Going Green on Whidbey Island
Yesterday I was waiting for the bus on a rural road. A man approached looking up at the tree tops. “I just saw a beautiful Red Breasted …” If he had said Sapsucker I would have been impressed. But he said Hawk which told me he didn’t know his birds. I assumed he saw a Red Tailed Hawk, which truly are beautiful. He got that right.
I mentioned how much fun I’d had going out on the Christmas Bird Count. As we got on the bus he said he had a hard time telling a Great Blue Heron from a Great Grey Heron. I said it was because they’re the same bird. I told him one of the big events of my recent bird watching outings was seeing a Shrike near Crockett Lake, but even after studying the book I didn’t know if it was a Northern Shrike or a Loggerhead Shrike.
On the Bird Count I was the designated driver for my team, because I was one of the worst birders. In general good birders make poor drivers. But I had a great time trying to find birds, any birds, and counting them. I learned a lot from the better birders and was inspired to become a better birder myself.
This year I joined the Audubon Society. It was sort of a New Year’s resolution to keep working on it. I keep my binoculars by the window and started keeping a notebook tracking who is coming and going in my yard, Dark Eyed Junco’s, Chestnut Backed Chickadees, Varied Thrush and Rufus Sided Towhees are residents. I hear the Great Horned Owls at night and at dawn and the Red Winged Blackbirds. On a walk on the beach this morning there were dozens of Wigeons, a few Harlequin Ducks and a Loon of some kind.
My mother was the first to teach me about birds. She taught me how to tell a thrush from a thrasher, a wren from a warbler and all the various jays and woodpeckers. As an adult I worked as a naturalist in many wonderful wilderness areas, but birds weren’t my specialty. I concentrated on plants, they don’t move around much, change from a summer to a winter wardrobe, sing different songs depending on their neighborhood or dress differently according to gender. Birding is tricky!
Why would anyone take the time and trouble to study birds? For me birds are beautiful and fascinating creatures, so varied, colorful and accessible wherever you go. There are falcons nesting among skyscrapers and under bridges in Seattle and Bellevue. There are little songbirds that fly for thousands of miles from one continent to another. Flightless birds that swim, or run, or kick or dance. They’re related to dinosaurs! How cool is that? No matter where you go you’ll encounter birds.
Because they’re everywhere, on every continent, they’re tied to all environments. They need habitat and keeping track of bird populations, like on the Christmas Bird Count, will help alert us to environmental degradation that effects birds and hundreds of other species. The “canary in the mine shaft” is true of more than mine shafts.
But mostly I wanted to join Whidbey Audubon because I think it will make me a better person. There are good people who are members. I’ll be able to learn from them and get to know them better as friends. I’ll go on field trips that will get me outside and into interesting new places. I’m looking forward to the interesting evening programs and speakers they have scheduled. And it will keep my mind active and sharpen my skills of observation.
Charles Lindberg said, “If I had to chose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” I’d have to agree.
Just after Thanksgiving came Black Friday. Right after Black Friday came, Small Business Saturday. But if you ask me, Small Business Saturday should be Shop Local Everyday! There are many good reasons to Shop Local and here’s another one!
Island County has its own Shop Local Coupon Book. It supports services for seniors, keeps our dollars local to support our community, and with it you can save money all year long. It’s a win, win, win! And now is the best time to get one.
The first thing I did with my Shop Local Coupon Book was get a haircut. It was the best haircut I’d had on Whidbey Island and the savings paid for the $12 coupon book. After that all the other coupons were icing on the cake!
Get your coupon book now to save money on holiday gifts and on eating out while going shopping! Then keep using it for all kinds of things year round.
Get a discount when you join the gym to follow through on your New Year’s resolutions. Save money on flowers, a special night at a B&B, or even diamonds for your Valentine. Get a discount on a hanging basket or flowering shrub for Mother’s Day. Save on greeting cards for birthdays, graduations and anniversaries. Get discounts on copies, prints and computer services. Coupons from hardware stores help pay for your summer home and garden projects. Get a good deal on outdoor gear, popcorn at the movies, or a novel for that trip to the beach. Take friends to the Whidbey Island Fair for free. Use coupons for back-to-school clothes and supplies. Save money on pet care. Get a discount when you get the furnace checked or fill up the propane tank next fall. Save when you winterize the car. Take the sewing machine in for a tune-up. Get discounted craft supplies and stock up on groceries, wine or a farm share of food before the big holiday season. You can even get discounts at thrift shops! It’s smart to put the Shop Local Coupon Book at the top of your shopping list this holiday season and use it year round.
By shopping locally owned businesses, we not only save money, we support our entire community and our quality of life.
*Money spent at locally owned stores is spent 6 to 15 times before it leaves our community.
*Local retailers are much more likely to contribute to local charities than national chain stores.
*Money spent in Island County includes sales tax which pays for Island County services we all enjoy.
*We save time and money on transportation, or shipping and handling.
* We support Island families who in turn support our community.
*Local businesses provide better jobs with a living wage.
*Small businesses take less infrastructure and make better use of our Island’s resources.
*We preserve our unique Island character and charm which attracts entrepreneurs to settle here attracting prosperity.
*Communities that support local businesses are better able to ride out hard economic times.
Most of the coupons are for things we would buy anyway so why not get a good deal. Altogether there’s over $2,000 in savings. They’re available for $12 at Coupeville Town Hall, the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce, and the Bayview Senior Services Center among many other places on Whidbey Island. Look here for the entire list. http://www.ssicnews.org/fundraising/
Last year Washington voters approved a law which allows adults to possess small amounts of marijuana. Marijuana infused candy, soft drinks, baked goods and juices are now legal. Marijuana advertising online, in magazines, newspapers, flyers and billboards is also legal. What kind of message does this send to young people?
Every two years a national Healthy Youth Survey is conducted with kids in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12. Students respond anonymously to a myriad of questions including questions about smoking, drinking, and drug use. The good news is 73% of high school seniors in Washington State said they do not use marijuana. However, after alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly used drug for students who use drugs. In Island County marijuana use increased between 8th grade and 10th grade. About 20% of 10th graders said they’d used marijuana in the past 30 days.
The survey results also indicated that the most influential people for teens are their parents. Parents are role models so it’s best to practice what we preach. It’s crucial that parents talk with their teens early, starting in 4th or 5th grade, about drugs and alcohol use. There are many misunderstandings about marijuana and the laws around it. Even if parents used marijuana in the past, things have changed.
First of all, like alcohol, it’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to use marijuana. There is “zero tolerance” for anyone to drive after using any amount of marijuana.
For those over 21, it is a felony to be in possession of over 40 grams of marijuana. It is a felony for an adult to provide marijuana to people under the age of 21, including parents providing pot to their own kids in their own home. It’s illegal to consume marijuana in any form (smoke, eat, drink) in public. If you have a prescription for medical marijuana, it is illegal to share it with someone else.
Teens that use marijuana regularly may have trouble with weight gain, concentration and memory. They often suffer from aggression, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and depression. Because teenage brains are still developing, prolonged use may result in a permanent decrease in IQ, lower grades, skipping school or dropping out. Adolescents who are addicted to marijuana often lack motivation, energy and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Since marijuana has been legalized in Washington State, teens get the impression that it’s okay to use it. There are many myths about marijuana like;
Marijuana is not addictive.
False, the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in marijuana now is triple what it was in the 1980’s. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says that adolescent marijuana users are more likely than adults to develop dependency.
Eating marijuana brownies is better for you than smoking it.
False, you aren’t damaging your lungs with smoke, however marijuana in foods has a delayed reaction in your system, so you can easily overdose.
Smoking marijuana is medicinal.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration report that smoking marijuana has no medical benefit and is in fact, harmful to your health. Smoking 3 cannabis joints is equal to smoking a whole pack of cigarettes in terms of toxic chemicals in your lungs.
Marijuana helps people with ADHD.
False, and it may increase anxiety, paranoia, depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues. Studies indicate a link between heavy use of cannabis and schizophrenia.
Marijuana doesn’t affect my driving.
Those driving within 3 hours of using marijuana are twice as likely to cause an accident.
Marijuana is legal in Washington State now so I can use it whenever I want.
False, it is illegal for anyone under 21 years old. It’s illegal to use it in public. It’s a felony for adults to share it with people under 21. It’s illegal to drive under the influence. It’s a felony to be in possession of over 40 grams of marijuana. And it is still illegal under Federal law.
Find out more about how to talk with your teens about marijuana use. Read this helpful booklet from Seattle Children’s Hospital, “Now that marijuana is legal in Washington…” http://www.preventionworksinseattle.org/uploads/Parent-handbook_Oct2013.pdf.
Walk or Bike to School Day
October 9, 2013
You can climb into a car or ride the school bus to school and still be asleep when you get there… boring.
OR you can Walk or Bike to School! Cool!
When I was a kid walking to school with the neighborhood kids was the best part of my day. We walked through the woods and over a creek brushing away spider webs with a stick. Now I love to walk, hike and bike outdoors all year round. It helps burn off a few calories and builds confidence. I find myself smiling. The fresh air and exercise builds the immune system challenge on the onslaught of classroom germs all winter! It’s a great way to start… and end the day.
Wednesday, October 9th is National Walk and Bike to School Day. There are special activities planned in schools all across the Country. There are competitions between schools to see how many students participate. Don’t be left out. Ask the PE Teachers at your school to see if they’re forming a Walking School Bus or Bike Train for groups. Parents can volunteer to escort a group of neighborhood kids to school, on bikes, or on foot. Wear something bright, or carry a light to be seen and be safe.
Self Propelled! Feel the POWER! Walk with family, friends, neighbors or coaches. Go with the flow and make a show! Feel the morning sun on your face, the wind in your hair, the rain on your umbrella. Get your heart thumping, your feet stumping and your arms pumping! Walking and talking your way to school is the way to go. Your brain will be buzzing and your smile will be beaming when you arrive.
Or take the world by the horns and get going with pedal power! Stand up to those hills, cruise around corners, spin those wheels and fly! With your helmet strapped on you are ready for lift off! Get to school in style on the big day. To arrive safely be sure to use hand signals and watch for traffic. Be a good role model for your parents. Get outside and move it, groove it, prove it!
Are you ready to rumble? For more information, to register your school, or to get ideas on how to make this a special event for your school visit: http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/
This summer I joined the Jefferson County Water Quality team to help collect water samples. It’s very scientific. I wear a vest with pockets full of gadgets and take notes in a field notebook. I carry a small cooler with freeze packs, sample bottles and a telescopic pole which allows me to reach far into a blackberry thicket to get water samples from a tiny trickle off a beach bluff, or extend my reach into deeper salt water. We walk beaches looking for streams and seeps and outfall pipes collecting water samples from any trickle we can find. We collect samples from popular shellfish and swimming beaches and from sites along fishing streams. We go out in boats to collect water and algae from the middle of lakes, taking samples from multiple depths in the water column. All these samples are iced and rushed to a lab. Test results are usually emailed back overnight.
As part of our shellfish program I was assigned to regularly visit a certain rock on a certain beach at low tide to wrestle with certain large mussels. I wear my quick dry shorts and rubber boots (no socks) because the rock is pretty far out there and the tide is not always quite as low as I would like, but I never failed to get my mussels. I iced these mussels, like the water samples, and send them to the lab.
This kind of sampling is happening all over the State. The State Department of Health monitors the test results. They send email alerts telling each county which beaches need caution or closure signs for pollution, harmful bacteria or biotoxins. When we get these alerts, I drive from one end of the county to another posting signs at boat ramps, parks or clamming beaches.
I’ve learned a lot this summer. Marinas are generally closed to shellfish collection due to pollution. Boaters, please properly dispose of your hazardous wastes. Visit: www.pumpoutwashington.org to find a pump-out station near you.
Toxic algae blooms in lakes can cause an itchy rash, or if enough is ingested, can kill you, or your dogs, or livestock.
I learned about Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacteria that causes vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and is usually caused by eating raw oysters or clams collected from warm waters. This summer there have been Vibrio outbreaks all over Puget Sound. It’s easy to avoid Vibrio. When collecting shellfish, ice them immediately and then cook them thoroughly. If you boil them, wait for the shells to open and then cook 5 minutes longer. If steaming, let them steam another 8 or 9 minutes after shells open.
I’d heard of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, PSP can kill you. But I found out that ordinary cooking won’t help. Some shellfish hang on to this toxin for weeks, or in the case of Butter Clam, years. These are microscopic algae. You can’t tell by looking at it if a shellfish beach is affected. A reaction to PSP could appear within 30 minutes of ingestion. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, burning lips, mouth, tongue, toes, shortness of breath, and a choking feeling. In other words, this is serious stuff.
I had not heard of Diarrheal Shellfish Poisoning, DSP, which can cause… well you can probably guess. Or Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning, ASP, which may cause permanent short term memory loss, brain damage or even death.
So it’s smart to read and heed the signs before you swim, fish or collect shellfish. They’re the same color as a stop light. Green means “go”, go right ahead and enjoy! Yellow means “take precautions” like thoroughly cook your shellfish. And red means, “stop”, or you could be in serious danger. Or call the Safe Shellfish Hotline: 1-800-562-5632 before you go. And then thank the State and County Public Health Departments that are working to insure that you have a safer summer.
It’s summer! The kids are out of school. The gear is packed and you’re ready to go. You take off for your favorite beach, campground or trailhead and as you pull in you read the signs including the infamous, “Do Not Feed the Bears”. At least that’s what it said when I was a kid. As a kid I never fed the bears (that I know of) but I still wanted to throw down bread crumbs for the squirrels and apples for the deer, but my parents wouldn’t let me. Now I know why.
As a naturalist working in Olympic National Park I saw plenty of deer along the Hurricane Ridge road. The road is curvy with steep mountain slopes on each side. There’s a never ending caravan or tourists driving up and down in their camper trucks and RVs. Imagine a sweet young family sees a deer by the road. They stop to take a picture and lure it closer with an apple. Some elderly couple in a small car comes down the hill around the curve and finds a formidable stationary road block. Do they hit the back of the RV or the deer that are gathered next to it? Or do they plunge over the side? This is one reason why it’s not smart to feed the wildlife from a car. You’re encouraging them to hang out on the road where they’re most likely to be injured or killed.
By feeding wildlife at your picnic table or campground you’re training the animals to seek out people and see them as an easy food source… until summer is over. Suddenly the people and food are gone and the animals have to quickly learn how to find food in the wild, or die. Or you could be attracting wildlife to your family… and wildlife is wild. You don’t know what they’re going to do. Even cute little squirrels bite and can spread disease. If a bear starts hanging around a campground, it will likely be “removed”. A bear that’s transported to a new territory is probably a dead bear. We call these “problem bears” but the real problem is the people that trained it to eat from the cooler left out on the picnic table. If you’re out camping or picnicking this summer, please make sure your food is secure before you leave your site. Please don’t feed the bears.
Now let’s bring this a little closer to home. I have a neighbor that feed the squirrels. They think they’re cute. The squirrels bring their peanuts over and plant them in my garden. They dig up the things that I planted there and insert peanuts. Another neighbor feeds her cat on the front porch. Raccoons love cat food. Raccoons attack cats.
Another neighbor feeds the deer. She’s done this for years, casting cracked corn on the ground around her home, which is very close to my home. The deer come in herds to eat the grain, graze in our yards and munch on our shrubbery. A couple of years ago she had to hire professional exterminator to get rid of the rats in her crawl space. What a surprise. They did a good job and now the rats are in my crawlspace.
Rats are a big problem on Whidbey. They’re attracted to bird feeders and food in compost piles. If you want to compost food waste do it in a worm bin, a closed rat proof container. I use a metal garbage can with ¼ inch holes drilled in the bottom and sides and sunk into the ground. A tight fitting lid should keep it out of reach of rats, squirrels, raccoons, deer… and bears.
For more information on worm bins or bird feeders call 360-678-7974 or visit www.wastewise.wsu.edu
May 12, 2013
Guerilla Gardening is not done by gorillas. In fact it is usually done by little old ladies who sneak into people’s yards when no one is home. At least that’s what I do.
My first act of guerilla gardening was for my friend Joe. He’d worked for many years on building a home whenever he had money available and help from friends. The place was a cluttered construction site for a long time. But as the building was nearly completed, and the construction debris cleared away, there was room in a sunny spot for a small garden. I knew Joe wanted to grow some of his own food and where he intended to put a garden so when he left town for a week, I made my move.
I collected some discarded 4×4’s and some left over fencing and piled them into my station wagon along with some garden starts and headed over to Joe’s. It’s a lovely place at the end of a dirt road. I got to work with my digging fork and turned sod, weeded and formed beds. I dug holes and erected the posts and fencing. Then I planted the seeds and starts, salad greens, squash, peas and beans to climb the fence and a bed for perennials like rhubarb, herbs and raspberries. I watered it all from the rain barrel. When Joe came home and found it he was delighted. Since then his garden has expanded to 5 times the size of the original.
I live on a small lot in town. The previous owner traveled often so his landscaping was concrete and grass. Now after 5 years, there’s a native plant garden on the shady side of the house with vine maple and crabapple trees, salal, Oregon grape, red flowering currant, columbine and wild ginger. In the sunniest part of the yard, right up against the sidewalk, I have my espaliered fruit trees with 10 different kinds of fruit grafted on to 4 trees. There are 2 blueberry bushes and strawberry plants. In the beds there are potatoes, squash, peas, salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower and winter greens. A stately rhubarb fills out one corner and cosmos bloom by the fence. What a delight to grow my own produce. I planted greens last August to winter over so I’m eating chard, collards, kale and beets year round. The chard with their red and yellow stems brighten up the flower beds.
It took a while for me to figure out what grows best here in the Northwest and in my yard. Then I had to get used to eating what I grow. But now I’m totally addicted. I take some with me when I travel.
This spring my elderly neighbor said she wasn’t going to garden this year. My ears perked up. I asked, and she said to “Garden as if it was your own.” That garden has been under cultivation for decades so mostly what I’m doing is weeding and uncovering the volunteers. There’s lettuce, chard and garlic in abundance. I added a few squash and beans and covered them with a floating row cover to keep the deer and squirrels at bay.
Another friend is moving from Whidbey where he’s lived for thirty years. He has a well-established landscape. I’ve been weeding with him there getting his house ready to sell and hearing about his projects restoring an old house in Port Townsend where he’s planning to move. Last week while in Port Townsend, I put a couple of big pots on his porch, filled them with potting soil and added salad starts and a couple of squash. A friend 2 doors down said she’d keep them watered. My friend was touched to find them the next day. I love guerrilla gardening.
It’s April and Whidbey’s Earth Ocean Monthis officially underway.
The Sipping Science series of Pub Talks will start at Flyers in Oak Harbor at 5:30 on Tuesday, April 9. Meet Howard Garrett and Susan Berta of Orca Network for the latest on the Grey Whales that are surrounding our island right now! Grey Whales like to slurp up a big mouthful of sand from the bottom and then spit it out through their baleen filtering the sand lance and small copepods for dinner. They winter in Mexico where they have babies in protected lagoons. In summer they go to Alaska where they get an all-you-can-eat seafood dinner. But for a limited time only, they’re passing by Whidbey Island! Find out where you can go to see them this spring.
If you can’t make it to Flyers on April 9, you’ll have another chance to catch the Orca Network at the Greenbank Bar and Grille at 5:30 on Thursday, April 11. Have a beer or glass of wine and enjoy the conversation.
It’s adds a whole new dimension to Happy Hour!
Have questions about recycling? Bring them to Ciao’s Restaurant in Coupeville at 5:30 on Wednesday, April 17. Meet Janet Hall, our local WSU Extension Waste Wise Coordinator. Get a glass of wine and a pizza and engage in discussion about reducing waste. Find out what you can recycle which depends on where you live, or if you have access to the Navy base recycling center. Learn about the latest trends in an ever changing recycling market. Ask what you can do to reduce household hazardous waste. Find out how you can transform food waste into a rich soil supplement for your garden, why you don’t want to throw your yard waste over the bluff and how to save money by reducing waste.
Blooms Taste of Wine in Bayview hosts the next pub talk on Monday, April 22 at 5:00. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust will present “Why land protection matters”. Discover the links between protecting open space and our Island economy, ecology and community.
On Wednesday, April 24, go to Mo’s Pub in Langley for a discussion on Micro-Plastics, here, there and everywhere, led by Julie Masura from the University of Washington.
And on Friday, April 26 at 6:30, Ott & Murphy Wines in Langley will have Nate Scholz of NOAA present about Salmon and their Sense of Smell.
There may be more pub talks scheduled so check for updates at: www.WhidbeyEarthDay.org
Fields of daffodils are blooming in the Skagit Valley and Tulips are soon to follow, a sure sign of spring (despite snow on the first day). Spring is full of surprises and full of activities! I have a T-shirt that says Earth Day is Everyday and that is certainly true in April. In fact, the Earth Day activity starts in March with a concert by musical activist, Dana Lyons who will give a Coal Train Concert at the Universalist Unitarian Church just north of Freeland at 7pm March 29th. The $10 tickets are available at the door or through BrownPaperTickets.com
Through the month of April a wide array of activities and events will be posted together at www.whidbeyearthday.org Go there for a comprehensive list, updates and details.
From bird watching to whale watching, from beach clean-ups to tire recycling, lectures, movies and pub talks from Langley to Oak Harbor. I’m most excited about the latter. Pub Talks are something new for Whidbey Island. There are several scheduled with topics including whales, micro-plastics, energy efficiency, recycling and climate change. Experts from the Island and some from the University of Washington or NOAA will be there to introduce the topics but they aren’t planning to make presentations. They want to engage the public in discussion while you sip a glass of wine or enjoy a beer in your favorite pub or winery. They call it Sipping Science.
If you’re interested in getting your scout troop, class, or club out for an Earth Day activity check out the times and places for beach clean-ups throughout the month. Bags and disposal are available free, so all you need to do is show up. Or join the Whidbey Island Conservation District to clean up the Rain Garden in Freeland Park on April 21st. Call 678-4708 for details.
On April 26 at 1pm I’ll lead a program for kids at the Coupeville Elementary School multi-purpose room about the 3 R’s, reduce, reuse and recycle. They’ll get a chance to test their sorting skills in a Recycle Relay and I’ll bring my banjo for a song at the end.
If you’re more the movie going type go to Langley at noon April 27 to see Chasing Ice at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. The film has stunning photography by James Balog, a National Geographic Photographer who set up cameras all over the globe to shoot some of the most incredible glacier calving events ever caught on film. Come early and stay late to visit displays and talk with Island groups that are working on water quality, salmon restoration and other local issues.
Put on your running shoes because Spring is officially here and you’ll need to step lively to keep up!
What fun! Here comes the sun and along with it Cisco Morris and the Whidbey Garden Workshop! The WSU Extension Master Gardeners will host the event at the new Oak Harbor High School. A few hundred gardeners are expected to attend. There will be vendors and displays by non-profits and educational groups, and a few dozen garden classes to chose from. And lunch, a really good lunch.
A couple of years ago I took Cary Pedersen’s class. Cary runs the garden for the Good Cheer Food Bank in Bayview and the garden at the Whidbey Institute. She’s a hard working Amazon woman, tough as nails, with a heart of gold. If you’re serious about growing as much food as possible in your garden, you must take her class. If you miss her class for any reason, you could probably volunteer to help at the Good Cheer garden and work alongside the Master.
Another great class I took last year is offered by Ann Daum. She calls it “Not Tonight Deer”. She has lots of experience and some proven successes in getting deer to steer clear of her garden. She has many tips. One I learned is that deer don’t like smelly herbs, lavender and such, so you can plant those along the outside edges. They don’t like to do both a broad jump and a high jump so if you put a wire just a foot high outside that row of herbs, and a 5 foot fence behind the herbs, they will most likely pass your garden by.
The sunny weather lately has pulled us gardeners out of our dark winter hovels and into the sunlight of the garden. Turning manure into beds and planting peas and potatoes is thrilling. Just be on your guard for the mighty northwest slug! The Whidbey Garden Workshop is a great way to start the garden season off right. I’ll be there helping to make this another waste wise event. To learn how you can host a Waste Wise Event, call Janet Hall at 360-678-7974. See you in the garden!