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)

Orange you glad it’s November

In September I talked about an orange light from the California wildfire smoke. But November really has it going when it comes to orange.

Even my dog got into the act.

In other news, I saw a great horned owl over my driveway and I made an owl for the Sculpture Garden at Roche Harbor. See if you can tell the difference.

August Changes

Gentle Thornbush Report Readers,

Covid-19 has caused a lot of lifestyle changes.  My own has not changed all that much, but I am using my time differently.  And I’ve decided that I will no longer force myself into putting together a monthly report.  Never fear, the blog will continue on.  But I’ve decided to have shorter posts with news worthy items only.  No more “did this in the garden and this on the cottage, etc.”

Short and sweet, and no doubt less frequent unless something mighty interesting comes along.

So to kick this off right, here is my news:

I’ve been interviewed  by the San Juan County Textile Guild.  And that interview has been placed on our new YouTube channel along with interviews from half a dozen other guild members.  Here is the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL0LXKwdSLA It’s almost 12 minutes long and there are pictures embedded in it of things I’ve been working on.

This was in response to the Covid lockdown when members of our guild felt the need to gather on Zoom and help each other through it.  We are calling the series “Woven Together in Pandaemia”

Other interviews can be seen from our website:  http://www.sjctextileguild.org/

Roger’s news is that he is now a licensed ham radio operator.  He will be joining a group on the island who stay in touch with each other weekly on Wednesday nights.  I believe long term he would like others in the neighborhood to become licensed so that we can communicate in the event that other types of communication are limited.

And Maggie Mae’s news is that she loves her dog friends:  Suki, Millie, Murphy, Jack, Freha, and her cousin Scarlet very much!

Nancy has treats
Scarlet and Maggie Mae’s favorite position

July Comet

Neowise comet photo by Paul Walsh

Beautiful space dust or portent of doom?

Neowise or neonotsowise?

A July without the parade on the Fourth and pigging out at the Pig War picnic was—quiet.  Watched some fireworks from my bathroom balcony, but they were four miles away in Friday Harbor—so not as impressive as last year’s from the deck of the Grange. I did manage to see the comet one night.

Let there be light

Work on the cottage continues and this month we opened it up with a window and a skylight.  Too bad there are no guests to appreciate the change.  But our Covid-19 count went up dramatically (from 19 to 26) after the tourists started coming.  The County Health Department is pulling back on the application to go to Phase 3. So we’ve asked our friends to wait awhile longer before visiting.

Maggie Mae, pre-haircut

The dog days of summer continue:  Suki and Maggie bashed into my bad knee on the 7th and I’m still limping a little.  Maggie got her first “real” haircut since the lockdown in March—it’s a short summer do.  She’s made some new friends with Jack the poodle and had a playdate with Freya and goldendoodle Piper.  Suki remains her BFF. And the 22nd marks her first anniversary with us-whew!  What a year it’s been.


Lots of Zooming, visiting with folks six feet apart on the deck, video-chats and phone calls, our first book club in person outside. Connecting with people as best we can.  The tyranny of the harvest continues with raspberries, fava beans, garlic, collards all being harvested.  The Japanese plums are next.

Bree introduces twins to aunties

And for me, the important news is that Francie and I have started populating the Forest Path at the Roche Harbor Sculpture Garden with our art(?) We’ve even convinced some friends to help us.  Inspired by each other and our Pinterest Boards, we’ve come up with lots of ideas and will probably spend the rest of the summer and most of the Fall decorating the woods.

Meanwhile, Roger is doing some landscaping, planting Fall vegetable crops, helping with the Grange remodeled kitchen, and zooming on several agriculture-related committees.  Oh, and Farmers Market every week, selling eggs to friends and neighbors and did I mention the new skylight?

What we are trying not to do is too much doomscrolling, being around crowds in town, or obsessing over the state of democracy in the U.S.  Breathe in, Breathe out.

Piper, Maggie, and Freya in the dog days of summer

May Wonders

Some of you may be wondering what is going on with the cottage remodel these days.  Unfortunately, since the travel ban, our guests have not arrived and so the impetus to get things done has stalled.  There have been a lot of fiddly things.  Not much to look at.  For instance, the vent for the toilet was placed.  Roger’s time on the roof sawing that hole scared me enough to ask him if we could rent some scaffolding for when he saws the skylight openings.  No way, man.  We can build our own scaffolding.  Which is what we did last Sunday.  We also have hot water now.  In this picture you can see the water heater sitting snuggly under the addition.  No more wildly fluctuating hot and cold showers my friends!

The Willow falling down over the henhouse did show up on Facebook.  But since this is a record of events for the year I will include it in this blog as well.  A little bit of excitement on a windy afternoon in late April.

Evelyn Jane Jones 1938

May is a month of many birthdays in our family.  Almost as many as April.  On May 2nd, my mom would have turned 100.  Here she is in her HS Senior Photo.  My brother-in-law Tom turned 60.  And I had a birthday as well.  Thanks to all of you who sent cards and greetings.  A weird time to celebrate—I even had a Zoom bday party with good friends. 

Maggie Mae had a May birthday as well.  She turned one on the 21st.  I don’t have any fabulous pictures of her—she moves too much.  And my dog grooming skills are not quite there yet.  I’ve given her three haircuts since the quarantine began but she still looks quite shaggy.

The Farmers Market is going great guns for the Grange Booth.  Roger has been selling biochar, trees, berries, eggs, and even some of my parsley.  But they are playing by the rules and practicing social distancing.

Who are those masked musicians?

As in the previous two months, a great deal of our coping comes with being outside, digging in the garden, mowing the paths, and appreciating the ever-changing landscape.

The fawn lilies were out at the beginning of the month, that gave way to service berries, then hawthorns, and the dogwood are at their peak. Rhodies, roses, ceanothus, lilacs, iris.  The fruit trees in the orchard really put on a show this year.  More than usual to make us all feel a little better?  One wonders.

Transition to Spring

Transition to Spring

Pretty Boring title, eh?  But apt for this month of February.  Only two major things happened this month.  A record breaking flood of our little stream along with lots of others in all of Western Washington.  And Maggie was spayed.  Which was traumatic for all of us.

As I reported last month, we got a lot of rain in January.  And the 31st put us over.  The stream flooded cutting new channels and spreading into a huge area.  The culvert onto Zylstra property buckled.  Don’t know how that will affect us in the long run.

Maggie did not adapt well to the “cone of shame”.  We stayed up with her for two nights and took turns watching over her for several days.  Finally, we borrowed a onesie for her to wear and she was much better off.  But we still had to leash walk her for another week.  All is well now.

Roger and I have joined the Transition Movement that is starting up on this island.  Lopez got there first with their mission “Fossil Free by ’33”.  I’ve joined a Recycle, Reduce, Reuse group and Roger is in the Ag group.  If you don’t know about the Transition Movement here is a quote from one of the start-up team members:

“The rapidly unfolding climate emergency necessitates greater local action by our community and the county. We know that our electrical power, food and material deliveries and summer tourism dominated economy is fragile with regard to serious disruptions that lie ahead of us.
The global movement called Transition gives us both a large network of other communities around the world who seek greater self-determination and a grass-roots, participatory, informal way to take purposeful action locally on the issues of greatest importance today and in the uncertain future

The rest of the month was mostly reading, watching Netflix, and crocheting a new hat while watching Maggie convalesce.  Taking walks in between storms and taking quite a few naps. Sounds like a pretty good retirement.

Also of note, Roger and I are in two different book clubs and we each hosted our respective clubs this month.  His is ABC– Apocalypse Book Club.  So you can see that this uncertain future is weighing heavily on us.  No surprise, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to Presidential debates and caucus results.

Spring is just one month away.  The signs are everywhere.  Also, the sawmill is up and running, boards have been made and placed in the cottage bathroom project.  So–progress!



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.