Feb 282010

I’ve been gardening for only three years. Boy, have I learned a lot. Recently I learned that I’m pretty much doing it all wrong. (I’ll get into that much later because there is no point in causing confusion). And, even not doing it right we raised a ton of food.

The important thing with gardening is to get started. It’s not that hard. You don’t even need to dig if you don’t want to. Sheet composting or lasagna gardening works just fine. You start with newspaper or cardboard and layer leaves, dirt, compost, seaweed, sawdust or whatever. Cover it up with black plastic and over a relatively short period of time it will make dirt and you can grow something. The main thing I’ve learned is that stuff wants to grow. Seeds are compelled to sprout. Some dirt, some water and sun and you’ll have a crop. Later you can worry about getting everything just right.

You don’t need a big space either. You can grow a productive garden in pots. Many city people have turned their front or back yards (or both) into a productive garden. In fact, there is a business opportunity for an energetic gardener on Lummi Island to come in and build and maintain small vegetable plots for those who don’t have the time.

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Feb 272010

The Transition Town Movement focuses  locally, on community, on self-sufficiency and sustainability. The idea is to create a resilient environment that can react to change. The changes the Transition Movement worries about are Peak Oil, Climate Change and economic disruption. But the emphasis is on being prepared for whatever might happen.

The Transition Movement is based on a belief that we can’t continue to use energy at the same rate we have been using it. If you want the details you could jump ahead in The Crash Course to the chapter on Peak Oil. It takes 17 minutes to watch the video. If you are a fast reader you can probably  read the text faster.

Simply stated, if in the future we can’t just jump in our private auto and go where ever we want, we have to be working on some alternatives so that we can maintain a comfortable lifestyle. That’s all the Transition Movement is talking about. Whidbey Island has much progress in their Transition program and they document it in this short  feature:

Feb 262010

At dinner last night we had our first stinging nettles of the season. There were four of us at the table and each flavored the nettles (steamed) in a different way: butter and salt, salad dressing, vinegar or tamari.

Everyone enjoyed the nettles and because they are so abundant we will have them many more times while the leaves are young and tender. Some people say that nettles are about the healthiest thing you can eat and with organic kale and chard going for $1.99 for a small bunch it’s worth spending a few minutes harvesting a superfood for free.
“You’d have to eat a sink full of kale to get the protein in one serving of nettles.”

There’s lots of free food in the wilds of the Northwest and on Lummi Island. I own a fascinating book called Food Plants of the British Columbia Indians Coastal Peoples by Nancy J. Turner. It’s out of print and when I bought a used copy I had to pay fifty bucks! Right now on Amazon there are several copies for less than twenty.
The crux of this book is that the natives of the coastal NW learned to make use of most of the plants out there.

They smoked (in pipes) kinnikinnick leaves, dried salal berries for winter eating, boiled fern rhizomes, peeled the sprouts of salmon berries and thimble berries and used them raw and ate all the seaweeds.

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Feb 252010

Hat Island


Some people have self-sufficiency forced on them. Some apparently choose it.

Hat Island, aka Gedney Island, is located between Everett and Whidbey. Back in the fifties our church group used to make an annual pilgrimage to the Hat. We walked completely around the island, our chaperones trying to keep us out of trouble. Wasn’t much there in the fifties. In the sixties development started. Now, from my mom’s house in Everett I can see many homes on Hat. My mother likes to take a ride down to the waterfront and on summer weekends the Hat Island Express, their 90 person passenger ferry, loads up the weekenders. Those folks have walk-on ferry travel down to an art. They have dollies that hold up to four coolers, big luggage boxes on wheels and golf bags galore. Yes, Hat Island has a golf course. It’s a nine holer but they are quite proud of it and in these difficult financial times are trying to turn it into a profit center by allowing groups of up to forty to come over on Wednesdays for tournaments. They also lease their passenger ferry for party cruises and try to make it a profit center as well.

Hat Island also is fortunate enough to have a marina which they are about to expand. In addition to the passenger ferry they own a WWII vintage landing craft, a dump truck and a backhoe. They have a reverse osmosis water treatment plant.

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Feb 242010

Lummi Island collectively breathed a sigh of relief when the Whatcom County announced a new deal with the Lummi Tribe to use the Gooseberry Point dock for possibly another fifty years.

Why were we concerned? From late October to February we were faced with the possibility of a threat to the status quo, a change so dramatic that it would have altered life as we know it. We were concerned about transportation and supply, about medical care, about mainland activities, about real estate values and long term mobility. We were concerned about being cut off from the larger world.

The Whatcom Chief is literally our lifeboat. The idea that it could suddenly disappear seems not to have occurred to some people. Realistically, it is a tenuous connection, reliant on the financial health of the County, the willingness of County officials to support it, the motivation of the Tribe to host it and the physical condition of the boat itself. As far as I can tell from reading the excellent material on the Lummi Ferry Forum site by Jim Dickinson, there is no back up vessel for the ferry. If the Chief were to go down from maintenance or for any other conceivable reason we would be right back where we have been for the last three months faced with the harsh fact that Lummi Island is…well…an island.      Continue reading »