Sand and Pomace

On Wednesday I loaded 5-gallon buckets and headed over to the Vineyard in a quest for sand and pomace. The area was covered by water thousands of years ago and a massive amount of sand was deposited at places in the slowly draining lake.
The image below shows “Trinidad” as the local name. Look for the blue star at the upper-right. The Columbia River is at the upper-left corner. Left of the blue star are the vines with house and winery near the center. Railroad tracks are next to the grapes and the place was used as a RR stop, source of fill, and repair (?) building. Someone with the Great Northern Railway thought it was geological and physical similar to Trinidad, Colorado, thus the name.
Soon someone used the setting, terraced a few roads and made a property platt map. Back on the East Coast lots were sold. Twice. All a scam. The railroad was relocated at one time and the new work cut through the sand and into a layer of basalt. That’s just down from the vines in this image. Other than that – it is all sand. There is much fine material, apparently blown in after the water drained away. Then the area was windy, dry, and unvegetated.

One of the by-products of making wine is pomace. Stems, skins, and seeds. The seeds are called “pips” – reason unknown to me. These have unique shapes and are a focal point in archaeobotanical studies, because of these well-known differences and because they often are the only remains that are preserved. I think of the whole mess as soil amendments. In this case it is not composted. It is left in large bins after “the crush” and thrown on the ground in the spring or summer.

I loaded 8 buckets of pomace (~300 lbs.) and 10 buckets of sand {from the blue star spot} or about 800 pounds.
Then we had lunch, followed by a trip to COSTCO in East Wenatchee, about 25 miles up river.

Thursday morning I unloaded and added pomace and sand to the top of my new asparagus bed, followed by a heavy watering.

My favorite grocery store had a sale of ground beef. Large packages, about 4 pounds [limit 2], were on sale for $2.99 per pound. Sunday morning, I made a crock pot of chili, and froze the rest in one pound packages.
I still use the wood stove. Low temp during the night was 41° and the high today was 64°. I did a little work outside in the wind and cold, mostly cleaning up dead wood of a large Elderberry plant. The stems have a soft center and the larger parts will be hollow. Compared to many trees, the heating value is lower, but it dries and starts a flame easily.

And now I need to add something to the stove.

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan
John H.

Cold impacts

There was a cold period in December (down to -17°F) and there were cold mornings in early March. One or the other damaged buds on cherry and walnut trees. The photo below shows a cherry tree with one branch outlined in yellow.

The leaves on that branch are normal. The rest of the tree has wimpy leaves, commonly called cold weather dieback. The walnut trees do not have any standard-looking new leaves. This happened once before, about 20 years ago. I read than, but can’t find now, that the trees will survive unless this happens two years in a row.
A large plum tree seems to have some of this, but it may just be dying of old age. It was planted in the early 1980s, by the first owner. I have several dwarf plum trees (not the same type) and they are on the down-wind side of the house. They appear to be fine, have blossomed, and will soon show tiny fruit. So I hope.

Monday I went down into the Columbia Gorge, about 170 miles and 2,000 feet lower in elevation. The purpose of the trip was attending a presentation and reception for the Cascades Carnivore Project. The town is Hood River. Early settlement was on the steep slopes and the streets are narrow. There are many flowers and flowering trees. Up hill and south of town the look is similar to most other places. The gathering was held in a repurposed fruit packing facility called “The Ruins.”

Thursday the University held a gathering for scholarship recipients and donors. For the second year in a row I met a graduate for whom this was only the 2nd time she had been on the CWU campus. She and her mother came over from Moses Lake, 70 miles east of EBRG. Her degree is Law and Justice and she will take a job with the Adams County Sheriff Office.
These events are somewhat odd because often the donors, the students, and the faculty do not match. Few faculty come, except for non-teaching administrators. Many donors have died. Thus, the recipient at my table could not thank the donor(s) and did not know who they were. I introduced her to the head of the Foundation and together they were going to investigate. He was to pass her request to one of his crew.
I did talk with the President – Jim Wohlpart – for five minutes prior to the event. He came in 2021. I’ve heard two of his presentations for this event and another to the “retired” folks. First meeting, though.

Saturday I drove across the Cascades to Kathy & Fran’s place – to a barn party. There were lots of people I didn’t know – many from their church – and a few I did. Plentiful food that I mostly stayed away from.
I left early and made it a discovery trip, meaning I got lost and meandered around for half and hour in a section of WA that I knew little of. That’s what geographers do! Kathy’s thinks I should learn to use the GPS – stuff that Nancy taught for 25 years. What fun would that be? I was on tiny roads between Electron and Eatonville, WA. Lots of houses on the edge of lakes and all seem to have a boat dock. 50 miles south of Seattle.
Back to plants. I got the purple asparagus in their permanent home. See last week’s post. I was way late in getting onions in the ground so they will be almost a total loss. I also planted a dozen Astibes, again late. Percentage wise I am seeing better results than with the onions. From the web, here is what I wanted:

Maybe in three years.

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan


Monday morning – yikes!
Good morning

The weather {rain and wind} interfered with the best laid plans. After 25 years in the ground, the asparagus production has declined to a pittance, so I ordered some. Instead of sending me pounds of lovely Purple Passion, I received things of a grotesque visage as displayed on the right side.

As of this morning, I am ready to place them in the appointed place in the garden. However, I now have a family of Yellow Bellied Marmots sharing the garden space, so I need to box the plants in a fence-protected space. Getting the space ready was a chore – rain didn’t help and the wind has been, and continues to be gale force, 40s today and near 50 on Tuesday.
My complication is I am going to Hood River today for a (6:00 to 8:30) dinner and presentation by the Cascades Carnivore Project. I need to clean up an leave here by early afternoon, with a stop in Biggs Junction for gasoline. This is a three hour drive, or a bit more, from home.

Keeping track
on the Naneum Fan


May is going to come in like a lion

More on that next week after the snow and wind hit the State. It is cool, wet, and windy now.

I saw a comment about the Burma Shave signs. The person said these disappeared because of Lady Bird Johnson’s highway improvement project. I don’t know. Anyway, here is one and there are many more images on the internet.

Many plants are blossoming and/or leafing out. The walnut trees didn’t get the memo. Either the -17 degree temperature in December killed the primary buds or a recent frost did. They may yet leaf out as happened once or twice since they were planted 25 years ago. The small squirrels will miss them if they go.
Two plants with yellow blossoms are now fully in bloom. Both are natives and handle the cold. Oregon Grape is one, the other is Golden Currant [Ribes aureum]. Ribes is a false lead to be ignored. Aureum is a reference to the yellow flower. The local variety has translucent berries. Leaves are somewhat odd. New plants pop up all over the place and must not have a taste the deer like.

I have Yellow-bellied Marmots. When we moved to this area in 1989 the property was marmot free. About a mile south, there was a pile of logs with a family using that for a home. We saw them frequently on the logs or crossing the road. Their range is expanding. I think this is a result of a decrease in the coyote population. That may be related to an increase in mountain lions. Hunting the big cats with dogs was banned in 1996. Other than my casual observations, I’ve nothing on which to base my ideas.
Anyway, the marmots dig under things and leave piles of rocks and dirt – including tunneling under one of the sheds.
I (finally) made sense of another thing. Here is a photo of the remains of a container. This was undamaged when I filled it with scraps of wood years ago. About 4 years ago I noticed it had a tattered hole in its side. I wondered about it – Did I hit it with something? – but it was a small hole and I was busy with some chore. Over the last year, the hole got bigger until the contents started to spill out. This week when I walked by, the thing is collapsed. My guess: The glue-impregnated cardboard must be tasty or nutritious to the marmots. However, I have not seen the consumption in progress.

Note there is no debris – no bits, pieces, or dust. All is gone.

On the Naneum Fan
John H.

Pruning Ended

Culligan folks arrived Monday morning and changed all the filters, an annual process. I keep about twenty 28 ounce bottles filled in case the electricity or pump shuts off. The well water is safe to drink, but has no other redeeming characteristics.
As I was going into the grocery store this week, a man was carrying two large jugs of water to his car. {photo from web}
Out of curiosity I should find out how much one of these costs. I don’t intend to go that route. In the Yakima area the water is frequently unfit to drink. COSTCO sells truck loads of water in all sizes of containers. I think in some areas folks get subsidizes from the County because the suppliers can’t keep the water clean.
Anyway, I do wonder what the trade-offs are, but am too lazy to find out.

The rest of the week, we pruned – and finished Friday. We were about two weeks late because of all the interruptions of schedules. Some days only two of five of us pruned and on some days (Cameron is in Seattle) we did not prune.
In my spare time at home I watered plants and planted onions. (Again, photo from web}
They don’t look like much at this point. I was late getting them in, but planted about 65 of 6 different types. I took another hundred to Phyllis and hers are now in also.
She was busy this week gathering rocks. The water line from their well to the top storage tank ruptured and the water carved a long channel in the sandy hillside.
Son Dylan parks the front-end loader at an ancient flood deposit of small rocks, she fills the bucket, and slowly the crevasse gets filled. The rocks are on a slope that the machine is not able to maneuver to, but close enough to load by hand. All the rest of the vineyard is sand from the ice age floods.

I cut 4 trees for future firewood this week. Sunday afternoon I worked on limbing (some say ‘delimbing’) and moving them. Two fell into thick brush, so they have to be pulled out before I can work on them. Regardless, they have now begun the seasoning (drying) process. They will go from about 45% water to 11% before I burn them.

I will take the truck for servicing on Monday.

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan


Bloom Time

Keeping with the theme “There is Always Something” – – –

Trees are starting to leaf-out, and those that bloom have buds about to burst. I usually cut a few of the popular-type trees that have sections of straight non-limbed trunk. I don’t have to deal with leaves if I cut now. This will be stove firewood in a year or so. I have plenty for the 2024-25 winter season, so trees downed now will be ready in 2025. My chain saw was not running well when I last used it over a year ago. This week I could not get it started. Folks at Papé Machinery did a tune-up. I just cut a tree into firewood size that had blown over late last year. A neighbor says his station clocked a gust at 88 mph, and a different neighbor says that is when the tree fell over.
One of the first plants to bloom is called Bur Buttercup. The photos below show its character. The plant only get about 1.5 inches tall, has pretty yellow flowers, and a bur.

The plant is soft and touchable when it blooms. Soon the burs become dark and hard and penetrate gloves and stick to things. Especially dog’s feet. They are easily pulled when green, but there are hundreds this year.

Last year many gallon-sized sprayer gave up and I ordered a new one. When I tried to use it this week for the first time, it barely worked. After trying several things, I finally took the tube out – the part that goes down into the tank. At the end there is a small plastic screen. It was gunked up with something unrecognizable. In a review on Amazon, I said I thought it was the remains of a Silkworm. What and how – who knows? It now works. Look out Bur Buttercups.
I am now ready to plant Onions – a week later than I anticipated.

Another cute plant is Miner’s Lettuce. It is edible, but I have no intention of doing so.

All About Miner’s Lettuce

There are tiny white flowers.
Mine is a bit different when compared to the photos at the link above. It has the subspecies name of “intermontana” – interior. In the link, the plant is called “perfoliata” – Pacific coastal

At the edge my onion patch, I have a cluster of Daffodils. They seem happy. Many other plants are just starting but still are without flowers.
I need to get some of these with pink and orange colors. Their main advantage is that the local deer do not eat them.
I should mention, we are almost done with vine pruning, so my gasoline ($4.29/g) bill will go down and I will have time to catch up here at home.

Keeping track
on the Naneum Fan

Little mysteries

We are working through a section of the vineyard that got hit hard by last July’s fire. Many vines are dead above ground. Some showed new growth last summer but shoots were still green when the first fall frost came. The roots will send up new shoots now and the best will be attached to the wires. In three years, production will begin.
The old – dead – wood takes time and effort to remove from the wires because 25 years of growth often puts the wire inside a twisted cordon of the plant.

The buds have swelled on many varieties, and we will soon see tiny leaves unfold. Monday and Tuesday will have warm afternoons, but Wednesday and the rest of the week will be cooler. I’ll take a few photos of new growth and dead plants.
At home, I managed to plant two apple trees (semi-dwarf) and have a dozen Astilbes to plant – it is a perennial that should grow well in partial shade along the driveway. We’ll see.

How are these words – baked & naked – pronounced, and why?

If that is not enough to give you a headache, consider that fire-trucks are actually water-trucks.

Or, trucks and SUVs that have 4 x 4 on their sides could simplify things by switching to 16.

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan

John H.

Fickle weather/March Madness

This week the weather appeared to shift to June on Monday and back to February on Thursday. The current cool pattern is expected to last until mid-April. I didn’t do much outside because of the cool, wet, and windy weather.
There is also basketball madness. I have in common with Caitlin Clark of University of Iowa fame that we attended the same University. Both Taylor Swift and I were raised in Pennsylvania. Being linked to “greatest ever” folks is gladdening.
Gasoline price jumped about 30¢ this past week. Regular is now about $4.20/ gallon. Seattle area prices are $4.60. California is up to $5.

I have been thinking of the following because I use the I-90 Vantage Bridge getting to and returning from the vineyard. Here is the latest:
Travelers will experience single-lane closures Monday through Friday until the end of May. Then for 3 summers — 3!
Beginning in late May, traffic will be restricted to one lane in each direction seven days a week with a few exceptions.
Travelers will experience long delays eastbound on Fridays and westbound on Sundays during the summer travel months and are encouraged to choose alternate routes.
Traffic will also be restored to two lanes in each direction for winter from November through April.

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan

John H.

Colorado snow while we prune

The recent heavy snow in Colorado damaged many things, including solar panels: see @40 sec.
Snow downs solar panels in Denver (

I was at a meeting in Boulder in April of 1973. A storm warning was issued and many left early – I was headed to Iowa City, 100 miles east of Des Moines. Those that left in time (me) got home before the snow shut down most of the middle of the Country. Many reports – Denver to Chicago – are available.

Iowa weather: The blizzard of 1973 was dubbed Iowa’s ‘worst spring storm in at least 80 years’ (

We got 3 afternoons of pruning this week. Next week, with warming weather, we switch to mornings: 9:00 to Noon. We pruned in an area that had lots of damage from the fire – last July. Here is the link:

Cherries on sale & fire

At the bottom there is a link to “Visit to the charred vines”

There is no new growth now on the vines, but before long buds will swelland new leaves will appear. The new parts are very tender and easily broken, making for more difficult work. We have not yet seen “weeping” – sap flowing from the just-cut canes.

Back to fire damage. The roots of the vines are not damaged. Plants will send up one or more new shoots and the best will become the new trunk. Three years from now the vine will be producing again.
At home, I have a dozen flowers to plant and two apple trees. The forecast high temperature is 63°F and sunny. This will be a good weekend for outside chores.

Saint Patrick’s day is Sunday and a new “spring” begins, for me, at 8:06 pm on Tuesday, March 19. Our overlords snuck in an extra day at the end of February, otherwise spring this year would be on the 20th.
For other locations, go here:

Keeping Track
on the Naneum Fan

John H.