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Colors of a Waning Summer

Late summer in the Golden Triangle region of Montana is traditionally characterized by the gold-colored spectrum of ripening wheat and barley. But now and then a specialty crop is found, and in the case of safflower, the flower makes for a lively contrast to the landscape.

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An online acquaintance from New Zealand posts a tagline with his signature that reads, “Isn’t it a cool thing in nature that the colours never seem to clash!” I think our Creator did that on purpose!

Pennsylvania Dutch

Last week my daughter and I spent a couple days wandering the countryside of Lancaster County. Most of the crops appeared to be thriving, and the weather was ideal for capturing some of the pastoral scenes.

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Tobacco harvest was getting underway, but looked to be a couple weeks away from the heart of the season.

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Church meetings and neighborly visits brought a lot of traffic to the roads on Sunday.

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Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12

Destructive Beauty?

In early July, the Red-shouldered Ctenucha Moths (Ctenucha rubroscapus) were very active along the coastal grasses at Fort Stevens, Oregon. At first I thought the moths were solid black, but upon closer inspection of the landed specimens, the red (actually orange) head and shoulders were quite apparent. The larvae of this moth feed on grasses and sedges, while the adults tend to take nectar from Goldenrod and Tansy Ragwort. The range of this moth is limited to the southern coast of Washington, down to the Sierra Nevadas and central California.

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Biblical references to moths uniformly assign very destructive powers to them. Job uses an analogy that moths can cause the destruction of a dwelling from the foundation. Isaiah likens enemies of God’s righteousness to garments that moths will consume. And Matthew warns us to lay up our treasure in heaven, because worldly possessions will be destroyed by things like rust and moths. We tend to be drawn to things that are pretty or unique, and might even wish to collect such things. A cursory look at such things yields no warnings or red flags, but as in the case of the moth, there may be some hidden destructive device. The moth himself is not destructive, but his larval form can create havoc. Similarly, many things we may covet are innocent enough on the surface, but perhaps the quest to own them requires a sinful path. Or simply the act of possessing them results in a slow, insidious increase of boastfulness, pride or arrogance.

Of the Sun

The sudued sunset plays a backup role for this Wild Sunflower, Helianthus Annus, growing along a rural Montana highway.  

Wild Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus)

Wild Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus)

River of Lava

Earlier this month my daughter and I took a short detour through Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve in south-central Idaho. This is the site of relatively recent volcanic activity, and the lava flow covers over 600 square miles. The features of this monument are both varied and unique, making it a very interesting place to explore. Below are a few scenes from our trip.

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Foliage in Miniature

Conditions can be harsh on the tundra-like plateau atop Beartooth Pass between Montana and Wyoming. Even here, at 10,000 feet above sea level, wild flowers abound when spring finally arrives…and sometimes before true springlike conditions actually exist. However, a keen eye and slow, methodical pace is necessary to really notice the variety of foliage interspersed among the short grass and rocks.

Below you will find an image of the landscape, showing the “tundra” as it appeared yesterday. The temperature dropped to 33 degrees Fahrenheit, accompanied by blowing sleet and snow.  Certainly the overnight temperature was well below freezing, yet these hardy plants thrive here.

The "tundra" atop Beartooth Pass

The “tundra” atop Beartooth Pass

A very different aspect of the wild flowers here are that they tend to be very small, much smaller than we commonly see in lower elevations across the west.  In fact, none of the blossoms in the slideshow below were larger than the size of a dime, and most had a very low growth habit. (Mouse over the slideshow to access the controls.)

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Thoreau and the Moose

Henry David Thoreau wrote,The moose is singularly grotesque and awkward to look at. Why should it stand so high at the shoulders? Why have so long a head? Why have no tail to speak of?” I think “grotesque” is being overly critical, but would have to agree with the awkward assessment. Despite their unique look, they remain one of my favorite mammals to see and photograph. On my trip homeward through Idaho I found a willing subject to spend a little time watching and shooting.

I don't think I'd want to get in an apple-dunking contest with this fellow!

I don’t think I’d want to get in an apple-dunking contest with this fellow!

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Thoreau also wrote, These are God’s own horses, poor, timid creatures, that will run fast enough as soon as they smell you, though they are nine feet high.” In most cases, I fully agree with him here, however this fellow was aware of my presence, yet not at all bothered.

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