October Snow

I’m so excited: it’s started snowing.

The days have still been mostly sunny and warm, but last week precipitation was falling in solid form. It didn’t stick around on the ground, but all the ridges & buttes had a powdered sugar frosting!

Last week I went out to look for sagebrush seed: it’s an important habitat plant for sage grouse and other desert animals, and can get wiped out in wildfires. Sagebrush species have very subtle differences and can be agonizing to identify, so standing around in 40F, cloudy weather with winds scouring you at 15mph does not make it any easier.

Cold, and WINDY

A little nicer in this canyon

That day before heading out I was confident in my weather forecast of sunny but cool, so I was totally caught off guard when the stretch of desert I was in whipped up a freezing flurry storm!! It wasn’t quite sleeting on me while I was walking around, but I drove through whirling white snow clouds to get back to my office. When I returned, the buttes around the office were dusted with sleety snow!

Butte ridge with a little accumulation

Big snowflakes!

I think my favorite part of this day though was the treat of seeing a new animal: a porcupine had come to drink water from the road! Though it wasn’t busy when I was passing, trucks & trailers often come speeding over the hill on the highway. So I pulled off the road and got my shovel to gently nudge her back into the brush. Once we were both safely off the road I took photos, but by this point she was a little disgruntled and had raised her quills at me. Don’t worry, I wasn’t close enough to get poked! 😉

Grumpy porcupine

Grumpy porcupine butt


Where do the seeds go?

My purpose in central Oregon over the summer was to collect seed. Specifically, as much seed as possible from species that have never been collected before. I needed a minimum of 10,000 seeds for the seed bank, and a surplus of 30,000+ seeds for restoration projects across the district. Our district database has 255 species that have already been collected, so those 255 species were off limits – I had to find something else to collect.

Within a few months of starting my seed collection  mission, I had 10 new species in the bag (literally). But all that seed takes up space, and my cubicle was starting to get a little cramped.


Mapping, monitoring, and collecting 50,000+ seeds for a single species: 40 work hours.

So, what do you do with all that seed? It has to get cleaned, sorted, tested for viability, packaged, and stored properly so it doesn’t get contaminated or expire. Enter: The Bend Seed Extractory!

The Bend Seed Extractory is a facility owned and operated by the US Forest Service in Bend, OR. They receive, catalog, clean, test, and store all the seed that we Conservation & Land Management Interns collect and send to them. The facility houses equipment designed and built over the years by Forest Service engineers, as well as specialty equipment crafted in Denmark specifically for seed cleaning. On my first trip to the extractory I got a tour from Sarah Garvin, Assistant Manager and former Conservation & Land Management Intern.


Custom equipment built expressly for seed cleaning: decades of work by ingenious engineers

Whenever we ship seed to Bend, they receive the shipment into a catalog system like a library. Each collection is identified by the unique code and collection number for the sending office.


One week’s worth of seed shipments from across the US: I estimate 4,500 work hours

I got to see boxes of a yucca species shipped from the crew in Nevada – good work, Nevada team! Your 70 lb boxes of seed were impressive!!

Next begins the time-consuming process of figuring out how to clean all the seed. There is no set protocol for a given species because different methods of collection create different challenges for cleaning. For example: a grass seed that arrives still attached to the stem is a different process than grass seed that was stripped clean off the stem.

The seed techs at the extractory know what each piece of machinery is capable of, and what technique it is best used for. They look at each collection like a puzzle, and develop a cleaning method for each and every collection that comes through the warehouse. It might be as simple as sifting the seed through a screen, or using a variety of machines in succession to separate stems, chaff, damaged seed, and good seed.

My favorite machine was the gravity table. The table can be adjusted at an angle so that the heavy seeds will roll faster down the steeper slope, while the lighter chaff and poor-quality seed runs down the flatter part into a waste bin.

Once the seed has gone through a basic cleaning, it’s time to see what sort of quality you get. The seed gets an x-ray to determine whether the embryo inside is fully formed, or if they were duds. Sometimes a seed can look right on the outside, but their insides haven’t developed properly.

Depending on how the seed looks, it might go back out for another separation cleaning to filter off poor-quality seed. Again, gravity is our friend. The gravity table shown below is much  more sensitive, and has the ability to separate out seed into as many as 5 qualities. This means that you can be sure the heaviest seed is the highest quality, and you can then examine the other assortments for their quality and discard the poor-quality seed.


This gravity table will sort seed with a fine sensitivity. It’s great for very tiny seeds, or seeds of mixed quality.

Once quality is under control, the seed goes for a final round of fine-cleaning before packaging. The second cleaning, or “finishing” phase, is to ensure that the vast majority of content is seed and only seed. This eliminates the fine dust, chaff, and damaged seed from the seed lot. The machines in this step are similar to the ones in the initial cleaning, except smaller and more sensitive.


This machine uses an air column to blow fine dust and chaff up into a collection bin while the polished seed falls to the bottom into a collection container.


Finally, the seed is ready to be packaged! It’s stored at low humidity and 100 seeds are counted out by hand to determine the number of seeds per ounce. Any remaining plant material is picked out by hand to ensure no inert weight is included in the seed lot. By hand, people, no more machines.

Now is the moment when our precious seed is divided into its three final packages: one sample packet goes to Oregon State University for confirmation of the pure live seed count, one packet of 10,000 seed goes to the Seeds of Success conservation bank, and the remainder is stored in the Bend Seed Extractory refrigeration unit until a field office requests the seed for restoration projects.

Remember all the bags in my office? Hopefully this is what each one will look like after the crew at the extractory gets done with them:


Saving the seeds: priceless.


The CLM internship is no cake walk. Our days are long, arduous, and exhilarating. Our mornings are early and turbo-charged. I don’t know how most people’s mornings go, but I need something quick, delicious, nutritious, and calorie-packed that I can eat with one hand as I swirl about packing all my other necessities for a 10-hour field day. I’m sure lots of people need a breakfast like this.

I give you: the quiche. Spend a couple hours on the weekend making one (or two), and you’ll have fantastic breakfast you can eat on auto-pilot all week. You can make several, cut them into servings, freeze them, and simply reheat in the morning – they’ll stay good frozen for about 2 weeks (if they last that long). And yes, you can make one. I promise.



9″ pie plate makes 6 servings, est. 400 calories each serving. This quiche has feta and cheddar cheeses, broccoli, spinach, and a little kale. Add or substitute suggested ingredients as you like!

Perfect Savory Pie Crust

Prep time: 15min

Wait time: 1 hour

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 10 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled & cubed
  • 2-4 Tbsp ice water, reserve in a wide-mouth dish

Quiche Filling

Prep time: 30-45min

Wait time: 1 hour

  • 1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of sliced shallots (sub: 1/4 cup diced onion or 3-4 Tbsp minced garlic)
  • 10 oz (two big handfuls) fresh spinach and/or kale
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • Pinch or two each as you like of salt, cayenne, thyme, and oregano.
  • 1 cup grated cheese. Consider cheddar, gruyere, feta, or Monterrey jack.
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream (sub: half & half thinned with water)


If you bought a pie crust (boo!!), preheat the oven to 325F and skip to step 8.

  1. Pulse the flour and salt together in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until the mixture looks like fluffy sand with pea-sized chunks of butter in it.
    • If you don’t have a food processor, use a pastry cutter, a fork, or just crumble the butter and flour by hand.
  2. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough just comes together. It should stay in a ball if you press it in your hand, but not seem wet.
  3. On a clean counter, scatter a little flour. Turn out the dough onto the floured counter and gather it into a ball. Flatten the ball into a firm disk, wrap in a clean terry cloth towel or wax paper, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
  4. When you’re ready to bake the quiche, remove the dough & let it warm on the counter for about 10 minutes. Lightly dust the counter and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out your dough to about 1/4″ thick. Start by gently rocking the rolling pin until the dough gives, then make longer strokes. Alternate rolling directions so you get a circle, not a weird oval.
    • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  5. Gather the pie crust pancake by sliding your fingers under the dough, starting at the edges and working into the center until you can pick it up and transfer to a 9″ pie plate.
  6. Fold the overhanging edges inward into the pie plate, and pinch them so they look nice on the lip of the plate. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look like the store-bought crinkles, it’ll be good!
  7. Line your pie crust with some parchment paper, and pour in some dry beans to keep the crust weighted down. Or, use baking weights if you have them. Bake for 10-15min until just starting to brown, then remove from oven.
    • Turn oven temperature down to 325F.
    • Now you can either put the beans back in the jar, or throw them in the crock pot for a ready-made meal. Breakfast and lunch!!
  8. While the pie crust is baking, sauté the shallots (or onion or garlic) in butter. Add the broccoli and stir for about a minute, then add in the spinach until it is just wilted. Remove from heat.
  9. Whisk together the eggs and cream in a bowl, adding in your chosen seasonings & spices (salt, cayenne, oregano, thyme, etc.).
  10. Layer the green vegetables in your pie crust, and sprinkle cheese generously over the greens. Pour the egg mixture over the cheesy greens, and add more cheese on top. 🙂
  11. Bake your quiche at 325F for 50-55min. Top will be golden brown, a knife will come out clean but a little moist (not clumpy or runny). Remove quiche from oven and let stand 10min before serving. If making lots for later, let the quiche(s) cool completely and cover before refrigerating or freezing.
    • Reheat quiche in a toaster oven for approx. 5min at 350F, or pop in microwave for 1 1/2 min on a medium-high setting.

Hope you enjoy!!

Stay fed out there, CLM Interns!

It’s All in the Tires

Every day in the field is an adventure. I do my best to be prepared, to take precautions, and to not take needless risks. Most of the time I work by myself, so if anything happens I’m on my own to figure out a solution. I have a truck full of supplies and gear, but I’m still just one person – there’s only so much I can do. For example, I can’t pull a truck out of a mud pit by myself.

“Oh, did you get stuck in a mud pit?”

Yes. Yes I did.

Normally I drive an F350 4×4 with super-duty tires. It’s a big truck, and I’ve skidded it sideways through several long, deep muddy pools on old forest roads with towering Ponderosa Pines crowding in on either side of me. It handles like a boss. As long as one tire was gripping, I’ve been fine. I thought I had mastered mud.


Yay truck!

But I don’t always get to drive the F350. It had to go in the shop for maintenance, so I had to scrounge for an extra truck in the vehicle pool. I got an F150  – it had all-wheel drive, it was cleared for off-road field work; a little closer to the ground, but that’s ok. I didn’t think too hard about taking out to my seed collecting site on Camp Creek.

The thing about the Camp Creek location is that it’s part of a grazing allotment. Grazing allotments have well pumps to shunt water to cattle tanks all over the parcel. The little road that I needed to get on has such a pump, but it leaks. The leak is bad enough that the road is always muddy, and now that the cows are on the pasture it’s just a rutted, trodden wallow.

When I arrived, I walked the wallow & scouted my path: I kept two tires on dry ground & made it through just fine. I found the excess barbed wire the rancher had trimmed off the gate so the cows could access the creek & tossed it in the bed of the truck. I felt so smart: no flat tires on my watch! I flipped into low gear & eased the little truck down the steep bank & across the creek. I was so happy, I’m really getting the hang of this off-roading stuff. I did my site assessment, and made my way back to the main road.


The crossing at Camp Creek. It’s hard to judge by the photo, but the road on both banks is about a 40* incline, and there are some big, pointy rocks hiding in there. The water isn’t too deep, but you have to stay right on the track – there’s exactly enough room for the truck, but not much room for error.

Except this time when I came back, there was a herd of cows in my way. In the hour or two since I had crossed, about 30 cows decided it was time to get a drink, and they were standing around in the mud puddle where I needed to cross.


My path on dry ground is blocked by cows. The bush in the left foreground is growing out of a nick point where the drainage has carved out a deep cleft – can’t really go that way.

Ok, so there’s cows. Hm, and a bull. I don’t really want to get out & charge at the bull – the cows should move if I drive up to them, right? I started forward, trying to politely edge between the cows & the mud. My left tires were sliding into the mud, but that was ok – my right tires were on dry ground. I was doing fine.

But then I wasn’t. One of the cows got jumpy & dodged into my path. Not wanting to hit her (of course), I turned to the side. And slid totally into the mud pit – now no tires were touching dry ground, they just spun in place.

Hey, I can get out of this. I’m not that far in, I’ll just dig it out a bit & reverse it. So, I got out my shovel & started digging. I dug out the wet, sloppy clay full of cow manure. I dug dry earth with clods of dead grass & packed it under the tires as best I could. I was ankle deep in the mud, my feet were sliding around in my boots. The cows thought this most irregular. I continued this exercise for about half an hour.


It’s not every day you see something like this.

I put everything back in the truck & started it up. I put it in reverse & eased the gas, slowly rocking it until the truck moved backward. I moved! Awesome!! I’m going to get out of this mess, I was so proud! Until I slid back toward the corner of the mud pit where the drainage goes underground. The crevices are a few feet deep, and my back tires were sliding towards them. I stopped.


Another foot or so & I’d have additional problems. So close to freedom, but so far.

I got back in the truck to think. The novelty of being stuck in the mud had worn off, and I was angry. The cows were increasingly intrigued. Why couldn’t they have found some other water spot? Why did they need to stand around this muddy puddle?!?


You’re not helping, cows.

I stared at the cows. I stared at the sagebrush. I pondered how the indigenous people here peeled the bark off the sagebrush to make sandals. I had an idea: I could use the sagebrush too! I could cut the sagebrush & pack it under the tires & across the mud to get some traction! Ooh, I felt smart again!

I grabbed my pruners and leapt out of the truck, nearly hugging the first bush I tripped over. But, my pruners wouldn’t cut through the tough bark. They twisted and frayed the branches, but the damn stuff just wouldn’t cut. The cows inched closer to see what was so interesting about the sagebrush they stood in all day. One was so close she was breathing in my face. I was furious: I screamed at the pruners, I screamed at the cows. I waved my shirt at them, yelling and stomping after them. First they looked surprised, then they actually started, a little taken aback. I ran all around the truck like a manic monkey, screaming & jumping & swinging the shovel trying to make the stupid cows leave me alone. They actually turned and ran off a bit, but only when I was running directly at them. I ran at all of them in a big arc, hollering like an idiot. One of them stopped. It turned and gave me a look like it had suddenly become aware of its relative size. I was chasing the bull.

I stood still and stared down the bull, brandishing my shovel at it. He let out a low growl that shouldn’t come from an herbivore. I stood even more still, but glared at him just as intently. He eventually blinked and licked at his hoof. I backed towards the truck & got in the bed. (Sorry I don’t have pictures of this part.)

Standing in the bed of the truck I watched the cows listlessly walk off, kicking up a dust trail as they went off in search of less animated company. The bull followed them. I looked down at the toolbox, and upon opening it I found a hand saw. It was dull and rusty, the tip was broken and bent, but it was better than my pruners. I jumped down & started furiously hacking away at the sagebrush. Just then, a truck rolled along the adjoining main road. As it approached the crossing herd, I waved with both arms. Much to my chagrin the cows turned away from the road back towards me, and the truck passed by without hardly slowing. I kept sawing.

Having seemed to forget that just minutes before I had been charging them with a shovel, the cows gathered around again to watch. The bull seemed to grant me permission to cut sagebrush on my side of the truck, and he entertained himself on the other side. Once again I dug out the tires, wedging the sagebrush as deep as I could under them. I made a little bridge of sagebrush across the mud, hoping that if I could just catch one piece well enough, I’d pull myself out of there.


I tried so hard.

Sagebrush bridge constructed, I once again chased off the cows. I didn’t want them to obstruct what could be my only chance to get out of their most favorite mud puddle in the entire allotment. But, my wheels only spun in place. The sagebrush got mangled a bit and sucked down into the mud, but the tires were so slick by this point they just couldn’t grip anything. I’d been in the same spot now for two hours, self-sufficiency was no longer productive.

“Lane to Dispatch on Grizzly…” The cows wandered off almost single file, the show was over.

The desert was silent. I could hear the wind gusting over a hill, I thought I could hear it turning directions. Sometimes a bird would peep. There weren’t any bugs, just me and the sky and the muddy trickle of the broken well pump running under the truck and into the crevice.

About an hour and a half after getting in touch with Dispatch, a Forest Service crew rolled up in a giant rig with a winch. They affirmed my sagebrush bridge attempt, and affirmed how well I was stuck. One of the crew members kicked the tires.

“There’s your problem right there. Just road tires on this thing.”

With the winch hooked up they pulled me out without any difficulty, and even followed for a stretch to make sure I didn’t have any further problems with the muddy tires.

The next week I returned in my trusty F350 and its super-duty tires. I drove clear over the sagebrush, avoiding the mud altogether. There were no cows that day.

– Stefanie Lane, BLM, Prineville, OR

In search of plants

I’m getting my bearings here in central Oregon: I started at the Prineville BLM office on May 1, and after a few days of trainings and general office setup, I’ve started scouting for SOS collections by tagging along on plant monitoring trips.

The Prineville office has an herbarium specimen of Phacelia lutea var. lutea that was collected in 1985, but hadn’t been found or collected since. It was found in the Northern Basin & Range, which is my target ecoregion for this year’s SOS collection. My mentor thought this would be a great opportunity to go out with Hannah (BLM Botany Tech & former CLM intern!) to both search for this rare plant, and keep an eye out for potential SOS collection populations.

The notes on the herbarium voucher were thorough: the population was recorded within a square quarter mile on a south facing slope on the north side of Camp Creek. It seemed like a straightforward task: we had the herbarium mount as an example of the plant, thorough directions, and a relatively small swath of land to survey.

I was so excited to be following in another botanist’s footsteps: “This is it!” I thought. “This is what real botanists do! I’m a real botanist, out to find a really rare plant, maybe we’ll even find a new population of them!”

Herbarium mount of Phacelia lutea var lutea back in its original habitat, three decades later.

We drove along the gravel road up to the two-track jeep trail where we needed to cross the creek, only to discover one of the seasonal irrigation spigots was leaking to the point of creating a silty, marshy wallow completely covering the trail. Although it meant hiking an extra mile, we left the truck at the road since hiking was a better alternative to getting stuck.

After a long walk (because botanists do not walk quickly), we made it to our square quarter mile of creek where the samples had been taken years ago. We scrabbled down the loose, sandy hillside & perched on little protrusions of bank where the soil had compacted, intently scouring the slopes for these tiny plants. The largest sample taken was at most only 5cm (2.5in) across, and although it was recorded as flowering on May 8, we weren’t sure if it would be delayed this year because of the long, cold winter Oregon just received. For all we knew, we could be looking for recent sprouts that might only be 1-2cm (1/2in)!

Habitat for Phacelia lutea var. lutea. Southern exposure bank is left side of photo. Camp Creek runs through center of the valley, in this section more overland flow than an actual dedicated channel.

Coming to the end of our quarter mile section, we were starting to look at the context of our supposed habitat: “Look at the sharp bank on the south side of the creek…look at how the water flows overland, then cuts back into the channel…look at that headcut!” We began to wonder whether the banks we were sitting on were even the same banks that had been there 30 years ago. For all we knew this creek had been busy meandering, flooding, downcutting, and depositing over the years, and the sunny slope our predecessor had sat on was now buried under a broad floodplain or high above our heads where erosion forces had sheared away the soil into a flat wall.

A headcut and plunge pool just below our sloping “habitat”. Note the incision in the plunge pool already acruing. In 30 more years time, the slope I was sitting on won’t exist.

We still scrabbled along, hoping to find a plant or two that had survived or blown to a better location. We got down into the marshy floodplain and looked on either side in case it had found a new niche; we got as high as we could on the steep bank and looked into the tiny draws that formed along the top of the cliff faces. All to no avail – Phacelia lutea var. lutea does not appear to live on the southern-facing slopes of Camp Creek any longer.

This is the real reality of botany, and much conservation work. Habitat loss is almost always the top listed reason for species decline and extirpation, and P. lutea lost its habitat due to erosion. The other reality of botany is that the records we make and samples we take are invaluable time-points. Maybe if we had photos of where the botanist sat in 1985, we could compare to the current terrain. Better yet, a GPS point could have shown us whether or how far the old banks had moved. All the data we collect and notes we take might someday yield a clue to a future botanist about the conditions we see today. I’m going to think about this as I write my field notes and leave descriptions for someone else to follow. Even photos and GPS points can’t replace first-hand experience, so the more descriptive and complete information I can leave behind might make a future expedition a little more fruitful.

– Stefanie Lane, BLM, Prineville, OR