2020 Wrap up

zooming into 2021

For several days I’ve been thinking about how to approach my end of the year blog post in this dumpster fire of a year.  I thought about comparing it to 2019 but that seemed just too sad, as 2019 was a banner year for me, including 3 wonderful road trips and lots of social gatherings –none of which could take place this year.  So cataloging the insults and injuries of a pandemic, political upheaval, climate catastrophes did not seem like the right way to go but neither would a Pollyanna/Hallmark movie viewpoint do.  How to find the balance?

In looking for the silver linings I have looked back at previous posts for this year and found a great deal to be thankful for.  These are the very things that saw me through a year full of anxiety, frustration and anger.  If you look back at last June, you will see that only four months in (only!) I was quoting my friend Peggy Sue’s helpful hints at getting through this stress:

“On the Mayo Clinic’s list of self-care for mental health during the pandemic they recommend maintaining a routine at home and focusing on the things you can control. Keeping in touch with family and friends via technology is a suggestion that has proven helpful to me.  Music, books, and gratitude, always good, are now more helpful than ever. They also recommend limiting your news intake and sticking to reliable sources. Sensationalism and hyped up emotional content is not helpful to volatile stress levels.*”

So here is a list of things I am grateful for that have gotten me through this year intact (so far).  You can skip this list and stroll through the posts from this past year for more pictures and detail if you would like.

husband – obviously

Thornbush–  beauty to behold on walks every day and through every window

Ethel at new Mt Vernon home

family – just a ferry ride away in Skagit County we were able to visit a handful of times this  year

sculpture park adventures with my friend Francie provided a much needed creative outlet

my wonderful dog walking friends who come rain or shine to exercise their pets and visit every week with me

my wonderful dog, Maggie Mae who becomes dearer every day

Kloe and Kaia presented to Aunties

Zooming, although not ever as good as in person, has brought several groups of friends and family close even when they live far away

Yoga on Zoom and in person helped me breathe

Time to get a lot of things done around the place including the cottage addition and the garden

My island and all of nature which seemed to go out of its way this year to make up for the challenges

Community was hard to come by when you are self-isolating, but we managed to find it with the Grange and Transition San Juan committees, and the SJ County Textile Guild for me.  And for Roger it was neighbors helping neighbors in a firewood co-op, his weekly Growers’ Circle, the Farmers Market.  And when it was a tad bit warmer, the friends we were able to sit six feet apart from on our lawn and share a gin and tonic and some cheer.

Music whenever and wherever we could find it—including peaceful mornings with Pandora playing instead of the news, playing uke and accordion together, and our first and last dinner party of the year with musician friends in January.

Also, don’t want to go without listing the distractions of books, movies, and even old t.v. sitcoms—thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming services—we’ve relied on even more as the winter darkness and weather have descended upon us.

I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel—so bad.  (OK, that last was a bit Pollyanna)

June – Four months in

This pandemic theme is really getting old.  Our county is verging on being in Phase 3 which means some establishments are opening up and gatherings outside are allowed.  Masks are required in all businesses and where social distancing cannot be maintained.  Tourists are arriving and not all of them are on board with the mask thing.  People are on edge.  A recent column written by a friend in a local on-line news source made some recommendations: https://sanjuanupdate.com/2020/06/island-senior-coping-with-coronavirus-how-is-your-mental-health/?fbclid=IwAR0SovuUQW_UvxAMLkvHmcxAt_n08XNrtIyyioo4rQ9j2Tv156rdZ3hXwkw

“On the Mayo Clinic’s list of self-care for mental health during the pandemic they recommend maintaining a routine at home and focusing on the things you can control. Keeping in touch with family and friends via technology is a suggestion that has proven helpful to me.  Music, books, and gratitude, always good, are now more helpful than ever. They also recommend limiting your news intake and sticking to reliable sources. Sensationalism and hyped up emotional content is not helpful to volatile stress levels.*”

Roger and I are trying these strategies.  Especially the maintaining a routine at home part.  A few “normal” activities restarted, i.e., I went to the dentist and had some medical appointments.  I am still zooming yoga but I’ve also resumed an in-person yoga session albeit outside and with limited people.  (rained out this week)

Other routines include walking with friends and dogs.  Reading and streaming movies and television shows.  Gardening is going great except for all the slug damage (hate those slugs)  Trying not to look at the news feeds too many times during the day*.  And I just counted, we met in person with friends (outside) fourteen times in the past month.  Not including zoom meetings, yoga, and Farmers Market.

New routines include plenty of meetings, mostly on Zoom.  Most of these meetings have to do with socializing and keeping in touch with friends far and wide.  And making more masks.

Our one big adventure this month was venturing off-island (gasp) for the first time in six months.  We went to a Costco and loaded up.  And we met up with other family members in some cabins on the Skagit River just west of Concrete.  Each of us had our own cabin and were able to keep six feet apart around a campfire.  So music and gratitude.  We’re ready for another six months of island life.

Between Storms

Solstice Party

December 21st Solstice  we had a party at the Grange and invited the whole community.  And they pretty much came.  Everyone wants to celebrate the return of the sun.  I am writing this post five weeks later.  Still waiting.

Christmas Still Life

Christmas Day was very quiet for us.  We celebrated with children and grandchildren the following weekend in Everett.

New Years

A day and a half later, the gang came up to celebrate the New Year.  They brought the party with them with fireworks, masks, scavenger hunt prizes and plenty of food.  Fun was had by all.  Then they left and it was very, very quiet around here for a few days.

So I had another dinner party.  This one was Sicilian themed.  Alice and I made arancini and I served a full Italian: antipasta, pasta, fish, spumoni.  Our guests joined Roger with their instruments and made sweet music together.  Good way to get through the winter doldrums.

All through this my neighbor and friend with a young Aussie have come over once or twice a week to play with me and my puppy.  Suki and Maggie are BFFs.  At least I hope so. 

Maggie and BFF Suki

And then this happened:

Smart Car?

Maggie’s First Snow

Dogs love snow.  At least most dogs I know.  This snow was more than we normally get, but only a few limbs came down and the snow left very quickly.

Flooding Creek

Followed by a ton of rain.  Rain, wind, rain, wind, rain, you get the picture.  All the ponds are full.  All the streams are rivers.  No roads are washed out as yet.  But more storms are approaching.

Cama Beach

In the middle of this, Audrey turned 10 and we took her to a very stormy beach on Camano Island to celebrate.  The ferry was an hour late taking us home due to high winds.

That’s what is happening here at Thornbush this month.  If you would like a more meaty report you should try my brother Joe’s:    https://barrecavineyards.com

He had a lot of snow, too, but that got him thinking . . .

Roger and I have switched from NPR every morning to listening to music or podcasts like Hidden Brain.  And in the evening we stream tv shows from the 90’s and Ken Burn’s Country Music series.  We’re looking for the calm.

2019 Highlights

Just had a look back at all my posts from 2019 and I must say, I had a spectacular year.  Wow.  I really don’t know if I can reduce it all to one post.  You may have to go back and read the whole year like I just did.  But I will call out a few highlights.

Lots of friends (and family) visited this year.  Some for a week, some just for the day.

Three fabulous road trips starting in

February  -most fun road trip taken with my friend Laura to see my friend Tori in Arizona.  Including meeting wonderful people in El Paso, travelling with them to Santa Fe, and riding a railroad to the Grand Canyon.  Excellent Adventure!

April thru the Present– Work starts on the cottage bathroom addition and continues throughout the year.

May – Textile Guild exhibit at the NW Quilt and Fiber Art Museum in LaConner has two of my pieces, my backpack and a random weave canine I call “Sentry Dog”

June –Supernatural road trip to Prince George, British Columbia with my friend Nancy to a weaving conference.  Including visit to Whistler and First Nation Cultural Center there.  And trip to historic Barkerville with re-enactor friend Judy.  And first trip to the magnificent Sunshine Coast.

Also family gathering in Concrete, Washington 

July – Picked up Poodle Pup and named her Maggie Mae.  Puppy and training take over my life.

September – third fabulous road trip of the year, this one with my friend Francie to Olympic Peninsula.  New to her and nostalgic to me visits to Cape Flattery, Lake Quinalt, Hoh Rain Forest, Ruby Beach, and on and on and on.

November and December – Reality hits with long illness and quick decline of my father Joe Sr., the Barreca Patriarch who lived a rich full life to the age of 97.  Celebration of Life family gatherings.

December – Trump get impeached.  And busy, busy with family, friends, holiday, and dog

And a Happy New Year!

Shoulder Season

What can I tell you?  It’s rained a lot lately.  So much so that mushrooms we have never seen are popping up all over the place.  Don’t just take my word for it, everyone on Facebook is saying the same thing.  It’s weird.

photo by my friend Nancy D

Also, the colors this autumn are fabulous.  I know I say that every year but again, check your Facebook feed.  I’ve been trying to capture it on my phone but it doesn’t do it justice.

There’s been a lot of apple picking and pressing.  We have a couple carboys going and more apples to pick.  Medlars from last year are being made into wine.  Beans are all over.  Picked a nice purple cabbage today. Garlic needs to be planted soon.

And of course, there was the Farm Parade on the first weekend in October.  My brother John and his wife Marilyn were visiting.  And the weather was fine for a walk at American Camp.  This was Roger’s ninth year at managing the parade so he has it pretty well down by now.  And there were horses!

Rosalie and Freya at the Redoubt

Puppy Training goes on for Maggie Mae.  She graduated from Puppy ABC’s and is now in Puppy II.  At five months, she is in her teen years.  I think she’s doing okay.  There are a few more holes in my rugs that I would rather not have.  And a big one in the couch slip cover I made.  Sigh.  But we have found some puppy friends for her to frolic with and that is fun to witness.

lots of rain means lots of toweling

This weekend is the last outdoor Farmers’ Market.  After that it goes to every two weeks and Roger will be indoors.  He sold out of his biochar so plans to have a big burn tomorrow to make some more.

And of course, work continues on—-the new bathroom addition.  Our friend Paul graciously helped Roger put up the roof panels.  Yes, we had two sunny days in a row for that to happen, thank goodness.  Not quite where I wanted it by the end of October but it is practically sealed in against the weather now.

brother John in his most natural position

 Fran from Eugene made the trek up to see us.  It’s only been fourteen years since the last time she was up.  But then, I don’t get down to Eugene much, either.  The documentary film festival is happening this weekend.  I’ll try to squeeze some of that in between puppies, textile guild meetings, farmers market, and a lecture at the library I want to take in.  Yes, it’s shoulder season on San Juan.  Darker and rainier, but just as busy as mid-summer. 


Season’s Greetings to Everyone

Our rollercoaster of a year is ending with a smooth coast. A solstice card I received said “Amidst the darkest days, new light appears on the horizon.” After looking back over my posts of the past year, I see that all sorts of great and wonderful events took place. But for me, 2018 is the year that my dog died, I had a stroke, and then cancer. Dark days, indeed. If you are interested in those things, you can look at the months of February, April, August, and October.

But if that is old news to you, let’s press on with the good things that have happened in the last month:

So above are examples of a very, merry Christmas with family and friends. And that wasn’t all that happened this month. We finally got our new oven!

Roger installing the new oven

Also, December in the San Juans can be very beautiful.

So here’s to the new light of 2019 that beckons with promises of more time with friends and family and road trips and perhaps a new beloved pet. A 2019 that is cancer free, healthy, productive (new bathroom on the cottage?) and much to be thankful for.

The Saga Continues . . .


On Saturday, August 25th, WSU Extension hosted a Forest Owners Field Day at Thornbush.  There were about six or seven workshops repeated throughout the day.  Due to Roger’s hardwork mowing and clearing clutter, the place looked great.

There’s a lot of waiting involved with this cancer stuff.  On August 30th I received (is that the best verb?) my lumpectomy.  And then waited almost three weeks to talk to an oncologist about what it might mean for me going forward.  The surgeon meantime had given me both good and bad news,  good–they got it all, bad–bigger than they expected.  So I wasn’t completely surprised that they would recommend radiation therapy.

In the meantime, I wasn’t just waiting around, there’s a lot of stuff to do in September.  Two good friends visited right after Labor Day.  And even though there is no bathroom on the cottage yet, the framework for the deck had been completed.


And now we have a new deck and are starting to clear space for the new addition.

Also, there’s the tyranny of the harvest.  The racoons got most of our plums and a good portion of our hazelnuts.  But we managed to pick a few hundred pounds of apples, pears, and Asian pears.  I’ve already canned the orca pears with our neighbor, bartlets next week.  And we’re bringing in a lot of veggies as well.

Last week I was on Orcas Island at a willow workshop.  Our project, taught by a leading willow instructor, Jo Campbell-Amsler, was a picnic backpack.  The setting was a beautiful farm called Morning Star.


picnic backpack

my basket–so far, not finished

20180921_174638_HDR (2)

I worked on my basket for three more days after I returned home, only to run out of weavers right before I was done.  I’ve set some of my own willow to soak and hope to show you a finished basket in my next post.

By my next post, I should also be able to tell you the schedule for my radiation treatments.  After much consideration, and a few consultations, I’ve decided to “bite the bullet” as they say.  This will involve weeks of travel off-island, to a hospital in Sedro Wooley, as they do not do radiation here on the island.  Chemo, but not radiation.

You’ll also see some great pictures of the Eighth Annual Farm Parade.  Stay tuned.

apple harvest

Burying the Lede

Lede:  the opening sentence or paragraph of a news article, summarizing the most important aspects of the story:
“the lede has been rewritten and the headline changed”

Who knew?  I thought it was always spelled “lead”

Not wanting to be accused of burying the lede like last April “Wait for It”.  I am telling up front, that this summer I have had a series of tests culminating in a biopsy on July 23rd which found cancer in calcifications in my left breast.  I have scheduled a lumpectomy for August 30th.  This is a very early, 0-stage? d.c.i.s. (ductal carcinoma in situ) I will visit the oncologist mid-September to find out what happens next.

Now that I have gotten that news out of the way, I can tell you the fun stuff that has happened this month.

The Project: Our friend Jay came up for a week and helped twist the cottage a few degrees clockwise.  It was quite tedious as there were many adjustments along the way.

Poor Jay, wish I could say we had some fun times while he was here.  Maybe he’ll come back in another 8 years.

20180805_163509_HDRJay wasn’t the only one put to work.   Our eight year old granddaughter Audrey joined us for the following week and she helped as well.

After the cottage was turned, we raised it nine inches with house jacks and new posts so that it is at the same level as the house.  So once the deck is rebuilt, you can walk from cottage to house without the two stairs.  Then we poured concrete in all the new post holes.  Next comes the skirting around the foundation.

Audrey’s Visit:  Luckily, tractor driving counts as fun for Audrey.  She also got to ride a horse for the first time, have art lessons, go fishing, attend the county fair, among other fun activities.


The Fair:  Roger and I worked several shifts at the Fair this year.  Roger judged the 4-H youths in horticulture.  I hung around the Fiber Arts exhibit as docent among other chores.  Audrey got to make fiber beads as a Courtyard Activity.  She also got to go on a number of rides.  Her parents and siblings joined us later in the week and attended the Fair as well.

Family Visit:  So Bjorn’s family went to the Fair one day and we went to the beach the next day.  After that, the forest fire unhealthy air attacked us and we stayed close to home.  There was this game about deactivating a bomb (fun, right?)  and a puzzle among other games.

Coming Soon:  The air finally cleared today (8/23) at least for awhile.  We have a forest owners field day at our house this coming weekend.  And next week, my surgery.  I will hopefully be reporting on these events as well as more cottage project advancement.

I’ve placed a new sculpture next to Willow Man in the front courtyard.  Remind you of someone?

20180819_183551_HDR (2)

Where did July go?

bestThe Fourth: July whizzed by faster than ever this year.  Started with a bigger bang than ever.  That’s because I rented the Grange Hall for a fireworks watching party.  First came the  parade.

Fruit and Friends:  Our friend Gene and his wife Jennifer made their annual visit to Roche and we had a lovely visit there and at Peggy Sue’s.

20180706_182413_HDRBut mostly July was about picking fruit and baking with fruit.  Raspberries dominated, although it has been a fabulous year for all kinds of berries (and cherries). Fortunately there were a number of fun potluck dinners with friends so that we didn’t end up eating all of these desserts by ourselves.


In July I also made a lot of trips to the mainland, often meeting friends for lunch in Anacortes.  Walking on and enjoying the ferry without the hassle of a car.

The Project

I promised more about the cottage–tearing the bathroom off, pivoting clockwise, and eventually raising it up 9 inches, putting a foundation “skirting” around it, and then building a better bathroom.


Whew.  We are turning the cottage today (8/3) I’ll let you know how it turns out in my next post.

P-Furs and Fun
This past weekend Roger and I both ventured off-island for a concert with two of Roger’s favorites bands from the 80’s–the Psychedelic Furs and X.  My sister Jeannette and her husband and our friend Michelle joined us at the Woodland Park Zoo.


And that’s where July went.


Leaving Friday Harbor

June Gatherings

June Gatherings


Art appreciation and art participation.  Saw several art studios on studio tour weekend.  On Fridays, my friend Francie and I have been making object d’art out of willow sticks.



My friends and I have been taking lots of walks, along the Zylstra Lake property and at low, low tide a False Bay.


Spa weekend was fabulous–we went to Afterglo Spa at Roche this year.  And we saw a Gee’s Bend exhibit at the art museum.



dismantling the porch on the cottage.  Wait ’til you see what’s next! (July post)


Thankstween got moved to Solstice!  This year we all rented cabins at Ovenell’s resort in Concrete, Washington.  That’s in Skagit County, so easy for our corner of the state to attend.  Dad just turned 96 this month.  He’s not in hospice anymore and enjoyed seeing the whole family together.

The first night was pizza at a local restaurant. We took over the party room.  Here’s James showing us how to properly eat pasta.

That night some of us drove up to Newhalem to Ladder Falls.  They turn on colored lights after dark so here are before and after dark pix.

Saturday we went up to see the Lower Baker Dam outside of Concrete.

Bjorn and family came up that afternoon and music and games were played and food was prepared and eaten.  And a fun time was had by all.