May 302011

It’s encouraging that during our recent obsessiveness with the “ferry crisis” three important initiatives began to take shape on Lummi Island. The first is the revitalization of the Disaster Preparedness Program. Second is an evaluation of health and wellness needs. The third is the community orchard project. Each of these actions will serve to move the island community to a better place and, doing so, support a vision of sustainability—that is, being able to do a better job of taking care of ourselves.

Island communities are unique. I’m fascinated by what island communities do around the world. Last year I had a whole series of posts about the islands in the Gulf of Maine, their problems and challenges. The Maine Islands have a significantly funded non-profit organization to help them along called the Island Institute.  One of their most interesting programs is called Island Fellows where “bright, talented college and master’s-degree graduates, “…work and live in…island communities, weaving themselves into the fabric of community life for up to two years while addressing critical local issues. Island communities apply to the Institute to place an Island Fellow in residence to work in schools, libraries, town offices, fisheries co-ops, arts enrichment, and adult education program, etc.”

Some sort of active effort to recruit young, energetic people to Lummi Island would be extremely beneficial. We don’t have an Island Institute to fund island fellows but perhaps there are granting agencies out there you are familiar with that could provide money for this kind of activity. Do we have any retired grant writers out there who can research this?

We need to find a way to import young energy to the island.

May 282011

Perhaps my concern about the price and availability of future fuel results from my experience in 1973-74 when I made the daily commute from Everett to the University District. This was a thirty mile trip and, ahead of my time, I was a car pooler trading rides with two mates who worked in the same department. When OPEC and her friends got pissed  that the USA was resupplying the Israelis they turned the spigot and our national supply of gasoline dried up. The result was long, long lines. You could only buy gas every other day using an odd/even system based on your license plate number. Even though our carpool had three shots at getting gas it was very stressful. We were each beginning our careers and we worked for a company that essentially did not accept excuses. Our days were long to start with because of the thirty mile commute. Hunting for gas made them even longer.

Our entire society is based on being able to get in our private passenger automobile and go where  ever we want, whenever we want. It is not specious to ask if we will be able to do this forever. Our ability to continue our “way of life” will be based on three things: 1) availability of money, 2) availability of fuel and 3) having someplace we want to go.

These are all connected. If the economy goes totally in the dumpster there will be lots of fuel short term because of low demand. But, you might not have money to buy gas anyway because you don’t have a job, or your pension plan turned out to be an empty bucket or things are so chaotic that all you want to do is stay home and out of the way.

I’ve been touting Nicole Foss who will appear at the Grange on June 2 at 7:30pm. If you would like a preview of some of things Nicole (Stoneleigh) will talk about read this list of “40 Ways To Lose Your Future.” It’s quite chilling. Take a look at number 10, or number 18, or (good grief) number 35! She paints a grim picture of the future. If she’s only half right or even just ten percent right we have some planning to do.  “40 Ways To Lose Your Future” make the 1973 Oil Crisis look like a blip and I’m still suffering from PTSD from that short experience. (I never come back to the island without having topped off my tank. My Coast Guard approved cans runneth over).

These four paragraphs lead up to my real point and that is: going to Gooseberry Point doesn’t make sense for the long term. Short term—no problem. Long term—big problem. There’s no place to wait in line for gas and it’s a long way from anywhere we really want to go. Right now, even I prefer it because you go right by the dump and it’s close to North Bellingham Golf Course. These are reasons that won’t make much sense to me in the future.

May 272011

It’s fascinating that a discussion of the merits of an introduced species vs indigenous species would generate more comment and discussion than any topic that has appeared on this blog.

The whole question about what is a native species is interesting. Native species, whatever they are, are worthy of support. But it’s a confusing and often surprising issue. (In January we had a private tour with the plant curator of the Waimea Park on Oahu’s North Shore. I was shocked at how few of the tropical plants I’d become accustomed to seeing in Hawaii were natives. Most have been introduced. Many with extremely negative impacts on the natives).

Lummi Island seems to have an interesting lack of natives (mammals, for example). We have deer, coyote, river otters, some kind of ground squirrel, mice, rats and voles. Bears, mountain lion, wild goats, skunks and possums are noticeably absent. One wonders if most, if not all of our mammals, were introduced. As far as people go, we don’t have any natives that I’m aware of. (One might be tempted to call our pioneer families “natives” but they are late arrivals not appearing on Lummi Island until after the infamous honey bee arrived in the Western USA).

What, as a practical matter, is a native? What sources do we have to tell us what might have been here long ago? One good source of information on natives is the native—that is the indigenous people who we now in political correctness refer to as “Native Americans.” Most non-native Americans are able to completely ignore Native Americans because the Native Americans have been walled off into geographical ghettos of varying quality around the country. Lummi Islanders, on the other hand, are particularly aware of the native of the human species because of…you know…the ferry thing.

It turns out we have quite a bit to learn from our predecessors on the island about, in the case of this blog post, native plants. A book I keep close at hand is Food Plants of the British Columbia Indians Coastal Peoples by Nancy J. Turner (out of print). From this book we can discover what might be the real native plants. In addition, and more to the point of self-sufficiency and self-reliance, we can learn how the Coastal tribes used these plants as food.

For example, giant kelp (Macrocystis integrifolia) was gathered from canoes and laid on rocks to dry. Before use they were soaked over night then broken into bite-sized pieces boiled in cedar boxes then served with eulachon (candlefish) grease. This sounds pretty much like something Mr. Wetzel might dish up as an amuse bouche at the Willows.

Kinnikinnick leaves were used as a tobacco substitute. Plus they ate the berries.

Hazelnuts were picked in the fall and allowed to ripen completely before eating.

Salal berries were eaten fresh and dried in cakes for winter eating.

Salmonberry and thimbleberry sprouts were great favorites, eaten raw and occasionally steamed. The berries too, of course.

These are just a few of the plants we might be safe in calling “native.” There are dozens more listed in the book: wild rose, berries of all description, additional seaweeds, wild flowers, tree bark, etc.

Whether or not these plants evolved here or not is a question of broad scientific interest and one on which we could spend much time researching given a full stomach and no other pressing basic needs.

More to the point, it is good to know that in our local habitat we could learn to forage as if we were a native. We can begin to act more like natives aware of our surroundings and focused on what might sustain us long term. It would be like The Return of the Native.  (Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any similarities between Mr. Hardy’s novel and the theme of this post other than The Return of the Native is one of the great titles of all time).

May 242011

Transition Whatcom is reporting some interesting events and opportunities in their recent email

Sunday, May 29  from 10am to 4pm – Inspiration Farm . Plant a garden and eat for a year, plant a Forest Garden and eat for decades! This hands on workshop will give you a good understanding to design, plant and orchestrate a perennial food forest. North… Organized by Brian Kerkvliet

Tuesday, May 31. “RE Sources for Sustainable Communities will host an event at the Fairhaven Village Green featuring New York Times bestselling author and founder, Bill McKibben.  The event starts at 5 pm, with a concert by local favorites Millie and the Mentshn.  Bill will begin his talk on coal, climate change, and activism at 7 pm.  There will also be an information fair from 5pm-9pm, which will feature local organizations (including Transition Whatcom and its work group) working to prevent climate change and coal exports from Cherry Point. The event is free and open to the general public.”
Transition Whatcom and were the grantors of the $350 our orchard project recently received.

Thursday, June 2, Nicole Foss appearing at the Lummi Island Grange at 7:30pm. Nicole’s other NW appearance is Seattle. This is a great opportunity.

June—Whatcom Folk School begins classes.  Whatcom Folk School has printed its first free catalog of summer classes with about 65 classes and 50 instructors and will include topics such as Fermentation of Foods, Tree Climbing with Gear; Woodworking Skill Building for Women, Ayurvedic Medicine, Home brewing of Beer, Tatting (Lace making), Outdoor Cooking, Problem Solving Workshops, Living Democracy, Urban Homesteading, Permaculture, Backyard Poultry, Raising Rabbits, Sustainable Agriculture, and much more.  Check here for a map which shows locations where you can pick up a catalog.

May 222011

The Mason Bee

A commenter to my blog titled Bee-mance has posted the following which caused me to spin around in my chair three times:

“Given the abundance of native bees here on the island — several bumblebees, orchard mason bees, various wasps and flies, I prefer to (a) not disturb and (b) enhance our native pollinators’ natural habitats (wood piles, for example, a few areas of bare earth abandoned vole holes. As I get older, I see a personal negative value (since I don’t use much by way of any sweeteners) in starting one MORE high-maintenance operation, which honeybees are.  Plus, there’s lots of evidence that honeybees have displaced natives plus spread diseases to native bees. Kinda like when Europeans unintentionally brought the deadly gift of smallpox and other fatal diseases to the unprepared American population:  90% wipe-out.  I’d prefer not to participate in even the possibility of doing such a thing to our native bee populations.  Plus, collaborating with those (pollinators) who’ve lived on Lummi Island so much longer than I have just feels more respectful.”

This comment made me feel like some kind of genocidal maniac who, in his lust for sweets, was decimating the native pollinator population with dirty, nasty, disease-ridden little girls transported across state lines, who must be leaving a trail of fungus, virus and bacteria as they elbow the bumblebees and mason bees off the kale blossoms. This comment comes from a person I must take seriously. Could it be true? Let the investigation begin.

First of all, I question my ability to be objective as I am a non-native of Lummi Island and thus predisposed to support interlopers, carpetbaggers and species of that ilk. Should I recuse myself from the discussion? I am, in fact, not even a native of Washington and can only trace my ancestry on this continent to a ship of indentured servants which arrived sometime in the 18th Century. But if I don’t defend my bees, who will? And, if the commenter is right, who will have to take action to destroy this plague that I’ve set loose on the island? (As a side note, I am hoping that Peromyscus leucopus the White-footed Mouse is a non-native because I had to deal with one just yesterday).

Continue reading »

May 202011

I’m pleased for everyone who felt their life would be devastated if the Gooseberry Point run had been lost. Some might see the recently announced agreement as a solution. I see it as a reprieve. We missed a big opportunity during the last year and a half. We could have been planning for the contingency of no Gooseberry in our future. Instead, it was “Gooseberry or Bust.” Happily we didn’t go bust.

There’s still going to many problems to deal with. Parking will continue to be an issue on the mainland. It will no doubt be an additional cost (if there is parking). The cost of riding the ferry will have to increase. Peak oil will affect the cost of travel to Bellingham and Ferndale at some point in the future. Let’s face it. Even four dollar gas isn’t much fun. I filled my car and five gallon can the other day and spent $82. If I were in Europe I would have spent $164. Our day to pay the piper is coming. I hope the County has negotiated an “out” clause in the contract.

It’s sometimes hard to notice in Whatcom County with all the Canadians shopping, playing golf and flying out of the BIA (Bellingham International Airport) but the economy, in general, isn’t very good.  One can put a smiley face on it and talk about how cool it is we got Bin Laden but the reality is that things could come crashing down pretty fast. If we show the same “Gooseberry or Bust” attitude toward the other big problems coming at us we just won’t be ready. Where the ferry is concerned we seem, collectively, to have a giant blind spot. With one or two exceptions, no one wanted to have a thoughtful discussion about alternatives, how they might look and what they might mean.

Speaking of the ferry, I hope that PLIC doesn’t turn out to be an ad hoc organization. The name, Protect the Lummi Island Community suggests a broader purpose. I like the name, if not the acronym. There is a definite role for a widely supported group like Protect the Lummi Island Community to play. There are lots of things to think about when we talk about protecting Lummi Island, more things than just regular ferry service. Some of us will continue to talk about them: disaster preparedness, personal preparedness, food security, wellness support, water management, economic opportunity, transportation alternatives, transitioning to a future with less fossil fuel, etc. etc. If you are reading, I hope you’ll join the conversation.

Of course, that has been the theme of this blog from the outset: let’s get prepared, become more self-reliant and self-sufficient. Everything I read about preparedness says that “community,” support networks and friendships are the most important factors in getting through tough times. Lummi Island has proven over and over again that we are way ahead in this department.

And, for a dose of thoughtful reality come listen to Nicole Foss at the Grange on June 2.

May 182011

The Friends of the Island Library (FOIL) have arranged for Nicole Foss to speak at the Grange at 7:30PM on June 2.

An amazing coup for Lummi Island to get a speaker of this quality.

Courtesy of Bert, here are some oldies but goodies from Nicole Foss (Stoneleigh) to give you a flavor of her thought process and the information she is providing to readers of her blog Automatic Earth and to the crowds who come to see her speak.

Learning to survive

Peak Oil

Deflated Economy

The Future Belongs to the Adaptable

Fukishima Fallacies

Receding Horizons

May 152011

Have to admit my jaw dropped when I heard this.

FOIL (Friends of the Island Library) has pulled off a major coup by booking Nicole Foss from the prominent web site Automatic Earth as a speaker who will appear on Lummi Island June 2. Nicole, whose blogger name is Stoneleigh, has been prescient in her predictions about the world economy. She is also extremely knowledgeable about the nuclear industry and her writing about Fukishima has been invaluable.

Mark your calendar and plan to be at the Grange on June 2 at 7:30PM. We’ve hit the big time.

From the FOIL press release.

“Friends of the Island Library (Lummi Island) is very pleased to present Nicole Foss (Stoneleigh), co-editor of The Automatic Earth.  Ms. Foss will be speaking at the Lummi Island Grange Hall on Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 7:30 PM. Suggested donation: $7.00. Proceeds will benefit library programs and support of the Island Library.

Nicole and her writing partner have been chronicling and interpreting the on-going credit crunch as the most pressing aspect of our current multi-faceted predicament. The Automatic Earth site integrates finance, energy, environment, psychology, population and real politik in order to explain why we find ourselves in a state of crisis and what we can do about it. Prior to the establishment of TAE, she was editor of The Oil Drum Canada, where she wrote on peak oil and finance.

Foss runs the Agri-Energy Producers’ Association of Ontario, where she has focused on farm-based biogas projects and grid connections for renewable energy. While living in the UK she was a Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, where she specialized in nuclear safety in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, and conducted research into electricity policy at the EU level.

Her academic qualifications include a BSc in biology from Carleton University in Canada (where she focused primarily on neuroscience and psychology), a post-graduate diploma in air and water pollution control, the common professional examination in law and an LLM in international law in development from the University of Warwick in the UK. She was granted the University Medal for the top science graduate in 1988 and the law school prize for the top law school graduate in 1997.

Please click on the title below to read Nicole’s recent article on the Japanese Nuclear crisis.”

May 132011

A new pastime is sweeping the island. It’s very relaxing. Requires no energy. It’s a nice way to relax.

It’s BeeTV!

Bob Anderson enjoying BeeTV with local blogger

Today, as I write this, it’s raining and there’s nothing on. I expect the bees are huddled together, shivering, trying to keep the queen warm and happy. Yesterday, though, they were in the garden working on the bolted kale and I could see their little pollen sacks were full.

Zippy drops by to check it out

Lots of people have been recommending this video

Watching BeeTV is like watching Star Wars with little airships launching themselves from and returning to the hive. The activity around the entrance is frenetic. Native, wild bees and other pollinators are just as important as the honeybee. Because of their hiving characteristic, the honeybee just makes for better viewing.

There are reportedly 4000 species and sub-species of bee in the United States. Of these, 400 or so are social. That is, they congregate in a hive. The best known social bee is the honey bee. Not a native, it was brought to North and South America by European settlers.

Drop by and watch for awhile if you are in the mood. (EpiPens not provided).

May 112011

A couple of months ago Transition Whatcom announced that they were going to award $350 grants for projects that supported the idea of self-reliance and resilience promoted by the Transition Movement. Recently we were notified that the Curry Orchard Project was one of three grantees in Whatcom County.

The award letter from Transition Whatcom read in part:

“Thank you for your submission to the Transition Whatcom 350 Home and Garden Challenge Request for Proposals.  We are happy to offer you $350 in grant funding for your Orchard Rehabilitation Project.  Inspirational ideas like yours are a critical part of our positive vision for the future.  We received many well-designed concepts and selecting the projects to support was not an easy task. In addition to your rural project, we selected urban proposals from the Bellingham Senior Center garden project and the BUGS community garden project.  These  submissions fit best both our definition of a successful project  for the 350 Home and Garden Challenge and the scope of our weekend installation. More detailed descriptions of these proposals will be made available on the Transition Whatcom website. Thanks so much for your entry. We appreciate your continued efforts in the work of Transition, making Whatcom County a more resilient and self reliant community. By working together we can start changing the world!”

We are proud of this recognition and happy to get the dough which will help us fund the finishing up of the orchard: a few more trees (to be planted in the fall), irrigation lines and refurbishing of the shed next to the orchard so we can store supplies and equipment and, of course, the on going maintenance required by 30+ fruit trees.

Stop by the Curry Preserve (Nugent Road entrance) sometime and see the transformation.

May 092011

I guess we can be pleased that Montsanto, hasn’t chosen Lummi Island to field trial frankencrops—genetically modified plant life that will ultimately, through pollen exchange, mess up our ecosystem unless we step up and do something about it. The action we should take is to demand that GMO vegetables and products containing GMO be labeled so we can boycott them. If no one buys GMO it will disappear. So far, the rich multi-national corporations have fought off attempts to label their freakish products. Foreigners are apparently smarter than we are because 30 or so of them have forbidden the sale of GMO.

Unfortunately, the USA is more business oriented. Hawaii is a particular problem with the State of Hawaii and the University supporting field trials and experimentation. People should know, for example, that most commercially grown papaya is GMO. On our visits to Oahu’s North Shore the fields of GMO corn grow adjacent to the village of Haleiwa.

Earth Justice has made an excellent short film (below in three parts) which shows how environmental and native groups in Hawaii are fighting back. If you don’t think GMO is a problem, you need to pay closer attention. The goal of the big seed companies is to control the food supply. This is just one reason why backyard gardening and seed saving is extremely important to guarantee that we have a future.

May 072011

Haven’t written much lately about the world-wide Transition Movement which we are trying to be a part of by building gardens, starting orchards, relearning lost skills and planning for disaster.

“The core purpose of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin issues of climate change and peak oil—the declining availability of “ancient sunlight,” as fossil fuels have been called. The initiative is set up to enable towns or neighborhoods to plan for, and move toward, a post-oil and low-carbon future: what Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Initiative, has termed “the great transition of our time, away from fossil fuels.” The world-wide economic debacle has insinuated itself into the motives for Transition which can be summarized as “preparing for an uncertain future.”

That great guru of the twentieth century, Yogi Berra, famously said that, “Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.” At this point, however, it’s hard to argue against the multiple realities of Peak Oil, climate change and economic disruption. As a result, the Transition Movement is gaining steam with world-wide initiatives. summarizes them here: There’s lots of gardening, energy fairs, re-skilling activities, natural building, bicycling with videos that demonstrate this is a world phenomenon.

Although we have never formalized a Transition Lummi Island I think we are moving forward. If one considers the Disaster Preparedness Group which is gaining traction on the island (to get ready for short-term emergencies like winter storm, tsunami, volcanic eruption, wildfire, etc.), it’s possible to see the arc of these activities extended to a longer term. We are attempting to organize neighborhoods and utilize existing island organizations to manage the broad functions of: food, power, water/sewer, shelter and medical. Once this is organized properly it would seem logical to broaden the planning and training beyond the short term.

Our success in the future won’t depend on me having a garden or some rain water storage. It won’t depend on a few people who know how to preserve food or wildcraft. It won’t depend on the handful who have electric cars or bikes. It won’t depend on the fishermen and hunters. It will depend entirely on the ability of the community to work together in mutual support.

The problems we potentially face are overwhelming in scope. That’s the beauty of the Transition Movement because it focuses on the local, on what a smaller community can do that is practical, real, useful and visible.

“Transition communities have…looked at their own situation in various practical frames—for example, food production, energy use, building, waste, and transport—seeking to move toward a situation where a community could be self-reliant…. Strategies have included the promotion of local food production, planting fruit trees in public spaces, community gardening, and community composting…There are projects of seed saving, seed swapping, and creating allotments—small parcels of land on which individuals can grow fruit and vegetables…People never need communities more than when there are threats to security, food, and lives. The Transition Initiative recognizes how much we need this scale now, because of peak oil and climate change.”