S. wheat has been strong. The USDA on Wednesday said Algeria bought 200,000 metric tons of hard, red winter wheat, raising the country's total orders for U.S. wheat this week to more than half a million metric tons.

On the supply side, the Ukraine government on Wednesday outlined quotas on grain exports from Nov. 1 that are expected to curtail sales after a drought damaged crops in the region. Also, Dow Jones Newswires cited a Russian government official as saying country is mulling a 10 percent wheat export duty due to tight supplies.

Soybean and corn futures also notched gains. Soybean prices climbed as traders eyed dry weather in Brazil, which has delayed soybean plantings there, said John Roach of Roach Ag. Marketing Ltd., in a note. With the U.S. soybean crop down from last year, the market is relying on Brazilian supply.

November soybeans added 17.75 cents to close at $9.9075 a bushel, while December corn rose 3.25 cents to close at $3.75 a bushel.

A round of late buying also appeared in the energy market to reverse oil's earlier decline, as bargain-hunting emerged. Earlier, prices had declined after the Energy Information Administration reported a surprising jump in crude oil supplies and larger-than-expected increases gasoline and distillate inventories.

U.S. crude oil inventories were up 1.8 million barrels last week; analysts had projected a 1.8 million barrel decline. Stockpiles of gasoline rose 600,000 barrels last week, while distillates rose 1.6 million barrels. Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires forecast increases of 200,000 barrels of gasoline and 1.1 million barrels of distillates.

Light, sweet crude for November rose 77 cents to settle at $80.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract traded as low as $78.44 a barrel.

October futures for gasoline fell 1.05 cents to $2.0274 gallon, while heating oil shed 0.13 cent to $2.1826 a gallon.

Meanwhile, industrial metals ended narrowly mixed Wednesday as investors weighed weaker-than-expected readings on the U.S. economy against the potential for future interest rate cuts.

The Federal Reserve last week lowered its benchmark federal funds rate for the first time in four years in an effort to stimulate growth.

Nickel and copper prices slipped slightly on the London Metal Exchange, while zinc and lead ended higher.

David Thurtell, metals analyst with BNP Paribas, said that "I think the market now is starting to price in further (interest rate) cuts."

December copper shed 1.5 cents to settle at $3.614 a pound on the Nymex.

Thurtell said he expects that if metals benefit from a future interest rate cut, it would be short-term. He expects the housing slump in the U.S. and credit market turmoil will seep through the broader economy, curbing growth as well as demand for metals.

Gold and silver prices also fell amid the initial declines in energy prices and a firmer U.S. dollar. December gold dropped $3.30 to $735.50 an ounce. Silver for December delivery lost 7.5 cents to close at $13.545 an ounce.

The dollar made a slight recovery versus the euro. The gap between the euro and greenback has widened in recent weeks as lower interest rates and poor economic data in the U.S. have dragged on the dollar.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A look under the Farmers' CAP

I often joke that I have a face for radio and a voice for newspapers. Now you can see for yourself.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Range nuggets

By Kevin Duling

A range nugget is defined as an individual who gleefully points out errors people make regarding range plant identification or anything else regarding rangeland and can successfully interpret any rangeland publication put out by either the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management.

My friend and I used to joke about people we deemed as range nuggets. In our rangeland college courses we would take field trips and be introduced to many people who could tell you everything about any plant on the range. In the scientific realm, no self-respecting range scientist would dare speak in the common language.

Cheat grass was not called cheat grass and thistles were not called thistles. Not only could these specialists tell you the genus and species terms for each plant, they could rattle off the family name of the plant, the origin, the current location, which countries the plant was found in, and if it was known to heal cancer.

While my friend and I were both impressed by these range mavericks, we were equally amused at why anyone would spend that much time learning these trivial things. In one of our college courses, we were forced to learn 150 range plants. We didn’t do it because we wanted to; we did it because we had to.

The family name and genus species have both changed for many range plants several times since we graduated college. The saying goes for the people whose job it is to name all the plants, “When you’ve named everything there is to name; rename things or you will be out of a job.”

When I was in college, all grass families had recently been changed. We were fortunate to get to learn the new ones. Since then, they have changed again. Bluebunch wheatgrass, which used to be known as Agropyron Spicatum, is now known as Pseudoroegneria Spicata. Obviously, the latter is much simpler and easier to communicate than the first.

Perhaps these name makers are making things so much more difficult that things will have to be renamed again. That should mean at least four good years of employment I would think.

My uncle, who is now a retired doctor, was famous for dazzling everyone when the family would go for a hike together. He could spew every genus and species name of every wildflower we stumbled across. The family would keep moving as my father and he would be in heated debate over a small purple flower one of the ladies spotted.

Typically, we would not see Dad or my uncle again for the rest of the hike. Occasionally, we would spot them, their heads looking down with a hand on their chin, with the lure of the correct scientific name as the goal.

In no way could my uncle be construed as a range nugget. He knew four languages, traveled over seas many times, and could heal many sicknesses just by looking at us and telling us to go home and eat a certain vegetable.

I recall a warm fall day in the Deschutes basin. With the crop seeded and the equipment put to bed for the winter, it was time to go for a hike. The dew soaked sage and juniper smelled wonderful. It was peaceful walking by the numerous fishermen as they cast their fly upon the aquamarine water in hopes of a passing steelhead.

On the trail, I stumbled across an older married couple who were sipping water from their canteen. I smiled and greeted them with the typical “How is your morning?” They responded by stating how pretty the sagebrush was that time of year.

I replied back, “Actually, the brush that is in bloom is grey rabbitbrush, also known as Chrysothamnus Nauseosis. The big sage, which in this area is Artemisia Tridentata Tridentata, blooms in the spring. At the higher elevations in good soil, you may find some big mountain sage, which is known as Artemisia Tridentata Wyomingensis.”

With a slight glare of annoyance, the couple thanked me for the uninvited information and went on their way. About a half mile down the trail, I stopped dead in my tracks with a moment of realization: I had become a range nugget.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Grantham Prize, Awards of Special Merit to be given in Rhode Island

Early next week, I get to see Rhode Island for a short period of time. I’ll be representing Capital Press as I join some colleagues from our sister newspaper the Daily Astorian as we travel to Rhode Island to accept an Award of Special Merit for the work our newspapers in the East Oregonian Publishing Co. did on climate change last year.

We were invited to do more than pick up our award: on Sept. 24 we will attend the 2007 Grantham Prize Seminar on the State of Environmental Journalism Reporting on Global Change: Science, Policy and the News.

We’re being hosted by the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting, University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, at Narrangasett, R.I.

The Grantham Prize and the merit awards are quite prestigious, and haven’t been around for long.

According to the website about it:

“Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham established the Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment (GPERE) in September 2005 to annually recognize and honor the work of one journalist or team of journalists for exemplary reporting on the environment.
"The public deserves ready access to the kind of information and news that only outstanding independent journalism can provide," the Granthams said in announcing the prize, which is administered by the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting, housed at the University of Rhode Island's world-renowned Graduate School of Oceanography. They say they want their annual award of $75,000 to "give that kind of reporting the honor, respect, and visibility it needs."
The purpose of the Prize is to encourage outstanding coverage of the environment, to recognize reporting that has the potential to bring about constructive change, and to broadly disseminate the Prize-winning story to increase public awareness and understanding of issues focusing on the environment.

It will be a busy day. We will hear from the people behind the series who won the Grantham Prize this year: “The Los Angeles Times’ five-part series, Altered Oceans, examined a profound disturbance in the ecology of the seas. The articles showed how man-made stresses are not merely sullying the Earth's oceans, but altering their basic composition and chemistry. As a result, numerous marine animals are in retreat and the oceans' most primitive life forms – algae, bacteria and jellyfish – are on the rise.”

The LA Times team will explain why and how they did the series. Then the three merit award winners will discuss what they did and how they covered the environment.

Patrick Webb, who coordinated our climate change special series, will spend some time talking about how we did our series, especially considering we have much more modest resources and a smaller staff in several places in Oregon and Washington state. Nineteen reporters from our six publications wrote for this series. We also relied on photographers, copyeditors, and people to help design graphics and do layout of our packages. We’re proud of the great effort done by everyone involved in the project.

For anyone who wishes to see or download the EOPC climate change coverage can click here.

The president and CEO of our company, Steve Forrester, will also be involved in the seminar to talk about the state of environmental reporting. Forrester will be ideal because he was the visionary behind our project.

As written on the Metcalf Institute website announcing the winners:

This was the East Oregonian Publishing Company's biggest corporate-wide commitment to a special topic. The company's president and CEO, Steve Forrester, summed up the mission on the first day of the series: "Climate change is the biggest, most significant challenge of the 21st century. That is why the newspapers of the East Oregonian Publishing Co. are pooling their resources for [this] occasional series ... This is an extraordinary commitment for a newspaper group of our size. From our varied geographical vantage points, our reporters and editors will describe what scientists, naturalists and ordinary citizens are observing and predicting."

There were two others who also are receiving Awards of Special Merit. Eugene Linden is receiving an award for the book, The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations.

The Grantham website describes what it’s about:

Over the past decade, Linden writes, scientists have discovered that previous climate changes may have been abrupt and catastrophically severe, rather than incremental. Linden writes that climate change has been a "serial killer" throughout human history, disrupting agriculture, fostering the spread of disease, prompting migrations, devastating economies, undermining the legitimacy of rulers, and starting wars. In fact, climate change may have caused or aided the fall of many civilizations, including the Akkadians of the ancient Middle East; the Assyrians and Minoans of 700 B.C.; the Byzantine, Peruvian, and Mayan empires; and the Vikings of Greenland in the fourteenth century.
Modern humans have enjoyed the good fortune of a benign climate, prospering and multiplying during this moderate period. Like the awestruck observers of the 2004 tsunami, Linden warns that we may be similarly unprepared for dramatic climate change because of our unfamiliarity with its potential impacts. Presenting evidence that vanquishes any lingering doubt that the climate is changing, Linden poses a serious of questions, including the most pressing: Are we any better equipped than past civilizations to deal with dramatic climate change?

The last merit award goes to the documentary “Dimming the Sun” that was produced by Senior Executive Producer Paula S. Apsell, written/produced by David Sington & directed by Duncan Copp. It was a DOX Production for NOVA/WGBH and the BBC and the original PBS broadcast date was on April 18, 2006.

The documentary focused on:

Have scientists seriously underestimated just how fast the Earth's climate is heating up? "Dimming the Sun" investigates a disturbing discovery that the amount of sunlight reaching Earth has been steadily declining. What could be the impact of this surprising little known phenomenon on global climate change?
Scientists have long known that air pollution endangers our respiratory health, but they had not fully considered that this pollution might also be decreasing the amount of sunlight reaching Earth. Some scientists now believe that global dimming may disturb rainfall patterns and contribute to severe droughts and famines. But most important, as we clean up the pollution contributing to sun's dimming, we will no longer mask the heating force of global warming. This new realization means temperatures could rise even faster than current predictions. NOVA talks with leading climatologists James Hansen and Peter Cox, who discuss the impact of global dimming and the dire effects it could have on the future of climate change. ?

Besides talking about what we did in each of our projects, we’ll hear a keynote lecture on causes of recent climate change and the shape of things to come. The day will also give us an opportunity to talk to more people involved in environmental reporting as they cover climate change and other issues.

We’ll report later on this website and in our newspapers on what we heard at this seminar in Rhode Island.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A field trip to remember

Capital Press

MAY, Idaho — The Capital Press covers four states with only 10 fulltime field reporters, half a dozen staffers in the headquarters newsroom in Salem, Ore., and a band of dedicated, but very part-time freelancers.

Given the size of the staff compared with geography, it behooves us to get out in the field occasionally on overnight trips so we can interview for a few stories in some of the more remote areas.

Thus it was that I found myself in Salmon, Idaho, for a week recently, doing stories on several different ranches.

Being unfamiliar with the area, I naturally quizzed ranchers carefully in advance for directions to their operations.

Glenn Elzinga’s directions were very clear, and easy to follow.

He told me to watch for the Pahsimeroi River Valley turnoff on Highway 93, at the Ellis Post Office, and follow the road east for a certain number of miles to a side road labeled with a certain name, then turn south again and go about a mile and a half to the gate to his ranch.

“Just open the gate and drive on through,” he said. “I’ll be expecting you. If you cross the river, you’ll have gone too far.”

I found everything just as he described, very easily. There was only one problem. The gate to his ranch turned into a pasture where he’d left his horses.

Now, anybody who has ever been around animals knows they see fences as a challenge. The grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side.

Elzinga’s horses were no exception. No sooner had I stopped at the gate than they came crowding forward, ready to bolt the minute I opened it.

I tried shooing them back from the gate. They moved back a short distance, but with a very cocky, “who the heck do you think YOU are, lady,” look in their eyes.

When I thought I’d shooed them to a sufficient distance, I unlatched the gate, ready to wave my arms and shoo them away still further so I could jump into my car, drive through, then stop and refasten the gate before proceeding on up to the ranchstead where Elzinga had promised to meet me.

Any rancher could have predicted that wasn’t going to work. It didn’t. Giving me another one of those cocky, “oh, yeah, lady” looks, the horses bolted right past me and onto the road the second I unlatched the gate. No arm waving, yelling or jumping up and down was going to stop them.

They were, by the way, considerably larger than me, and half a dozen strong against one woman.

That left me with only one choice. Leaving the gate open, I drove quickly to the house, located Elzinga, and told him the horses had bolted onto the road.

He was working on his car at the time. He jumped in, and drove to the road. I followed him back down the lane in my own car, parked a short distance away from the gate, and stationed myself in the road on the opposite side of the gate so I could turn the horses as he herded them back into the yard with his car.

The horses hadn’t gone far. They really were after the lush, green grass growing by the side of the road, positive that it was greener than that in their pasture.

Three of Elzinga’s seven daughters also raced for the gate, one or two on their bicycles. They helped chase the horses back inside, and on up the lane to a second pasture where they couldn’t bolt again when I left.

The girls latched the gate behind all of us, and I drove back up to the house, ruefully shaking my head.
“Wow,” I said, “That’s some way to make a first impression!" Elzinga burst out laughing. Like so many ranchers, he had a good sense of humor. Then he apologized for forgetting to put the horses into the back pasture away from the ranch lane before I came.

It all went to prove the old truism: ranch people are friendly, and a lot of fun to be around. It’s all part of what makes writing for the Capital Press fun.

To hear a short interview McCoy did with Elzinga, click here.

Capital Press staff writer Pat McCoy is based in Boise.

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OSU leaders saddle up for parade

Scott Reed, Ed Ray and Thayne Dutson lead the Oregon State University contingency that took part in the Pendleton Round-Up Westward Ho! Parade on Sept. 14. (Photo courtesy of Betsy Hartley/OSU)

If you want to take part in a non-motorized rodeo parade, then you need to be able to ride a horse — as demonstrated by three leaders from Oregon State University who took part in the Pendleton Round-Up Westward Ho! Parade last week.

Scott Reed, the Vice-Provost for Outreach, Engagement and Extension, President Ed Ray, and Thayne Dutson, Dean and Director of the Experiment Stations from the College of Agricultural Sciences led their OSU group that included OSU Alumni, 4-H members on horses, OSU friends and Benny the Beaver.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Round-Up brings people home again

The school I attended in northeast Oregon was small. Really small. So small that individual classes don't even attempt to have class reunions because if they did, the number of attendees would probably all be able to fit in the cab of a four-door pickup.

Every so often Echo High School will have an all-years or multi-year reunion and try to get pretty much any graduates to come back. But from many of us from that part of the country, there is sort of an unofficial reunion held each year during the Pendleton Round-Up. That is the time of year when many of us who no longer live in the community try to return home to visit family and see old friends.

I was fortunate last week to attend the 97th Pendleton Round-Up and see friends and family that I don't get to see nearly often enough. But unlike many Round-Up reunion celebrants, my primary reason for being in Pendleton was work. I was invited to help out the East Oregonian for the week. The EO is one of the Capital Press' sister newspapers and it's always nice to be able to help out family.

I wish to express my thanks and appreciation to the EO family for their hospitality during the week. My family also helped me out by providing accommodations and a few meals, which I'm sure my employers will appreciate, as that will be a few less costs to have to pay.

In bigger communities, it seems like there are activities and events going on pretty much every weekend. Some large, some small. But there is something electric and magical about smaller communities that put their heart and soul into one big event each year.

I was just one of thousands of former residents, and thousands more regular visitors, to make the trek to northeast Oregon last week. Whether for work, or for pleasure, it's good to visit the place and the people you come from now and again. Thanks for the great homecoming gathering.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lords of the Land

By Kevin Duling

To farmers, landlords are like noses. Everyone has one, some are straight, some are crooked, and some tend to drip all the time. Twenty years ago, there were at least a dozen farmers in this area, now there are three. Some of the exiting farmers sold their places, some turned them into bird hunting parks, and some rented their land out to other farmers.

We have the privilege of having five different landlords. Three are ex farmers, one is an electrician in Seattle, and one is a doctor from California. As you can imagine, we get five different opinions on everything we do.

As a kid I remember Dad squawking about a landlord who complained about the appearance of the summer fallow. After a record yield one year later, the landlord gave Dad a promise to never critique his farming practices again.

In our farming operation we have what’s known as the “James factor”. Every time we are in a hurry we will get “caught” by James and be forced to spend a minimum of 30 minutes visiting. Understanding it takes two to visit; the James factor became a wonderful way to have an excused break. Is this an annoyance or perhaps a message to us stating our pace is too fast? We enjoy the visits, but it’s hard to slow down.

When James farmed, he was a perfectionist. Weeds were absent on his farm, the barnyard was always in flawless order, and little inventions to make things work easier were found everywhere. James, now 90 years young, farmed during a time when a living could be made on a small farm. Today, his place is known to us as a “two and a half day” farm, speaking of the estimated duration of each farming operation.

There are two kinds of landlords: Active and inactive. An active landlord will become involved in everything you do. He will be there to hand you the shovel as you squeeze your way into a grain bin. He will be there to inform you there is a wet spot exactly where your tractor appears to be stuck. Of these active landlords, some will tell you how you can do no wrong. Others will say everything you do is wrong.

One of our landlords is a little too active. If I make a small mistake, he’s there. If I make a large mistake, he’s there. If I jump off the tractor for a quick restroom break, his wife is there.

A few years back, I can recall a cool, moist, early August morning when the wheat was too tough to harvest until noon at best. As we entered the field at eleven to start fueling and greasing, we were besieged by an angry landlord shaking his fist and holding his camera.

Apparently, farmers are supposed to be mounting their mighty combines at dawn with the sunrise creating a beautiful photographic backdrop. According to him, some of us farmers like to work “banker’s hours.”

The worst kind of inactive landlord is one who raises livestock. I received a disturbing voice message from a particular inactive landlord the other day. It went like this: “Kevin, I got an amazing deal this weekend. The man said I could purchase one llama for $200 or I could purchase all five for $200!”

Water rights can also be a bit sticky in the case of landlords. Irrigated land leases become much more complicated than your simple dryland lease. I had a nightmare last night where I agreed to a lease from an old man with no teeth and a small straw hat. He wanted me to put all his acres into alfalfa. His water system was updated during the 80’s, and I don’t mean the 1980’s.

“So you want me to put everything into alfalfa, plus swath, bale, stack, load, and irrigate all four cuttings, plus pay for the fertilizer and the water right? So I assume the split will be about eighty/twenty tenant to landlord?”
“No, the split will be feefty/feefty and you will also feed my five llamas all winter!”
“I don’t believe this is a deal I can sign on.”
“One more word from you and it will be forty/seexty!”
“Ok, fifty/fifty it is.”

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, September 2007, Kevin Duling

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Valuable meteorites

The Willamette Meteorite is the largest meteorite ever found in the U.S. and weighed 15.5 tons when it was found in 1902 in Oregon. The majority of the meteorite can be found at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, although chunks of it have been traded and sold. (American Museum of Natural History Photo)

On the farm, whenever my family walks the fields, we keep an eye on the ground to see if we can spot any meteorites.

Like other farmers, while cultivated the land or picking rocks each year to place into rock piles, we’ve uncovered different rocks each year that may deserve a second look.

We’ve carried all kinds of rocks home, big and small, and pondered why they look or weigh the way they do. We’ve seen rocks that look like a dinosaur stepped in them; found Indian arrowheads and hammer heads; found rocks filled with fossils and even gems such as red garnets.

But we always wanted to find a meteorite. That seemed the most mysterious and valuable of all, in our minds.

My father, nearing 80, has collected the most rocks and he seems the most interested in finding this treasure. Every summer he brings a few rocks home and deposits them by the house and invites all of us to inspect his latest find. He weighs suspected meteorites against other rocks, checks if they’re magnetic, and does other tests. He tries to guess what the stones are composed of, such as maybe those rusty ones are made of iron, and likes to show the rocks to guests to the farm.

A couple years ago, researchers on a meteorite search project that visited farms in the area came to our place. Dad proudly brought out the rocks he was positive were meteorites. He was disappointed when they were shrugged off as just being … rocks. Earth rocks, unfortunately.

However, Dad still believes some of these rocks came from elsewhere.

Each year meteorites continue to be found. For example, last month in Saskatchewan, in Canada, a meteor was identified after being originally picked from a field in 1999. The man who found it was using it to prop a door open, until he finally called researchers after seeing news coverage about the project to identify meteors.

There might be another reason people want to check their fields for meteors: they can be quite valuable. A 30-pound piece of the Willamette Meteorite is currently up for sale and expected to earn about $1 million. Mind you, the meteorite is famous: it was the largest one ever found in North America, and sixth largest in the world. When it was found, it weighed about 15.5 tons, although researchers believe it might have weighed about 20 tons when it first struck the earth 10,000 years ago.

According to Associated Press, “The meteorite was discovered in the Willamette Valley by a part-time Oregon miner, who removed it from land belonging to a local iron company. The miner charged a quarter to view the meteorite until a court order compelled him to return it to the iron company in 1905.”

Then, AP said, a New York philanthropist paid $20,600 for the rock and donated it to the American Museum of Natural History in New York — far away from Oregon. (To see more about the meteorite, see this website.)

A native tribe in Oregon has made a claim of ownership for the meteorite, since they believe, the meteorite “was sent to earth by the Sky People,” said AP. The Clackamas Indians are also trying to fight the sale of the chunk of meteorite. The current owner, Darryl Pitt, had gotten the piece from the museum. The AP story explained: “The meteorite belongs to the Museum of Natural History, which swapped Pitt the small piece now up for sale in return for his half-ounce piece of a meteorite from Mars.” Pitt also claims “roughly 20 pieces of the Willamette are in the hands of private collectors,” said AP.

Obviously meteorites have a fair bit of value and trade interest. AP explained the sale of the Willamette Meteorite chunk is part of an auction. “The upcoming auction includes several other interesting items, such as the Brenham meteorite, recovered two years ago from a Kansas wheat field (estimated sale price $700,000); a complete meteorite slice, in the shape of a home plate, with translucent crystals ($100,000); and a chunk of a meteorite that killed a Venezuelan cow ($4,000).”

Maybe I should go home and help my father search for meteorites…

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Potato farmer learns valuable message: transformation needed

When farmers becomes involved with organizations, as members or perhaps serving on the executive level, usually they do it because they want to give back to an industry, or they believe in certain issues, or they hope they can help influence or change certain things the organization is doing.

Whether the organization concentrates on policy, or on improving markets for a certain commodity, it usually has a purpose and appreciates the farmers and ranchers who can help it meet its objectives.

For those farmers who accept the challenge to become more involved, usually they give a great deal than just their opinion: Time and cost can also be a factor. But the experience can be a valuable one, for many reasons.

In the May issue of Spudman magazine, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. Potato Board reflected on his year in the position.

Randy Hardy, who farms with his wife Karlene at Oakley, Idaho, knows potatoes — they grow 350 acres of potatoes. However, he shared that he has learned more about potatoes.

“I’ve logged more travel this year than in my entire adult life,” he wrote in Spudman. “I’ve visited cities and institutions I never thought I’d set foot in. Many of the places I traveled to gave me the opportunity to see potatoes through a different set of eyes — those of retailers, chefs and consumers, both domestic and foreign.”

So what was the main message he learned? He summed it up in one word — transformation — and then explained.

“Whether it is product innovation, packaging changes, new varieties or better handling, for consumers to increase their consumption of potatoes, the industry will have to change,” Hardy said. “Growers have to be on the bandwagon to connect with the consumer and find a niche — or be left behind.”

It’s an excellent message. Is it new? No. Farmers have heard from many experts that they need to figure out what the consumer wants and meet those needs. But it’s still important that farmers discuss the message, especially the farmers who play important roles in organizations. Hopefully they can help influence change within their industries and encourage their peers to discuss this more and figure out not just how to connect more with consumers, but how to understand better what they need and want.

It’s too bad not every farmer can experience the wide range of contacts Hardy made even beyond the consumer: the retailers, chefs, and others who decide what will happen next after a crop and animal leaves a farm. It really does give a different perspective and deeper understanding of what is happening in agriculture today.

In the past, too many agricultural commodity groups had the same mentality: just produce a crop or other bulk product, have someone else market and deliver it to the consumer, and the consumer should want what the farmer offers.

But consumers have changed during the last few decades, and don’t just expect but demand more. In some cases, they’re willing to pay more for what they want, but not always. Sometimes staying status quo by the commodity’s growers and processors means the loss of a market to someone else who understands and satisfies those customers better.

Hardy ended his message with encouraging every grower to “get involved in promoting and marketing our product.”

Hopefully other growers will take his message to heart and follow his footsteps.

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Deer seized from Molalla farm

A news story that is attracting the most attention in the Portland media involves a family at Molalla, Ore. that adopted two deer they raised as pets — but now have lost their deer because police and wildlife officers are enforcing regulations because the deer weren’t legally acquired.

According to the Oregonian newspaper, Jim Filipetti and his partner Francesca Mantei had found a fawn along the side of the road six years ago while they were driving their kids to catch a school bus.

The fawn, a black-tailed deer that is a unique white color with brown spots, was in poor condition. “She was weak, with deformed back legs and hooves that curved inward, cutting her when she tried to walk,” said the Oregonian story.

The deer needed help, and the couple obliged. “Filipetti scooped her up and brought her home. He took her to a veterinarian in Woodburn, who fitted her deformed legs with tiny casts to straighten them, changing the casts every 10 days. At home, they put carpet scraps on the wood floors to keep Snowball from slipping. And come holiday season, they let Snowball nibble their Christmas tree.

“The doe lived in the house for almost a year, Mantei said. She slept at their bedside and picked up mannerisms from the family dog — Tasha, a cocker spaniel — pawing at people with a hoof when she wanted attention.”

Snowball was mated with a buck the family had briefly, and about a year ago Snowball had a buck they named Bucky.

State troopers visited the farm in April this year after an anonymous tip in March that the family had illegal deer on their place. Yesterday, the police returned with state wildlife officers.

The media captured in print and on TV the agonizing images and upset comments of the owners as they pleaded and argued to keep their deer. However, it did no good. After several hours, the animals were tranquilized, crated, and taken away.

As the Oregonian pointed out, there are now “three possible outcomes: transfer to a licensed wildlife facility, release into the wild or euthanasia.”

After yesterday, the fear is that the animals will probably experience the last option.

As for the owners, they could face up to a year in jail, and a fine of more than $6,000, for not having the proper permits to capture and possess wildlife at their place.

As one of the officers remarked, as soon as they found the fawn, they should have gone first to the police or wildlife officers, although Filipetti has argued the fawn would never have survived until now if they had done that. The health of the fawn at the time probably would have just led to it being killed six years ago.

The reaction to the story has been strong. The Portland television stations showed a glimpse of the flood of emails that came in, most people quite upset that the deer were taken away.

The officers defended their actions, explaining not only is it against the law, but also dangerous to try to keep wild animals as pets.

In hindsight, perhaps it was the role of the veterinarian in the beginning to help educate people about the laws; maybe the vet should have encouraged the couple to contact the wildlife officials as soon as they the deer.

Maybe there should be more options available of places to take wild animals found under these circumstances, and better publicity of these options.

Unfortunately, after six years, the situation is not easy to fix and there are no winners. The wild animals have relied on humans too much and may find it difficult to fit into their normal environment. The people have become too emotionally attached to the animals and will grieve the loss of their pets. And police and wildlife officers must make tough choices and enforce the laws, even though the situation is controversial: They will be criticized by many people as being too heavy-handed with what must be done.

There will be no happy ending to this story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Apples shaped like ... French Fries?

Burger King announced today that it plans to provide healthier menus. To help convince kids to eat healthier, Burger King is planning to disguise its food.

The plan is to help kids want to eat more apples, so the fast food restaurant plans to make the apples resemble french fries.

According to an Associated Press story, "The fast-food chain is also developing what it calls BK Fresh Apple Fries. The red apples are cut to resemble french fries and are served in the same containers as fries, but they are not fried and are served skinless and cold."

AP quoted John Chidsey, Burger King's chief executive, about the purpose of the apples fries. "We not only want to better inform parents and kids about these new menu options but also to demonstrate through product innovation that better-for-you foods can be fun and taste good."

AP reporter a "2.4-ounce serving of Apple Fries will have 35 calories... A small serving of Burger King french fries has 230 calories and 13 grams of fat."

There was no word on what would be disguised as kechup to go with the pseudo-fries.

Think of the potential if this takes off: what other foods could be reinvented to look like something else with a bit of fancy slicing and dicing and reusing some packaging that is usually expected with another product?

Of course, all this is great for the apple industry. Encouraging kids to eat at least one healthy apple a day is great for an apple producer.

But now potato producers will need to see how they can continue to reinvent their product to be healthier and be more trendy for kids whose parents want healthy alternatives from fast food restaurants.

Can there be a candied potato in a stick, but without candy coating?

Or .... maybe not.

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Wheat hits record high

For wheat farmers who still have grain to sell, there was some good news today: Prices hit a record high $9 per bushel today.
This was influenced by the USDA projecting that U.S. stockpiles will be at a 33-year low by the end of the year, at 362 million bushels, while world wheat stocks are predicted to be 112 million tons, the lowest since 1973-74.

One of the things influencing wheat prices is bad crops in other parts of the world. As Capital Press report Scott Yates, from Spokane, Wash., wrote in a story, "Global wheat production is projected 4.2 million tons lower. Production in Canada was lowered 1.2 million tons in the latest report and EU output was reduced 3.1 million tons. Australia's production was lowered two million tons to 18 million tons, but some observers believe that figure is still too high and that 15 million tons would come closer to the mark."

An Associated Press story today said "The run-up in U.S. wheat — which topped $9 a bushel for the first time ever — grows out of months of robust demand from foreign buyers, who are shopping in an increasingly tight global market and have been willing to pay record-high prices as a result .... The December wheat contract jumped 11.5 cents to $9.02 a bushel, after rising as high as $9.07 a bushel."

To see Yates' story as well as the AP one, check out news updates today on

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Veterinarians will be first line of defense

Six years ago, the nation was stunned when terrorism struck America, and we watched the World Trade Center towers collapse after being hit by hijacked planes. We mourned the nearly 3,000 people who died in New York, in Washington when another hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon, and in a Pennsylvania field where a fourth hijacked plane hit the ground.

It was one of those days with haunting images that remain etched into our memories, and we will always recall what we were doing the moment we heard the news.

It didn’t matter if you were even an American that day: The whole world collectively watched in disbelief as the tragedy unfolded. All of us then wondered, what next?

Six years later, we still brace ourselves for that “what next” moment. We have become numb as we watch the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and count the dead each day; we’ve watched bombs go off and bomb attempts blocked in other countries; and, in the last few days, we’ve witnessed two more tapes from Osama bin Laden appear on the news and cruelly remind us the enemy is still out there and still hates us.

For farmers, there was a new reality they needed to deal with after 9/11. Bio-terrorism became the threat: Farmers and ranchers were told by their farm organizations, politicians, and so-called experts that farms and ranchers might be a target. The land, the air, the water, the crops, the animals: Suddenly all became potential targets for extremists who wished to harm lives as well as the economic stability of America.

Last week Cyril Clarke, the new dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University, met with the Capital Press editorial board. Asked how much is bio-terrorism discussed at his college, he quickly replied, “A lot — it’s important.”

If terrorist action happened on farms and targeted animals, it will likely be a veterinarian that will be the first expert on the scene that will make the diagnosis, contact the various state and federal agencies, and work with them to contain the problem.

Clarke said bio-security crosses all three areas of what his college does: Teaching, research and service. “From the context of teaching, in terms of the coursework and preparation of our students to understand issues of bio-security, (it’s) very, very important.”

Clarke said because so many of the infectious agents related to bio-security are diseases that can be spread between animals and people, “veterinarians are very important monitors of the occurrence of those diseases within practice environments, so it is absolutely essential that veterinarians be well-educated in the area of bio-security.”

In the context of research, “We have research projects that involve bio-security issues in terms of contagious diseases.”

But he added that he thinks bio-security is especially relevant to the diagnostic lab. “It is absolutely critical through their diagnostic work in monitoring the occurrence … of these diseases that are bio-security issues.” These include keeping on the lookout for West Nile virus, avian influenza, foot-and-mouth disease and other threats.

For producers of intensive livestock and poultry operations, many have adopted strict bio-security measures to protect their businesses from accidental or intentional disease outbreaks.

However, for many farmers and ranchers, it might seem the danger from terrorists is an exaggeration. This isn’t something they worry about and they have not changed what they might have done six years ago on their farms.

Hopefully they are right, but as long as terrorist extremists are out there, one can never be certain.

Thankfully, they will have their local veterinarians as part of their first line of defence if and when needed.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Google Earth helps search for Steve Fossett

Do you feel a bit unnerved knowing that satellites are spying on us all the time — and the images can be in amazing detail?

Usually a person can check satellite images of their home or farm, but the images are a few months to a few years old. For example, I looked up my house in the city recently. One image still didn’t have houses that were built across the street from me in 2004. But another satellite image provider showed those houses and was probably taken less than a year ago.

I also looked up some farms and was startled how well you could see buildings, machinery in the yard, feedlots, and other property as well as crops. Most of those images were also several months old to more than a year old.

However, the search for Steve Fossett has shown another side of how these satellite images can be used — and how fast an image can be used.

Fossett and his plane disappeared in Nevada last week, and a search for him has turned up eight other plane wrecks but no clue to if and where his plane might have crashed.

Yesterday, the media reported that Google was going to release up-to-date images from its Google Earth software. The images would be of the area where searches are being done for Fossett.

People are now searching through these Google Earth images to see if they can spot what searchers haven’t: A plane wreck that could belong to Fossett.

Of course, the military has said they don’t think these images will turn up anything that their own military satellites hadn’t found. But it will be interesting to see if that is true.

It is with mixed feelings we accept this technology. For friends and family of people who become lost, it is reassuring to know there is another option to help with searches.

For farmers, satellites can be useful production tools if they use GPS on their fields. We also use satellites for other useful applications in our lives, such as communication, weather and navigation.

But for those of us who have been around for a few decades, we grew up suspicious that the Chinese or Russian government satellites were spying on us. We still need to consider whether satellites are spying on our lives. We wonder what they can see, and how they use the information.

Using Google’s technology to find Fossett may sound like a positive application, but perhaps people would feel more comfortable knowing in the future more about how are decisions made about when and how these up-to-date Google Earth images are used.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Where do you call home?

Where do you call home? When someone asks where is home for you, it can be a two-part question: Where do you currently reside, or where are you originally from in life.

Last night, while talking to a clerk at the local grocery store, it struck me that perhaps part of the difference in how we relate to “home” can be whether we were brought up in a rural or urban area.

The clerk mentioned the different places he has lived: California, Colorado, Georgia, Oregon. He commented which places “felt like home” and which ones didn’t, and how Oregon feels closer to being home for him — even though he is originally from somewhere else.

In his case, home is how he may feel at a particular point in time of his life, where he feels his family is accepted, and where he feels there is a lot to keep his family interested in residing there for a few years.

In my case, through the years whenever anyone asks me where is home, I explain I currently live in X city but I always add where I originally grew up. To me, home is attachment to the farm, the land, the community where my family is established. That is home, that is where my heart is, that is a part of me that always remains wherever I may physically move in life.

A lot of my friends who grew up on farms feel similar ties to farms and rural communities that was their original farm. Perhaps growing the crops and caring for several generations of livestock was what gave us roots in those areas.

Besides the land, there are also ties to the people in a rural community. Generations of families grow up knowing each other, working together in the community.

When I talked to my mother in the phone yesterday, she updated me on news of neighbors who have passed away, retired, or moved. They grow older, their health fails them, and they sometimes want to move to places closer to children and grandchildren. However, she pointed out how many of them still remain, even if they sold their land or lease out their fields.

My mother, who has always wanted to live in a city, admitted that she sometimes has second thoughts now about leaving the farm and rural community. “I have so many friends here,” she said. “I’d miss my friends.”

We talked about how in the cities, often people don’t know their neighbors. Or as soon as you know your neighbors, somebody moves out and someone else moves in, not always for the better. I lived once in a bad area of a city where my older brother and I kept a baseball bat by the door to protect ourselves in case anyone tried to kick in the door.

That apartment never felt like home. Nor did so many other places I have lived.

Deep inside, I know where my home always will remain.

The farm.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

A barber shop of horrors

By Kevin Duling

Most of rural USA is close to keeping pace with the urban areas. We can get our Internet via satellite, we can have our movie rentals mailed to us, Starbucks coffee houses are crawling their way into small towns, and the bad cell phone service that urbanites complain about is equally bad out here. There is one area where the city dwellers can out-stride the country folk though; they have choices on where to get their hair cut.

As for myself, my hair used to be nothing more than an annoyance to be dealt with. Now in my mid-thirties, it is much more conceivable for God to have each hair on my head numbered. My number seems to drop every day. I tell myself that I won’t be one of those guys who compensates for the lack of hair up above by growing it on his chin; however, I tell myself many things.

I believe I was in college when my first negative haircut experiences began. I attended a university in a small town where there was one beauty shop and one barber shop. I walked in to the latter and found three barber chairs; two were occupied and one was free. There were five people waiting ahead of me. I asked a couple of them if they were going to take the open seat and they all shook their heads as if I had just offered them some fresh rat poison.

The barber with the open seat looked friendly enough and even invited me into his chair. He introduced himself as Otis and then proceeded to ask some general questions on what to do with my hair. As he began snipping away I was watching the action in the chair over by the door. That barber was moving people through; about one every five minutes. One thing I did notice about all of his victims, they all had the same haircut.

I remember remarking to Otis, “Man, you could play cards on top of that guy’s head, Otis!” Otis just grinned. As Otis was getting close to finishing me up, he asked me if I wanted some sideburn left. Keep in mind this was the timeframe when long sideburns were coming back into style. I sharply replied, “No, thank you!”

As Otis finished up my sideburns, I found myself giggling at yet another flat-top on a now pale-faced kid who I swore was beginning to cry in the chair over by the door. Turning to the mirror to gaze at Otis’ progress, my smirk quickly faded to a callous, blank stare. Inside I was anything but callous and blank.

Apparently, some people’s definition of “sideburns” is much different than others’. I guess Otis defined a sideburn as anything not directly on top of your head. I paid up quickly and determined that as soon as I reached my rig, the hat was going on and it was going to stay on for quite some time. Ever wonder why so many country people wear hats? That’s right!

Back on campus I began to notice some of the haircuts other male students were sporting. “That guy sat by the door, that guy needs to go sit by the door, that guy saw Otis and answered the sideburn question wrong,” etc, etc.

Nowadays, I find myself calling the local beauty shop and scheduling appointments with the local beautician. Not only do I get a higher quality haircut, I get to hear all the rumors that have managed to circulate the town. If I tip her enough, she will even disclose the news items involving me.

For example, just last week I found out I was giving two-step lessons at my house, as well as dating a lady nearly twice my age. Anyone who has ever witnessed me dancing can surely deduce the improbability of me actually being able to perform the two-step, let alone even identifying it. Perhaps that rumor had something to do with my trip to the store the other day in which a lady opened her car door just as I was walking by, striking me in the knee. After dancing on one leg for a brief moment, I smiled at her to let her know I would be just fine. Perhaps I should quit tipping my hair lady so much.

The only trouble I’ve noticed with having a beautician instead of a barber is my haircut quality tends to go hand in hand with her mood. I’ve noticed when other ladies come in during my trim and gossip, (oh, I mean “visit”) my haircut can sometimes get a little skewed to the left or the right. At least I have some sideburn left.

If any of you should ever find yourself in a town other than your hometown and are in desperate need of a haircut, keep in mind if there is a chair open, there is probably a reason. If everyone coming out of a shop looks exactly the same, there is probably a reason and it is completely irrational believing you would fare differently. Lastly, take a long look at the facial expressions of the victims and make sure you have a hat handy in your car.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, September 2007, Kevin Duling

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Heroism comes in many different forms: American Red Cross honors heroes

American Red Cross held this morning its Real Heroes Breakfast in Salem to honor various people — and a canine — that are seen as heroes by their families, co-workers, peers and the general community.

One of the things that stood out was how heroism can be in many different forms. For some, it’s part of their job, such as being a policeman or a police dog. For others, they became heroes when they went beyond their jobs to try to save the life of a stranger or came across a situation not normally in their duties. A hero can also be people who volunteer resources or time to different causes that help the community to be a better place.

The people honored today included home health nurse Tammy Atkin, from Salem, who won a Humanitarian Adult Hero award. While on vacation in New York City, she saw someone fall and recognized that the person was having seizures. She leapt over guardrails and offered first aid treatment as she attempted for 25 minutes to save the man’s life until an ambulance arrived. She later also consoled the man’s wife. While the man still died, Atkin was honored for doing what she did for a stranger.

The Community Partner Hero is Sergeant Rick Igou from Independence, Ore. who does a lot for his community, especially in helping with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. Teams who go through the training can help provide emergency services until professional help arrives — whether it’s an accident, a search and rescue operation or even an earthquake.

Dick and Gayle Withnell received the Spirit of the Red Cross Heroes award for the many community contributions they have provided for a long time to the community. The list of organizations they belong to and offer their time and resources is long, ranging from United Way to the No Meth Task Force to helping foster children. Their motivation, according to the awards program, is to leave the community a better place than when they joined it.

K-9 Deputy Vader wagged his tail as he accepted an award around his neck for being the Animal Rescue Hero. Last year he helped track down a lost three-year-old boy who had wandered off into thick forest. After three hours of tracking, the dog found the boy — nowhere near where other searchers were looking for him.

In the Professional Rescue Heroes category, Troopers Andrew Goffrier and Adam Turnbo were honored for saving the lives of three people who rolled their canoe into the river and nearly drowned as hypothermia began to set in. The troopers are Oregon State Police Officers in the Fish and Wildlife Division, and part of their job was patrolling the Willamette River looking for illegal fishing. Instead, they ended up pulling into their boat the very cold and wet canoeists and even offered their own jackets to keep them warm.

This morning’s stories were mostly ones with happy endings: People had their lives saved by these heroes.

After the breakfast, I thought about the times in rural areas that people help each other out and we don’t recognize or honor them as heroes often enough.

I thought of the time someone saved my older brother when he fell through the ice while ice fishing too close to a truck that had also fallen through the ice.

I recalled the time one of our neighbors had a combine light a crop on fire, as well as the machinery, during harvest. I recall my younger brother and other neighbors racing to save the woman, as well as extinguish the fire and save the crop.

And then there was the time an elderly man in the community — a former school bus driver of mine — got lost while hunting. Neighbors, including my father, searched for several hours until they found the hunter disoriented and dehydrated but alive.

There have been medical emergencies and farm accidents, and I can easily point to several neighbors who used their pickup trucks as ambulances to race people to hospitals an hour or two away.

When automobile, ATV or skidoo accidents have happened, it was usually neighbors who first came upon the scene and offered the first medical help and support people needed.

When bad weather has hit, there have also been neighbors who have gone to check if anyone needed help — whether it was medical attention, to use a chainsaw or snowplow to clear a road, or see what else needed to be done.

I could go on and on. Have any of these people received medals of honor, speeches, or applause for what they did? No, and most people are modest about what they have done. But they remain heroes in the community. Best of all, they made the community feel better to know these are their relatives, neighbors and friends or even strangers that they can depend on when something happens and help is needed.

The Withnells had it right: We should all leave our communities a better place than when we joined them, whether it’s one act of heroism in an emergency situation, or how we live our lives daily supporting those who need our help.

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Land sharks: The return

Does anyone remember the classic "Saturday Night Live" Land Shark sketches?

I don't think this story is quite what Chevy Chase and Co. had in mind.

The senator from the great state of Indecision

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig now says he will stick to his announcement to resign his U.S. Senate seat — probably.

Craig, who was the featured political scandal in the nation last week, announced Saturday he would resign, or so everyone thought. Then this week, as the nation's political reporters were looking for something else to cover as Congress was getting back to work, Craig's attorneys and staff announced Tuesday that he was going to fight to keep his seat.

Now, today comes word that Craig probably won't try to keep his seat, unless he can get his guilty plea for disorderly conduct overturned. Sure, there's a chance that could happen and maybe even a chance his GOP colleagues will forgo the political lynching they were planning and welcome Craig back with open arms.

But the world is still waiting for that off chance that pigs will sprout wings too.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ag Day booth keeps CP staff busy

The State Fair kept some of us busy on the weekend: Saturday was Ag Day and a few of us volunteered to work the Capital Press booth.

Working the booth from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. can be an interesting time of evening. We can watch people stagger out of the pavilion after watching the bullriding events. We saw the long line-ups of people at nearby food booths. And we found ourselves bombarded by important questions like where can people catch taxis, where’s the nearest automated teller and where are the nearest toilets.

It’s nice to have a purpose in life, a reason to feel needed and useful in this day and age.

In our booth, we raised money for our important Newspaper in Education program, which helps get our newspapers into high schools so the next generation can learn about agriculture.

We did different things to raise money: We had a game for kids to pick a floating duck for $1 and win a surprise prize. We sold t-shirts, cookbooks and model trucks. We gave away free bumper stickers and posters. Heck, we would have offered to sing if people would have paid us to do so — or pay us even more to then stop singing.

During the day our staff, as well as guests like spouses and family members that we encouraged to help us, worked the booth and met a lot of great people.

It was wonderful to talk to the little kids, as well helped them play our game or sometimes as we just listened to them as they excitedly told us about what they saw and did that day. Some carried stuffed animals they, or their parents, had won.

“I call this one Fish Stripes,” said one young lad, clutching a big blue fish with red stripes. “Because he has stripes.”

I thought to myself that his parents probably appreciated a nice easy name like that to remember for the future.

His sister also had her prize, a soft teddy bear with sparkly fur.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Sparkles,” she replied, matter-of-factly.

Of course.

There were subscribers who told us how much they loved our newspaper, and let us know if they wanted to renew or buy an ad. Some searched our cookbooks for former recipes they’d seen in the newspaper, while letting us know how much they appreciated a good bread pudding recipe.

One young woman who bought one of our t-shirts had just come the barns where she had shown sheep, and the next day she would be showing Jersey cattle. She didn’t have much time, but definitely wanted to get one of our shirts during her break.

Our most popular item? Our bumper stickers that state: “Have you fed your kid today? Hug a farmer.” The people who wanted these stickers the most? Young guys from farms. Usually they grinned and asked if they could have one, or possibly two stickers, for their half-ton trucks. It was either for both bumpers, or for more than one truck.

One can tell these guys were anticipating a lot of hugs in the future. Well-deserved, of course.

Thanks to everyone who visited our booth on Sept. 1, and especially for supporting our NIE program. If you missed your chance to buy one of our t-shirts or cookbooks, let us know. Contact us (1-800-882-6789) and we’ll gladly sell you these products to get more newspapers into classrooms this fall.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is this the text book definition of political waffling?

Have you heard the latest on Idaho Sen. Larry Craig? Now he's thinking about not resigning.

Agriculture, Idaho and the West will certainly suffer from losing the clout Craig used to have in the Senate, but if he rescinds his resignation, his effectiveness will be shot.

If he want to be a Senator, he should resign as announced, deal with his legal troubles and run for Senate in 2008. If Idahoans are ready to forgive him, they can elect him anew, after this scandal has subsided. But he is of no use to Idaho, agriculture or the West now. He didn't even show up for the Senate's return to work today, and it's not known if he's going to return to Washington at all for work this week.

sheep and fairs

If you're the one of those people who likes to raise livestock, take them to fairs and haul them around the show ring for a little blue ribbon and five minutes of glory, then you will understand this little ramble. It is tough to explain why people do this when they could be relaxing at home- especially when the temperature is over the century mark.

My fair friends have been described as a "little sheep family that travels from fair to fair." That's pretty accurate. Sometimes there are more of us at a fair sometimes less. It's kind of like a PTA meeting. If you don't show up you're sure to get talked about. We all met in Lancaster at the Antelope Valley Fair for one of the last shows of the season over Labor Day weekend. You never know if it is your last fair for the year or not because someone will always try to talk you into going to one more. The AV fair is one of the newest fairgrounds in the state, built about four years ago. The fair decided they needed to have an open sheep show on the last weekend of the fair and sure enough, some of us showed up, even though temperatures were hovering around the 110 degree mark. We quickly discovered why we would come back to this fair- an air conditioned show barn. We didn't want to leave when it was over.

This was a first for us in California. Not that we need air conditioning at Del Mar or Ventura fairs, but it sure would have been nice when we were hauling the sheep into the ring at state fair.

Sheep shows are now more of an all-day affair. You can't really just show your own sheep and then sit in the stands and watch the rest of the show. That's because even though there is a group of us exhibitors, there are way more sheep than people in the barn. And, the number one rule of the barn is: if you want help showing your sheep- an you will unless you've convinced your children to come with you- you need to help other people. That makes for a long day if there are 7 or 8 breeds showing that day and you are helping with all of them. I had the challenge this summer of finding someone to show my sheep at the Puyallup Fair since I couldn't be there. That is where going to previous shows really helps- you know the regulars and don't feel too bad about asking, knowing you will repay them somewhere down the road. Thanks Jake! I heard you and your crew of helpers did a great job- that sheep never won when I was holding it all summer!!

What a difference a year makes

I'm not expert on the commodities markets, nor am I an agriculture economist, so I don't know what the net outcome will be of this year's rapidly rising wheat prices, but wheat rancher have to be happy about the ongoing rise of grain prices.

The futures market for wheat reached the trading limit of a 30-cent upward price swing in the first 5 minutes of trading today and closed above $8 a bushel for the first time ever (see story here).

That's about twice what wheat was trading at at this time last year. So if we use Idaho's wheat forecast as a guide, that would mean a difference of about $324 per acre if the 81 bushels per acre forecast holds up.

That's just rough cyphering, as my grandfather might say if he were still around. And that's not to say that farmers would see all that money either. But it will be a boost to wheat growers who have been struggling under the yoke of very low prices in recent years.

Given global shortages of grain, it's not looking like wheat has yet hit its peak for the year.

Denial of Water Issues may Lead to Future Problems

Government approved loans are getting softer on water requirements.

Joyce Strong, a qualifying broker out of Weiser, Idaho said in California "only 2.5 gallons per minute of water well supply is required for government approved loans in several counties including Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties."

Lowered water requirements make it easier for developers to sanction new construction in dryer areas where normally many banks would require 5.0 gallons a minute well water supply. Homeowners need to do their homework before purchasing a home making such a purchase with such low requirements.

"2.5 gallons is sufficient to take a shower or do laundry, but keeping a lawn green for instance is out of the question." said Strong. Lowered water requirements ultimately could affect the value of the home, increase population density and decrease quality of life standards.

"Often this information does not get sufficient media showcasing because talking about this serious issue [how water is becoming scarce] is a bi-partisan no-no.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Craig's most honest statement: He's a distraction

When Idaho Sen. Larry Craig announced this morning he will resign his position at the end of September, it was an unfortunate end to a politician who had worked mainly in the best interest of the West and agriculture for the past three terms and been in the public service for 33 years.

“I have little control of what people choose to believe,” Craig told a swarm of media as he was surrounded by his family, Idaho’s head of the GOP, Gov. Otter, and a public crowd of supporters as well as protesters.

Craig added he was resigning “with sadness and deep regret” and he apologized “to the people of our great state” that he wouldn’t be able to complete his whole term representing those who elected him.

For many people, it might not be just what they believe, but how they accept his overall handling of the situation in terms of openness and timeliness with his family, his political party and the public.

The public demands and deserves a lot more from its high-profile elected officials.

Craig’s political career spiraled into turmoil this week when is was disclosed he had pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge in a sex sting done June 11 by police in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport men’s room.

When the police released the audio recording of the arresting officer as he confronted Craig after the incident and accused Craig of attempting to solicit gay sex, many believed Craig’s fate was sealed as an exasperated officer bluntly tells the senator that he believes Craig is lying to him and that it was “disgraceful” and “embarrassing.”

Months later, the situation has grown to be more than just embarrassing. It has become political suicide.

“Clearly my name is important to me and my family is very important also. Having said that, to pursue my legal options as I consider to serve Idaho would be an unwanted distraction,’’ he told the press conference.

“These are serious times. The people of Idaho deserve a senator who can devote 100 percent of his time and his effort to the critical issues of our state and the nation.”

This was perhaps the most honest statement heard by the senator in the last week.

He — and the whole sordid mess — have become a big distraction when the nation should be talking about other problems. It’s been two years since Hurricane Katrina, yet many people are homeless, helpless and hopeless. Each day newspaper headlines carry stories of how many more brave American soldiers and Iraqi citizens have perished in a war where no end seems in sight. People in different parts of the nation are attempting to cope with floods, fires and severe drought. We should also be curious who will be appointed to key roles surrounding the president and offering him advice during the rest of his term.

As for agriculture, it loses one of its strongest representatives on issues such as grazing on public lands, forest fires, AgJOBS, the Farm Bill, and so many more relevant to the West.

The Craig case will not disappear soon. Asked if he still denies these accusations, he told a CNN reporter Saturday morning that his legal department would announce more later Saturday, and that he would continue to be “fighting this like hell,” despite the guilty plea he gave against the disorderly conduct.

Shortly after the press conference, President George W. Bush phoned Sen. Craig. The president said it was a difficult decision but wished Craig well, and said it was the right decision that was made to resign. Right for his Idaho constituents, the Republican party, and his family.

“I apologize for what I have caused. I am deeply sorry,” Craig said in his meeting with the press today.

Apologizing might not be enough, as the West and especially the agricultural community scrambles to figure out the ramifications of what it means to lose an influential politician in Washington.

From the Western perspective, it seems like there was a lot more flushed down the toilet that day.

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