Sunday, July 5, 2009

23 June 2009

Today my eyes feast upon farmland: the breadbasket of Washington state. The wheat fields of the Columbia Plateau roll to the horizon dressed in summer green, the sprouts knee high in their young life. I've seen mountains, deserts, canyons, oceans, forests, and mighty rivers, but when I see farmland, I forget all the rest.

I assume this is the result of growing up in semi-rural upstate New York, where most of the cleared land is planted or pasture. The cities and hamlets are surrounded by crops, sweet corn mostly, though other vegetables are planted, too. I distinctly remember scrambling behind a tractor snatching up newly dug potatoes at Botcher's Gardens in Big Flats.

My daughter and I watch a few dust devils miles away. Some are young and vibrant, spiraling in tight formation. Others are old and sloppy, dust falling through the air as the funnels fall apart. This is not something we saw much of in New York, as the soil was heavy with humus. Out here, the loess, or glacial silt, is the reason for the dust. It is also reason for the vast fields of grains that grow in its fertile domain. When the tiny grains break down, they release minerals, making a rich, nutritious soil. But, blow the wind does, and it's common to see a tractor at the head of a large flurry of loess, plowing the vast open fields for planting. And of course, all that open space and wind is the reason for the eddies that grab the dust and dance with it.

So I feast for a small time, bracing myself against the wind and the rest of the road trip that I have just begun. In 9 days I'd be back home after 3000 or so miles and 6 states. And I wonder to myself, how much farm land will I see? Will it be as wide open as this or tucked into contours like fields back home? What will grow there? How will the fields be watered? How, indeed, do farmers make the desert bloom?

Only the miles will tell.

Copyright 2009 Penny L Kjelgaard

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