Sunday, June 17, 2018



This was my second visit to Old Homestead Alpacas, being enticed to return by notices for their Open Barn event last Saturday. The fact is, I was so impressed at my first visit in May during a Learning on the Land event by Blue Mountain Land Trust, that I welcomed the public invitation to see what's new on the farm. 

And there he was, Mario Andretti, the first cria (the correct term for alpaca babies) of the season, who was a day shy of being a week old. 
Mario was never more than a few inches away from his mother Indy.

Also new to me from my previous visit was the newly sheared herd seen here with the shearing marks still faintly visible.

As you can see by the photos above and below, the leg fibres are left in tact on Suri Alpacas, which is the kind raised at Old Homestead Alpacas. 
As I learned from my first visit, the leg fur is not valued as a yarn fibre, and so it is allowed to remain. 
Over time it sheds naturally or may be trimmed, but as a rule it is not harvested for its fur-to-fibre-to-yarn potential.

For Saturday's Open Barn, all the female alpacas were together in the Maternity Ward where visitors were allowed to walk among the animals. 
Indy was the first of several females still waiting to give birth in the next weeks or months.

Upon signing the guest book, visitors were given a baggie of feed to offer the curious and hungry alpacas, 
much to the delight of (most) of the children and adults.

While most children waited hesitantly for the Alpacas to approach them, this young cowboy walked alone among the herd, even getting within an arm's reach of new mama Indy and her cria, Mario.

So what does one do with the alpaca fleece once the animals are sheared? For shepherdess Elaine Vandiver, it's just the beginning of the yarn-making process which results in hand-dyed skeins of yarn which she sells or uses herself to knit into exquisitely fine and soft scarves and shawls which she sells in her farm store or online at

The Homegrown by Heroes sign reflects Old Homestead Alpacas' membership in the Farmer Veterans Coalition, a non-profit organization supporting, encouraging, mentoring and inspiring agricultural and ranching careers for returning service men and women. 

The fact that both Elaine and Mike are military veterans with Mike still serving in the Washington Army National Guard is another part of this couple's amazing story.

And if raising and maintaining a growing herd of alpacas isn't enough work while also holding down regular daytime jobs, Elaine and her husband Mike have recently started growing their own flowers to use as natural dyes as well as to sell at both the College Place and Walla Walla Farmers' Markets. 

The name of their flower business, Gholson Gardens, reflects the name of the original owner Nathaniel S. Gholson, who was a pioneer from Iowa and who homesteaded 164 acres. Elaine and Mike own the remaining 10 acres of the original homestead, hence the name, Old Homestead Alpacas.

For more information about Old Homestead Alpacas or Gholson Gardens, follow this link: 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival

With a backdrop of acres of vineyards and the Blue Mountains, WWCMF listeners were treated to the sounds of 
Beethoven's String Quartet in D, Op.18, No. 3. 
While this is the 11th season of the music festival, it was my inaugural event, and I am hooked. 

It could have been the clear blue sky, the late spring setting sun, or the birds singing in the trees above us, but this is definitely the way to listen to music.

This was the first in the series of four Tasting Music events, each being held at a different winery where guests can buy wine by the glass or the bottle to enjoy before and during the concert. 

As part of last night's performance, Timothy Christie, founder and artistic director of WWCMF as well as a member of tonight's quartet, spoke about Beethoven and the piece we were about to hear, explaining to a rapt audience the why's and wherefore's of this Beethoven classic. 
It was a bit of music history and theory that made the subsequent listening all the more meaningful.

While others sipped wine and chatted in advance of the performance, I took advantage of the setting to capture images of the winery and the surrounding vineyards. 
The setting played an important role in creating the memorable visual and aural experience of my first Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival performance.

For more information about the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival, follow this link: 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


Chevy--Then and Now

I grew up living in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan--the Motor City--where 4th grade school children took annual field trips to a steel mill and an automotive assembly line. In addition, my father worked 35 years for General Motors in the Chevrolet division which meant my family drove nothing but Chevrolets. So I have a life-long affinity to Chevrolets, especially old pickup trucks. And when they're red, it's a double win.

So when I pulled into the only available parking spot near the Goodwill store last week next to this old red Chevy truck, I was elated. But it was only as I walked around the truck taking photos from different angles did I see the much newer red Chevrolet SUV parked on the other side-- a red Chevy duo.

And as Dinah Shore would say at the end of her weekly television show (sponsored by Chevrolet) as she threw a kiss to the audience,
Mmmm-Wah! 💖

Saturday, June 2, 2018


First Cutting

 While sweet onions, grapes, and wheat are the top agricultural products in the Walla Walla Valley, the geographic area also includes large acreage in alfalfa. The ice age flood silts and wind deposited silts combined with irrigation and generally dry air are the right combination for highly productive alfalfa fields.

Late May and early June is the usual time for the first cutting of alfalfa hay with two more cuttings to follow throughout the summer. 
But with luck a farmer may get a fourth cutting in early autumn.

Friday, June 1, 2018


Walk a Mile in My Shoes

They say someone who functions in many different roles wears many hats with each one appropriate for the occasion. Here is my version, limited only by how many shoes/boots I could carry and then fit in the frame. 
This is a mere representation of all the shoes and boots I own, as a girl can never have too many shoes.

The first day of the month is always "Theme Day" for City Daily Photo bloggers. Follow this link to see what other bloggers posted as "Me."

From top to bottom, left to right: Fashion western booties, summer fashion flats, 
garden/foul weather Bogs boots, well-worn All Star tennies, cycling shoes, 
nearly new athletic shoes, Toms slippers, my latest summer Toms.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


A Little Bit of Provence

Three years ago I was motoring through the poppy and lavender fields of southern France. Then last July, I discovered this little piece of Provence right in my backyard. I vowed then to return the following season which I did on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. What a treat for the spirit.

While the lavender fields themselves weren't open for U-Pick quite yet, there was still enough to see and to smell to bring me back. But I wont have to wait long, as the fields should be ready for picking by June 1.

In addition to U-Pick lavender, the farm also sells a variety of lavender plants to bring a bit of fragrant Provence to your own home garden.

While the lavender plants grow best in full sun, there are plenty of shady areas like this for visitors to relax or enjoy a picnic while taking in the view or listening to the owner's eclectic playlist of French and American tunes.

The farm also has a lovely Farm Boutique of lavender related products including fragrant soaps, sachets and bouquets as well as packets of the dried lavender lemonade which is served as a complimentary sample on the shaded patio.

For more information or driving directions, find the farm on Facebook or follow this link:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Walla Walla's Hidden Gem

I may be a little late to the party, but I finally tried the food at Andrae's Kitchen @ the Farmers' Co-Op. It's now my favorite place. As most locals already know, Andrae's is located inside the local Cenex gas station and convenience store and does not offer your typical convenience store fare of corn dogs, broasted chicken, or greasy Jo Jo potatoes. 

Oh no! Instead, customers have their choice of dozens of fresh, made-to-order items off the extensive menu including a variety of tacos-- grilled cod, shrimp, veggie, Al Pastor, Tinga-style, short ribs, or brisket; or Halal Style Chicken, Poutine or Voodoo fries; or a host of sandwiches such as a gyro, Cuban, Po Boy, or Carolina-style pulled pork--just to name a few.

Brisket tacos with pickled red onion, Oaxaca cheese, chipotle aioli and charred salsa verde.

Chipotle braised short rib tacos with pear salsa, Cotijaa cheese, and pickled carrot and daikon. 

In case you forget where you are, these farm implements parked on site of the Farmers' Co-Op remind you that you're in rural southeast Washington, not in Seattle or Portland, OR.

And if you're out and about on Sunday morning, stop by for their fresh beignets that are always sold out by noon, 
or so I am told.

For more, Follow this link:

Sunday, May 13, 2018


Did Someone Say Sangria?

What a great way to welcome spring in the Walla Walla Valley than the season's first Sangria Release Party at Castillo de Feliciana Vineyards. The weather couldn't have been better to enjoy the views, the sangria, and the food offered by The Happy Wanderer Mexican Food. Can't wait for the next party.