Archive | April 2015

Wenatchee: Ohme Gardens

I went to a conference in Chelan last September, and Jon came over to meet me for the weekend. We had already been to Chelan, so we decided to stay about 30 minutes away in beautiful Wenatchee. We went to Ohme Gardens, which is a garden created by a couple on a rocky outcropping overlooking the city. Herman and Ruth Ohme got married in 1929, during the Depression, and really didn’t have any money, but they had purchased a 40 acre orchard property that included this plot of land high on a hill overlooking town.

It was arid, with scrub brush and no trees, but they stood on the dry outcropping and imagined something much more lush. They set about transforming it into an oasis in the desert. You may not know, but Wenatchee only gets 9 inches of rain per year, so creating a garden with plants from the Cascade Mountain range was quite the feat.

In the beginning, the couple would head out for the day to public lands, and dig up plants that they wanted to transplant to their garden. Don’t do this, by the way, it is illegal. But this was back then, and obviously nobody stopped them. Once they transplanted some plants, the hard work began. There was no irrigation system, so they had to drive a truck with barrels of water up as high as they could go, and then they hand watered the whole garden using buckets. Buckets! The garden was smaller in the beginning, but that’s a lot of tramping up and down the hill with a 5 gallon bucket of water…

Ohme Gardens eventually grew to the 7 acres that it is today, and has an irrigation system, multiple ponds, mature pine trees and sunny grassy areas. Due to its location on a steep slope, exploring it means climbing up and down the hill on a series of garden paths and stepping stones. Don’t wear heels… There are plenty of shady nooks and crannies to keep you relatively cool in the hot summer sun, and apparently it is a popular wedding venue.

When Mr. Ohme became too elderly to keep up the garden by himself, his children started helping, and Mr. Ohme died at the age of 80 in 1971.  In 1991, they donated the garden to the State, who eventually transferred it to Chelan County.  I would love to come back sometime when the spring flowers are blooming – I bought their tourist guide and the photos in springtime look amazing. And I had no idea this gem was even there!

I didn’t bring my larger camera, for some crazy reason, so the pictures didn’t turn out as nice as I would have hoped, but I hope you can tell how neat this place is. If you have a chance, go – it is certainly worth the $7 admission.


Oliver’s Sleepy…

Why are Tuesdays so long?  It occurred to me that I haven’t posted any photos of my adorable kitties lately, so here’s Oliver doing what he does so well.

That nose!  And those paws!

That nose! And those paws!

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

2012 Husch Vineyards Chenin Blanc

Jon and I picked up this wine on our California trip in Spring 2013, when we had the good fortune to visit Husch Vineyards.

I opened it up last night,  after putting a couple of bottles of white wine in the fridge to chill a bit.  Now that it’s spring, I’m enjoying my whites even more!  I couldn’t be more pleased.  It has flavors of pineapple blended with minerality, giving it a balanced flavor that I love.  It has just a hint of sweetness on the tip of the tongue, with a lingering light honey syrup on the back of the palate.

Husch has been producing their Chenin Blanc since 1984, and they have clearly been doing something right.  It is fermented in stainless steel tanks, and bottled only a few weeks after fermentation was complete.

Not to mention it is a great value at just $12.00 a bottle.

Have you had the Husch Vineyards Chenin Blanc?  Have you been to the Anderson Valley? 

Book Review: Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

I’ve been reading up a storm lately, due to some of the specifics of my new job. Where I had a whole group of ladies to walk with at lunch before, now I walk by myself. So I have been taking my I-Pod with an audiobook loaded on it out to walk. My sister-in-law says that’s not reading… but for lack of a better term, reading it is. You get the point, I’m sure.

As I was perusing the library’s selection of titles, I came upon Rabid, by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy – of course it piqued my interest, because I’m just that kind of girl. And why not?  What disease is more efficient at killing its host than rabies? Rabies kills 100% of human victims of the disease if it goes untreated before symptoms begin; with an agonizing death whose symptoms include headache, body aches, paralysis, and most curiously, hydrophobia, an irrational and often violent fear of water.

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

The book begins with historical references to rabies, which was first described in historic literature over 4,000 years ago. It is thought to have begun to spread to humans in larger numbers with the domestication of the dog, although all mammals can be afflicted. The first chapter includes a series of terrifying yet comical present day attacks by rabid animals; including a bobcat who walked into a bar (how’s that for the beginning of a sick joke?), and a rabid donkey.

I learned that rabies is not a disease of the blood stream – rather the virus makes its way through the central nervous system to the brain. As a result, it takes longer for the virus to travel to the brain, up to a couple of weeks in humans, and often several months in animals.

The book also documents the similarities between symptoms caused by rabies and medieval accounts of vampires and werewolves, leaving the reader to conjecture whether rabies was the catalyst for stories of these frightening monsters. Frighteningly, people suspected of being a vampire or a werewolf were murdered much like suspected witches of the day, and some even confessed to being a vampire or werewolf.

As the book continues its meandering path, we learn the story of Louis Pasteur’s research into rabies, and the discovery of an effective vaccine to treat rabies post-bite. He was tortured by the idea of experimenting on human subjects, even though these people had been confirmed to have been bitten by a rabid animal, and well, we already established that without treatment the fatality rate is 100%. Given the options, wouldn’t you want to try something? Interestingly, the treatment for rabies now is no longer the series of huge shots in the abdomen – apparently now you just need 4 shots, typically in the muscle of the upper arm, and they are no more painful than a flu shot.

The authors also document the Milwaukee protocol – an experimental treatment involving an induced coma, and a cocktail of medications to help the body naturally fight off the disease. The first time it was tried, it was complete guesswork to determine what treatment they would try.  Thy physician who developed it had just 24 hours to research a treatment for a disease he’d never actually seen in real life, as a little girl lay ill in a hospital room, sure to die within a few days.

Of the several dozens of people who have been given the Milwaukee protocol (with varying degrees of controls on various points – some have not started the treatment right away, some didn’t receive the exact same cocktail of drugs, etc.), only 6 have survived, most with significant side effects including major traumatic brain injury. The original girl who received the protocol and survived is doing well, but does have some lingering side effects over 10 years later.

And rabies today? Although there is an effective vaccine, and post-bite vaccination treatment, between 35,000 and 50,000 people continue to die every year from rabies, mostly in the developing world. There the cost of vaccinating is prohibitively high, thanks in part to the anti-vax movement, whose insistence that the preservative thimerosal and its trace amounts of mercury be removed from vaccines has increased the price significantly, due to the fact that all vials must now contain a single dose. (Oh well, as long as my kid doesn’t get autism – who cares about the developing world!? Never mind that that faulty research has been thoroughly debunked, and the guy who put it out there lost his medical license for doctoring his study. I digress.)

In the United States, most deadly rabies bites are inflicted by bats. Bites so small that you may never know that you have been bitten. Because of this, they recommend that if you awaken to find a bat in your room that you receive the post-exposure vaccine.

Admittedly, rabies is a morbid topic. The authors did a great job of injecting historical facts and research with pop culture references to rabies and its tenuous relationship to monster lore. I learned quite a bit about a disease I had never known much about.  Really my sole experience up to this point was scenes in Cujo and the perennial classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to indulge their strange fascination with deadly disease.

Have you read Rabid? Ever seen an animal with rabies?

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Winter

On the way home from Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Jon and I stopped for a short visit at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. My mother and I had visited on the hottest day of July, when no animals in their right minds would be outside in the scorching sun.

This time, the refuge was transformed. The huge grass field from July was now under several inches of water, flooded by seasonal rainfall and the tidal system. There were ducks and geese all over, enjoying their winter feeding grounds. Visitors can look at the birds from the viewing platform, or can walk further out on the boardwalk. We did both, but there weren’t very many birds out further on the open water of the field. Plus, it was cold and windy (although not really raining), so we only took a brief walk before heading back to dry land.

A Great Blue Heron at Nisqually

A Great Blue Heron at Nisqually

On land and in the water close to shore were lots of American Wigeons, Mallards, and Canada Geese (or maybe Dusky Geese, who knows…).

There were lots of American Wigeons at Nisqually

There were lots of American Wigeons at Nisqually

This goose was having a great time eating or playing in the fluff of these reeds.

This goose was having a great time eating or playing in the fluff of these reeds.

I spotted a white bird far off in the distance – I wasn’t sure if it was a bird or a plastic bag at first (my far vision really is getting crummy these days – I blame my mom). I was able to zoom in and get a closer look (and some photos) at a white goose. I identified it later with my bird book and the internet – a Snow Goose! He was hanging around with several ducks, and it was odd to see him without any other Snow Geese. I hope he wasn’t injured…

The Lone Snow Goose on our visit.

The Lone Snow Goose on our visit.

We couldn’t hang out too long though, as we still had a long drive home.

I Still Wish it Had Been a Joke…

Another year has passed in which I have been blessed with the companionship of my sweet horse Biz.  I will never forget that I almost didn’t get to spend all these years with him.  He’ll be 28 soon, and proof that miracles do exist.

This story is pretty gory – I’ll warn you now.  If you have a weak stomach, don’t read on.

Today is April Fool’s Day, which ever since 1992 has been a different type of anniversary for me. On April 1, 1992, my beloved 4 year old quarter horse gelding Biz, tried to run through or jump the electric wire fence in his field – I will never really know what happened. Upon finding him standing in shock in a pool of blood, I stumbled back to the barn to get help. Friends later told me they thought I was playing a practical joke, until they saw that all the blood had drained out of my face. The vet was called, and he received a police escort to the farm when a Sheriff’s Deputy friend heard the call come out over the radio.

Friends at the stable tried to stop the bleeding, and one friend held Biz’s head up and out of the way for 6 hours while the vets stitched and stitched to try to close the wounds (a second vet had arrived about an hour later when he finished up another call). Meanwhile, I was also dealing with a sudden onset migraine headache (Dad, I’m still sorry I threw up in your 1968 Cougar). When the vets finally finished up that first night, after 10 pm, Biz had over 1000 stitches in his front legs, and fractures in his knees, over his eye, and across the bridge of his nose. They estimate he had lost about 4 gallons of blood, about 40% of his total blood.

Biz was so badly injured that our veterinarian did not think he would live. At the time, the prognosis was that he had a 5 – 10% chance of surviving the accident, and if he did, he only had a 5 – 10% chance of being anything more than a big, expensive, lawn ornament. The only thing going for him was that although he had cut himself so badly he had exposed bone, nerves and did extreme damage to the muscle, he narrowly avoided hitting an artery, or cutting any of his tendons. For a horse, severing a tendon would have been a death sentence, because it would mean he would lose the use of the leg.

So, being the stubborn, foolish teenager that I was, I decided to give him a chance. For the next 5 months, extensive wound care, hand walking, and trying to keep him from re-injuring himself became my before and after school job. As the damaged tissue died, he smelled like death. As the skin around the wound died, the stitches pulled out, leaving holes in his legs that were 5 inches deep. For the first several days, he couldn’t move his legs forward very well, so he shuffled from side to side.

The fracture over his eye caused blood to pool in the white of his eye, and looking at him broke my heart. The risk of infection was ever present, especially since the wounds were so large. I breathed a huge sigh of relief each day that infection didn’t set in. Sometimes, when cleaning the wound, I accidentally touched the exposed nerve bundle, causing him excruciating pain. I’ll never forget the involuntary jerk of his leg when I accidentally touched the nerve.  When he got bored, confined to his stall for days, he tried to knock me over with his head while I knelt next to him.

Amazingly, he never fought against his treatment. He took it all in stride. He was as content as ever, with a hearty appetite and a devious twinkle in his eye. When I took him out for a walk, he wanted so much to run and play. He didn’t act like he was as badly injured as he was. It was a struggle to keep him from tearing the lead rope out of my hands, which would have meant a serious risk of re-injury.

Fortunately, he managed to avoid hurting himself again. When spring gave way to summer, the risk of infection came again, in the form of flies who wanted to constantly land on his wounds. Fortunately, Biz dodged that bullet too. Every day, the wounds closed a little bit. Every day, a little more fresh, pink skin closed in around those gaping holes in his legs.

It took more than 5 months for the wounds to finally close. Biz defied the odds, and he can do most things other horses can do, although he isn’t the most coordinated guy. But then again, he never was. The vet recommended I start riding again at a walk, a month after the accident, because he had so much energy it was getting tough to control him from the ground. We slowly worked back up to normal capacity.

If you didn’t know Biz before the accident, you might not notice the hitch he has in his stride, because those front legs just don’t move quite right now. He has extensive scarring across his front legs, where no hair grows. If you look carefully, his chest is still marked with 5 thin, hairless scars, one for each of the 5 strands of that electric wire fence. The bridge of his nose has a bump, and his back legs are dotted with scars too.  All these years later, these visual reminders still show.

I would like to say Biz grew smarter and more cautious after that, but he didn’t, and he has continued to have a talent for rare and creative injuries and illnesses. I’ve come to accept that it’s part of what makes Biz, Biz. He is almost 28 now, an impressive lifetime for a horse.  All of my friends’ horses who were near his age have passed away.

He’s still full of life, but thankfully, he’s more mellow now. For the most part, his flesh tearing injuries have given way to fungal skin infections and the degenerative processes of age. Arthritis makes it difficult for him to get up after he lays down to roll – but once he’s up, he still runs and plays like a young man.  He’s losing his teeth, having them pulled one by one as they lose their structure inside his gums.

At the time, it seemed unreal to believe that there was any way Biz could have made it through. But now, I still think about that day, 23 years ago.  I know there are miracles.  I witnessed one.