USDA conservationist recognizes iconic Microsoft “Wallpaper” from field work

Lisa Woo Shanks
Area Resource Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, California
July 30th, 2014 at 7:30PM

A photo of Microsoft  photo titled “Bliss” for the default wallpaper on its XP operating system. Windows XP was recently retired along with the iconic photo of a verdant green field on rolling hills that was the operating system’s default wallpaper.

This photo, called “Bliss,” had puzzled me for some time as it looked so familiar.

Recently, I stumbled on an article that connected the dots. “Bliss” is from Sonoma County, Calif., where I served as a district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Photographer Charles O’Rear took this photograph in 1990s, which went on to become one of the most viewed photographs ever. O’Rear was traveling when he saw the field and stopped to capture its beauty.

I actually visited the site in 1992 to develop a conservation compliance plan, just a few years before the photo was taken.

The grass boasts the glowing green because it was planted to grow food for dairy cows, such as ryegrass and oats. The field was fertilized with manure from the nearby dairy, and the dairy farmer cut the field for food and also grazed his cows on it during the winter months.

The field is located on California 12 between Petaluma and Napa, just east of Schellville, between the Mulas Dairy and Stornetta Dairy. Today, the land is a vineyard.

As an NRCS conservationist, I help owners and managers of private lands with a variety of plans, and I’ve seen my share of fields, farms and ranches. After 32 years on the job, this field still sticks out in my memory for its beautiful scenery.

So, I found bliss! In a cow pasture.