The bike path from Oregon State University (Campus Way path) to Bald Hill runs through fields where the OSU Agriculture Department used to run sheep and cattle. It’s still quite bucolic, but it’s changing rapidly, some good, some not so good. Several of the old barns have given way to fancy new high-tech barns, and all but a few ragged old sheep have disappeared. I miss them. The barn I painted above is still standing, but I doubt for long, given it’s air of abandonment and open gates. This time of year, I always pick blackberries along the edges of the path, but no, not this year. The vines were scorched and thirsty, the few berries looked more like peppercorns.
Two of the old pastures are now huge solar arrays, squatty faceless gray grids stretching on and on. I took photos, but never have drawn from them – bo-o-ring. U-u-gly. But ecologically good, right? Then again, I wonder what will happen when the thistles and ash tree seedlings grow so high that they shade the panels? That much weedkiller would be horrific. I read that the arrays are under scrutiny for alleged funny business with tax credits. Tsk. If I had known about them in advance, I might have asked about at least putting the panels up high enough for sheep to graze underneath them. But OSU doesn’t ask for community input. If you believe the banners hanging from light posts all over campus, it’s because Oregon belongs to the University. As opposed to the other way ’round. Tsk.
The pastures closest to the fairgrounds hold llamas and some intimidating windowless barn-ish structures. There are bluebird nest boxes on many fence posts, and some good educational signage about wetlands down by the covered bridge. A couple more pastures are being restored as wetlands or oak savannah, which is the least they can do given the adjoining acreage south of this area that was wetlands last year and is apartment buildings this year. Not modest university housing, mind you, but luxury student condos… sorry, this is beginning to sound like a rant.
After I photographed the barn, I stumbled upon the yellow jackets busily transforming half a mouse into a feast. I took a quick photo and hurried to the other side of the path – yellow jackets are always cranky in the early fall. (I wondered if the mouse fell out of the sky like a certain Herring…) Around the next corner, a wasp’s nest hung ominously from a seedling tree, looking for all the world like a mummy’s wrapped skull. I hurried across the covered bridge to try to beat the coming rains (for which we are all very grateful!) only to find turkey vultures hunched in the snag, watching me closely. Spooky.
Change is always unsettling. The bike path is still a nice place for a stroll, and always provides glimpses of nature and food for thought. This one was not the usual bucolic experience, but I enjoyed the challenge of painting the scary critters and the barn after I got back to my dry dining room table. Once painted, it was interesting to examine the color palette that popped up when I saved the scary critters page – I would describe it as cranky.