Going Green on Whidbey Island
On these warm summer days we keep windows and doors open to catch a breeze. If you don’t have screens on your open windows and doors, the bugs come in, and so do the bats. Bats are fascinating animals. They eat mosquitos and other bugs. They disperse seeds and help pollinate fruits and flowers. Some species of bats are threatened or endangered. Bat boxes, like bird houses, provide habitat for bats and encourage their presence in your neighborhood. Though bats are an important link in the ecological web of life, bats can also spread diseases that can be fatal to humans.
Let’s not wait until Halloween to discuss bats. This time of year things are already going batty.
If you see a bat come into your house wear protective clothing and with a long handled broom, promptly and gently usher it out. If you find a bat in your house and you don’t know how long it’s been inside, there’s a chance that someone was exposed. A bat exposure is hard to detect. So as a precaution, close the bat into a room without people and call the County Health Department at 360-679-7350.
If the bat was brought in by a pet, or other domestic animals were exposed, call your veterinarian. Make sure to keep their vaccination shots are up-to-date.
Bats, along with dogs, foxes and raccoons, can spread rabies. Rabies can be transmitted when the saliva of a rabid animal comes into contact with a person’s mouth, eyes, nose or a fresh wound.
When a person is exposed to a rabid animal, timely administration of a vaccine can prevent infection. Once symptoms become evident, rabies is almost always fatal. The Health Department would rather test a bat for rabies, than tell the people in the house that they should get vaccinated which requires a series of expensive shots. They will ask you to catch the bat. Leather gloves and long sleeves are recommended. When the bat lands, slowly approach it with a container and slip it over the bat. Slide a piece of cardboard or a lid under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the lid shut. If the bat was dead, pick it up using a plastic bag as a glove and turn the bag inside out, so the bat is inside and your hand is out. Bring the bat into the County Health office in Coupeville.
To prevent bats entering your house, install screens on windows and doors. Make sure doors and windows seal tightly. Bats can enter a space as small as ¼ x ½ inch so seal any openings. Fill electrical or plumbing holes with stainless steel wool or caulking. Screen chimney caps. Secure screens over your attic vents.
Histoplasmosis is another potentially fatal disease associated with bats. The illness primarily affects the lungs, but has various other symptoms and can affect other organs as well. Histoplasmosis is caused by a fungus that grows in soil with animal droppings including bat guano. When soil, or guano is disturbed, spores are released and can be inhaled.
So if you have bats in your belfry, let them go out at dusk, as bats tend to do, and then seal their exit so they cannot re-enter. This could be done by stapling a plastic flap over their exit with one side unstapled so they can leave but not return.
I’ve read that high pitched music can drive bats out. One observer reported a swarm of bats leaving an attic vent when a marching band passed by in a parade. Years ago when I had bats in my attic I played Joni Mitchell volume 10 while I was gardening outside. That seemed to do the trick.
By Maribeth Crandell
On one of the busiest weekends of the year, I made the great escape. None of my friends could go with me but I was determined to go. I needed to go. As far from the crowds, the noise, the commotion as I could get. Almost out of this world.
A ferry ride, a stop for gas and groceries, and a long drive took me to Lake Ozette on the Olympic Coast. The 15 site campground had just a few tents pitched between the trees. I chose a site right on the lakeshore surrounded by alders and cedars. After settling in I went exploring, the campground and the trailhead. At the boat launch I took off my shoes, rolled up my pants and let my feet paddle the water. I leaned against a post on the dock and gazed at the water. After a few minutes a muskrat skimmed by with a big leaf in its mouth and disappeared into the reeds. In a moment it popped back out and continued to zigzag across the river carrying material for a nest. Then a second muskrat appeared and both worked industriously as I watched smiling.
After dinner in my campsite I went for a walk to the trailhead where a bridge crossed the river. I heard footsteps approaching from the trail and at the same time, splashing on the riverbank below. An otter sprung out with a fish in its mouth as a hiker strode across the bridge. The fellow, who was finishing a long day hike on the coast, stopped to watch. A mother otter with 3 little ones trailing and spiraling around her was fishing and feeding her young just below us. We swapped stories of wildlife encounters and wilderness adventures for half an hour. As darkness fell he went to start a long drive home. I said goodnight to the otters and strolled back to the campground happy to be here. Traveling alone offers more opportunities for spontaneous encounters with other hikers and wildlife.
In the morning I had my binoculars and bird book on the breakfast table, eating oatmeal, while trying to sort out all the tweeters in the trees around me, Yellow Warblers, Cedar Waxwings, Downy Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Juncos, Steller’s Jays, Kingfishers and Mergansers on the lake, Eagles and Ravens calling from the distant cedars. And I thought I was getting away from it all!
The Ozette Triangle has 3 equal sides, 3 miles to a side. Two sides are mostly boardwalk, cedar planks among cedar trees that levitate hikers over a bog. The mossy edged planks look like home to hobbits weaving between ancient trees and bogs of Labrador Tea, Skunk Cabbage and ferns. On my way out the first side of the triangle, I came upon a velvet antlered buck browsing in the shoulder high shrubs. Later a woman with 2 half-grown kids passed me heading inland. When I reached the beach, I heard some campers tucked behind some trees. An older woman walked down the beach with a daypack and a look of wonder on her face.
I stopped to take pictures of Capa Lava then headed south along the outside edge of the triangle. This 3 mile stretch sometimes requires rock hopping and log leaping over slimy seaweed and tiny tidepools. The sand slides beneath my feet and makes travel slower but there is so much to look at and to look for. After a mile or so, I was greeted by a raccoon at Wedding Rocks, a headland where pictographs of faces, whales and ships were left by people who lived here centuries ago. I walked around in circles and found first a stick figure with a cross above his head. It seemed haunted and sad. Another rock showed 2 faces and 2 whales that looked like Orcas. I sat on a log for a snack among the chipmunks when I noticed another whale carved into a rock nearby. It looked almost like a happy cartoon whale, a good lunchtime companion. I didn’t see another soul until I reached the trailhead for the forest trail at Sand Point.
At the end of the coastal stretch I stopped to take in the view and noticed an eagle dropping quickly into a tidepool where it caught a fish. It was all the eagle could do to hang on to the struggling fish. Meanwhile a crow was diving within inches of the eagles’ head. The turning tide added drama as the eagle struggled to get the fish onto a big rock and out of the surf. Another eagle noticed it then and flew in to make a claim. Both eagles and the crow took off with the fish still wiggling in the eagles’ talons. They circled over my head and into the trees and then over my head again before they disappeared into the forest. Fat raindrops fell with big lazy plops on the log where I sat so I started inland with the giant cedars as my umbrella.
Within a mile I came upon a tiny hiker chatting away and leading her parents toward the coast. She carried a pack just big enough for a sandwich and had her own little walking stick. Her parents carried much larger loads. I smiled knowing she’d grow up at ease with wilderness and congratulated her folks.
Walking the boardwalk my feet pounded out a rhythm like a drum while the rain provided a soft snare in the tree tops. I got back to my campsite as the rain settled in for the night and snuggled into my sleeping bag satisfied and happy.
By Maribeth Crandell
It’s that time of year. We go outside to grill our dinner and bask in the warmth of a summer evening, but when you lift the hood of the barbeque and see all the grease and grime stuck to the grill we cringe. Cleaning the grill is a dirty job. And many people use harsh chemicals or a lot of elbow grease or both to accomplish it.
Scott Chase of the WSU Shore Stewards program offers some excellent alternatives. His suggestions are safer for the environment and easier for you. He recommends washing soda. No, not laundry detergent and not baking soda. Washing soda, otherwise known as sodium carbonate, is commonly made from the ashes of plants, and was a staple in our grandmothers’ laundry rooms. The high alkalinity of washing soda helps it remove a large variety of stains, particularly when used in laundry detergent mixtures when hard water is present. It is also a great way to remove the baked on residue on your grill grates. Not all stores carry washing soda; you may need to look around. It is typically found in the laundry products section, and sometimes near the “green” detergent or where they carry other old-fashioned products, such as bluing and starch. You will usually find packages made by Arm & Hammer. ( You don’t want the laundry detergent that contains washing soda; look for a package that states it is washing soda. It is not expensive.)
First, find a location where this messy job can take place, maybe in the garage, where children and pets can’t get into it. Second, find a container or tub large enough for the grates and any other parts, along with a couple gallons of water. A five gallon plastic bucket works well if the grill fits into the bucket. Place the grills and other parts inside the container. Mix 1 cup of washing soda with 2 gallons of warm water. (You can use a plastic milk jug, mixing ½ cup of washing soda with one gallon of water and repeat.) Make more if you need it. Pour slowly over the grates, so that you don’t splash. Soak grills overnight or longer. Using an old towel, or stiff nylon grill brush, wipe or wash off the residue, which should now be quite soft. (Do not use a wire brush or steel wool.) When grime is removed, rinse with water and dry. Then wash with soap and water and dry again. You may want to coat the grills with a very light coat of olive oil or grill spray for protection. WARNING: washing soda is a severe skin irritation. If you splash it on yourself, you should wash it off immediately with a baking soda solution.
Garden tools that were put away dirty last year, or maybe discovered in the hedge years after their disappearance, may need a little TLC. Scott recommends another miracle worker from grandmas’ cupboard… house brand white vinegar. Brush off the dirt and submerge the rusty blades into a container of white vinegar. Leave it for 24 hours. Wipe off the residue a few times during that 24 hour period and return to the vinegar bath. Wipe off the final residue with a piece of 0000 steel wool, the finest grade, which will remove the rust. Since the vinegar would keep on working if left on the tool eating away at the metal, neutralize the acid with some baking soda dissolved in warm water. Rinse with water, dry it off and lightly coat it with olive oil. The results can be as good as expensive chemical –based rust removers, and much friendlier to the environment.
If you leave the dirty vinegar undisturbed for a few days, the suspended rust particles will settle to the bottom. You can slowly pour the clean vinegar on top into a sealable container to be used for other cleaning projects. Let the rust remain and the moisture evaporate. Discard the dried residue.
Search for WSU Waste Wise Sustainable Living for more indoor and outdoor non-toxic cleaning recipes.
Memorial Day weekend brings out the sun bathers, sailors and clam diggers. Don’t forget the sunscreen, the life preservers and for clam diggers, call this number 1-800-562-5632. It’s the safe shellfish hotline. Or you can go online and use this clickable map www.doh.wa.gov/shellfishsafety.htm to find out if the beach you’re visiting has clean water and no biotoxins. Dig it? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
“When the tide is out the table is set.” Puget Sound residents have dined on the delicacies of the intertidal zone, clams, mussels and oysters, for roughly 10,000 years. Sometimes this beach banquet is yummy and good for you, and sometimes it can make you very sick, or worse. You can’t tell by looking at it when it will be a great meal or when it will be your last.
Location, location, location is a key part of finding a safer shellfish supper. Some places are off limits year round. Shoreline communities have septic systems, storm water outfall pipes, waste water treatment plants and marinas which should be avoided. Steer clear of the pier, or any type of human development.
When you buy food labeled “natural” it’s supposed to be a good thing, right? Not so with recreational shellfish. There are harmful algae blooms that are completely natural that can cause serious illness and sometimes death. The Washington Department of Health has people all over Puget Sound collecting clams, mussels and oysters and sending them to a lab for testing. They’re looking for shellfish that can cause Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning, Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. All of these can make you sick, cause permanent damage or even death. You cannot cook or freeze these toxins out of the meat.
Symptoms vary widely. One local who’d experienced PSP told me it felt like his teeth were floating. He compared it with going to the dentist and getting a shot of novocaine. His extremities went numb. It can result in difficulty breathing and needs immediate medical attention. Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning, can be embarrassing and very inconvenient, as you can imagine. Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning can cause permanent short term memory loss, brain damage and even death. Heed any signs posted at the beach and check out this website for the latest biotoxin reports from the Department of Health so you “know before you go”. http://www4.doh.wa.gov/gis/mogifs/biotoxin.htm .
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is most often found in oysters during a hot spell in mid to late summer. Vibrio is easily avoidable. When harvesting shellfish, chill them immediately and then cook them thoroughly. The Food and Drug Administration suggests boiling shucked oysters for 3 minutes, frying them for 10 minutes in 375° oil, or baking them for 10 minutes in a 450° oven. Be sure to keep the cooked shellfish separate from seawater and uncooked shellfish so they don’t get re-contaminated.
Now that you’re armed with your hotline number, clickable map and biotoxin report, you’re ready to head out. Dig it?
I moved to a new home last fall. It was great to settle in for the winter. As daylight hours stretch like nettle sprouts and temperatures rise with the sun, I get the itch. I start planning a new veggie garden, consider expanding my landscaping, maybe plant a tree for Earth Day. But wait! Before you sink your shovel in the soil, consider your septic system.
I recently attended the Sound Waters Conference where I took Septic 101 taught by the infamous Janet Hall of WSU Extension Waste Wise Program. Bill Roberts of Island County was also there to help answer questions. They made the point that because we live on an island, our aquifer is, at least in part, recharged by our septic systems. So we want them to function properly because most of us get our drinking water from our aquifer as well. After living on a city sewer system for years I was surprised at the differences between sewers and septic systems.
City sewer systems are owned and maintained by a city. Septic systems belong to the property owners and are our responsibility. Just like a car, they need regular inspections and maintenance. In fact, septic inspections are required by law every 1-3 years depending on the type of system. Taking Septic 101 helped classmates and I understand how our daily activities will affect our septic systems. From what should not go down the drains inside like cigarette butts, dental floss, handi-wipes and condoms, to the drain field outside. Don’t drive over it, build anything on it or plant trees near it. They discouraged the use of garbage disposals and told us how to compost food waste in a worm bin instead. Like a car, it costs a lot less to maintain one than to buy a new one. Unlike a car, if you have to replace your septic system it would mean not only spending thousands of dollars but also digging up the yard.
I realized I should find out more about my septic system and drain field before making any changes to my yard. I stopped by the County Environmental Health office and got a copy of my AsBuilt, a diagram of my septic system, but it wasn’t very clear. So with the help of a friend, I went looking for my septic tank. We found the lid to the tank under the bird bath. Modern systems have risers to provide easy access to the lid and keep water out. If you don’t have risers, you can have them installed.
We lifted the lid and peered inside while standing at a respectable distance. We could see the filter and where the pipe led to the drain field. Then we carefully dug a couple of holes in that direction looking for the distribution box. At the distribution box we could see the laterals which showed us the placement of the drain field. Taking some measurements from the house we drew the system on graph paper. Then we filled in the holes.
For the next few weeks I walked around the yard visualizing my septic system and drain field underground and considered the possible placement of my new veggie garden, fruit trees and flower beds. I want to keep the veggie garden at least ten feet away from my drain field to avoid contamination by harmful pathogens, and I don’t want my drain field to be rendered useless by saturated soils from watering the garden. I laid out ropes to mark the imaginary beds and studied the way the sun moved across the yard. Gradually I formed a plan. Over the drain field I’ll keep a nice wide grassy lawn.
For more information on landscaping over your drain field or Septic 101 classes, call 360-678-7974 or visit: www.islandcountyeh.org/Page?105.
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.