Vino et Veritas, Oak Island Style

Carved grapes from the tasting room bar at Frascone Winery

I’ve been drinking Red Cloud’s Finest for years. An organic Guatemalan coffee, roasted and distributed by a small local importer, it’s as good as any I’ve found. Richly complex, it tastes of the circuitous route that brought it to my cup.

Joe and Terry Butcher, owners of El Lago Coffee Company, dreamed of importing coffee the old-fashioned way: by wind-driven ship. They named their vessel Red Cloud and set sail for Belize, where they loaded 10,000 pounds of coffee beans into her hold.

Unfortunately, the first and only voyage of Red Cloud ended on New Year’s Day, 2008, when thirty-foot seas, sixty-knot winds, and a missing rudder stop combined to plunge the sailboat and her cargo to the bottom of Sigsbee Deep, in the central Gulf of Mexico.

Despite the sinking, an event complicated by a lack of insurance, the Butchers, their business, and their dream of wind-powered transport still are alive. But their importance to this story is due less to their coffee trade than to their role in helping to preserve a small business on the shores of Galveston Bay: a winery destroyed on September 13, 2008, by water and winds as overwhelming as those which took their beloved Red Cloud just nine months earlier.

I’d read of Joe and Terry’s exploits, but didn’t meet them until shortly after Hurricane Ike made landfall on the Texas coast. In a neighborhood lot cleared of debris, they’d set up shop for a casual Saturday morning market, alongside Sea Scouts selling sandwiches, a fellow hawking a life raft, and a chainsaw sharpener with more customers than he could handle.

Their place of business had been wiped out by the storm, but they’d found a table, made a sign, and were handing out free cups of coffee while promoting their product. Stopping for coffee, I lingered to chat with Terry. As we talked, I noticed a cooler filled with wine bottles. Following my glance, Terry pointed to a bottle sitting on the table next to the coffee pots. It bore a label from the Frascone Winery, located in Oak Island, Texas: another place very nearly wiped off the map by Hurricane Ike.

Joe and Terry Butcher

While the Butchers hadn’t been able to salvage their first shipment of coffee, they’d done their best to help salvage a portion of the Frascone wine. After the storm, volunteers fanned out over the coastal plain, pulling unbroken bottles from the mud. Relabeling some of the reclaimed bottles as unusual storm souvenirs, Joe and Terry began selling them: splitting the profits with James and Glenda Frascone in a first step along a remarkable road to recovery.

The establishment of the Frascone Winery in Oak Island had continued a generations-long tradition. Remembering his earliest experiences with the craft, Jim Frascone says:

My wine-making started with my family back in the 1950s and 1960s, when we were a close-knit Italian family living on the upper east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. I grew up across the street from my grandparents, aunts and uncles.  The entire neighborhood was Italian, and each family created its own specialty wines.  Some made dry dago red wines like my family, and others made sweet white wines, like our friends.

The Oak Island wines were made in the same manner, using a 120-year-old wine press, with a little hand-squeezing and foot-stomping thrown in for good measure. The process hardly differed from that used in the old Minneapolis neighborhood when the D’Aloia and Frascone clans did their yearly pressing.

The Pre-Hurricane Ike Winepress

Like a closely-knit family, the friends, neighbors, and employees of the Frascones worked, played, struggled, and drank together: never imagining their distinction as the Texas winery closest to the Gulf would be their undoing. 

While everyone along the Texas coast knows that hurricanes are inevitable, the possibility always seems remote and slightly unreal until the water rises, and the winds begin to blow.

When Hurricane Ike came calling, it wasn’t only the winery that disappeared. The Frascone home washed away, as did most of Oak Island, Anahuac, and Double Bayou. In a terrible bit of timing, even the grasses meant to feed migrating birds were stripped from the prairies, and wildlife refuges became death traps.

The Frascone’s daughter, Maria, had come back to Oak Island for refuge after Hurricane Katrina, only to find herself helping her parents cope with a new disaster. After the storm, Maria said,

The difference between Ike and Katrina is that here, the water came in and left, and there it stayed for a long time.  But it was just as devastating here as Katrina. There’s nothing left.

But not all was lost. While Wine Spectator reported that nearly 1,000 bottles of Frascone wine had been destroyed by the storm, much was reclaimed. As the storm surge receded, nearly 4,000 bottles were pulled from area fields and ditches: bereft of their lovely Frascone labels and no longer suitable for sale, but otherwise unharmed.

As the bottles were washed and placed into coolers, it was impossible to identify varieties except in the most general sense: red or white by color, certain fruit wines by bottle shape. At that point, the Butchers grew creative, designing new labels that proclaimed the wine Le Frutta dell’ Uragano  (“The fruit of the hurricane”)  and describing each bottle as a “mystery wine salvaged from the Ike-ravaged remnants of the Frascone Winery, Oak Island, Texas.” 

These were the bottles that filled Terry’s cooler at the market. I bought some, of course. Lying about in full sunshine in a ditch filled with seawater may be no way to age wine, but something about the thought of uncorking one of those unbroken bottles still appealed.

Weeks later, glancing at the bottle I kept on a kitchen counter, I realized the sort of debris pile shown on the label nearly had disappeared from the landscape. The thought seemed cause enough for celebration, so I opened one of the reds. 

To my surprise, the color was vibrant and not at all muddy.  With no tang of salt, no remnant of seawater, no sharp bite of memory, and no faint edge of bitterness to overpower the wine, there was only a clear, dry sweetness, suggesting days made perfect for recovery.

Gazing across the placid water, I raised my glass to Jim and Glenda, Maria, and Oak Island. They had been tossed together, pressed down, and poured out, but 2009 was coming. It might, I thought, be a very good year.

In fact, 2009 was a good enough year for the Frascones, but it took some time for things to right themselves. After going first to Key West, Jim traveled in Alaska, then worked on the East Coast. In 2011, he returned to Oak Island: one of twelve residents blessed with a new home through the compassion and substantial efforts of singer Neil Diamond.

New elevation requirements for rebuilt homes meant that Jim’s house was on stilts. Looking at the space beneath, he felt old winemaking urges beginning to bubble. He poured a concrete slab, purchased new equipment, brought in grapes, blackberries, and blueberries from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and began the long process of rebuilding.

On August 31, 2014, with a new sign, a new tasting room and bistro, and a ready supply of optimism, the Frascone Winery re-opened.

When I finally heard (via the grapevine, of course) that they were back in business, I made time for a visit. I found an easy combination of competence and charm, the friendliness of rural Texas crossed with Italian family tradition, and some of the best fruit wines I’ve tasted since Grandpa tended his gallons of dandelion, cherry, and rhubarb.

There were tokens of the past, including bottles from the old winery, pulled from ditches and displayed before a question that’s always a good subject for conversation in hurricane country: “Where you you when the wind blew?”

But Jim Frascone was focused on the future: eager to talk about his experiences, his wine, and new ventures like bee-keeping. More than happy to share information, he provided a tour of his vats and casks (stainless steel for white, oak for red), the bottling machines, and vineyards.

Jim Frascone, with the tools of his trade

And, since the wine is the point of it all, we spent some time in the tasting room, where I chose to sample a variety of fruit wines — blackberry, peach and cranberry — a very nice chocolate dessert wine, and mead, a honey wine that’s becoming more popular.

Active with the Liberty County Beekeepers, Jim hosted their 2015 Mead Day, and will have his own mead available for tasting in 2016. Named “Oak Island Buzz” and made with Double Bayou honey, it’s light and not overly sweet: a nice, crisp wine that I’m saving for our first real cold front.

It’s true, of course, that there are no guarantees. It’s entirely possible that another, still-nameless hurricane could roll through Oak Island, pick up Jim’s equipment and his six-hundred-pound barrels of wine, and carry them off to Sigsbee Deep.

But he’s choosing to focus on other, more certain truths: that recovery is possible, that communities can rebuild, that help often arrives from unexpected quarters, and that new opportunities can arise from the rubble of the the old.

Pouring a sample of Oak Island Buzz into my glass, Jim grinned. “You know,” he said, “it looks like 2015 will be a very good year.”

Comments always are welcome.

116 thoughts on “Vino et Veritas, Oak Island Style

  1. I am always amazed by the drive people have to rebuild after disaster, Linda. We see it again and again. Don’t know If I would have the guts to rebuild on an island almost guaranteed to have another hurricane come visiting. But the perseverance of human nature is always inspiring. I grew up in a neighborhood with Italian neighbors who made wine the old fashioned way with cherries. As little boys we sometimes helped ourselves to the neighbor’s cherries with midnight summer visits. Cherries never tasted sweeter. –Curt

    1. Just a note of clarification, Curt — Oak Island isn’t actually an island. It was named after an “island” of oak trees that sat between two forks of Double Bayou: the waterway that gave the honey wine its name.

      Not that it makes a real difference. All of the communities on Galveston Bay are vulnerable to winds and surge. After Ike, an early NOAA report said, “Estimates of storm surge ranged from around 12 feet at Smith Point, to the 15 to 20 foot range near Anahuac, Oak Island, and in the Trinity River basin near Wallisville and the Interstate 10 Bridge. Large debris piles were found from wreckage that had washed over East Bay from the Bolivar Peninsula. These debris piles were nearly 20 miles inland from their likely origins.”

      That’ll do it. But when the next one comes, Jim has several large trailers he can use to pull his equipment inland. People learned a lot in Ike.

      For us, it was apples in daylight. For my dad and his friends, it was watermelon at midnight. No matter the fruit, you’re right that some snitched from over the fence does add a little sweetness.

      1. Thanks for the clarifications, Linda. I am sure that preparation makes a significant difference. Natural disasters can hit all of us. Living in a forest area of southern Oregon, Peggy and I worry about forest fires. After each fire season, we breathe a deep sigh of relief. –Curt

  2. I love this story, Linda. I always knew Neil Diamond was a good guy! But the heart shown by this family is incredibly inspiring. To think of focusing, not on the 1000 bottles lost, but the 4000 still there but lying in the mud! I will carry this with me because it doesn’t matter where you are, there are never any guarantees that you or your endeavor will be safe.

    1. Multiply this story by thousands, and you have life on the Texas and Louisiana coasts after Ike. It was weeks of seeking and finding — or not finding, and going on anyway.

      Even at the time, there were humorous moments. I still remember the day they pulled a French Provincial loveseat out of a slip at a marina — the same marina where they found a BMW in the swimming pool. There were oddities galore.

      You’re right that there aren’t any guarantees. Sometimes it’s a large-scale disaster that strikes, like Hurricane Ike or tonight’s Chilean earthquake. Sometimes it’s smaller-scale but no less awful, like a housefiire. In any case, the advice an old man we knew as Varnish John still applies: “Start where you can start, and do what you can do.”

      Or, as the great philosopher, Jimmy Buffett wrote, “Breathe in, breath out, move on.”

  3. Oh dear Linda, I almost felt myself there. I wanted to taste this wine and also your favorite coffee. What a life story there… and what a nice people…

    You can’t bring back the past, they are just being memories at the end. But someone(s) tells the whole stories, and another one writes… Fascinated me what you did and what they did. Not easy to live with all these natural disaster. I can almost imagine the vessel “Red Cloud.” I hope they had a photograph of her.

    And another beautiful point for me, while I was reading, suddenly you took me another memories… Dear Linda, you are amazing. You will learn now, how much I loved(love) Neil Diamond in all my life… There is a song always makes me cry, “You don’t bring me flowers anymore”. You can guess how I am right now. If I were there now, I would knock your door and give a big hugs, then I would invite you to drink wine while the sun was gong down… Thank you, love, nia

    1. There are photos of Red Cloud, Nia. I’ll write her story, too. I was going to add more about Joe and Terry here, but I decided to focus on the winery first, and tell their story later. You’ll like their mascot — a handsome little black dog named Skipper.

      Neil Diamond has always been a favorite of mine. His music was such a part of my life for years, and so many of his songs make me happy. I’ve always associated “Beautiful Noise” with New York City, and I was delighted to find a video that pairs the music with photos of the city.

      Wouldn’t it be nice, to share a glass of wine and a sunset? Even some tears, maybe? All of that’s good — at least we can share a little, this way. I’d even go out and find a flower to bring you!

      ~ Linda

    1. Kayti, you’ve brought to mind that famous passage from Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”:

      “If people bring so much courage to this world, the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break, it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these, you can be sure it will kill you, too, but there will be no special hurry.”

      There are writers galore who pull that single line about being “strong at the broken places” out of context, but I’ve always liked the entire passage. It seems true, and bracing. The very process of living means that we risk being “killed” time and again, but it’s also true that we can come back: reconstructing a life, or constructing a new one.

      It’s worth writing about people like Jim Frascone, just to notice how it’s done.

  4. Wonderful story of stalwart folks who believed in the power of perseverance. This made for a great story and good advertisement for the winery. I like their wine labels very much. Wish I could drink it but can’t due to allergy to sugar, fermentation and the afib thing. But I can use my imagination.

    1. Ah, such a shame that you can’t try the wine, Yvonne. But would the coffee do? Maybe just a cup? If not, there’s still Joe and Terry’s dog — a beautiful little Schipperke appropriately named Skipper. The breed often is favored by boaters because of their small size, and their willingness to serve as security alarms. When Red Cloud sank, I think Skipper was as glad as the humans to see the Coast Guard show up!

      Perseverance has a lot going for it: “slow and steady wins the race” is often true. As one of my friends likes to say, when you’re recovering from a disaster, you have to leave room in the schedule for some naps.

        1. I used to drink that much, too. I’ve cut back now, and generally have a couple of cups in the morning and one at night. It’s a shame you can’t have it, but keeping that afib under control is worth it. So many complications we have in this life!

  5. What a fascinating story, told beautifully. It captures the human spirit and what it takes to start anew. I love to hear about people’s quirky dreams and bringing coffee beans in by wind power fits right in there.Now I need to find some wine or coffee,

    1. There’s quirkiness all around, Jean. There’s bringing in the coffee by sailing ship quirky, establishing a fine vineyard in an old fishing camp quirky, and holding mead-judging competitions quirky. If that’s not enough, the menu at the bistro is Italian-Vietnamese. A lot of stereotypes could get shattered along our east bay!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I’m glad I caught up with Jim and his winery. It was lots of fun — and the blackberry wine’s good, too!

  6. The creative ingenuity of the Butchers, coupled with their generous neighborliness, is wonderful, and of course I’m curious to know what they’re doing now. It’s all and all a terrific story of salvage, recovery, and rebuilding (along the way, I enjoyed your quip about the grapevine, too).

    1. That wasn’t just a quip, Susan. The grapevine, like the coconut telegraph, still carries a good bit of news around here. When you visit the local bars and cafés, it’s just as likely you’ll see people talking to one another as focusing on a smart phone. That means more stories, more gossip, and more news. It can be slower, but it works.

      There were many, many more people than the Butchers involved in the story, but they were some of the first to bring it across the bay. To get to Oak Island (or Anahuac, or any of the other little communities and fishing camps over there) you can’t “just drive.” You can go by boat across the bay, go up to Houston and take I-10 east, then drop down, or go to Galveston, take the ferry, drive down the coast to High Island, and then work your way back to the shore. It’s an all-day proposition — you don’t just run over there. For some time after the storm, it was even more difficult. There was so much debris in the bay, no one wanted to put a boat in, and the shoreline highway was out of commission for a long, long time.

      There will be more about Joe and Terry in time. They’re still in the coffee business, in some new and creative ways.

      1. For some reason, WordPress didn’t show me your reply. So glad I came back for another look. I can’t tell you how much I love that the grapevine is alive and well in your part of the world. I was in NYC recently, and reminded once again how, in the old days, people talking to themselves were doing just that, whereas now, everyone has an earphone in and is jawing away to someone else, completely oblivious to all around them. Glad to know, also, we’ll be hearing more about the Butchers, and, as you note, there are many, many more to of neighborliness to be celebrated here.

  7. There were several interesting parts to your story. Sinking of the coffee cargo was an ominous beginning for the couple.

    Discovery of thousands of bottles of still good wine must have been rewarding. A few years ago we were strolling the beach of Lake Michigan on the west side of Michigan. We found an old unopened can of beer bobbing in the water. It looked bad. It’s origin was an unknown brewery in Milwaukee.

    After a fair amount of discussion, our group decided to open it and taste it. It sat chilling in the frig several hours. It tasted fine and no one got sick.

    1. Discovering the wine would have been even more rewarding, had Jim been able to sell it. Of course he couldn’t, because of health and other concerns, but as a simple souvenir? That was possible. It was great fun to have, just because of the label, and if you wanted to uncork it? Well, that was up to you.

      If I had a can of beer or soda, I’d fill the sink with water and conduct a scientific experiment. My first inclination was that your beer should have sunk: but perhaps not. There might have been enough air inside the can to keep it buoyant. As for it still being good, I know some beer drinkers who would ask, “Can anything good come from Milwaukee?” but they might have been too heavily influenced by the craft beer movement.

      I suppose if yours hadn’t gone flat, it would have been a pretty good indication it was drinkable. Prost!

      1. Your beer/soda experiment has been done. Beer has alcohol in it. Soda has a lot of sugar. Alcohol is less dense than water. The overall density of the can + alcohol/beer is a little less than that of water. It barely floats. The sugar in soda makes it more dense than water and it sinks.

        We were kind of surprised it still had some fizz and seemed normal. Not something I will make a habit of doing.

        1. Now that you mention it, Jim, I think I remember us talking about this before — not floating beer, but specific gravity. Some time back I poured grapefruit juice and orange juice into the same glass, and one floated on top of the other. That led to a discussion of those fancy bar drinks, where several liquors are layered. I think they’d be perfectly horrible to drink, but they are pretty.

    1. Thanks for stopping to read, Larry, and thanks, too, for your comment. It is amazing what people are capable of. I sometimes think that’s part of our fascination with disasters, even when we’re in the midst of them. We remember what we can do and then, with a certain amazement, we set about doing it.

    1. When I was a kid, the version I often heard was, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good.” I didn’t understand it at all. I suppose in the beginning it was the unusual sentence construction, but mostly it was lack of life experience. Little by little, I’ve learned to appreciate Grandma’s wisdom.

  8. Bee very careful Linda. I’m told that mead is a buzz like no other. Hmm… Perhaps it’s time to crack open that bottle in the basement in a nod to your intrepid BeverageMan Jim and all his ilk… Now, what might be a worthy meal to accompany a wee sip o’ mead, I wonder? A great story so far; looking forward to the rest.

    1. From what I read on the Liberty County Beekeepers’ site, there’s a good bit of variety among meads and honey wines. Some are brewed with hops, and I suspect those are the ones that have a bit more kick to them. The honey wine had a pleasant, floral note to it, but it was light, and didn’t seem any more dangerous than the blackberry or savignon blanc.

      As for worthy foods to go with mead, I just remembered Jim saying something about the mead-makers helping to supply our Renaissance Festival. That brings up images of turkey legs, and, of course, this — or something like it!

  9. Heartbreaking when all your hard work is gone with the wind. I can understand why people rebuild. They want what they had back; rebuilding keeps them moving forward and focused on the future instead of in a kind of tailspin mourning over what they lost; it reaffirms that what they had was worth what it took to get it, and that it remains worth working for to get it back.

    Go easy on the mead. As noted, it can sneak up on you and eat your sack lunch. It will also hang you over. (grammar?)

    Which reminds me. I need to start collecting Harvey’s Bristol Cream bottles again. I sold all the ones I had when I moved. Apart from the fact that I like Harvey’s Bristol Cream and get to empty them, once they’re empty, I can make a batch of Ol’ Snort & Stomp Home-Baked Amaretto to refill them — another of which beverage like mead a little of which goes a long way.

    1. It was a bit of an irony that, even though my home and possessions survived, my business took a bit of a hit. Six of my customers’ boats were destroyed — this is one, carried out of its slip by the surge, and deposited on the other side of a parking lot. At that point, it doesn’t make any difference if you’re at the bottom of Sigsbee Deep or high and dry. The end is just as traumatic.

      I think you’re right about the impulse to move forward. When I headed to Nacogdoches from Tyler the morning after Ike made landfall, the roads already had been cleared by friends-and-neighbors with their chain saws. And in one tiny town, with no electricity and all that went with it, an old fellow had his Coleman stove set up in front of a gas station, brewing coffee. After an event like that, the yearning for normal is deep.

      All of this talk of mead’s properties has me curious, since it doesn’t sound at all like the honey wine I tried. I’ve got next February’s mead-tasting on the calendar. With several to sample, I expect I’ll have a better idea what it’s all about.

      I haven’t had Harvey’s in decades. Mom favored Amaretto, though, so there always was some of that around — along with Kahlua, which she also liked to make. Ths year, I’m going to give Limoncello a try. I’ve heard that if you make it, you can avoid the syrupy sweetness of the commercial brands.

  10. You are one of the coolest people I know. You have this uncanny way of knowing “there is a story here”, beyond seeing bottles in a cooler. I am a visual person, thus picturing everything you write about. I see folks scavenging for and saving the sea swept wayward bottles of wine. What a magnificent story, Linda, not to mention the intrigue of sailing coffee from Belize to the US.

    1. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two qualities for writers that are crucial: curiosity and patience. Just think — it’s been seven years this week since Ike hit, and it took six of those years for the winery to re-open. The bottles in the cooler made for a fun story, but they weren’t the end of the story. Now, there are at least two more chapters to write: one about the Butchers, and one about the beekeepers. Before it’s all over, I may be over at Oak Island, stomping grapes with the best of them.

      You’ll find this of interest. Joe said that going on to Guatemala to pick up beans was a better plan for the future, since it’s easier to load cargo there. The reefs in Belize apparently made it a little tricky for a deep-draft sailboat. I don’t know if they have another boat yet, or if they’re using commercial transport, but I’ll find out.

  11. Oh, that poor ship. We remember when that happened.
    Great tale (as usual). I wondered about the souvenir bottles but didn’t know the story. Salvage as the rule of the day. What a wipe out, literally.

    Coastal people understand. You plan. Prepare. Then move on. Just like people in earthquake country (where I couldn’t manage). Here we don’t have poorly maintained levees, so the water did leave. This area had fewer deaths and frantic stranded people because they left the area – unlike NOLA where many decided to stay – if the levees had held, destruction would have been much less. According to people we know who were working at the hospital there, they stood in the completely dry Quarter less than an hour after the storm passed and it was dry…until they were stunned to see water rolling in. Hope history remembers.

    Love the Italian connections. Many outside the area don’t realize it’s always been a big mix of people in this area.
    Thanks for the morning grins

    1. Speaking of the Italians, I heard a rather substantial reminiscence about the Balinese Room the other day: including those wonderful tales about Texan Rangers making the 600 foot dash down the pier while the cards and chips went flying. Colorful, indeed. Although I knew there was quite a community by 1900, I didn’t know that they pretty much had the ice cream monopoly on the Island. There’s always something to learn.

      So much of the destruction came because of the pairing of Cat 2 winds with Cat 4 (or higher) surge. The good news is that those lessons were learned, too, and the new surge maps and categories ought to be more helpful. Still, the Chicago way is the best: evacuate early and often. :)

      A few more weeks, and we’ll be home free. The buoy off Galveston is showing 84 degrees, and off Freeport it’s 83. With a lowering sun and shorter days, we may hit 80 by mid-October. Happy sighs all around.

      1. As a kid, I always had “Italian” associated with ice cream as well as spaghetti.
        Yeah those weird wind/surge combos are what tripped up so many – we debated about leaving until the last minute since the weather/storm authorities were sending mixed messages about Ike. The new surge maps are certainly controversial – while keeping an eye on insurance costs /locations we’ve noticed some very weird quirks and totally illogical conclusions. Like evacuations, best to realize if you’re along the coastal plains, it will flood sooner or later, so prepare and stop acting so surprised.
        Oh, no monkeys with my coffee, please (bound to be a post soon with this one). Selling tickets to “shows” 3 times a day? Hmmm, are animal shows legal in this city? Where are the animal rights protests? As far as I’m concerned, animals that shake hands/clean themselves with those hands/ and get on tables and chairs shouldn’t be in places that serve food. And bites were going to happen sooner or later. Owner had his back to the kid, so had no idea what happened. Kid’s doc called animal control as primate bites are a state mandated quarantine – not local law. Owner is acting like a jerk
        Actually seems like a failing business in a poor location looking for people to finance his move. He went to the media – not the mom. UGH is all I can say.

        1. One word: spumoni! It was such a treat when I was a kid.

          As for that monkey story, I couldn’t figure out what you were talking about until I read the articles. I hadn’t heard about it, and never saw the business despite driving 2094 nearly every day. On the other hand, it’s not something that would call to me. Of all the strange ideas…

          On the other hand, there was a woman who lived in a friend’s neighborhood up in Cypress years and years ago who had the same kind of monkey. She had one room in her house just for them. The authorities finally showed up and made her get rid of them.

          1. Yummy! Can’t wait for it to chill a bit so we can return to the island.
            And I knew you weren’t monkeying around – so included the links to keep you updated in the neighborhood. That new place “The Italian Connection” where the Peruvian place moved out – now that coffee shop looks like one with potential.
            (Growing up, we knew people who had monkeys. UGH. Smelly inside, and we didn’t go there to play as they had bad tempers and would bite.) Where are the animal activists about that coffee shop guy’s “shows” he sells tickets for? Thanks, city and county health departments, for keeping things clean…..

  12. I remember your post about the Butchers and the Frascone Winery after Ike blew through.

    I am delighted to hear that the Frascones got up, dusted themselves off (or scraped the mud off) and got back to business. That’s just what you do, unless you going to be one of those people who give up and spend their lives wallowing and moaning and feeling sorry for themselves.

    Look forward to hearing more about the Butchers.

    1. You know, I didn’t keep any of those posts from WU that I wrote during the evacuation, or after I got back from taking Mom to stay with her sister until things got straightened out. I wish now I had. But I still have the photos, and some of the posts that I put up here. It’s really interesting to look at the timeline now. The Butchers lost Red Cloud in January, I started this blog in April, and Ike showed up in September. It was quite a year. I’ll be more than happy to sit around and recall that storm, rather than living through another.

      I’ll say this — the nice, fresly bottled wine I brought back from Oak Island is very nice. But there was something about those fresh-from-the-mud bottles that added that little je ne sais quoi. What memories!

      1. Yep, there was a certain je ne sais quoi about that wine. It really wasn’t bad, all things considered. I gave a bottle to my Dad and sipped my way through the rest . I still have one empty bottle with the “Le Frutta dell’ Uragano ” label on it, as a memento.

  13. What a great story, Linda, and it affects me on several fronts. My mom, of course, is Italian, so I know first-hand how resilient her people are. And, having lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where hurricanes aren’t merely a possibility but a certainty, I know how devastating those storms can be.

    I’m not sure I’d have been brave enough to sample wine aged by the seas, though. Probably because I’m not a big wine connoisseur! I’m amazed these bottles survived in the first place and weren’t cracked in a million pieces; how cool that you got the story behind this winery — I wish them much success (and you’ll have to tell us how the mead tasted when you get your cold front!)

    1. The Italians were such an important part of Texas history. One of the first railroads built in the state, the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway, was popularly called “the macaroni line” because of the number of Italian immigrants who were brought here to work on it — by an Italian Count, Joseph Telfener.

      I’m not sure a true connoisseur would have tried the hurricane-aged wine. But it went all over the country, and was enjoyed in places as far-flung as St. Louis, Charleston, Kansas City, and Bismark. Everyone who got their hands on the stuff sent a bottle or two to friends or relatives. And of course it felt good to be helping someone out. At that point, I’d never been to Oak Island, or any of the little communities on the eastern side of the bay, but I knew what our side looked like, and knew their side was worse. It was just one more way for people to pull together.

  14. What a story, Linda!!!! Thank you for sharing. I love the hearing through the grapevine part. I waited a couple of days to fully enjoy your story, I knew I needed a glass of wine, and tonight was the night. :)

    I love this spirit. Truthfully, I find this incredible spirit of re-bouncing and optimism very American. That is one thing about this country that fascinates and enthralls me.

    Lithuanians love mead – we sell it in very fancy bottles – and had been drinking from very old times (since they used to practice forest beekeeping). I still enjoy some craftfully made drinks of all types when I get a chance.
    As always, Linda, so enjoy your stories. I am thinking when I retire, one day I will read your full blog. If some publisher would put it in print, would make it easier for me, you know. :)

    1. It’s true that I tend toward optimism, but it’s clearly more than personality. I was raised among people who’d done some bouncing back of their own, and they knew how to teach the lesson. I think the kind of self-sufficiency, resilience, and persistence that supported their optimism isn’t as common today, but it’s still part of individuals and communities, if not our national character.

      Honestly, I had no idea people still are drinking mead. I had it firmly ensconced back in the Middle Ages, and was surprised as could be to find there’d been a mead tasting across the bay. Now you tell me that it’s a part of your culture! I thought of you when I discovered Jim had become a beekeeper and maker of honey wine, but I had no idea the connection was so appropriate.

      As for that other little issue, who knows? Maybe the Book Fairy will come along and grant your wish. In the meantime, I’m really glad you enjoy these stories that I have such fun writing.

        1. This is so interesting, Bee. I’ve gone from knowing nothing about mead to knowing about a hundred interesting facts about it, all in the space of a week. Amazing. Thanks for the links! It was really fun to read about it. When are you and the kids going to add mead-making to your repertoire?

          1. :) Now that is an idea. We were at a farm drinking fresh apple cider yesterday, and kids were making funny sounds and faces drinking, pretending it was their ‘coke’ or ‘beer’ – they never tasted either one of those, so it must be intriguing for them.

  15. People can be wonderful! It’s awesome how volunteers salvaged the bottles and helped sell them as souvenirs. And, it’s wonderful that the Frascones were able to get their winery back in operation in spite of the storm’s devastation.

    1. We hear so much about the worst of humanity, I love coming across stories like this, that just shine. A victory’s a victory, even if it isn’t splashed across the evening news. Of course, the evening news isn’t too fond of good news. They’d much rather give us the bad — or make an inconvenience sound like the coming apocalypse!

  16. This, of course, reminds me of my brother. He has picked up the pieces a few times after a hurricane or nor’easter. These stories are always inspirational. It takes certain kinds of people to rebuild. It’s admirable.

    Honey wine? I’ve never tasted it, but it sounds good to me.

    1. I was surprised at how good the honey wine is. I suppose it varies, depending on the skill of the vinter, the quality of the honey, and so on, but it suited even me, who doesn’t like a really sweet wine.

      I thought of your brother when I was writing this, along with friends in Florida and the Carolinas who’ve had their own troubles with storms. One couple I know bought a new sailboat just before Hugo rolled in, and they spent the storm on their boat. They ended up going through two more, less serious storms, in quick sucession, and ended up calling the boat the Storm Magnet. I wouldn’t have done it, but it made them laugh.

      1. We had a hurricane in MD many years ago. I remember a reporter interviewing vacationers in Ocean City. Many of the people from MD and farther north said they would ride out the storm and pick up their beach activities when it was over. When the reporter talked to a couple form NC, they said they were pulling up stakes and going inland. They had a lot more respect for hurricanes.

  17. There is something very inspiring and noble about people getting together to overcome adversity. This post radiated a love for what’s good about people, as well as telling us the specific story of these people who just happened to be in the way of a terrible storm. A very beautiful post.

    1. And it’s the “getting together” that makes it possible to recover. It’s one of the most endearing aspects of post-storm life — or post-any-disaster life, I suppose. Grudges, animosities, prejudices, snarkiness — all seem to disappear in the pursuit of common goals, and a recognition of common humanity.

      There were very many beautiful post-storm experiences. I’m glad you found the post beautiful as well, Shimon.

  18. Another quirkily brilliant, moving tale of survival, resilience, and ingenuity, Linda. I’d love to have tasted a glass of the mystery wine!

    ps I don’t seem to be getting emails of your posts any more. Anyone else developed the same problem?

    1. Hmmmm… I’m getting all of my emails, at least that I know, and I haven’t heard anyone mention any problems. I didn’t see anything on the WP forums, either. Be sure and go into your reader and check to be sure that your preferences are marked for email. I saw that you re-subscribed. That ought to do it. I made a note to send you an email when I next post, so if you still have a problem, you’ll know.

      It would have been fun to share a glass of that wine. “Old Hurricane 2008” wasn’t the best, but it didn’t make any difference. It was the having and the drinking that counted.

  19. Under your pen(or fingers on the keyboard) any person’s life story can become appealing and inspiring. You have many subjects indeed, considering the devastation of Katrina. This post is another life I wouldn’t have known about if not from reading your blog.

    1. There are so many interesting people in the world. Most of them live quiet lives, without any particular notice from the world around them, but they deserve to be celebrated as surely as any of our so-called celebrities.

      The days of talking about style over substance seem to have disappeared. Now it seems, as a society, we’ve come to prefer spectacle over substance. During my childhood and youth, a common admonition was, “Don’t make a spectacle of yourself.” Maybe that’s why I so enjoy meeting and writing about people who don’t!

  20. An empowering message in a bottle. We need more people just like the subjects of your narrative–people who pick themselves up after a reversal and start anew.

    1. It just occurred to me, Cheri — instead of whining, they started wining. Now Terry and Joe have gone back to coffee, but that doesn’t diminish what they did, or the basic truth of what you’re suggesting. We can’t always control events, but we can have a degree of control over our response to them.

      I always liked Luther’s way of putting it. We can’t keep the birds from flying around our heads, but we can prevent them from building nests in our hair.

  21. This is an amazing story on many fronts. It speaks to the resilience of the human spirit, to the gift of human community, to our desire to live a good life that imbibes good taste, and still more!

    As I read it, I thought of my recent journey to Saskatchewan, where while visiting my sister and her family we made a trip to a local winery. There we enjoyed lovely Sour Cherry and Haslap wines. Wine snobs generally discount fruit wines, but I love the way that they each celebrate their own terroir. What is good does not have to come from France, or Italy alone (although that a good Italian red is also to be celebrated!) but much beauty and goodness is local.

    1. I grew up with cherry, dandelion, and rhubarb wine — and apple cider, of course. Just today, a friend mentioned elderberry wine, and the memories she has of her grandfather’s wine-making.

      You mentioned cheeses in your tale of the farmers’ market. It’s much the same thing — the wonderful diversity that comes with local products, made from locally-sourced ingredients, and the way those products become associated with our history. It’s no mistake that one of the best-loved cooking magazines in the U.S. is called “Taste of Home.”

      I’ve never heard of the haskap berry — I was completely confused at first, because I didn’t expect that you could be growing such things up there. But, I read an article about a young couple who started growing them, and see the berries will do well in the colder climate. Besides — what’s not to like about a berry that has a variety called “indigo yum”?

      1. The Haskap wine was really superb, but rather pricey! It is nice to see something that is doing so well on the prairies. All of those wines you mentioned!! They make me thirsty. I used to make chokecherry, and Saskatoon berry wine, but these are less available now. But I do make rhubarb wine regularly, and peach once in a while, but it is a bit spotty in taste.

  22. And so hope all of us! Cheers!

    It’s all here, man’s endurance, resilience and determination, the cruelty of the elements and how to overcome it and the willingness to start afresh, ever hopeful.

    And to cap it all, there is an excellent chronicler to preserve the tale.

    1. When I saw the photo of your Beloved and the elderberries, I just smiled. Cheers, indeed: an entirely appropriate toast to our ability to do (at least occasionally) what’s required to overcome all those obstacles life insists on placing in our way.

      Besides, what better way to encourage one another than to make some wine, have a drink, and tell some stories? That’s not just the American way or the British way — it’s the human way.

    1. I’ve never heard about the Nova Scotia legend, or the considerable effort over time that was put into uncovering that treasure. But I have a hunch you may know about the legends linking the Chambers County Oak Island with Jean Lafitte, and his presumed treasure. You may even know, or know of, Steve Hoyt, the Austin-area marine archaelogist who’s been involved with our legend.

      When I was over there, I stopped by the Boy Scout Woods bird sanctuary, part of the Audubon Society presence in the area. What I didn’t know at the time is that there was some pit-digging there, too — all in search of treasure.

      The next time I go over, maybe I should carry a shovel!

      1. I can’t recall whether I’ve heard of Steve Hoyt. With regard to his linked article, color me skeptical about the accounts of people claiming to have found and even touched Lafitte’s ship in shallow silt. If the ship was so accessible back then, I can’t understand why no one would have undertaken salvage operations.

        It seems to be a deeply ingrained trait for people to claim they’ve done things they haven’t done. I remember that after 9/11 there was a guy who claimed to have ridden one of the collapsing towers down from the 57th (I think that was the number) floor. Yeah, sure.

        1. Lafitte’s treasure seems to be buried everywhere on the coast. Some claim that it’s within the boundaries of the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, and I know a couple of people who are certain it’s near his old house on Galveston Island.

          I suppose the possibility of finding buried treasure is akin to winning today’s lottery. It’s fun to think about, but no matter how far you dig or how many tickets you buy, it’s the shovel seller and the state who get rich.

          1. Well said: “it’s the shovel seller and the state who get rich.” People who play the lottery almost invariably end up levying a tax on themselves, and they’re usually the people who can least afford that tax.

  23. The human spirit is amazingly resilient…at least in most cases. I am sure the initial reaction to such a tragic experience is one of helplessness at first glance. But most folks will work at recovery. I am not sure I would do it in a place almost guaranteed to have a re-visitation, but I don’t live in such an area and don’t have the same sense of belonging there. I admire such folks.
    I think their label is a fantastically creative way to save inventory. And, as I pictured the bottles being washed away, I imagined some unfortunate person sitting on a barren island in the middle of the ocean having the good fortune to see a bottle or two from the Frascones floating up on shore.

    1. If I’d sworn off the Texas coast after Hurricane Alicia in 1983, I never would have begun sailing, or built my business. And, even though tropical storm Allison took a house (not to mention several neighborhoods, the Texas Medical Center and the theater district), what are you going to do? There’s no perfectly safe place in the world. A friend tried to convince me to move to Oklahoma, and it wasn’t long before her town was ravaged by a tornado. As Steve Winwood so wisely advised, we’re better off learning to roll with it.

      There still are a lot of those old bottles sitting around. minus their contents, just for the sake of those labels. As for bottles washing up on shores: that’s a dynamic that appears more often than we think. Not every bottle is glass, and not every shore is sand.

    2. Yesterday I was out photographing at a little-known park in southeast Austin. In some places the park borders Onion Creek, which is notorious for flash floods (and there’s debris pretty high up in some of the trees to prove it). When I parked on the nearest street in the adjoining neighborhood, as I always do when I go to that park, I couldn’t help noticing that a bunch of the lots that previously had houses on them were now empty. The City Council decided to buy out those people and tear down their houses, which had been damaged last fall in the latest flood. Had those people continued to live there, they would inevitably have been flooded again, and perhaps drowned.

      1. Some of those buyouts have taken place here, too. In Kemah, an historic school and some other buildings on low land were moved: not only for safety, but also to provide more grass and gravel for drainage during floods. One negative aspect of the growth here has been a rapid increase in paving projects, and as the amount of concrete increased, so did the number of floods.

        In many of the residential areas, elevation is the name of the game. The houses look a bit strange, perched up on their stilts, but it’s much safer. I think the prize still goes to Galveston, for raising the entire city 17 feet after the 1900 storm. For an entire city to live in the air and get around on scaffolding for seven years while they pumped in slurry beneath the buildings is almost beyond belief: but it worked.

      2. I am sure that it is always a tough decision for people as to whether to return or move I hope to never have to make. And in this time of all concerns measured against cost, it is admirable for the city council to decide on removing those properties from possible rebuilding.

          1. That’s clearly an issue in places like Galveston, and known flood plains. On the other hand, many of the people who suffered loss because of Ike’s surge weren’t living in a flood zone. No imagined the surge could reach as far as it did. There was a lot of rezoning that went on after that storm, and a lot of new requirements imposed in order for rebuilding to take place.

  24. A wonderful account of resilience, perseverance, and people coming together in the face of adversity. It’s the same all over the world. I think, generally, that the mood is always to get going again – whether it’s after a storm, hurricane, fire, or other disaster.

    Incidentally, the people of Dominica (Caribbean) are currently picking up the pieces after the devastation of Erika three or four weeks ago. They need all the help they can get!

    1. It’s true. With tropical storms and hurricanes particularly, there’s such an extended time of waiting that, by the time it moves on, there’s often a sense of relief that it’s finally over and we can get moving again. We may move slowly at first, but move, we do.

      Here’s a tidbit that’s less amusing than a cause for eye-rolling, but it’s a sign of the times. When Erika still was moving toward the islands and the gurus were projecting her path, CNN showed a graphic to accompany their story about the threat to the islands. Unfortunately, in their attempt to show people where the storm was headed, they circled Jamaica and called it the Dominican Republic, then labeled the Dominican Republic as Dominica. Clearly, the CNN staff needs more time in the Caribbean, or a geography class.

  25. A fascinating and riveting history of a winery and coffee. Loved following the history with you. The mead looks absolutely amazing! I don’t drink, but I would definitely try it.

    1. I had no idea that mead is common in some cultures, even today. As so often happens, my readers have educated me: one more bit of proof that these blog posts are only the beginning of the conversation, not an end in themselves.

      Every culture has their wine, I suppose. In Liberia, it was palm wine. The process for obtaining that was pretty simple: tap the tree, hang a bucket, then let nature take her course. It wasn’t bad fresh, but it kept fermenting over time, making it more useful for bread baking than drinking after a while.

      1. Ethiopia has an ancient mead tradition. Ethiopian mead is called tej. I have noticed mead appearing on our Christchurch supermarket shelves. A NZ mead website says interest in mead has grown since the Lord of the Rings films. It also says there are three types of mead Pure Honey wine;Honey and fruit wine (melomel); Honey wine with spice (metheglin)

        Your post on the winery and the resilience of the owners is a timely reminder that our city will come right again.

        1. Your article suggests that the same two factors driving the development of mead here — beekeepers and an interest in all things medieval — is at work in New Zealand. Whether the Lord of the Rings cycle has contributed here, I can’t say, but there’s no question that the Renaissance Faire has played a role. Mead is a drink of choice there, and they have to get it from somewhere.

          The pure honey wine is what I purchased. The mead tasting at the Frascone winery included some of those spiced wines, and I think I remember the honey/fruit combination, too. When the process involves hops, it’s my understanding that it can carry a bit more of a kick.

          Reconstruction can take place relatively quickly, but recovery has no timetable. A friend and I who regularly go down to Galveston for brunch comment every time about the changes we see. At first, it was the disappearance of debris. Then, with the salt washed from the soil, new trees came along. Little by little, the old homes and landmarks began to be refurbished, and even now, there are Victorian homes showing signs of life again.

          Everyone grieved the loss of the oaks that were planted after the 1900 storm, but the truth is that their replacement with more storm-tolerant palms has been good. It feels more like a coastal town now, and less like a reproduction of someplace else. The light’s different, and the feeling is lighter. No one would have torn out the oaks, but their absence has turned out to be less than a tragedy.

          1. I like your distinction between reconstruction and recovery. Reconstruction is happening here, and I was pleased to see more new, completed buildings today. Interestingly, I would say that the light is different and lighter here, too, without the old buildings, and the new buildings are of Christchurch, of our time. I like that. Through this tragedy we have somehow grown into ourselves.

            1. That’s a good way of putting it: growing into yourselves. It reminds me of the difference a good pruning can make in the garden. A tangle of growth can be beautiful, but it often prevents sunlight from reaching other, equally beautiful plants. Even for the garden, loss and regeneration go together.

  26. What a fascinating story. It only goes to show that one should never give up. You have written a very inspiring story. Makes me want to taste the wine from Frascone Winery. I am not sure if I can get hold of it here, though. As for coffee, I have to say my absolute favourite is Cuban coffee, it’s strong and full of richness. :-)

    1. I agree about the Cuban coffee, Otto. I had my first taste in Key West, and I’ve never found any better. When we anchored out in the harbor there, we’d come into shore and go to a little shop (that’s probably gone now) for pastries and coffee. Wonderful.

      The Frascone wine probably isn’t even available in Houston. His production is so limited, there’s no sense trying to market it elsewhere. In the future? Who knows? He has his own vineyards now, so expansion may be on the horizon. In the meantime, he can be an inspiration to us all.

  27. How I enjoyed this and the indomitable nature of some people! I cannot imagine living through a hurricane. Good luck to the winery……here’s to a lack of winds blowing and to you enjoying good wine!

    1. Actually, snowbird, every time I read a new entry in your blog, it seems as though you’re living in a perpetual hurricane! Between all the critters and your activities on behalf of the critters, it’s quite something to behold.

      But, of course, the difference is that we choose our metaphorical hurricanes. The ones that show up on their own, intent on real havoc, aren’t so much fun. But we’re nearly past the season now, and fingers and toes are crossed all around.

      Cheers to you! and some fair weather, too.

  28. I just love this story. In it I see resilience, determination, community, generosity–some of the best of human character, and all amidst what began as a disaster. It seems we do some of our best work under hard conditions.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Community was a huge part of the recovery, from the very first hours. And, “community” got redefined in the broadest possible terms. Everyone who’d been affected by the storm belonged to the community, as did everyone who wanted to help.

      Speaking of community, I still remember arriving in Nacogdoches ten years ago, with my mother and my cat in tow. We were part of the Great Hurricane Rita evacuation that brought Houston to a standstill, and only made Nacogdoches (three hours away) after a fourteen and a half hour drive. When we got to the La Quinta where I’d made reservations, the manager met us at the door — at 4 a.m. — with coffee, juice, and a question: “Are you tribe Rita or tribe Katrina?”

      That LaQuinta helped out by making one room available for the people who were camped out, sleeping in their cars in the parking lot. They could take showers, recharge cell phones,and so on, at no charge. It really was wonderful, and remains one of the best memories from a tough time.

  29. This is a remarkable story, Linda, and quite my cuppa tea (or carafe of wine as the case may be!). Hats off to these remarkable people for their resilience against such magnificently frightful forces. One always wonders how they might survive when faced with such personal and business disaster. The Frascone’s have not only survived but thrived, a magnificent example to all.

    I must share this with my wino group. Perhaps if I ever make it to your neck of the woods we can do a road trip!

    1. One thing we tend to forget is how long recovery can take: whether from illness, accident, or disaster. And, as was the case for Jim, the path toward recovery isn’t always obvious. It took some time for one thing to lead to another, until it became obvious that he could get back in business. I must say, I’m glad he did. It will be fun to get back in touch with the Butchers, and see how they’re faring.

      Of course I thought about the Cork Poppers while I was writing this. If I had magical powers, I’d transport the whole bunch down to Oak Island and have Jim provide a meal and wine-tasting. You’d have such fun. If you ever do get down here (which you really should!) consider this: a trip to Oak Island necessarily involves passing through Galveston, taking a wonderful ferry ride, a good look at Gulf beaches, one of the best fishing spots on the Texas coast, and several wildlife refuges. Wouldn’t that be a day?

      By the way, in an unrelated matter, look who joined me at work yesterday. I followed him around for a while, and he led me to an entire patch of wildflowers I didn’t know existed. I love my office.

  30. Ah – wine and coffee, two of our favourite indulgences. I purchase our ground coffee in bulk from the Salvation Army, for the support of its street mission. This coffee is an arabica, roasted and ground in africa, and is distributed under the free trade label. I always make coffee in a plunger pot and only use instant commercial coffee when time forces convenience. All our visitors love my coffee which makes me estatic.

    Now to wine. For years hubs and I had a modest cellar composed exclusively of our magnificent Australian wines. We often visited wineries on our travels and enjoyed offering guests a choice of a red or white. That is until Ken developed a pancreas problem and was told … ‘No more alcohol.’ Oh unhappy day! As I won’t enoy a glass without him our cellar is depleted … but we still thankfully have coffee.

    1. Every time I’ve had coffee made by your method, it’s been wonderful. I’ve never made the move to that sort of pot, but I do make iced coffee with a cold-brewed method that takes an entire day. The difference in quality is remarkable. I always grind my own beans, but I’ve been buying Red Cloud’s Finest in the grocery. I’ll be interested to see if there’s a difference in taste when I get some freshly roasted beans at the Butchers’ shop.

      I was introduced to Australian wines only a couple of years ago. I’m not a consistent wine-drinker, so I don’t do much exploring, but what I tried, I enjoyed. It’s always disappointing when life imposes constraints on us — like the “no more wine” edict — but as you say, there’s still coffee, not to mention all the other delights that life provides.

  31. We don’t have a wine industry, but we do have rum, which continues to thrive at an international level. The Bacardi Rum Factory is a tour many tourists visit when they are here. They start with some history of sugar cane in the Caribbean and the origins of rum making. Then there is a movie about the Bacardi family history, and the Bacardi rum making process. When you enter the factory, the first thing you notice is the fermented, sugar cane smell, which some find pleasing.

    1. And your Bacardi rum has quite a tie to my life. October 22-24 are the dates for the biggest sailing regatta of the year on the Texas coast, and the primary sponsor is Bacardi. As a matter of fact, the Bacardi Cup is the coveted prize. As you might imagine, there’s a drop of two of Bacadi consumed at the after-party, too.

      Bacardi’s not our only choice, though. Just down the road, in a little town called San Leon, the Railean Distillery is producing rum. I’ve not tried it, but people who have say its quite good. I like that they’ve adopted our (invasive) monk parakeet as their mascot and logo.

      1. Oh, I love those Monk Parakeets! I had one, but I let him go because there is a huge feral colony here and he yelled like crazy everytime he heard them flying in their freedom. He was not handraised; probably captured for the pet trade. That little rascal comes from Argentina.

        I’m not surprised there are several other rum factories other than the caribbean ones. Here we also have one or two major coffee makers; then there are smaller entrepeneurs who have a smaller scale production business and are considered “artisan” foods.

        1. You should see the nests around here. We have one of the largest concentrations of them in the US, and they prefer the big electrical transmission lines for their nests. There have been battles galore, and finally a consensus was reached that their nests would be left alone during the nesting and breeding season, then removed later. Every year the nests come down, and every year the birds start rebuilding in about 24 hours. I’m betting on the birds.

          1. Yes, I remember now reading about the nests in the power lines. Well, they are now “urban” heroes, just like other birds which have adapted to new surroundings. We have an native caribbean Grackle which likes to nest in huge, electrical power plants. How could they choose such a horrible site to nest in is what I always ask myself. Are they just looking for space? Will we ever know?

            1. I know! My take is that they don’t really know where they are. They just follow an instinct to climb and do their thing. My theory on feral pigeons, for example, is that they still think they are climbing cliffs from the prehistoric times when they were cliff dwellers. Their instinct continues to drive them, so they nest everywhere, thinking that buildings are just cliffs. They don’t know what they are doing at all.

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