Wind Rain and Fire
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
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.
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.
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 of 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 I 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.
No 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 a 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.