By Joanna Bastian

I have the distinct honor of being on call for jury duty this week. I’ve been on call for jury duty countless times in the last two decades, and I’ve never been selected to serve on a case. Perhaps the most memorable call for jury duty was a murder trial in the early 1990s. It was during finals week, so my college dean penned a note requesting my excusal, but the court held firm on requiring the completion of my civic duty. I attended the selection process and was dismissed after I admitted to reading every newspaper and magazine that had published details about the case.

The dismissal was probably for the best since the hearings were scheduled during finals week, but I’ve always thought of that case as, “the jury experience that got away.”

The practice of trial by jury has most likely been in place since the beginning of time — a community determining the fate of a person who has committed a crime against the group. The first community to document a jury was Athens, in 507 B.C. According to, up to 500 people were selected daily from a population of 40,000 to observe court proceedings and dole out justice. It’s a wonder that anything was accomplished — I imagine that it can be difficult to get 500 peers to agree on anything.

There’s no convenient segue for this next topic …

It may still be a wintry mix outside, but spring planning is in full swing all over the valley. On a recent stormy evening, we sat in front of the fire while poring over the seed catalog. Selections were made from the colorful pages of fruits, vegetables, and leafy herbs. A few days later a small box filled with seeds arrived in the mail. In the next few weeks, trays of moist soil will sprout tender shoots — the beginnings of delicious summer vegetables.

Last spring, my bees opted to disappear after a bear used their hive box as a lunch box. I don’t blame them for leaving, or the bear for snacking. He got a tasty meal, and I suspect the bees started over in one of the many dead hollow trees created by the Carlton Complex Fire. Bees still were plentiful in the garden and the meadow, just not in my hive boxes. I spent the season cleaning, repairing and repainting all the hive equipment while Steve Love built a beautiful new bee gate to secure my newly fenced in bee-yard.

This last week I excitedly put in a bee order with Peter Jennings. I can hardly wait to see the girls hard at work in the delicate blossoms of the fruit trees, on the yellow manes of dandelions, and among the wild roses and mock orange.

Last November, I interviewed the unforgettable May Ellen Libby Smith. She passed away peacefully on Jan. 8, 2018. Her story can be read online here:


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