Tag Archives: Eastern Washington

E-e-e-gads! Snakes…


We have a snake. Rattler. 5 tics. Molly pointed it out last night as it was lounging beside the deck. She was rather emphatic that we had a pending emergency and that we should move very quietly but somewhat urgently to remediate the situation. Her expression was unlike any I’ve seen her wear. I walked over to where she was pointing in kind of a Lassie sort of “Look, Timmy! Look! Look what Lassie found. Careful, Timmy, Careful!”

So I checked it out. And then I got a rake with a LONG handle and a 40 gallon garbage can and scooped the snake into the can, set the lid on it and set it on the tractor. In the morning, my friend Betsy and I went about our chores and after loading the truck with garbage, we placed the snake in his can on the back of the load, secured all, and drove a couple of miles down the road where we stopped at a pull-out, tipped the garbage can over to release the snake… and never saw it hit the ground.

Where the hell did that snake go anyway?????!!!!!

We looked around (somewhat passively) and decided it must have gotten away undetected.

Or it was still on the truck somewhere.

In the garbage? In the bumper? On the differencial?

So off we went to the dump. No snake.

And then we went to the Post Office. No snake.

And then to Nultons where we loaded 60 feet of squiggle black 10 inch irrigation tubes into the back of the truck. We never heard a rattle.

But then, hours after we got home, we heard a strange sound, a sort of chittering near the rabbits. We wondered if they were feeling threatened about something and went to investigate. Armed with a flashlight with a failing battery, we climbed into the rabbit pen. We flashed all the rabbits. All were fine. We climbed out of the rabbit enclosure and heard the distinct sound of a rattle. And there, beside my truck was our snake.

After locating the rake and shoving another garbage can my way, Betsy retreated to the bow of Calypso, my truck. She shined what pathetic beam streamed from the flashlight onto the snake while I tipped the garbage can over and flipped it in. Then with the can right-side up escorted the snake to his quarters– the bucket of the tractor where he spent the previous night in deja vu conditions: in a 35 gallon garbage can suspended above the ground in a nook created by a tractor’s bucket with a lid inverted on top of him.

“I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,” sang Betsy, “I live in a garbage can…”

Molly (short for Molecule) is my Jack Russell terrier who has more energy and curiosity than any life form ismolly entitled to.  Here’s a picture of her, focusing on small game.

Living on the Edge on the High Desert of Washington

Tara Here. Now how I got here… That is a direct result of Intentional Manifestation.

In 2001 I ventured to North Dakota to try to “do life” with a man who represented himself as “a rancher.” All was not quite as he presented it during our courtship that began as an Internet romance. But oddly enough, I fell in love with his life and his ranch and his child and the man. I am writing a book, the working title for which is 48 Days in North Dakota in which I discuss small-scale ranching and the challenges presented when one tries to get into farming or ranching–having the passion but not the family experience.

Four years later I found the land I call The 3-Bell Ranch. It is everything I “put out there” almost ten years ago, even before my journey to North Dakota. There are acres and acres of pasture for my horses. I’m flanked by State land. The views here are absolutely breath-taking. The energy of the land soothes the soul and heals the body.

But it didn’t feel like that when I landed here a year ago!

The house was a ramshackle shack suffering from years and years of neglect from owners whose love of the land and passion for being orchardists led them to a life of the edge– the plight of small farmers, orchardists and ranchers all over this country. It took only two years of being paid late by the Gold-digger Co-op to launch the snowball of financial ruin that smashed them flat;  they were forced to rip out their cherry trees and apple trees –for here, in Central Washington, if you don’t maintain your trees (i.e. spray them), you must remove them. With the trees went the irrigation. Without irrigation, noxious weeds took hold. And without income from the land, the bank foreclosed.

I bought the land at auction – gambling that I would find water when a well was dug for household water. The well turned out to produce 35 gallons per minute, and was 180 feet deep. In a conversation with Fred Cook, of Cook’s Irrigation, I learned that 20 years ago, a well at this location would have only been ten or fifteen feet. The water table’s receding. Water rights are at risk. Without water the Okanogan Valley will consist of sagebrush, a bit of bunch grass and an array of noxious, invasive, non-native species such as hounds tongue, Russian and Diffuse Knapweed, Baby’s Breath, Dog Bane, Saint John’s Wort, and so on and so forth. Without irrigation it will take 30 to 40 acres to feed a horse or steer during the growing season, but there would be no way to grow hay here except on small areas where the water table is so high that “sub-irrigated” grass will grow.

There is so much to learn about living in this country.

Water is precious. Every drop is precious. Without irrigation there would be no apple trees, no cherry trees, no pear trees, or hay crops or tomatoes or lettuce or any viable commercial crop.

People are on the edge here. When the recession struck the U.S., not many people  here felt it; they were already dirt poor. If you look at the second hand shops you see it. People use things far beyond their “worn” status; they use them until they’re spent– beyond thread bare– beyond “worn out.” They’ve been sewn, glued, welded, mended time and time again until there’s just nothing left to mend.


Years ago I was part of a cadre of teachers in Washington who had been selected to teach other teachers how to use technology to improve student achievement. In our State-wide meetings, those from Eastern Washington used to complain that Western Washington controlled the State and that their needs were neither understood nor adequately addressed. They were so right. Eastern Washington is a different world. It’s beyond Beyond. People here are honest, true, and friendly. They take care of each other. There’s an unspoken pact of reciprocity.

In July 2009 I had the opportunity to spend several weeks in the company of some really amazing young men who installed permanent irrigation sets on the large, unwieldy portion of my land I refer to as the “back 40”– a 12.5 acre field that has been fallow for seven or eight years now. “We’ll get her done,” they’d say. “Don’t worry; you’re in good hands.”

A rational person would look up and exclaim, “No one can do that!” but here, everyone does the impossible. They have to. They have to rise to the occasion, to step onto that frayed tightrope believing that it will not snap under their weight, knowing even if it did, someone, a neighbor, a stranger, God perhaps, would catch them before they hit bottom.

“We’ll get her done,” is the ‘signature quote’ for the Okanogan. It’s a hard life. A life on the edge. There is a daily reminder that we are fragile, interconnected beings.

I feel at home here in this place where the word “impossible” does not exist. And so here I am with my horses, mules, pony, dogs and rabbits, living close to the land, documenting this existence through video and digital photography– my passions. Each year I share some of my favorite images of horses in a calendar I call Horse as Horse in Okanogan County. The calendar features my herd shot at liberty in wild areas of Central Washington. And my next project will be to create brief videos documentaries about agriculture in the Okanogan as well as training videos teaching people skills such as selecting irrigation systems, strategies for installing them on large tracts of land, repairing lines, sprinklers, etc. as well as instructing people about using horses in small scale farm operations.