Adventures of Janey Grapeseed

A Labor of Love, a Taste of Joy in Life


God Agreed

Somebody thought I should study viticulture …and God agreed.

First the back story –

Taste Walla Walla arrives every year and this year was no different or at least that’s what we thought.

Steve and I go up to Seattle where winemakers, growers, and marketeers of this renown AVA gather to promote their product. Every year by God’s grace we hope to connect with the people and find some wines that he can promote in the grocery store he represents. As we sat in our hotel preparing our minds for the event, Steve was commenting about the courtesies involved in reaching out to wine folk. Sometimes in, what I can only describe as akin to speed dating, seeing people as real people and the art of common courtesy can get lost. Buried under the the volume of choices and information presented to one’s brain and the short amount of time allotted to traverse the gauntlet from one end of the room to the other are the manners we all possess in some corner of our person.

We agreed that this time would be different. I was going not just as Steve’s “plus one” but as a blogger. I reached out to the people putting on the event. I was pleasantly surprised when they actually responded. Then I responded by acting on their suggestion to reach out to Pepper Bridge, a winery in Walla Walla that has made sustainable operations its heartbeat. I decided on a few farming questions to ask when I got there and promptly forgot all about these exchanges in the flurry of trying to analyze as many wines as possible – yes, actually taste not just imbibe. 🙂

Then we got to the Pepper Bridge table and I was greeted with – “Ohh you are Christine? Jean-François told me to come get him if you came by.” She did and I talked with one of the wine-growing greats for the better part of half an hour.

I suppose it went well. I did more listening than asking questions and I learned quite a bit. The conversation ended with an invitation to visit his vineyard.

Fast forward a few months and we are preparing to go to Walla Walla. It’s my 50th birthday gift from my husband. 🙂 As we’re planning, Steve brings up the Pepper Bridge invitation. “Why don’t you ask him if we can stop by?” Totally out of my comfort zone, I did. Mr. Pellet responded with welcome.


Now here’s the God-story —

I couldn’t help thinking that I should make the most of this short visit so I e-mailed Jean-François again. This time the question was, “Is there any book I can get at the library to prepare for our visit?”

He responded to that too with a vague answer about a new book posted on the UW viticulture website.

I found the book. Written by a Swiss grape-growing gentleman, Markus Keller, who is a professor at the UW. It was a costly textbook, second edition. So I got on the phone to our library who didn’t have it and refused to do a digital inter-library loan for me.

Now what do I do? Pray.

God… we don’t have the money for this. Please either convince Steve to invest the $150.00 in this textbook or please provide the funds. Help me to read the 509 pages and to be conversant in it by the time we go. I have 6 weeks to get that done plus all the other things I need to do and have already committed to! Please help me. I do not want to be put to shame and this is an incredible opportunity. Amen.

That day I got a call for a job that paid $120.00. Armed with that information I asked Steve if I could order the book and work the job. He said , “yes.”

I found the book again online only this time it was being sold for $129.00 with free shipping. Pressed the continue to checkout button and it was a done deal.

Except for the time it takes me to digest information and the extra ten bucks I needed, I was good to go.

More Prayer.

God….., How can I tell people about this story and tell them you only provided most of the funds but not all of them? They would say it was just me making an effort to get what I want, not a God-thing. When you do things, you do them completely. When you provide, you provide completely. I need $10.00 more. Amen.

We got sick. Very sick. Not going to go to that job if I’m this sick kind of sick.

More prayer.

God, now I’m in a terrible fix. I can’t go to work like this. The book is ordered. Will I have to return it?! Can you do something about this please?

Then I began to stew about the study part. Those who have been given a trust must prove faithful after all… The book wouldn’t arrive for another few days.

Not so. The book arrived in record time. In fact, the ink was still wet. I know this because it smeared when I highlighted a few words. Ah, the benefits of actual ownership….

I got better. Not just well enough to work but actually all better.

I went to work. I told the story…leaving out the, ”Yeah, I almost have all the money.” bit but praising God for providing work to pay for the book.

Study was more manageable. 509 pages without the research citations turned into three hundred something. My mind is absorbing grape geekery at an amazing rate though I’m still teeter-tottering about how much information I can retain and be conversant in….Thanks God, that the book came early.

Once again I was thinking about the “almost completely paid for” situation and sent up a repeat “request” to the Most High.

Out of the blue…

Steve’s dad calls up. He has something for us. Can we please come down and get it? Steve is too sick. I have only a few minutes before I need to be at work on my second and last work day. I go visit Dad.

To my utter astonishment he hands me one $10.00 bill and ten ones. “Ten for you and ten for Steve,” he grins. “I won $100.00 in a contest and I’m sharing with you guys.”


God provides 100%

Off I go to study viticulture because somebody thought I should… and God agreed.


Good Algae?


When Jean-Francois Pellet , winemaker for Pepper Bridge Winery, mentioned using algae to build soil health my face twisted. I like soil health and in the vineyard, being kind to the land is basically common sense to the nth degree.

I don’t like algae so much. Maybe you can relate? That step-on-it-and-fall stuff …that you-never-know-what’s-under-it stuff…

You use algae? …From Seattle?

GROSS! Maybe it’s a juvenile response but sometimes my inner child just bubbles to the surface.

My first thought was of places like this:Algea pic 1

And this water-fouling, over-abundant, boat-blocking slime:Algae pic 2

My next thought was of pollution. Seattle – though it’s dear to me – generates pollution. Cities do that. Apparently, algae isn’t bothered by pollution. It may actually feed on it.

Picture coastlines with huge metal tubes spewing waste waters into the ocean – dead fish on our otherwise pristine beaches …not a good thing. (Is algae abundance due in part to our mishandling of natural resources or is it God’s response to clean up our mess? …just thinking.)

And you put that polluted crud in the growing environment of something I want to drink?! Do they purify it first?

Another child-like reaction…. Oh well, those were the places my uneducated mind went. I was trying to be pleasant to my new and mentor-worthy friend but I could not let the gross factor go so easily.

Jean-Francois would never do anything to his vineyard that would be disrespectful of the land and its crops. How he takes care of the land is very important to him. “I should be a good marketer and tell you that you could [taste sustainable farming in the glass], but you can’t.” He farms in a sustainable way because he feels good about it. Mr. Pellet says that if we take care of the land, then other people take care of it too.

I sincerely hope so. Integrity is worth respecting and listening to.

What was this obviously intelligent grape farmer advocating? I had to find out more. So I did.

We have SO much algae in western Washington and I have NEVER considered it beneficial…

Not until now.

Algal bloom can be problematic. Some can be deadly.

BUT algae can be good. Health supplements. Architecture. Soil health. Biofuel.

Not everyone agrees. The jury is still out on all of the ways algae can be helpful and/or harmful.

How would I gather and use it myself? Can anyone do it? I still don’t think I would grab a glob and swab my vineyard rows with it just yet though use of algae has proved to increase sugar content in grape berries and increase the health of vines.

Why not follow Jim Roberts idea from Matrix Genetics co.–make it happen. Genetically process and use one type for biofuel. (There are several types of algae — oh the things one can learn from seeds of thought!) Then let’s follow Jean-Francois’s example and bring more of our algal bounty into the vineyard for agricultural development.

Algae grows in an environment well suited to its production – our environment. We have lots of algae. It’s worth learning more about.Algae pic4

If the good people of Washington can make the most of the problem of algae by creatively making it into another beneficial agricultural resource, jobs could be created  …science enhanced…energy sources powered up and  not only affirmed in their current condition but made viable for generations to come. (Sounds like a Thomas Edison business model, doesn’t it?) Healthy lifestyles benefit…and yes, money could be made from this gross green stuff.

Viewing algae as a part of the symbiotic whole of living in Washington and worth including in our state growth plan makes long term sense.  

Algae can be a huge part of sustainable economics in Washington state. While we go on with our marketing and business strategies, and going green rhetoric that western Washington is really good at, why don’t we grow a viable product from our abundant, often annoying, irritating algae?

The east has provided the west with a wine product to market. Algae is something those of us living on the west side of the mountains can give to both eastern and western Washington Agriculture. We can treat our beloved state as a whole, the way Jean-Francois treats his vineyard, if we focus on sustainable solutions.

The more I learn about the possibilities algae presents, the more I like it…cautiously.  Creative possibilities are replacing that before mentioned repulsive, self-preserving shock.

Maybe, like me, you thought algae was gross. Maybe you were annoyed at the recreational inconvenience to swimmers and boats. Perhaps it was the idea of contamination and the health risks associated with algae that scrunches up your face on occasion.

Purls are formed from irritations. I love pearls. Try looking at algae as the green pearl of Washington and maybe, like me, your perspective will change too.

Algae pearls 2

To quote VINEA of Walla Walla: Sustainable viticulture is – ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially supportive. Thank you , VINEA  . And Thank you Jean-Francois for planting a seed that is changing my limited perspective to embrace a larger, sustainable one.

Blessings to you and yours,

Janey Grapeseed

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Tool Renewal: a grateful response


What a difference a great helper makes!

Helpers are great if they know what they are doing, if they are effective at the task they are commissioned to accomplish. Not every tool can do everything and to be honest I like some better than others. But if they are broken, no matter which tool it is, there is no getting past its uselessness…right? Wrong. According to Jack Webster, you fix it. But what about people? People who “fix” people are obnoxious.

“What is it with sevens? Seven intelligences. Seven Thunders. Covey’s Seven Habits.” A wine taster at St. Nick’s was captivated by the number things coming into his life as he and his wife make every effort to help their daughter fix her “wings” and process her education. Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences entered our conversation (You will see eight types of smart on this link instead of the seven I always refer to because I combine “other smart” and “self smart” into a category called “people smart”). Being at St. Nick’s, of course I mentioned God’s voice –The seven thunders. (The teaching that God speaks into exactly how he created us in addition to  speaking into our points of need)  But habits? What was this man talking about? Was he trying to fix my thinking? Perhaps he was saying he’d had it with all the “help”.

Not to be caught out of the loop again, I found an overview — The Seven Essential Habits of Highly Effective People . This bestseller by Stephen R. Covey is a great book and one I’m sure I will investigate further not for the numbers but for its pure common sense. According to Covey, “Fixing” comes from the inside out.

The seventh essential habit is  “Renewal”. Whether we apply it to our body in the form of exercise and rest or to our mind, our heart or our soul, renewal is absolutely essential. Validated in several walks of life throughout the ages, if this one habit is neglected, everything else comes crashing down. Really?

What if we can’t bring about positive change or do the things necessary for it all by ourselves? Sometimes renewal requires work, hard work, which does not appeal to the exhausted. Most of the time it requires knowledge which some of us are unable to acquire due to time or priority arrangement . All of the time renewal functions best with certain timing.   Whenever we are personally without the ability, knowledge or materials, it is a great blessing to have a helper. One such helper at Weaver’s Hill is Jack Webster.

A bit about Jack:  He is my father-in-law and neighbor. He grew up on a farm and his work ethic is amazing. Jack is getting older and walks around on two metal knees (knees he had replaced after  years of working –at the Bremerton shipyard and managing production lines at a die cast company in southern California — took their combined destructive toll). Jack has a wall of tools and his eyes light up when he gets to use them.

God has gifted Jack with the uncanny ability to fix things. Sometimes he increases his knowledge in a wide variety of topics but most times he just seems to know the best way to make broken things work again. Case in point would be my favorite garden tool… the pitchfork.

Last spring I was given a few rhubarb plants which needed a place to live in my “Essential Others” garden on the south side of our vines . To accomplish this, a long strip of pasture grasses and weeds were ripped out. One person was using the flat edge of the mattock to hack and roll the unwanted vegetation away and I was prying it up, tossing it aside using the pitchfork. To gain leverage, I positioned the fork over a boulder. CRACK! The wooden handle snapped off where its metal ended. My tool, now rendered useless, needed to be replaced so I went out to Home Depot to get another one.Wouldn’t you?

Throwing the old one into the trash seemed wrong ( Maybe that’s just Jack’s contribution to my developing sense of farming). So, it’s parts sat in the shed all summer long, neglected –until Jack saw them. As he was helping sweep away sawdust from the  firewood Steve had been working on, he spied them. “I can fix that,” he said, grabbing both parts, he marched confidently  down the hill to his garage/workshop. A couple days later here comes my good-as-new pitchfork!

Because of his kind, assertive action, his  ingenuity, and hard work, an essential tool has been renewed; old wood burned and drilled out of the metal, the handle re-cut to fit (without using a lathe), both parts painted and reassembled. Through Jack’s vital assistance, our vineyard aisles have a complete fall weeding which helps prepare the vine’s living space for renewal. Because Jack restored the first one, we have two well used pitchforks; now two people can use them making the workload lighter and providing a catalyst for  personal, physical renewal as well as more garden renewal. Essential? Absolutely.

You’ve probably heard that old story about sharpening the axe. It’s just common sense. However, common sense put into action becomes absolutely glorious. I thank God for making Jack a great fix-it person, for enabling Jack to see a need and speak into it according to his own most awesome strengths without commenting on my weaknesses or showing disgust at my lack of knowledge. He simply did  what needed to be done and in doing so, blessed our family and our vineyard

Thanks Dad, for being the wonderful person God made you to be. You inspire all of us to spread goodness to others whenever and however we can.

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Thank You, Ron & Theresa

People who encourage you by actually doing something are rare. Ron and Theresa Martinson who manage Silverbow Farm on the Key Peninsula are those kinds of people.

Thanks, Theresa, for the Rhubarb starts that will help me make a concoction to deal with black spot disease in an organic way.

Thank you both for donating a truck load of compost to ensure the vines on Weaver’s Hill get off to a great start.

May God bless you for your great kindness and active encouragement.

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Thanks, Background People

Wide brim straw hat, short dark hair, a neck dark with sunburn and a loose fitting gray tee topping comfortable jeans; just a background element?  This young man worked tirelessly serving bite-size refreshment to a crowded guest house. He helped to both prepare and serve the food. Back and forth he went with platters of cucumber slices dollopped with a tablespoon sized salmon mixture topped with fresh chives. Next to this, he placed a twin tray holding a grid of cantaloupe squares wrapped with thinly sliced, salty meat.

Standing behind him and to the left, my palm landed on his shoulder, “Thank you for all your hard work.” He spun around and really saw me. Saying “thank you” is more than important, it’s powerful.

As Steve and I travel around to wine events, I am amazed… astounded even … by the helpers. They juggle invisibility, hard work, awareness, stepping forward to answer demands, dealing with the nice and not-so-nice public to position their company into everyone’s good graces. It’s an art form.  I can almost hear the radio commercial, “Northwest profile #539…we’re a little like you, assistant wine maker….”

I thank God for him; not his good looks or his service but the indelible mark of what a ‘thank you’ can do. Beyond the power that this expression of a valid and real acknowledgment had, stopping him in his tracks, this simple phrase kicked my own thinking into gear.

“I always thank God for you…” is something Paul says in most of his letters to the churches he visited. Can you imagine if God’s people really did that today? …Always thanking God for people?

  • Thanks: [Strong’s # 2168] to thank, give thanks, render gratitude; this can mean words that express gratitude or the emotion of gratitude. Gratitude is the state of being grateful.
  • Merriam-Webster: grateful 2 a : affording pleasure or contentment : pleasing b : pleasing by reason of comfort supplied or discomfort alleviated

Maybe talking randomly to strangers comes naturally to you. With me it’s a  “don’t- think- just-do”  kind of thing because I have to wage war on my introspection skills. Most of the time it makes me feel very uncomfortable, especially when the target responds with, “Who are you?” just like the young man wearing the straw hat. Internal analysis fights for center stage. I panic, then mumble. Yet, were I to make thankfulness an every moment habit — out loud or not, I’d become comfortable in a state of constant contentment and pleasure. I’d be well trained in looking for good things just as God was looking for good grapes in his vineyard. And I can. I have been so blessed by the people God puts in my path.

One such person was actually a grape grower. He worked in the estate vineyard of some winery in eastern Washington I can’t remember. We met at the social wine and food frenzy I call “Taste Washington”. He was pouring wine all day. My addiction to learning took over and I leaned a little too closely into one of his conversations trying to gather any vine growing information I could without actually talking.

Catching bits of his story about plucking worms off vines in the middle of the night, I got caught. Their conversation ended and he turned to me spouting some kind of Spanish something I couldn’t understand but obviously the previous guy did. Ignoring things that I thought it would be better if I didn’t understand, I hurried to explain my interest. As I talked about Weaver’s Hill, his eyes lit up, his English returned and we began a conversation of our own. I thank God for him too.

While reading at home, I discovered a person to admire that I had been holding in …uh…low… esteem during most of my growing years because I’d only heard bad things spoken about him. This winery owner had such tender praise for his wife and her help which freed him up to get other necessary tasks done. The story was not about her and yet the part she played behind the scenes was essential to their collective success. You can read his expression of gratitude in Ernest and Julio: Our Story by Ernest Gallo, Julio Gallo, and Bruce Henderson. This book is easily one of the best biographies I’ve ever read.I thank God for everyone in his life story because they inspire me and I thank God for the writer who wrote excellently as well.

Good people, yes, and even the not-so-good often can make an impact for good depending on one’s perspective. Sometimes God uses them without their knowledge and other times he impresses them with a desire to get involved, or act kindly. Finding a way to remember kind words or actions and spreading the pleasure connected with them is something we can all do.

In the wine world while marketers, distributors, wine stewards, and business types go from one place to the other getting five-star service, those in the background work to make each event just that wonderful. Could they use encouragement? Sure.

Start by looking in the background. There are always background people. They work when everyone else goes to the party. They get up in the middle of the night to pluck worms off vines and begin again early the next morning. They keep the home fires burning during the day and the candles lit at night to ensure another person’s success.

For all these efforts and all these people, I would like to say thank you to God first because “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father…”

Secondly, I would like these real people to personally know that I truly appreciate their kindness and/or the efforts they’ve made that impact Weaver’s Hill or Janey Grapeseed’s blog in a wonderful way. Sharing them with you is a joy. You will find various people and their contributions listed in the R.C.A. (R – Recognize   C- Consider   A- Appreciate) category of Janey Grapeseed because thankfulness is music to God’s ears and to ours.

Take a moment to notice background people; the sparkle in their eyes, the broad smiles, creative thinking, and knowledge of their product. Look beyond the moment and see the person; the tired feet, the aching back, and long hours. GIVE A … THANK-YOU.

Copyright 2010 Christine J.Webster