Veterans Day

Veterans Day ceremonies were held at the Stevens County Courthouse. The commissioners also took the occasion to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Stevens County. In conjunction with that they displayed a Stevens County Flag designed by former commissioner, John Hodde, that shows the current shape of Stevens County against a background of the original shape.


Wine, Whine, Wine

A great year for grapes
A great year for grapes

I just got back from delivering the last load of must (skins, seeds and stems left after making wine) to Quillisascut Farm School for their goats and apparently for their puppy dog, Pala, who was drinking the wine that dripped out of the must and on to her white coat. October was all about dealing with the harvest. The new Cabela’s food dehydrator made short work of some crab apples and prune plums that were the last of the fruit needing to be dried after the dryer fire pictured in last month’s blog. So now we have a lot of dried fruit, especially pears, and are accepting requests for donations from those of you with fewer trail mix components.

The Foch Crop
The Foch Crop

But most of the month was devoted to bringing in the biggest and best wine grape crop yet. I was expecting that it would also be the earliest, and in some cases it was. We picked the first harvest of Lucie Kuhlmann, my biggest and most popular producer on October 6th. I owe a lot to my neighbor Don Worley, who helped with the harvest and the crush, since I threw out my back at exactly the wrong time to handle that myself.

While that wine was fermenting, a lot of us were fomenting change in order to get Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) labelled in food stores. It sadly looks like we failed in that regard despite a second march in Colville and a fund-raising auction at Northern Ales, but that is really a story for the next blog.

Nancy carves a turkey.
Nancy carves a turkey. (Picture by Jeff Barreca)

The next big event on our calendar was our annual trek to the West Side for Thanksween, the Barreca Thanksgiving held early to avoid driving through snow on the passes in heavy holiday traffic. This year the Honorable Marc Barreca and his best friend, Nancy Craver, hosted the affair on Bainbridge Island. Cheryl and I arrived the night before and got to spend some extra time with them while they cooked 3 brined turkeys and several other dishes in their tiny “Easy Bake” oven. That heroic effort, lasting till past midnight, gave other folks more access to the kitchen on the big day and everyone more time to mingle. It also gave the Inlaws and Outlaws band more time to play music.

The band plays on.
The band plays on. (Picture by Jeff Barreca)

We even had my father, Joseph Barreca Sr. singing a few songs he requested out of the Inlaws and Outlaws Songbook (copies available on request).

As soon as we got back home I was testing the brix, (a sweetness scale) of the grapes. We had a few days of rain and clouds earlier in the month and were getting light frosts on the ground from October 4th on. It looked like the end of a great growing season, but the rain held off. Cheryl and I harvested 239 pounds of Marechal Foch, a dark red French Hybrid Grape, enough to make 21 gallons of wine right after getting back from Bainbridge. While the Foch was fermenting, we picked 5 rows of Baco Noir and one of Pinot Noir. Usually I combine these two with some Leon Millot (all French Hybrid grapes) right in the vat. But this year we had enough to make varietal batches of each one.

Office in the long shadows.
Office in the long shadows.

By the fourth week of the month we had a late harvest of Lucie Kuhlmann and three kinds of white grapes ripening in boxes on the subheated office floor. The last of the whites came off the day before a hard frost on October 29th. The next day I drained the outside water system; the Boston Red Sox won the World Series (sorry Dad) and we crushed the late harvest Lucie. Those Lucie Kuhlmann grapes ripened right up once they were warm. They were the largest clusters I had every seen on that variety. Now it is bubbling away with a covering of pink foam in carboys again heated by the office floor.

The real star of the harvest though were the whites. The main crop, Okanogan Reisling, got to 26 degrees brix, a record high and the target sweetness for a semi-sweet wine. Close behind were two other varieties, Geisenheim,

The most-planted grape in Germany in the 1970's.
Geisenheim, the most-planted grape in Germany in the 1970’s.

a tart juicy grape from Germany and Gewurtztraminer an aromatic white wine grape that blended well with the perfume of the ripe Reisling. I really loved the smell from that vat when I opened it to mix it down twice a day. But it may be two years before it is ready to drink. Note the vintage, “Golden Globe 2013”. I probably won’t release it for sale, but you might get a taste some day.

While all of this was going on the software that had been driving my Map Metrics website for many years kept breaking down and having to be restored from backup. For the last couple of years I have been intending to replace it and now was the time. An inventory of the site showed hundreds of pages of content, blogs going back to 2009, every page of most of my map books and maps linking to pages of history of old towns in the area. I reconfigured it to show the main menu items as icons on the front page so it will work better on smart phones. There is still a lot to do on the new site, but it is up an running, with much less content, I hope you like it.  (Under the blog tab there is a link to pictures from the Capitol Christmas Tree in Colville – a preview for next month.)

Wind Rain and Fire

Wind Rain and Fire

Tomato Cages blown over in wind

Spring and Fall are the time for changes from hot to cold, dry to wet, long days to long nights… etc. But enough already! More rain has fallen in the past two weeks than the previous 4 months. Wind knocked over the tomato cages the night we got back from April’s wedding. Several even bigger storms have come and gone since then. Many places around us froze last night (October 4th). We are heating the house and the office again because we went from a Summer that was generally 10 degrees warmer than normal to a Fall that has been 10 degrees colder.

All of this makes it hard for your friendly local farmer to keep up. The grapes went from sweeter-than-ever to wetter-than-ever and are just beginning to dry out again. The table grapes have been good for some time now. I took samples of several varieties to the Farmers Market along with some plants to grow them. I could have sold a lot of grapes, but didn’t sell many plants – even though this is a great time to get them in the ground. I can understand. After nursing a garden through the whole summer to harvest, you don’t really want to think about more plants for awhile

Melted Dehydrater
After the fire

So I was drying a great crop of Himrod grapes into raisins one night when Cheryl complained of a foul smelling smoke in the air. I went outside to see where the wind was coming from and saw that our food dehydrator which was out in the shop/woodshed had caught fire! It was about to catch the whole shop with all the tools and the woodshed with 4 cords of wood on fire. I raced to unplug it. Cheryl brought out a fire extinguisher and we avoided the big disaster but when the smoke cleared, my workbench had a new plastic coating with charcoal raisins embedded in it and that load of grapes had gone up in smoke.

“Restored” workbench and new Dehydrator

Being much less than a satisfied customer, I found the web site of the manufacturer and told them what I thought of their product. After sending some pictures of the meltdown to customer service, I got a phone call from the chief engineer. On the plus side they did replace the dehydrator with a bigger and much safer metal-based model along with a check to cover refinishing the workbench. But I ordered an all-metal one from Cabela’s and intend to avoid plastic dehydrators from now on.

Pear Pie
Pear Pie

On top of grapes coming on, it’s been a regular Pearapalooza around here. We had a big crop of our small pears that were getting ripe faster than our previous food dryer could keep up with. Then I tasted a tree full of big Bartletts at a place I am caretaking across the street. The deer were cleaning those up as fast as they fell down. So I gave the remaining small pears to the deer and picked 3 bushel boxes of Bartletts, which the new dehydrator makes short work of. Still it’s small, so I’ve made a couple Fawnof pear pies and Cheryl made some pear butter. Still not keeping up, we gave some to friends. And not being satisfied with the trade, deer (Daring Doe with her twins no doubt) broke into the cellar where we store the pears and ate some themselves. I had the door partially open to cool it down.

Of course none of this will go down in history, but it has been educational writing a chapter in our family history about my mother and her ancestors. What may actually go down in history is a Pattonville High School annual yearbook owned by my father. Earlier in the summer IEcho1939 contacted Pattonville High, near St Louis, to see if they had copies of the school newspaper that my father edited. A teacher sent back a picture of the masthead of perhaps the only copy they had. Also he noted that although the high school started in 1939, they didn’t have copies of the school annuals until 1946. Dad to the rescue! He said they could have his 1939 and 1940 copies of The Echo. I scanned both copies before mailing them and as a bonus, they had pictures of all the grade school classes as well. The last I heard, the school teacher I sent them to was having his students, who are working on their own annual, read them and think about what they are writing will look like 75 years from now.

To round out historic events, Cheryl and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary with dinner out at the restaurant where I proposed. It has since turned from Cafe Italiano to Maverick’s Steak House. We also attended Music on the Mountain at Chewelah Peak Learning Center, and sat right in front of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra. It was a suitable day for dramatic music since there was a near hurricane blowing outside and when we returned to our cars the parking lot was littered with branches. One more historic note, I turned 66 and we celebrated in Spokane.

FrogNo blog is complete without another animal anecdote or two. For the sake of frogs, I include a picture of one that has been doing the rounds of the office of late. He ended up on my desk one night for this candid picture. I know it is a male because previously he was using the bathroom as an echo chamber for his astoundingly loud croaking.

And here is our constantly cute cat who decided to try out a basket I was carrying as aCatBasket bed. But the real story is a new habit she developed – apparently after we kept throwing her and her latest capture off our bed and out the door. She would bring a critter in and drop a rodent in on one of Cheryl’s Crocks where it really couldn’t get away. We called it the “Shrew in the Shoe” trick. It did make it easier to bring it outside to release. That was all well and good until the night she decided to drop a baby mouse in my slipper, as I discovered while putting them on for a late bathroom break. Luckily, no one was injured.

April’s Dad

Young Woman of the Year 1993I’m not sure when it happened the first time, probably when April was in High School, but maybe even before that.  I was introduced to someone and they got this “Ah Ha” look on their face and said, “Oh, you’re April Barreca’s father.”  It was a little shocking at first.  You get to be a certain age and figure that you’ve done some stuff that you deserve some recognition for, but it turns out that your daughter is getting the recognition, and you are an accessory.  But with a little afterthought, maybe it’s the coolest thing.  Your daughter is already more famous than you will ever be.  The torch has been passed.  You can relax a little.  So it’s with a little bit longer view that I look at August 2013.  That was the month that April Barreca married Tony Houston, one of the most significant events in her life and the history of the family as a whole; right up there with “Sweet” baby James being born this spring.

It has been a very hot summer. Egg Plant With a little water, everything in the garden and the vineyard is doing great.  We can talk about that next month.  We have been having corn fritters and peaches for breakfast often.  Cheryl has filled the house with the smell of roasting peppers once already.  The nets are up on the grapes.  Our neighbors, the Hermans at Cliffside Orchards, contributed a box of peaches for the wedding.  other neighbors, the Cabrals, brought wine from their grapes at Neanderthal Vineyards.  It is a very good year.

For food that is.  Technology on the other hand has been a headache all month.  Crashed websites, lost domain names, car repairs… I even ran out of gas in the car. Twice.  All of these problems have been solved.  They will be forgotten.  What will be remembered are the Jones Girls 1923people events.  Maybe reviewing and writing about history distances you from the day-to-day stuff.  A few days ago I had my workspace covered in pictures that my mother saved from her childhood.  They included some pets and buildings and views of the water, but mostly they were of people.  The same people growing up, standing close to each other, smiling and often not smiling.  My job will be to tell the story of those people, what they meant to each other and what they were like in good times and bad.

On the wedding trip, Cheryl and I got the chance to camp out in our VW van.  We even scrubbed it clean first.  It carried a lot of food and flowers going over to the wedding at Wellspring, a “Woodland Spa at Mount Rainier” according to their Evening at Dog Lakewebsite.  We pulled into Dog Lake campground near the top of White Pass on Thursday the 22nd, two nights before the wedding.  This guy came running out of one of the campsites yelling at us to keep moving and stay out of the camping area.  It turned out to be Greg Mohr, an old friend from Colville, who was getting ready to hike  to some alpine lakes.  He and his wife Christine Wilson were camping with an old friend, Brad and his twin daughters.  We brought out some wine and swapped stories.  It was a good start.

Box Canyon on Mt RainierBeing close to our destination, we took time to tour Mt Rainier National Park Friday on our way to Wellspring.  A lot of love and work has gone into this National Park.  If you get a chance to take route 706 through there, be sure to stop at Box Canyon, Reflection Lake and Paradise Lodge.  Lots of people were doing just that on this beautiful weekend, but it wasn’t hard to get away up a trail and take in the views, or pick some huckleberries.

When we got to Wellspring, we were immediately surrounded by friends and relatives.  Some of them were new relatives on Tony’s side from Ohio and Pittsburg, PA.  It was a little overwhelming and hard to concentrate on getting prepared for the next day or even that night.  There were just family and the very closest of friends there Friday night. But the Barrecas are a big family.  Tony Houston’s parents and siblings came out from Ohio as well.  And there were a lot of other folks there with key parts in the wedding to come.  We had a big potluck meal on a lawn by a gazebo.  Inlaws and Outlaws BandLater the family band, “Inlaws and Outlaws”, got going and played through the night till the curfew on loud music at 10 PM.  The blood blisters on my fingers are finally dried up but still there.  Great jam session.

There is a lot that goes on at a wedding.  April seemed to have just about everything either delegated out directly or through her friend and ace wedding director, Susan Brady.  Cheryl brought flowers and made a tiramisu dessert.  I brought a couple cases of wine, but other people brought wine too.  There was plenty.  We had a rehearsal in the morning and preparations up to the last minute.  There were lots ofDad talks overtimephotographers and the pictures are still being assembled, but you can check some out on Flicker and Facebook. (See the links at the bottom of this blog.) Flower girls, “the dress”, Mary Selecky officiating at the service;  Joseph Barreca Sr giving the blessing; Joseph Barreca Jr giving a short – well maybe not short enough – history of April’s travels and where all these friends came from; Bill Yake reading a poem he wrote for the occasion; Matthew Yake and Liza Reitz playing music for the ceremony; Gail Blumberg and Tony’s brother Jon handling not-always-so-sweet baby James, Bina making lots of jam and writing her own poem, taking photos and decorating…  There was a lot going on, and that was just the ceremony.

Then we started in on the wine and the catered appetizers, moved on toBanquet Tablethe dinner of salmon or brisket, had some great toasts from T-No, another “Ohio Boy” besides the groom, Tony Houston and several others.  Moved on to tables full of desserts and then to live music from a great little band, the Erev Rav into the night.  I said at my wedding that “You don’t just marry one person.”  That was certainly true here.  Everyone from both families and lots of friends were involved and will be for the rest of our lives.  April and Tony generously rented the whole resort with its assorted buildings, hot tubs, trails and chapel in the woods.  They assigned quarters to family and friends with a lot of insight into what they would James Duded up in Diapersneed.  Wellspring has a limit of 200 guests and that’s how many April and Tony invited, actually wishing they could invite more.  I’ve never seen such a large group work and play so well together.  It was a very special occasion and a perfect example of why a lot of people will always know me as April’s Father.

We got a couple more rare chances to visit with my daughter Bina’s father and mother-in-law, Jim and Dorothy Brock and then Bina and her family, Joe, Ovid and Nala Brock the next week.  We had a good time comparing notes on our mutual children’s family with Jim and Dorothy.  Their journey went 4025 miles in 13 days from Colorado through Washington into Canada and back.  I can understand why they were eager to get home and glad they could stop by.

Seeing Bina and her family was also wonderful.  It is amazing howOvid and Nala in the Dodge Truck much kids change as they grow up.  I’m really getting to appreciate how much work it takes to keep up with them and how much energy they have for enjoying life.  Ovid’s little insights like “the bubbles are dancing on my tongue” about an Italian Orange Soda or “It’s shaped like an ice cream cone” about pears we were picking together, were priceless.  Nala’s exuberance just running around (preferably naked) was wild.  Joe Brock and I shared some guy time working on the 1969 VW Bug that he’s lending me.  Bina made sure the essentials for food, water and shelter were being maintained while carrying on whatever conversation was at hand.  It was a great visit while they were here and very quiet after they left.

Rainbow FluteThe month had one sad note as an old friend, Dave Wingate, AKA Rainbow Flute, died on August 16th.  He really hadn’t been himself the last few years after a car accident and head trauma, a stroke and complications, so in a way it was a blessing.  His ex-wife, Marcia, wrote a touching obituary that ran in the local paper.  You can click on his picture to read it.  Marriage, young kids, old friends living and passing away.  It goes on all around us.  We are all in it together.

Links to picture albums:
Aprils Album on Facebook
Bill Yake’s Album
Jeff Barreca’s Pictures
Bina Brock’s Pictures

REB=Retired Extremely Busy

Last Sunday we watched the action comedy RED2.  (Movies still rank high in the “Cheap Thrills” department for us.) In the scenario of the movies, RED stands for “Retired Extremely Dangerous”. An acronym that might suit us non-fiction folks would be REB. for “Retired Extremely Busy”.  During the hot month of July when almost every day starts with setting up irrigation and for me at least, ends with writing something, my Father’s Biography, the Panorama Gem and Mineral Club Newsletter, this blog… there is a whole lot of writing going on.  Stack on some visits from family and friends, add some business meetings, regular work, a few trips of our own and “Extremely Busy” is the least of it. To follow up on last month’s blog, Tales of Daring Doe.  Gretchen has become a daring dog.  She realized that if she charges ahead toward the deer, Daring Doe will turn chicken and run.  Now, if she would just not dare to get into stuff around the house when we are away. Summer is also a great time to get out in the woods.  I found a coupleHuckleberry Haul of guys doing just that to help with the trail mapping project.  So most of the 106 trails I need to map have been mapped and proofed.  I still Davis Lake Duckhave 30 or so to go, but the deadline is next year. Life is good.  Getting out to look at trails also helped us find some ripe huckleberries.  We took our huckleberry hound, Gretchen, and Westfalia camper out overnight to get in this year’s supply.  That gave us a chance to start picking early in the morning when the air was cool and get back for dinner. On most mornings I’m out in the vineyard for a couple of hours.  The grapes are very happy with all the attention, sunshine and water.  Next step is getting the nets up.  The birds have been paying a attention to the grapes early this year and the yellow jackets are thick.  Pretty soon it will be game on for getting in the harvest. My sister Jeannette and her husband Bill Yake made it over to see butterflies and visit us overnight.  It was great to see them and taste some wine. Lovitt RestaurantCheryl had a family reunion of her own.  Her cousin, Pat, is moving to nearby, Chewelah from Florida.  Pat and her husband Allen came up and stayed with Pat’s sister, Kathy and her husband, Jerry, for a few days.  So we got together, had some great BBQ and looked at 80 year old movies that Pat and Kathy had inherited on the tiny screen of a film splicer for 8mm film.  You may be able to “unfriend” someone easily on facebook, but it is much harder to “unfamily” someone in the real world.  Luckily, these were all great people to visit with and (bonus) we could do it at their place instead of Three Cousinsours. In another out-and-about adventure, I was able to take a couple of geology tours this last month with Andy Buddington and Eric Cheney, geologists studying local stratigraphy, the science of how rocks of different types and ages came to be where they are.  It was fun to seeAndy Buddingtonrocks that had been around for half the life of the earth itself popping up in nearby parts of Idaho and walk around mountains that were once the bottom of the ocean.  The explanations are rather technical, but I’ll do my best to interpret them on the Panorama Gem and Mineral Club website, which took the occasion to crash this last month. Actually 3 out of 4 websites I try to manage crashed in July.  A couple were resurrected fairly easily, but the Panorama Gem and Mineral Club website took it hard.  Your eyes may glaze over at the explanations.  Suffice it to say that the software it uses, WordPress, doesn’t get along with Microsoft servers well and moving it to a Linux server created its own set of problems, most of which have been remedied.  Just don’t look at the Google maps yet.  This site and this blog crashed too but it is not WordPress.  This is a re-creation. Many evenings toward the end of the month were spent piecing togetherDad's Favorite B-29letters written by my father to his wartime girlfriend who became my mother, with events from the war in the Pacific.  It was sortof nostalgic, with lots of “swell guys”, movies staring Betty Davis and Clark Gable, raids against the Japs etc.  Nothing PC or “awesome” involved.  They didn’t teach us much about what went on just before I was born in school.  If you are not too “Retired and Extremely Busy” to read a 20 story, check out the draft of “Love and War“, the second chapter of the biography of Joseph Barreca Sr.

Tales of Daring Doe

 

The Original Flower BarrelMy sister, Anita, also has a blog about her home, Thornbush.  Her last entry, Turn,Turn,Turn asserted that everything does not necessarily happen one thing at a time, but sometimes, especially summer-times, all at once.  I almost titled this month’s summary, “It’s Always Something” but I couldn’t pass up “Tales of Daring Doe”.  Her story didn’t happen all at once, but regularly all month.  It started one evening when I went into the back yard and there she was, not 20 feet away, looking at me.  I talked to her conversationally for awhile and still she didn’t run.  Finally I went back inside.

The next morning Cheryl looked out the front window at her beautiful half-barrel of pansies and cosmos. All the flowers were eaten off.  The Daring Doe was dining outside the kitchen door.  Well it was a busy month for trimming plants even for humans.  I’m in the last stages of digging out the grass around an acre of grape plants, trimming out the suckers and fertilizing with fish emulsion and goat manure tea.  I’ve been thinking about my grandfather,Chopped Pansies Tony Barreca.  He is a principle figure in the first chapter of my father’s autobiography.  I sent out the first draft at the end of May.  Dad talks about how his father used a sapoono, a big cast iron hoe, to cultivate his grapes and garden.  I’ve been doing the same working on my grape plants with an American version of a sapoono.

I’ve also been transplanting grape plants as they develop over 2 years before I sell them as part of my Northeast Washington Grapes business.  We had a few rainy days in June.  I would get up early to transplant before it got to hot outside.  One of those mornings the Daring Doe struck again just as the pansies were recovering and moved on to more flowers nearby.  It was time for action.  I had some crude ideas involving wire fencing but Cheryl stepped in with a clever combination of nearly invisible black bird netting and a tomato trellis.  It has worked so far and can be adjusted as the cosmos grows.

Pine DropsNot only is the business of growing grape plants growing, Barreca Vineyards is now a licensed winery!  There are still a few hoops to jump through to get official labels.  Our tasting room is still just an office and tastings will be by appointment only, but having a license opens up lots more possibilities and of course more work to go along with them.

Pansies were not the only thing in season.  Pine Drops spouted where I had cut some brush.  Normally they prefer shade.  Rhubarb, strawberries and cherries are all ripe. Rhubarb CloseupSo it is pie time for the 4th of July.  The weather has been over 100 degrees the past couple of days.  We also got to see some Northern Lights again after the June blog.  They were long slow moving white streaks in the early evening.  Not super but still impressive.

Speaking of slow moving.  The doe appeared again at the top of the driveway.  We tried to get our dog, Gretchen, to chase her off.  Gretchen was more interested in chasing her rubber ball, but finally took a pass at the deer.  Daring doe took a swipe with her hoof back at Gretchen and the dog turned tail immediately.  I walked up withing 5 feet of the deer and threw a few pine cones.  She finally got the idea and bounded off a safe distance.  Gretchen even chased her for a hundred feet or so, trying to save face I guess.
Gretchen at the Auction
Gretchen was just as shy a few days later when relatives of my neighbor Clarence Tieszen held a farm auction at his place across the road.  They didn’t tell Clarence though, feeling that he would be dragging everything they were taking outside to sell back into the house and shops that it came from even though he hasn’t lived there or needed any of those tools or equipment for a couple of years.  They drove him out from Miles City, Montana a week or so later.  He was trying to figure out how he could buy all those things again for when he moved back here.  In truth he can’t pass a driving test and can’t live here without driving 11 miles to Kettle Falls almost every day.  He’s doing fine living with family on a Montana horse ranch.

We got to live with family for a dayMother and Childor so.  My daughter April, her fiancé, Tony, and our new grandson, James Anthony came over for a visit.  April on her own is a regular neighbor magnet.  Add in a new baby and it was neighbor city here for a couple of days.  One afternoon after that, we spotted Daring Doe on the fringe of the meadow below our house.  Suddenly there was more movement.  It turned out to be a fawn catching up with mom – and then racing ahead.  So Daring Doe is living with family all the time.

She's still out thereAfter catching up with mapping trails, printing books and crunching numbers for the final report of our Crossroads on the Columbia Digital Archive, I stared work on this blog.  Realizing that I could use a few more pictures I took my camera down to the rhubarb patch.  I heard a noise while crouching down for a closeup and turned around to see – you guessed it – standing under the apple tree, and not going anywhere.

THE WALKING PNEUMONIA AND THE BOOGIE WOOGIE BLUES

MrSnottyThe real verse is “I got the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie woogie flu” from a song by Johnnie Rivers. But somehow I had “Walkin’ pneumonia and the boogie woogie blues” in my head and I would probably insist that my version was correct if not for Google and YouTube.James at 2 Months  Which gets me to my point that you don’t always have things straight in your head and have to go through some changes before they get worked out.

These last couple of months were full of changes.  I had expected to write a blog at the end of April about my new grandson, sweet baby James Anthony Houston.  But the not so sweet 2013 flu which morphed into walking pneumonia got in the way.  I must have picked it up on a trip to Olympia and Seattle to meet the new kid and work on my father’s biography.

On the trip I also got to play music with my brother-in-law, Bill Yake.  He and my sister Jeannette figured out how to hook an i-Pad into the household sound system so that we could play along with YouTube videos from the Internet.  In effect we had a kind of time-warp jam band with the original musicians, not that we were that great but we got in a lot of boogie woogie and blues.

The trip itself was a big switch from my workaholic normal life.  Little James was very sweet, probably Nap Timebecause about all he did was sleep and eat while I was there.  Current pictures, show him very much more into trying to figure out the world he woke up in.  He was born April 4th.  Cheryl went over to see him and help out on April 8th and came back on the 11th.  I went over on April 18th, so he was 2 weeks old by then.  Now he is two months old and growing fast.  The milestone was when Dad came downFour Generationswith my brother Jeff on Saturday the 20th. My daughter Bina and her mother and aunt (in-law) Helen were there also.  So we had 12 family members there at once.  It was a mini family reunion with 4 generations.  The photographs were endless.  Luckily Bina had a really nice camera which captured this 4 generation picture.

Unluckily I picked up some kind of flu bug around that time.  It didn’t really catch hold until April 25th, which turned out to be a very bad day altogether.  Not only did I feel sick, but my printer left a long white streak down the middle of the page while I was printing out part of my grape catalog.  I spent a lot of time trying the normal cures to no avail and finally decided to turn it off and turn it back on again.  When it came on again, it coughed up a very long error code on the display panel and stopped.   I got three different interpretations of the error code from the Internet, an email to Xerox and a conversation with a repairman in Spokane (see I’m not the only mixed up person in this story).  A couple days later, with Cheryl driving because I had zero energy, we went to Spokane and paid a guy to tear into it.  He found a broken print head and the solid ink (think big blocks of crayon) that this machine prints with, melted all over the interior.  I was sick but the printer was dead.

I ended up bidding on a similar printer on eBay. I had over $300 worth of ink for mine and the printers only cost $200-$300 used.  After almost two weeks of the flu, I was going through rounds of chills, sleep, fever, bloody noses and lots of snot every few hours.  I gave in and arranged to see my doctor.  He decided that the flu had morphed into pneumonia and prescribed an antibiotic.  I know, they wipe out your digestive bacteria, but it really did kick that cold/fever and I am digesting just fine now.  5 days later I was going in for a checkup feeling great and the new used printer was arriving at the same time and needed a signature.  I got Mike (who owns Don’s Printery- go figure) to intercept the printer from FedEx so I could sign for it in Colville and somehow squeeze it into my VW bug.  Hurray for small towns.

New GrapesBy then it was May.  I gave up on doing a blog and headed to the vineyard.  Maybe there are some climate change deniers out there who refused to notice, but May was incredibly hot.  Temperatures for the 6 days before Mother’s Day here were 85o, 87o, 87o, 91o, 90o and 80o degrees. Normal temperatures are in the 60s.  All this without April showers.  I had the pruning done before the trip to the west side but suddenly I had to water every day, transplant 500 or more grape cuttings and plants, mow everything, weed everything, spray everything organically, thin 400 mature vines and fertilize everything, things I should have been doing while I was sick for 3 weeks. Beauty Bush There is even more to do and it is still going on but I’m gaining on it.  Last year was the wettest June on record and everything was delayed.  This year Spring shot from freezes every night in the second week of April to the 90s three weeks later. It’s hard to keep up with those kinds of changes but when your income depends on it, you have to try.  Now it is June, all the fruit trees have bloomed and the grapes are reaching across the rows.  At least they are healthy, happy and organic.

I can’t say as much for the American food supply. For years I thought GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) were just natural selection sped up a little and perfectly safe to eat.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Most GMOs are either designed to kill insects, (BT Corn) or to make crops resistant to Roundup (Glyphosate) a herbicide that kills virtually every other plant.  These tricks are made to happen, not from the specie’s own genes but by forcing genes from other species, Bacillus Thuringiensis bacteria in the case of BT corn, into the the genes of the original plant, a somewhat random process with lots of unstudied side effects on human health, resistant weeds or other mutations.  BT itself kills insects by bursting their stomachs.  Roundup destroys plants by weakening their immune system until they die from naturally occurring disease that they would normally resist, a lot like the aids virus.  GMO crops are poison.  So why does the FDA and EPA approve them?  All the top positions in those agencies are appointed to former employees of Monsanto, the primary producer of GMO crops.  Those crops include the vast majority of corn, soy beans, canola, sweet corn, sugar beets and cotton. grown commercially in the United State.  They show up in almost all processed food and any meat that is not raised organically.  Almost every country in the rest of the world either bans GMO crops outright or has strong labeling laws.  North America is the last stronghold of Monsanto which fights studies into it’s crops, has had its corrupt congressmen and senators recently pass laws prohibiting law suits over their effects and in the last month got a a law passed prohibiting labeling of those crops.  If these are such great healthy safe crops, why did GMO producers spend 46 million dollars to fight GMO labeling laws in California and other states?

GMO MarchThe health studies done on GMO crops outside the corporate labs of the GMO producers all find devastating effects: food allergies, infertility, autism, birth defects, cancer, immune deficiencies and many more resulting from GMO crops, (See this site and this MIT research site for the real facts).  Since their introduction in 1996, the number of these kinds of ailments in the United State has risen exponentially.  There is a lot to be concerned about and the GMO labeling initiative, needs our support.  Cheryl and I watched the movie, Genetic Roulette at our local natural food store on May 23rd and I marched in the localMarch Against Monsanto, one of 486 marches in cities around the world, on Saturday, March 25th.  I’m not normally big on conspiracies, but when you start poisoning the genetic codes that make life and feed us all, it is time to act.  Please check out these links and pass I-522.

On a lighter note, we saw the Northern Lights – cool but still in black and white – on May 31st.  We also managed to find a fair amount of morel mushrooms even if we didn’t find an old burn or logging operation from last year.Morel Mushrooms

And as a historical note, I sold my 1991 Subaru.  It was a good car for 10 years but I was not going to fix it and didn’t want it sitting inThe Subaru moves on the yard any more.