Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Caution: Road Race Ahead

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
Participants start near Ely and race 90 miles on a closed section of highway.

Participants start near Ely and race 90 miles on a closed section of highway.

Silver State Classic Challenge takes over a stretch of Nevada Highway 318 for a weekend of racing

A need for speed draws hundreds of drivers to the small town of Ely, Nevada, every September to participate in the Silver State Classic Challenge. This year’s race is September 17-20.

The first Silver State Classic Challenge was in 1988. It has since become an international draw and economic boost to the local economy, and it spawned a sister race on the same stretch of highway called The Nevada Open Road Challenge held each May.

“Both the Silver State Challenge and The Nevada Open Road Challenge have had an immeasurable impact on our community,” says Ed Spear of the Ely Tour and Recreation Board. “Currently, we are seeing a $1.4 million impact.”

The 90-mile open-road race is run on a closed section of Highway 318. Racers start at timed intervals to allow for a clear course.

Shutting down 90 miles of a state highway isn’t easy, especially for the first-ever legal open-road rally of its kind in the United States in half a century. In 1988, the president of the White Pine County Chamber of Commerce, Ferrel Hansen, and other organizers needed powerful support. They went to Robert Alan “Bob” Cashell, former lieutenant governor of Nevada, to ask for his help.

Armed with evidence of potential economic opportunities, organizers garnered Bob’s support and that of three additional counties, making history as they received approval from the state of Nevada to close the highway.

That first race drew 50 drivers.

As with any successful event, the open-road challenge grew in popularity. By 2000, the event was drawing more than 200 racers and attracting competitors from across the world.

Fast cars are on display at the Silver State Classic Challenge in Ely, Nevada.

Fast cars are on display at the Silver State Classic Challenge in Ely, Nevada.

The event attracts a mix of automobiles in part thanks to positive publicity in well-known publications, such as Motor Trend and Auto Week.

In 2001, the race was accepted into the Guinness World Book of Records for highest speed on a public highway and fastest road rally.

In 2012, during the event’s 25th year, driver Jim Peruto broke both Guinness World Records with an average speed of 217 mph and a finish time of 24:49 minutes driving a modified 2006 Dodge Charger. The fastest time recorded during the original race in 1988 was 162.58 mph by driver Jim Liautad Jr. in a 1988 Ferrari Testarossa.

As drivers converge on the small community, they make a big impact on the local economy. They patronize local hotels, restaurants and other businesses, and support local clubs and fundraisers.

“The drivers and their crew are among the most generous groups of tourists that come to our community,” says Ed.

The road race also has garnered the attention of many celebrities through the years, including John Schneider, Marsha Mason and Jim Caviezel, all of whom have participated.
Putting on such an event requires a substantial number of volunteers, but Ely is never short on helping hands.

“I think it’s because of the friendliness and camaraderie of the drivers that draws such an outpouring of volunteers,” says Wayne Cameron, White Pine County Chamber of Commerce. “The drivers treat everyone with such respect.”

Take the Slow Boat

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
A canoeist paddles the expansive waters of Ross Lake National Recreation Area on the Skagit River in north-central Washington. Nestled in an area known as the American Alps, Ross Lake NRA divides the north and south sections of North Cascades National Park.  Photo by Ken Vander Putten

A canoeist paddles the expansive waters of Ross Lake National Recreation Area on the Skagit River in north-central Washington. Nestled in an area known as the American Alps, Ross Lake NRA divides the north and south sections of North Cascades National Park. Photo by Ken Vander Putten

When exploring Western waterways, slo-mo may be the way to go.

The Outdoor Industry Association estimates 20 million Americans enjoy canoeing and kayaking. Participants are drawn to these activities for many reasons, but most appreciate the quiet, solitude, and the ability to discover and explore areas unreachable by other means.

Whether you are a first-timer or an old hand, here are five tips to ensure your paddling experience is a
safe one:

Do your homework. Get a map of the area. Study the water route, and identify possible hazards and takeout points. Just before leaving, check current weather and water conditions.

Go prepared. At the very least, you should take along life vests, a first-aid kit, an extra paddle, sunscreen, bug repellent, a cell phone,
a map and drinking water.

Leave a travel plan. Make sure somebody back home has a detailed itinerary of your trip. Don’t forget to let them know when you return, so they don’t worry unnecessarily. Also, leave a copy of your float plan in your car.

Anticipate obstacles. Submerged objects and sweepers on corners are the most common hazards. Also, stay alert for motorized watercraft; turn into their wakes to avoid being swamped.

Know your limits. Waterways come in all shapes, sizes and technical difficulties. The upper portion of rivers tends to flow faster and have more potential dangers. Lower rivers are generally wider and slower flowing. Match your skill level to the waterway accordingly.

Presentation is a Key to Catching More Fish
Getting your bait where you want it is every bit as important as the bait or the lure itself. The better your presentation and accuracy, the more fish you will catch.
As with most endeavors, practice makes perfect. Start with overhand casts. Practice trying to hit targets, such as buckets, boxes or rings. Start with large targets, then try your hand with smaller ones.

Once you’ve mastered overhand, try sidearm and underhand. And don’t forget the flip and pitch techniques.

Outdoors 101: Keep Your Knife Healthy With DOCS
Dry—Water and metal don’t mix. The same goes for metal and sweat. Keep your knife dry to avoid rust.

Oiled—A little 3-in-1 oil or other lightweight oil goes a long way toward keeping your blade and moving parts in good working condition.

Clean—Moving parts also work better when they are clean.

Sharp—As most outdoor enthusiasts know, a sharp knife not only cuts better, but it’s also safer than a dull knife.

Fish Slime Clean-Up Tip
Disposable alcohol wipes are great for removing gunk and grime that inevitably accumulates on the handles of fishing rods and other gear.

What Day is It?
August is National Catfish Month
August 10, National S’mores Day
August 31, National Trail Mix Day

Show-and-Tell Time
Send us your favorite outdoor photo, tip or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Email your submission to gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the coast with his wife. He feels fortunate to have the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Negative Space for Positive Pictures

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
This picture of David’s father—dwarfed by the vast, wide-open land around him—is very much about a man and the space he desires, rather than the gun he is shooting near Conch, Arizona. Photo by David LaBelle

This picture of David’s father—dwarfed by the vast, wide-open land around him—is very much about a man and the space he desires, rather than the gun he is shooting near Conch, Arizona. Photo by David LaBelle

If you have ever spent time around artists, it’s likely you have heard the term “negative space.”
They are not talking about photographic film, which produces a negative that is used to make a positive print, nor the space between our ears we often fail to use.

Negative space is the area of a photograph that is not the main subject. It can be sky, water, a blank wall or even the space between subjects. It can be powerfully important to the overall feeling and success of an image.

Like a garnish of parsley on a dinner plate or soft background music during a romantic movie scene, negative space complements and leads us to the positive space we want viewers to see.

Just as a few seconds of well-timed silence can be an effective and powerful communication tool for emphasis in a radio broadcast, the use of negative space can create a deeper visual experience.

Recognized as a valuable and effective compositional element, negative space can lead our eyes through a composition, usually gently.

It is all about relationships: how elements are placed or organized in a frame in relationship to other elements.

Architects, engineers, graphic artists and interior decorators all use negative space. They understand that it can create a feeling, an experience.

Just as we don’t want to clutter every corner of a room, we need not clutter every corner of a photographic frame. The absence of visual clutter helps us gravitate to our primary subject and their relationship to the world around them. As abundant white space is often used to give life to a layout, negative space can bring energy, even implied motion to a photograph. It can give subjects room to travel or show where they have been.

Remember: space and tone create mood. Besides, where someone is in relationship to their environment is often more interesting or important than showing what they are actually doing.

Photographic composition is a lot like organizing our living space, our lives and even our relationships. It’s all about the decisions we make, how we choose to arrange the numerous elements—negative and positive—and the energy in a given space.

In a sense, deliberate photographic compositions are like microcosms of our lives, the choices we make, how we arrange our priorities. Sometimes our photographs are mirrors of our chaotic, over-scheduled lives, with not enough attention given to the need for negative space that helps us see the positive things that mean the most.

In a world growing increasingly more cluttered with noise—audio and visual—it is nice to have a little space, a little visual silence to dream. It gives us room to imagine.

daveDavid LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He grew up on a frog farm in rural California, roaming the creeks and hills with his coon dogs. Many of the lessons he learned during those magical boyhood years have been applied to photography and teaching the essence of this art form. For more information, visit


New Life for a Family Relic

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
Emmett Boden of Malta, Idaho, sits atop a 1954 Farmall tractor that he restored—with the help of family and neighbors—from a worn out, rusting hulk that used to sit idle on the family farm.

Emmett Boden of Malta, Idaho, sits atop a 1954 Farmall tractor that he restored—with the help of family and neighbors—from a worn out, rusting hulk that used to sit idle on the family farm.

Once a trusted workhorse, the 1954 McCormick Farmall tractor at Carl and Loralee Boden’s farm in southeastern Idaho had become an unused relic facing a bleak future.

Two winters ago, the Boden’s son Emmet intervened.

“Dad encouraged me to restore it for my senior project,” says Emmet, 20, who graduated in 2013.

Emmet kept a journal detailing the tractor’s restoration.

“When we started, it looked pretty rough,” says Emmet. “It took about 200 hours to restore it. We all worked together on it.”

After Emmet and his siblings came home from school and Carl got home from work, they headed to the shed, built a fire in a wood stove to stay warm and went to work on the tractor.

Emmet’s siblings stripped decades of grease from the tractor before it could be primed and painted.

Neighbors helped with mechanical expertise, because there wasn’t an owner’s manual for it.

“Some of the retired farmers around here knew all about the mechanics of this type of tractor,” says Carl.

To obtain parts, Carl scoured the Internet and went to a tractor salvage shop or improvised some parts.

Emmett’s brother Brodee put in new electrical wiring.

Emmett finished the tractor with a coat of red paint.

Carl laughs about the restoration costing more than the original tractor.

“The tractor cost about $1,800 new and $2,100 to restore, but it was all worth it,” he says.

With the tractor restored and shiny as a new penny, the Bodens almost hate to use it on their farm.

“We don’t want to see it get scratched up or dinged from working in the fields, but we’ve used it—carefully,” says Carl. “It’s a good tractor that will run for at least 20 years.”

Auto Enthusiasts Give Life to Museum

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum is host to a  variety of makes and models of classic cars, including this metallic purple 1938 Studebaker State Commander.

The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum is host to a
variety of makes and models of classic cars, including this metallic purple 1938 Studebaker State Commander.

Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum offers visitors a unique historic experience

The most simple way to define a museum, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a place where things are collected.” There are other, more in-depth definitions, but none includes words such as sound, feel or experience.

Hood River’s Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum believes in experiencing its collection and experiencing history.

WAAAM, as it is better known, offers visitors the opportunity to witness first-hand the sputter of an early 1900s Franklin Model D with its brass finishes, bright blue paint and carriage-style seats; the throaty bellow of a 1931 Model A with its spindly, spoked tires and the world famous rumble seat; or the elegant curves and sleek front end of a 1929 Packard Super 8 Phaeton.

Regardless of age, every car, truck, motorcycle and plane on the grounds—and the 2.5 acres of indoor hangar—is operable. WAAAM Director Judy Newman says one or two may need a little more care and work than others, but there is a reason each vehicle has a drip pan sitting below. These vehicles are not just shells of the cars they once were. They simply lay dormant, waiting for a volunteer to turn the key, push the ignition switch or turn the crank and let them loose on the nearby airfield.

“One of the great things about the Northwest is that there are about 42 major air museums that are scattered about, and counting, says employee Stephanie Hatch. “They’re always popping up all over the place. Each of us tells a little different part of the story. WAAAM does some of the early stuff and general aviation—the airplanes that taught America how to fly, and the cars that got us to the airport.”

There are Studebakers, Pontiacs, Dodge Brothers and everything in between—including a sleek, metallic purple 1938 Studebaker State Commander—that rest among neon signs and a 1950s-era backdrop in one hangar. The signs and lights in the many displays such as this one give viewers a better sense of the time when these classics roamed the streets.

“There’s a reason we’re called WAAAM,” says Stephanie. “When you walk in through that front door and you see even the first building in the collection, it kind of hits you just what is here. Once you finish scraping your jaw up off the floor, you decide, ‘I’m going to actually go and visit more.’”

Second Saturday Experience
WAAAM offers not just a glimpse into the lives of the more than 130 classics donated or on loan from patrons, but often the chance to actually take a ride down memory lane.

One aspect of the visitor experience WAAAM prides itself on is the idea that history comes alive in this living museum. Here, guests see classics come to life with a bang, sputter or roar as the engines finally wake. They can then enter the vehicles and feel what the ride was like so many years ago.

Christina Pomrenke and her children get a lift from WAAAM volunteer John Krecklow in a 1931 Ford Model A during the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum’s Second Saturday festivities.

Christina Pomrenke and her children get a lift from WAAAM volunteer John Krecklow in a 1931 Ford Model A during the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum’s Second Saturday festivities.

To truly get the WAAAM experience, guests are encouraged to visit on the second Saturday of the month. During summer, volunteers—and the lucky few guests who arrive early—begin moving selected cars outside for a spin. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Second Saturday festivities include changing selections of automobiles that are fueled up and taking visitors for a loop around the on-site airfield, guest speakers, tours and an inexpensive lunch in one of the hangars.

“We like to pick a couple different things, usually a Model T and a Model A and then some extras,” Stephanie says of the Second Saturday activities. “People really like that they get to ride in the cars. That’s a big thing. It draws a lot of folks in. We always like to say any day is a good day to visit, but there’s a special lure to being able to ride in a car and see an airplane take off.”

While many visitors enjoy the sites and sounds of the planes in flight and the engines roaring, others may want a somewhat quieter experience.

The museum offers a children’s learning and play area. Here, little ones can sit in a small helicopter and play with the controls and headsets. They can enter a miniature submarine and look out the portholes, or they can play with the toy cars, trucks and planes on a large wooden play table.

Afterward, the family can head to one of the hangars that becomes the dining facility for the day. When the hangar door is open, everyone can watch the cars cruise by, or look skyward and see the pilots flying their planes.

WAAAM’s Volunteers
The staff on hand during such popular events is primarily volunteers. The museum does have three paid employees, but volunteers handle much of the work.

“A nonprofit with not many employees, we couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” Stephanie says.

About her own job, Stephanie says, “I could be doing just about anything most days. There’s not really a job description other than, ‘Yes, I can do it.’”

That attitude is what helps keep the museum popular with guests and volunteers alike. In fact, just being at the museum and getting to chauffer guests on Second Saturdays is enough to bring in some volunteers.

“My favorite part of working here is playing with all the old cars,” says John Krecklow, one of WAAAM’s many volunteers. “My paycheck is playing with these old toys!”

Volunteers maintain the vehicles, offer guided tours, staff the lunch area during special events and provide the occasional anecdote to curious visitors. There is one volunteer whose job is to ensure all the vehicles’ tires are properly inflated The task sometimes takes up to four hours.

With so many vehicles on hand, there rarely is nothing to do.

“There’s never a shortage of things to do here,” Stephanie says. “If you think about it, anybody who has a fleet of anything, it takes work. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. We like to keep it alive; to keep it moving. We get it done, and we keep it going.”

Something for Everyone
Judy says the favorites seem to depend on when guests began to drive. Those who were around the early 1920s and 1930s-style cars tend to gravitate toward them. Younger crowds, however, tend to want to see the muscle cars.

Stephanie believes the variety of vehicles is part of the draw of WAAAM.

“A lot of people appreciate the scope and diversity of the collection,” she says.

The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Second Saturday activities run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For information about the museum or volunteer opportunities, stop by 1600 Air Museum Rd., Hood River, look online at or call (541) 308-1600.

Planting in Summer’s Heat

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015


Don’t let the summer heat keep you from adding plants to your garden. Here are tips to make it work.

A misconception about gardening is you never should plant during summer when it is hot. Conventional wisdom says planting is best done in spring and fall, when the weather is cooler.

But this only applies when transplanting or dividing, which is digging up and moving all or part of a plant that already is established.

It is nearly impossible to dig up an established plant without destroying some of the roots. If you try to move the plant during the summer heat, when the plant is top-heavy with growth, the shock can be fatal.

As daily temperatures rise, you still can fill the empty spaces in your garden with potted perennials, annuals and shrubs. Any shock from transplanting is essentially eliminated because you did not dig up the plant.

Below are some planting tips for reducing heat stress.

Find the Right Spot
One of the great things about planting in summer is most plants are in their full flush of growth. This allows you to better visualize the total effect because you can see a plant’s form and the color of its foliage or flowers.

The added dimensional aspect aids landscaping choices.

Yet there are more than a plant’s good looks and your personal preference to consider when placing your plant.

Anytime a plant goes into the ground, you should match the plant’s growth habits to the garden site.

This is true in any season but especially in summer, when temperatures are more extreme.

A plant that prefers part shade, but tolerates full sun, has a better chance of surviving in full sun if it is planted in spring rather than summer. This gives the roots enough time to establish themselves before the summer heat.

When planted in full sun on a hot summer day, the plant might wilt before it has a chance to situate its roots. To plant in summer, give the plant what it prefers: a partly shady location.

When planting in a sunny location, another way to protect the plant is to provide temporary shade for the first week or two using a light-colored umbrella, shade cloth or other structure that serves the purpose.

Planting Particulars
A little preparation goes a long way to determining whether a plant thrives or fails.

When you plant can be just as important as how you plant. For best results, always plant on a cloudy day or in the cooler temperatures of the early evening. This minimizes weather-related plant stress.

Cloudy days or cooler evening temperatures mean less transpiration loss from the plant’s leaves.

Basic planting steps apply, regardless of the season you plant:

Dig a hole a little deeper and about twice as wide as the plant’s root ball.

After digging the hole, fill it with water and let it drain before putting in the plant. This helps ensure an easier transition for the plant.

Gently work the root ball loose with your hands or a garden fork.
Put the plant into position and backfill with good soil mixed with a little compost.

Tamp the soil to stabilize the plant and remove any air pockets, then water thoroughly.

After the Fact
Immediately after planting, give your plants an advantage over the summer heat by applying a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch, such as compost, shredded leaves, cocoa bean hulls or bark dust. This helps conserve soil moisture and keep down weeds, which compete for water and nutrients, whether your soil is loamy, sandy or clay.

Water new plantings once or twice with a diluted solution of fish emulsion or liquid seaweed to help them settle quickly into their new environment.

During the first week or two, you might need to water daily or every other day, depending on the weather, soil type and the plant’s growing requirements. After that, it is important to keep the soil slightly moist until the plant becomes established in the garden. For most perennials and shrubs, that usually occurs after the first growing season.

The key is to water deeply and thoroughly to encourage a deeper root system.

It only takes a little extra attention and a few simple techniques to help new summer plantings thrive.

So go ahead and take advantage of summer plant sales and fill in those empty spaces in your yard. The result cannot be anything less than beautiful.

What to Plant
Just about anything growing in a container can be planted in summer, though some plants stand up to the summer heat better than others. Here are several tough contenders for summer planting.

Standout shrubs: Barberry, boxwood, bluebeard, chaste tree, clethra, cotoneaster, holly, honeysuckle, hydrangea, Japanese plum yew, juniper, rose, santolina and spiraea.

Persistent perennials: Japanese anemone, artemisia, aster, catmint, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, daylily, echinacea, geranium, goldenrod, helenium, liatris, ornamental grasses, phlox, plumbago, Russian sage, salvia, sedum, verbena, veronica and yarrow.

Late-color annuals: Celosia, chrysanthemums, coleus, cosmos, creeping zinnia, dusty miller, dwarf sunflowers, globe amaranth, impatiens, marigolds, nasturtiums, salvia, scaevola and zinnia.

Conquer and Divide
An easy way to find new plants for the empty spaces in your yard is to divide perennials that already exist in your garden.

September is a great time to dig in and divide plants such as asters, chrysanthemums, daylilies, iris, liatris, rudbeckias and ornamental grasses.

Divide and replant perennials with vigorous clumps, barren or dead centers, and those whose flowers have become smaller or less abundant.

The steps are basically the same, whether the plant grows from rhizomes, such as iris; has tuberous roots, such as daylilies; or are more fibrous, such as rudbeckia.

Dig up the plant on a cloudy day, keeping as much of the roots intact as possible. Remove any loose soil so you can see the crown and roots, then divide the plant into smaller clumps using a sharp spade or sturdy knife, discarding any dead centers to the compost pile.

Each division should have at least two to five vigorous shoots with ample roots attached. Cut back remaining foliage to half the plant’s height, then immediately replant the divided pieces into their new location.

Any extras can be planted in potting soil in large pots and later given as gifts to friends and family.

Knots for Anglers

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Knot failure is a constant concern for anglers. You never know when a knot might give out, so hedge your bet by selecting the right knot for the job. Avoid using a knot just because it’s the only one you know. Google “fishing knots” to see the variety of knots available and their uses. Photo by Jacom Stephens

Knot failure is a constant concern for anglers. You never know when a knot might give out, so hedge your bet by selecting the right knot for the job. Avoid using a knot just because it’s the only one you know. Google “fishing knots” to see the variety of knots available and their uses. Photo by Jacom Stephens

One essential—but often overlooked—fishing skill is knot tying. A good knot could be the difference between landing a whopper or seeing it slip away if the knot fails.

Needs change depending on the situation, which is why knowing how to tie more than one knot is important.

Two basic types of knots are used for most fishing: terminal knots and line-to-line knots. Subcategories of these include loop terminal knots and heavy-to-light-line knots.

Not all knots are created equal. Each has specific purposes and strengths—and weaknesses. Terminal knots are used for tying on a lure or a fly, while line-to-line knots are designed to splice two lines together.

Terminal knots come in a variety of configurations. Popular ones include the
five-turn double clinch, which has been around more than 50 years, and the modern-day six-turn San Diego jam. The San Diego jam is preferred for its extra cushion and greater strength than the double clinch. There are dozens more terminal knots.

There are just as many line-to-line knots. Favorites include the surgeon’s knot and J-knot. The drawback of these and other line-to-line knots is their inherent weakness. Monofilament line has a tendency to crack when the tight turns in this style of knot are compressed and come under pressure.

Learn more about all kinds of knots—and how to tie them—at the Animated Knots website, There is also a smart phone app for the site.

Outdoors 101: Four Tips to Avoid Blisters
It all starts with shoes that fit well. A rule of thumb is there should be a half inch between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. But they should fit snug enough that your heel does not rub up and down as you walk. Break in new shoes with shorter, easier hikes before tackling a long one.

Make sure your socks fit well, too. Use socks with cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot. Avoid tube socks or those with seams along sensitive areas that may rub and create blisters. Also, avoid cotton. Instead, wear socks made of man-made fibers, especially the newer, moisture-wicking materials such as CoolMax and Isolfil.

Stay dry. Just as important as the socks you wear is the habit of changing them as needed. Always take along an extra pair when hiking. Change halfway through the hike or when you notice your socks getting soggy.

Hedge your bets with lubrication. A number of products are made specifically for this purpose, or you can dab on some petroleum jelly. Lubricate around your toes, heel and anywhere else there is friction or where you have had problems in the past.

Eyeball to Eyeball With Wildlife
Add impact to your wildlife photos by shooting from a low angle. Get down to your subject’s eye level or lower. It provides a different, more-dramatic perspective. This gives you—and those who view your photos—a view from your subject’s vantage point.

What Day is It?
July 3, Stay Out of the Sun Day
July 22, Hammock Day
July 27, Take Your Pants for a Walk Day

Show-and-Tell Time
Send us your favorite outdoor photo, tip or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Email your submission to gro.etilarurnull@ofni.


24authMany of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate to have the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Keeping History Alive

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Two SCA members battle each other at a tournament.

Two SCA members battle each other at a tournament.

Jon and Dena Morford of Tacoma, Washington, own a trucking company called Two Crazy Vikings. The quirky name is a nod to what they do in their spare time: explore how Scandinavians and other European cultures lived hundreds of years ago.

The couple belongs to the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international, nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members dedicated to researching, recreating and preserving the arts, sciences and skills of pre-17th century Europe.

“It’s important to know these things,” says Jon. “It’s more important for us to know history than to know how to play Xbox.”

Jon discovered the SCA 20 years ago while in a local gaming shop. He now spends 40 to 45 weekends a year immersed in its world.

The Morfords are the baron and baroness of their local SCA chapter, otherwise known as a barony.

Dressed in authentic garb from the period—attire most members fashion themselves—SCA members attend tournaments to display social structure, etiquette, weaponry and combat.

Jon says the fighting is often what piques people’s interest in the group, but it tends to be the camaraderie and kinship that make them longtime members.

Learn more about the Morford’s chapter at

Water-Thrifty Plants for Your Garden

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
photo courtesy Michael Fitzsimmons

photo courtesy Michael Fitzsimmons

A colorful summer garden does not need a lot of water. Keep your garden looking lush with these water-wise plants and gardening tips.

Rain might be ample in winter, but once the summer heat descends, rain often is nowhere in sight when plants need water most.

When plants do not get the water they need, they dry up and die.
Water is so essential to a plant’s health that many people devote up to 70 percent of residential water use to home landscapes.

Keeping a garden irrigated can take a lot of work—and water. That is why a mix of water-thrifty plants and a few water-wise gardening tips is a great way to keep your garden thriving, without spending precious time and money on watering.

Sizing up Plants
A plant’s drought tolerance varies depending on your soil, climate and location. Plants suited to your personal growing conditions always give a better show with less care.

For example, hollyhocks do fine without any supplemental water when grown in areas that receive summer rain. However, in drier climates, these statuesque blooms are left with a powerful thirst without water.

Growing conditions also can vary within a single garden. Southern and western exposures tend to dry out more quickly than areas facing north or east.

Position plants in areas where they can survive the occasional drought. Grouping plants according to their water needs makes for more efficient watering.

Choose plants with a stronger tolerance to drought for southern and western exposure.
Artemisia, cotoneaster, echinacea, rudbeckia, sedum and salvia are good selections. A few shade-tolerant plants that can handle the occasional drought include hostas, bear’s breech (Acanthus spp.), hardy geraniums, heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).

Maximize Moisture
Healthy plants can get by on less water than plants that are stressed.
Timely weeding and feeding keep plants healthy. Adding organic mulch enhances the drought-tolerance of most plants.

Start by mixing a 3- to 6-inch layer of organic matter, such as compost, into the soil before you plant. This increases the water-retaining capacity of the soil and creates an environment that encourages roots to grow deeper, which makes it easier for plants to find and absorb moisture during times of drought.

Adding organic mulch—such as shredded leaves, herbicide-free grass clippings or aged sawdust— to the surface is a good idea. This will conserve water by preventing weeds—which steal water and nutrients—and keeping soil temperatures cooler and moisture levels more consistent, while reducing surface evaporation.

Water Wisely
No plant can survive without water. Even water-thrifty plants need consistent water the first year or two before they become established.

After that, the key is to water deeply and infrequently, which promotes a more extensive root system.

The best time to water is early morning or evening, when more water seeps into the soil and less is lost through evaporation.

The right type of irrigation system can do wonders to minimize moisture loss and excess runoff by distributing lower volumes of water over longer periods of time.

Drip irrigation is best for spot watering around perennials, shrubs and other permanent plantings. Low-volume sprayers or bubblers are ideal for trees and groundcovers. Weave soaker hoses through annual and perennial beds and borders.

Hand watering can be highly efficient.

Ten Drought-Busters
Below are 10 drought-resistant plant suggestions that are a great addition to an easy-care garden. Using less water to produce a downpour of color will give you more time to sit back and soak it all in.

Agastache. This is known as a hummingbird plant, licorice mint, Mexican hyssop or anise hyssop, depending on the species. The showy group of perennial herbs has summer to fall trumpet-shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds, sphinx moths and many butterfly species with nectar. Zones 5-11.

Artemisia. This textural group includes several species of perennials and evergreen shrubs noted for their aromatic and interesting silvery gray or white foliage. Common wormwood (A. absinthium), southernwood (A. abrotanum) and Powis Castle (A. “Powis Castle”) are especially carefree and attractive. Zones 4-11, depending on the species.

Germander. An evergreen shrubby perennial used as edging, a low-clipped hedge or small-scale groundcover. Whorls of nectar-rich, pink to purple flowers spike in summer rise on upright, woody-based stems that grow 1 to 2 feet tall. Zones 5-10.

Goldenrod. Nearly 100 perennial species of perennials grow 2 to 6 feet tall with branching clusters of elongated flower heads bearing tiny golden yellow blooms from midsummer into fall. These are tough plants that thrive in less-than-ideal soil. Zones 3-10.

Lady Banks’ Rose. An evergreen climber (deciduous where winters are cold) that grows to 20 feet or more. Small yellow or white flowers bloom in early to late spring. This tough contender is nearly thornless and nearly immune to pests and disease. Known to thrive and bloom without any supplemental water. Zones 7-10.

Lavender. Highly aromatic shrubs and subshrubs with fragrant spikes of lavender to purple flowers grow from 1 to 5 feet tall. Use in flower beds, the border or herb garden. Great as an informal hedge or edging. Zones 5-11.

Rudbeckia. Showy garden perennials known as coneflower or black-eyed Susan grow 3 to 7 feet tall, depending on the species. Daisylike flowers appear from late summer until frost. Zones 3-10.

Salvia. Extensive group of annuals, biennials and tender-to-hardy perennials grow 1 to 5 feet tall. Tubular flowers, with colors in shades from salmon to red, pink to dark purple, and pale lavender to blue, as well as yellow and white. Low-maintenance plants with high appeal. Zones 4-11, depending on the species.

Sedum. A diverse group of succulents in a range of shapes, sizes and colors, with spring to autumn flowers followed by late autumn to winter seed heads. Sedum “Autumn Joy” and other taller cultivars are especially showy whether mixed in beds and borders or in container plantings. Zones 4-11, depending on the species.

Yarrow. Daisy family member with about 100 species of clumping or mat-forming perennials grows 1 to 4 feet tall. Flattened clusters of tiny flowers in white and pastel shades, bright colors and warm tones from gold to bronze appear in summer and early fall, and puts on a show of color even in dry summers. Zones 3-10.

Making the Most of Melons

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
watermelon grower Bob Walchli of Hermiston, Oregon, inspects his latest crop.

watermelon grower Bob Walchli of Hermiston, Oregon, inspects his latest crop.

Bob Walchli walks through his field in Hermiston, Oregon, searching for a ripe watermelon.

“You want them not too high pitched or dull sounding,” he says.

Bob taps his hand on the melons. After finding the desired tone, he checks to see if it is symmetrical. He looks at the spot where the watermelon sat on the ground, making sure it is a creamy yellow color.

Bob pulls a knife from his pocket, pierces the melon and spins it around the knife, cracking it open on his knee and revealing the deep pink fruit. He carves out the heart of the watermelon—the sweetest part—and hands it over, smiling.

It’s mid-July and, from the taste of this melon, it is time for the harvest.

The Hermiston Melon Co. has supplied watermelons to major retailers for years and is a prominent name throughout the Northwest when it comes to quality watermelons.

Bob’s family is deep-rooted in the Hermiston farming industry. His grandfather came from Switzerland in the 1920s and raised cows and chickens. Bob’s parents, Skip and Sherry Walchli, started Walchli Farms in 1957 and grew produce and hay. Bob and his brothers, Patrick, Don and Dan, have continued the family’s farming tradition.

“That’s what we grew up with,” says Bob. “Our father put work ethic in our heads since we were little kids. He taught us to do a good job, work hard and be proud of what you do.”

Bob developed the Hermiston Melon Co. in 1986 as an offshoot of Walchli Farms to promote the farm’s melons. His watermelons can be found throughout the Pacific Northwest, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada and Canada.

Bob’s wife, Rochelle, sells their watermelons and other produce at 10 farmers markets each week during the summer.

Although the area is most noted for its wheat and alfalfa production, watermelons have taken seed in Hermiston and added a rich identity to the Eastern Oregon city.

It is hard to miss the town’s welcome sign featuring a watermelon, the water tower along Highway 395 that has a slice of watermelon painted on its side or the “Hermiston you can grow here” logo.

“Watermelons bring tremendous value into the area,” says horticulturalist George Clough, who retired from the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center but still works there as a volunteer.

The crop creates jobs, instills pride in the city and is a perfect fruit for the area’s growing conditions, George says.

“The soil manages the moisture really well,” he notes.

George says watermelons respire, or lose their sugar content, at night. Hermiston has high heat during the day, which increases the sugar content through photosynthesis, and is cool at night, which helps slow the respiration process so the fruit loses less sugar, making it an ideal place to grow watermelons.

But watermelons are more than a fruit in Hermiston. They put the town on the map.

A milepost sign at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland points east to “Hermiston 186 mi.”

In the 1980s, during his 40-year service on the city council, former Hermiston Mayor Frank Harkenrider wanted to promote Hermiston to the western side of the state.

He contacted Portland Mayor Bud Clark and offered to deliver a truckload of Hermiston watermelons to Portland. That inspired a watermelon seed-spitting contest that was an annual event until 2007—when Hermiston was added to the milepost sign.

“It was a big deal in Portland,” says Frank. “The place was packed.”

Frank’s initiative to spread watermelons to the greater Oregon community was one of the ways Hermiston became a renowned producer of the crop. Today, the proof is in the numbers.

“Most of the growers are getting a minimum of 40 tons to the acre,” says George.

Four Hermiston-area commercial growers harvest more than 400 acres of watermelons, and private growers account for another 100 acres, George says.

Walchli Farms produces eight types of watermelons ranging from yellow to dark pink, seeded to seedless. It also grows honeydew, cantaloupe and 40 varieties of other fruits and vegetables, along with hay.

From mid-July to mid-October, Walchli Farms employs 75 to 80 people—fewer later in the season, when there are not as many melons.

“If we have to use more people it’s a good sign,” Bob says.

Bob tries to offer market niche melons. An example is the fascination watermelons he grows that are blackish on the outside and have higher sugar content.

“Nothing makes me happier than knowing someone opens up a Walchli watermelon and is happy with it,” says Bob.