Cider, A Barn Dance and Fourth of July: The book makes a friend

Crystie Kisler, owner of Finnriver Cidery in Chimacum

Crystie Kisler, owner of Finnriver Cidery

One of the greatest delights of writing this book has been the ongoing discoveries every time I travel the roads and fields of its landscape. A few days ago we took an impulsive detour that lead to a location in my story, a wonderful business, and stellar new friend of the book.

About a year ago, we were driving through the Chimacum Valley to Port Townsend. We stopped at an intersection we’ve passed so many times. I looked sideways and couldn’t believe I was staring at a location in the novel. We got out and sure enough, this was William Bishop Jr.’s house (the son of the founder of Chimacum).

A few days ago, we drove over to collect the cover art for the book from Nina Noble. (The painting is even more beautiful up close. I’ll have it at the release on the 9th in Bellingham!) On the way back, I remembered that Finnriver Cider had bought the old Bishop place, and that their tasting room was somewhere up that road. We’d missed the next ferry and had some time. Maybe we should go find the Cidery?

IMG_7276Imagine our surprise when we reached the intersection and found a full-fledged business on the site of the original Bishop farm. Finnriver had moved down the road and built a  cider yard, with tasting room and food. When you walk into the property, you’re looking through into that lovely valley, at lavender fields and their orchard.


We’ve loved their cider for years, and had a great time tasting the different flavors, with ingredients from these fields – from their lavender and blueberry patches. I kept thinking, “They’re really busy. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything. But…the book has a scene here.”

chimney cropWithout giving too much away, there’s a barn dance on the 4th of July at the very spot where I was standing, under a soaring roof, with benches made from the boards of the Bishop’s barn. It was uncanny the way it was all converging.

I finally spoke to an employee and she kindly introduced me to the owner.

Crystie Kisler was like a tiny dragonfly zooming and alighting all over the property. I watched in wonder, and waited. I wandered over to the old house. They’d cleaned up the property, so I could now see the graceful chimney, built from rocks raked out of the soil (also a mention in Cradle!)

Then we sat down and talked about the farmers who’d loved and worked this soil, enriching it. About the history, and the lady who had been the wife of the founder of Chimacum, Klasistook/Sally (a woman from the Snohomish tribe). I offered her the book. She offered us some cider and showed me her menus, with William Bishop and his wife Sally’s photos. This woman and farm exude energy, stewardship, hard work and generosity.

Crystie Kisler, owner of Finnriver Cidery in Chimacum

Sharing cider, stories, and the book

As we talked, I realized I’d blended William Jr’s wife and Klasistook to come up with a person half-way between the two. I will leave Mrs. Bishop as she is in the book, but change the end notes. This farm belonged to Bishop’s son, who was the first Native American legislator for Washington State and served for many years, and his father’s story is remarkable.

As we left, I marveled at the way the threads had come together. My childhood love of the fields and farms I rode through on the bus in Sequim, on my way to school. Our love of this valley in Chimacum… of sustainable farming, and people who care for the land and its history.

And the way my scene resonates with the place now.

IMG_6774There’s going to be a barn dance at Finnriver! I love that people will be doing what I imagined when I wrote the story: twirling in the warm air of a late summer evening, playing fiddles and celebrating the life of the people and the land. A Cradle in the Waves is the story of a summer, and the simple joys to be had even in the midst of times of conflict and change.

I encourage you to visit Finnriver, or find another place to be outside in the fields, or to dance on these long, lovely summer nights. (Their website has great photos and information if you can’t visit in person.)

Over the next month I’m hoping to get my ‘tour’ of places in the book finished. Finnriver and the Bishop Farm will definitely be on it!

Crystie kindly invited me to do an event there sometime. If we can put that together, I’d love it! In the meantime, she’s agreed to do a post here. Oh the joy! Thank you Crystie for taking time, and for your wonderful welcome.