In Pine Grove, the Pick of the Pears 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

August 27, 2005

Mariah Herman arrives at 6:01 a.m. One minute late — again.

And she, like the other four, is holding a paper Starbuck’s coffee cup. It’s early, she smiles. Too early. And she’s been keeping this schedule for too brief a time to adapt to it.

She purchased the coffee yesterday, refrigerated it and microwaved it this morning. “Because there’s no way I’m waking up any earlier,” Herman says. Buying the coffee the night before is a tip Herman learned from her more experienced co-workers. But it’s not foolproof.

“That’s why we are late,” says Mallory Thomsen. “We had to heat up our coffee.” Thomsen, 19, has been working on her father Chuck Thomsen’s orchard since she was 12 or so. Her cousin Lindsay Ewald has spent summers out here for five or six years now. These high school and early college girls are who determines how each pear will get packaged.

“I tell them: ‘We grow this fruit all year and we have one chance to make the distinction between canning and packing pears,’” Thomsen says. “‘And then at 2:30, you can do whatever you want.’”

On Aug. 13, Thomsen’s Bartletts ripened, triggering a frantic and anticipated effort to take them from the tree and put them in grocery stores and canneries. Thomsen hired 70 pickers for this occasion. And he figures he’ll have them all picked by tomorrow or the next day. The picking began four or five days ago.

The girls’ job is to ensure the pickers are separating the big pears from the small ones and eliminating those that suffered puncture wounds. The big Bartletts are going to the grocery store. The small ones will end up in a cannery. Making that distinction is a task the girls and the pickers themselves make with a “ring” — a piece of PVC pipe. If the pear is smaller than the ring, it goes to the cannery. If it’s bigger, it goes to the grocery store. The pickers themselves are supposed to separate the different-sized pears into two different bins.

“It kind of varies depending on how tired they are,” explains Mallory. “As the day goes on and it gets hotter they want to quit. Saturday and Sunday were really hot.”

If Mallory or Lindsay or Mariah find four punctured pears in the picker’s bin, they have to warn him. If they find eight, they tell the picker he has to sit out for an hour. If they find 12, the picker goes home.

By the end of harvest, Thomsen’s orchard will have produced 1,800 bins of Bartletts, at 1,100 pounds each. For their part, the girls earn about $8.50 an hour, which they save for college, for shopping and for a car.

24 hours, 24 weeks

Each Saturday through Dec. 24, Hood River News is pausing somewhere in the county — for an hour.

“Around the Clock,” looks at what happens over one hour’s time in a variety of settings around the county, in 24 vignettes. The series began July 16.

So far, starting at midnight “Around the Clock” has stopped at 9-1-1 dispatch center, Relay For Life, Chevron Station, Hood River Care Center, Hood River Post Office, Pistil hats, and, this week, Thomsen orchards in Pine Grove.

In the next two weeks: breakfast greetings and welcoming a newborn.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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