The Pitfalls of a City Boy Dining on Farmer’s Market Produce.

I bit hard on a peanut sized pit in a forkful of salad. I’d mixed what I thought were small seedless grape tomatoes with my lettuce, peppers and olives. I carefully ate each one and spit out the pits as my city-boy confusion grew. What produce revolution had transformed my loveable seedless grape tomatoes?

tinys organicKaren thought she’d bought a package of them at the Pybus Farmer’s Market. Nothing on the package labels the product from Tiny’s Organic, East Wenatchee, website, What government regulation had transformed FDA packing requirements?  I felt like I was in A Twilight Zone from Rod Serling’s famous TV series.

I took pictures of the package and emailed my questions to a trustworthy local farm source.

The product is healthy and delicious, according to Mia Brisbine from Tiny’s Organic who responded quickly to my questions. She is nowhere near a twilight zone. She said they were healthy and delicious “Organic cherry plums, a hybrid of a cherry and a plum.”

I knew they were healthy and delicious, but why was the package without labeling information about product ingredients? The language often used is creative art to disguise information. Their labels was company information only.

She explained the bags were filled by sellers at the market posted with signs clearly identifying them as cherry plums. Karen and I pay more attention to delicious looking fruit than signs, but we need to refocus.

Brisbine said, “Farmers Markets request that we don’t label produce with stickers, only provide signage with the product. If the produce that is packaged were to go to a grocery store, it would require labeling.”

The local farm and farmer’s markets were protecting Karen and me by making sure the product was sold directly to us as consumers and not to others who wanted to resell it.

Even better, she said. “All of the fruit we sell is 100% Organic and grown at our farm in East Wenatchee.”

We confirmed we can trust our local farmers and markets to deliver evolving variations of healthy produce, but we need to beware ogling the fruit without reading the signs.

While I was pondering the cherry plum revolution surrounding the pits in the remainder of the package, I wondered whether it would be safer if it was labeled a genetically modified organism (GMO). Every one of my cherished Honey-Crisp apples from the grocery store has a label that I peel off, although apple packers have assured me the labels are edible. I wonder if paper labels should be identified as coming from genetically modified trees?

From what I can tell, a hybrid plant is a cross pollination between two different species of plant where humans don’t have any control over the genes. Edible hybrids are sold and inedible ones are discarded. It’s called selective breeding. It sounds safer than baby breeding. Karen and I took what we got and periodically wondered about the wisdom of those decisions, but we were lucky.

Genetically engineering a plant gets a precise set of genes which sounds to me like greater control of the genetic structure compared to hit-and-miss cross breeding hybrids.

We’ve been growing and consuming GMO plants like corn since the mid-1990s while agriculturists have been discovering and selectively breeding plants since 12,000 BCE, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and a trusted scientist/narrator.

In an interview with Mother Jones magazine he said, “We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals, that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them.”

They taste better, they’re easier to harvest, last longer, look better.

What if scientists could modify cherry-plums to get rid of pits? We’ve selectively bred seedless watermelons, why not genetically engineer pitless-cherry-plums? Go, go, GMO.

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Three East Wenatchee Youth Are Going to Enliven the Delegation to Misawa Japan

Three Eastmont High School youth should be  excellent ambassadors in the Wenatchee Valley Sister City Delegation to Misawa Japan from August 15 to August 24.

The entire delegation including Karen and I have received our final training session. David and Judy Kelts, Association leaders, have warned us against behaviors that could embarrass us and recommended one to endear us. We’ve learned language phrases to use, steps to perform The Coal Miner’s Dance, lyrics to sing the US popular song Sukiyaki in Japanese and food to swallow and keep down. Karen and I feel prepared but scared our minds will go blank trying to say, “Su-mi-ma-sen, ni-hon-go ga yo-ku wa-ka-ri-ma-sen,” which we  hope would sound like, “Excuse me, I don’t speak Japanese very well.”

The three youth from East Wenatchee have taken additional steps for their first trip outside the United States. They are Danielle Meadows, 10th grade, Max Wirth 10th grade and Shayn Stanaway, 9th grade.

Danie, as she likes to be called, is the daughter of Kristi and Mike Meadows, East Wenatchee. She enjoys volunteering in the Eastmont Senate and the Youth Leadership Council. Danie was named the Jr. High Volunteer Student of the Year in 2013 by Youth United. It’s a program supported by United Way of Chelan & Douglas Counties, local school districts and sponsors to teach young adults the value of stewardship in local communities. She plays volley ball and still finds the time to sing and play four musical instruments.

She’s excited about the trip and her host family. “It’s scary to be going out of the country without my family,” she said.

She’s reading more about Japanese culture and using chopsticks. She’s also making 50 gifts for hosts at our farewell banquet!

“My  dad manages an orchard and I went out and cut apple and cherry blossoms,” she said. “And pressed and dried them and used them to make laminated bookmarks.”

Max Wirth, the son of Bill and Debbie Wirth in East Wenatchee, is on the Eastmont Senate and in the Yearbook Club. In addition to volunteering at school, he’s involved with church and the parks and recreation programs. His hobbies include basketball, swimming, reading and computers.

He’s strengthening his interests in all people and foreign cultures. “Lately I have been trying to not be so afraid to try something different or speak to people I don’t know,” he said.

Immersing himself in the Japanese culture, Tokyo, Japan’s past and Misawa thrills him. “I think this trip will be an absolutely amazing experience,” he said.

He’s bringing sports gifts, such as Seattle Mariners pencils and cards and a Washington State University baseball shirt because his brother plays for them. He’s also taking two special gifts, Giant and Spitz sunflower seeds his father grew to deliver to the mayor and Max’s host family. And he purchased a Washington themed hand towel for the host family.

Like all of us he fears not knowing Japanese customs, but he’s got the right attitude: “I really don’t want offend anyone and I hope that when I do make mistakes, they are very forgiving.”

Shayn Stanaway enjoys sport too, playing volleyball, basketball and softball.  Her hobbies include reading and volunteering at church.

She’s been taking pictures of their home, Wenatchee Valley and her family’s cherry orchard and, most important, her mom and dad, Eric and Sandy Stanaway. There were hosted in Misawa in 2007 by Shayn’s host family. She said, “My parents haven’t quit talking about them since I signed up for this! My parents call them ‘Momma’ and ‘Poppa.’”

Even though it’s her first plane trip, she not afraid. ”To be honest I don’t think I am scared about anything in Japan, she said, “except maybe not being able to understand my host family.

Watching these three youth and meeting the rest of the youth, are all going to be an added bonus for us on this adventure.

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Building Relationships By Sharing Organs and Chocolate Cake

Ten years ago Jake MacKinnon was succumbing to Type I Diabetes when he received a pancreas transplant that saved his life, according to This Week magazine. The MacKinnon family and the family of the donor, Kalern Millard, became friends. Now Bill Millard from Kalern’s family has kidney failure and Jake’s mother, Janice, volunteered to donate the kidney. Janice said, “You say ‘thank you’ when someone opens a door for you. There are no words for this.”

That story started me thinking about strengthening communities by organizing donor sharing groups by matching up gene pools in advance. Each family would be aware that another family in the community is partnered with them, but they would not know their names.

Think of the benefit of knowing every family you see could be your donor partner.

The community would be more health conscious. People would be more willing to provide universal health coverage, support new health clinics. People in good health could get certification of HQH: high quality health. Stores could offer HQH certified people food discounts. They could put bumper stickers on their cars saying, “My family has a straight A Health Rating.”

More parks and recreation would be supported so people would exercise. Slogans could encourage us to exercise such as, “Join me in exercise in case our organs join some day.””

Drivers would be more conscious of others on the road, never running red lights and thereby eliminating the need for cameras on traffic lights.

Local food markets would flourish even faster to keep us eating healthy. Fresh produce stands would generate even more support. People would encourage each other to avoid junk food.

All these benefits from knowing we are all here to help each other.

Fifty-one years of Marriage and Sharing Chocolate Cake. Fifty-one years of marriage takes work, especially on crucial issues like chocolate cake and diets.

Karen bought me two small chocolate cakes each half the size of a bread loaf for my birthday even though she knows I’m cutting down on the amount of added sugar I eat. I questioned her about that. She said they were small and she did it last year.

So I planned to put them in the refrigerator and eat small bites at each meal. I like cold cake and a little ice cream.

Karen would help because she sneaks small bites even though she avoids added sugar better than I do. She refers to her sneak attacks as “neatening up” a haphazardly cut cake.

Those reasonable rationalizations allowed me to slide into more added sugar.

The first cake was lasting too long. I was eating all of it, so I took bigger bites that were too large for my diet.

I accused Karen of not helping.  She said she doesn’t like them in the refrigerator. She neatens them up when they’re warmer and more moist.

So I put them on the counter. It worked to finish off the first one, but the second one would end up back in the refrigerator.

Again, I accused her of not helping. She admitted it. She told me she knew I liked them better in the refrigerator so she put them back.

We compromised and finished the last one.

We’re in our fifty-first year of marriage and still working on the fine details.

Posted in Community Building, Fuzzy Skies Humor, Humor | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Newhouse and Reichert Forecast to Win Congressional Districts in Fall

Ninety-five percent of the ballots in primary elections in Douglas County and the two Congressional districts have been counted. From the results my prediction is Dan Newhouse should win Congressman Doc Hastings’ 4th District seat and Congressman Dave Reichert should retain his 8th District seat.

Almost one-third of Douglas’ County’s registered voters cast ballots, slightly higher than the state turnout.

The top two winners in U.S. Congressional District 4 were Republican candidates Clint Didier and Dan Newhouse. In Douglas County Didier won 44 percent of the votes and Newhouse won 14 percent. In the District Didier won 32 percent and Newhouse 26 percent, a margin of 6.01 percent.

Both are ranchers but Newhouse served as state legislator from the Yakima area for six years and as Washington director of the Department of Agriculture from 2009 to 2013. He was appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat.

Didier has not won an elected office but was appointed to the Federal Farm Service Agency by President George W. Bush. reports Didier was endorsed by FreedomWorks, the strongly conservative group of Republicans and in 2012 “was a favorite of the Tea Party” in his unsuccessful campaign for Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands.

Both support repealing the Affordable Care Act, reducing regulation, protecting gun rights and set a priority of reducing the federal debt and annual deficits.

Didier has said, “I have signed a written pledge that I will oppose any and all efforts to increase any taxes on any budget that increases the scope and size of government, so much as one dollar.” I have not been able to determine if Newhouse has signed that pledge.

They differ on immigration reform. Didier did not mention immigration reform as an issue when the Empire Press asked both candidates what specific farm policies he would support. Newhouse’s first response was, “We need immigration reform to ensure a stable workforce.”

Jon Wyss, at Gebbers Farms in Okanogan and Volunteer Vice-President of USA Farmers, a national association of farm, agribusiness, ranch and employers of migrant employers and a leading advocate for immigration reform, posted the following statement on Newhouse’s Facebook page: “You will win the general [election]. We are here to help you.”

Forty-two percent of District voters didn’t vote for either candidate. Democrats received eighteen percent of the primary votes which should most likely switch to vote against the Tea Party candidate, Didier.

Endorsements from Republican leaders would influence Republican voters according to a news report by the Tri-City Herald and the Yakima Herald published August 7, 2014. Hastings is considering an endorsement. Primary candidate Janéa Holmquist, the Moses Lake state senator who hired a Hastings staffer as her campaign manager and won 10.46 percent of the vote, has not announced whether she will endorse either candidate. Candidate George Cicotte from the Tri-Cities who won 6.51 percent of the vote has announced he will endorse a candidate.

The fall election has had approximately twice as many voters as the primary in the past. Even with the larger voter totals, Washington’s Election Day percentages are similar to primary percentages, according to the RealClearPolitics blog by Sean Trende. The reason is voters don’t change their minds during the three months before Election Day.

Didier’s primary and Election Day percentages where almost identical in the 2012 election for Commissioner of Public lands with 41.3 percent in the primary and 41.1 percent on Election Day. His opponent gained all the percentage outside the top two.

My prediction is that Newhouse should win. He should win a majority of voters who didn’t vote for the top two. Even if he wins only half of the other Republicans and all the Democratic votes, he would win with 56 percent.

The 8th Congressional District race was dominated by Congressman Dave Reichert with 72.18 percent of the Douglas County vote and 62.53 percent of the state vote.  Reichert’s margin should mean a victory, even if Democrat Jason Ritchie does increase his percentage by 3-5 percent.

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Fuzzy Skies August 7 2014

A nutritional meal at McDonalds? A quick meal that’s low fat is hard for me to buy. I’ve needed crowns after chewy snack bars. I avoid oil soaked snacks or sandwiches with too much bread. I’m too slow-moving in the morning to pack a lunch.

Surprisingly I found a tasty, filling snack at McDonald’s after risking a visit because fast food companies are searching for ways to serve consumers searching for nutritious meals. Hold your dubious thoughts.

Promoting healthy foods is risky because the McLean Deluxe failure caused McDonald’s first ever quarterly loss. It was promoted as a healthy meal. Consumers assumed it couldn’t be delicious.

The drive-through menu promoted the Premium McWrap™ in three options: Chicken and ranch, Sweet chili chicken and Chicken and Bacon. I succumbed to the Chicken and Bacon with 460 calories, but my next McWrap™ will be the Sweet Chili Chicken at 360 calories. The McWrap™  ad doesn’t mention the word healthy.

It was tasty and as filling as I remember a Quarter Pounder at 600 calories before I’d smother each bite in ketchup at 19 calories per tablespoon.

McDonald’s website lists ingredients as grilled chicken breast, apple-wood smoked bacon, two half slices of tomato, spring greens (fresh cucumbers), shredded lettuce, cheddar jack cheese, creamy garlic sauce and a warm flour tortilla.

It is as high in sodium as a Quarter Pounder, but the sweet chili Premium McWrap has one-third less.

McDonald’s nutritional strategy is driven by Executive Chef Dan Coudreaut, who is responsible for every food item worldwide. McDonald’s promises to include produce or low-fat dairy in each Happy Meal, reduce sodium 15 percent overall across McDonald’s national food menu by 2015 and serve favorites that are less than 400 calories each.

Fast food companies are offering healthy snacks amidst the junk.

Doubts About Living on the Dry Side. Never? We moved to the dry side of the Cascades because I wanted to retire under clear skies. There’s a shadow hanging over that clear plan: smoke.

Two years ago I fled wildfire smoke a couple of times to protect my lungs and heart. I cope by using smoke as an excuse not to walk the dog, wear a mask, keep house windows closed, change our furnace filters weekly and recycle air in my air conditioned car. I’m no quitter.

But an email from my daughter-in-law, Sheri Russell, unsettled me. She’s a dry-side devotee forced to move with her husband and children to Bellingham’s chilling drizzles. Karen and I admire her cheerful sacrifice.

Recently she emailed us about how scary the smoke must be from the Carlton Complex fire, the largest in State history and not yet contained.

“Ever since leaving Idaho in 2003,” she said, “I had missed the dry mountain climate I had become so accustomed to and fond of. Then last September Keith and I went to Bend, OR, which was an incredibly dry 98 degree tinder box of pine needle-covered land, and my true appreciation for Bellingham finally settled in.”

I feel abandoned.

Smoke is not my only worry. My eye doctor said high-desert climates dry eyes and damage vision, so I constantly add eye drops. My skin cracks all winter even when slathered with hand creams. Smog hides the sun during winter, which I used to escape by skiing Mission Ridge. Now my A-fib keeps me off the slopes because blood thinners make a head injury potentially fatal.

Maybe I wouldn’t miss the dry side. The thought of abandoning many friends and community builders in this exquisite landscape is unthinkable. Or, at least, was unthinkable.

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Terry’s Comment of the movie Noah

I enjoyed your analysis of the movie as we share the same opinions.

To me it could have been a neat movie of Biblical history > dealing with interpersonal relations, morals, values, etc., but instead turned out to be a grade B SciFi flick.  A waste of Crowe’s talent.  Terry

(posted with Terry’s permission).

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We Deserve Better Movies on Environment and Theology Than Noah

Karen and I watched Noah with Russell Crowe last weekend. I rate it 4 on a scale of 10. The rating system operated by reports 98,000 viewers rate in 6.1.

It’s a fictional action adventure drama with an illogical plot inarticulately conveyed in dialogue within mediocre visual effects and irrelevant carnage.

The plot originates in Noah’s dreams where he, men and animals are drowning in the sea. He assumes the dreams are from the world’s creator (God isn’t used as a term). He has difficulty interpreting these dreams until he seeks advice from his grandfather, Methuselah, who serves him a mind altering brew giving him hallucinations of drowning underneath the bottom of an ark.

From these murky drug-induced images, Noah makes the intuitive leap that the creator wants him to build an ark large enough to save the pairs of chosen animals while all humanity and the not-chosen pairs of animals perish, including every member of his wife, children and new-born granddaughters. The surviving animals would live forever in natural harmony without sinful man. 

Noah at least struggles with this belief. But other doubters in the Bible are much more interesting, such as Jonah or Job. Those characters ask penetrating questions with humor, irony and mercy as lexicological weapons in didactic dialogues directly with God. I think Bill Cosby’s dialogue between God and Noah is more entertaining than the dialogue forced on Crowe in this movie.

Noah is portrayed as an environmentalist early in the film but ruins that image. After the best special effects scene in movie where a single seed transforms a wasteland into a vibrant eco-system of rivers and green forests, an awe-struck child asks Noah, “What is it?”

Noah hesitates, turns his back on the child to cast a thankful face to the heavens and says, “Our ark.”

I expected him to encapsulate the wonder of the creator’s gift of life in eco-systems teeming with sustainable symbiotic relationships, not label it an uncut woodpile.

He lacks the will to kill his granddaughters and inconsolably plunges into a drunken stupor because he’s failed his creator After his family intervenes, his adopted daughter and mother of his grandchildren has to explain that he’d chosen love instead of vengeance. Indeed she told him the creator picked him because he was preordained to fail.

As I ferret out that logic, the omniscient creator picked an obedient numbskull as the father for all mankind. What kind of theology is that?

Dialogue about racial issues in the Bible is non-existent because Ham is cast as a white man. He’s Noah’s prodigal son, is a person of color who leaves the family to create a lineage that causes racial conflicts for generations. Racial dialogue doesn’t come up, a missed opportunity and an especially stunning insult to viewers of color.

Perhaps Director Darren Aronofsky chose to convey essential messages visually, not verbally.

But the special effects are weak. Noah is helped by six angels of black boulders that seem to have ligaments confining lava filled souls. They serve as worthy workers and warriors against the doomed rabble trying to storm the ark.

The ark is actual size so it looks ponderous in the seas, but few scenes of importance use that image. The special effects animals entering the ark appear to dwarf its capacity, but they will be stacked efficiently because his wife serves them an herbal soporific.

Scenes are dark whether outdoors on indoors until the end. Consequently the characters’ eyes have beams of light reflected off them as if they glow with divinity. Unfortunately when they smiled, light gleaming off their teeth reminded me of vampires. Some scenes were almost blacked out on our 51” HD screen.

Having disliked the movie, I learned viewers paid $101 million to see it in the US and $258 million in other countries, making it “an unmitigated hit .. by almost every measure,” according to Scott Bowles in USA Today. “Yet,” he said, “film fans may not believe in it.”

So what do I know? I know I didn’t like it or believe in it.

Posted in Community Building, Doing Justice and Having Compassion, Fuzzy Skies Humor | Tagged , , | 2 Comments