Taking The Up Elevator

Today in my initial post I am beginning a new journey– one of learning to express my thoughts in written form– Anyone who ever might come across this post please bear with me as this a totally new experience — one I desire to learn from and mature in. I am like a duck without water.

Elevators go up, Elevators go down

The spirit within us moves like an elevator

It can go up, it can rise, elevate, soar to the highest heavens OR

It can go down, deflate, feel in a free fall, like tumbling out of a tree, or falling off a ladder

People we are around are like elevators to our spirits

They are either like a Down Elevator


They are like an Up Elevator

We connect with someone, in person , on the phone, or by some means of technology and

Our spirits will either rise, elevate, begin to soar,


Our spirits will fall, be drug down, be deflated, weighted down

When we connect or approach someone it is like stepping up to the elevator, we step into that connection and

We will momentarily close the door to the outside world as we begin our conversation

Our conversation is not only the words we speak, but the body language, the look of the eyes, the posture of the body.

Who we choose to converse with will either push the up or down buttons on our spirits

Some will drag our spirits down, the elevator is dropping toward the basement, our spirits drop, feeling weighted down and heavy

Some will immediately lift us up, the elevator is taking off for floors above, we will feel light, burdens lifted

As we move into connection and conversation our spirits rise as we soar toward the top

Some people are Down Elevators

Some people are Up Elevators

The questions become- Who Am I? What am I?

How many and who sees me as a Down Elevator?

How many and who sees me as an Up Elevator?

Whose spirits do I lift, whose spirits do I depress?

Is there anyone who wants to be around me and goes away with spirits lifted?


Am I dragging others down? Who doesn’t want to be around me?

Regardless of the momentary circumstances I am dealing with in my life

I must begin to be intentional about being an Up Elevator for those around me.

Two musts-

  • Do Seek to be an Up Elevator for other’s spirits and
  • Do Not hang around anyone who will take my spirit for a ride Down the Elevator

Unless– it is a time directed by God for me to be an instrument to be an Up Elevator person to a Down Elevator person.

For a time and place– for a ministry — and not allowing this Up Elevator to change direction.

Will I immediately screw up and fail at this? YES

Will it be yet today? PERHAPS

Will it be tomorrow? MOST LIKELY

Will there be two steps forward and one back? YES, AT TIMES

Will I get frustrated that I am not every time an Up Elevator to someone else? YES

Will I perservere in making strides in this direction– overcoming the circumstances that can overwhelm my day? YES

Lord, help me to begin to be an Up Elevator to the spirits of all those You bring across my path, beginning today.



The right hand- 9 months in CRPS 24/7 pain, for months in a 6-9 pain range on scale of 10, then after months of physical therapy and a remarkable trip to the Calmar Chronic Pain Clinic in Rhode Island I am now in a 2-3 range, but with  a very inflexible and disfigured hand with a weighty heavy stiffness, a totally frozen pinky finger, a nearly fused thumb, deep penetrating pain in the bones of the hand that seems to be in a perpetually alternating extremely hot and sweaty to ice cold and frozen, bearing a nerve disorder, losing flexibility though continual stretching, physical therapy, attempts to regain additional flexibility rather slide into less and less use.  Without losing hope it often seems like a losing battle.  Thankful for what use I do have with it and committed to keep what I have and gain.

A left hand that has gained a very prominent position, one of vast importance in my life, one that  was only an able assistant for 66 years to the right hand— now carrying a heavy load of learning to be the major functioning agent in the daily functions of hand use.  Having to carry the load, to not only do its job but to compensate as much as possible for its partner’s loss of use.  One that now feeds me, shaves me, brushes my teeth, tries to zip pants, button shirts, turn on the ignition keys, turn door knobs, opens doors, pulls on socks and pants, etc.  Thankful for that left hand!!

Feet that move, that carry me through the day.  A left foot that is somewhat normal, a right foot that has the lingering affects of that same disease of the right hand, CRPS from surgery 14 years ago that was never diagnosed at that time.  Alternating hot and cold same as the hand.  Also the inflexibility and stiffness of toes and movement of joints of the foot but all the while moving me where I want to go.  Thankful for feet that carry me through the daily routines and all of the places I go.

Some days it is a battle to escape from discouragement, to not let it drag me down, to stay on top of it but I am intent, in the long run, to Taking the Up Elevator.


Methow Conservancy

Having roots running deep into the soils of the Methow Valley property homesteaded by my grandfather in 1894, I, being 3rd generation and living presently with 4th and 5th generations on this property– began thinking of how to preserve this wonderful 250 acre piece of ground  and  1 1/2 miles of riverfront that our family has been blessed with and allowed to steward for over 108 years– to be able to keep it in the family for generations to come.

Successful generational succession in family farms is rare. A couple of key factors in the equation for success — There must be potential economic viability of the family farm for the younger generations to come back to but even if that is there most fail because of a lack of relationships within the family.  We are blessed with present generations that are parallel in their thinking, planning and have a common vision, goals and the  implementation of them with a strong Christian faith as a foundation, good  solid relationships with each other.

How to perpetuate and maintain any possibility of economic viability, allowing the present generations the opportunity to not only stay on the lands of their forefathers, but also expanding economies of scale to allow future generations to come back to the valley to invest their lives in keeping the lands that are  suited for  agricultural production– how can we do this in such uncertain times, globalization, the annual accelerating costs of the inputs necessary to be a viable commercial organic and conventional fruit producer,  margin squeezing, labor shortages?These are some of the issues we grappled with over the past few years.

Working together with the Methow Conservancy over the past five years has added a vital piece to help us  move toward our vision for the future and given our family the opportunity  to place not only the original homestead and surrounding lands into two CE’s but also place another prime agricultural parcel in the very lower Methow into a CE in late 2011. Placing these properties in CE’s has allowed us to plant an additional 24 acres of Organic pears in 2010/2011.  And just completed in April 2012, 12 acres were planted to a state of the art cherry orchard  rather than 13 homesites on the Methow River 2 miles upriver from Pateros.

We are excited to have a working relationship with the Methow Conservancy as our family continues to steward these properties.  In tree fruit production, economies of scale and the burden of increased rules and regulations are driving the older, smaller growers out of business. Our future vision is to keep as much land as possible  in  agricultural production in the lower Methow Valley through leasing or purchasing.  We would like to provide the alternative of maintaining local operation or ownership of these producing properties, rather than the land owners dividing and selling land to outside ownership.

We thank all of those who have worked so hard and tirelessly and participated in any way, large or small, to the successes of the Methow Conservancy in securing past CE’s, not only for our family, but CE’s in the whole valley.

Keith & Deb,  Kevin & Jen,  Mark & Robin  & (Kadin, Aubree, Makenzie, Caleb, Elliana, Grant)


The Beginning

On an extremely cold morning —   10 degrees F on what we would now call an old antique thermometer hanging on the woodshed 50 feet from the front porch—in January of 1945, the 22nd day to be exact, in a four room home in the Lower Methow Valley, 14 miles upriver from Pateros– the labor pains began.  Anxiety and anticipation were the emotions of the moment as my mother mentally prepared for the upcoming delivery.

It was a lot different in those days– 67 years ago from the time I write this.  Traveling house doctors, called out all hours of the day and night, often through very adverse weather and travel conditions to the homes of those in need.  Many times the doctor was caught in treacherous snow storms and drifts, sometimes even putting his life at risk.  The local Pateros doctor covered the communities of not only Pateros and Methow, but Brewster, Bridgeport and up to Mansfield, 50 miles in another direction. Accidents, sicknesses, deaths and the time of new birth.

As time progressed through the day there were false alarms, then thinking perhaps the real time was drawing close.  This was no time for my mom and dad to take their time, they had to err on the side of extreme precaution because as I found out many, many years later– actually I was in my mid 50’s or early 60’s when I learned this from an aunt—- my mother had suffered multiple miscarriages between the time of birth of my brother in 1935 and my birth in 1945.  I was told perhaps 5 or 6, no way to verify the exact number– those things were talked about less in those days than they are now.  Nine plus years of anticipation, anxiety— times of hope as another pregnancy began, and  then just as suddenly hopes dashed as it ended in miscarriage. Heartbreak after heartbreak interspersed in those nearly 10 years.  It had to have been an emotional roller coaster ride and, in fact, oftentimes a nightmare.

So it was with great anticipation that this birth might actually bring a second son into the Stennes home.  Of course there was no way in 1945 to have any foreknowledge of the gender of the baby.

A light quite dry snow began to fall in the mid morning which also gave a sense of anxiety– knowing that if these labor pains turned out to be real that there would be a journey on the highway to not only Pateros, but, — if time allowed– to Omak, which in 1945 had the only hospital in Okanogan County.  Through the day anticipating, wondering if the car would start, how cold is it going to get, will the heater work in the car, lots of thoughts.  Lots more reasons for concern than today.

First a 14 mile drive to where Dr. Harold Stout lived– he practiced out of an office in his home in Pateros, sitting just off the highway– today owned by Jim and Ellen Whan.  It was purchased from Dr. Stout by the David Brownlee family when he moved to Brewster . Dr. Stout along with Dr.Harold Lamberton founded the Okanogan Douglas County Hospital several years later.  Ellen Whan was David Brownlee’s daughter.

Time to load up and head out, can’t take any more risk than was already looming with the past medical history, the adverse weather conditions and the long, long drive to a hospital.  It was 55 miles to the hospital and the roads weren’t what they are today.  And the cars weren’t what they are today either, tires not developed for snow conditions.  Most often had to chain up to get anywhere.

Pulling out of the driveway, leaving 4″ tracks in the snow from the 1939 DeSoto sedan, my dad headed down the valley– there were no phones to warn Dr. Stout they were coming.  It was time to pray that he was there and not out on another house call, especially to the Mansfield area.

Arriving in Pateros after a 45 minute journey on the snow covered roads– wipers on car windows didn’t do as good of a job as they do today either— they arrived at Dr. Stout’s home.  I was beginning to pound a little oftener, I guess thinking it was time to get out and face the world.

Loading Dr. Stout and his bag of medical tools in my dad’s car, they headed out for the 40 mile drive to Omak, heading out in a snowstorm.  Praying they would get there and not have delivery in the car on the way.

As they traveled North, passing through Brewster and then heading due North toward Omak, the roads were slow and winding.  The snow was piling up, visibility was poor.  While they had a deep faith in God’s Sovereignty there was still an onslaught of anxiety, would they lose another one, would they arrive soon enough, or if delivered in transit would the baby live??

What today is a 35 minute trip from Pateros, it took nearly an hour that night– arriving prior to the birth– and here I am , today 67 years later!!!

More in my life story at some point in the future–


Hell’s Canyon

Exhilaration!  Adrenaline rush!!   Another Bucket List event crossed off the list—As Captain Dan reversed direction , headed due North, and charted his course downstream, ( Yes, the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon flows North) pushing full throttle the Twin 400 HP Cummins engines —

The 42′  handcrafted Jet Boat — 1/4 inch aluminum hull with Hamilton 243 Jets —-lurched forward and sped down Hell’s Canyon at speeds of 45 miles per hour plus adding in the river flow of over 18,000 cu. ft. per second–  reaching speeds of over 50 mph.

Ripping through the big white water rapids at what felt like breakneck speed, with shoreline, rock outcroppings, sheer bluffs and sandy beaches all speeding by —

Hot winds blowing across our faces, water spraying — several good welcome drenchings as it was a 100 degree plus day on the water—as the boat weaved its way thru the rapids, Captain Dan skillfully picking and choosing the current seams to stick steer  — no steering wheel— this 10 Ton plus craft through with its 41 passengers.

2.5 hours downstream —much of that time at these speeds–covering 96  miles of Hells Canyon, a ten mile wide canyon, the deepest in the U.S, at 7993′— nearly 1.5  miles deep — located along the borders of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, a part of the Hells Canyon National Recreational Area.

Earlier in the day we had boarded and launched out on a long 10 hour day, taking 7 hours for Captain Dan —putting  his 24 years of experience and knowledge of the seams in the rapids and depths as shallow as 14″ —-to work our way upstream 96 miles against the strong downstream flow, climbing 8-12′ in elevation per mile toward the Hells Canyon Dam — didn’t quite reach the dam– before turning and taking the 2.5 hour speedy trip return voyage.

Spur of the moment– 1/2 price coupon tickets popping up online, rearranging schedules– son Kevin had to leave Methow early AM for a business meeting 4 hrs. away in downtown Seattle from 11-1, then a 3 hr. rush to Quincy to meet up with his brother Mark, Kevin’s 6 yr old son Kadin, Mark’s brother-in-law and myself for the another nearly 4 hours to Clarkston WA. to be there for the next early morning launch.  A short, short nights sleep and–

A long long day, 10 hours on water, then 6 hour drive home, arriving after midnight. An exhausting, exhilarating, memory making time with sons and grandson, a photographer’s paradise–I have over 400 pics and videos to edit and save a handful–and a day spent in awe of the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.

A day’s ride on the up elevator!



The Cream of the Crop

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PHANTOSMIA??  What is it?  A word I’d never heard of until a few months ago.  Any guesses before you read any further?

In my  2nd post since I ventured into writing a weekly blog – “Taking Time to Smell the Roses”-  I shared some about a medical situation I have been dealing with since late February.  Some have asked what has happened since, what is going on at present, do I have any answers?  Am I still dealing with this smell disorder?

First let me summarize these past six months that will lead up to  some explanation and a little educational blog on some of what  the medical phenomenon called “Phantosmia” is— for if you are like me, this is a term you most likely have never heard of and have absolutely no idea what it means –or of what it entails– perhaps the difference is that I have had 6 months of experiencing what  may fall into this medical  ?????? —–breath after breath for that period of time since  first encountering a smell disorder.

As shared in that post, one minute I was breathing fresh air, the next breath there was a horrible smell and my breathing has never been the same since. Change in an instant— fresh air here on one breath— gone the next.

OSMIA-  smell– sense of smell

PHANTOM- something apparent, can be real or unreal, but with no substantial evidence.  Something apparently sensed but having no physical reality.

Having exhausted the normal medical avenues and no medical personnel finding or explaining any logical reason that this bad smell of varying intensities is with me 24/7 when awake and having hit a dead end——   (This smell, to me,  is reality, this is nothing at all that resembles phantom–it just  defies the ability to identify its source —this is constant, becoming a big part of my daily life— 17,000 +/- breaths — a big part )  ——–

It was time  to dig out some answers. After literally hours and hours of research–  The closest thing that makes any sense at all is Phantosmia–  It is a  known condition that is extremely rare and can come on instantly, can be triggered, is not necessarily the same in each person who has had it invade their lives.  It can — and in my case does —vary in intensity — sometimes hour to hour, or day to day, spiking up or down with no apparent cause. Deb’s brother, an  internal medicine Doc  in S. California also confirmed possible phantosmia.

Phantosmia can also be attributed to overactive olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) or the loss of inhibitory neurons.   These overactive ORNs could be activated by some other input through a fluke in wiring where they would normally remain inactive or inhibited, so a signal is sent to the olfactory bulb when no stimulus is present. The inhibitory neurons are also a part of the pathway just described. If extraneous information that is normally stopped at these impasses is allowed to continue along the pathway, the brain will interpret a signal that has no intrinsic value. This will provide a sensation without a proper stimulus.

Often phantosmia has been associated with several other illnesses of which, at least outwardly, I have no symptoms.

Sometimes in the beginning it was up and down like a roller coaster ride, changing from hour to hour, spiking to 8-9 on a scale of 10, then dropping down to 3-4, then back up to the top or anywhere in between. The the next day can be different– those days– even hours– can obviously be either a  huge relief to go from high range down to low 2-4– or can become a thought consuming struggle to try to maintain a level of joy in the midst of just trying to cope  if it goes up and waiting until it recedes.

Tried eliminating food groups, eliminated meds, am in the process of acupuncture treatments and herbs for cleansing the liver, etc.  Three really improved weeks and then this week it came back for no apparent reason– to a higher 5-6 level part of most days, even occasional short periods at 6-8.  I know,  you might wonder how a number scale developed in my thinking, but for these 6 months I’ve developed the sliding scale that,  for me,  is a fairly accurate level of assessment of what is going on at the moment.

I  believe that nothing happens in my life without a purpose– in God’s Sovereignty I can continue to learn,  I have a choice to either take the elevator up and be as positive as I can be with this hopefully temporary “thorn in the flesh”– or I can allow it to drag me down the elevator to the basement.  He can heal this instantly or over time.  God is  in control of my life and though I can’t and don’t  comprehend many of His purposes, I firmly acknowledge His supremacy.

Perhaps someone reading this is right now going through something in your life, -medically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually-  that makes this phantosmia thing pale in comparison.  I am  encouraging you to look to God as your source of strength to help you take the up elevator ride as you deal with whatever type of adversity it might be.



I suppose many readers don’t even know what a Triploid is and if we took a fun poll of 100 readers we would get close to 100 different answers and most likely a lot of outright guessing.

Son Mark and grandson Isaac ( Kristin's son)

Triploids have taken up a lot of my time this week.  Many hours.

I am one of over 60 million anglers in the U.S. — These anglers generate over $45 Billion in retail sales, impact the economy $125 Billion and create over 1 million jobs for our economy.

Sport Fishing in Washington State is a big dollar boost to the economy as well. We all know the mess our government and the economy is in –so there is a little bright side in knowing that something that is fun — like fishing with family, friends and especially grandchildren— is also contributing in a small way to keeping some jobs in this industry.

Triploids are genetically altered fish– because they are sterile they do not reproduce, but rather all of the energy that would go into reproduction goes into body growth– the record Triploid trout is 23#.  They are voracious eaters.

A Triploid refers to fish with 3 rather than the 2 normal sex chromosomes– XX or XY for the female and male.  Triploids are XXX or XXY.  These conditions occur naturally in less than 1% of the natural trout population.

How are they modified?  There are two methods that can be used– the gathered eggs either have a temperature shock treatment ( they are put in a warm water bath after fertilization)  or they  can be hydrostatically pressurized just for a few minutes.

There is always the question some pose of genetically modifying foods. Is the end result any different than a bull becoming a steer?   They can no longer reproduce.  So before someone gets too uptight about eating a genetically modified tasty lemon pepper and fresh onion covered BBQ’d Triploid filet- realize that most  every time you eat a McDonald’s hamburger or  an Arby’s French Dip, or a steak at Black Angus that you are also eating  piece of meat that has become sterile.

Also keep in mind that seedless watermelons are triplod in nature- their sterility resulting from a cross between two plants of incompatible chromosomes.  Also peppers,some grains, marigold flowers, and many, many foods we eat daily that no one thinks about.

Last month over 117,000 Triploids were released from the net pens on Rufus Woods Lake— I hear because of irregular nitrogen levels in the water– These levels would have killed the fish were they not released into the big body of water.  So the lake and river is now full of  the voracious eating Triploids, ranging from 4# on up.

As some of you know, October thru March each year Big River Steelhead Outfitters (Jerrod Riggan, Mark Stennes, Kevin Stennes) are guides for steelhead in the Columbia River.  The release of these Triploids in these huge numbers poses a potential threat to the steelhead smolt and fisheries in the Columbia River.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings members of our family fished early in the mornings, bringing home limits for all who fished—limiting no later than 9 AM, keeping the fish on ice so that we could still get in a good day of work before heading home and–

Then the work really began–( this is where the hours and hours came in, the actually fishing was fast! )  cleaning, fileting, cutting up into proper sized pieces to seal in the Food Saver process to store in freezer for “fresh” winter meals–  (36 sealed meals) and smoking over 25 Lbs., experimenting with various seasonings– brown sugar, garlic and herb, pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder, steak shake, etc. These Triploids are at the top of our list of choices for fish to eat.

Absolutely Excellent– flavorful, mouth watering, tender — and when cooked just right the Triploid flakes perfectly– a fish that can be BBQ’d with a variety of seasonings, baked, etc. and you can’t go wrong with any of them.

The joy of time outdoors, on the water with family, ( even Deb got her license )–our sons, and teaching grandsons to fish (and clean).  Building memories, eating fresh, filling freezers, giving to others, taking the up elevator.

4 limits in the ice chest

Isaac Wall-- age 11


Reflections on Ross Lake

Reflections on Ross Lake

Cascading waterfalls, originating from glacial  and  high snowcapped North Cascade Peaks,  pour into  Ross Lake—- lying a little over 1600  feet above sea  level, a 23 mile long, 1.5 mile  wide body of clear, cold,  pristine water –488′  deep– in the North Cascade Mountain range in  Northern Washington and  Southern British  Columbia.

A reservoir formed by the impoundment of the Skagit River by the  540 ft. high Ross Dam, built between 1937 and 1949— owned and operated by Seattle City Light— the hydro project provides much of the electrical needs for the Seattle metropolitan area.  It flows over Ross Dam winding its way  through the Diablo Lake reservoir with its beautiful glacial water, over the Diablo Dam, running down the Skagit River through one more  reservoir and into Puget Sound to the West.

Ross Lake Resort was created from the remains of a floating logging camp in the 1950’s.  There are 12 individual floating cabins and 3 bunkhouses on logs, many the original logs used in the initial construction of the camp and now over 100 years old.  It is now a privately owned concession within the North Cascades Recreational area.

A major remote–no roads– recreational destination with access only by hiking down a steep winding one plus mile trail from the Ross Lake Resort parking lot on the North Cross State Highway  (SR-20), or launching a boat  23 miles uplake at Hosameen, British Columbia– after driving on washboard dirt roads for many miles to get the the launch–

OR — our favorite– and here is the story of our trips into Ross Lake Resort, our favorite place to spend a few nights– a little piece of heaven on earth.

Flashback to July of 2001– anniversary time approaching– friends having mentioned this amazing, unscathed by man, area of natural beauty much as God created it— a spur of the moment phone call, which incidentally coincided with a cancellation on the other end– and we had our first two nights at Ross Lake.

Keep in mind remote– Everything is packed in by hand –Pack ice chests dry foods, haul in your own–clothing from swim suits to heavy sweatshirts and rain gear as there is the whole range of weather.  Fishing rods, gear, games, books, etc.

5 A.M. Load it all into our pickup, drive the two hours, coordinating for the 8:30 A.M. time  one of two daily trips the Diablo Lake Ferry makes to the base of Ross Lake Dam (the other at 3:30). Unload pickup, lug everything down 30 steep stairs to the dock, wait for the Seattle City Light operated boat, then load into boat.

Then begins an absolutely beautiful 25 minute trip up the aqua glacial waters of Diablo Lake through the narrow channel of massive rock outcroppings with trees, deciduous bushes and foliage, covered with mosaic patterns of moss arriving at another dock– start the process all over again unloading all the ice chests, boxes, etc., lug them up a ramp and then 20 steep, narrow stairs to a waiting trailer hooked to a small Kubota tractor, load them on the trailer— it moves the cargo 100 yards up a steep hill to a waiting 1 ton flatbed truck, where it is all unloaded and then reloaded once again.

Then the passengers jump on the flatbed with their cargo and begin the slow winding portage uphill, hairpin turns one right after the other until 15 minutes later we  reach the level of Ross Lake– unloading onto a dock once again, waiting for a open speedboat with twin 115 Mercs that will really haul–load the gear for the last time  for a 1 minute ride across the lake, being taken right up to the door of our cabin.

A “Modern Cabin” with fantastic views, a 4′ walkway across entire front of the 12 cabins, becoming friends over these 10 years with other Ross Lake junkies, many who have been coming for 15-35 years— now into 3rd generation in some families.  For you see, in order to have a reservation for the limited space most everyone signs up for the next year at checkout time.  And most who have been to Ross Lake have fallen in love.

Sleep, eat, read, play games, hike, fish, and

Reflect on the beauty of God’s spectacular creation

Time- lots of time  (no cell phones, no computers)  to pause and reflect on life past–

Giving thanks as I see the hand of God on my life over the years, shaping and molding a flawed human character, the successes achieved in life only by the grace of God .

Reflection on the future– looking forward  positively with much anticipation to the time (hopefully many years) left here in this life and the desire to “finish strong, running the race set before me with joy.”

Drawing strength communing with God in an amazingly beautiful and natural setting mostly untouched by human hands and today much the same as He formed it at the time of Creation.

Ross Lake Reflections– Taking the Up Elevator


A Tribute

A totally life changing event occurred in a split second on a cold October night 42 years and 9 months ago today– on October 19, 1968.

As I saw, for the first time,  a young smiling 19 year old with a twinkle in her eyes walk through the door and down the stairs into the lobby of a girl’s dormitory on the Whitworth campus in Spokane, WA.

A “blind date”– set up by a friend of a cousin— I had endured several or “too many” of those “blind dates”  during the previous years at WSU and had told myself that I would “never again” go through the potential agony of one.   But living alone in the Methow Valley after graduating from college– most likely being somewhat lonely— and receiving a call from my cousin who also had signed on for a “blind date”—-

I, in a weak moment, said yes—Why not?  What do I have to lose?   And for this young lady –a first, never having said yes to having a “blind date” until that night.

A momentous occasion as I met the love of my life, I believe the one picked out by God for me to spend the rest of my life with.  Engaged February 22nd and married July 19, 1969.  ( The next day on our honeymoon we watched on a little black and white TV in the lobby of the Banff Springs Hotel as Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon– while we were sipping lemonade with the other guests crowded around the little screen)

TODAY– I CELEBRATE 42 years with the most amazing wife.  Time has flown by and where have the 42 years gone???  A wonderful marriage put together by God, bringing two people together, one from the sparsely populated Methow Valley  ( only a fraction of the number that live here today) and the other from the urban sprawl south of San Francisco.   From two different lifestyles and blending them together with a love that cannot be broken.  It is our relationship with Christ being the glue that has held and bound us together through 42 years.  It is only by the grace of God that the urban girl and country boy met in Spokane in  such a unique way at just that moment in time, she 900 miles from where she grew up, he three hours east that was the beginning of 42 wonderful years.

In our early marriage she jumped right in and we, together, along with a friend (Barb Cave) dug tree holes with pick, shovel and crow bar on many many acres as we attempted to rebuild an orchard after 40 degrees below zero had destroyed the family orchard in December of 1968 and the months following.  ( But during that time I was so in love that I don’t think I realized the seriousness of what was happening to our orchards)

42 years with an awesome wife who has loved me, cared for me, been my helpmate, shared in all of the ups and downs of those years, always being supportive and encouraging and full of trust.  I am full of gratitude to have spent my life with an amazing mother, nurturer, homemaker, a great cook, gardener, keeping me and the kids in clean, ironed clothes ( must have been hard in the early decades to have to wash the dirty, greasy clothes of a farm boy) and all the too many other daily and weekly things that a wife and mom do– often being taken for granted.

Today an amazing caring grandmother of 10.

And– together we have grown in our faith and trust in God and His sovereignty, have seen His hand continually at work in our lives over the years.  Some amazing testimonies over these years of His faithfulness to us.

I am thankful for a wife who, along with me, desires to finish the race God has set before us, running strong and seeking to take the up elevator, being positive, not only lifting each others spirits but those around us.


The Stem Connected

Today– I begin with an overview of what a cherry harvest  looks like in our orchards

I guess you can tell– right at the moment there is an obsession with the cherry-  

Harvest began June 27th — 6 days later than 2010 and 12 days later than 2009.  So here we are 16 days into cherry harvest and approximately 12-14 days to finish this early and mid season crop and then a couple of days in August– a later variety.  This season we hope to harvest 350 tons after having to leave 180 tons tons hanging on the trees in 2009 and 120 tons in  2010 due to weather.

Day after day, 40-70 pickers arrive prior to the 5 AM starting time at the orchard that has been determined to be at prime maturity for that day. (We are thankful for this consistent number so far–labor is in tight supply though we have been blessed with just the right numbers to methodically keep up with the daily progression of maturity)

And a wonderful ground crew of 12-15, managing, monitoring, hauling literally thousands and thousands of buckets of cherries — 13 of the buckets weighing 17-18# per bucket being placed in a cherry bin, then hauled from  the orchard to the loading area —with either tractor and small trailer or 4 wheel Honda and trailer.  In some orchards we utilize a four trailer train laden with bins and the crew as gently as possible emptying the buckets or cherry lugs into the bins leaving the empty lugs to be refilled.  Then onto the flatbed truck– for the quick haul to Brewster or into a refrigerated van if going to a warehouse for packing in Wenatchee.

It is critical to keep the cherry cold– to keep the stems wet and moist.  It is the stem that has given the cherry its life giving sustenance from the moment the flower was pollenized some 70-100 days  ( depending upon the variety ) prior to harvest.  The stem connects the fruitlet to the source, to the bud, to the branch to the tree and it is through the xylem and phloem  in the stem that the water and nutrients flow to give the fruitlet its daily food so that it might grow into a mature fully developed cherry.  The health of the stem, the connection to the source determines the quality and maturation process in the cherry.

The stem cannot begin its drying process after being removed from its life giving moisture while connected to the tree.  So out in the field those cherry bins are covered with a soaking wet  burlap pad that fits over the top of the bin with the objective of keeping the cherry cooler and keeping the stems moist.  The market demands cherries with green, live looking stems– especially cherries for export.  Long, bright green, not lime colored.  Moisture and proper refrigeration are critical to maintaining the life of the cherry as it goes through the process of  being picked, hauled, hydro-cooled, sorted, placed in selected packaging —( often for specialized orders and markets )—  spends time in a wind tunnel after being packaged, having the core temperature drawn as quickly as possible down to 35 degrees F.  before being placed in a refrigerated van for transport across the country or to the Sea-Tac airport for immediate connection to a flight to what ever country being exported to.

Often a cherry can be harvested at 5 AM,  placed in refrigerated van, hauled to warehouse, hydro cooled, sorted, packaged, placed into wind tunnel to draw down the core temps, put on refer, arriving in Seattle prior to a 10 PM departure from Sea-Tac, arrive in the UK and be on the shelves by 9Am the following morning. Times can vary depending on which country exported to, but it is as quick a process as possible to get the freshest cherry possible to the ultimate consumer.

It is that ultimate consumer that bites into a large sweet crunchy cherry that starts the process of that repeat order– working its way back through the chain of all those who have a vital role— the buyers, brokers, transportation, packers  and down to the actual grower.  With all taking a piece of the pie.  And all of this hinges on the quality of the cherry delivered and that quality hinges on the quality of the stem that is connected through the season to the source and being kept in good condition following harvesting.

The stem connected to the source is absolutely necessary to the life and vitality of the cherry–

And so it is— only as our spirits are connected to the Source, to God, through the Holy Spirit.  For me it is vital to be connected to my source of strength, to face whatever daily trials come my way with joy , to try to be an overcomer, running the race set before me, taking the up elevator.