“A message to all members of Transition Whatcom
Volunteers Needed for May Event!
The Transition Whatcom Organizing Group is planning for a special event in
May (targeted for May 13th/14th/15th) that would bring together the entire
Transition Whatcom membership for a weekend of teaching, learning, doing and
sharing- with a focus on energizing Our Personal Transitions (OPT). If you
are interested in helping to organize and/or work at the event please let us
know! You can email Warren Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on
the volunteer list. Thanx!
Save the Date – Second Transition Whatcom Assembly
March 27th, 2011, 1PM – 4PM
The Assembly is a quarterly meeting, and the opportunity for group leaders
or representatives to inspire and inform others of your Workgroup’s progress
towards learning, sharing and helping our community develop the skills it
can use to transition towards a more aware, less energy-intensive way of
living. The Assembly is open to all, but we will ask all group leaders or
reps to tell us about what they’ve been exploring over the last three
months. For more details review the minutes from the first Assembly meeting
located on the TW Ning site (under TWOG Schedule Discussion, 12/11/10)
and/or email Warren Miller at email@example.com for more
information on the structure of our transition model.
Location to be announced.
Organic Strawberry Planting Workshop at Spring Frog Farm:
March 19th 10AM-4PM
Local organic farm is developing workdays once a month for the purpose of learning through hands-on experience and reaping the bounty of the final product. During the month of March, we will conduct a strawberry planting day and request a minimum of 8-12 willing participants. In return, each person actively participating will receive a Free Strawberry U-pick day of up to $40 in value (16lbs of strawberries.) Bring your gloves, water, a potluck dish or snack item, and of course enthusiasm and smile.
5709 Putnam Road, Everson, WA 98247
At the Lummi Island Grange this past Wednesday, Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen opened the meeting with an entertaining impression of Bill Clinton saying that he “felt our pain.” Clearly, if he hasn’t felt it he has at least heard about it, or read about it. He’s a mellifluous reader and read us several letters as part of his thirty minute recap of what has taken place since about 1988 or maybe as early as 1982. The best letter was one he had written just before coming to the island last evening where he asked the BIA to sign the dang lease. Mike S., in the following Q and A complimented the County Executive on the letter but pertinently wondered why he hadn’t written it a year and a half ago when this issue first came up. There were other letters including one the Lummis sent in 1978 theatening to stop the ferry in 60 days. To paraphrase: “We get these all the time,” said the guys from the County. Not to worry.
There was a discussion of the “traffic safety issue” that the Tribe keeps raising but we learned that the documented fact that Lummi Islanders don’t cause any of the accidents is irrelevant because the Lummis believe it is true, leading any objective observer to conclude that the Tribe’s approach to negotiating is faith-based. The faith of our brethren across the Passage is matched by the faith of Islanders who believe that the Feds will ride to the rescue. This is what Mr. Kremen hopes will happen too, as he has met with our Congressman and talked to our Senators (and written to the BIA).
He offered the news flash that it’s kind of frustrating dealing with the Lummi Nation. As evidence he relayed an anecdote about a meeting with the new Business Council Chairman who spent an hour and a half in Mr. Kremen’s office asking for help on social issues without mentioning that that very day he had signed a letter threatening closure of the ferry. I felt Mr. Kremen’s pain on that one.
Since pretty nearly each of the eighty or so Islanders who attended the meeting is an expert on the history of the ferry, the status of ferry negotiations, the traffic safety study, the currents and the tides plus every bump on Haxton Way, there really wasn’t much new to take away from last night.
Mr. Kremen’s pitch to the BIA was good, excellently written (and well-read). The County Attorney seemed to say that the Lummis might try and filter traffic after the April deadline. That is, they might try to limit who can use the ferry, i.e. students, sick or dying people, possibly commuters. But then it sounded like only the BIA has the authority to evict and that process would wind along a pre-described path. Kremen alluded to the possibility of the Lummis’s marina (and maybe the ferry) being located at Sandy Point. Curiously, no one followed up on this or tried to find out identity of an unnamed, well-connected to the Tribe businessman who Mr. Kremen had offered to “help.”
When asked if there was a “contingency plan” they said there was but didn’t give us the details. When asked about Fairhaven he said that a passenger ferry could make it but the Chief would probably sink—or maybe he said it could not go very often. But we knew all of that.
All in all I would say that Mr. Kremen did a yeoman’s job of recapping where we are today and how we got there and of eating up the clock in doing so. We learned that Dan Gibson is losing sleep over the ferry and that Frank Abart would just as soon sit in the back of the room. Barbara Brenner wisely kept silent because we like her already and there’s no reason in the world to mess that up.
In 2007, long time gardener and former Lummi Island resident Krista Rome decided to find out if dry beans and grains could be grown in our area. Her project was successful. Working on a 100′ x 100′ plot of borrowed land near Everson she began to experiment with different grains and varieties of beans. As every vegetarian knows, combining beans and grains provides a complete protein and is one of the answers to the meat eater FAQs: “How do you get your protein, anyway? Aren’t you afraid you might die if you don’t eat meat?”
Krista isn’t a vegetarian but she recognizes that if necessity requires her to live lower on the food chain a reliable source (that is, something you grow yourself) of beans and grains will be very important. Whatever you think about vegetarianism you might have to admit that it can be a valuable survival skill. It’s comforting to know, for example, that you will not die if you don’t have meat on the table. Beans may not be your thing but it’s nice to have a good supply of tasty beans on hand. (I will not revisit the bean soaking and cooking controversy generated by my quintessential blog post, “Thinking About Beans“).
Being able to grow grains on the island could turn out to be very important in the future—important if you’d like to have a slice of bread or a tortilla once in awhile (Krista has also grown dent corn, used for making flour).
The Backyard Bean and Grain Project was successful enough that Krista now has seeds for sale. If there is enough interest we could do a group order which I would be happy to coordinate.
Here are Krista’s lastest seed descriptions. From this pdf file you can make choices about dry beans you would like to grow.
Also helpful are these photographs of the seeds also in a pdf file.
In 2008 Krista posted a detailed report on her first test year on the Whatcom Farmers Yahoo group discussion board.
She describes in much more detail (in a Word document) how the crops were grown, maintained and harvested. Very helpful in making decisions about specific seeds.
Master Gardener, Ginny Winfield, who coordinates the Gardener’s Network on Lummi Island would like to get Krista to the Island soon to put on a program for the group.
Finally, here’s an order form you can print to use to order seeds from the Back Yard Bean and Grain Project.
While we gather tonight at the Grange to discuss how to protect our way of life on Lummi Island, that is, maintaining the ferry as a virtual bridge so we can go to town and come back whenever we want to, keep in mind that there are big things happening in the world that could change things in a way that could affect us here on our small island. The problem is FOOD. While we’ve been talking Peak Oil, Peak Water and Peak Everything, Peak Food has snuck up on us, caused an uprising in Egypt and forcing governments around the world to take action to curb exports.
While some of us have been encouraging building up one’s personal pantry entire nations are now hoarding food.
“When it comes to rice, India, Vietnam, China and 11 other countries have limited or banned exports. Fifteen countries, including Pakistan and Bolivia, have capped or halted wheat exports. More than a dozen have limited corn exports. Kazakhstan has restricted exports of sunflower seeds.”
A bigger problem than not having thirty minute ferry service to Gooseberry Point may be not having anything to buy when you get across to the other side.
King TV was recently here to do a story on the ferry. I was on for four seconds talking about growing more food. It wasn’t a bad sound bite. But when they asked me about the ferry I said that I thought our ferry crisis was a metaphor for what the entire country might face soon.
It’s disappointing that, seemingly, the majority of Lummi Islanders are spending their energy trying to preserve the status quo at a time when big changes are facing not just us, our state and country, but the entire world when it comes to energy, sustainability and self-reliance.
The Gardener’s Network on Lummi Island (which all gardeners and wannabee gardeners are encouraged to join) recently met for a seed exchange. I missed it and was disappointed because I had a five gallon bucket of seed packets to share. In my euphoric new gardener state of a few years ago I ordered most of the seeds available in the Uprising Seed and Territorial Seed catalogs. At least it looks that way. So, I was left with 100 packets of 2008 seed.
In an earlier blog I suggested a method of testing the seed to see if it was viable. I decided I better practice what I’ve preached and have, for the last week, been testing my seeds to see what is good and what is bad. I have laid out the details on my garden blog here so that you can try it yourself.
There is a lot of interest in seed these days with all the GMO stuff in the news. Apparently, Montsanto and two other companies are trying to corner the market on seed maybe even with the help of the Gates Foundation. Organic groups are worried that certain federal laws will inhibit the ability of people to grow organic crops and save and share heirloom seeds. Although the idea of growing “illegal” vegetables seems preposterous; as preposterous as sanctions against pot must seem to a Rastafarian.
Discussing seeds and TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it), Steve Solomon recently pointed out that: “Vegetable seeds are small, light-weight, (can be) long-lasting VALUABLE items that are easy to transport and store. The sort of items, like sewing needles, that can be carried long distances by back pack distributors. I expect good vegetable seeds might travel long distances even in horse-and-wagon economics.” He also said, “In my opinion, the end of the world as we know it will not involve the end of the vegetable seed business.” My guess is he is right. If there is ever and attempt to really control and monopolize seed there will be a healthy black market for vegetable seed.
That said, it’s a good time for us to buy some and learn to save some. I don’t know how but intend to learn. And, as soon I get more information I will be reporting on The Backyard Beans and Grain Project (BBGP) where a young grower in Everson is experimenting with regaining local knowledge and learning how to grow beans and grains with minimal irrigation and even on marginal soils.
The Heritage Trust Board has given their enthusiastic approval to Thurid Clark’s proposal to rehabilitate the orchard at the Curry Preserve. So, this is no longer an ad hoc initiative of the transition team but “The Heritage Trust Orchard Project at the Curry Preserve.” Those of us who proposed the idea are very thankful that the Trust Board has not only endorsed the idea but allocated funds for clearing the blackberries that are in the way of planting trees. Yesterday a group of orchard stewards met with Heritage Trust staff to iron out the details.
Clearing should be finished by mid-March. Then Heritage Trust volunteers will take over grading, pulling blackberry root balls, seeding grass, digging holes, sifting dirt, and planting, staking, fencing and maintaining the trees. There will be costs involved in buying the trees and the stakes and metal fence posts and fencing materials. If anyone has fencing material they would like to donate we would be interested in hearing about it.
We will also need to raise some cash to purchase the trees and fencing material. We don’t have a firm estimate of costs yet but the guesstimate is $60-$75 per tree. There is room for approximately 20 semi-dwarf trees. At the most we would need to raise $1500 to complete the project. Tax free donations can be made to the Lummi Island Heritage Trust and designated for “the orchard project.”
This is an important community project and an exercise in self-reliance, a chance to make an investment in a community food source for years to come. Hopefully, readers of this blog will see the value of these additional trees and help with a contribution of money or material to The Lummi Island Heritage Trust. And, The Heritage Trust will, of course, welcome any volunteers who want to be apple tree stewards.
It’s nice in times of bad news to find a bit of optimism. What follows is an interesting take on the news and future by a blogger who finds 12 REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC:
“Here are twelve reasons why I remain optimistic in spite of all the bad news and scary stories. I am not in denial about the bad news, nor do I think we shouldn’t note and comment upon the situations coming upon us, but I also think that it’s important to keep such things in perspective.
1. Reality is very complex. . . . and there are limits to what we can know. I don’t understand why the system didn’t collapse 30 years ago. I don’t understand why the US and Russia did not have a massive nuclear war. As much as I want to be a “know-it-all”, my lack of understanding is a commentary on the limitations of my observation and knowledge. We can’t see all the details of our threats and how they interact to create a dysergistic downwards spiral. . . but we also can’t see all the details of the solutions at play, and how they interact to mitigate dysergy/dystopia. Complexity theory is, well, complex, but one thing that is evident is the ability of seemingly small and insignificant actions to have far-reaching effects (cf the “butterfly effect”).
2. The mainstream media report a distorted version of reality from the perspective of the ruling authorities. While there are occasional exceptions to the rule, the mainstream media are as dominated by our ruling authorities as the media of the old Soviet Union. Perhaps the primary difference is that our mainstream media are controlled by various factions of ruling authorities, so what we are getting as “news” is actually arguments among the ruling authorities. Why is this good news? Because we know it is so, and it’s not just “we” as in “those actively concerned about sustainability”. Mainstream news media credibility is low and getting lower all the time.
3. We have a “sidestream” media that tells us the rest of the story. A million flowers of hope are blooming out there, but you will only find them by looking for them in the sidestream media. They won’t be fed to you on the evening national news.
4. The powers that be are not nearly as smart and omnipotent and omniscient as they want everyone to believe they are. Here again, a good example is the old Soviet Union. Their ruling elites had massive state resources at their control. They could literally do anything they wanted with their natural and economic resources. The Soviet Union had a well-established system of terror complete with concentration camps to compel obedience. Yet, the day came when the inherent contradictions of their system overwhelmed them, and they collapsed of their own stupidity, greed and venality. In our present situation, the evidence is abundant that the various factions of our powers that be are as clueless as the Romanoffs in 1917 or the French aristocracy in the late 18th century. We are full-on in the middle of a classical case of imperial over-reach, and as it is said, those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. Our aristocracies are not learning from the mistakes of history, so they are repeating them, and that means that they are doomed. They have been weighed in the balances and found wanting, their days are numbered, their kingdoms will be divided and given to others.
5. We have a dense and robust civil society system that provides an alternative source of authority and direction as an alternative to the powers that be. While certainly some parts of that civil society are core members of various factions of our ruling authorities, there is a tremendous amount of non-ruling authority organizational activity at play in our system. The historical tragedy of the Soviet collapse is that they had no civil society to step into the breech and point the way to a better future, so they got stuck with a form of gangster capitalism that is slowly evolving back to a Soviet-style political tyranny. In our situation, as the establishment crumbles, alternative structures are being created all around us. We are learning what we need to do right now, before major crisis/collapse comes upon us. That gives us the opportunity to possibly stage a managed recovery, and to mitigate the risk of outright collapse.
6. We have the internet. The internet and its quick and ubiquitous global connections is a structure whose invention is as much a turning point in history as was the creation of the first printing presses, and for many of the same reasons. I am a nobody, a pissant Oklahoma rednecked peasant with an education and an attitude, yet every year, more than a million people from 108 different countries find their way to one or more of my websites and download an average of three pages of information, and this has been going on for years. My printable flyers alone have been downloaded more than 150,000 times. And there must be ten million or more folks just like me, using the internet to organize, agitate, activate, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Consider the phenomena associated with Wikileaks. One tyrant has already been deposed, and more are reportedly at risk, all because of the bravery of one soldier in the trenches of the Middle East, and the distributed internet structure of the Wikileaks organization. That’s inspiration!
One my goals for 2011 is to get into beekeeping. I’m a bit nervous about this. On the other hand, during my three seasons of veggie gardening I’ve become very comfortable with bees, working closely with them and among them, planting flowers to attract them to the garden, studying their behavior and enjoying their industriousness. They are inspiring, really, like squadrons of WOOFERS working the blossoms, single minded in their pursuit of pollen. I haven’t figured out where they live. Perhaps some of them come from Dorothy’s hive across the road. Possibly they live in nearby trees. But I want to provide them a home closer to the garden and eventually ask them to share a bit of honey. It seems fair. I’m more or less providing the pollen.
On my list of things to do was, “Attend a meeting of the Mt Baker Beekeepers,” which I did last Wednesday. I went to the wrong location at first, not having checked their website recently. But a quick check of the internet via my useful smart phone caused me to turn the car around and race to the Moose Club near the airport. I managed to get there almost on time. I expected a small group, maybe five or six people, but was surprised to walk into the large Moose meeting room in the back of the clubhouse to find nearly forty people assembled to talk about bees. There was a good talk on the “hardware” one needs to get started. The fellow on my right was very helpful in whispering footnotes to the talk (he smoked me immediately as a wanna beekeeper). The guy on my left was from Gooseberry Point. There were obviously many knowledgeable bee people in the room as well as newbies like myself.
We first timers were asked to introduce ourselves. There was one fellow who wandered in late with a roast beef sandwich on a plate who in his introduction said he was running sixteen hives and was looking for places to put them. I was going to find out more about that as it seems an easy way to get bees (let someone else do it) but he ate his sandwich and left early. I noticed he was wearing what looked like pajamas underneath his trousers. Odd, I thought. Maybe some kind of beekeeper costume that I must get.
The Mt. Baker group is a good source of information on local beekeeping. A good website. The Mt. Baker group is into conventional beekeeping equipment, the stacked(Langstroth) hives that we are used to seeing. Based on the inspiration of my nephew and the fact that he is building me a hive and says he is going to bring me a swarm of bees, I’m going to start with a top bar hive. There are advantages and disadvantages to the different types of hives. The disadvantage of the Top Bar hive is less honey. Also, it is comb honey which makes it a bit harder to process. But, you don’t need an extractor and you get wax as a bonus. In addition, the hives are lighter and easier to care for.
There is, of course, endless information on bees on the web. I think these posts from our garden blog are interesting. Here’s one and another . This site shows you how to build a top bar hive which doesn’t look too hard.
In summary, honey: good. Pollination: good. Bee stings: not all that bad.
If Lummi Island were uninhabited and preparing for human development today, and if we could design from scratch, how would we deal with transportation issues? Would we assume, for example, that gasoline would always be readily available and cheap? Would we want our transportation link to the mainland to connect us to a sovereign nation not our own? Or, would we rather travel to a natural trading center? Would we design our connection to the mainland based on our historical ability to go where we want when we want in a private passenger automobile? Or, would we try to build some sustainability into our system? Would we ask ourselves what system of transporting people and equipment to and from the island will be the most affordable and efficient over the long term?
On the island itself, there is not much we can do. No little town or commercial center ever developed here. There is a dearth of property available for any commercial activity. We suffer the additional handicap of not having a natural harbor that can serve the populated portions of the island. We do have lots of land that could be used to grow significant amounts of our own food. However, from a transportation standpoint, geography is not our friend, placing us behind Portage Island and a mere half mile away from the Lummi Nation, creating the illusion that Gooseberry Point is the best place to go. If there were a town at Gooseberry Point, or if Ferndale were a few miles closer, continuing ferry operations on the shortest distance between two points would make sense, assuming that we would have cheap fuel to run our beloved private conveyances forever. This isn’t likely. Ferndale isn’t going to get closer and a town with basic services will not develop at Gooseberry Point. Likewise, public transportation to Gooseberry is not likely to improve.
The Lummis are in a strong political position to tell the County to take a hike. We can shake our angry little fists at the Feds and demand that they help but it should be obvious by now that they won’t. It’s always been clear that the Lummis don’t want the dock any more, don’t want the traffic and may not need the money. They apparently don’t want to run a ferry service either (except, perhaps, for their own employees who live on the island). Becoming more obvious is the notion that the County doesn’t want to be in the ferry business.
As an island we’ve been waiting and lobbying for someone to solve our problem. The County has problems larger than the Lummi Island ferry. With a sinking tax base just about everything they do is going to be a problem. The Ferry Task Force will no doubt discover that there are all sorts of accounting problems with the way the money has been allocated. This will increase the tension between Lummi Island and the County. Ultimately, we might have to solve our own transportation problem.
We could start by proactively doing the staff work necessary to determine the feasibility of a passenger ferry from Lummi Island to Fairhaven. My gut feeling is that it is feasible and likely the most sustainable option for the long term.
Peak Moment TV interviews a baker in Olympia, Washington who has started a business using the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) format. A former school teacher gets the idea to sell baked goods, starts small and over a three year period builds a self-supporting business based on subscriptions, wholesale and farmer’s market sales. It’s a one person operation and like any food producing business appears to be hard, relentless work. But, like they say, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” In looking for ways to create jobs and business on the island the community supported model is an obvious choice. (The video is 27 minutes long).
I get inspiration from seeing what people can do in tiny spaces and with little resources using ingenuity and hard work to get the job done. If we ever get into survival mode these folk will be the real leaders in our communities. I strongly suspect that it won’t be long before knowledgeable gardeners and permaculturists will be our most important community assets.
I’ve blogged before about the dachniks in Russia and the Dervaes family in Pasadena. In the San Juans we have the example of S and S Homestead Farm on Lopez Island and the Bullock Brothers on Orcas Island. On my garden blog you can follow the activities of my niece and nephew who get everything one possibly can out of a small urban space in NE Portland using the permaculture model. They keep bees and help themselves to some honey and raise chickens.
Yesterday I finally had a chance to visit a friend’s garden in Honolulu. He and his wife rent a small house which sits on the grounds of the Korean temple high on a hillside overlooking the city. There is a small strip of land around the house that is being turned into a permaculture garden with mango, breadfruit, coconut, papaya, banana, manioc,taro, amaranth, beans, tomatoes and all kinds of green veggies.
Jeramai uses sheet composting and his chickens to create garden soil. He collects kitchen waste from food banks and has a large worm composting operation. He collects rainwater in drums he obtains at a local bakery. The rainwater feeds his clothes washer and the outflow keeps the worms moist. Grey water from the house, along with rain water is fed to the garden and the composting areas which border the property. More rainwater is dripped into drums that have been sliced in half to grow food hydroponically in a medium of rich volcanic gravel. He trains the chickens to eat the heinous nut grass and moves them about in a small chicken tractor to clear areas and fertilize planting areas. He makes compost tea from the worm castings and sprays fifteen gallons of this mixture onto his trees and plants every Saturday. There is also an ingenious mosquito trap, half a barrel filled with water and water lilies and guppies netted from a local stream. Mosquitoes are attracted to the water where they lay their larvae and the guppies gobble them up.
Jeramai is a permaculture teacher who has to make a living at the same time he turns his tiny spaces into a tropical food forest. What we saw he’d accomplished in just eight months. He did this with mostly found material: manures from ranches, food scraps from food banks, sawdust and chips from mills, used barrels from a bakery. It helps that he is a solar technician and an expert with pumps and irrigation. There is, of course, an advantage to gardening in the tropics where the growing season is twelve months and where one can expect copious amounts of water and sunlight. But to coax huge amounts of food from such a tiny space is quite an amazing achievement and should be an inspiration to everyone.
When all this matures he and his wife will be able to feed themselves from a few square feet of land and earns Jerimai a doctorate in sustainability.
Yesterday we took a two car hike from the mountain side downhill through a narrow Hawaiian valley ending at the ocean. Hawaii is lush, of course. Things grow amazingly fast. The valley provided a living demonstration of how nature will take over and obscure what man has made in a world without us. A book by that title, A World Without Us, illustrates how nature would come back strong if humans weren’t here to muck it up.
In the valley, we walked downhill on an old road that once lead to agricultural areas high in the valley. Occasionally, we would cross concrete pipes that probably brought water down from high in the watershed. There was little sign of man save for the places where the road crossed the stream bed.
At these fords (I think there were seven of them) an amazing amount of work had been done paving the ford with stepping stone pieces of lava rock and cementing them in. But the human activity was no more. Mountain orchids grew alongside the trail.
The WOOFERS who were hiking with us feasted on lilikoi (passion fruit) they found on the ground. There were both red and yellow varieties. Noni fruit was frequent though not yet ripe.
Giant mango trees grew alongside the trail. There was an occasional banana tree which may have been a clue to what had been cultivated in the past. Another clue was the coffee bushes, tall, leggy things that featured ripe red fruit that we picked and ate, seed and all.
Clearly, there had been a wide road and fords and plumbing. But it was all gone, the road to the valley cut off and posted, hemmed in by a botanical garden on the ocean side and the Army’s Striker Road at the top. It was jungle again as it had been before humans had gone up the valley to do their thing. Tall trees, big leafy plants, vines and mosquitos. A world almost without us.
Lummi Island would take a little longer than Hawaii to send snowberries up through driveways, before the black berries and salmon berries wrapped around houses, sheds and barns and started to pull them down. But it would happen. Fields that aren’t mowed will be nearly taken over in one season.
This is kind of a hopeful thing. As much damage as we do, if we were all raptured away or sunk in a sunnami or covered with volcanic ash or wiped out by the Egyptian flu stuff would still grow, push through and cover up the mess we made of it.