" Wheatlandia" is the cultural and geographic antithesis of "Portlandia". Wheatlandia is the world of high desert, dry-land wheat farming, an immense tract of the Columbian Plateau of southeastern Washington and eastern Oregon. Built on miles-thick solid volcanic basat, exposed by altitude and lack of rainfall or vegetation, this is the world of deep rooted survivors. Winters are brutally cold, summers blistering hot, and the wind blows in all seasons to test the mettle of the people who would brave the isolation and the elements. The most obvious concession to the spirit draining power of constant wind is that almost all the farmhouse complexes, in a world of sweeping vistas, are tucked deep in the ravines.
This is a land that wears its past on its sleeve. With so much space, most things are left where they gave out. With so little rain, nothing rusts or rots and there is no vegetation to cover it up. Wood structures stand while they are slowly stripped of paint, then combusted by the sun, then blown over by the wind, in a process that takes about 150 years. Arrowheads thousands of year old can be found openly on the ground, and every effort of western culture to settle and tame the land, from the wave of Oregon Trail pioneers to the optimism of the Homesteaders, stands or lays where abandoned for everyone to see. This land defeated most people, and most of them more gritty, determined, and stronger than either you or I.
This is the land of the Magpie, Meadowlark, Raven, Redtail and Rough-legged Hawk, Golden eagle, Mule deer and Pronghorn Antelope. And the ultmate survivor, the Coyote.
The overlay of mostly volcanic dust allows any occasional water flow to dig deep gulleys, and any constant flow such as the Deschutes and John Day Rivers, deep, thousand foot canyons. But whatever the stage of the constant process, the result is an up and down land defined by visibility. From most any high point on any reasonable day one can see 150 miles in any direction, and inevitably a dormant volvanic snow cone, Mt Hood, Adams, St Helens, Jefferson, Three Sisters, and Rainier. And unseen, cutting right through the bottom of it all, hidden by vertical basalt cliffs, the mighty desert river, the Columbia.
Dry land wheat farming is the ultimate investment in optimism, a huge gamble on getting something from almost nothing. Compared to most agriculture these days, there is a minimum of control over what happens after planting on hundreds of thousands of acres. But the new player in Wheatlandia is the wind turbine, finally harnessing power and sustenance from the element which most sucked the will out of those who gambled and lost here.
Wheatlandia, rooted in the past of isolation, self reliance, and elemental existence, is now connected and contributing at the speed of light to Portlandia and the larger world by the largest wind farms in the world. High tech. The wind blows, the blades turn, the money flows. And the farmers do with the wind turbines what they have always done with any obstacle, old or new, man-made or natural. They just plow right around it and keep on doing what they have always done.