Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

The New Age of Rural Health Care

Monday, January 25th, 2016
Maggie Elehwany, vice president for government affairs and advocacy for the National Rural Health Association, addresses attendees at a rally in Washington, D.C., in July. The March for Rural Hospitals included a 283-mile walk to the nation’s capital to draw attention to the need to save rural hospitals. Photo courtesy of National Rural Health Association

Maggie Elehwany, vice president for government affairs and advocacy for the National Rural Health Association, addresses attendees at a rally in Washington, D.C., in July. The March for Rural Hospitals included a 283-mile walk to the nation’s capital to draw attention to the need to save rural hospitals.
Photo courtesy of National Rural Health Association

Technology, grants and innovative programs allow smaller, remote doctors and clinics to offer a higher level of service

In 2002, Dr. Kevin Johnston had been on duty at Harney District Hospital in Burns, Oregon, only a month when a man in his mid-30s came in complaining of chest pain. He was admitted overnight and felt better by morning.

But the doctor was troubled.

“He had driven a long way, and I wasn’t sure he hadn’t had a blood clot,” Johnston says.

He took another X-ray and didn’t like what he saw—though he wasn’t sure what he was seeing, and no one was nearby to help figure it out.

What a difference 14 years makes. Technology, networking, grant programs, health care coaches and other innovative approaches are giving rural patients access to quality health care like never before.

As Johnston worried about his patient, he conferred with a specialist more than 100 miles away by phone.

Was it an aneurism, or a simple case of heartburn? There was no immediate way to be sure, so they decided to trust Johnston’s instincts.

The Bend hospital put a crew on standby and the helicopter flew in to pick up the patient. As it turned out, Johnston had been right, and the patient survived.

“If that gentleman came in today, I have a state-of-the-art scanner that I could scan him with,” Johnston says. “I’d call one transfer number and in one to two minutes they would be dispatching the aircraft, looking at the images and preparing to accept the patient.”

It is just one example of how dramatically rural health care has changed the last two decades.

Thanks in part to the Critical Access Hospital designation passed by Congress in 1997, the trend of rural communities losing their small hospitals at an alarming rate has been reversed.

Today, those hospitals—once cut off by time and distance from larger, urban facilities—are tapping into resources and tools that close the miles, eliminating guesswork and bringing services, specialists and technology to rural doorsteps.

“Twenty years ago, we didn’t have the Critical Access Hospital designation,” says Tom Morris, associate administrator for the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. “The CAH designation was a sort of explicit recognition that if you wanted to have a small hospital survive, you had to take certain issues into consideration. CAHs very quickly grew from a couple of hundred in the 1990s to now 1,324 CAHs around the country. That’s out of about 2,000 rural hospitals total.”

Providing Personal Care
Federal grants provide funds for programs specifically for rural areas. An example is the Rural Health Care Services Outreach Grant Program that funded nurse case manager and community referral programs at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood and Clearwater Valley Hospital in Orofino, both in Idaho.

“What we wanted to do was take some of the folks who were the sickest and say, ‘How can we help you get better?’” says Pam McBride, chief grants officer at the two hospitals. “With the nurse case manager, you’ve got a nurse who calls or visits a patient on a regular basis. They have a lot more time to spend than a doctor would on a regular visit.”

That line of communication has saved lives.

“I can tell you that suicide is a particular problem for older males in rural areas because as you get older, you can’t do all the stuff that has made you so proud,” McBride says. “You can’t work quite as hard or you are retired, and you always identified with your job. It’s hard to find a focus and a purpose.”

All of the nurse case managers in the program have uncovered patients suffering deep depression and prevented suicide, McBride says.

One man had been under medical care for a long time. McBride says he had a good relationship with his doctor, was known in the community and had a spouse, yet no one knew he was hurting.

“He had multiple conditions,” McBride says. “The nurse case manager said, ‘Gosh, I am looking at what you are going through and this seems it would be really hard.’ Just having that one caring person in this environment where you weren’t rushed in time, it just opened the floodgates.

“That’s the secret with the program: You have people who can take the time to have the personal touch, which is what we’re so good at in rural communities.”

With the companion community referral program, the case manager ensures the patient has the means to get to the doctor, and has heat and food in their house. When those needs are not being met, they “close the loop and make the connection,” McBride says.

Telemedicine Fills Gaps
In Goldendale, Washington, grants have allowed Klickitat Valley Hospital to set up programs such as telepharmacy and teleradiology, with plans to expand to telestroke and teledermatology.
All of the programs work with cameras and computers, connecting doctors at the Goldendale hospital to specialists at other hospitals.

“We network with other providers,” says Jeff Teal, director of quality and risk. “There are certain systems that work with others. It’s not like telephone conferencing. It involves live interactive video. It is certainly more than Skype. In some cases, it involves close-ups. In some cases, access to medical records. There has to be a medical person on each end.”

The program is evolving, but telepharmacy and teleradiology have been used for years, enhancing the care the hospital can provide at the touch of a button, says Charis Weis, director of human resources and community outreach.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” she says. “It just takes the level of care to a whole new level.”

In the hospital pharmacy, a camera allows providers to consult with a pharmacist miles away. The pharmacist verifies the medication before it is dispensed.

“Telepharmacy in rural areas is critical,” Weis says. “We have to have a pharmacist, but we don’t have access to a pharmacist onsite who wants to work a limited amount of hours.”

Teledermatology will include a computer station with a high-resolution camera called a robot.

“It allows a dermatologist to look at the skin and make some preliminary decisions on the type of care that is needed,” Weis says. “The telestroke technology works in the same manner. The emergency room physician would be on the line with a specialist who would have eyes on the patient and be able to pick up physical signs of the stroke.”

In Alaska, where many rural communities can be reached only by air or sea, health care facilities are using telemedicine for supervisory purposes, says Gloria Burnett, director of the Alaska Center for Rural Health.

“You might have a behavioral health aide trained through the Alaska Native Health Consortium,” Burnett says. “They need to be supervised, but if you’re in a small village of 500 people, they don’t necessarily have the supervisory structure. So a lot is done via telemedicine where they connect through a telehealth network. It’s a money saver. We now rely on telemedicine for referrals.

“It’s much more in-depth than a Skype session. These are secure networks, making sure the quality is up to par, where the provider can see things and make a referral. A lot less money is being used to send a person in for care.”

Improving Record Access
Electronic health records also improve the quality of health care by allowing both patients and providers to readily review medical history, instructions and other information.
“In 2008, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act gave a lot of incentive money to hospitals and clinics to expand to electronic health records,” says Brock Slabach, senior vice president with the National Rural Health Association, a nonprofit, membership organization. “Basically, it encourages providers to encourage patients to access records. It’s to provide more transparency so they have more control over their health care.”

Electronic records make it faster and easier to get a complete picture of a patient’s health, saving doctors time that can better be used to discuss questions, concerns and goals with the patient.

“I am working with a Down syndrome middle-aged woman,” says registered nurse Julie Church, a case manager at St. Mary’s clinic in Cottonwood. “Her mom passed away and she lives with her dad and brother. I realized recently she had not had any screening done. I was able to meet with two of her sisters. They escorted her in for the mammogram. She had a physical done. She had her annual labs done. She was updated on her vaccinations. It was really helpful to scan through medical records quickly and see what she needed to have done.”

Creating Partnerships
Networking is also pushing rural care in new directions.

“Collaboration today in health care is at the community level,” says Kevin Camp-bell, CEO of Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. “We’ve moved away from an idea of competition between providers to the necessity of collaboration between providers to achieve better health, better care and lower cost. That paradigm shift, I think, is going to be in everybody’s best interest.

“Communities engaging in activities that promote wellness are going to have better outcomes than communities that depend only on the medical community. And healthy communities are places where people want to raise their kids.”

As a result, today providers are not nearly so alone—which is comforting to Johnston.

“There is no limit to what may come in the door: overdoses, heart attacks, broken bones,” says Johnston, the doctor from Burns, Oregon. “There’s nothing that won’t come see us first. We’re 130 miles from the closest center. We have to get that rapid information exchange so we can do what we do well.

“If someone broke an arm and showed up in Portland, there’s a good chance they will go to an orthopedist. Here, I am going to take a picture, call the orthopedist and say, ‘Will you look at the film with me?’ Let’s say I had to set the bone. I would take a second set of pictures and call and say, ‘This is the fracture. Does it look aligned? Do you think it will heal OK? How long should I leave on the cast?’

“Because I can get information to a specialist, I don’t have to send the patient on a 260-mile drive just for a few pieces of advice.”

Creating a Healing Machine

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Lead carver Ernie Jenner works on one of his creations for what he calls “The Healing Machine.”

Lead carver Ernie Jenner works on one of his creations for what he calls “The Healing Machine.”

The city of North Bend, Washington, has a vision. It is a big vision that includes fun for residents and tourists, stimulating local business, fostering the arts and culture, honoring veterans and spreading happiness.

It starts with a pavilion designed to house a carousel, theater productions and other cultural events. The structure will be made of plate glass with sliding doors to allow the carousel to roll outside in good weather and make room inside the building for other uses.

The carousel itself will feature an imaginative assortment of animals: salmon, with a projection of water flowing under them; a Native American pony surrounded by thundering herds of bison; and a knight’s armored horse next to a horse for a princess.

Ernie Jenner is the lead carver. Isabel Jones of Two Rivers High School is a student artist working on the project.

“I love to draw,” Isabel says. “And now I get to contribute to a project for the community. I usually draw from my imagination, but this is good because I have to draw from pictures.”

Ernie has been a carver for almost 70 years. He taught himself to carve as a child by reading books and magazines. His style of animals is inspired by the eminent Italian creator of carousel animals, Salvatore Cernigliaro.

According to Ernie, Salvatore was responsible for transforming the image of animals from wild-eyed, fearsome creatures to the more cuddly depictions common today.

Ernie’s animals look friendly but also full of life. There is a rabbit with a clock mounted in its side, a giraffe and the head of George Washington’s horse for the North Bend carousel. The horse’s head is so detailed you can see veins in the cheeks.

Ernie’s vision extends beyond artistic pursuit. On his drawing table sits a sheet with the words “The Healing Machine.”

“Carousels bring people together,” he says. “For the time you’re riding, it’s impossible to be angry at anyone. You’re just there to have fun together.”

Electrifying Racing

Monday, January 25th, 2016
Marty Schmitz, left, and Adrian Hawkins invested their savings in their production facility in Odell, Oregon. Below, an electric motor Marty and Adrian designed and manufactured in their shop. Photos by Jurgen Hess

Marty Schmitz, left, and Adrian Hawkins invested their savings in their production facility in Odell, Oregon. Below, an electric motor Marty and Adrian designed and manufactured in their shop.
Photos by Jurgen Hess

Layer by layer, the 3D printer in AMRacing’s office built an aerodynamic wing profile for Chevrolet IndyCars. Co-owner Marty Schmitz will use the model to replicate the part in metal.

The part is for an IndyCar. It is destined for the fastest racetracks, but it will be manufactured on a quiet street in small town Odell, Oregon.

Historically, gas engines powered the fastest cars and motorcycles. But electric vehicles have been winning some of those super-fast races recently. This is AMRacing’s specialty.

Four years ago, a MotoGP project that Adrian Hawkins, 47, and Marty, 37, worked on began to deflate.

“Every day on the walk to the coffee shop, we talked about how to move forward,” Marty says. “It was 2010, the end of the recession. We both needed jobs, so we were like, ‘Why don’t we just work for ourselves—create opportunity rather than finding one?’ It was driven more by Adrian’s need to find a place for his high-end skill set.”

Adrian developed his skills during the 10 years he worked for Cosworth Racing, the leading Formula 1 race engine design house and manufacturer. On the MotoGP project, he was chief engineer.

Adrian designed the engines, and Marty made them.

The two started their business in a small garage in Portland, Oregon, with no clear vision of what the business would be other than that it would be in motor sports—logically, in gas engines. But they quickly found the demand was for electric vehicle powertrains. Rather than seek investors, they pooled their savings to buy a secondhand piece of machinery. They thought that if the business was going to succeed, it had to make money from the start.

“It’s proven to be completely accurate so far,” Adrian says. “Every day, our profit sheet has been better than our loss sheet.”

AMRacing became a business that designs, tests and manufactures high-performance electrical vehicle powertrains.

The end product goes into incredibly fast cars and motorcycles. These are not cars you can buy at a local dealer. Each car built using AMRacing’s products costs $1 million. Only six have been made.

In 2014, companies using AMRacing’s powertrains beat gas-powered engines in more than one event.

A Brammo electric motorcycle won the TTXGP championship. The racecar company ELMOFO-Radical replaced its car’s 460-horsepower gas engine with AMRacing’s electric drivetrain and won Australia’s CAMS race series.

In 2015, AMRacing products had great success at the Pike Peak International Hill Climb competition.

AMRacing’s products now lead the competition for overall powertrain supplier in this category. While the entire powertrain is AMRacing’s main product, the company also designs, manufactures and sells component parts.

With such a specialized product, why locate in Odell, far from suppliers and transportation hubs?

“With UPS, you can’t tell the difference whether we’re here or by the airport,” Marty says.

“The next-day aspect to shipping is one reason we can survive because we can get component to us and ship out to customers,” Adrian says. “So if you can work in a nice area, why wouldn’t you?”

After five years of nonstop work, the two men feel they are ready to offer the company’s capabilities to industries seeking high-power electric powertrain solutions, such as the wind-turbine industry sectors.

“We put together a state-of-the-art machine shop with some of the best technology available,” Marty says. “I know a lot of people could use that if they knew about it.”

“We’ve invested a lot of money in very high-end equipment and machine tools,” Adrian says. “There is a huge manufacturing capability here for very complex components.”

Like the five-axis milling machine.

“Marty’s skill base is to take a digital thing and form it into metal that replicates it in a manner the designer wants,” Adrian says. “Case in point is the wing profile the 3D printer is creating. That design has to be replicated accurately because the feedback loop of the testing has to validate the computational side of it, and it has to match accurately.

“Our customers have a lot of shops they could go to, but they always come back here. They can’t easily get quality like they get here.”

Ode to the Resealable Plastic Bag

Monday, January 25th, 2016
Resealable plastic bags have many uses outside the home. For example, a regular baggie works well as a phone protector; you can even use the phone without taking it out of the bag. Gallon-size bags are perfect for weatherproofing extra clothing. Whatever the task at hand, be sure to select the right bag for the job. Photo by Mike Teegarden

Resealable plastic bags have many uses outside the home. For example, a regular baggie works well as a phone protector; you can even use the phone without taking it out of the bag. Gallon-size bags are perfect for weatherproofing extra clothing. Whatever the task at hand, be sure to select the right bag for the job.
Photo by Mike Teegarden

The resealable plastic bag is the niftiest outdoor essential since the pocketknife. My environmentally conscious friends may brand me a heretic when they read that, but it’s true. A baggie is the multitool of choice for packaging, organizing and rainproofing.

Baggies come in many shapes and sizes, and offer an array of uses. My favorite is using them to keep things dry. I rarely venture out on the trail without weatherproofing electronics, spare clothing and vulnerable food stuffs with resealable plastic bags.

They are useful for a gazillion other things, too.

They can serve as a mixing bowl, a water carrier, a mini clothes washer, a berry picking bucket or a makeshift rain hat. Use them as waterproof mittens, goulashes and tent slippers. In a pinch, make a skirted fishing jig, fletch an arrow or create a reusable coloring surface for wipe-off markers as a diversion for kids. And that’s just the beginning.

Despite what you may have heard, common baggies are not meant to be used in boiling water. According to manufacturer specifications, most of them are designed for use at temperatures of 120 F or lower. Boil-in-bags are an exception.

Stick with name-brand bags. They tend to be thicker and more durable, which means they are ideal for reuse. I always keep a handful of clean, used quart-size and gallon-size begs in the bottom of my backpack for use at a moment’s notice.

But don’t try to be a reuse superhero. Baggies are fragile creatures. Know when it’s time to bag them.

Old, worn baggies should be recycled whenever possible. They can be discarded with plastic shopping bags at select recycling centers and supermarkets.


Outdoor 101: Your Guide to the Outdoors

A general field guide is a useful resource for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. It covers everything from trees to wildflowers and fish to birds.

There are several guides to choose from. When selecting one, stick with recognized imprints, such as National Audubon Society and Peterson’s. Features to look for include detailed descriptions, and lots of color photographs and illustrations.

I prefer one that also is compact, lightweight and water resistant.

Most general guides are in book form, but single-topic guides are available as apps.

 

Don’t Hit the Water Without Them
Most bass anglers know crankbaits are good, all-around lures. But they can be especially effective during the pre-spawn, when fish are scarce but prospects of catching the big ones are best.

Bass settle deeper and are less active during pre-spawn due to cold water temperatures. To adapt, keep your tackle box stocked with deep-diving crankbaits and a few shallower-running lures for when conditions begin to fluctuate and transition to warmer, springtime temperatures.

 

What Day is It?
February 5: National Weatherman’s Day
February 22: Walking the Dog Day
February 25: Pistol Patent Day

 

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication in the magazine, we will send you $25 for one-time use of the item. When sending a photo, identify people and pets, and tell us the story behind the photo. 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 having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Shooting Moving Water is a Challenge

Monday, January 25th, 2016
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Capturing a multi-dimensional scene in a one-dimensional picture is not easy. Photo by David LaBelle

How often have we stood in awe of one of nature’s breathtaking scenes and tried to capture it with a camera, only to be disappointed because our pictures did not feel like what we witnessed or felt?

It is a challenge to try and make a one-dimensional picture that represents a multi-dimensional experience.

Photographing moving bodies of water—streams, rivers, ocean waves or waterfalls—is one of these challenges.

There are a few things you can do to capture images that come close to conveying what your heart felt even more than what your eyes saw.

The first question to ask yourself: Do I want to freeze the action, record a literal document that allows one to study details, or make a more poetic photograph that conveys more how I feel when I behold the scene?

If stopping the action is the goal—capturing details such as the crispness and design of water beads or a surfer bent low under a magnificent curling wave—use a fast shutter, something faster than 1/500th to 1/2000th of a second.

There is also a time to slow the shutter to capture the feeling of the experience more than a detailed study—something more interpretive.

To create a photograph that feels more like what the scene looked like to the naked eye, slow the shutter and allow the water to run through the frame. Set your shutter speed to 1 to 10 seconds.

The first challenge is to reduce the light coming into the camera and reaching the sensor so you do not overexpose or blow out all of the highlights. It’s a dance, of sorts.

Set camera on its lowest ISO, usually 50, 100 or 200.

Set aperture (f/stops) to the smallest opening, f/16, f/22. This allows the least amount of light to enter the camera.

Avoid bright, sunny days or shoot before sunrise or after sunset. Direct sunlight creates too much contrast and too many deep shadows. Flat, overcast light is excellent.

Look for scenes—creeks and rivers—where stones or vegetation offer contrast and shape, things for the water to go over or around.

Use the foreground to give depth. Use a small aperture opening (f/16 or f/22) and focus one-third into the scene. This should give your picture depth and focus throughout the scene, depending on the focal length of your lens.

If uncomfortable using manual mode settings, set your camera on A for aperture priority and set your f/stop (aperture setting) to f/16 or f/22. The camera will choose the corresponding shutter speed.

To keep the camera still, a tripod or stationary item such as a sandbag is essential.

A cable release that allows you to avoid moving the camera body is a handy tool, or use the camera’s self-timer to trigger the shutter without your shaking hand touching the camera.

If there is still too much light, try lessening it with filters. A polarizer can subtract some of the light reaching the sensor—which allows you to use a slower shutter speed—and adds richness to color. A neutral density filter is perfect for subtracting light and allows you to use longer shutter speeds, smaller apertures and gain more depth of field.

Use long exposures—several seconds or longer—to capture a milky, flowing, poetic feeling.

Experiment. Create your own photographic cookbook with tried-and-true recipes for success. With today’s cameras, you can look at the LCD panel and see the adjustments needed to get the exposure and feeling you want.

 

daveL_mug_2011David 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 www.greatpicturehunt.com.

The World’s Oldest Cat

Friday, December 25th, 2015
At 26 years old, Corduroy is the oldest living cat in the world, but that doesn’t stop him from getting outdoors for a daily jaunt. Photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

At 26 years old, Corduroy is the oldest living cat in the world, but that doesn’t stop him from getting outdoors for a daily jaunt.
Photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

Filling every edition of the Guinness Book of World Records are amazing feats.  Some are captivatingly disturbing, others almost unbelievable. Among these accomplishments is a four-legged member of the Sisters, Oregon, community.

For 26-year-old Corduroy the cat, having nine lives takes on a whole new meaning. He is the world’s oldest living cat, born on August 1, 1989.

What some may have thought was a tall tale, was given the stamp of approval by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Three years ago, Ashley Okura, who has owned Corduroy since she was 6, decided to fill out the Guinness World Records online application.

“I looked into the records at Guinness World Records online,” says Ashley. “Corduroy was older by a month than the cat that was listed. I submitted my application July 19, 2014.”

After submitting her application, Corduroy was given the title of oldest living cat, for the first time.

Soon after, another owner submitted her cat, Tiffany Two, who was older. She later died in June 2015 at 27 years 2 months 20 days old.

This was a chance for Ashley to regain Corduroy’s title.

“I went through the process again and reclaimed the second title on July 6, 2015,” Ashley says.

To claim the title of oldest living cat, Ashley had to submit birth records, vet records, two witness statements, photographs of Corduroy and she throughout his life, and video evidence.

Ashley was thankful the Sisters vet clinic still had Corduroy’s first records.

“We just had his first vet visit on paper, because it was before computers,” she says. “They had Corduroy’s folder still on shelf. Everything was in his folder.”

The domestic long-haired cat has endured the test of time, and in return been Ashley’s companion through the challenges she has faced in life, both small and large.

At 23, Ashley and her family were in a private plane accident. Ashley’s parents were killed in the crash. She was left paralyzed, in complete, from the waist down.

“I found a lot of love and security in having Corduroy around,” she says. “Even in the wheelchair, Corduroy was never standoffish, which was lovely.”

Ashley has since recovered from the accident and walks with the assistance of a cane and leg braces.

Ashley has shared her appreciation for Corduroy on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

“It’s been really fun for people to reach out on Corduroy’s wall and post photos of their own cats,” she says.

Corduroy is recognized on a global scale, with fans in Japan and the Netherlands.

“From my own experience I’ve seen a trend in cats and social media,” she says. “It seems like in the last five years there’s been quite the draw.”

Ashley says the draw to cats is their notoriously independent nature and personalities.

Corduroy’s social media presence grew after his Guinness World Record title was announced. Videos and pictures of Corduroy appeared in the Huffington Post and on KVAL 13 News in Eugene, America’s Funniest Home Videos, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and more.

“We’re also starting to write a book about Corduroy,” Ashley says. “It’s actually going to be a nonfiction book about growing up with Corduroy. And that’s being written by Jodi Schneider McNamee from the Sisters local paper.”

Even with his fame, Corduroy lives the average life of a cat. He enjoys his leisure inside the house and daily outdoor adventures.

“I always call him in at night,” says Ashley. “It’s one of the keys to keeping him alive.”

Ashley also keeps Corduroy on a special diet to protect his kidneys.

She hopes to share the life of her mellow cat, who loves to be petted, with more animal lovers on social media.

“I would love to share Corduroy with the world via Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, and have people get to know him a little bit and enjoy him for as long as possible like I have.”

For more information about Ashley and her cat, visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ruralite. To connect with Corduroy on social media, use the hashtag #oldestlivingcat.

 

Safety First on Country Backroads

Friday, December 25th, 2015
Skiing, hiking or biking where vehicle traffic may be present requires extra caution and attention to safety. Be aware of your surroundings, increase your vision and strive to be seen. Photo by iStock/gameover2012

Skiing, hiking or biking where vehicle traffic may be present requires extra caution and attention to safety. Be aware of your surroundings, increase your vision and strive to be seen. Photo by iStock/gameover2012

One of my favorite childhood memories is of my brothers and I cruising the backroads around our rural home on our bikes. However, it didn’t take long for us to learn that riding in the country—where shoulders are rocky and narrow, and bike lanes are rare or nonexistent—requires an extra level of vigilance.

The same is true for hiking or cross-country skiing where vehicles may be present.

In addition to the usual safety preparations—such as checking your equipment to ensure it is road ready—here are some other tips to make your country outings safer.

  • Be watchful. Country roads are often the first to show wear and tear, and the last to be repaired. Be on the alert for potholes, gravel, broken glass and the occasional aggressive dog.
  • Increase your vision. If you don’t already use one, buy a lightweight mirror that attaches to your hat, helmet or handlebars so you can see vehicles approaching from behind you.
  • Strive to be seen. Avoid wearing colors that blend in with your surroundings. Opt for bright colors. Better yet, invest in a high-visibility vest or jacket. If your trip takes you into early morning, evening or other low-light conditions, make sure you have lights of some kind in front and back to increase your visibility to drivers.

Outdoors 101: Just Add (Safe) Water
Cuts and abrasions are one of the most common outdoor injuries.

Back in the day, we were taught to clean the wound with available water, including water from nearby rivers, streams or lakes. That is no longer recommended, due to the possible presence of harmful bacteria or parasites.

Current practice is to assess the wound to determine if it needs to be cleaned. If it does, manually remove any dirt or debris, and wash the wound with bottled or treated drinking water.

Hiking With Four-Legged Companions
Planning is key when hiking with dogs. Be sure dogs are allowed where you plan to hike. Find out if there are limitations, such as restricted or leash-only areas. Determine your dog’s needs on the trail. Bring along plenty of food, water and tick repellant. Equip your dog with booties if it’s a tenderfoot or it will be hiking on hot, icy, abrasive or prickly terrain. Finally, remember to bring along those flimsy plastic bags for picking up you-know-what.

Celebrate the Outdoors
January 5: National Bird Day
January 7: Old Rock Day
January 21: Squirrel Appreciation Day

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use of the item. When sending a photo, identify people and pets, and tell us the story behind the picture. 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 having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Critique Honestly But Gently

Friday, December 25th, 2015
Donna Wallin reviews the results of her photo assignment with instructor David LaBelle during a Ruralite workshop. Photo by Mike Teegarden

Donna Wallin reviews the results of her photo assignment with instructor David LaBelle during a Ruralite workshop. Photo by Mike Teegarden

Many years ago, a pack of prankster photographers convinced me to play along with a joke on one of their co-workers who was anxious about attending a photography workshop and having her portfolio critiqued.

They wanted me—if only for a few seconds—to act tough and pretend I did not like her pictures. Foolishly, I agreed to play along.

I met the young photographer, introduced myself, and asked her about herself and how long she had been shooting. I looked slowly through her portfolio, wearing a serious, stern expression.

Doing my best to “act” concerned, I looked up and said, “I don’t see anything in here that suggests that you should keep going in this profession.”

The color drained from her face. I was sure she was going to cry. In that split second, I realized the cruelty of the joke. I felt sorry and embarrassed. After they quit laughing and saw her wounded expression, her colleagues also felt bad.

Though I immediately apologized profusely, flailing helplessly to repair the psychological damage I caused, she stormed away, humiliated. I am confident she hated me that day and probably still does.

It is a lesson that still stings.

Separating ourselves from our creations is difficult. Many feel deeply connected to their art—be it a piece of furniture or a photograph—and can be so wounded by criticism they quit something they love.

I am a believer in the positive power of honest critique, and abhor ego-driven criticism, which kills the spirit.

How we critique is the difference between the recipient hearing and contemplating the evaluation, or closing their ears and heart to what is said.

Begin with the positives. “I love what you did here.” “Wow, you did that really well.” Once someone trusts that you care and are trying to be helpful, they usually will swallow the medicine that follows.

Avoid the judgmental terms “good” and “bad.” With most creative endeavors, good or bad is a judgment in the eyes of the beholder. I have heard people declare a photograph was great just because it was a picture of cat. Never mind that it was blurry and poorly composed. I try to replace the word “problem” with “challenge,” and substitute “interesting” or “uninteresting” for “good” and “bad.”

Be specific. “That works for me” or “It doesn’t work for me” is not helpful. Better to say, “Perhaps if your subject wore a different color dress that didn’t clash with the background, the picture would be more pleasing.” Or, “Maybe if you had used a shallower depth of field to place greater emphasis on your subject, your focal point would have been clearer.”

Keep in mind what you hope to accomplish. Some people want affirmation more than an honest critique. Others sincerely want to learn techniques to help them improve. What is the goal?

I have learned with age and experience to choose my words carefully, realizing how fragile talented people might be in the beginning of their careers or avocations.

My goal is to be honest with my appraisal, but to wrap my words—my opinion or judgment—in a blanket of kindness and support that cherishes another’s precious spirit.

daveL_mug_2011David 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 www.greatpicturehunt.com.

The King of Clydesdales

Friday, December 25th, 2015
Parnell Ranch trainer Ben Shupe takes one of his charges out for a trot. Photo by Mike Teegarden

Parnell Ranch trainer Ben Shupe takes one of his charges out for a trot.
Photo by Mike Teegarden

One of the most anticipated aspects of the Super Bowl is the commercials. Every year, Budweiser stands out among its competition with a minute-long commercial starring the one horse breed that has become synonymous with the company: the Clydesdale.

Budweiser Clydesdales are a tradition stretching back to the 1930s. With a massive breeding operation and a reputation for quality horses, it may come as a surprise that Sandpoint, Idaho, rancher Jack Parnell has been a key figure in the continuation of the breed.

At 80 years old, Jack is the owner of Parnell Ranch. He breeds and raises Clydesdales for customers nationwide, including Budweiser.

“They use a couple of our stallions in their breeding program in Missouri,” he says.
Michelle, Jack’s wife, says their relationship with Budweiser is more than just business.

“I’d like to call them my friends,” says Michelle. “When you say Budweiser, I say Clydesdale. They do everything top notch and they have nice people.”

Budweiser has a large-scale breeding program. Michelle says they produce 60 foals a year from their leading stallion.

“What takes us 10 years to do, they do in two,” says Michelle. “They do their own thing on a big scale. We are just a dot in their program, but our dot has had a significant impact.”

The impact the Parnells have on the Clydesdale industry is their dedication to producing high-quality horses with stellar confirmation, markings and feathers—the hair that grows on the animals’ legs.

“You want them big enough, around 16 to 18 hands tall, bay horses with four white feet and a big blaze,” says Jack. “Conformation-wise, hind legs close at the hock, neck to come out of shoulder just right and with ample feather on their feet. We like that to be long and silky.

“Breeding horses, you’re basically putting genetic material together and making artwork. I want to leave this breed better than what it was.”

Jack’s childhood fascination with Clydesdales led him to becoming a horse breeder. He remembers being drawn to the horse barn at the Sacramento State Fair as a child. Jack would lean over the fence and daydream about the day he would have his very own Clydesdale.

Jack grew up in California on a dairy where they farmed with horses. Jack was the California Secretary of Agriculture for eight years under Governor George Deukmejian and the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture of President George H. W. Bush for four years.

“I was very honored to have served in those positions of leadership in this Great Nation of ours,” Jack says.

Jack and Michelle owned a cattle ranch, bred Clydesdales and farmed rice in Auburn, California, before moving to Sandpoint in 2002.

“My dad always talked about the Northwest and how wonderful it was, so I always believed I’d come up and take a look around,” he says. “I did and fell in love and been here ever since.”

Jack manages the ranch with the help of Michelle and trainer Ben Shupe.

The ranch typically has 10 to 13 mares and two stallions, one imported from Scotland and the other from Canada. They have six to eight foals a year.

An important component of the Parnells’ breeding program is promoting their horses at shows. They participate in halter classes, based on the horse’s conformation, and driving classes. Each year, they show at the Calgary Stampede in Canada; the Western Regional Clydesdale Show in Monroe, Washington; and the Draft Horse Show in Sandpoint. They also attend the triennial World Clydesdale Show in various locations and the annual National Clydesdale Sale in St. Louis.

“The idea is to drive the Parnells’ own breeding and home-raised horses,” says Ben.

Ben looks forward to promoting the Parnell horses at the 2018 National Clydesdale Show in Madison, Wisconsin.

Even though the Parnells are not in Clydesdale country, the camaraderie of the industry knows no geographical bounds.

“The Clydesdale industry is a small industry,” says Ben, who moved from Pennsylvania to Sandpoint a year ago to work for Jack. “Everyone knows everybody.

“We have fun with each other at the shows. They are all friendly, and it’s a good group of people.”

Watching his herd graze on grass in his front fields, Jack is reminded that Clydesdales are more than an industry.

“It’s a privilege, more than a business, to be involved with these horses,” says Jack. “I think they’re very noble creatures. I think they are very special individually and collectively, and we treat them that way. God has given us the extreme privilege to breed them and care for them.

“If you can do it all in North Idaho where it’s so beautiful, you can’t ask for more.”

Capturing the Drama of Nature

Friday, December 25th, 2015
Sunrise at Thor’s Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Photo by Dennis Frates

Sunrise at Thor’s Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.
Photo by Dennis Frates

Landscape and fine art photographer Dennis Frates lives for the moments that only come around once

Sunlight reflected on a canyon wall above a small waterfall for a matter of minutes. The curvature of a dune’s spine in Death Valley just after sunrise, the sand taking perfect form just seconds before blowing away with the wind. The clouds scattered across the sky in an impossibly alluring blend of shapes and vibrant colors over a remote spot in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. All of them are moments few could ever hope to witness in person, and all of them fleeting—beautiful and breathtaking—but gone as quickly as they came.

Through all the thousands of photographs Dennis Frates makes, those are the scenes he truly lives for. And they don’t come around every day.

“I’ve captured some really nice wave shots where they come up and they turn translucent, and they’re turquoise, and they twist and they do all these things, and no one’s ever going to get that shot again,” says the Wilsonville, Oregon-based photographer. “It’s unique. I’m never going to get that shot again. Shots like that, that are very ephemeral, that go away very quickly—that’s what excites me the most.”

During the past 30 years, Dennis has travelled across the world, eagerly in pursuit of nature’s most dramatic moments—typically, intense and unusual weather conditions—to bring emotion to the lives of others. But years before his images landed on the pages of Ruralite, National Geographic, Sierra Club, Audubon, and countless other magazines, books, catalogs, calendars, posters, greeting cards and advertisements, Dennis gave up on photography altogether.

At age 11, Dennis ditched his first camera, which he had bought with money he saved from his paper route. The dazzling images of photographers such as David Muench and others he had seen in National Geographic and other magazines lured him into the photography world. For a year, his exuberance and passion carried him. He quit after what he considered his failure to make images equally as stunning. He put his camera in a closet and went fishing.

“I said, ‘The heck with this,’ and I gave it up. I was either with my camera or my fishing pole—one or the other—so, yeah, I guess I went fishing for a number of years,” Dennis says, laughing.

It was while fishing, more than a decade later, that his passion for photography came thundering back. He was fly fishing on the Madison River in Montana when the feeling came out of nowhere.

“I can remember exactly on the Madison River where I was standing,” Dennis recalls. “It just came to me. I said, ‘You know, I’m going to do this professionally when I get home.’”

At first, the return of photography in his life started as a way to supplement the income from his full-time job as a fifth-grade teacher, so he could fund his fishing and backpacking trips. But as time went on, it reached a point where the camera was far more important to him than his urge to fish. That was saying something for Dennis, who had fished with a passion since he was a kid.

His teaching job allowed him to spend summers traveling to new places and capturing the surrounding scenery. When he returned each new school year, he would bring a garbage bag full of 35mm slides into his classroom and dump them onto a table in front of his awestruck students.

“I’d say, ‘Those are all my mistakes,’” Dennis says. “‘There’s a few that I got that were good, but look at all these mistakes. I had to do all this to get those.’”

It was a way of teaching his students the mindset he had adopted through the years and now sums up as “failing your way to success”—the reality that many achievements come with time, and with many mistakes and failures in their wake.

But through all of Dennis’ perceived mistakes, he has emerged with some truly breathtaking images—such as his favorite photo of Crater Lake National Park, a scene in which rows of puffy clouds streaked side-by-side across a blue sky are reflected in the lake.

“I’ve been to Crater Lake a zillion times, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” he says. “It was absolutely windless, and the mosquitoes were eating us alive, and those clouds came in and lasted for a good half-hour, and that’s just so unique. That’s the kind of stuff that gets me going.”

Such shots are gems along the paths of Dennis’ travels. Since retiring from teaching, he has more time to shoot. In the past 18 months, he has shot all around Oregon. He also has visited Bryce, Capitol Reef and Zion national parks in Utah, Hawaii, Lake Tahoe, Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada and a 10-day trip in the desert Southwest.

Typically in search of unusual weather conditions and intense moments, he spends most of his time shooting during the very early morning and late evening hours to catch the most unique lighting.

In recent years, as Dennis made the transition from film to digital photography, he has sharpened his focus on making images that evoke emotion, using what he calls the creative license—the ability to enhance photographs with the help of computer software—to produce an ideal and special picture. As an example, he points to an image he produced of koi in a pond. He layered multiple photographs on top of one another to create an image with more fish in the pond.

“They were all there but just not at the same time,” he says. “Some people may call that cheating; I call it creative license. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it at all. It’s the creative license that digital gives us. I could never do that with film.

“A photo can go from a zero to a one to a 10 just in your processing, and that’s a neat feeling.”

With the advantage of digital photography, Dennis now approaches his shoots differently, thinking more creatively about not only what scenes would make good images, but also what he can do to bring out something extra in them, ultimately with the goal of making people feel something.

“If someone feels inspired and it lifts them, that to me is worth it right there,” he says. “I want people to look at these images and be inspired and feel an emotional connection.”

Dennis says he once concerned himself with which photos would sell best, but years later—with his family grown and finances less of a focal point—it’s all about the experience.

“Whether it sells or not, it just isn’t as important anymore,” he says. “The joy of being out there—that’s what it’s all about.”

Recently, Dennis’ 35-year-old daughter has taken a fondness to photography and professed an interest in continuing Dennis’ business after he either stops or passes on. He gave her his best fatherly advice: “Just have fun and do it because you love it.

“That’s been my mantra my entire life,” Dennis says. “I’ve never done anything I didn’t really feel. It just isn’t a good way to live. Do what you love. Do what your passion is. Do what moves you. That’s what’s going to make you create the best images.”

To see more of Dennis’ photography or order prints, visit www.fratesphoto.com.