Apr 292011

I’m not talking about gold, silver and oil. What I’m going to suggest is that the next time you go to your favorite value store that you consider stocking up on four items: Epsom salts, baking soda, granulated sugar, apple cider vinegar.

These items aren’t terribly expensive and they are extremely useful with lots of applications. Epsom salts has real therapeutic value and can be applied in dozens of ways.   Some people find it useful in the garden as a plant stimulant because of the magnesium. However, as Mother Earth News points out one has to be very careful and only use Epsom salts if a soil test calls for it:

“You should never use Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), lime or other single-ingredient soil amendments unless you have had your soil  tested, and the results confirmed that you need to add that particular ingredient. Adding Epsom salts would benefit some soils, but it could     be harmful in others. The only way to know which situation you have is to get a soil test.”

Around our house, the Epsom salts bath is considered a big treat.

Dr. Mark Sirius has written an entire book on the medical uses of baking soda.  Dr. Sirius says:

“Baking soda is a neutralizer of many other compounds, which makes it extremely helpful as a medicine in the age of toxicity, which we are all presently passing through.”

Baking soda is, of course, alkaline. Most disease  thrives in an acid environment. Here’s a protocol which I’ve experimented with (with some success) to ward off illness.  Baking soda, as well as Epsom salts, can be helpful in cleansing radiation from our bodies.

“So useful and strong is sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) that at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, researcher Don York has used baking soda to clean soil contaminated with uranium.” Or, you can just use it as toothpaste. My favorite.

Sugar can give us the blues and be addictive as food but is useful as a preservative in the canning process.  One fascinating thing about sugar is that you can use it in emergency first aid to pack wounds, something that used to be done routinely and is now making a comeback.

Apple cider vinegar is one of nature’s medicines and can be used in dozens of ways
plus it doubles as a house hold cleaner. Most of the stuff we can calls for apple cider vinegar.

If you are trying to figure out some inexpensive items that keep well and will have a myriad of uses long term consider stocking big supplies of epsom salt, baking soda, granulated sugar and apple cider vinegar. As it happens all of these items are usually available at Costco in big packages or gallon jugs and at affordable prices.

Apr 272011

Lots going on:

Transition Whatcom
A message to all members of Transition Whatcom

Events and Recommended Readings

(A Peak Oil Update) from David MacLeod

Transition Whatcom Sponsored Events

April 26, Tuesday

Transition Ferndale Movie Night Presents: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MONTSANTO

April 26, 2011 from 6pm to 9pm – Whatcom Educational Credit Union -Ferndale A very important documentary at the time we face peak everything. This corporate goliath is one of the forces we face as we try to transition. From the poisons they sell to be spread far and wide,… Organized by peggy borgens | Type: potluck, and, movie

April 29, Friday

Food Forest workshop at Wild Thyme Farm

April 29, 2011 at 7pm to May 1, 2011 at 3pm – Wild Thyme Farm in Oakville WA Food production and ecology come together in the permaculture concept of a food forest. Using nature as our template, these intentional ecosystems offer an abundance of food, medicine, habitat, and s… Organized by Marisha Auerbach, Kelda Miller. Sponsored by Transition Whatcom | Type: permaculture, workshop, reskilling, educational, gardening, transition, restoration

April 30, Saturday

Transition Cafe!

April 30, 2011 from 6pm to 9pm – Public Market in downtown Bellingham Gather with Transition Whatcom folks to discuss our Transition efforts, ideas, visions, hopes, concerns, etc. An evening of informal conversation and sharing. Stay as long as you like. Organized by David Marshak | Type: cafe, conversations

May 2, Monday

Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP) Meeting #6

May 2, 2011 from 6pm to 8:30pm – Travis’ House Please join us for our EDAP Preparation Meeting. ANYONE WELCOME! WE encourage people to drop in and see what we are doing and see if they can get involved. 6:00 – 6:30 pm – social period 6:30 – 8:3… Organized by Travis Linds | Type: meeting

May 7, Saturday

The Economics of Happiness- Special Film Showing

May 7, 2011 from 3pm to 4:30pm – The Pickford Film Center

The May Transition Whatcom Spring Event kicks off with a special showing of the magnificent film, “The Economics of Happiness”, on Saturday May 7th at 3:00PM at the new Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St, Bellingham, WA 98225. The films message of localization and the growing efforts to create a more resilient and self reliant future speaks to the heart of the Transition Town movement. It’s a great way to spread the word about Transition, so make sure you invite your friends!

“A powerful new film that cuts deeply to the heart of the global crisis. Magnificent!” – David Suzuki

May 7th at 3:00PM at the new Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay…Organized by warren miller | Type: film, showing

May 13, Friday

Place Making Workshop with Michael Cook of Portland’s City Repair

May 13, 2011 from 10am to 4pm – Bellingham Food Bank Garden Michael Cook of Portland’s City Repair and Transition Whatcom are hosting this workshop on Placemaking. What is Placemaking, you say? From City Repair’s website (cityrepair.org) placemaking is a proc… Organized by Paul Kearsley | Type: workshop

May 14, Saturday

Transition Whatcom – 350 Home & Garden Challenge!

May 14, 2011 to May 15, 2011 – Several – To be announced We’ve received several great proposals, and will announce results later this week! Thanks for all proposals submitted! Transition US National Home and Garden Challenge is taking shape for the weekend…Organized by TWog | Type: community, event, and, celebration

Other Community Events on the TW Calendar

April 26, Tuesday

Plastics Pollution Reduction Month

April 12, 2011 at 6pm to April 30, 2011 at 7pm – The Sustainable Living Center and throughout The City of Bellingham Plastics Pollution Reduction Month April 2011, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and Bag It Bellingham are hosting a series of fun, alternative events which show you how you can re-use waste c… Organized by Hannah Coughlin | Type: event, series

April 27, Wednesday

Bellingham & the Cherry Point Coal and Dry Commodities Terminal

April 27, 2011 from 11:15am to 2:30pm – Northwood Hall Our April Program will explore the pros and cons of the proposed development of a large pier and cargo terminal at Cherry Point. A four person panel will share their views of the project: Bob Watters… Organized by Bellingham City Club | Type: panel, discussion, community, meeting/forum

Common Threads Farm Site Work Days

April 27, 2011 at 3pm to June 15, 2011 at 5pm – Bobbibrook Farm, Fairhaven Join us every Wednesday from 3-5pm at our urban farm site in Happy Valley where we run seed-to-table programs for kids. There is plenty of work to get done as we prepare for our best season yet, and… Organized by Tessa M Bundy | Type: work party

April 28, Thursday

SB Roving Garden Party – 4/28 – Fairhaven – 6pm

April 28, 2011 from 6pm to 9pm – Fairhaven SB Roving Garden Party – 4/28 – Fairhaven – 6pmJoin Sustainable Bellingham’s 3rd annual Roving Garden Party series, where volunteers help their neighbors create an edible garden. These fun events con… Organized by Sustainable Bellingham | Type: work, party, shared, meal, garden

April 30, Saturday
Spring Fever! Whatcom Plant Sales & Swaps!

April 30, 2011 at 9am to June 6, 2011 at 3pm – B’ham & County Spring Fever! Plant Sales & Swaps! Listing of local sales. Choose your favorites & mark your calendar. Click ‘follow’ to receive updates or join Earth Gardens network- http://transitionwhat… Organized by volunteers & neighbors | Type: plant, sales, &, seed/plant, swaps

RE Sources’ Sustainable Garden Series

April 30, 2011 from 9am to 1pm – The Sustainable Living Center Learn how to make your world more sustainable from the ground up through our series of garden-based classes and workshops. The six-part series will cover a variety of sustainable gardening technique… Organized by Hannah Coughlin | Type: educational, series

Using Raised Beds for Growing Food

April 30, 2011 from 10am to 12pm – Sonlight Community Church / North City Community Garden This event will begin with a brief lecture describing the benefits of using raised beds in your garden as well as good methods and techniques for building them. It will then conclude with an on-the-…Organized by Dave Timmer | Type: informational, event

April 30, Saturday

Beltane Celebration & Ritual
April 30, 2011 from 7pm to 10pm – Presence Studio Beltane Saturday April 30, 2011 7:00pm -10:00pm At Presence Studio 1412 Cornwall Street Adults: $5 suggested donation, children 12 and under are free. Celebration & Ritual Light the Fires of Ab… Organized by Ashley Tula Benem | Type: celebration, fundraiser.

May 1, Sunday

Plant Sale at Fairhaven Middle School!

May 1, 2011 from 12:30pm to 3pm – Fairhaven Middle School – Lower Soccer Field May Day plant sale (May 1st) at Fairhaven Middle School in the lower parking lot from 12:30 – 3pm. All proceeds from the event will benefit the school garden. There will be both ornamentals and edi… Organized by Deanna Lloyd | Type: plant, sale, fundraiser..

Encore Presentation “Bag It” – The Movie

May 1, 2011 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm – Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship Join us for an encore presentation of the award winning film “BAG IT – Is Your Life Too Plastic?”. Presented by the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship’s Green Sanctuary Program. Brooks Anderson from Ba… Organized by BUF Green Sanctuary Program | Type: film.

May 4, Wednesday
Horticulture Presentation with Birchwood Garden Club

May 4, 2011 at 7pm to December 7, 2011 at 9pm – Bellingham – Whatcom Museum The Birchwood Garden Club – Members Meeting (open to guests) – 7 pm – Whatcom Museum of History & Art. Monthly Presentation- check the website: http://www.birchwoodgardenclub.org/ Meets most 1s… Organized by members of Birchwood Garden Club | Type: presentation, &, meeting

The Coal Hard Truth Forum

May 4, 2011 from 7pm to 10pm – Bellingham Public Library Big Coal wants to ship millions of tons of coal per year through Cherry Point Terminal in Bellingham to Asia — spewing toxic coal dust, putting our safety at risk, clogging our railroads and ports,… Organized by Coal-Free Washington | Type: panel, discussion, informational, event.
Continue reading »

Apr 252011

A Warren Buffet Coal Train

I like the idea of trains but the Cherry Point coal dump is taking the train thing way too far. The RE Sources Fact Sheet is worth reprinting in full.

(Note: primary beneficiaries of this project will be Goldman Sachs* a major stockholder in SSA Marine and Warren Buffet**, owner of Burlington Northern Railway).

“If built, the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) will turn the rail systems of our local communities into high volume coal corridors.

Previously sparse coal traffic will dramatically and permanently ramp up, resulting in mile-and-a-half-long coal trains passing through these community up to 20 times a day every day for years to come. Worse — coal trains are smokestacks on wheels, known widely for releasing dust particles combined with diesel emissions that cover sur- rounding areas with sooty cancerous muck.

Because of the outrage this project will bring, much of the discussion about coal trains has been hidden from public view. It’s time for that to change. Please join us in voicing our support to keep trains, and coal, out of our communities.
SSA Marine’s proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point will handle between 24 and 50 million tons of coal annually. That’s enough coal to fill more than 3,000 loaded coal trains, each at least 1.5 miles long.

Shipping 50 million tons of coal annually would mean 18-20 additional coal trains rolling through Whatcom County and Bellingham’s waterfront every day.

What does this really mean? Big Coal will make HUGE profits, China will get the energy, but Whatcom County will pay the price. What price will we pay?

Continue reading »

Apr 222011

From a gardener’s standpoint April is often a disappointment. There are daffodils and lilacs opening up, of course. Occasional hints of warm weather that gets one all excited, then gusts of cold and even a snowflake or a bit of hail. Best to be patient. (Cliff Mass notes that this has been the worst spring ever).

It’s a good time to dig back into the gardening books, clean up the beds, make some fertilizer and potting soil or even some bokashi if you are so inclined.

I spend a lot of time each morning reading the discussion on some gardening newsgroups. As a result of the Fukishima disaster a new term has popped up—radiation gardening.

There’s much contradictory information about radiation clouds emanating from the Fukishima nuclear plants. Many experts tells us that these radiation clouds, if they exist, are not harmful. These same people also report that x-rays should not cause alarm. Logic tells me that if there is a dead zone around a melt down that radiation has the potential for short term and long term damage, that the effusions of Fukishima will end up somewhere whether it be air or water and, ultimately, have some adverse affect.

Thus, the attempt to be an organic gardener seems problematic. Should one worry so much about garden inputs if there is a future possibility of cabbages that glow in the dark as the result of fallout? For example, Steve Solomon’s Complete Organic Fertilizer calls for “cottonseed meal” as as one of the possible nitrogen sources. Yet cotton is a heavily sprayed crop that may even include Roundup in the mix. Is cottonseed meal really appropriate for an organic garden? I’m still using it but having questions. On the other hand, if assorted radioactive particles are dropping on the garden with the rain, how much should I worry about cottonseed meal and its nasty constituents?

Radiation gardening calls for greenhouses and hoop houses. We’ve had a greenhouse on the drawing board for some time but can’t seem to get traction with the idea. There’s problems with location, wind, design, etc. Clearly, though, a greenhouse is a good idea. This fellow’s very simple design has some appeal.

In a polluted, radiated world the Israelis seem to be on top of the situation with vast greenhouse installations which you can view by downloading this pdf file.

This time of year gardening is task number one. I’ve moved from not knowing anything to not knowing exactly how I want to go about it. Still in the experimentation stage. But I am clear that effective gardening has three main aspects: biological, mineral and energetic. It’s not enough just to dump a bunch of compost on the garden if you want to grow the most nutritious food. More on this to come.

Apr 202011

Schuyler checking a hive

I’ve spent the last three garden seasons working along with the bees. I enjoy watching their activity in the garden. The bees and I work side by side, each to his own tasks. We plant lots of sun flowers and other colorful items to attract these critters. We have three beds in the garden dedicated to flowers plus two towering lilacs, some apples and a plum tree. We seem to get lots of bees even though one reads that bees are dying at a rapid rate. So far they’ve been thick in the garden.

I wonder where they live. There are not that many beekeepers on the island. There’s lots of competition for these wild bees. It seemed natural to provide a home for some bees near the garden.

A few of us have been having a bee hive building party hammering together four top bar bee hives. Top bar hives are an alternative to the traditional Langstroth hive. You won’t get as much honey from a top bar, but the pollination will be just as good and you won’t have to fuss around as much as you will with a Langstroth set up. And, the top bar people claim they have fewer problems with mites and viruses. One reason may be that the Langstroth hive has pre-printed frames for the bees to work on. The cells in these frames are 5.4mm while the cell size found in nature is 4.9mm. Bees build comb from scratch under the bars of the top bar hive. They have to spend a lot of time making wax. Thus, there is less honey to be harvested from the top bar.

Colony Collapse Disorder has been in the news frequently with all manner of theories as to why bees are failing at such a rapid rate. I subscribe to the view of Greg Willis who summarizes the problem of CCD this way:

“CCD has two Root Causes. The first and major cause of CCD comes from environmental and agricultural chemicals, poisons and pollution entering and invading honeybee DNA and the hive.

The second and lesser cause of CCD are unnatural honeybee management practices that stress honeybees and weaken their immune systems. These can include everything from poor hive box designs, unnaturally sized preformed cell foundations, plastic foundations and boxes that off gas into hives, hybridizing, transport practices, transportation vibrations, availability of seasonal herbaceous perennial native flowers, temperature, distance the hive is from the ground, geographic location, the feeding of artificial food and in general, most if not all of the unnatural practices of modern industrial bee keeping. These practices, in concert with invasive and destructive environmental pollutants, together, weaken honeybees to the point where Nature must remove the weaklings if the honeybee is to survive.

The sources of the problems are enormous and will ultimately require a general overhaul of agriculture, industry, fishing, air, land and water management, government and military practices and in general, the reduction and eventual elimination of all sources of pollution on the planet – if honeybees are to survive.”

Mr. Willis isn’t all that happy with top bar hives either and recommends something of a more cylindrical nature, trying to match the environment of a hollow tree. I’m not quite that clever so will work with the top bar for the time being.

A top bar hive isn’t so hard to make. It’s basically a box up to four feet wide with tapered sides and a mesh bottom. A series of bars span the top of the box. The bees build their comb on the bars. You build a roof to enclose the entire thing. Most people buy a package of bees—about three pounds (10,000) bees and a queen. I ordered a package through the local beekeepers group (Mount Baker Beekeepers Association) and will get the package on April 28. The excitement is building. This video shows how you get the bees from the package to the hive. I was impressed that this guy wore no protective clothing. I think I’ll probably suit up.


A package of bees costs $85-90. A cheaper way to get bees is to catch a swarm, something I would like to try if I don’t have to climb a tree or hang by my heels to coral them. My nephew Schuyler has caught several swarms (and also built the hive we are copying at our bee hive bee.) This guy’s story was a good one.

Keeping bees seems to be a part of transition like starting a garden, learning how to preserve and store food or getting a few chickens. More and more people are doing some or all of these things to improve their self-reliance and resilience.

Our society is having a series of systematic breakdowns. We need to reverse the trend. Assisting bees to do their important work is a necessity.

Apr 182011

T-shirt design for Bloomington Community Orchard (see link at page bottom)

Perhaps our orchard group tapped into the universal mind as it appears we are part of a world wide movement to bring back lost orchards and create new ones. In 1992 a group in England called Common Ground formed a group that has a mission of linking nature with culture. One of their programs is Community Orchards which offers a way of saving vulnerable old orchards and creating opportunities to plant new ones.  They argue that “Community Orchards should be open and accessible at all times. They may be owned or leased for or by the community (or held by agreement) by a community group, parish council, or by a local authority or voluntary body.

As well as enjoying the place, local people can share the harvest or profit from its sale, taking responsibility for any work in the orchard.” Common Ground suggests that, “The success of a Community Orchard lies in the strength of local commitment to it. Local people are the key to running it and deciding how it is used. These orchards do not have economic fruit production as their raison d’être, yet they might just pay for themselves, with income generated through the sale of fruit and other produce – everything from wild flower seeds to mistletoe.”

Common Ground has promoted Apple Day held in October each year and Apple Day events are held around the country to celebrate and demonstrate that variety and richness matter to a locality and that it is possible to affect change in your place.

They have published several books. The Common Grounds Book of Orchards “explores how orchards continue to shape local culture from custom to kitchen and urges us to value old orchards of tall trees for their delicate ecology and local distinctiveness.” The Apple Source Book described as a “Lovely treasury of all things appley.” You can read a sample chapter from the source book here.

I was interested in this description of a relatively new community orchard project which resembled our own effort at the Curry Preserve  ”

Fifty local people helped to plant 46 apple trees.  Individual trees were protected with sturdy wooden cage type guards. The grassland beneath the trees is mown twice a year by the council. A 50-centimetre clearance is left around each tree when mowing. Local residents have carried out weeding and mulching within the area of the tree guards. A standpipe has enabled people to water the young trees if necessary. A management plan was completed with help from the London Ecology Unit. A longer-term plan for the orchard will be drawn up by the council and the Friends of Blondin Park. Ideas include fruit production, links with schools, training for new skills, grazing of the orchard by sheep, wild life observances and seating. The orchard may be expanded to take in many of the existing cherry trees within the nature area. Very few trees have been lost since planting. This is partly due to the orchard’s location off a main road behind overlooking houses, but also because people enjoy the orchard and see it working. Losses of any trees are replaced. The establishment of a Friends Group – 50 members at time of writing – has led to collaboration between local people and the council to improve the area. A management plan for the whole nature area, including the orchard, is being jointly prepared. Local people are using a public open space and beginning to work together and think creatively about new opportunities for its social use and its benefit to the local environment. Apple Day has been celebrated in the orchard since 1997.”

My own opinion is that we should continue to look for places on the island where we can plant community orchards. These could be trees planted on the perimeter of properties like the Grange or the Library or the Church. It would be exciting if the Grange, Library and Church got behind the idea of planting food trees on their property. After all, there is very little “public” property on the island.

Perhaps there is a way that conservation easements can be written to give access to orchards on private property.  Perhaps there will be land that can be purchased by the community for use as orchard. It would seems that The Heritage Trust would be the logical vehicle for such an idea. It’s just a matter of expanding the definition of “preservation.” Hopefully, the progress at the Curry will inspire more people to be enthused about the community orchard concept and generate additional opportunities and even an annual celebration like Apple Day which has been suggested by commenters on this blog.

*The website of the Bloomington, Indiana Community Orchard

Apr 142011

Pam Miller made this observation as a comment to my last post: “My only concern is the many underutilized exiting trees that are on the island. I see a lot of fruit go to waste every year because it isn’t picked.”

I’m going to guess that most of the trees Pam is referring to are on private property. I will suggest that the reason they don’t get picked is because not enough interested gleaners know about these trees or the owners don’t invite others to pick them.

It would be great if we could inventory trees on the island that are available for gleaning. We could publicize this information and organize a gleaning crew. Last year when we got ready to press some cider we didn’t have apples. Had to use purchased apples to make the kids some juice. Granted, last year’s crop was pretty poor on the island but if there are trees that need picking I’m pretty sure we could find people to do the job just to help out or for a share of the crop.

Speaking of gleaners, there is a quirky documentary on Netflix instant play that I found to be very watchable and entertaining:
The Gleaners and I “Inspired by Jean-François Millet’s famous painting “Les Glaneuses,” filmmaker Agnes Varda strikes out with just a hand-held digital camera in search of the modern equivalent of Millet’s grain field gleaners. She finds her quarry at dumpsters, outdoor markets and roadsides across France. Varda’s no-holds-barred documentary about scavengers and recyclers is an insouciant treat from beginning to end, with an unexpectedly obtuse perspective.”

I’ll predict that “waste” is a word that we’ll soon be trying to eliminate from our vocabulary. Foraging and gleaning will become part of our lives. Might as well start getting some practice.

Apr 122011

A group of Lummi Islanders, led by Thurid Clark, proposed an idea to the Heritage Trust—rehabilitate the old orchard at the Curry Preserve and plant a new orchard that would serve the island in future years enhancing our food security and sustainability.

That project is nearly complete. You can see a slideshow here.

The Heritage Trust Board budgeted $800 to clear out the blackberries that were clogging the site and for seeding the finished orchard with grass (seeding has been done). So far an additional $865 in cash contributions has been raised and spent on fencing. Fence stakes, tractor and tiller time and trees have been offered as in kind donations.

Here’s where we stand:

Twenty-five individual tree fences have been constructed. (We have room for six more fences)

Ten trees have been planted. (We have room for 21 additional trees and currently have commitments for 7 more trees).

Here’s what we need to finish the project:

$200 for the final 6 fences. (Labor will be donated).

$100 for irrigation parts (labor will be donated).

$350 for 14 more trees @ $25 each (orchard stewards will plant the trees and maintain them).

(Contributions can be tax deductible by making donations to the Lummi Island Heritage Trust and indicating the gift is for the Curry Preserve Orchard Project).

This orchard, over time, will produce a lot of fruit and nuts (apples, pears, plums, cherries, walnuts, hazlenuts) and will be a great benefit to the island. Hopefully, it will be the first of many public orchards. We encourage you to drop by the Curry Preserve and take a look and determine if the project is worthy of your support.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The next best time is now.”

Apr 102011

Guest Post by Lis Marshall

Elisabeth Marshall wrote this article which originally appeared in NWCitizen. Lis has lived on Lummi Island for 28 years, where she is a peony grower and raises chickens and fruit and vegetables on a small farm. She has been studying our financial system in earnest since 2004.

An informational session on Public Banking will be hosted by the Friends of the Island Library on Saturday, April 16 at the Lummi Island Grange at 7:30 p.m. The lecture, by Ann Tulintseff, will explain how states can create their own credit by owning a bank. Ann is a member of the Board of the Public Banking Institute (PBI), publicbankinginstitute.org, a non-profit organization whose mission is to explore and facilitate implementation of public banking options.

There is a Public Banking effort underway in Washington state. Bills were introduced this year in both the House and Senate that will add Washington to the growing number of states now actively moving to create public banking facilities. The bills, House Bill 1320 and Senate Bill 5238, propose creation of a Washington Investment Trust (WIT) to “promote agriculture, education, community development, economic development, housing, and industry” by using “the resources of the people of Washington State within the state.”
Currently, all state funds are deposited with Bank of America. HB 1320 proposes, “all state funds be deposited in the Washington Investment Trust and be guaranteed by the state and used to promote the common good and public benefit of all the people and their businesses within [the] state.” This legislation is similar to that now being studied or proposed in Illinois, Virginia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, California and others.

The effort in Washington state draws heavily on the success of the 92-year-old Bank of North Dakota (BND), currently the only state-wide, publicly-owned U.S. bank. The BND has helped North Dakota escape the budgetary disasters facing other states. In 2009, North Dakota sported the largest budget surplus it had ever had, it has the lowest unemployment and default rates in the nation, and the most community banks per capita of any state in the U.S. Over the last decade, the BND has returned over a third of a billion dollars to the state’s general fund.

A prime sponsor of the Washington state legislation is state Representative Bob Hasegawa, who has called the proposal for a publicly owned bank “a simple concept that will reap huge benefits for Washington.” In a letter to constituents, he said, “The concept (is) to keep taxpayers’ money working here in Washington to build our economy. Currently, all tax revenues go into a ‘Concentration Account’ held by the Bank of America. BoA makes money off our money and we never see those profits again. Instead, we can create our own institution and keep taxpayers’ dollars here in Washington, working for Washington.”

A key feature of the Washington banking institution, according to Hasegawa, is that it will work in partnership with financial institutions, community-based organizations, economic development groups, guaranty agencies, and others. He said the Washington Investment Trust will offer “transparency, accountability, and accuracy of financial reporting,” a welcome change from the accounting tricks common among the large Wall Street money center banks today.

Please join us on Saturday, April 16, to investigate public banking as an option for Washington, and to meet with Ann Tulintseff who, beyond her interest in public finance, has a Ph.D., E.E., S.M., and S.B. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A question and answer session will follow the lecture.

Directions: The Grange is at 2200 No. Nugent Rd., on Lummi Island and is within easy walking distance of the ferry. Park at Gooseberry Point and walk over on the 7 p.m. ferry. Walk off the ferry and turn right on No. Nugent. The Grange will be about two blocks down on the left, and is well marked. A $5 donation is suggested. For more information call Elisabeth Marshall at 360 758-7173.

Apr 082011

Hard to think about reading a blog let alone writing one. Sun has been out. Opening day of mowing season. The Master’s golf tournament started. Firing up the garden. Working on the Curry Orchard Project. No longer worrying about the ferry because they are saying everything is going to be okay.

Hard to be too concerned about anything on a sunny spring day. I’m sitting here waiting for a package of bees to arrive. It’s time we had pets again. Linda is excited about the bees because costumes are involved.

I was looking forward to April 16 at the Lummi Island Grange at 7:30 p.m. and a  lecture, by Ann Tulintseff, who will explain how states can create their own credit by owning a bank. More on this soon. But now I can’t go because I found out that one of my gardening gurus, Steve Diver, is holding a one day workshop that day in Snoqualmie, WA. He will teach me many new tricks.

Hope many of you will be able to attend Ms. Tulinseff’s talk and tell me about it.

Apr 052011

I don’t know what the nautical version of the “rubber meeting the road” is but it seems like we are getting pretty close. I have a sense that as a result of the “dinner that was supposed to be with the Lummi Tribe” more and more people are coming to the conclusion that the Lummis really don’t want to have a ferry dock at Gooseberry Point. If it remains there the County will have had to pay and promise more than they are willing and able to pay. One might also suspect that the County would really like to get out of the ferry business and are masterfully politicking the situation to be able to point the finger at the Lummi Nation.

Understandably, this makes people angry and words like “commitment,” “agreements,” and “fairness” are tossed around. I suppose that if the Island gets the short end of the stick on any sort of ferry agreement that the Lummi Indians, at the very least, will be able to give us grief counseling. They are experts being on the receiving end of broken promises. I’m guessing they are empathatic if not sympathetic to the problems Lummi Islanders will face if service to Gooseberry Point ceases.

When PLIC’s highly regarded attorney met with the islanders at the Beach School many moons ago the first thing he said was that there was no future in a lawsuit against the Tribe. That, he told us, was a losing proposition. Negotiation and perhaps mediation were the best choices. As time has passed an additional realization has been made manifest—that the Lummi Nation, by virtue of large contributions, have a lot more political horsepower than does the island. There is talk of lawsuits again for we are litigious by nature. It would probably be a waste of money.

While the County negotiates I will again recommend (and suggest this from the point of view of resilience, self-sufficiency and transitioning to a different energy and climate future) that we spend some time coming up with a contingency plan on the ways we might solve our transportation problems for the long term given a different  set of circumstances.

In his weekly essay William Kunstler lays it all out for you and it’s worth reading. Here’s the money quote:

“That’s all we care about in the USA, the cars. We can’t get over the cars. We can’t talk about anything except how we’ll find magical new ways to run all the cars. This is a very tragic sort of stupidity and if we don’t change our thinking about it, from the highest level on down, history is going to treat us very cruelly.”

The angst over the ferry to Gooseberry Point is all about our desire to continue to take our car to Bellingham or where ever, often with one person in it, whenever we want to go and for an affordable price. Long term, if Kunstler is right, we will have to dramatically change the way we do business (that is, how we get from point A to point B or learn not to go at all).

The reality is, something is going to change be it location, schedule or type of boat. Spend some time thinking about what could work, not necessarily what is ideal. Think about it in terms of reduced gasoline supplies and higher fuel prices. Read Kunstler and decide if he’s a nut or on the right track.

Let’s be practical. If something we think is bad actually happens we will have to deal with it individually and as a group. Changing the name of the island as some have suggested might be a good idea. That should burn some valuable time. We can start with a thousand suggestions and narrow it down. But, if this is how we’d like to proceed why not think out of the box?

Let’s sell the naming rights to the island and buy a new boat.

Google Island rolls off the tongue. Maybe AT &T Island (could improve cell phone reception. I kind of like Goldman Sachs Island to get us on the inside of future deals. Monsanto Island…free weed killer. One could go on and on.

Apr 022011

There’s a certain formula for getting a worldwide disaster off the front pages—get a good little war going.
Our leaders are excellent at Wagging the Dog.

No one seems too worried about multiple meltdowns at the Japanese nuclear facilities. In fact, the President recently announced billions in loan guarantees for new nuclear plants…$36 billion, if I’m not mistaken. Apparently, the US government considers nuclear to be an alternative source of energy.

There are 23 reactors in the U.S. that have the GE Mark I design like the six reactors at Fukushima. There have been reports of a GE engineers who resigned from GE in the seventies over the lack of safety in the Mark I design.

We have nuclear facilities near fault lines as well. Evacuating to a 50 mile radius around San Onofre nuclear facility in Southern California would involve seven million people. Wonder where in the world they would go and how they would get there.

We used to worry a lot about nuclear events and fallout during the Cold War and before we had so many nuclear power plants of our own. Back in college days I spent a summer working for the now defunct Office of Civil Defense (OCD) which reported then to the Defense Department. OCD was disbanded in around 1979 but was a precursor organization to FEMA. In the 60’s it was a big deal with a significant budget and lots of GS-15s to run the show. I worked in the print shop at their offices on a pier in Everett. Our print shop pumped out brochures and pamphlets about fallout shelters and emergency food stocks, evacuation routes, purification of water and radiation illness. Radiation and fallout were considered serious threats to the health of the nation. The suits who ran the place took it all very seriously. As a nineteen year old I couldn’t get too exercised about the threat and spent most of my time gazing out the window at the hundreds of seagulls who glided around the pier. I recall nothing specific about the material we published.

As the nuclear industry grew it wasn’t good business to harp about the dangers when we were building potentially radioactive facilities near population centers. The Office of Civil Defense fell out of favor and disappeared. It’s difficult to find anything about it on the internet.

Now there is talk again about plastic and duct tape, water and food supplies. We saw how fast the grocery shelves in parts of Japan were emptied. Because of the ready availability of food and consumer goods of all kinds most of us don’t think in terms of preparedness whether it be for storm, flood, tsunami, volcano, earthquake or meltdown.

It’s good to be a bit prepared for short term as well as long term problems. But it’s hard to shake the notion that we can just get in the car and run to the store to get what we need.

The island is trying to get organized for disaster preparedness. There’s a lot to think about and to try to accomplish. It will make it easier if each individual household has given it some thought and made preparations for what might come. There is no risk in having extra water and food on hand. No risk in owning an adequate first aid kit, in knowing how to shut down your neighbor’s propane and water. No risk in having an emergency radio or candles. Lots can be done very easily to insure that one’s family can be somewhat comfortable if bad things happen.