Thursday, April 21, 2016

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

I got my first good look at one of our nation's U.S. Border Patrol Headquarters, right here in Colville, Washington. 
Today was open house day and we were invited in small group tours, with an agent and I was allowed to photograph anything other than a bulletin board that showed a photo of criminals they are in the process of looking for.

We were first ushered into a conference room where the 6 of us were given some history of the department. The first border station was in El Peso, TX, back in 1924. After 9/11, a group of what were formerly independent departments were assembled under the umbrella of Department of Homeland Security. The problem was that every department, be it Customs, Border, Immigration and Naturalization, U.S Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management and a host of others all operated on their own set of procedures and interpretation of local and national law. Now suddenly, they had to synchronize with all these other agencies in terms of paperwork, filing systems pay grades and much more. It sounds like they all have made good progress but more still needs to be done.

Felix Morales is fairly new to the area, having transferred here from duty in San Diego...he now is in charge of this station. He answered all of our question other than the exact location of sensors along the border that will send them an alert when tripped. I had a question about the border crossing into Canada and after answering it he asked if I noticed the color of their, not really. U.S. Customs handles all of the "entry" station (what I assume most of us call border crossing) and although they occasionally will work together, two different departments altogether. U.S. Customs uniforms are blue, Border Protection... green. (since I know a person quite well in Customs you'd think I would noticed the color difference, ugg)

These cement obelisks stretch for 5,525 miles across our northern border with Canada. A 20-foot clearing also marks the border. It is said that you can always see the next marker from the saddle of a horse. Where water is concerned, like on the Columbia may cross the border many times without being stopped with the exception that you can never drop anchor or pull up to shore...if that happens expect a visitor.

Besides all the offices, computer rooms and a weight gym there was this tactical training room where they practice hand to hand combat and different technique to subdue an assault.

Ok...we are getting closer to the toys...yes, they said tools, but I still think of them as toys. Out of the 35 agents that work here, only Felix gets to park here in the winter.

The quads behind me are part of the toys, I mean tools at their disposal. we are getting into some fun stuff.

Yep, you can put these puppies away for the next few months.
The only time Felix hesitated an answer was about drones. They would be an immense help in protecting our border here with its rugged wilderness and remoteness...but. As Felix expertly dodged the question he did say that the border patrol up in Northern Washington, Idaho and Montana must be sensitive to the local constitutionalists who might view this as "big brother spying".

It doesn't get any better than this 25 foot bad boy, with twin Merc 225's sitting on the stern. 
I did not get a picture of the "Specialized" mountain bikes they also use.

They have three canine dogs who act as drug and person sniffers. The dogs are always with their handler so when the agent is off, so is the dog.

The horse patrol has a long history with border patrol, originally, you had to have your own horse to be hired.

The Border Patrol horses are all former wild mustangs. They were free and a prison in Colorado breaks and trains the horses for them so cost is kept low. As much as possible the headquarters tries to buy locally, #1 to support the community and #2 to stay in the good graces of its anti-government segment of the society.
(my words, not Felix's)

The detention room where suspects are brought in and held, rarely more than one night. From the TV's above they can monitor the whole complex from just this room.

Besides a men and womens holding room is this Bio-hazard room. I was thinking, maybe someone who had radiation...but no, the room does not circulate the air to other parts of the build and if they bring in some who has crossed the border illigally...and has a caugh...he/she goes straight into this room. Felix said with all the world travelers, spreading who knows what around, they perfer to play it safe. I guess he could never handle casino work.

On the way out we got the sales pitch (even though not one of us were under 60) for joining the Border Patrol and all the benefits it provides. He did outline what you would be going through...and they don't just pick whomever...they only want the smartest and most fit to apply.
I will say in this day and age of "Black lives matter", Blue lives matter" and "Support the Vets" movement...I'd sure like to see us supporting many other worthy departments, like the Custom and Border Protection in the government...minus congress! (sorry, that slipped out)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hanging Baskets 101

Donna and I both like color and plants, so it's safe to assume I'll continue this hobby into the future. We've been hanging baskets the last two years, but they were already planted and grown for us. The high school has a hot house and its horticulture class makes hanging baskets for sale every spring. Even though they are only $15, and store bought are around $30, this year I thought I'd try my to make my own.

I head over to Wynne Street Nursery, which is only open from April to October. Now, I could gone to "Wally Mart" down the street, but you just don't get to service and knowledge that a local nursery provides. Sure, the plants are a few cents more, but with all this bitching about America outsourcing it's jobs and manufacturing to other countries...I like supporting local businesses.

This is one of the reasons I'd like to make my own basket this year. Sure, these baskets are month further along then mine, but I have time...I hope. (My father always joked later in life when one of us would go to the market for him..."don't buy any green bananas". Why? "I might not last until they ripen"

Michelle is the other reason for going to this nursery. Not only is she smart and helpful, but a ray of sunshine and cute too. Michelle set me up with the right plants for my baskets, depending on whether it was going to be afternoon sunshine or morning sun and some "Black Gold" potting soil.

I put half the bag of Black Gold in the wheelbarrow, along with sand and vermiculite. I'd say 3/5ths potting mix, 1/5 sand and 1/5 vermiculite.

I add enough water to the mix so it does not try to suck out the moisture from the potted plant as soon as they are mated.

All set to plant some baskets with...Empress Verbena, Fuchsia, Tapien, Mini Cascade Geranium and an Ivy Geranium. The Fuchsia go in the back because they get plenty of morning sun, but not the harsh afternoon blast.

As you can see, the basket is nearly ready at this point.

Here I start adding  "A Touch of Donna" to the hanging basket.

Originally the baskets were supported with only the beaded string and hooks that Donna made. She love beading, but we found out that first summer...when we'd pick up baskets off the patio floor, that the string suggested was not strong enough over time to support the weight of the soil when wet. Donna was so upset upon finding the first basket on the ground and beads everywhere that I was put in charge of finding every single one of those little buggers so she could re-string it.
My idea was to use chain to carry the load, and wrap the bead string around it appeared to be the "support", we haven't lost one since.

Here is the back patio basket, full of fuchsia's

Here are my two front patio baskets. I figure, all total, it cost me about $11 a I get to put what I want in them, not what someone else decided. (other than Michelle that is) Time will tell whether I did a good job or not...check back later.

Next project, sitting in the garage under a grow lights are some veggies. Tomato, peppers, squash and zuccini just dying to be planted!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hewes Craft Boats in Colville

I got the opportunity to tour one of Colville's largest employer, Hewes Craft boats. With just 134 worker, putting out 18 boats a week...this is a pretty steady job.


I had a girl named Debra give me a tour while all the workers were out to lunch because it's very noisy when in production.
Debra also said that because of the intellectual property, I was only allowed one photo.
Hewes Craft, started by Bob and Ralph Hewes, shortly after WWII because Bob wanted a fishing boat and there was an abundance of aluminum after the war. Today it is run by the second generation of Hewes, Bill and Dave Hewes.

This was my one photo and the end of the line with a finished craft in the background. I will tell you that it is a complicated process and they only make fishing boats, but some folks use them in other recreation.

All the next few photos were taken at a dealer here in town. Hewes Craft does not sell to the public, only to about 45 dealers here in the West and they are not cheap...this 21 foot hardtop with a single 200 Yamaha was $56,000. Hewes Craft sells the boats to the dealer with all accessories minus the outboard engines, the dealer must put this on. The only model they sell with the engine, is the 18' and 20' jet boats. The boats come lengths from 16' to 26'.

Here is a soft top model. Hewes makes everything from the v-beam up, including the fabric tops. Each top is hand made because all the boats are hand welded for strength, but because of that, each cabin may be off by a 1/4 inch or so...and just that little of a difference requires each boat have its own custom hand made top.

I did not see one bolt or rivet anywhere on this boat...a tremendous amount of welding...nearly all of it by hand.

I took this from their website...apparently at one time they used rivets. It was an interesting tour and after seeing the amount of work going into the process of making these boats, I can see why they would be out of my league.