Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sustainability Sunday: Here Comes the Rain Again

For those who may now know it, Rain is the name of the game in many parts of the Pacific Northwest. Newport Oregon for example receives an average annual rainfall of 68 inches. Here in the Willamette Valley however we receive an average of 42 inches per year. This is not drastically different from the annual precipitation back in Blackstone Ma (48 inches). The main difference here is that our average winter temperature in Corvallis is near 40 F compared to Blackstone's 22ish degrees. 

A late summer downpour has inspired me to start seriously thinking about how I intend to confront the coming winter. I want to grow crops all winter since the weather is so nice, but what I will need to do is construct some sort of rain rerouting system to keep the plants from drowning.  I'm open to thoughts and suggestions. 

It's all about water and food these days.  My thoughts seem to continually run back to the basics, the most basic of basics.  Having enough to no longer need to fret about supply (as back in the living in a van days) the real concern now is quality. Most recently I've been thinking about Genetically Engineered or Genetically Modified foods (GE, GM, GMOs). This practice is so disconcerting.

I've been disturbed by GMOs since the late 1990's, but I suppose I never imagined that they would become so prolific and nearly inescapable. Recent reports that even Organic products like veggie dogs and cereals have been contaminated with GMOs are distressing. These companies are trying to avoid GMOs but can't.

"North American production of corn, soybeans and canola is now more than 50% with transgenic traits (herbicide tolerance or bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) resistance), while milk from the United States (US) is mostly produced with recombinant bovine somatatrophin (rBST), and meat is being produced with various biotechnologically-based growth hormones" (Peter W.B. Phillips and Grant Isaac).

Furthermore it seems as though there is little control over inadvertent hybridization between GMO and non-GMO crops. 

Solution? I don't have one. For me the ideal solution is radical. Stop GMO production altogether and/or mandatory labeling on all products containing GMOs (this of course doesn't even take into account all of the international implications of GMO agribusiness).

Barring this I feel as though organic and local is the best bet. All Local eating is a major challenge but one that I may undertake soon if only for my own piece of mind.

GMO Labeling: Threat Or Opportunity?
Peter W.B. Phillips and Grant Isaac
University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Water What?

In the course of an instructional video I learned the depressing fact that 60% of adults polled in a survey conducted by the USFS did not know what a watershed is. 10% of those who didn't know thought that watershed is a synonym for a waterworks. Ironically 65% of people boil or filter their tap water. This means that more people are concerned about the health of their water than know where their water comes from. In a way this is a good thing because it means that these people might want to know what they can do to protect their water and themselves.

The more I learn about water issues the more passionate I become about watershed heath. Many of the Pacific Northwest natives recognize water as the first food, the most sacred gift. Without water we are going nowhere fast. 

Soon my online class will be over and I'll have a few weeks to dedicate to my thesis. This information about watersheds couldn't have come at a better time.  

Edith Wharton in talking about her character Lily Bart said: "a frivolous society can acquire dramatic significance only through what its frivolity destroys. Its tragic implication lies in its power of debasing people and ideals". If Wharton was interested in illustrating the tragedy of how frivolity destroys I find that she was enormously successful, and the ecological implications of this are what I intend to locate in her works and describe in my thesis.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ecocritic Meets the VP Nominee

Although I have been frankly anti-political since the Bush fiasco began, this upcoming presidential election is starting to get my attention. Initially, when it started to look like Obama and McCain might be the front runners, I felt both pleased and apathetic. I've always thought of McCain as a somewhat moderate Republican. This simply means that his name does not inspire me to do anything scream. In that light he seemed like an acceptable possibility if the more desirable outcome of a Democratic (or more Ideally Green president) could not be achieved. I hadn't looked much into his policies because I already knew that he is anti-Gay marriage and thus I am anti-McCain. 

Recent nominations for VP however have prodded me into action. 

My first stopping place for information was Leauge of Conservation Voters since environmental policies are really my major concern. While it was no surprise that McCain has a worse environmental voting record than Obama I was shocked by how wide the margin was (I was also shocked by how often McCain fails to do his job). I was also pleased to see that Biden ranks reasonably high (though certainly not as high as I'd like ideally).  

LCV couldn't help me however when it comes to the Republican VP nominee.  For info on Sarah Palin I had to hunt through some news clippings. Googling her name and environment turns up some things. Such as "4 Things Sarah Palin Believes About the Environment" and "Palin Not Convinced on Global Warming".


Obama for president (despite the fact that I was recently warned that he intends to raise taxes for those making over 250,000 per year**gasp** as if that would ever effect me or apx 90% of Americans).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

TagCloud Thursdays p.3

Causing a Stir

Although I've ranted a bit about my work regarding intoxication and Kate Chopin's The Awakening, I'd just like to put it out there that if anyone is looking for a quick but interesting read I would certainly recommend this novel. 

In some senses tame by modern standards this book caused a stir in its day (1899) and virtually ended the author's career. Even today there is plenty to debate about in a classroom where this book has been read. 

Stupendously available for free online.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Picking a Fight with Gentry

I spent a few hours today considering Deborah Gentry's The Art of Dying. I enjoyed her work immensely. The first chapter was like a crash course in Suicide History and provided me with a number of other theorist's names and ideas to consider for further reading. 

Gentry quotes Margret Higonnet’s essay “Speaking Silences: Women’s Suicide”. Pointing out that “[c]lassical instances of women’s suicide are perceived as masculine” while the “ninteenth-century reorientation of suicide toward love, passive self-surrender and illness [is] particularly evident in the literary depiction of women” (2). This is an interesting notion especially if one considers Jocasta and even the later Shakespearean account of Portia. 

Further on in the text Gentry quotes Gilbert and Gubar regarding the sacrificial aspect of womanhood. “Whether she becomes an object d’art or a saint, however, it is the surrender of self-- of her personal comfort, her personal desires, or both-- that is the beautiful angel-woman’s key act” (3).

Gentry asserts that in many works of the Victorian and Edwardian period “woman’s death is important only in how it affects other characters, mostly men, who remain alive, an effect which is striking in the conclusion of Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shallot”… The poem concludes not with her death but with Lancelot viewing her corpse and stating, “She has a pretty face,” another instance of woman as symbol rather than substance” (14). This of course is totally relevant to my reading of both Chopin and JW Waterhouse.

With regard to Chopin, Gentry asserts that, “Edna’s awakening…is nothing short of an awakening to the true circumstances of existence for a woman shorn of the romantic illusions that society foists upon her-- an existence in which the deck is so stacked against women that the only true choice left to them is… to die” (22). She further states that “Chopin remasculinizes female suicide” (44).

This is the area where I cannot agree. For me Edna remains a self-delusional character until the very end. She is doubtful and confused as she goes to her death just as other Victorian heroines before her have been. 

Gentry, Deborah S. The Art of Dying: Suicide in the Works of Kate Chopin and Sylvia Plath. American University Studies 56. New York: Lang, 2006.

The Desolate Woman, the Undefined Painter

I'm still working feverishly on my Chopin paper, but I had to pause foe a moment in order to pay tribute to the term "the desolate woman". I find it to be quite catchy and rather apt. Anthony Hobson uses it to describe the female figures in
J. W. Waterhouse's  paintings. 

As the paper develops I find that using Waterhouse as one of my artistic examples is rather problematic. I've only ever heard Waterhouse referred to as a Pre-Raphaelite, but Hobson contends that he is an English Neo-Classicist. I am not entirely swayed and I don't really have the time to hunt down the minute details I would need to make a fully informed decision. 

Even the Waterhouse archive page seems confused on this issue. They state "Waterhouse's works are perhaps the best of the Pre-Raphaelites (although really a Neoclassic)". Umm. 

How can one be the best painter of one style while belonging to another? To overcome this problem I am considering JWW a Pre-Raphaelite working at the end of the period. Whatever class of painter he is, his work is most certainly shaped by the earlier works by folks like Millais and Rossetti who are undeniably part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Developing the Mucha Connection

The time in southern Oregon was relaxing and pleasant but the time has come to yeild once more to the pressures of academic life. As previously mentioned, I have a paper regarding Kate Chopin's The Awakening in the works. The main premise of this paper is that Chopin's world was dominated by repeating female archetypes in both art and literature. In my reading these archetypes become the various personas adopted by Chopin's main character, Edna, as she tries to experience "self-hood". In order to illustrate this point I intend to rely upon the images of two popular artists who were creating during Chopin's time. While many people draw parallels between the images of motherhood in Chopin and the works of Mary Cassatt, I am eschewing that well traveled road in favor of Alphonse Mucha and J. W. Waterhouse.

My reasons for this vary. In the case of Mucha I am interested in illustrating the connection between art and economy. Mucha was a commercial artist for most of his life and his works were and still are widely reproduced. Born July 1860 in Moravia, Alphonse Mucha was the son of middle class parents. His interest in drawing was apparent in his youth, and the young Mucha’s obsession with art seems to have been a disappointment to his family who tried on a number of occasions to steer their son in other directions including the seminary (14). 

In 1887 Mucha relocated to Paris in hopes of developing his art beyond the confines of romanticism (16). His initial experience in Paris was not promising. He made “a bare living…executing minor graphic works for various clients” until 1895 when his poster for Sarah Bernhardt’s “Gismonda” changed the course of Mucha’s life (16).  “It would be difficult to over estimate Sarah Bernhardt’s role in Mucha’s subsequent fame” (16). “It is quite certain, however, that his association with her launched him on a career at quite a different level than what he had experienced up to that time. He was now a preeminent graphic artist and posterist of not just local but international fame" (17). The Bernhardt posters were “widely publicized in many European and American publications…and their reproductions were distributed throughout the world” (17).

It is highly likely that Chopin was familiar with his work. I have found a few websites suggesting that Chopin was a fan of Sarah Bernhardt but this connection will need to be developed. 

Rennert, Jack and Alain Weill. Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Posters and Panels. G.K.Hall: Boston, 1984.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Garden Delight

We're down in Grants Pass for Bird's 10 year High school reunion. While I am not overly anxious for the reunion I am having a great time here at the Wicks Casa. Their place is delightfully located in the mountains well outside of town close to the Applegate River. Their garden is stupendous and I am filled with envy.

I woke up this morning to the sight and sounds of Bird and Rhonda working hard to push a wheel barrow of corn up a steep gravely slope.
Now many hours later all of that corn is shucked, blanched, cut and packed into bags. We also blanched, peeled, cut and dehydrated a box of peaches, and picked, prepped and vacuum sealed green beans.

It was a delightful and productive day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

TagCloud Thursdays

Gearing Up to Teach: An Ode to Indices

As the time to teach approaches I've been thinking more and more about how to best get my students involved mentally and perhaps even, dare I say, emotionally in their largest project. Last term I had some success with this by prompting them to write a 10 minute rant about something that as always interested or fascinated them. This could be something they really love, such as the word fork, or something that has bewildered them, such as: why isn't there a licence to reproduce? Or why do some dorm students find being rude to housekeepers acceptable? These topics produced amazing papers which shows me that this quick write was useful and worth repeating.

Now I am trying to think of ways to address other issues I see in my student's work. One issue that seems perennial is the fear of the book. This paper has a number of source requirements which the students must meet in order to succeed. One of these requirements is a book source. All this means is that all WR 121 students must find a book which they can use information from in order to produce their paper. Simple right? No. 

When I started teaching this class roughly one year ago I was certain that this requirement would be the easiest. Surely all my students know what a book is and how to find one. Wrong.  They understand the difference between credible and non-credible web sources with ease. They even have a reasonably firm understanding of peer-review journals and how they differ from magazines by the time the paper is due. What they often don't get is how to find a book that is suitable for their paper.

Fading print literacy? I can't say, but what I can say is that I am hoping to teach at least one full class in the library this coming term. My plan right now is to have each of my classes meet me in the library as soon as topic selection is done. There we will have a quick refresher on how to get around the building, how to shelf read library of congress, and how to look things up effectively in the catalog. After this there will be 10-15 minutes of time for them to gather up at least two possible book sources. We will then reconvene at an appointed location for a talk about indices and why they are your friend. 

As I was saying to Bird the other day I sometimes think the index is the most important part of a book. When I take out a book from the library and it is brimming with pages but no index I just want to scream. I'm thinking "Who are you to offer me so much information and no way to find it without reading this whole damn thing!?!"

So yes, I love indices and I want to share this love with my students. Hopefully the combination of being physically in the library with them and guiding them through the process of determining how useful or not useful a particular book is will help them to find new ways to approach the "problem" of a book source.

On the topic of books, I stumbled upon a blog today where the following video clip was posted. I was deeply amused by it. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Down Time

My mind is stuck on all the things I need to write but haven't written yet. This is why now more than ever is the time to procrastinate. My work/learning style is peculiar to be sure, but this is how I am. Once I start feeling stressed I need to stop for a day or two and pretend there's no work to be done. 
Some pictures to soothe my mind... 

Cobble Beach at Yaquina Head

The amazingly rounded Cobbles of said beach

Sea Lions!! Newport, OR

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Today we took a break from schoolwork and went on a date to the Oregon Zoo.  

We've been wanting to check out the zoo for sometime. I've never been, and Bird hadn't been in a long time. We had a lovely time and invested in an annual pass. Polars, Beaver and Bats were among my favorite exhibits. 

Sadly our fellow zoo goers were remarkably irritating. The number of people with young children who either refused to answer their kids' questions altogether or gave them misinformation was amazing! The Oregon Zoo, like most zoos, provides ample signage indicating what animals are in the exhibits, where those animals come from etc... Rather than read the signs, or tell their children to read the signs most parents gave amazingly false answers such as "those are monkeys" while looking at an enclosure of orangutans which is topped by an enormous sign announcing not only the name of the animals inside but the meaning of the word Orangutan.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Camp and Indian Village

Pendleton Round-up began as a fourth of July celebration in 1909.  Searcy’s account of the first Round-up states, “[t]here was horse racing and bucking horses…Nothing was very organized but the bruised and dust laden cowboys who limped back “uptown” from the gravel bar on the river where the events were held nourished roots that were deeply implanted in the soil of Eastern Oregon” (57). Indeed this allusion to the roots, river and soil of Easter Oregon is justified. Just as the industrial success of the town was linked to the ecology of the region, so was the development of the Round-up “homegrown”.

                  Furthermore, just as Pendleton’s industrial success with textiles was intimately linked with the town’s proximity to the Umatilla Reservation, so is the town’s cultural identity indelibly marked by the iconic image of “cowboys and Indians”. The Pendleton Round-up, an annual event which has become as synonymous with the town as the Pendleton Blanket, relies strongly upon these American West icons. From the earliest Round-up Indians have been active participants. On September 29, 1910 the first official Pendleton Round-Up began. Gilbet Minthorn of the Umatilla led a number of his people to the cottonwoods alongside the Umatilla River and set up tipis there (Rupp 4).  Indian parades and dances were held as part of the first celebration (5). In 1911, Pendleton Woolen Mills sponsored and Indian race which had a $250 prize (7). Pendleton Mills and the Bishop brothers were instrumental in encouraging Indian involvement in the early years of the Round-up.

                  Authors Ronald J. Pond and Daniel W. Hester note that “[i]n the early years, the people held on to their traditions and practiced them at the Round-up Grounds and Indian Village” (133). Such traditional practices include the construction and use of sweathouses, and large tribal dinners.  Other traditions specific to the Round-up have developed. Pond and Hester write: 1911, Pendleton Mayor Roy Raley wrote the Wild West show…called the Happy Camp Pageant…The story told…was rife with stereotypes, yet  efforts to update the show have been thwarted. The paegent in its original form is still held dear to many, giving all who participate a chance to laugh at themselves once a year. The Indian participants know their roles just like people remembered their camping places in the Indian Village,  and those roles have been passed down to the younger generations (133).

                 The Round-up is still a major event in Pendleton   

Karson, Jennifer ed., As Days Go by/ WIYÁXAYXT / WIYÁA AWN: Our History, Our Land and Our People — The Cayse, Umatilla and Walla Walla (2006)

Searcey, Mildred. Way Back When. East Oregon Publishing Co. Pendleton 1972. 203ps

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday with Soil, Sustainability, and Cinema

We went to the garden center today and picked up some more seeds and soil. There was a lot to be done in the garden this weekend. First order of business involved stabbing a number of holes into the bottom of a forlorn and lidless rubbermaid tub thus transforming it into a cuke-topia! There are two fair sized cucumber plants comfortably situated in there now. I also re potted another bean plant, harvested a crop of baby carrots, re-tied the tomatoes and trimmed the fuscias, tomatoes, and strawberries (which have amazingly started flowering again).  By the end of the day there will be some newly planted peas and lettuce.

Since it is Sunday I thought I'd put my dos centavos in about sustainability. On my mind at the moment is soap. We really love the new citrus Dr. Bronners. We use it for hands, dishes, and laundry. We've even cleaned the toilet with it. We get the liquid in bulk which saves on money and plastic. We also have a few Ecocloths that we recently picked up. This link is for a similar product since at the moment my memory on the exact brand we own escapes me. Oh, another thing about cleanliness and sustainability is the issue of chemical hazards in soaps, shampoos and beauty products. The website called Skin Deep will tell the consumer what products contain potentially harmful chemicals.  (cha-ching...maybe more next Sunday)

Tonight we're watching the film version of The Age of Innocence. I'm hoping it will be as well done as Ethan Frome.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Woolen Mills Finale & Round-up Tease

Despite the bleak outlook, textile production at Pendleton was not over. In February 16, 1909, ownership of the Pendleton Woolen Mills changed hands. New owners, from a prominent family with a history of successful textile businesses, Clarence and Roy Bishop “eagerly accepted the challenge of the management of the new company” (Lomax 274) The Bishops felt that the mill needed substantial physical and mechanical improvements before the business could resume. Working alongside a construction crew, the Bishops oversaw the building of a new three-story cement facility on land adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad Company’s tracks. By September 1, 1909 construction was complete (274).

            The Bishops intended to continue the Pendleton production of Indian blankets and robes. The brothers employed Joe Rounsley, of the Philadelphia Textile school, to develop designs for the company’s Indian blankets. Rounsley’s product was “pure art, conceived by…living with the Indians” (276).

            In 1912 the Bishops procured the recently foreclosed Wahougal Mill in Washougal Washington (277). This purchased marked the beginning of a series of expansion moves the Bishops would coordinate. The expansions were used as a way to diversify product lines. During WWI Washougal produced army blankets while the Pendleton mill continued to produce Indian products (277) After the war, Pendleton began to develop virgin wool products and market them under the Pendleton blue and gold brand (279). By the late 1940’s Pendleton Woolen Mills  Inc. came to include facilities as far away as Nebraska (300).  Today Pendleton Woolen Mills is still operated by the Bishop family, and consists of seven facilities and 75 stores. The mill located in Pendleton Oregon continues to be the site of all Pendleton Indian blanket production (“About Pendleton”).

I'm hoping to find information regarding the ecological impact of the Indian blanket production that goes on at Pendleton. I am concerned that the intense colors of the blankets may mean that significant pollution from dyes is part of the process. So far I have found very little information. What I do know is that Pendleton has taken a public position advocating sustainability. Of course in this political and social climate this is a smart market move, but it is still significant

My next research endeavour is the Pendleton Round-up. So far I have a lot of fantastic vintage pictures depicting the Round-up's history, stay tuned for the visual feast.

Image of Pendleton Round-Up Blanket

Lomax, Alfred F. 1974. Later Woolen Mills in Oregon, First Edition, Binfords & Mort,Portland, 301.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some Fun

Dialouge and Commodity: an ending

Today in the grad only meeting of Women't Lit class we started discussing Linda Hutcheon's Theory of Adaptation. In the course of this discussion we read where Hutcheon states that "sequels and prequels are not really adaptations...nor is fan fiction" (9).  I found this comment somewhat bewildering. Although I realize that in some ways the three excluded modes do not substantially depart from the "original" or "adapted work", I think that they do fit the three primary criterion Hutcheon establishes earlier in the text (8). Furthermore I think that it might be interesting to pay some attention to the rather recent phenomenon of creating print spin-offs of film and television productions. For me this shift in media strongly suggests adaptation. 

I mentioned this in class by specifically referencing CSI which began as one television program, and is now three television programs which have been the source for a number of paperback novels, magazines, video games, board games etc... This topic brought us all rather quickly to the issue of commodification. Since CSI is a television show produced to make money (not "art") how does this effect the idea of the CSI novel as adaptation? Are the novels:

1) Not adaptations because they are part of a moneymaking franchisee phenomenon?
2) Not adaptations because they are like prequels, sequels and fan fiction?
3) Cross media adaptations which meet the three major criterion set out by Hutcheon regardless of her later caveat and the market forces behind CSI?

I'm voting three. There is no real point in arguing high culture v. low culture since all modes of communication and literature can be valuable sources of information, the study of which can provide the scholar with critical insights. Furthermore regardless of whether it is Dean Koontz or Edith Wharton or the Bible for that matter, market forces play a role in the availability and production of texts. 

Our little group briefly talked about how the idea of dialogue separate from commodification might benefit entry level academics (i.e. freshmen). Although I can imagine the value of such a worldview, where learning and texts are cherished and explored for no real "market" reason, I have a difficult time envisioning this. If everything is subject to the market in our time and place, then what dialogue is there that is not impinged by the market?

I like to think that I do what I do because I love literature. Ultimately this is probably about 85% true. Somewhere in there you can add in egotism and money, then you'd have a fuller picture.

Today my summer term partially ended. 
Tomorrow more Pendleton.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pendleton Woolen Mills and Woody Guthrie

As promised here's part two of the Pendleton Woolen Mills Saga:

In the late 1890’s the pro-business East Oregonian newspaper ran an editorial extolling the virtues of suits made from wool that was raised, spun, and woven in Umatilla county. Although this promotion likely helped business at the young Pendleton Woolen Mills, manager and stockholder Theron E. Fell’s plan was not to focus on the production of suiting materials but rather to focus attention on selling blankets and Indian robes to the nearby Umatilla reservation (261) The total Indian population of the United States at the dawn of Pendleton Woolen Mills was approximately 263,000 people. Populations in the Northwest were approximately 4000 in Oregon, 10,000 in Washington and 12,500 in California (261).


Shortly after the opening of the scouring plant, then scouring plant manager Theron E. Fell had “talked hopefully of a woolen mill” (257).  By mid-July 1898 Pendleton Woolen Mills was legally incorporated and plans for the mill were made public. However, raising money for the venture was slow. Lomax states that “Money-raising was always a difficult task…but especially at this time when the country was just emerging from the panic conditions of the early 1890’s” (258). Despite delays caused by the economic slump the Pendleton Woolen Mills began operation on September 7, 1896 (260).


“The company took particular pains to weave the correct designs and color demanded by the Indians…Robes with colors acceptable to the Crows in the north were unacceptable to the Navajos in the southwest. To meet this diversified demand and to assure accuracy in manufacture, a factory representative visited the various reservations” (261). Such attention to detail paid off, and Pendleton blankets sold well on the reservations. One store in Yakima, Washington placed an order for 1000 blankets in March 1897 and estimated that an additional 1500 would be sold that year (262).


Pendleton products also sold well off the reservation. Robes in school colors were popular at colleges and universities, steamer rugs sold well in the east. But Pendleton remained primarily focused on the production of Indian blankets and robes. They worked to capitalize on the idea of the “romantic western Indian” to sell these products off the reservation. Early advertisements explicitly announced the connection between the Pendleton Mills and the Umatilla reservation pointing out that Pendleton robes are to Indians what a “Paris hat is to a Chicago girl on Easter morning” (264). In 1902 further investments were made in advertising. A number of well-known Indians were photographed wearing Pendleton robes, and these images along with a variety of images depicting Pendleton’s being used indoors and out were reproduced. An eight page booklet showing suggested uses for Pendleton robes was also produced from these images (268)


Despite initial success, the first woolen mill at Pendleton did not last long. Using a number of primary source documents including legal proceedings, newspaper articles, and property leases Lomax infers that the Pendleton Mill went idle around 1907 (271). His sources seem to indicate that both economic problems in the region and legal problems at the mill played a role in the company’s collapse.

Photo:. Umatilla County: A Backward Glance. Compiled by theUmatilla Historical Society. Published by E. O. Master Printers, Pendleton. 1980.

Lomax, Alfred L. Later Woolen Mills in Oregon. Portland:Binfod and Morts, 1974.

As an aside to all this Pendleton talk, I had the privilege of watching a 1950 film called "Columbia" which was put out by the Boneville Power Administration. It was one giant ode to dam building as a force for colonization and weapons manufacture. It was totally disturbing and would have been funny had it been fiction. The entire musical score was Woody Guthrie...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pendleton Oregon, a Wooly Idea

As I'm sure I've probably mentioned ten times or more in the course of this blog the due date for my paper in Columbia Basin History and Ecology class is fast approaching. For my topic I had weeks ago decided on Pendleton, Oregon. This choice was not completely random, but might as well have been since I was only passingly familiar with Pendleton due to their line of Indian blankets and robes. Since beginning my research I've learned a great deal about the town, and I'm glad I picked it as my topic because the story of Pendleton is bizarre and fantastic.  In light of my new deep love for Pendleton's history I intend to post a series of blogs about my findings. I hope you'll all find them as interesting as I do.

Since wool was my source of inspiration it seems only appropriate that Pendleton's woolen mills be the topic of my first Pendleton Blog string. 

In Pendleton there are historically two facilities which are involved in the production of wool. One is the Pendleton Wool-Scouring and Packing Co. and the other is Pendleton Woolen Mills.  The county of Umatilla, of which Pendleton is the seat, was a major wool producer in the late 1800's. In December 1893 “the Pendleton Wool-Scouring and Packing Company was incorporated with capital stock of $12,000 in $50 shares” (Lomax 245). The first $6000 in preferred stocks sold quickly but sales lagged and the committee worked hard to solicit support from woolgrowers and townspeople. Editorials ran in the East Oregonian such as this by CS Jackson “Now it is your duty and to your interest Mr. Woolgrower, Mr. Business Man, Mr. Property Owner…to take one or more shares in the enterprise!” (246)

In 1894, right around the time that the mill was beginning operations, optimism was high (optimism in those days seems on paper at least to have always run high). Board Director E.Y. Judd  stated “I expect to see Pendleton the most important wool market in Oregon” (247). Indeed Mr. Judd was correct, in 1894 daily scouring capacity was 15,000 pounds on the day shift and warehouse capacity could hold 1 to 1.5 million lbs of wool (249). By late 1894 “Pendleton was…established as an important primary wool market. Buyers from flourishing Willamette Valley mills came regularly to Pendleton” (250). 

The Pendleton Woolen Mills began around 1895 and were originally deeply invested in producing and marketing "Indian Robes".  

to be continued... 

Tune in next time for The Pendleton Woolen Mills "the emporium of Indian fashion".

Picture 1: Pendleton Scouring Plant circa 1900. Umatilla County: A Backward Glance. Compiled by the Umatilla Historical Society. Published by E. O. Master Printers, Pendleton. 1980.

Lomax, Alfred L. Later Woolen Mills in Oregon. Portland:Binford and Morts, 1974.

Picture 2: Mill Creek Trading

Monday, August 11, 2008


As this last week of Women's Lit comes to a close I have so much work to do, but alas the Olympics have stolen my mind.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Sustaining Conversation #1 (maybe a new Sunday Tradition)

Chickadees and Nuthatches have returned to our feeders. The squirrels, who ravaged and destroyed several feeders in spring, have pleasingly gone elsewhere. I find myself excited for autumn although the season here is not much like autumn back home.

The tomatoes have many many little green tomats and I've had to be dilligent about pruning and re-tying the one we've staked. Lesson learned: although stakes cost 50 cents and cages cost 2.50 the cage is much less time intensive, possibly worth it. The baby bean and cuke plants are getting bigger, and the peas that I planted in April are still occassionally issuing a pea or two. The carrots don't seem to be maturing, so perhaps the lesson here is that unlike radishes, carrots don't do that well in a container. Mini-gladiolus have yet to flower, the fuscias are pretty much done flowering, and the herbs are doing well, though they certainly would benefit from being placed in larger pots.

Recently Bird and I have found ourselves answering a number of questions about ecology and sustainability. This is logical I suppose considering that she has a degree in Natural Resources, and I am also a lover of living things. As I think about the questions we've answered and the advice we've given I realize that it might be worth while to share some of that here. We're not saying we're the greatest, we've got many things we'd like to do better, but here are some of the little things we're up to in order to reduce our ecological impact.

House: Since we aren't homeowners we had alot of room to choose with regard to our dwelling. Originally we moved into a large freestanding house >1500 sq feet. In Albany, about 10 miles from Corvallis. After testing out our ecofoot print one day (lots of online quizes to do this) we realized how wretched this choice was for our sustainability goals. We quickly decided to move to a much smaller apx. 500 sq. feet rowhouse just >2 miles from campus. 

Electricity: Aside from the obvious (turning off lights/appliances, unplugging things not in use, using compact fluorescent light bulbs) we also purchased our power through Blue Sky which is all alternative source energy (mostly wind). It is slightly more expensive, but not much (for us an extra 2.00 or so). Options like this are avalable in many places ( in New England,  in Midwest,  and South).

Recycling and Composting: We have worked hard to reduce the amount of trash we make. On average the house of three adults and two dogs produces an average of 2.5 gallons of trash per week. While we think we can do better and are working to improve we do dispose of our trash in Bio-Bags, so at the very least this will help to promote the faster breakdown of our garbage. The rest of our stuff we either compost or recycle. The big thing about recycling that we're trying to promote (especially Bird because she worked for a recycling place) is that you must, must, must Only Recycle Things That Are Actually Recyclable. Putting non recyclable stuff in the recycling contaminates the bins and can cause recyclable materials to be turned to waste.

Food: Here's another area where the choices for reducing impact are many. Here in Casa Colibri we are nearly vegan, a food choice that substantially reduces eco-impact. I say nearly vegan because we have recently become much more concerned with local food as a sustainability practice. When it comes to local food we're so lucky because we live in the fertile and hippy filled Willamette Valley. Here there are tons of organic growers nearby. We buy organic whenever possible. There are certainly some foods that we will only eat organic. Organic is sometimes expensive, but buying locally and in season helps us to remediate these costs. We also dry and freeze items we buy in bulk while they are cheap. Hoping to learn how to can soon for more preservation options.  Another helpful thing involving food is the abundance of bulk suppliers we have down here in Oregon. We buy everything from sugar and maple syrup to canola oil  and soap in bulk. We use and reuse our own containers cutting down on waste and saving money.

 Our Current Sustainability Goals: Stopping our junk mail (we get so much and it is lame!), increasing our gardening capacity, stopping all plastic use and purchase, no new shopping bags, increasing local food purchase, reducing waste to 3 gallons every 2-3 weeks, stopping cellphone use.

Long Term Goals: an extremely fuel efficient vehicle, a green building as our dwelling, all organic, 0 waste, off grid technology (solar, greywater)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Yaquina Head Bird Mania

Today we went to the coast. Since we have a membership at the Oregon Coast Aquarium we tend to head off to Newport pretty often. Typically we go to the Aquarium, the Brewery and Hatfeild Marine Science Center. But today we went somewhere new, Yaquina Head. 

The head is just north of Agate Beach, where we frequently take the dogs to run along the long sandy beach, and look for treasures at low tide. Yaquina Head is managed by the BLM and is the site of an old light house first lit in 1873. Bird and Jan went into the lighthouse while I hung out on the back deck and watched some whales. There are several other awesome features at Yaquina. One is Cobble Beach which is a freakish place covered with nearly perfect round basalt cobbles that sing as the tide rolls in and out. Another lovely feature is Salal Hill, a 1000 ft trail that brings you to a great lookout over the ocean and lighthouse. It was totally worth the seven dollar parking fee. We saw many lovely harbor seals, whales, and tons of bird (Brandt's Cormorants, double crested Cormorants, brown Pelicans, white crowned sparrows, common Murres, and pigeons Guillemot

Needless to say I took plenty of photos and posted a good smattering of them on photobucket.
Tomorrow it's back to the grind, but today was a magically delightful day of seacoast, history, poetry, dog play, and hiking. 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Oh Eight Oh Eight Oh Eight

In an effort to get even briefly back on track I went to the Valley Library (which incidentally has a webcam, something that I found totally amusing) today and spent some time, more than I had intended, in the archives and maps room. I was looking for historical geologic or hydrological maps of Pendleton, but found only a few State Water Resources maps from the 60's and 70's which depicted the Umatilla drainage basin. I had been hoping to find some maps that pre-dated the McKay Dam, but no success. I did however find some cool digital archive photos of the Pendleton Round-Up.  I also found a large number of news articles about the town dating back to 1878. I must admit that my microfilm skills were a bit rusty, but I figured it all out well enough. Despite all this research I feel that this paper is no closer to completion than it was when the day began. Hopefully after next week I'll be able to make quick work of it.

In the spirit of getting on track I could not ignore the thesis so I looked around the many delightful library databases and found an essay published in Philosophy and Literature which seems promising; Joseph Carroll's "The Ecology of Victorian Fiction". Although I most certainly don't conceive of Wharton as a Victorian writer I felt like this essay might bring up some interesting ideas which I could debate with in my paper.  The first 10-11 pages of this work are dedicated to establishing the author's position in relationship to what he sees as the dominant ecocritical mode. 

Although Carroll's writing seems intensely biased and polarized I think he does raise some interesting ideas. His primary argument is "that ecology cannot by itself generate a theory of literature or serve as the basis for a theory of literature, but...that responsiveness to the sense of place is an elemental component of the evolved human psyche and that it thus can and should be integrated into a Darwinian literary theory" (296).  While I am not overly enthusiastic about using Darwin as the basis of my literary inquiries I was very interested in his presentation of E. O. Wilson's concept of biophilia.  Regardless of whether or not this can be used in my thesis, the concept of affinity with nature as adaptive and evolutionary is thought provoking. I still have another 10 pages to go with this piece before I can make any real assessment. 

Current Leisure Reading: Galway Kinnell Imperfect Thirst

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Flagging, Feasting and Free-Verse

It seems I just can't keep the same intellectual pace up anymore. I haven't really read any scholarly works in some time. I've slowed down in my Wharton readings as well. I suppose the lull is understandable given the intensity of the past few weeks, but it is somewhat dismaying. I'm hoping to go to the map and photo archives tomorrow to find some information about the historical hydrology and geology of Pendleton, Oregon. The due date for this Columbia Basin paper is fast approaching. 

Despite the diminished scholarly work I have been busy mixing up pizza dough, making jugs of tea, Thai peanut sauce and the like. 

I've also written three or four poems, none of them very good, but they are first drafts after all. 

Channeled Scablands


I will be a reminder

a curve

hugging close hand

to hip

a whiff of water

in a wasteland

slip of skin black

between shadowy hillocks

a glimmer of cataclysm

some will say

sun white in open sky

light I will be


whispers the fluvial


of will whirling

star-spit in a field of

basalt umbilici