Feb 282012

This blog started because of a concern about Peak Oil which is a subject that is confusing to some and easy to deny by others. This following 34 minute film does a good job of outlining why Peak Oil is such a significant problem leading to many other peaks: soil, food, water, etc.

It discusses the enormous impact cheap fuel has had on growth and how growth is unsustainable. Many will hope that technology will find a solution to keep our oil based energy way of life moving the graph line up the chart. This seems impossible given the facts and will require that we all begin to retrain ourselves to a more sustainable self-sufficient style of life.

Feb 252012


Gary Kline is the owner of Black Lake Organics in Olympia, Washington, the best source in the Northwest for mineral fertilizers.

A Phone Call From Solomon

Reprinted with permission of Gary Kline

“Steve Solomon, for those who don’t know, is the founder of Territorial Seed Company, and author of Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades (six editions).  He is the acknowledged guru of gardening in the Maritime Northwest.  Steve and I have crossed paths a few times in the past and I regard him as a mentor and inspiration.  Steve is the one who turned me back on to the work of Dr. William A. Albrecht back in 1997, during a meeting in Yelm.  As a result, my nursery and garden supply business and, in fact, my whole world-outlook changed.  I owe Steve a lot.

Imagine my complete surprise when I picked up the phone on February 2nd and heard a man say “This is someone you haven’t talked to in a long time; do you recognize my voice?”  “Sort of”, I said.  “This is Steve Solomon.”  I stalled out for awhile, thinking of another Steve who it did not sound like.  Then it sunk in.  Steve was calling me from Tasmania (using Magic Jack), and we had a long talk.

What mainly prompted Steve’s call was that he had been having trouble with his garden and got a soil test and evaluation through Michael Astera, author of The Ideal Soil, that I had some influence on.  It turns out Steve had not read far enough into Dr. Albrecht’s writings, which I always suspected.  Anyway, Steve implemented the fertilizer prescriptions from Astera and he had wonderful results with his garden.  He was very impressed and struck up an internet conversation with Michael that lead to an agreement to co-author a new book featuring a whole new perspective on mineral nutrient balancing, using ratios developed by Albrecht, plus others being researched by Astera.

The upshot is that the book writing deal fell through, and so Solomon called me to learn about the history of the development of Black Lake Organic’s BLOOM fertilizers and about the mineral make-up, etc..  Actually, his own fertilizer recipe was the basic inspiration.  As he said, he suspected that my BLOOM fertilizers were superior to his famous Complete Organic Fertilizer (C.O.F.) that appears in all his books, and he wanted to know the ingredients and nutrient numbers.

These are things that are on the back labels of all 10 BLOOM formulations, so I sent him the information, plus information on desired soil test parameters, since he now wants to get into that field.  In exchange, he said he would help my products and services become better known through two upcoming books and a worldwide network of contacts that he has.  Getting word of a superb fertilizer formulation out there will have a big impact on our mutual aims.

Continue reading »

Feb 222012
Following a syllabus developed by the Hood River, Oregon school district the Lummi Island Grange is going to offer a series of classes/workshops throughout the year. They call it The Country Living Series which is as good a name as any.

The Country Living Class Series is geared to fit the age-old concepts of the Grange, which promotes country living, protecting family farms, and the environment while building strong communities. These classes will provide island residents with solutions to rising food and fuel prices, food insecurity and environmental challenges by resurrecting some long lost skills, as well as, some new innovative ideas.

The Grange Committee is soliciting feedback for ideas for classes and also volunteer instructors or workshop leaders. You can make your suggestions to: Randy Smith at aubreypub@mac.com, Candy Jones at drwdj@comcast.net, Pam Miller at pamanne3@gmail.com, Jo Ann Philpot at jophilpot@mac.com, or Leslie Dempsey at leslie@limpidarts.com.

Here are some of the ideas we received so far:

Starting plants,


Back yard chicken raising,

Starting a garden,

Worm bins

Butchering a chicken


Wine Making
Beer Making
Cheese making
Water Bath/Pressure
Pest control
Seed saving
Pasta making
Bread making
Pie making
Plant propogaton
Smoking/canning fish
How to eat vegetarian
Harvest soup
Fall/winter garden
Soap making
Tree planting

Some of these will be open to large groups. Others, like canning workshops, might be limited to 4-6 people.

If you see something missing, let us know. If you see a class you would like to lead or have another idea, let us know.

We actually workshops scheduled. On March 10 I’ll lead a workshop at my house on where you can learn how to make potting soil, bokashi, fertilizer and compost tea. In addition, Nancy Ging will be doing a class on “How to Eat Local” sometime in March.

Look for more information on this blog, the Grange website and Nextdoor.

All of these classes lead up to the harvest season in Sept/October. The harvest season will kick off with a parade on Sept. 2 at 5pm followed by a barbecue at the Grange. We will end the first year of the Country Living Series with a Harvest Festival scheduled for Oct. 12/13/14. There will be cider pressing, displays and competitions for such things as the largest pumpkin, best canned goods, tastiest pies, etc.

Please consider helping us by leading or teaching a class. You don’t have to be an expert; just need to know how to do something that others are unfamiliar with. Think of it as “show and tell” and volunteer.

Feb 152012

I’m not a tea drinker. Perhaps I’ve never had a really good cup of tea. Following David Lee Hoffman, a pioneer importer of fine tea (Silk Road Tea Company) around China to find the finest teas available in this fascinating documentary increased my interest in this ancient food/medicine.

All of these food movies serve to make one more aware of what we eat, where the food comes from, how it’s grown and processed. Tea, of course, goes back perhaps into pre-history. Mr. Hoffman found areas that had tea bushes (trees) seven hundred years old. I’m not much of a connoisseur of anything but can admire someone who can stick their nose in a bag of freshly harvested tea and tell us that it’s been treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

The young English speaking Chinese bureaucrat assigned to Hoffman is visibly pained and frustrated by Hoffman’s insistence on buying tea from the source, visiting the farm, meeting the farmer and wandering through the tea bushes. Persistently, Hoffman wears down the bureaucracy finally gaining the opportunity to buy what he wants and and export it to the USA. In doing so he created a boutique tea market in China that is growing (as is tea consumption in our coffee drinking culture).

I had no idea how labor intensive tea is, that the best tea is bud only, second best, bud with one leaf, third best bud with two leaves.

As we become more aware of the details of our food production we become more discriminating in what we will put in our bodies.

Coffee is another case in point. Most of us grew up drinking Folger’s from a can. As Mike McKenzie points out in his excellent coffee tastings Folger’s is a robusta coffee. In the seventies, enterprising importers and food explorers (mostly in Seattle) began to import and roast arabica coffee beans. I still remember stumbling into the flagship store of Seattle’s Best Coffee (which proceeded Starbuck’s) in the Pike Place market and enjoying my first really good cup of coffee ever. There was no turning back.

I believe this is true of any food product. Once we discover the best we will want to keep having it. Highly processed supermarket food is no longer attractive, save for low price, after one has eaten tasty, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Feb 142012

Chuck Keiper who is a long time Ham Operator and director of disaster preparedness communications for Lummi Island recently sent an email to people on the island who have joined the MURS radio network which is like an island intercom.  What he’s trying to tell us is that the island needs more Ham Radio Operators and one no longer needs a 40′ antenna, thousands of dollars worth of equipment or knowledge of Morse Code to qualify:

“Each of you receiving this eMail is either a participant in the Island Intercom Emergency Preparedness Network, is a licensed amateur radio operator, or is an individual whom I believe might be interested in becoming a Ham Operator. (In case you have not heard, Morse Code is no longer required!)  After reading this, if you believe you know someone else who might be interested in this activity, please forward a copy of this invitation to them.

Intra-island disaster communication needs are being well served by the volunteer participants in the unlicensed Lummi Island Intercom Network. However, in order to provide Off-island emergency communications to the mainland, licensed amateur radio operators (Hams) will be required.

I hope that you will be able to attend a meeting at the Lummi Fire Hall on Monday, March 5th, at 7:30 PM, to discuss the need for licensed amateur ratio operators to assist in implementation of an Island Emergency Communications Plan.  In a disaster situation, these are the individuals who will be the communication link between Island disaster workers and Whatcom Unified Emergency Management.  Individuals already reasonably comfortable with computer operations are particularly needed.

Lasting no longer than 90 minutes, the meeting will consist of four parts:

1. Island communication needs and general methodologies useful to meet these needs.

2. Personal introductions, backgrounds and interests; prior communications involvement, if any.

3. Licensing requirements, procedures and reference materials for those who want to become licensed.

4. Hands-on demonstration of (inexpensive) modern radio equipment, computer interfacing and free communications software, plus a look at the fire department’s new “radio room.

Please mark your calendar for three weeks from today, Monday, March 5th, 7:30PM.”

Feb 052012

This week the Lummi Island Grange voted to sponsor the Gardener’s Network which was started by Master Gardener Ginny Winfield. The Gardener’s Network is a group of people interested in vegetable gardening that meets once a month (on the second Monday) to discuss and learn about various gardening issues. The first program (March 12) will be a seed swap. In April, Krista Rome, who has been running the Backyard Bean and Grain Project will be a guest speaker. In May we’ll take up the subject of soil testing in the home garden.

Gardeners Network meetings will be held at the Grange and are open to all. You don’t have to be a gardener to attend. If you have a desire to garden, would like to make contacts with people who are gardening, have an interest in sharing garden space or just want to hear about what’s going on in the garden, feel free to attend.

The Lummi Island Grange also intends to develop a series of skills workshops to include subjects like canning, cheese making, sewing, and backyard chicken raising. A committee of the Grange will be meeting soon to brainstorm ideas, recruit workshop leaders and create a calendar of events. These workshops will be open to anyone. If you have an idea for a workshop or would like to conduct one contact me at aubreypub@mac.com or leave a comment on the blog.

Grange members are excited that we are going to get back to basics and focus on the food producing and food saving skills that was the original motivation for the Grange generations ago.