A Real Winter, for a Change…..

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Hot tub with a wood-burning stove insert (see the stovepipe on right?) Shown in the earlier snow, before the real winter hit……

Here in Wawawai, we usually have milder weather than the surrounding prairie land known as the Palouse Prairie, and the last few winters we have only had a few cold snaps interspersed with relatively mild winter weather — so much so that we were concerned about insect pests and associated diseases moving in from milder climates. Well, this winter will keep them at bay — we have close to a foot of snow, some places drifted much deeper, and it has hovered between zero and 10 degrees F. at night for over a week. I suspect that this cold will kill the fig trees back to the roots, so they will have to sprout out from the ground and probably won’t have a crop next year. We hope the grapes will fare better than figs, but that will be determined when we start pruning. My other “weird” plants such as the medlar and pawpaw trees and the Goumi berry bush will have to show what they can stand.

Because we heat with wood, there has been a lot of hand-to-mouth provisioning, including cutting from our “wood lot” along Wawawai creek, followed by splitting (when the tractor can be coaxed to start, to drive the hydraulic splitter), and hauling wood in, and ashes out. The house, more designed to resist the canyon’s heat than for cold weather, is minimally warm no matter how hot the Russian stove is kept, so we dress warmly and keep close to the stove whenever we need a really warm place to comfort us.

The hot tub also has to be fed wood to keep it hot, but there is nothing to beat the pleasure of being in over 100 degree F. water when it is snowing, and in the single digits or teens (from the head up). For our New Year’s celebration, we had champagne and Triscuits with brie to accompany our soak.

Now that we are well beyond the solstice, the chickens are again laying plenty of eggs and the gardening catalogs have piled up. A sense that we have had about enough of winter is creeping into our consciousness. Snow is pretty, and David has made a few rounds of the place on skis, but there’s plenty to do that will be easier after the snow has left us……

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I killed my computer!

I was entering data into the Business Reports for the year-end filings on employees, wine production, excise taxes, etc. and it was the second time that day that I had spilled a cup of coffee, but this time it was a direct hit on the keyboard. Called our son Ben for advice. He said to take the battery out and put the computer in a pillowcase with white rice for a couple of days to try to dry it out. The coffee had milk but no sugar in it, so there was a chance…..but no, it was dead. Perhaps it can be opened up and cleaned, and perhaps the information can be accessed by professionals — at this point, I don’t know, but I was lucky to have already purchased an Apple computer, and had to slog away at the filings due by January 15th. I am not familiar with the Apple, and fairly frustrated about losing the easy access to stored files that were on the other computer, but I’ll get over it. Have resolutions about not mixing drinks with computers — hope they will last!

The Quest for Quality of Life in a Canyon in Eastern Washington

We live in a pretty, wild, out-of-the way place called Wawawai Canyon. This is a picture of our winery.  We, is Stacia Moffett, the blog writer, and David Moffett, my husband of long standing, our dogs, the chickens and turkeys we raise, and the many animals who were here before we came and with which we share to space.

Source: The Quest for Quality of Life in a Canyon in Eastern Washington

Strange, unseasonable weather in our canyon

On the seventeenth of November, we had our first light frost — not even a killing freeze, but enough to make the super-sensitive nasturtiums droop but not enough to hurt the tomatoes…

Red stripy tomato still planning on more time for ripening its crop.....

Red stripy tomato still planning on more time for ripening its crop…..

After a slight frost, the leaves of the flowers were drooped over, but the flowers were unhurt.

After a slight frost, the leaves of the flowers were drooped over, but the flowers were unhurt.

……This is a month later than prior experience had led us to expect freezing weather.  Why complain, you ask?  Isn’t life good and the living easy, the warmer it gets?  And it is true that we have only had a couple of fires in the Russian stove, because the solar heat the house was designed to take advantage of has served us well — and it is true that apple trees along the roadsides still have abundant fruit that would previously have frozen weeks ago, and our pickings attest to the high quality of late-ripened, tree-aged fruit — we have boxes of good eating and pie apples stored in the cooler.  What is troubling is the fact that we depend on seasonably cold weather to keep the insects under control.  Normally, the freezes will kill a percentage of insect eggs and diapausing, overwintering adult insects, and a cold, rainy spring adds to that brake on the populations of potential pests.   Furthermore, the crops like winter wheat that has sprouted so gloriously and made the hillsides green will need a good covering of snow to protect them when the freezing winds come……..In the canyon, trees like my figs, which are still covered with unripe fruit and leaves just beginning to yellow, have not hardened off properly, the way they would be forced to do by cool weather coming on gradually — they are unprotected should a deep cold front move into the area, but no such change is predicted in the 10-day forecast — which takes us nearly to December.  Anyone who is not seeing these changes and finding them troubling is not attuned to nature.  More’s the pity, when it comes to trying to convince the population to do something real about protecting the earth from abuse by human greed and ignorance!

Renewal and Thankfulness

Took a picture of the canyon wall facing the house: Rains have prompted seeds to sprout and the canyon walls now are getting a sheen of green.  Renewal is the name of this game, and we can only hope that there will be enough root development to hold the soil on the hillsides through the fall and winter precipitation.

In the meantime, our grape harvest was completed despite uncooperative weather.  We couldn’t possibly have made it without the help of friends.  Now, the last-picked grapes are fermenting in bins and soon the wine will be pressed into barrels.  That’s a good feeling!

Plenty of tomatoes are gathered in and processed into dried tomatoes, salsa, sauce, in addition to those still to be eaten fresh — It hasn’t frozen the garden, yet, and the things growing in the hoop houses will withstand the early freezes.img_0531

The Uniontown Mural

A bit of history:  Our tasting room and additional winery operations are located in an old building in Uniontown WA.  The building, known as the Vollmer Building, was acquired by the Uniontown Development Corporation and restored under a Federal Grant which stipulated that it be occupied by a business producing a local product.  Wawawai Canyon Winery was contacted because our production of estate-bottled wines fit the bill perfectly, and the contact came at a time when we were looking for a new tasting room site.  We made interior changes that transformed the interior, but that is a different story, and we had a side of the building that was begging for a mural, so over a year after we moved in, I came up with a sketch of a mural to present the idea to the Development Corporation for their approval.  The tasting room is shown below, with the quick crayon sketch,and

the blank wall where the mural would be painted.  (Note the line on the bottom of the sketch indicating the slope of that street!)

So……We had not started harvesting when I began the painting.  Our local benefactor, Sam Kimble, made a man-lift available to me, without which the project couldn’t have been undertaken, and I had help from my husband David on the expanse of blue sky and tan hillside background. Then, the real fun began!  I loved the enormous canvas and vibrant colors, and I love the grapes and the canyon hillsides, so it has been a labor of love.  Here are several of the stages in the project, which is not yet completed, but getting close.  I will turn the lettering part of the job over to David, as he has the steady hand and meticulousness required for putting Wawawai Canyon Winery across the blue sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Fruit, Fruit, Everywhere!

It began with the little red apples that are actually a cross between apples and crabapples (to give better disease resistance).  There was a bumper crop this year, and when I took eggs to the local food co-operative, I asked if the produce manager if he thought there was a market for them.  He said yes, after tasting one (tart-sweet, great for eating, sauce or pies).  Then there were the table grapes, Canadace, that are ripening in a wonderful way this year, just ahead of consumption by wasps — the ultimate in organic certification.  After 40 or so pounds of grapes, the peaches, several different trees, began to ripen, and finally, the nectarines, small, but fragrant and delicious.  Meanwhile, we, especially my husband, David, are cutting up the fruit that is not as marketable, due to blemishes or misshapen appearance, which represents approximately half of the crop — we freeze and dry this, for winter pies and incorporation into breakfast menus.  Last night, we were surrounded by boxes and 5-gallon buckets full of fruit, paring knives in hand and bowls filling up with intermediate-stage fruit.  What we can’t use or process fast enough goes to the turkeys and chickens — our flock of birds originally started as a way to combat the grasshopper outbreak in the vineyard, but which has become part of the complication of our lives……  Now we have hatched too many, so will be selecting young roosters for eating, and will have plenty of turkeys to sell by Thanksgiving.  And did I neglect to mention the way our two dogs beg for fruit? — they can have everything but the grapes, along with cantaloupes and tomatoes from the garden — true omnivores!