Grass, March to September.




Washtucna, Washington

Bronica ETRS & Kodak Ektar

The town’s website says that it’s a safe, quiet place to raise your family. They boast an annual, classic car show and Washtucna stands as the gateway to Palouse Falls. Plus there’s a gas station/coffee shop/gift shop and a tavern.


But even more difficult, our age’s individualism greatly decreases a farm’s chance of long-term success. In historical America, the farm was a family-run enterprise. It was more of a generational lifestyle than a “full-time job.” Land was a highly coveted commodity, and a farmer’s children were expected to carry on the work after their father or mother was too tired or old to continue.

But today, children are no longer expected—nor are they usually encouraged—to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Children are not, modernism tells us, to be saddled with the burdens of their forbears. What does this mean for modern farmers? Simply that, unless one of their children takes a liking to the tedium of farm work, today’s agrarians are on their own. They must conjure up a successful, fruitful farm in their few decades of limber life, or else content themselves with a frugal, arduous future.

Gracy Olmstead, “Plowing it Alone: The Difficulties of Farming in the Modern Age" at the American Conservative.

Swinging southeast, State 3 winds around the slopes of low hills that are cultivated to their very summits. On every hand is evidence of the stability of agriculture in this region: except for an occasional splash of yellow-blooming mustard, the fields are almost free of weeds; houses, barns, and outbuildings are neat and substantial; fence posts are erect and securely set and the strands of barbed wire are taut; new automobiles and trucks are seen very frequently.

Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State (1941)

McCoy, Washington, is a spot on Highway 271 (formerly State 3) between Oakesdale and Rosalia in Whitman County. The hills are still cultivated to their very summits, but the machine agriculture that dominates the Palouse has all but obviated the need for barns, outbuildings, fence posts, and barbed wire. 

Looming over the hills on Naff Ridge, just to the south of 271, are the swirling blades and austere white towers of the Palouse Hills Wind Project. The wind is converted into electricity that’s sold elsewhere; the local grid is still mostly powered by hydro-power from the Snake and Columbia rivers.

At McCoy, the tall, boxy, aluminum-clad 1940’s-era grain elevator stands within sight of the new McCoy Grain Terminal. Grain from all over the Palouse is trucked to the Terminal, where it is then dumped into 110-car unit grain trains destined for Portland, Longview, Kalama, Tacoma, and other Northwest ports. There, the crop is transfered to the holds of ships bound for Asia. Their work thus exported, the locals stock their pantries with food grown elsewhere down at Crossett’s Food Market in Oakesdale.

Barn and tractor near Kamiak Butte, Whitman County, Washington. Early October, 2013.

Belmont, Whitman County, Washington. Late October, 2013.

Hailstorm, Walla Walla, Washington, late June 2012.

Crites Seed Co. Moscow, ID, August 2013

It took us several years before we realized that we were always describing the place we weren’t as “home.”
Alan Jacobs from his City Meditations: 9 over at American Conservative. I hope he elucidates on this in a future column.