This small Japanese lantern and the rock marks a division in Heatherwood’s Japanese garden. Which path do I follow? Do I take the easy path toward the sound of the water? Or do I venture up a curving path to explore up above? Each path has its own little surprises. Take your choice …
I am getting ready for an infrared photography workshop with Tony Sweet on Whidbey Island. I thought I needed to do a little practicing. In this section of Heatherwood, we are trying to create a woodland garden. It is a work in progress, and right now we have only small trees and a few “sun-loving” shrubs planted. The dark bark provides a striking contrast to the IR highlighted trees. In a few years, hopefully the ground will be covered with shrubs, ground cover, and shade-loving perennials. The envisioned garden path will provide the contrast needed for an IR image.
The town of Elberton has as a history similar to many of the late 19th century towns in the Palouse. It flourished for a while, then went into an irreversible decline.
In the 1870’s Giles D. Wilber built a water powered sawmill which provided lumber for nearby farms and barns. The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company build a rail line through the valley in the early 1880’s. The town was plated in 1886 by Sylvester M. Wait and was named after his son Elbert. By the end of the decade, Elberton had a sawmill, flour mill, post office, two general stores, blacksmith and wagon shop, two grain warehouses, livery stable, and a church. During the 1890’s, the town continued to grow. Fruit trees were planted as a major crop. By 1900, the town had a population of 400.
After the turn of the century, the town began to decline. The sawmill moved to Idaho after all the nearby timber had been cut. The town experienced a devastating fire in 1908 and severe flooding in 1910. Elberton then rapidly declined.
During my little exploration, all I could see that remained of the town was the railroad trestle, the church, old building foundations, a few pieces of farm equipment, and several remains of old non-native landscape shrubs and trees. It was an interesting off the beaten path excursion.
“Soon to be Demolished Barn” The Palouse, Washington
On a midday wander along the little Palouse River, I spotted this old barn with a nice background of a railroad trestle and a stream. As I was photographing the barn, an elderly man walked up the road and stopped to talk. He said that he had been living in a little workers house just up the road around the corner. He had been asked to leave because the area was being plotted for a new housing development. He then told me that within the next month or two that this barn was going to be demolished for a home site.
It is sad to see the Palouse’s history fade away piece by piece. Part of my enjoyment of visiting the Palouse is to meet the locals and listen to their memories and experiences of the life in this beautiful area.
“Two White Barns and Steptoe” The Palouse, Washington
I started out searching for these iconic two white barns in the fields of the Palouse. I first focused my images on the two white barns. I wasn’t excited about what I had created. They were just nice photos of two white barns. I stepped back and asked myself why I was making the images. It was the wonderful Palouse sky and the quaint farm setting in the rolling hills around Steptoe Butte. I switched my perspective to the overall setting and away from the iconic barns.
Wandering country road, old farm equipment, and an old school house … how many memories do these represent? One hundred and fifty years of history have changed this area from sagebrush and native grasses to some of the richest dry land farming areas in the world. Decades of dilapidated used farm implements are scattered across the area. The old one room Skeen schoolhouse once served the children of the pioneer families.
As we were photographing, an old farmer who lived across the street came over to check up on us. What an opportunity would it have been to just sit down and and spend a couple of hours listening to him talk about the “Good Ole Times.”
For years, this tree was a cornerstone of a SW view from Steptoe Butte. It anchored a vignette of lush green (spring), golden tan (harvest), and contrasting dark and light browns (after plowing). I had last seen it during the fall of 2019, pre-Covid. It still had all its leaves and looked healthy (at least from a distance). When I saw it from Steptoe this spring during a severe draught, it had lost most of its leaves. I am afraid that this stately giant is in its last days.
On the last day of our workshop, several of us went out to photograph the tree up close. I made images from several different perspectives, but nothing seemed to express the sadness I felt seeing the tree in its dying state. Most of my images were of the lone tree against a background of rolling green hills and a cloud dotted sky. It seemed lonely, just left to die. Then I looked up and zoomed in to focus on the strong stately branches still reaching out. This is how I want to remember it.
This old mill has quite a history. The mill was built in 1890 by J.G. Porter and sold to Harvey Gray. Joseph C. Barron, Sr. bought the mill from Gray in 1907 for $11,500. Joseph C. Barron, Jr. was born in 1909 and joined his father in the business. Junior took over the business and ran the mill until 1960 when he could not compete with the modern facilities. Barron then put in a small modern mill, capable of producing 500 lbs. per hour, in a small building behind his house. He ran the new mill until 1997. At the age of 88 he felt that it was time to retire and sell both his new mill and the old Oaksdale wooden mill to Mary Jane Butters. Mary Butters had worked with Barron for several years and is the owner of Paradise Farm Organics, Inc. which markets organic and heirloom grain products.
The Barron Mill is the only intact flour mill remaining in the Palouse. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It is my dream to be able to tour the old mill some day in the future.
The Columbia River Lava flows make up most of the bedrock of the Palouse. Fifteen to eighteen million years ago fissures in southeastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, and southwestern Idaho spewed out great lava flows over the Columbia Basin. Steptoe Butte created by a metamorphic rock protrusion 400 million years ago rises 1000 feet above the lava flows.