Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Headbangers Look UP

After looking down a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that we should look up. And so, without any particular plan (The choosers of themes do sometimes have something in mind that will blow us away with their brilliance and give them an edge--yeah, I plead guilty to that occasionally.) Anyway, without any particular plan I proposed that we follow up on my turn with Looking Up. And so, we might expect some uplifting images from our headbanger team this week.

I didn't know what I would encounter this past weekend, though I knew there would be birds, and they would sometimes be UP in the sky. So here we are.

I will start with the second excursion we took at the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival. We went out with dual guides--a knowledgeable agricultural guide and a wildlife guide. Our ag guide had lived in the area since he was a boy and had great stories about how things were before the irrigation came in and changed agriculture in the area. The wildlife guide was pretty knowlegeable about the birds and the habitat in the refuge.

So we saw the cranes, who stop in every spring by the thousands to rest and refuel on their migration from Central California to their nesting areas in Alaska. It is estimated that some 25,000 spend a week or two in the area over the course of six to seven weeks. During the day they feed in the corn fields gleaning the waste corn, and on young wheat and alfalfa and then  they hang out in the Columbia Basin Wildlife Refuge wetlands during the night.
 The cranes did not used to stop. Obviously, before the dams on the Columbia River were built and the water used for irrigation providing an abundant smorgasbord for them and resting space in the refuge, there was no interest. Our guide said that his dad always called them out to hear the cranes fly over--they can be a noisy bunch--but they were often so high that you could not see them. But within the last twenty years or so, they realized what was there and the area became a regular part of their itinerary. the festival has been going on for sixteen years.
Sandhill Cranes flying overhead. The Lesser Sandhill Crane stands about three feet tall and has a wingspan of six feet.

This Redtail Hawk flies alone.   
It was quite a sight.

The previous day, we had enjoyed a tour that was a little unusual, and I certainly didn't expect to take a looking up picture there, unless it was this one I found in the restroom.
The tour was titled Native Seeds and Habitat. Our guide was himself involved in the preparation of commercial seed--mainly split peas. We observed some of the agribusinesses in the area on our way to our main stops. Othello is the center of production of french fries for McDonald's--yes, your Mickey D's fries came from a couple of hours from my home. Other crops in the area are wheat, alfalfa hay, timothy hay, onions, carrots, peas and beans (the dry varieties), beans (the green varieties.) 
Our tour started at BFI Native Seeds  seed cleaning operation. What do you know of what goes into that seed packet you start your garden with? The amazing process starts with gathering the seed from existing plants, cleaning it, storing it and packaging it for distribution. BFI is unique in that the seed it deals with is the native seed of some  90 or more varieties of plants. The plant manager showed us his display of some of the seeds they deal with here.
Those bottles--about the size of a spice bottle at the supermarket--contain anywhere from fifty to half a million seeds of the particular plants--depending on size of the seed.
What a size difference!

Most seed processors gather the seed of commercial crops to process and prepare for the next season's planting. BFI gathers seed in a variety of places around the Northwest, not for commercial crops, but for propagation of plants native to the natural places of the area. They then grow fields of each type to increase the seed lot. Rather than the farms of hundreds of acres of wheat or potatoes, their crops might grow on an acre or two of land. They then harvest and clean the seed from their fields and package and store it for restoration projects and other areas where native plantings are needed.

The machines which they use sift out husks, foreign matter and all variety of stuff. It's rather more complicated than your flour sifter or vegetable strainer at home. I got this shot looking up:
Interesting while we were there, but not as photogenic as you might have thought. These machinery shots are more interesting:

But not looking up. 
Then I got distracted from what the plant manager was explaining about the seed cleaning process--probably why I can't explain it better--and went looking at the other side of this machine to see this tube--looks like my dryer venting but bigger. This machine uses air blown in and --well, yes, I was distracted and didn't get exactly how the air

blowing worked, except you can imagine that it blew out the stuff that was supposed to be discarded.
What was distracting me?
Take a look.
That tube is open at the end.
I wonder...
 What if?????

So, yes, I looked up it--with my camera--No I didn't lie down on the factory floor, though that would have worked, too.
And I got my header picture looking up.
Our tour continued to one of the farms where several varieties of bunchgrass are being grown for seed.

And then out to the Wildlife Refuge where seed from BFI had been used to restore some 1900 acres ravaged by a wildfire about three years ago.

So that is my Looking UP tour. Now that I have it done I think I will go ahead and post it early. You can see what the other headbangers have found when they look up by Wednesday afternoon, and what they found to fool the eye before then. Their links are in my sidebar.


imac said...

Looking Up - Looking Good Kathy, neat idea my friend, we had the same idea but mine weny=t in my post pics and used a different Looking Up. Good show.

imac said...
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Craver Vii said...

That's a fantastic header! I like those lines a lot. You did a great job at finding something interesting for looking up.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Kathy: Fun series of looking up photos, nicely captured my friend.

Lew said...

Glad they did not start pumping seeds down while you were looking up! The cranes are awesome!

Liz said...

The seeds have some wonderful names. Who'd have thought there is so much that goes into the production of a little packet of seeds.