Apr 302012

The Grange Country Living Series had a big weekend with three workshops, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Susan Chidester led a small group in a home kitchen on making bread and pizza dough and mozzarella while they were waiting for the dough to rise.

Nicky, Kjerstin, Candy and Susan talk cheese

Saturday afternoon Jennifer Bernard showed off her backyard chicken operation and answered questions about how to get started and keep it going, fight off the predators and make it an enjoyable experience.

Jennifer Bernard with a Buff Orpington, Yoah with a Rhode I. Red

Making cheese in the Grange Hall kitchen

Sunday in the Grange kitchen Mary Stack had a lot of interest in making three different kinds of cheeses.

We are lucky we have so many talented people willing to share their knowledge. If you have a special interest you would like to share with the community or have a subject area you need help with, let me know and we schedule a workshop of find someone to give one.

Coming up: a chain saw workshop (date to be determined), kim chi workshop (sometime in June), seed saving (June 9 and 23), blackberry wine making (to be determined) and lots of canning and other food preserving opportunities. Watch this blog, www.lummigrange.com, Nextdoor and Lummi Island Friends on Facebook for information about workshops.

Apr 252012

Sometimes a situation is so horrific that one really doesn’t know what to do about it. This is the case of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan where the entire Northern Hemisphere faces a catastrophe. It’s one of those situations that makes you feel quite helpless to prepare.

If you get your news from MSM, Fukushima may not be on your radar. But the alternative presses and bloggers have continued to hammer away at the story. Now, however, a US Senator, Ron Wyden of Oregon, has visited the site and is appalled by what he saw and is making some noise about the situation. You can read a series of letters he wrote as a result of his trip:

To the Japanese ambassador to the US

To Secretary of Energy Chu

To Secretary of State Clinton

To Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair Jaczko

We’ve all been getting radiated since the nuclear facility was damaged in the tsunami. But the situation is getting worse. Dr. Sircus describes the scenario in graphic terms here.

Apr 192012

This film opens with a topless woman wearing a blouse of bees. It’s a dramatic statement for a dramatic film, now available on Instant Play for Netflix subscribers. I missed it when it played in Bellingham last year. The Mt. Baker Beekeepers Association often had a volunteer member introduce the film. I detected some dissatisfaction with Queen of the Sun on the part of MBBA. I now understand. Every beekeeper in the piece is a biodynamic beekeeper, a follower of Rudolf Steiner, the German philosopher possibly best known for his educational theories (think Waldorf School). The Mt. Baker Beekeepers are pretty conventional folk treating their bees with various chemicals and antibiotics to fight off mites and other beasties that plague today’s hives. Biodynamic beekeepers don’t use conventional approaches. Actually, the film doesn’t have much information on what the do do, just what they don’t do.

I think I’ve watched all the bee movies now; all the films that explore Colony Collapse Disorder and I’m ready to buy into the thesis of this film which is: Colony Collapse is the end result of monoculture. Let’s face it. Monoculture, or factory farming is the source of a lot of our problems. For bees the vast monoculture of the California almond grove is the culprit. Miles and miles of almonds with no other food for bees. Bees from all over the United State and even imports from other countries trucked or flown in for the pollination of this crop. Millions and millions of bees sharing all their diseases and ailments. It is a recipe for disaster. Bees ought to be able to stay in one spot and feast on a varied diet of plant and fruit blossoms. It’s not natural or healthy for them to be trucked all over the country and have their diets supplemented with corn fructose.

Other bee movies feature large beekeeping businesses who have lost thousands of hives to Colony Collapse. They want to point the finger at systemic pesticides. Understandably, they also want to continue trucking their bees around the nation from crop to crop to keep their businesses going. Recently, there was a study that blamed a certain class of poisons. Using poison is an integral part of factory farming or monoculture. But is poison the proximate cause of Colony Collapse?

This is the reaction of a beekeeper on Whidbey Island as posted to his Facebook page:
“Many of you have been sending me info on a Harvard study of neonicotinoids (neonics) pesticides. I pay very close attention to these studies because many people claim they are the cause of CCD (Colony collapse disorder) There were many flaws with the Harvard study and closer inspections quickly reveals them. As a professional beekeeper I get really frustrated when people vilify a product they do not like and use bees as a reason. There have been many studies done by independent agencies that show the neonics are not the causal factor for CCD. Most beekeepers who keep their bees in proximity to neonic treated plants report no problem. I understand that many people do not like the way these particular pesticides work, I am one of them. But PLEASE do not use the bee die offs to support your claims. We have not had significant genetic diversity in our bees for almost a century. Efforts to rectify this often hit a stone wall because so many resources are being spent on the neonic issue.” Almond growers have funded scientific studies to get at the cause of Colony Collapse. Almonds are a huge business in the USA.

I started trying to keep bees using natural methods including biodynamic ones. Half my bees died last May, a month after I got them, as did half the hives of two friends who bought bee packages at the same time. The rest of my bees made it to the cold weather in January, then succumbed. Watching Queen of the Sun made me feel less guilty about our honeybees. There are just so many strikes against honeybees as a result of how they are raised and handled.

It’s tough to peer into a dead hive and I can ache for beekeepers who have lost hundreds, even thousands of hives. The problem with bees is that it’s easy to fall in love with them. They are endlessly fascinating and entertaining and it’s important that we try to rebuild our bee population. Monoculture and the bee keeping practices that it fosters is the culprit behind lack of genetic diversity.

Continue reading »

Apr 162012

(Disclaimer: I am a member of the Lummi Island Grange. The views I put forward about the Grange are mine alone and may not reflect the opinions and attitudes of any other Grange member).

I joined the Grange because among island institutions I believe the Grange is best positioned to effect the changes I see as necessary to get the island ready for a future that may have to deal with less of everything. The Grange’s historical interest in farmers, agriculture, local economy, life skills, family and community make it the ideal change agent for Lummi Island.

The Lummi Island Grange is an Action Grange. Action Granges operate like a service club. If you are familiar with Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, etc. you will understand this. A service club holds fund raising events using the proceeds for the benefit of the community and offers service projects with the same community goal. One difference between  The Grange and Rotary or Kiwanis is that The Grange accepted women members from the beginning. Rotary and Kiwanis got around to open membership in the 80’s. That’s the 1980’s.

In the category of women as members and in leadership positions, the Grange was about 100 years ahead of its time.

In Oregon and California there a handful of Action Granges that are styling themselves as “Green Granges.” The Green Grange concept is particularly interesting to me because it is compatible with the information and ideas I’ve been trying to get across in this blog. It’s possible the Green Grange is a concept that will not appeal equally to all Grange members but it seems to me to be a cutting edge idea that positions a local Grange to be the leader in the community with very clear goals and objectives. The Live Oak Grange of Santa Cruz, California is possibly the best example of the Green Grange. Their mission is stated as follows:

“The mission of the Green Grange is to be a hub for advocacy and activism on behalf of small family farmers, organic farming, sustainability, and local resilience.”

Here’s the interesting part about the Green Grange from the perspective of the Live Oak Grange of Santa Cruz. Their Grange was near death in the 90’s when a group of young, active people decided to join and, in effect, take over. They claim that their success in revitalizing the Live Oak Grange inspired the National Grange to form the Task Force to Revitalize the Grange which I wrote about in the last post. The Live Oak Grange master (Grange talk for president) at the time represented California on that task force and the Live Oak Grange became the first official Action Grange. Their website is worth a visit just to look at the photos of their officers. (Sebastapol, CA is also a Green Grange).

In Oregon, five small-town Granges have banded together in a consortium of Green Granges. This video featuring an Oregon Granger succinctly recaps the history of the Grange and describes the Green Grange movement.


Five in Oregon; two in California. Seven out of 2100 Granges indicates the Green Grange movement doesn’t represent a tsunami of change.  But then, the Transition Movement, though gaining steam, is quite small too. Historically, the Grange movement itself had a difficult time getting started. The Green Granges are radical in the great historical tradition of the Grange movement that swept the country in the late nineteenth century.

This letter, worth reading in its entirety, by an officer of the Silverton, Oregon Grange is very pointed and ends with these three important paragraphs:

“The Grange as an organization, needs to focus on relocalization of the rural economy. The coming years will see increased energy costs, which will dramatically affect the cost of most of our commodities, as most goods are produced and shipped vast distances and their price depends on how much it costs to ship. This “centralized” approach to our daily needs is flawed and is already failing, as it is based on non-renewable resources, planned obsolescence and unsustainable growth.

However, society as a whole, is slowly moving towards a relocalization paradigm, even if many in industry fail to recognize it, or actively oppose it. We see this in our grocery stores with the ever-expanding range of local organic produce; Or in the increase in vibrant Farmer’s Markets and in the creative ingenuity of many of our rural citizens.

Our society has grown up around the paradigm of cheap energy and rapid mobility. This is changing no matter what anyone feels about it one way or the other. The Grange can either accept this changing paradigm, and indeed become a major player and even leader in rural communities. Or we can continue support the promise of a past that no longer has a future. Many of us plan the be a part of the change.”

It will be interesting to see what the history of the Grange will show ten years from now and to know what role the Lummi Island Grange played. One thing for certain, the Lummi Island Grange is crucial to community life on the island. The many current Lummi Island Grange programs are explained and listed on the website www.lummigrange.com. Islanders should know that the local Grange doesn’t own the building. If the local Grange were to fail the property would revert to the State Grange and be lost to the island. Clearly, it is very important for the Lummi Island Grange to add members, particularly younger members, and continue its role to energize the community.

Apr 142012

(Disclaimer: I am a member of the Lummi Island Grange. The views I put forward about the Grange are mine alone and may not reflect the opinions and attitudes of any other Grange member).

I joined the Grange because among island institutions I believed the Grange was best positioned to effect the changes I see as necessary to get the island ready for a future that may have to deal with less of everything. The Grange’s historical interest in farmers, agriculture, local economy, life skills, family and community make it the ideal change agent for Lummi Island.

The founders of the Grange movement were members of the Masonic lodge. I come from a family riddled with 32nd degree Masons and have some understanding of the ritual and secrecy of the Masonic order. Up until around 2000 all Granges were Ritual Granges which followed the Masonic model with degrees of progress, secret handshakes, etc. The Grange, however, was wise enough to realize that this way of doing business was old-fashioned and out of touch. In 1999 the Grange set up a Task Force to revitalize the Grange, to renew it and make it viable. Here’s what the Task Force saw as the problems:

• A steady loss of membership lasting four decades
• Untrained, inconsistent leadership
• Lack of relevance in the community
• Unappealing to younger members
• Poor organizational structure
• Secretive and ritualistic
• Missing important communication’s technology
• Halls in poor shape or disrepair
• Unable to attract new members
• Missing tools that could help
• Dues so low they could not cover expenses
• No plans and few ideas
• No optimism and little help available
• Resistance to change

The Lummi Island Grange leadership at the time was quick to recognize this opportunity and quickly switched from a Ritual Grange to an Action Grange. The focus of the Action Grange was to be recruiting and involving new members. Active membership would lead to Community Programs, Family Programs, and Partnering with other local organizations. All of the Task Force studies are listed here.

We can see on Lummi Island that the Grange is central to the life of the island. The Grange Hall serves as a community center while the Grange organization provides a myriad of activities and sponsored events.
Yet, the younger members of the island community don’t seem drawn to join the Grange. Attracting younger members was the first goal of the 1999 Task Force.

The Grange’s vision for the 21st Century is clear and strong (as defined in the Task Force Report):

“The Grange in the 21st century will be a preeminent organization. It will commit to the development of the potential in families, youth and young adults through dynamic programs and experiences that educate, engage and enrich their lives.

The Grange will be noted for its commitment to the membership through its enabled leadership, its financial and organizational strength, and its ability to make a difference in the lives of children, youth, families and individuals.

The Grange will be a relevant, caring and involved part of the community in which its members are located. It will be well known and understood and considered a viable, involved and distinctive organization.

A person who becomes a member can expect to find in the organization a clear and impressive pathway to membership, outstanding fellowship with leaders and respected citizens of the community, the encouragement to meet and make new friends and the opportunity to lead and be well led.

At the national level, the Grange will be a flexible, well-governed, proactive partner in support of issues that are relevant to members and the communities in which they live. It will be accountable to and supportive of the leadership and membership at the local Grange, responsive to the member’s time and committed to growth, to sustained relevance and to national preeminence.”

In the next part I’ll look at how this vision is evolving through what are known as “Green Granges.”

Apr 102012

(Disclaimer: I am a member of the Lummi Island Grange. The views I put forward about the Grange are mine alone and may not reflect the opinions and attitudes of any other Grange member).

I joined the Grange because among island institutions I believed the Grange was best positioned to effect the changes I see as necessary to get the island ready for a future that may have to deal with less of everything. The Grange’s historical interest in farmers, agriculture, local economy, life skills, family and community make it the ideal change agent for Lummi Island.

The Grange emerged in the aftermath of the Civil War as American farmers were beginning to move from a subsistence way of life to an industrial one. Farmers had no voice and no organization. They had no buying power or ability to negotiate with, for instance, the railroads. Farm profits depended on cheap farm to market transportation. Railroads gave good rates for long distance hauls but charged high rates for local hauls. This hurt the small farmer.

The Grange movement developed during a period of laissez-faire where big business was king. Grangers advocated for the idea that businesses “affected with a public interest” should have to meet certain public expectations. Once this concept had been applied to the railroads as semi-public right of ways the same concept was instrumental in establishing what came to be known as “Granger laws.”

The concept of public welfare as a basis for legislation was extended into a multitude of areas where reformers found social injustices. For example, maximum work hours, minimum wage regulation, corporate regulation, tax reform and conservation of natural resources found their way onto the books after advocacy by Grangers.

PUD utility map

As in other areas of the country public power was a huge issue in Washington State. The Grange’s Public Power Bill, Initiative #1 was passed in 1930 over the opposition of private power interests following which Grange members in Washington State went to work organizing quasi-governmental public utility districts. Most of Washington State is still served by a network of PUDs, a legacy of the Grange.

Grangers were also into cooperatives. In our state, in 1918, there were more than 50 small, independent Grange supply cooperatives. The Grange Wholesale Warehouse Company was organized. In the 30’s a fleet of co-op tankers was added transporting fuel to Grange Supply stores throughout the state. This network survives today as part of the massive CENEX cooperative. Also in Washington State  King County Grange members helped to organize a small clinic which evolved into the Group Health Cooperative. Interestingly, Washington State has the largest number of dues paying Grange members of any state in the country.

Grange Insurance Company was also started in the State of Washington by Grangers:  “In 1893, the Washington State Grange met in the hayloft of a new barn in White Salmon, Washington, and resolved to start a fire insurance cooperative. By-laws, assessments, and conditions for the new association were formulated and agents were appointed in various Granges. On April 4, 1894, business commenced and the Washington Fire Relief Association’s insurance was in force. The Association changed its name in 1936 to Grange Fire Insurance Association. In 1943, to reflect the broadening of coverage offerings to include casualty, as well as fire insurance, the name was then changed to Grange Insurance Association.”

I expect that most people, possibly even many Grange members, aren’t aware of the history of the Grange and it’s long tradition of often radical political advocacy, anti-trust activities and support of cooperative arrangements to bolster the agricultural community.

Not surprisingly, as people moved from rural to urban environments Grange membership declined dramatically and the Grange appeared to have lost relevance. This caused the Grange to embark on a careful self-examination which I will cover in Grange History: Part 3.

Apr 082012

(Disclaimer: I am a member of the Lummi Island Grange. The views I put forward about the Grange are mine alone and may not reflect the opinions and attitudes of any other Grange member).

I joined the Grange because among island institutions I believed the Grange was best positioned to effect the changes I see as necessary to get the island ready for a future that may have to deal with less of everything. The Grange’s historical interest in farmers, agriculture, local economy, life skills, family and community make it the ideal change agent for Lummi Island.

I’ve been engrossed in the official history of the Grange: People, Pride and Progress: 125 Years of the Grange in America by David H. Howard and published by the National Grange in Washington DC in 1992.
This book describes the organization as a powerful tool for change in the community, one with an historical agenda of advocacy with a long list of political victories such as rural free delivery and public power to electrify farms. Washington State is very important in the history of the Grange nationally.

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tom Foley, a Grange member, writes in the foreword to the official Grange history:
“The Grange has…sought to improve the lives of Americans through participation in many of the public policy debates that have occurred throughout its history. This involvement in legislation at the local, state, and national level has forever changed the nature of America. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the direct election of senators, and the initiative process (widely used in my home state of Washington) are examples of the continuing influence of past Grange legislative efforts.”

The Grange, then, is first and foremost a political organization, advocating for rural America. It is not political as in “Democrat” or “Republican”. But it is certainly political in that the Grange takes positions and lobbies for them at every level of government. The National Grange has a large presence in Washington DC and the the State Grange has the following to say on its website about “the democratic process,”

“As a community based organization the Grange is a natural arena for the discussion of local and national issues. Grangers assembled…for their meetings debate matters of common concern. Topics range from the need for a local traffic signal to school levies; from nuclear disarmament to hunger relief in third world nations; from public power to state and national social programs. After debate, Grange members draft and vote on a resolution concerning the issue.”

This sounds very much like a “political” process. (Here is a pdf file of the current Washington State Grange Legislative Handbook which lists hundreds of items of interest to Granges across the state of Washington and pretty much covers the entire political spectrum from right to left, from Libertarian to progressive.

It would be surprising, then, to learn that any local Grange would decide to avoid discussing a local issue using the argument that the issue was “too political.”

Continue reading »

Apr 042012

The Grange Country Living Series of workshops is off to a great start. This past Saturday twenty very hardy souls braved rain, cold and wind to learn about the science and art of fruit tree pruning. Not everyone made it to the end of the session but most stayed long enough to increase their knowledge of how to prune a fruit tree and the basics of proper tools, limb collars, apical dominance, and thinning. We hope to do more on fruit trees in the future and, as always, are open to suggestions on volunteers to conduct classes.

On the drawing boards is a workshop on backyard chickens which we hope to get scheduled soon plus one on basic chainsaw maintenance and safety.

Right now here’s what is scheduled for April.

April 28 Bread and Cheese Making

Location: Kjirsten Satter’s house on Centerview 11am
Class cost = $5.00 for materials provided by instructor (Susan Chidester)
Class size limited to 5 people, call Sue at 360 739-2954 to sign up.
(Three spots still available)
“We’ll be making a light oat bread, a pizza dough, and a simple mozzarella cheese

Equipment and Ingredients to bring.
Please bring a good quality flour, (gold medal, Bob’s Redmill, King Arthur Flour- all of these should be unbleached all purpose white) Please do not bring Eagle Mills from Costco.
A pottery type bread bowl
A regular 9 inch loaf pan or 8×8 inch baking pan (if you prefer to make rolls)
Gallon size zip lock bag
1 gallon of whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized like Darigold) goat milk works too.
Stainless steel pan big enough to hold a gallon of milk with room to stir
Meat or cheese thermometer that has a range of below 55 degrees and above 100 if you have one. Candy thermometers won’t work.
If you are interested in receiving a sour dough starter please bring a pint size canning jar with lid.
Class will end with everyone eating the demo pizza. Class time 2 to 3 hours depending on questions and eating.”

Sunday April 29, 12pm – 4pm Cheese Making
Where Grange Hall
Instructor: Mary Stack

Mary will teach how to make Lemon Paneer from India, Queso Blanco from
Mexico and the start of Feta from Greece which takes 8 days to complete.

If you have a 6 qt pot with a heavy base and/or a candy thermometer, please contact Mary @  stackmary@aol.com regarding use during class.

There is room for about a dozen people in this class. RSVP via email to Mary.

Apr 022012

“Sustainability isn’t based merely on practical initiatives. It begins with community, in other words social capital and relationships of trust.” Nicole Fosse

There are lots of strategies for building a sustainable future, a future that may have to rely on less of everything. As the Federal Reserve continues to print money for the purpose of buying our own debt (since no one else will) and as the can gets kicked down the road because our leaders don’t have the guts to tell the public what the real problem is. (Read Kunstler today for another dose of reality), people like Nicole Fosse continually point out that organized communities and strong local economies are the key to a sustainable and successful future.

This reminds me to comment on our recent Island Cleanup, an annual event sponsored by the Lummi Island Community Association. Cleaning up after oneself and others is a small but important thing. It demonstrates care and pride in our locality and the way LICA organizes the event, Island Cleanup is a lot of fun. When else do Lummi Islanders of all ages and backgrounds scramble through the bushes and verges alongside the roads to grab cans, bottles, filter tips and other weirder items? Lummi is pretty clean to start with being home to a minority of pumans (stinky humans) but, still, a remarkable amount of crud is collected to be hauled off to the dump.

Small things are what makes a community strong and they don’t all have to be about gardens, water catchment, food storage and food supplies.
Nicole Fosse, in her most recent blog post on Automatic Earth offers this short video about a neighborhood in Australia which is making slow, steady progress.

If we look at our own progress on the island toward sustainability I think we would give ourselves good marks with several strong, close civic organizations, neighborhoods beginning to organize via the Disaster Preparedness program, active church and social groups and a number of initiatives like the community orchards that bring islanders with common interests together.