Places & People

Artist Katherine Nelson Creates Drawings Inspired by Grain

Our longtime Palouse Colony Farm friend, Baltimore artist Katherine Nelson, learned of our mutual interests in country life, history, and art through our cousin, photographer and musician Tom Schierman, of nearby Lancaster. In recent years Katherine has visited the farm several times to study locations for her phenomenal artistic creations in charcoal, paint, and fabric. She was here in the Northwest again this summer to participate in an art show held at Art Spirit Gallery in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where we both made presentations on agrarian art. A video of those presentations is provided below, along with an article from a larger feature written by Carrie Scozzaro for the July, 2018, issue of The Inlander.


The Palouse has inspired countless artists with its iconic vistas of grain-covered hills, yellow-gold and green against an azure blue sky and dotted with farmsteads. When clouds roll through and the light shifts, the hills appear to undulate as if a vast carpet of living color. Yet for artist Katherine Nelson, the allure of the Palouse goes well beyond the visual.

Drawing the Palouse is a quest to express the obvious and implied human connections within a unique place formed by nature and agriculture," Nelson writes in the artist's statement for the Art Spirit Gallery's July exhibition of her charcoal drawings alongside Jerri Lisk, Mark Lisk and Al Swanson. "After thousands of field observations, I have developed an admiration for farmers and agrarian fortitude. I see my work aligned with the work I observe, and think that sowing seeds of grain to nurture our bodies is analogous to developing artistic imagery for visual nourishment.”

Nelson's affinity for the Palouse began in 2001, when she relocated to Eastern Washington with her husband and two young sons. Early pieces, which she exhibited at the Art Spirit in 2005, ranged from still lifes to ravens, and from Oregon Coast scenes to rolling fields and broken fences amidst farmlands. By 2007, Nelson was featured in an Art Spirit exhibition entitled The Circle in the Center and Beyond. It conveyed the Palouse through graphic elements of design—light, value, pattern, shape, line—from ribbons of roads to the upswell of morning mist over the land.

“Charcoal is a perfectly suited medium for expressing the undulating Palouse fields and farmsteads," Nelson says in an interview from her home in Washington, D.C. "I love charcoal because it is fluid, forgiving, mysterious and strong. I draw by layering dark velvety values and build textures that are obtained through an additive and subtractive process using a variety of charcoals, pastels, blenders, brushes and erasers.”

What Nelson says she's trying to express is a "luxuriant textural carpet full of patterns, shapes and values" not unlike the antique carpets and weavings she remembers her father collecting while a diplomat in the Foreign Service who travelled throughout the Middle East.

The panels also suggest relationships, such as those Nelson developed while immersing herself in the grain community during Palouse visits from the East Coast, where she relocated in 2012. During one such visit she was introduced Tom Schierman, a St. John-area farmer and photographer who helped Nelson in her quest for Palouse vistas. He also introduced her to his cousin, Don Scheuerman, who co-founded Palouse Heritage — they grow ancient or landrace grains on their Palouse Colony Farm — near Endicott, Washington, with his brother, Richard Scheuerman.

Nelson has visited many private Palouse farms, talked with farmers, attended numerous grain-related events, including the Cascadia Grains Conference and the Grain Gathering, an annual event led by Washington State University to unite producers, consumers and anyone interested in grain. “From my perspective, as an observer and a visual artist," Nelson says, "these interdependent artisanal connections between farmers, millers, bakers, brewers and distillers are in fact, weaving people together quite like a carpet.”


 Katherine Nelson,  Palouse Colony Farm  (charcoal on wove paper, 2017)

Katherine Nelson, Palouse Colony Farm (charcoal on wove paper, 2017)

 Katherine at Art Spirit Gallery, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Katherine at Art Spirit Gallery, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

 Katherine and Tom Schierman, Palouse Colony Farm (July, 2018)

Katherine and Tom Schierman, Palouse Colony Farm (July, 2018)

 Palouse Colony Vista (2018)

Palouse Colony Vista (2018)

Nethers and Runners: A Flavorful Tale of Northwest Milling Origins

This summer brought an opportunity for our extended family to spend several days at Curlew Lake in north central Washington near the town of Republic. Located about twenty miles from the Canadian border, Curlew Lake is magnificent place to fish while enjoying the music of the wind in the towering pines and joyful shouts of young explorers along the shoreline. My son, Karl, and I decided to also investigate the story of Ft. Colvile, the old Hudson’s Bay Company post located near Kettle Falls northwest of Spokane. This area marked the location of the region’s first farms and the historic grist mill that produced the first flour on the upper Columbia. (Note that the present town of Colville, as well as the 19th century military fort of that name, are spelled with two “l’s,” while the old fur trading post preserved the original spelling of namesake Scotsman Andrew Colvile.)

 Left: Hudson’s Bay Company “Myers” Mill on the Colville River (looking southeast) near present Kettle Falls, Washington

Left: Hudson’s Bay Company “Myers” Mill on the Colville River (looking southeast) near present Kettle Falls, Washington

 Same location today (looking southwest)

Same location today (looking southwest)

We learned that Hand-burr (buhr) milling equipment was used to produce the first flour at Ft. Colvile until a water-powered gristmill was built in 1830 several miles south of the fort at Myers Falls on the Colville River. Workers laboriously chiseled a pair of millstones from local granite, and the original stones are now housed at Spokane’s Museum of Arts & Culture. The early mills used two granite grinding stones with canted grooves cut in the rock so grist would be crushed rather than smashed between the stationary nether (bottom) and runner (top). As the runner turned, the grain gradually moved out more finely in the furrows to be thrown out at the edge as flour.

This crude milling required considerable time and produced an oily, starchy germ (which causes flour to become rancid) and whole wheat mixture of protein-rich gluten, fibrous bran, and vitamins. Other products used for “flours” and cereal included brans (outer skins or husks), shorts (bran and germ), and middlings (endosperm and bran). Five bushels of wheat weighing about sixty pounds per bushel typically yielded one 200-pound barrel of flour. Larger areas were soon under cultivation at two nearby company farms that yielded 3,000 bushels of wheat, corn, barley, oats, buckwheat, and peas in 1832. A second, more efficient gristmill was constructed near the original Ft. Colvile structure in the late 1840s and became operational in 1850 to enable substantial distribution of company flour to New Caledonia and the Snake River country.

 Rob Smith,  Historic Hudson’s Bay Company Flour Mill

Rob Smith, Historic Hudson’s Bay Company Flour Mill

Ft. Vancouver’s first grist mill used a small hand-turned stone and was apparently located near the sawmill about 1828. Little of the original fur trading post remains in present Vancouver, Washington, but a magnificent living history recreation and museum are located along the Columbia River in the southwest part of the city. A larger mill at Ft. Vancouver made of locally quarried stone was operating in 1834 but powered by a slow-moving oxen or horses so provided barely enough flour for local needs, though pioneer missionary Samuel Parker considered it “of excellent quality.” Millwright William Crate’s water-powered gristmill was completed in the spring of 1839 on Mill Creek and could grind and bolt about sixty bushels of wheat per day, or 10,000 bushels annually.

 Quern (Hand-Burr) Milling

Quern (Hand-Burr) Milling

The sonorous sound of rotating stones accompanied by the rhythmic clacking and splashing from the enormous wheel played pleasantly throughout the valley. A visitor to the fort wrote that the mill’s “deep music is heard daily and nightly half the year” in order to process the previous year’s harvest, which also came via wheat bateaux and barges from farms of Willamette Valley settlers. Rev. Parker noted in 1836 that the French Prairie “hunters turned farmers” McLoughlin had charitably aided were producing “first quality” wheat and found a ready market at the fort where it was traded for imported molasses, cocoa, salt, rum, claret, and Chinese tea.

Ft. Vancouver, Ft. Colvile, and Ft. Nez Perces (near present Pasco) soon came to employ a host of voyageurs, farmers, herdsmen, carpenters, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, tailors, and other laborers. They regularly worked from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. six days a week at these remote outposts where they raised such heritage grains as White Lammas wheat and Scots Bere barley. Ohio native and wagon train leader Lansford Hastings described bustling Ft. Vancouver in the 1840s as a place of “diligent and incessant plying of the hammer, sledges and axes, and the confused toiling and ringing of bells, present all the impetuous commotion, rustling, tumultuous din of a city life, in the oriental world.”

  Palouse Colony Farm Scots Bere (July, 2018)

Palouse Colony Farm Scots Bere (July, 2018)

Seasons Change and Crops Grow at Palouse Colony Farm

Image1.jpg
 Palouse Colony Farm Native Lupine and Yellow Balsamroot

Palouse Colony Farm Native Lupine and Yellow Balsamroot

This week’s post is a photo montage of recent scenes from Palouse Colony Farm where we were treated to an moist spring that benefited both crops and the native flora of the area’s river bluffs and natural grasslands. Bursts of yellow “sunflower” balsamroot (Balsamorhiza careyana )abound on the southwestern facing slopes while purple lupine (Lupinus spp.), and other wildflowers favor the longer shadows of northern hillsides. The nutritious seeds and stalks of the sunflowers have long been gathered by the region’s native peoples, while lupine blossoms served as a traditional grave decoration.

While elk have been known to frequent the canyon some miles upstream, this is the first year in memory that a small herd of about fifteen of these grand creatures lingered in the vicinity of Palouse Colony Farm. By winter they had headed eastward probably to range in the higher elevations of northern Idaho but we hope they remember the way back to our vicinity. Our bend in the river, which is the northernmost point of the Palouse, has also been home this spring to two pairs of nesting bald eagles. The males periodically swoop high above us when walking around the farm as if to make sure we’re tending to the business of the farm and check out the river for any fish that might be moving close to the surface.

 Guardians of the Farm

Guardians of the Farm

Image4.png

I always marvel at how well our landrace winter grain varieties mature in the spring after looking so scrawny in the fall. One wonders how Mother Nature equips the delicate leaves of the young plants to withstand the subzero temperatures that frequently descend throughout the region in December and January. Our father, who raised bountiful crops year after year on our family’s acreage just east of Palouse Colony Farm, observed that the first two weeks of February brought more frost damage to the crops than any other period during the winter. The pictures below show two of our grandchildren standing between stands of Crimson Turkey hard red bread wheat (at left) and soft red Yellow Breton, one of France’s famed crepe grains. The contrast between the sparsely filled furrows last November with the lush stand at the same place in June attests to the remarkable life-giving forces of land and air.

Image5.jpg
Image6.png

Before and After: Palouse Heritage Winter Landrace Plantings at Lenwood Farm near Connell, Washington (Left and Right: Crimson Turkey™ and Yellow Breton™ Wheats)

East Meets West—WSU’s 2018 Farmwalk Tour and Our Seattle Damsel & Hopper Friends

This past June we were privileged to take part in Washington State University Extension Service’s Farmwalk 2018 program organized by Nichole Witham and Aba Kiser of the Food & Farm Systems Program headquartered at scenic Port Hadlock on Puget Sound. Thirty-five guests showed up on a breezy morning at the end of Grove Road between Endicott and St. John to learn about the history of the farm and tour the property.

Image2.png
 Founder Rob Salvino of Seattle’s Damsel & Hopper Bakeshop

Founder Rob Salvino of Seattle’s Damsel & Hopper Bakeshop

We were pleased to make the acquaintance of folks from across the state who shared our interests in health and heritage through landrace grain production, processing, and marketing. Several passed on greetings from our good friend in Seattle, master artisan baker Rob Salvino of Damsel & Hopper Bakeshop (4405 Wallingford Avenue North). Rob was the first professional baker to use the landrace grain flours that we had grown and milled courtesy of Kevin Christiansen at Fairhaven Mill in Burlington. Rob established a thriving business in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood that features both a retail sales area and subscription delivery service for an array of delicious whole grain breads, scones, pastries, and crackers made from Palouse Heritage Sonoran Gold, White Lammas, and Crimson Turkey. His shortbread cookies are to die for!

I was surprised to learn that almost half the group had traveled from places west of the Cascades to find our place tucked away deep in the rolling hills of the Palouse Country. Several appreciated that our farm’s location even seemed beyond the pale of MapQuest though they did manage to join us in time thanks to the old reliable system of a green road sign that identified Grove Road. I remember Jack Grove very well as he lived at the Colony when I was a boy and was grandfather to our distant cousins who lived in other houses there. Mr. Grove related many tales to me of yesteryear life along the river, and some of these for a book to be published by WSU Press this fall titled From Hardship to Homeland. In a future post I’ll share some extracts from that work.

 Palouse Colony Farm Manager Andrew Wolfe Speaking to Farmwalk Participants

Palouse Colony Farm Manager Andrew Wolfe Speaking to Farmwalk Participants

Thanks to Nicole, Aba, and the WSU Farm & Food Systems team for bringing producers, processors, and vendors on both sides of our state closer together through the Farmwalk program. Aba also coordinates the very successful Cascadia Grains Conference which will be held next January 18-19 in Olympia. I hope you can make it.

Grains, Goodness, and Ethos Bakery & Café

A few weeks ago I joined a capacity crowd for a festive “Dinner Under the Dome” fundraiser for the Franklin County Historical Society in Pasco, Washington, that was catered by artisan baker Angela Kora and her staff at Ethos Bakery & Café in Richland (2150 Keene Road). Angela and co-owner Scott Newell established the bakery at the present location a year ago and it has fast become one of the most popular eateries in the Tri-Cities and especially known for the wood-fired oven breads and pizzas made from Palouse Heritage landrace grains like Crimson Turkey, Sonoran Gold, and Purple Egyptian.

 Capacity “Dinner Under the Dome” Crowd Catered by Ethos Bakery

Capacity “Dinner Under the Dome” Crowd Catered by Ethos Bakery

 Ethos Bakery’s Angela Kora

Ethos Bakery’s Angela Kora

Attesting to the Ethos team’s catering skills was the absence of anything but crumbs on the “Dome” dinner plates. My special treat at evening’s end was finding an extra portion of Angela’s scrumptious fruit-filled pastry. Our extended family often dines out at Ethos where they serve up proprietary blends of coffee to accompany a full service menu complemented by scratch-made breads, muffins, and pastries. Among our family favorites are puff pastries filled with chocolate and croissants flavored with malted Purple Egyptian barley berries. And I’ve been known to make special morning trips there just for the raisin granola.

  Ethos Baker Turkey Red Bread

Ethos Baker Turkey Red Bread

 Ethos Bakery Croissant

Ethos Bakery Croissant

I was to earn my keep at the fundraiser dinner by presenting a talk on the significance of heritage and agrarian history. Franklin County is located in southeastern Washington where the county’s production of grains, vegetables, fruit and hay is a $1.3 billion enterprise. One of our Palouse Heritage growers of landrace grains is Brad Bailie who operates Lenwood Farms near Connell. Brad is known throughout the region as conscientious and knowledgeable producer of organic crops. The evening’s program took place in the presence of the majestic courthouse’s golden statue of Demeter, the Greek goddess of bountiful harvests. With area students taking part in the historical society museum’s year-end field trips, my thoughts had turned that week to the centrality of agrarian themes in classical literature and philosophy. In the event you might have interest in this topic I append below an abbreviated version of that talk:


“Founding Farmers: Washington, Franklin, and a Heritage of Goodness”

Richard D. Scheuerman “Dinner Under the Dome” Remarks (19 May 2018)

Franklin County History Society

 

…[A]griculture, is the only honest way wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for innocent life and virtuous industry.   --Benjamin Franklin

   

I hope, some day or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world.  --George Washington to Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788

 

I am never satiated with rambling through the fields and farms, examining culture and cultivators, with a degree of curiosity which makes some take me to be a fool, and others to be much wiser than I am.  --Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, April 11, 1787

 

America’s founding leaders like Washington, Franklin, and John Adams were schooled in Greek and Latin and knew well the significance of classical allusions to Demeter and grain and harvest so visible in this place [Franklin County Courthouse dome court]. They understood what we call “first principles” of personal and political life, principles that they knew must be renewed in every generation to perpetuate freedom and prosperity. We should note that notable exemplars of these principles in the context of agriculture were many of the Founders’ wives—women like Abigail Adams who actively supervised the plantings and harvests at the couple’s Peacefield Farm while John performed diplomatic duties abroad before a terms as Vice-President and President. We are gathered here because we support the mission of the historical society’s museum, a term derived from the Muses of mythic Greek inspiration. So what are Muses whispering to us these days? Perhaps we could revisit their timeless message of a special heritage for old and young.

 

Purpose and Meaning             

As someone who worked for over forty years in public and private education, I had recurrent reason to muse about purpose and heritage. Each fall for the past many years at Seattle Pacific University, I welcomed incoming cohorts of teacher candidates at the annual graduate studies retreat on beautiful Whidbey Island. I never let that opportunity pass without asking in the first few minutes why they had come. What is the purpose of education, why perpetuate a cultural heritage—through school, a museum, a library, a society? To have a job, to raise test scores, to exhibit interesting old objects? I received many answers ranging from the idealistic (“I love working with kids”) to the extrinsic (“free summers”). While some tended toward first principles, many did not. And I might add that to my mind “loving kids” is an insufficient basis for teaching. Most people anywhere love children, while serious dedication to their present well-being and future world is something rather different.

In this day of debate about the validity of facts, permit me to offer one: Plato, Cincinnatus, Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Lincoln—while living in different times and places—would have been in basic agreement on the significance of our cultural heritage and purpose of education. They wrote about it in explicit terms. The value of our cultural heritage, the purpose of education… is to make people good. This simple yet profound truth bears repeating: The value of our cultural heritage, the purpose of education is to make people good. You’d be surprised what quizzical looks I got from the many teacher candidates to whom I explained this fact over the years.

 

Goodness as Service

Goodness in the classical sense, well known to our nation’s Founders, was not some vague notion of nice feeling. Rather, it was a course of action. While the writings of these thinkers offer slight variations on the theme of goodness, they agree to a remarkable extent on the core qualities of honesty, hard work, and public service. This has important implications for a historical society like this one, and its relevance to society at large and the next generation we seek to engage.

This room is full of exemplars of such a mission. The members, supporters, and volunteers of this organization are living expressions of honest, hard-working public servants. This is the timeless key to purpose and meaning, and goodness. Moreover, it is the antidote to what syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer has termed “meism”—the selfish “what’s in it for me” mentality that threatens to derail the well-being of any community or country. It’s much easier, after all, to sit home and complain about things than it is to get involved, to vote, to attend, to compromise, to work.

While leaders like the Washingtons, Franklins, and Adamses may be more popularly known for democratic ideals, they all found vivid expression of their beliefs in agrarian affairs. They acquired farmland, helped organize rural societies, and wrote extensively about what they called “agricultural improvement.” They found through relationship with the land an incredibly enriching expression of goodness.

Washington devised some of the earliest and most comprehensive schedules for soil amendments to increase the fertility of his lands, Thomas Jefferson helped build some of the country’s first mechanical threshers, and Benjamin Franklin introduced numerous clovers, grains, and other crops to the new nation. New relevance is being found today consistent with their vision and labors to promote sustainability and prosperity. This is exciting! This is meaningful! This is goodness in full measure. Through your abiding support, may past be prologue to make our founders proud, and to inspire our youth to purpose and service.

 

Progressive change to promote the public good and wellbeing of future generations can be unwisely limited by amnesia as well as nostalgia. Amnesia is to forget about cultural legacies bequeathed by ancestors and society, and nostalgic appeals to life in some halcyon past often overlook the challenges of such times. But memory is a critical discipline, We remember places, mark Scriptures, and listen to elders’ stories in order to foster human flourishing and stewardship of resources and experience for tomorrow.   –-RDS

A “Farm to Table” Milestone—The Grain Shed Opens!

Image2.png

After seven years of patient labor begun with extremely limited quantities of rare landrace grain seed, we were thrilled to attend a soft opening of The Grain Shed in Spokane’s South Perry district (1026 E. Newark) on June 9. The event marked the culmination of our vision to complete a heritage grain-based “Farm to Table” market devoted to principles of “flavorful authenticity.” Imagine the rich, warm aroma of artisan breads made from whole grain Crimson Turkey wheat, the progenitor of most all modern bread wheats, accompanied by a glass of Scots Bere ale (“The grain that gave beer its name!”).

 Red Letter Day: The Grain Shed Opens

Red Letter Day: The Grain Shed Opens

Hat’s off to the remarkable cadre of committed souls whose dream for a place dedicated to serving healthy landrace grain products in an atmosphere of good fellowship was matched by months of careful planning and hard work. Palouse Colony Farm co-founder Don Scheuerman teamed up with Grain Shed co-founders, Joel Williamson, malster-brewer of LINC Foods,  brewer Teddy Benson, and renown Spokane artisan baker Shaun Thompson Duffy of Culture Breads. The result of these innovative endeavors is this first of its kind co-op producer/worker/service model in the region. 

 Legendary Spokane Artisan Baker Shawn Thompson Duffy

Legendary Spokane Artisan Baker Shawn Thompson Duffy

 Grain Shed-Palouse Pint Master Brewers Teddy Benson and Joel Williamson

Grain Shed-Palouse Pint Master Brewers Teddy Benson and Joel Williamson

Shaun designed the bakery’s enormous wood-fired oven where he applies the skills of a culinary artist to transform fresh-milled flour from The Grain Shed’s stone mill into succlulent Old World-style pastries and breads. Among his specialties are whole grain rye Volkornbrot and pain de mie, a soft French sandwich bread. As an indication of The Grain Shed team’s caliber of service, the informal opening was such a hit with locals that they sold out of both specialty loaves and house Scots Bere and Purple Egyptian ales. May the fates smile and allow you to enjoy the unforgettable experience of “flavorful authenticity” on your visit to The Grain Shed. Congratulations Don, Joel, Shaun, and Teddy!