Once again we are engulfed in smoke and have been for 3 days. It is our “new normal” for this time of year. The sun is an orange ball in a gray sky. The shadows seem to be blue. You can barely see across Lake Roosevelt. We wake up in the morning and check the Incident Report for any new fires. Some are just “smoke checks”. But for us, everything is a smoke check. There were two small human-caused fires within two miles of us in the last couple of weeks. We are watering constantly. Some watering is just to cool the house, which thankfully is usually 20 degrees cooler than the high temperatures – consistently in the 90’s for all of July. We try to cook most meals outside on our barbecue.
Most of the water we use is for a fire-safe lawn and healthy crops. Ironically the cherry crop was late because of all the spring rain. We just picked a few more
cherries from Riverview Orchard, an organic neighbor north of us after having picked the first of ours on July 4th. Luckily it was a huge crop because apricots are almost impossible to find. But there are lots of berries. Some days we have had fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and huckleberries in the fridge all at the same time.
Cherries and huckleberries from 2015 made for popular wines at our farmers market booth for a couple of weeks. We seldom have a large supply of specialty wines like that and they go quickly. Selling wine at both the Wednesday and Saturday markets has taken a lot of our time and a lot of our wine. You can think of us as bottling some new wine constantly and adjusting our wares accordingly. We also sell map books at the market and some days those outstrip wine sales. So I am printing map books constantly too.
Our 1984 Volkswagen van has been struggling most of the year. We have taken it to our mechanic 4 times. Finally after fixing intake manifold air leaks a tune up brought her back to life. After we get the shifter rebuilt and the muffler stabilized, she should feel solid again.
Those were the big constants for the month. But you might add to that visitors. Our daughter April visited with her husband, Tony’s sister’s family who were visiting them from Ohio. Old friends of Cheryl’s are moving up here and another old friend of mine, Jerry Grazer, stopped by for the first time in years. If it wasn’t
for visitors and wine tasters, we might not stop working on other things.
A big “other thing” is a project to construct a “crush pad” (really just a concrete slab that will eventually have a cover), where I can process the grapes as they come out of the vineyard. I needed heavy equipment getting trees and their stumps out of the way.
I had asked around but was not having any luck. Then one day I heard a backhoe next door and went over to check it out. Our oldest neighbor died last year and his wife decided to sell the house and move back to town. The septic system needed a serious upgrade and they called in Dave Engel, who I met with his two sons. He was able to drive the backhoe over one evening, push the trees over and level the spot for $50 and a map book. Can’t beat that deal. But the rest of the 288 sq ft pad will cost me about $1000 in labor and concrete. I’m pretty excited about it.
The month is not complete without an animal story. In December of 2014 I mentioned Daring Doe and her daughters. Earlier last month we had two does with baby Bambies here, but we seem to be down to just one doe with a baby and another that seems to have lost hers and adopted us. A couple times that mother doe had her hooves full protecting her fawn. Once Cheryl and
her constant companion, our dog Gretchen, started to come between the doe and her fawn. The ordinarily shy doe took after Gretchen and I had to keep them separated until Cheryl could walk far enough away for Gretchen to follow her and not threaten the fawn. Later the fawn was too full of energy to keep under control. Doe and fawn were both near the house and the fawn ran all the way around the house at least once in both directions, while the mother just stood there trying to get it to calm down. Perhaps the biggest shock was to discover that the lone doe decided to walk through our garden shed into the garden/vineyard where she tasted lettuce, sweet peas and cherry leaves. When confronted, she calmly walked back out again. We are keeping the shed closed now.
We’ll fade into the smoke for another month and hope we don’t have any fire stories to tell in the next blog.