Video: Coming to America for the BIG Surprise

By: leelefever on November 28, 2006 - 8:19am

Man oh man, did the 50th wedding anniversary surprise work perfectly. After planning on it for over a year with my brothers(even before we left) it was so wonderful to see my parents' reaction - particularly my Mom's.

As I described before, we told my parents that we would be abroad until Christmas and would miss their anniversary party. In order to understand how big of a surprise it was when we were revealed, you just have to watch the video. I can't watch it without getting a little misty.

We've Been Lying to You, Dear Reader

By: leelefever on November 27, 2006 - 7:12am

I'm sorry that we have had to deceive you for so long, but it was required so that we could give my Mom what she described as "one of the biggest thrills of her life" on her 50th wedding anniversary.

You see, she is a devoted reader of TwinF and in order to fool her, we had to fool everyone into believing that we would be abroad until Christmas. In fact, we spent Thanksgiving in New York and took a train to North Carolina last Friday.

For instance, the little box on the home page says "351 days en route and in San Sebastian, Spain."  A complete untruth.

In Sachi's recent post...

Tomorrow we are catching a train to Zaragoza and Pamplona for just a night or two each on our way to San Sebastian on Spain's northern coast. A BOLD FACED LIE.

 Like I said, we did it to pull off a big surprise. This weekend my parent's celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and they believed we would not make it home for the event.  Of course, we would not miss it and planned to attend-by-surprise before we left. So we planned all this over a year ago - all so that we could see this reaction...





(all photos by our friend Greg Parks) 

I hope you'll forgive us.  We'll have a video of the trip home and the surprise coming soon.  From here, we drive across the country to Seattle over next next 2-3 weeks (the truth, I swear!)

Fish Farming at Blue Ridge Fish Hatchery

By: leelefever on December 29, 2005 - 5:50pm
My family's business, Blue Ridge Fish Hatchery, often inspires a bit of curiousity in those that hear about it.  Blue Ridge is one of the nation's largest and highest quality producers of Koi, or japanese carp, and this post is all about Blue Ridge and how it raises and sells fish.

A Little History

My Dad, Wyatt LeFever, grew up around fish farming.  His grandfather founded a company called Berry Water Gardens which became a national supplier to the pet industry and sold mostly tropical (warm water) fish for aquariums.  He saw a niche to sell goldfish, which are cold water fish, also for aquariums.
In 1958 he founded Blue Ridge Fish Hatchery and became one of a small number of organizations to sell goldfish in the US.  In the past 48 years Blue Ridge has experienced a lot of growth, innovation and a few diseases. The biggest innovation was the Butterfly Koi, which you can read about here.  Over the years, Koi have become the specialty of Blue Ridge, and most end up in garden pools across the country.
In the last 5 years my brother Randy and uncle Rick have become the sole owners and operators of Blue Ridge. 

Hatching and Raising Fish

As a hatchery, Blue Ridge breeds fish. The company has breeder fish that are put together in the spring and a few weeks later, eggs are gathered and hatched in high tech hatching cones.  Once the baby fish or "fry" reach a certain size, they are turned out into the ponds to mature.  
The fish are then fed (via automated feeders) from a consistent part of the pond. Over time, this teaches them to come to a particular corner when a truck arrives.  When it comes time to harvest the fish, a net with weights on the bottom and floaters on the top called a "seine" is stretched across the corner of the pond trapping the fish. They are placed in buckets and into trucks that haul them to the distribution facility where they are sorted by size and color.
Selling Fish
The fish are kept in vats until they are sold.  The vats have a constant supply of water that is constantly filtered with biological and ultra violet radiation filters, ensuring health.
Once the fish are ordered, they are counted and packed into plastic bags filled with oxygen and placed inside cardboard boxes.  The vast majority are shipped on commercial airline freight across the country.
Not all the fish sold by Blue Ridge are raised by the company.  A percentage are raised in Arkansas and resold by Blue Ridge.
To give you an idea of the scale, Blue Ridge may sell over 20 million fish in a year.  The biggest market in the last 10 years has been in Koi for garden ponds, though a higher percentage of normal goldfish are sold as "feeder" fish, which are bred for the purpose of feeding bigger fish.

About Koi

Koi orginated in Japan and is a colorful version of the common Carp, which can be found in lakes and rivers around the world.  Today Japan remains the leader in high quality Koi, some of which compete in shows and competitions.  Blue Ridge's breeders or "brood stock" are bought in Japan and shipped to North Carolina to become the parents of the Koi Blue Ridge sells.
You can read a recent interview with my brother Randy here
Here some other pictures...
This photo of various Koi was taken in the pool in the next picture...
Sachi and Koi at my parent's house in Kernersville... 

Southern Hospitality and Fish Farms

By: leelefever on December 28, 2005 - 7:55am
There are a few parts of the country near my hometown that are perfect examples of smalltown and rural America.  In fact, my Mom is from the area that most people know as Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show, called Mt. Airy, which is about an hour away. 
Near the border of North Carolina and Virgina are rural areas with farms, country roads, old tobacco barns and rolling hills.  The place has a down-home country feel that is very much a part of my family. You will never meet nicer and more welcoming people than folks from this part of the country. They are almost dripping with southern hospitality and have a lot of pride in their country ways. It's a culture all it's own.
Today we went to visit my uncle Rick and his family in Patrick County, Virginia, just across the border from NC. He runs the product side of the fish hatchery and has his own little paradise nestled in the hills, complete with a deer hunting stand called "the condo". Tonight we heard about 20 stories over beer, chicken and dumplings, mustard greens and cornbread - good ole country cookin. Thanks Sheila!
Sachi and I spent the afternoon exploring the fish farm on a 4 wheeler.  On this particular farm there are about 60 ponds at about 1-3 acres each. Lots of water.  It's one of about 5 fish farms.
I always say that going up to my uncle's place is a cultural expereince, especially for Sachi, who loves being there, but has a hard time understanding everyone when they speak.

LeFever Christmas Traditions

By: leelefever on December 27, 2005 - 9:47am
A few years ago, after visiting home around the holidays from Seattle, I realized all the traditions that my family has around Christmas.  Previously the flow of holiday events had been just that- the things we do every year-  just normal flow.
As I grow older, the traditions and the effort to keep them going mean so much more.  Sometimes they are reminders of all the values we hold up at this time of year and other times they are the small things that, taken out of context, seem almost meaningless.
Below are some of our traditions, the vast majority of which I have practiced every year of my life.
Christmas Eve Breakfast-  For as long as anyone can remember and certainly longer than my 32 years, the men in our family have breakfast with the men in the Graves family. Though it might sound funny, we end up at the International House of Pancakes most of the time, where "Pigs in Blankets" are an annual fave.
Christmas Eve and Bama's - For the first time in 40 years or so, my Mom took over the Christmas eve dinner for about 50 people.  It's a huge crowd and over the last few years, we've started doing a gift exchange that we call a "White Elephant" exchange in Seattle. This year, we adopted the name "Dirty Santa", which is a bit freaky sounding. We laughed so hard at the gift tags where people had written "Dirty Santa" so that it looked like "TO: Dirty  FROM: Santa". 
Christmas Guns - Somewhere along the way, Santa started leaving toy guns in our stockings- you know the kind- they shoot those little orange suction cup bullets.  Every year, we end up running around the house shooting each other with the little suction cups things.  This year it was rubber bands.  Can you believe that none of us turned out to be murderers?
Christmas Breakfast - My Mom busts out the goods and we all look forward to bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, biscuits, gravy, coffee, fruit, mimosas. Mmmmm.
Christmas Movie - This one is only 8-10 years old but we try to see a movie on Christmas day.  As it turns out, the tradition is much more about trying to see the movie we pick and having to settle for something like "Dude Where's My Car?" - true story. We tried for King Kong this year (note "tried").
Christmas Malaise - We always seem to have some virus spreading through the family and I find myself oh-so-vulnerable being from another state.
Sachi and I are always thinking about new traditions we can start for our  (future) family but it seems like the best ones aren't created, but just show up.   

Koi Men and Old Friends

By: leelefever on December 24, 2005 - 9:28am
It's good to see old friends and family, ya know? That is one of the big reasons we made the trek back to the Southeast US, which is actually the opposite direction of all our future travels in the next year. I grew up in the SE and a lot of best friends from college and grad school are scattered across the region.
From Cary, Ocean Isle and Chapel Hill, NC and Charleston, SC the overwhelming feeling I got was that everyone is all growns up. (The phrase "all gowns up" is from the movie Swingers, if you're wondering).  Kids, dogs, houses, wives - I'm proud see the my homeys get their life on.  We owe everyone a big thanks for the hospitality. Luckily, a couple of folks, JJ and Casey, have done a ton of travel in SE Asia and plenty of stories to share.
The "Koi Man" truck- my Dad's Ford F-150 did a great job getting us around.  He really is a Koi Man.  My parents founded Blue Ridge Fish Hatchery in 1958 and since has been one the largest suppliers of goldfish and Koi to the US.  Along the way, my Dad, brother and uncle created a new variety of Koi with long flowing fins called the "Butterfly Koi". My brother got credit for coining the new name.  For more information, read the Origin of the Butterfly Koi.
I'll write about the fish hatchery again before we leave on the 30th bound for Hawaii.

Ice, Ice Baby

By: leelefever on December 16, 2005 - 9:00pm

We got into North Carolina on Independence Air after having to be de-iced on the tarmac in Washington Dulles.  Unfortunately, the de-icer got into the plane's exhaust and we had to go back to the gates for a while.  We finally made it in about 7pm last night (2 hours late), during an ice storm that blanketed everything but the roads in about an 1/8th inch of ice.  We've had enough ice for a while.  But we did get these pics...



After writing about trying to leave work behind, something funny happened tonight. We're staying with my cousin Bruce on our way to the coast and after pizza and a movie we went to bed.  What did we find in our guest room?  A wireless router.  So, here I am typing and Flickring away. Oh well.

Learning to Stop Working

By: leelefever on December 16, 2005 - 10:48am

We're temporarily at the house where I grew up in Kernersville, NC with my parents.  We're just about to leave for a road trip around the southeast to see friends.

I'm struck today, when I'm supposed to be relaxing at home, by my compulsion to check email, blog, upload pictures to Flickr and basically keep up with my online life.  I need to slow this trend down.

I think that I haven't really stopped working at all.  All the deliverables from my normal work world have been transitioned to to-dos on the trip.  I am drawn to fill gaps of relaxing by thinking about what I could do on the computer, even as I sacrifice more trip oriented activities.  I couldn't wait to have the feeling of not working, but it seems inescapable. 

As we said from the very beginning, we want to have a good trip more than a good web site and I have to keep that in mind.  Of course, I realize that I'm practicing that which I criticize about myself at this moment- it just feels good I suppose.

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