Going Green on Whidbey Island
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!
If you’ve ever considered going solar now is the time. Our local renewable energy installers are offering these free workshops to explain why. Come with your questions to one of these free events.
Wed. Feb. 13 – 6 :30-8:00 – Bayview Hall, Langley
Sat. Feb. 23 – 2:30-4pm – Whidbey Golf and Country Club, Oak Harbor
Wed. Mar. 6 – 6:30-8:00 – Pacific Rim Institute, Coupeville
Need a good reason to consider solar now?
- Solar module prices are at an all time low.
- A 30% Federal Tax Credit is effective through 2016.
- Production incentives are available of 15-54 cents per kilowatt hour produced through 2020.
- Solar Photovoltaic Systems (which make electricity) are exempt from sales tax until July 1, 2013. (That’s coming right up!)
- You’ll get credit from Puget Sound Energy for any power you’d generate that you didn’t use.
- Whidbey Sun and Wind are offering half price site assessments and rebates for a limited time only.
Now’s the time Whidbey, for businesses and residents alike. This is our chance to get clean, renewable energy at the best prices ever. For more information contact Whidbey Sun and Wind at 360-678-7131 or email: email@example.com
Earlier this month over 550 people invaded OHHS for the annual Sound Waters Conference. They spent the whole day attending classes, viewing displays and networking. When people registered for the conference they were asked to bring a reusable cup. As they arrived and checked in they were given an actual brownie, as in brownie points, for bringing their own cup.
The 4-H kids served cookies and scones, tea and coffee for a donation. If you didn’t have your own cup, you’d get beverages in biodegradable cups they got through Whidbey Coffee.
At mid-day, a delicious lunch was served. A few volunteers, including myself, stood by the recycle stations to help people sort their waste. Besides the garbage can and recycle boxes, we had compost bins and orange buckets to collect liquids which can add a lot of weight to garbage. The food was served in biodegradable boxes with utensils made of corn starch. All of it could go into the compost bins. The only things served that could not were little slips of foil in some of the lunches and the tiny bits of tinsel on the end of the toothpicks holding the sandwiches together.
Of course some people brought their own snacks with non-recyclable foil or plastic wrappers so it wasn’t a completely “Zero Waste” event. But it was pretty darn close. At the end of the day we gathered the waste and weighed it. There was 132 pounds of compost (which includes liquids), 25.5 pounds of recyclables and 7 pounds of actual garbage. Seven pounds of garbage after over 550 people spent a day together, ate lunch, had snacks, etc. Amazing.
They also collected reusables such as 8 pounds of folders and 4 pounds of plastic tubs the scones came in. An art teacher wanted the tubs and the folders will be used in the next conference.
Congratulations to the WSU Extension Waste Wise Program and the Island County Beach Watchers who coordinate the Sound Waters conference each year. It was the first event to be certified with the Whidbey Green Seal for Events and continues to set a high standard. In past years the garbage weighed roughly 20 pounds. So this year they substantially beat their own record.
When I worked for the City of Oak Harbor I tried to bring this waste reduction element to the Grand Opening of Pioneer Way in October of 2011 where over 1,000 people were served a salmon dinner. Arnie Peterschmidt took this picture of the event. Again at the Whidbey Marathon in the spring of 2012 Waste Wise volunteers staffed the recycle stations and helped people sort the waste. Here’s what we learned.
People don’t read signs. If you have several containers for waste (say a garbage can, recycle bin, a compost bin and bucket for liquids) tape the stuff you want them to throw inside on top of the container. At the marathon, venders offered yoghurt tubs, fruit and beverages in paper cups, aluminum cans, juice boxes and plastic bottles. We taped examples of each container on the lid of the appropriate receptacle. We also had volunteers who offered help and support.
Take steps to reduce waste while planning the event. If you can, serve food on compostable containers. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Paper plates and cups will do, as long as they don’t have a waxy plastic coating. If you can get away from using utensils you’ll save money, too. I went to a conference last month where they served wraps, chips, fruit and cookies on paper plates, no utensils necessary. Encourage people to bring their own cup or offer biodegradable paper cups.
The compostables we collected were taken to a commercial composter on the mainland. Because most Whidbey Islanders get their water from our sole source aquifer, we have to be very careful with our organic waste. The compost collected at these events contained meat and dairy, not something you want to add to your grass and leaves in the compost pile in your yard. Your backyard compost pile wouldn’t get hot enough to burn up the harmful pathogens and bacteria in animal products.
To learn more about reducing waste at events, “Google” Whidbey Green Seal for Events, or contact Janet Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-678-7974.
Unseasonably warm weather and a little more sun can do a lot for a Northwesterner in January. Traditionally this time of year is spent either holed up in our cozy cabins or gathering in community halls to swap stories and share food. Two up-coming conferences will give us an opportunity to do just that.
Thursday, January 31 the Storming the Sound Conference will take place in Maple Hall in La Connor. It’s hosted by the staff at Padilla Bay Reserve and several partnering organizations. Environmental educators, classroom teachers and scout leaders from the North Puget Sound region will gather for workshops, displays, song and stories. A catered lunch is offered that features local vegetarian and vegan fare contributed by generous local organizations.
I’m looking forward to the keynote speaker, Saul Weisburg, founder of the North Cascades Institute who is a leader in Environmental Education in Western Washington. The programs offered at NCI are a model for anyone in the field and his is definitely the voice of experience.
His address will be followed by numerous workshops on water quality education, working with students, and how to make positive changes in classrooms and communities. Scholarships are offered to classroom teachers that help them cover the cost of a substitute teacher while they attend. Contact Glen Alexander at Padilla Bay for details.
I’ll be offering a workshop on the Pet Poop Patrol I conducted last year with the OHHS Ecology Club. They made it to local TV and the front page of the local paper. Their efforts resulted in a 94% decrease in piles of pet poop on Oak Harbor’s Waterfront Trail and a successful awareness campaign which can be a model for other parks and areas frequented by dogs and their friends.
Just a couple of days later, on Saturday, February 2nd, Sound Waters will take over the Oak Harbor High School for the day. Island County WSU Extension Beach Watchers have been holding this conference for almost 20 years in Coupeville or Langley. This is the first year it will be in Oak Harbor. Sound Waters attracts over 500 people from on and off the Island. With months of preparation by dozens of volunteers, it runs smoothly, without a hitch. Register online ahead of time to assure that you’ll get your choice of over 50 workshops. The keynote speaker will be Cliff Mass, from the University of Washington, known for his work on Climate Change. Come early to stroll through the aisles of displays and vendors, get free information and give-aways that will help you live more sustainably. Lunch and snacks will be served on biodegradeable plates that can be composted along with the apple cores and banana peels. In past years, with guidance for the WSU Waste Wise Coordinator, Janet Hall, the “garbage” from this full day event with over 500 people is trimmed to bags of recyclables, compostables and only about 20 pounds of actual trash. Sound Waters is the first to qualify for the Whidbey Green Seal certification for events. Come find out how it’s done or “Google” Whidbey Green Seal events.
Start the New Year off right with the first of many spring events that bring us out of our cabins and into the community halls. I’ll look for you there!
The winter solstice is an exciting time. It’s the darkest day of the year but it’s lit up by cheery lights everywhere. In historic downtown Oak Harbor the street is lit up for the holidays. I especially love the live tree with the bright star on top.
We’ve also had some wicked weather lately, wind, snow, hail, and rain. It makes being inside that much more cozy. Though these short days and long nights can be dreary, I try to look for the positive in each season.
Last week I was told I’ll be laid off as the Environmental Educator for the City of Oak Harbor. Budgets are tight. But as I clean out my files and say good-bye, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work full time on projects I felt passionate about for these last 5 years.
Working with Mayor Jim Slowik was a joy. The City made great strides. The new improved Pioneer Way is among the first certified Greenroads in the world. It certainly doesn’t seem to have suffered from being a One Way street. New businesses have sprung up next to our old favorites. Whenever I’m there it’s hard to find a parking spot. If you remember what it looked like before the renovations, you’d have to admit, what’s there now is a vast improvement. It’s a pleasure to see the downtown looking so good. Thank you Jim.
When I started work for the city I began a series of monthly Sustainable Living Seminars. We started taping them to show on Channel 10 so they could be seen all over Whidbey Island. Later we made copies of the DVDs for the Sno-Isle Library System. Now there are 43 DVDs available for check-out in 21 libraries featuring our regional experts on topics like green building, backyard chickens, low impact development, waste reduction, clean boating, responsible yard care and local food. I’ve received praise from people around the region so thank you to all the volunteer presenters for offering your time and expertise. And thanks to our camera man Jim Riney for ironing out our technological glitches and making it fun.
Our Green Business Award, won by Angeloe’s Caffe on Pioneer Way, has morphed into the Whidbey Green Seal thanks to the work of Cathy D’Almeida and Britt Conn. They put the check list online and made it a year round certification system. Now over 40 organizations display the Green Seal on their window. To find out how you could qualify “Google” Whidbey Green Seal.
My Waste Wise Holiday campaign started out slow with just 8 businesses offering discounts for gifts of experience to reduce trash over the holidays. It grew to include over thirty businesses and ventured beyond the city limits with help from the WSU Waste Wise program including businesses in Langley, Freeland and Coupeville. This year Island County Senior Services included it in their new SHOP LOCAL Coupon Book so now it’s year round and Island-wide.
My Bike to Work Month campaign, Like2Bike Whidbey, started just before the formation of the Whidbey Bike Club. Working with Brian Wood, Matt Plush, Donna Keeler, Joyce Swanson, Janet Hall, Cathy D’Almeida, Terry Welch, Jerry Mingo, Arnie Peterschmidt, Rick Almberg and other super cyclists we got bikes in the Holland Happening parade, offered bike repair workshops, and our annual Free Breakfast for Car*Free Commuters went from Oak Harbor to include Coupeville and Freeland in the last 2 years. The Most Miles in May Contest started with Mike Merickel taking first place with over 1,000 bike miles and has continued with prizes for adult and youth divisions. Ride on!
I’ve met many of you at the Farmer’s Market each week in the summer. Next year you’ll see my friends from the WSU Extension programs at the Market, Waste Wise, Beach Watchers, Shore Stewards, 4-H and others, so stop by and visit with them.
I worked closely with Janet Hall of the WSU Waste Wise program to start a new Compost Demonstration Site here at the Oak Harbor Public Works Shop. We’ve diverted 25% of our lunch room garbage to the worm bins and in addition to offering classes on composting, were able to offer free red wigglers for worm bins to the public. I’ve helped schools and businesses start worm bins, too. Thanks to volunteer Ernie Branigh, Arnie Peterschmidt and Janet Hall, the worms will be fed and it will continue to serve the public on North Whidbey.
Thanks to some hearty volunteers our Adopt-A-Street program is up and running. The Key Club, Navy and individual volunteers have all been busy keeping the town cleaner and greener this year.
With help from the Parks Department we certified 4 City parks as Backyard Wildlife Sanctuaries which helped Whidbey Island qualify as a Community Wildlife Sanctuary.
This position has given me an opportunity to work with great school faculty and students, scout leaders, county staff, the conservation district, WSU Extension programs, regional environmental educators, service clubs, the Navy, non-profit organizations and volunteers. Your good energy is what makes the world go around.
Finally I want to thank the city staff here in Oak Harbor. You’ve helped me gain insights and perspective. I’ve benefited greatly from your support. My world is richer from the experience. Thank you all. It’s been a pleasure to become friends and see how much can be done when we work together.
I don’t know where the New Year will take me but I hope what we’ve started here continues to grow. Happy Holidays and look to the light!
I am so excited! I’ve invited the Leftover Queen to come to Oak Harbor City Hall to give our December Sustainability Seminar and she accepted!
Americans waste 40% of our food, clearly unsustainable. It not only wastes food but the water, energy, fuel and farmland it took to grow the food. The food that goes to the landfill then turns into methane gas which is a potent greenhouse gas contributing to Climate Change.
With people lining up at Food Banks and struggling to make ends meet this seems unbelievable. The Natural Resource Defense Council says it costs the average American family over $2,000 a year. What a waste!
Enter the Leftover Queen, aka: Kim McJury. With her years of restaurant experience and organizational skills she’s a wealth of ideas and information. She’ll offer tips on planning, shopping, prep and preserving meals that will save us time, money and delight our taste buds, too!
What do we do with the leftovers after the Leftover Queen is done? The cores, peelings, tea bags and coffee grounds? We feed them to the worms, of course. I’ll show you how to transform food waste into nutrient rich soil supplements for your garden by starting a worm bin!
So join us at 5:30pm Tuesday, Dec. 11 at Oak Harbor City Hall and bring your favorite recipe for holiday leftovers.
This will be the last of our monthly seminars. Next year we’ll offer new seminars quarterly starting in March. In between we’ll show re-runs of the favorite seminars from the past 4 years. Find them at Sno-Isle Libraries in the catalog. Type: Sustainable Living Seminar Series in the search box.
If you’re like me, as I get older, I look for ways to simplify and lighten my load. Now, I’m concerned about Saint Nick. I think he’s been putting on weight. His beard looks a little longer and his back a little more bent this year. After all, he’s been lugging that huge, red sack around since the 4th century. So for Santa’s sake, and my own, I have a suggestion. Go light this holiday season. Give Gifts of Experience instead of more stuff.
Each year, Americans generate 25% more trash over the holiday season. Gifts of Experience are inexpensive to mail, require little or no wrapping and they’re easy to carry around in a large, red sack.
A Gift of Experience could be a coffee card, tickets to a show or sporting event, a club membership, fitness class, music lessons, or gift card to a favorite restaurant. If money is tight this year, consider making your own gift certificates for baby sitting, house cleaning, car maintenance, yard care or a candle light dinner for two. Lighten your load and enjoy the holiday season.
“Shop the Rock”
Instead of wasting gas and time driving to the mainland (waiting in bumper to bumper traffic, searching for a parking space and listening to muzak in the mall) explore what Whidbey has to offer. We have some unique shops, pubs and eateries that will make shopping a joy instead of a chore. Our Island communities offer lights, music and action during the holiday season, to make it even more fun and festive.
AND there’s a new SHOP LOCAL Coupon Book, put together by Island County Senior Services, that will help you save money, too. The Coupon Books sell for $12 and will help you save hundreds over the course of the year. You can give the Coupon Book as a gift in itself, or use the coupons to shop for gifts locally. The procedes support services for seniors all over Island County.
Buying from locally owned businesses supports Island families. Those businesses offer living wage jobs, the sales tax stays in Island County for community services like fire and police protection, and local businesses give 250% more to local charities. So SHOP LOCAL and use the Coupon Book to save big bucks while you’re at it.
Inside the Coupon Book the coupons for Gifts of Experience are tagged with a Gold Star. You’ll see our stuffed stocking page in the back where you can link to a survey for a chance to win a prize. In Oak Harbor you can get a coupon book at the Senior Center or the Chamber of Commerce. To get a list of other places to find them call 360-321-1600 or visit: www.islandcouponbook.com/ssic
Give Santa a break. Give Gifts of Experience instead of more stuff, and enjoy a Whidbey Island shopping experience!
Don’t Miss This!
Sat. December 1st ~ Holiday Magic 6:00-8:30pm on Pioneer Way, in Oak Harbor. Be there for the tree lighting, caroling, horse drawn carriage, music competition and see Santa arrive on a fire truck.