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TheRagens Newsletter
September 1, 2004

Current Thoughts

Wow! Summer has just flown by this year. Already, September in Seattle has cooled down and we haven't seen the Indian Summer that we're used to getting.

As the elections draw near, the political silly season is in full swing. The conventions are over and the truly awful advertising has begun. Washington seems to be one of the states where we see presidential advertising for now so we get to see some of these ads. I'm not sure who the politicians and their advisers intend to be fooling but the incredibly heavy-handed, truth-twisting ads that I've been seeing are backfiring with me. There is just something so distorted about them that detracts from (not enhances) the credibility of the two major candidates. Ah well - I guess a democracy means that anyone can spend money. I do worry that there is an impression that the country is split down a divide; there seems to be no middle ground this year.

All will become clear in November.


In This Issue

bulletNew Wildlife Photos
bulletBookmarks - Booklists
bulletWine Tasting
bulletWeb Sites Worth Visiting


New Wildlife and Nature Photos

I took hundreds of photographs over the summer up on the San Juan Islands and in other places around the Northwest. I'm still working in the digital darkroom on many of these pictures but here are my favorites so far:

bullet Chillin' Out
bulletLiquid Gold Sunset
bulletSunrise on Mt. Rainier



Summer's been good for reading -- but I haven't got to many books with some redeeming value. So, just this one book has made our list for August and September.

Featured Book

Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution
William Echikson

Bordeaux has long epitomized fine wine. After the 1855 classification was put into place, the French reverence for tradition settled in. Fortunately, over the last 2-3 decades, some revolutionary "garagistes" (winemakers who work on smaller lots) have begun using new growing and wine-making techniques to to make extraordinary wines. There is considerable controversy in this modernist approach and this book makes the most of it. In fact, this book was temporarily pulled from bookstores due to a challenge by the old owners of Chateau d'Yquem. Wine lovers will come away from this lively account with a sense of how globalization and economics have created ferment and growth in ancient Bordeaux.

It's that time of year: The short list of nominees for the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature has just been named. Usually, the awards are announced in October or early November so come back then. Plus, it's a little bit tardy but I've finally got the winners listed for the 2003 National Outdoor Book Awards and there are some great books on this list!


Wine Tasting and Vineyard Updates

A lot has happened in the vineyard since July! I've kept my detailed journal up-to-date in the story of Sunbreak Cellars, our backyard vineyard. For the newsletter, this is what's happened, in short:

The vines showed solid growth through the summer. The longest shoots grew over 15-16 feet long. This kind of vigor was sort of expected but I didn't realize they would get this long.

The few grape clusters that I had left on the vines all ripened. As of September 1, they had all fully experienced veraison and had changed color to a lovely dark purple-black color. I started tasting the grapes and they were getting very sweet. If I was planning a harvest this year, they'd probably be ready to pick in 2-3 weeks. I'll keep watching them but I expect that some of the local predators will eat them instead. (Next year, netting and traps...)

In the spring, I had transplanted some of my spare vines from the 'nursery' into two locations. One set did extremely well and the vines grew to be about 10 feet long; I will probably attempt to use the head-pruning technique for those versus using a more traditional trellis. The other set were more stunted in their growth even though they had fantastic southern exposure. We'll let them continue into next year but it may just be a bad location.

Finally, I got an inquiry from the publishers of Winemaker Magazine as to whether I'd like to write an article about establishing a backyard vineyard. I'm giving it some thought.


Websites Worth Visiting

Nature Photography Directories
 - Nature Photography Top 100
 - Photography

As I've become progressively more interested in photography, I'm constantly looking for places where I can learn more. In the past, I've talked about as a photographic community where it's possible to get real feedback. In the last few months, while I still like Usefilm, I've found other sites that I believe respond with richer, more critical feedback which is what I need in order to improve my own photography. Here are three of the best I've found:

bulletShutterfreaks. Very friendly site but with a number of good, solid critiques for each that add real value. People don't publish drivel on this site; they're really good photographs. This site offers a lively forum where the real action takes place. Also, a forums-oriented website, this community will have spirited conversations. This probably has the highest proportion of relatively newby photographers.
bulletDigital Photo Critique. This site allows you to get feedback on your photographs. If you get positive feedback, then it's easy to enter them into the daily contests at the sister website The only downside of this site is that there is a fee.


2004 Index Newsletter Index
bulletJanuary 2004
bulletMarch 2004
bulletMay 2004
bulletJuly 2004
bulletSeptember 2004
bulletNovember 2004


About TheRagens is a family website that highlights our family history in addition to wildlife and nature photos, wine tasting notes, favorite book lists, and other interests. We are happy to share this with you and you may pass on this newsletter to friends as long as you don't change the content. If you are receiving this newsletter from a friend, you may sign up to receive it by by email by visiting our registration page. If you wish to be removed from the distribution list, simply reply to this message and replace the words in the subject line with REMOVE. We keep an index of our back issues on our site.

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