July 7

Soft green wheat field

North Dakota’s evening beauty is nothing if it is not soft, even after a passing storm.  What starts as a rugged black field sprouts green in the spring and then as the small grains develop their head, the field softens.

Cows graze storm passes

In this case, the soft small grain field is marked by the tire tracks of a sprayer that had gone through the field a few days earlier.  Off in the distance the evening glow of cumulus clouds signify that someone is about to get some rain.

Meanwhile several miles south of the wheat field, cows graze as another storm passes.  The softness of the pastoral hillside and the cotton ball clouds create a sense of peace that is typical of North Dakota: calmness even as the storms pass.  The calm pastoral beauty of North Dakota is best seen in the evening, the “golden hour” when the harsh light of the mid-day sun has passed and now the indirect light of the western setting sun adds contrast to the countryside.

June 27

As further testimony to what I wrote a couple of days ago, North Dakota’s beauty is captured easily if you look for it.

I returned a mile or two from where I was two days ago to once again capture North Dakota’s beauty, but this time instead of landscape, I sought out life on the prairie.  This herd of  horses caught my eye, especially the colts laying in the grass, guarded by their mothers.  It’s a pastoral ranch scene if I ever saw one.

The weather conditions were perfect for such peaceful imagery.  Skies were mostly blue with a few white puffy cumulus clouds.  The winds were light and the herd of horses was at peace.

There aren’t very many herds like this here, where mares and colts are in abundance. Most farms and ranches have one or two horses, of a small herd, but none quite with this number.  It’s a rather large remuda, or ramada as it may have been called if it were on a Texas cattle drive.

Not far from the horse herd was a good size herd of Angus grazing on the hillside.  I’m not sure if they were part of the same operation, but either way, the hills and herds produced a romantic kind of imagery for an early summer afternoon.  This was one of my favorite shoots so far this year, and it was just 20 miles or so east of where I live.  How far do you have to travel to find life in the landscapes near you?

May 25

Calves on the alert

They’re getting old enough to almost take care of themselves. These calves east of Wilton are part of the spring crop of calves.  They’re still pretty defenseless, but they’re smart enough to pay attention to a photographer lurking in a nearby ditch.

The USDA says that the value of North Dakota’s cattle herds is $705,903,000. That’s a lotta bucks in those calves!  There are a lotta cattle out there and the good news is, according to the USDA, cattle prices are on track to be as high or higher than they were in 2008 and 2007 which were record years.

That means these little guys are worth a lot of money to their owner/producer.  To make the good news better is the weather has been good enough to provide good feed, too.  I’m happy that livestock producers are seeing a good turn around in their business.  If you’re a cattle producer this year, how are things for you?

May 21

Green grass red barn

Man it’s green!

I don’t know what these horses were looking at, but I was looking at their pen and all the green grass there.  I wonder if during the winter when their diet is mostly hay, if they long for the taste of soft chewy grass.

It was late afternoon when I drove down a gravel road west of Wilton toward the river. There wasn’t much light left as clouds were moving in. So, once I got an image of these horses turned out to spring grass, I had my one-a-day.

Lazy, I know.

April 11

It’s not easy to find good grazing this time of year, but like these horses east of Wilton, a little bit of green can be found close to the ground.

I found these horses where they live year-round on the edge of the Wilton Mine slag piles,  a ranch/farm that has turned the unusable ground in to pasture.  The slag piles are all that remain of the underground lignite coal mines that once flourished on the east edge of town.  Now the region is agriculture based, farming.  Much of the ground where these horses feed is pasture ground.  Not only are the hilly slag piles impossible to farm, the region is a bit dangerous.  Sometimes a mine shaft will open up and swallow the tractor trying to work the region.  Well, at least it used to be like that.  No tractors have been swallowed that I know of for 20 years or so.  Still, when a pit opens up while a farmer is trying to till the soil, it can cause his tractor or other equipment to fall in to the pit and break an axle.

So, eat on, horses.  The slag piles are good food for you.