Rain has been bountiful here in Montana this year. With an annual rain fall of just over 11 inches, this area near Havre would be considered a desert if it received an inch less each year. This spring and summer, however, have been much different than years past.
Montana’s reservoirs are filled to the top; impressive given how much water is needed to irrigate the crops and how little snow fell in the Rocky Mountains this winter.
Rivers and streams, which are often closed to rafting and floating by early July because water levels drop too low, have been open all summer long.
The hills, which are normally a brownish-yellow color by now, are still a very vibrant green, which is still makes many think it is still spring.
And farmers, for the most part, have thanked the Lord for His gift of plentiful rain. In the field where I took this photograph, the farmer told me it seldom (if ever) produced much alfalfa. And never enough to make many round bales anyway. Yes, this year was different.
The soils here in Montana are very alkaline. Alkali, or alkaline, soils are usually a result of having an over abundance of sodium carbonate or similar minerals. Irrigated fields are a particular risk if the water they use contains a high amount of sodium bicarbonates. If left unchecked many fields become difficult to irrigate. And if left untreated, the problem will infect adjacent fields.
Farmers will grow fields of alfalfa around the problem areas to help mitigate the problem. Alfalfa’s long root system will soak up stagnate water and the minerals causing the overabundance of alkaline in the soil.
This particular alfalfa field is south of Hingham, Montana and it was planted for just that purpose. Typically, these fields don’t yield enough alfalfa for farmers and ranchers to feed to their cattle. And nor do they much care much because the alfalfa wasn’t really intended for that purpose. All the rain, however, provided an additional surprise for the farmers this year…more round bales of alfalfa hay than they have ever seen.
Here I was drawn to the scent of freshly harvested alfalfa coming from this field…a smell that reminds me of home. I have not smelled it since late last summer back in Wisconsin, and it was not something my nose was accustomed to here in Montana. Seldom does anyone see as many alfalfa bales as I did on this morning here in Montana. They were strewn across the field and over the hills as far as my eyes could see.
“This has been a crazy year,” the farmer said. Wiping a thin bead of sweat from his brow with a quick swipe of his cap he added, “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
And neither have I.
Several people ask me why I take so many photographs of telephone poles and power lines.
My reasons are simple.
The vast, wide-open landscapes of eastern Montana are seldom punctuated by much of anything. There are few people living in these parts, even fewer man-made structures, and nary a bush or a tree to be seen. Often the only things seen for miles and miles around and pierce the big sky are telephone poles. When the sky suddenly turns dramatic, I generally search for the first object I can find so I can add some context and scale to my image. Telephone poles (and perhaps more aptly–electrical poles) are generally the only item I can find.
Beyond that I also enjoy the simplicity of telephone poles. My compositions are often stimulated by lines and the linear movement of landscapes. Telephone poles are simple in shape and offer a dash of tension and/or another layer to an otherwise featureless and simple scene.
So yes, the reasons are quite simple–both literally and figuratively.
I really enjoy making these new abstract images. I wanted to create an abstract style and put a lot of thought into technique when I started to create these images, but found that this technique is so simple, it allows me the freedom to create many different images where the focus is on the lines, motion, and colors.