Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

On the way to work, I saw an unsmiling clown with multi-colored frizzled hair driving a pickup and Catwoman (complete with tail and ears) get out of a Honda Civic. I saw a few other stranger sights, but realized on second thought that the people might not have even realized it was Halloween and were just dressing up as they abnormally would.

Some individuals of the latter group were enough to trigger nightmares tonight.

My neighbors and I are not sure how many kids will be on our street later today. Last year, I think we had a grand total of … well, none. We all vowed that if we buy any candy for this year, it would be stuff we liked in case we were forced to eat it ourselves later from the lack of visitors to our doors. That was the grand sacrifice we were all willing to make, and have kindly offered to share our goodies with each other if we must.

Halloween being so quiet is such a change from another city where I lived.

At my house there, I had neighbors who decorated their house with so many decorations that it served as a beacon to attract kids from miles around, and at least a couple hundred kids would also pound on my door and demand to have pillowcases filled with treats. Or else, they threatened — I didn’t dare ask what the “or else” meant.

I took the threats very seriously from the teenagers who carried pillowcases and didn’t bother wearing any costumes or makeup — or the ones who wore pantyhose over their heads and looked like they had just robbed a bank. When the same groups of teenagers would return three or four times, well past 11 p.m. and long after they developed several runs in their pantyhose stocking faces, I did what any other sane adult would do.

I shut off all the lights in the house and hid in the basement in the dark until morning could save me.

Back on the farm, my parents tell me they have remained on par with other years in the amount of trick-or-treaters they get to their door.

A grand total of … well, none.

Oh sure, there were years I recall our family optimistically waiting to see if anyone would drive into our driveway with bundled up goblins, cowboys and superheroes. There were years where we actually saw a few of them in our yard.

Usually it was at the end of October that the first real snowstorm hit, so no matter how much time and effort went into kids’ costumes, they all looked the same by the time they knocked on people’s doors: like bundled up little Michelin men.

But because our farm was off the beaten path (gravel roads was more our path), fewer kids would show up each year.

It finally reached the point where my father declared we should no longer waste money purchasing any Halloween treats.

Instead, should any kids come, he would give them a dollar bill each.

In the first couple years after the declaration, he gave away only a dollar or two each Halloween.

But now they’ve had several years where Dad hasn’t even had to bother taking out his wallet. No vehicles have bothered to find our house on the prairies.

Oh well. The Halloween holiday gives us a good excuse to eat a lot of pumpkin goodies, watch Charlie Brown classic cartoons on TV, and incorporate mini-chocolate bars as part of our regular diet until at least Thanksgiving.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tough to find spouses on the farm

I admit it. I read the story about the farmer who has tried to find a spouse for several years, including posting a "girlfriend wanted" sign on the window of his pickup truck for the past seven years.

(Obviously, you would think any vehicle known as a "pickup" should help ... but I digress...)

Charlie Langdon, the grass seed farmer from Harrisburg, Ore., thinks perhaps it's partly because he's short (at 5-foot-1) that he hasn't had many dates in all this years.

As I read his story, I thought about probably the bigger problem: a shortage of women who want to marry farmers, especially in more isolated areas.

I only need to think about my youngest brother, near 40, who lives with my parents and works incredible hard with them to keep the family farm going after my older brother and I moved away. My older brother occasionally returns to help out; it is rare now that I can return to help with the busiest seasons.

Whenever I am home, a common theme emerges. My parents wish my brother would find someone to settle down with and help him with the chores of farming crops and cattle; and my brother explains that there are so few women even within a 40-mile range of where they live.

While there are parts of the world where urban sprawl is gobbling up farmland and rural areas continue to grow, there are other places — like where I grew up — where rural depopulation is happening. Schools have closed, grocery stores are gone, post offices no longer exist, and any businesses or services are many miles away. There are a lot less social events to meet new people.

Among those who are left in the community, especially anywhere near the age of my brother, there are also all too many cases of marriages that have fallen apart as urban women who marry into farm families have discovered the workload and isolation in rural communities to be too much. Often the men or women are also being forced to find off-the-farm employment, gone anywhere from hours to even days at a time because of shiftwork, and that adds extra strain on the marriage.

They drift apart from their husbands, they move away, and sometimes the farms fall apart as parcels of land are split up in messy divorce settlements.

So my younger brother remains dateless and works from sunrise until long past sundown, helping our family as well as neighbors. Last week, he helped several neighbors who rushed to still get in the last of their crops before November's rains and snow fall.

I sympathize with these guys like my brother and Charlie in Harrisburg. It isn't easy to find that special someone who understands the farm and rural lifestyle.

However, for those of us who grew up on or still live on farms, we cherish our ties to the land and that lifestyle of nurturing new life from the land or livestock each year. Having someone to share it with — the work, as well as the successful completion of the cycle of life each year — really helps to make it all worthwhile.

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Here's your sign

I'm generally not one for making predictions, but I'll make an exception today. I predict that one of the most read stories on today will be a story about a grass seed farmer who's looking for a girlfriend.

We picked up the story from the Associated Press wire, and AP picked it up from the Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore. (you can read the Register-Guard's version by Karen McCowan here).

There are lots of stories on our website today, including updates on the grain and ag futures markets, a follow-up on the damage to ag land in the Southern California wildfires, but I would not be at all surprised if the most-read story turns out to be a farmer who's just looking for love and not afraid to advertise that fact while making his way down the road.

Good luck Chuck, and if you find someone, let me know if she has a single sister. And if you've got a computer, you might want to try another high-tech option that caters to farmers, which I wrote a column on back in August of 2005.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bee buzz finally catching on

Maybe someone should get Multnomah County (Ore.) Commissioner Jeff Cogen and his staff a subscription to the Capital Press. On Cogen's chief of staff, Marissa Madrigal's blog this morning she has a post about the threat Colony Collapse Disorder posed to America's honeybee population and the crops they pollinate. She learned about the potentially significan impact of the threat while watching PBS's Nature series on TV.

The mysterious affliction plaguing bees has been covered extensively in the Capital Press and on, including this most recent story about the upcoming convention this weekend of beekeepers in Oregon. It seems hardly a week goes by without something about the issue appearing in at least one of our four editions.

But covering the issues of bee health are nothing new to Capital Press. On my desk is a mounted version of the Capital Press from Oct. 26, 1984, and on the front page stories has the headline, "Mites pose bee threat."

Now that PBS is on the story, maybe people outside of agriculture are starting to catch on and pay some attention.

Note: This post has been updated to correct who wrote the blog post on Commissioner Cogen's staff.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Picky about picking

Lars Larson, not exactly known for his nuanced political views, has been getting a lot of airtime out of illegal immigration lately. So much so that Oregon Association of Nurseries Executive Director John Aguirre set things straight in the October edition of Digger:

[Lou] Dobbs and Larson like to chant, “What don’t you understand about illegal? Illegal is illegal.” This calculated rhetoric is meant to shift the reference point of their listeners — from viewing immigrants not as people, but as dangerous criminals. This type of speech supports other tools of the propagandists: appeals to fear and to prejudice. Larson and Dobbs argue that immigrants generate a disproportionate amount of mayhem and violent crime. Dobbs said on his show that illegal immigrants represent one-third of inmates in the federal prison system. But, according to the U.S. Justice Department, 6 percent of prisoners in this country are noncitizens, compared with the 7 percent they represent of our total population.
Aguirre was invited to call in to Larson's show, but he didn't get to say much, though he did invite Mr. Larson to try working eight hours in the fields.

Up until recently, every planting season in Cambodia government officials would be sent out into the paddies to transplant rice shoots. Even children in elementary school were sent out to help plant their teachers' fields.

If such a plan were instituted in Oregon, except radio hosts were asked to work in the field alongside court clerks, I think there would be far less opposition to loosening up immigration.

Spring, summer, winter and elk season

By Kevin Duling

To Central Oregon farmers and ranchers, there are three seasons: The hot season, the cold season and elk season. Spring and fall are pretty much non-existent around here. Winter goes right into summer, summer right into winter, and so forth.

One of the great joys in this business is getting the last acre seeded and heading to the mountains for a week of elk hunting. For me, it’s more like elk hiking, as the elk are a bit more elusive these days. Either that or my adult attention deficit disorder doesn’t allow me to remember what I’m out looking for.

Many city folk who work their 40-hour weeks have nothing better to do than prepare for elk season. They pile into their $40,000 pickups pulling their $30,000 trailers specifically designed for hunters. With the “last acre seeded” date a yearly unknown, we’ve had as long as 10 days to prepare for elk season and as little as 2 hours.

To properly enjoy elk season, one has to have the proper amenities available for camping in the mountains in November. We’ve had elk seasons when T-shirts have been worn and elk seasons when your boots have frozen to the trailer floor, even with the heater on. Meaning, bring everything in your house to make sure nothing is forgotten.

Our camp trailers were manufactured in the 1960s. I’ve never been a real fan of vintage equipment. After spending 10 years in these hunting trailers, I’m really not a fan of vintage equipment. Lighting the propane pilots can be a real adventure. “Hey Kevin, was it the top or the bottom hole to light the furnace pilot?”

“Well, let’s see Bob (my cousin/cpa/hunting partner), if I remember right it was the…”


“Are you OK Bob? By the way, was it the top hole or the bottom? We need to remember that for next year. We wouldn’t want to risk someone doing that wrong.”

Speaking of the furnace, I’m guessing the internal pollution standards have changed some since 1964. We do tend to sleep much better when the heater is on, compared to the warm nights when heating is not necessary.

Elk season would not be complete without our camp cook. In the other two seasons he is our mechanic and good friend. Every morning at 5 a.m. sharp, breakfast is ready. There is nothing better than a pancake, a piece of ham and a fried egg on opening morning.

On the second morning of elk camp, we get a pancake, a piece of ham and a fried egg. I suppose it’s wise to have a large breakfast if I’m going to be hiking all day. The same goes for the third morning. My body is used to an apple and an energy bar for breakfast, so there are some side effects to the elk camper breakfast.

As the week progresses, the pancakes seem to get bigger and heavier. Our cook is quite sensitive, so it is offensive to him if every last bite is not consumed. Bob has learned that he can grab my plate and stuff his unfinished plate underneath, then give it back to me.
I, the accomplice, don’t find that nearly as amusing as he does.

When the elk trailers are not in use, I have discovered my female friend has some concerns about them. Apparently, they do not qualify for the “aesthetic level” necessary to meet her barnyard regulations. I find it strange she would have barnyard regulations when she doesn’t live here yet.

I’ve explained to her, “Maybe someday we could take one of these trailers camping in the hot season up to a cool mountain lake.”

Her response: “When you explain to me why Bob always has a burned ring below his right eye after every elk season, I will think about it.”

Kevin will not have a post on Nov. 2, 2007, because of elk season. Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog on Friday’s. Comments are welcomed at .

Copyright, October 2007, Kevin Duling

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Goat Caper

Luckily the day changed from very rainy to almost dry on Saturday. That’s because my husband and I spent the entire afternoon running around the neighborhoods of South Salem chasing a trio of goats. They had gotten out of their fenced area at the Unity church on Fabry across from Safeway. That fenced area had kept in goats for several years. Who knew that goats could jump high enough to get on the barn roof to walk to their freedom? Worried that they would cause an accident on some busy street, we tried frantically to at least keep them on the Unity church property. They were too wily for that, so we trekked across fields and residential neighborhoods trying to get them back. At one point we thought we had them trapped and they went right over us and proceeded to trot to a new subdivision. Along the way we picked up three or four new members of our posse to help out. From one subdivision to another we went, crossing busy roads in the process. We were almost to the freeway. Sometimes we lost track of them and had to cruise the neighborhoods to catch sight of them again. Finally we spotted them on Battlecreek Road – a pretty busy road – with cars stopped in both directions for them. They veered off into a driveway that had a gate and we thought we had them! Not!

Well, we tried to go at them from all directions, which herded them to an area behind the house. Some of us went on one side and some on the other side. Where were the goats? I was stumped until the owners of the house informed us that they had jumped inside the house to the pantry and the owners closed the door. Well, that netted us two of the three. After tying up the two, some of the posse went chasing after the third goat, which had slipped through the gate and was back in the neighborhoods. That chase finally ended when the silly goat tried to jump through a fence and got her horns stuck.

Too bad there is such a long waiting list for slaughterhouses right now. The goats are locked tight into a 12 x 12 stall and won’t see the light of day again.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Caught in the firestorm

It may be a little difficult to understand the shear magnitude of the damage and disruption to lives being caused by the wildfires burning in Southern California.

The most recent accounts indicate that 350,000 homes have been evacuated. But what does that mean? Well, for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, image if the entire city of Seattle or Portland were evacuated. But if Seattle were evacuated, the city's residents would need to get about 80,000 more homes from the suburbs to go with them (Seattle had 270,000 housing units according to the 2000 Census). If Portland were evacuated, it would need more than 100,000 addition suburban homes to join the caravan (Portland had 237,000 housing units in the 2000 Census).

Or, to look at it another way, the city of New Orleans, so ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, had about 215,000 homes and about a half a million residents in the city proper.

Of course, not everyone evacuated from the California fires will lose their homes, but the magnitude of the displacement of people, their pets and in many cases their livestock, will create problems beyond just the brutal destruction caused by the flames.

Look for continuing coverage on the disaster at This week's edition on Oct. 26 will include details about some of the fires' effects on agriculture and livestock.

Click here for a video from Associated Press about how people are coping with the firestorm.

Metro New Holland circles up tractors for new advertising venue.

In preparation for a new skyscraper advertising campaign on, the folks at Metro New Holland circled up their tractors last week for a birds eye photograph.

Skycraper advertising was newly introduced to Capital Press advertisers several weeks ago. "Already such space is becoming close to a sellout." said Melody Ross, account representative. Skyscraper advertising [tall vertical banner advertising] can be found on most any page on the right hand side of the Capital Press website.

Pictured above is Metro New Holland office manager Sarah Ferguson taking a the photographs. (Photo of her by Rick Thomas, Metro Sales Department). Sarah's resulting photographs are below. Having been a former pole climber for Comcast [being accustomed to heights], Sarah was volunteered to "get the picture" for Metro New Holland's new advertising campaign.

Metro New Holland is located at 29685 NW West Union Road in North Plains, Oregon .

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Monday, October 22, 2007

California homeowners hamper fire fighting efforts

Wildfires can be the great equalizer.

As of this afternoon, 250,000 people were being evacuated because of California wildfires. This includes homeowners, hospital patients, school children, jail convicts and Hollywood stars.

It doesn’t matter whether you live in an opulent Malibu castle, or in the most modest of mobile home parks, when fire hits you can potentially lose everything, not just valuables but also items of precious memories or with sentimental ties.

It also doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are: when you’re told to evacuate, you must do it as quickly as possible.

California’s wildfires in the last few days have shown what can be some of the challenges when fire moves quickly with almost hurricane-strength winds and people aren’t prepared, or people feel so tied to their property that they put their lives and the lives of others in danger.

According to an Associated Press story, stubborn homeowners became a problem. “In many cases, crews couldn’t begin to fight the fires because they were too busy rescuing residents who refused to leave, fire officials said.”

AP quoted fire official Bill Metcalf, chief of the North County Fire Protection District: “They didn't evacuate at all, or delayed until it was too late. And those folks who are making those decisions are actually stripping fire resources.”

Wildfires are nothing new, but the California fires have drawn international attention because of how swift the fires spread and where the fires are — such as the nicknamed billion dollar beach in Malibu — and who is affected.

Hopefully when the smoke has disappeared and people are allowed to return home, no matter where they live they will retain the lessons learned from this tragedy on how more needs to be done to prevent fires, and that everyone needs to be prepared for if and when a fire comes again.

Firefighters shouldn’t have to risk their lives to save people who, through stubbornness and wanting to protect possessions, may have risked many other lives — including their own.

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Drying out the West

The New York Times Magazine has cast its gaze beyond Newark to take a look at water politics in the West. The thrust of the article is that — whether you believe it’s climate change or a natural cycle — the West is getting drier, but the number of thirsty residents is exploding. The Colorado River, which supplies water to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California, is limited, but all those states are growing dramatically. Looking at historic evidence from the Southwest of decades-long “megadroughts,” Aurora, Colo., municipal water manager Peter Binney warns of the potential consequences:

What that would mean today, he said, is that states would have to make a sudden choice between agriculture and people, which would lead to bruising political debates and an unavoidable blow to the former. Binney says that as much as he believes that some farmers’ water is ultimately destined for the cities anyway, a big jolt like this would be tragic. “You hope you never get to that point,” he told me, “where you force those kinds of discussions, because they will change for hundreds of years the way that people live in the Western U.S. If you have to switch off agriculture, it’s not like you can get back into it readily. It took decades for the agricultural industry to establish itself. It may never come back.”

Other experts go on to discuss the specific fallout of a prolonged — or even permanent — drought: disappearing agricultural communities, devastated tourist industries, wildfires feeding on diseased forests, and bigger mansions for lawyers.

Some 30 million people depend on that water [in the Colorado River] ... An almost unfathomable legal morass might well result, with farmers suing the federal government; cities suing cities; states suing states; Indian nations suing state officials; and foreign nations (by treaty, Mexico has a small claim on the river) bringing international law to bear on the United States government.

It just goes to show the world won’t end with a bang or a whimper, but with a lawsuit.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

'Safety First' sounds good on paper, lacking in practice

By Kevin Duling

Is it me, or does OSHA know just exactly when to show up? I believe I was standing underneath a raised implement replacing a point. Dad was at the grinder working on a piece of metal and my brother was using the cutting torch on another piece of machinery.

None of us were doing jobs considered unsafe. It’s the way we were doing them. First, I was underneath a raised implement without the hydraulic guard keeping the implement up. Second, Dad was grinding away without gloves or goggles, and lastly, my brother was cutting metal without gloves or a visor.

I know what you are thinking: “You guys aren’t very smart are you?” I don’t think “smarts” is the problem. I believe farmers fall closer in line with reality. Yes, something bad could have happened to all three of us, but most farmers understand that sometimes it is rational to be ignorant.

Feel free to throw the first stone if you have not done any of those things. The American society has evolved where risk is supposed to be erased. For example, when a car drove off the curve, it was not considered the driver’s fault. A guard rail had to be installed to prevent that from happening again.

Next time, a car hit the guard rail and the driver hit his head. With that came the seatbelt. A car hit the guard rail again and the driver still hit his head. With that came the air bag. Again, a car hit the guard rail and this time the passenger hit her head. Hence, the passenger air bag.

I always have to laugh at the “passenger airbag” button on the dashboard. How many arguments have taken place between a woman and a man because of the optional passenger air bag?

The man, wanting to provide for his family, disengages the passenger bag in case he hits a deer while he’s by himself, not wanting to pay the $3,000 to reinstall the airbag. The man forgets about the button when he picks the woman up. The woman notices the disengaged air bag and the couch is in his immediate future.

We recently purchased a combine. It is not brand new, but it’s close. One of our traditions is to start the separator and header each morning and give everything a really good look before starting the day. We have found many potential break-downs by doing this.

The new combine has a safety feature. If you get out of the seat, everything stops. I suppose it’s not too bad as long as there is more than one of us present, but what about the times out in the field when you thought you heard a small “thunk”? Some of our modern safety features are fine on paper, but highly annoying in the real world.

I would guess every safety feature came about because something bad happened. Recently, I heard a radio commercial telling us how to cook a hamburger. How have humans managed to survive this long without that kind of knowledge?

I can’t imagine a horse and buggy being a safe means of travel. I’m sure they didn’t have seatbelts and airbags. Shocks probably weren’t very good either. Losing the brakes would depend on snakes, the weather and what you fed the horse yesterday.

I have a picture of a team of 12 horses pulling a grain combine with seven men on it. If only OSHA was in service back then. It would seem tough to accomplish the job while constantly trying to wear a seatbelt while running the bagger. Also, the 105 degree days would be mighty unpleasant while wearing a helmet, ear plugs, goggles, and a dust mask.

The good news was the OSHA guy was lost when he arrived on our farm. He was actually looking for our neighbor (poor guy). The bad news is we gave him the correct directions to our neighbor’s house. My neighbor gave me quite a glare when I yelled, “Remember, safety first!!” out the car window the next day.

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

Copyright July 2007, Kevin Duling

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Jack-of-no trades

By Kevin Duling

Farmers and ranchers all have unique attitudes. Some are optimistic, some pessimistic, most are a little of each at any given moment. In college, I found the derivation of such attitudes in the agricultural sector very interesting. Just how exactly did we become like this?

After college, I knew it would be important to incorporate the commodity market into our marketing plan to hedge important prices. After a couple successful years of hedging, I grew a bit cocky. A businessman friend of mine asked the question to me, “Why farm when you can make that much money trading commodities?”

With that in mind I proceeded to put as much money as I could into my commodity account. After doing a little homework, the perfect trade appeared. Something about the cash cattle trade from the packing house yadda, yadda, yadda.

In short, by buying August cattle in June, it was a winning trade working over 85 percent of the time, unless corn prices were too high, beef demand was slow, or sunspot activity was higher than normal causing the cattle to become lethargic, thus gaining more weight than anticipated.

My broker informed me if the cash cattle traded at 75, my trade was a guarantee. On that Tuesday, the USDA report showed cash cattle trading at 76! That was one more than we expected! We were going to make a killing!

As the futures market opened, I gleefully made the call to my broker. He said we were up for a bit, but something happened and we were now down the limit. How could that be? It was a guarantee? My stomach sank as I told my broker to get me out of the trade before all of my money was gone. As it turned out, there was an E-coli outbreak in Missouri, which caused the market to drop for one day, then go limit-up the next four.

At this time, crude oil was trading at $11 per barrel and it surely wouldn’t go much lower than that, right? My broker informed me that jumping into a different market right after a big loss is usually not a good sign. “But crude oil is at $11”, I snapped back.

The good news was that $8 crude oil had the farm diesel price at 60 cents per gallon! This was the first sign that I was becoming a true farmer. Optimism in the face of disaster.

The weather is one other subject that gets gently massaged into an agricultural producer’s mind. In college, I was hired by one of the nation’s top elite firefighting crews. The thrill of the job would be great, but I was also guaranteed at least 600 hours of overtime, making my next year in college to surely be a lavish one.

After the wettest summer in Pacific Northwest history, my 18 hours of overtime allowed me the luxury of three new textbooks. I remember stating I would never fight fire again.

Upon graduation, my father informed me there was acreage available and room for me to move home. Banking sounded boring, firefighting was only seasonal, so home we went.

With the winter as our slow time, it was the perfect opportunity for me to purchase a season pass to the local ski resort. There were great savings to be had with all purchases before November 1st. I found solace by telling myself that good ski seasons will often start in January.

As March approached my solace was destroyed by a letter from the ski resort stating there would be no refunds on season passes, but they would give a 10 percent off coupon for all resort merchandise, if the resort opens this year.

As a seasoned professional agricultural producer, I find my attitude to waiver only when it’s too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry, or somewhere in between. On a more positive note, if I get married again someday, I’m going to have an outside wedding in late April. The weather always cooperates in late April.

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

Copyright June 2007, Kevin Duling

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Any comments on Measure 49?

If you want to get your viewpoint into Capital Press about Measure 49 in the upcoming fall election in Oregon, now's the time to send in your thoughts via e-mail.

Ballots are being sent out soon to voters, and we've been trying to publish as many letters to the editor and guest comments as we can on the subject. This week we added an extra opinion page to get some of these in before people vote.

Depending on how much more mail we get, we may expand our opinion section more in upcoming weeks.

One of the thing that becomes clear is how split Oregon is on the issue. Land use has always been one of the most heated, passionate discussions for people of this state, and especially among farmers. There are those who want to save as much farmland as possible for future generations, and those who argue that farmers should have the freedom to do what they want with their land — whether it's to build extra houses for additional family members, or sell off parts or all of their land to housing developments, strip malls, or others who may be interested in the precious land here on the West Coast.

Tomorrow a few of us are traveling to Portland to talk to some of the people quite involved in Measure 49, on both sides. We want to hear from those who introduced the measure, as well as those who are most against it. This will provide fodder for our editorial that will be published on Oct. 19 to let people know where we stand on the issue.

However, we encourage people to continue sending in their thoughts to us. If we can't get them all in the newspaper, we can publish them in our opinion section of our website.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Just call me trapper...

Just call me Trapper.

Who would have thought I would need to move into a city to become a successful trapper of wild animals. I had grown up in a family of hunters, trappers and fishers: I’m the type of person that carries a fishing rod and reel in the back of my car wherever I go.

But I usually left trapping to my father and brothers.

However, welcome to Salem. Who would have imagined there would be so many wild animals around? We have deer bringing their fawns into our backyard to nibble on any freshly-planting bulb plants and nestle in for the night under a large evergreen tree.

Raccoons have made us part of their weekly visiting tours of the neighborhood. Nutria occasionally wandered into the area. Opossums have really started to hang out in our yard, several of them taking turns to climb over our deck furniture to see if there is any leftover cat food goodies spilled around from other critters. Squirrels love running along our fences, up the trees, and scamper over our house roof several times a day … before they leap several feet to tree branches.

Needless to say, this wildlife party needed to be stopped. The midnight snacks for them were starting to get expensive. When I would adjust the times of when our cat’s food was outside, the animals changed their habits of finding the food. Nocturnal animals switched their wanderings faster than humans adapt to the fall time change. At times, it seemed like a revolving door at our place, where I would chase away one animal in time to see another waddling, hopping, crawling or simply meandering curiously into the yard. I swear they had a code they shared among each other: one would divert my attention, another would dash to the food bowl.

Borrowing a cage trap from a neighbor, I became … the Trapper. I learned how to set the trap, what was the best bait, and when to set it.

We promptly caught one of our cats twice, and another of our cats once. The first time the younger cat was caught — while he still a young kitten — our horrified neighbors that the cat was dead. There it was, an orange furball with its eyes closed, and all four legs stuck in the air.

As she hurried to what she thought was its corpse, she heard … snoring. Yes, the kitten, tired of playing within it trap, had simply tuckered itself out and fell asleep in that position. It wasn’t until Rusty yawned that my neighbor realized all was well and it was safe to tell me she had caught the cat.

It took a few months, but eventually we managed to keep the cats out and started to catch the wild animals.

To date, four opossums have been kindly relocated to new homes. I have had a chance to study them closely, including their rat-like tales, their long claws, their strange ears and noses and how they like to open their mouths to hiss at enemies. And that was before I trapped them. I discovered they really needed to be trapped, because gentle persuasion such as yelling “shoo”, spraying water at them and poking them with a long broom handle does nothing to make them move. They just open their mouths, hiss, and cling even tighter to the furniture they’re clinging on to that evening with those claws.

I figured at least with the trap, I offered them a decent last meal or two before we carted them away.

About 6 a.m. this morning, I discovered a new visitor in the trap. In the dark of morning, I carried a flashlight and noticed the trap door was shut. I was just about to round the corner of the house to take a better look at what was in the cage when I saw the flash of black fur with a white stripe. The tail was raised toward me, warning me not to come closer.

I hastily backed up. My family — and especially our farm dogs — had enough experiences with skunks in the past that I didn’t need a second warning.

So now I had a new challenge.

What does one do with a skunk after catching it? I admit it. I hadn’t thought through that part as well as I probably should have when I first began trapping the animals.

I soon discovered with a bit of quick research in the phone book and online that the days of the city or county helping get rid of wildlife pests is long gone. Instead, private pest control people exist and warn people on their websites about how they’re very expensive, but they deserve to be paid as high as electricians and plumbers for their specialty skills they need to get rid of your pests. That is never a good sign to see people warn you they’re going to be very expensive prior to even doing an estimate to shock you with their high prices.

I also researched the animals we’ve had as visitors, and how often and how numerous are their litters of offspring. Add a couple hundred dollars or more for each critter captured if it is helped by pest control … and this could cost more than the monthly mortgage. My three cats and I might become the new scavengers to survive.

Meanwhile, at work I chatted with some people about how does one get rid of skunks. Of course, it led to the next topic of conversation: how does one get rid of the skunk odor after you accidentally get sprayed from trying to get rid of skunks. Seems one problem usually follows the other.

Consensus seems to be that you can forget whatever you heard about tomato juice getting the odor out of your clothes or off you or even to help your pets. Burn the clothes, shave the pets, and become a hermit for a couple of months seemed to be the collective opinion of wise people here.

Fortunately, I have great neighbors. When they heard about my recent trapping success, they offered to escort the skunk to a new home. Last I heard, they covered up the cage ith a blanket and carried off the skunk to their truck…

Tonight, I think I better go thank them gratefully for their brave help. I might carry over some tomato juice and matches, too, just in case.

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Trading in rumors

The more I learn about the way stocks and commodities markets function, the more it strikes me as a cross between legalized gambling and a junior high school lunchroom. Everyone seems to be playing for high stakes based on the prevailing gossip of the day.

Take for example the recent run-up on wheat and other commodity prices. Wheat futures approached $10 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, and wheat prices topped $10 per bushel in the Portland grain market, because buyers and traders were worried about the global supply of grain due to wheat problems in places like Australia. But lately, the futures prices have started dropping.

Why? Because the U.S. dollar is getting stronger against foreign currencies, thus making it more expensive for other countries to import U.S. goods. But global grain supplies haven't suddenly improved.

What's most interesting is that the price swings have for wheat have been dramatic. There is a 30-cent per day limit on price swings on wheat, which was huge when wheat was trading about $4 per bushel, but now at $8, $9 or $10 per bushel, those swings aren't as massive, but the fact that the trading limits have been reached several times in recent weeks is quite interesting.

Got to love those folks on the trading floors of the major U.S. markets. They are nothing if not melodramatic. Maybe that comes from having a job that forces you to stand in a pit and shout at people and gesture wildly to get noticed in flurries of activity and make financial decisions based on who is whispering what about whom.

I can't help but chuckle and scratch my head. The more I learn about how all that financial stuff works, the more it makes absolutely no sense to this simple ol' country boy. It makes about as much sense as social dynamics among teens and preteens. Just because the people involved are wearing expensive business suits doesn't change how silly it all looks to an outsider.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Brown bag fever

Some say laziness is the catalyst for creativity. I disagree. I would argue that preparing a lunch for your lunch box six days per week is a much greater catalyst.

A few years back, we had a bridge go out on our farm. Bridge building is a genetic that seemed to have passed right over my family. There was a local handyman who was up for the task of building us a bridge (Oops, I mean repairing. The county gets a little excited about things like that).

The amazing thing about this handyman was his routine. Every morning at 8 a.m. we would start work. At 10 a.m., it was time for a fifteen minute break and an apple with his coffee. At noon sharp, it was time for lunch.

Lunch for him was always the same: A peanut butter sandwich, a small bag of Lays regular potato chips, coffee, and two chocolate chip cookies. The bridge took close to five weeks to build (repair). Every day included the same exact lunch.

I approached this man and asked, “Do you ever tire of the same lunch every day?”

He replied, “I need to think about my job, not my food, Kevin.”

“You don’t ever crave a roast beef or ham sandwich instead of peanut butter?” I inquired.

He sharply responded, “My job requires me to focus. I want this bridge perfect. Routines are good.”

I, for one, do not like sandwiches. I eat out of a lunchbox six days per week and I’m not a little fellow. This creates a problem. What’s a 200 pound man like me supposed to eat? I know what you are thinking: “Obviously, if you are 200 pounds, you must be finding something!”

Sandwiches are a nuisance, but they seem to be a necessary evil. I unenthusiastically pack one every day. Unlike the handyman, I do vary things as much as possible.

Some days, my work partners and I will be working close by at noon and we will have a lunch conference under the nearest juniper tree. I have found it is hard to look manly while eating a prepackaged strawberry jello. It is even more difficult when I forget my spoon.

A cattle rancher friend invited me to help him fix a stretch of fence a few winters back. He told me to bring my lunch and that we had to pack it in a mile, so pack lightly.
Naturally, I loaded my backpack up with the normal amenities, such as a coke, a sandwich, chips, jello, a bag of almonds, an apple, cookies, a piece of pie, (I believe this is the North Beach Diet) and last, but certainly not least, toilet paper.

When noon came, I curiously watched as my friend built a campfire. “How nice!” I thought to myself. As he opened a small white bag and began putting pieces of meat on a stick, my warm thoughts started turning to jealousy. As he added barbeque sauce while roasting the meat over the fire, visions of my dog begging at the dinner table for just a small scrap went through my head.

“I don’t care for sandwiches.” He remarked.

Yeah, me neither.”

As I said earlier, creativity is spawned by necessity and want. Sitting on a tractor for ten hours per day, six days per week, gives you plenty of time to think up lunch solutions.

I have been known to put soup in a thermos on the cold days. Cold chicken fajitas are great on the warm days. Taco salads are great, but very difficult to fit into a lunch box. Unfortunately, time does not always allow for me to be creative with my lunch.

I suppose I could pack a peanut butter sandwich and an apple every day. Does that mean I would have to start thinking about my job?

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

Copyright June 2007, Kevin Duling

Monday, October 01, 2007

An udderly different reality show

If this fall's TV lineup of urban-based comedies and dramas or psuedo-reality programs don't whip your cream, you might want to check out "Big Udder".

Billed as the "most absorbing reality show to hit the small screen," Big Udder takes its cameras onto a dairy farm in Somerset, England.

The website features digital pinup of the castmates, I mean herdmates, and get details about the Jersey and Guernsey cows that are the stars of the show.

The website went live last week and intends to broadcast live 24-hour feeds for 12 months.

According to a BBC story, the man behind "Big Udder" is a farmer by the name of Dom Lane.

Above is an image from the "Big Udder" website of the show's host, Davina McCow.

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