hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Knock on the Door

At this time of year, it's dark by 4:30 p.m. And hardly anybody is around. Most of our contiguous neighbors have gone away: one for a month holiday in Hawaii, one for a visit to family in South Korea--just in time for the war-- one returned to Canada until spring comes, one to visit family in California, leaving us manning the street kind of alone, except of course for the Deputy Sheriffs who are carefully locked up at night behind their chainlink fence.

And it really is dark, because we have very few street lights around, and the auto traffic on such nights is very minimal. And it's raining a little almost all the time. And though it is no longer down to freezing temperatures, it's not far away.

And, around 9:30 p.m., there is what sounds like a knock on the door. I don't think we have ever had anyone knock on our door that late at night during the winter. It was hard at first to even figure out what the sound might be. Ed went to the front door, but there was noone there. Another knocking sound; I'm starting to think animals? And then I realize it is a knock at the back door, which is in the bedroom. I don't think anyone has ever knocked at that door at any time of day or night, at any time of year.

I went the door, greatly perplexed, and found my neighbor's brother there. The neighbor who has gone to South Korea. He had come down to check out the house because of the cold weather and had gone outside to get something and had closed the (locked) door behind him. There he was in empty, dark, cold, rainy Point Roberts, without a phone (although if he had had a cell phone, it wouldn't have worked), without a flashlight, without his car keys, and without his house key

He inquired, in his heavily accented English, whether we might have an electric drill so he could take the door lock out. In minutes, he and Ed were out in the bleak night, breaking into our neighbor's house.  And so we saved the day (or the night) for him.  And I was reminded how difficult life in a rural area can be if you are not paying attention all the time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Last Community Market for 2010

Today was the last Saturday of community/farmers' market for Point Roberts, and their was precious little farmers' product today.  There is precious little farmers' product in Point Roberts right now after almost of zero and sub-zero (F C) temperatures.  Our kale is lying on the ground looking as if in permanent coma, and all the rest of the winterovers look even worse...the parsley, the chives, the Italian parsley, the sage: RIP, I fear.

But, even without any farmers' product, the market was surprisingly lively today.  It is held indoors in the big room at the Community Center in this weather, and that room is not all that big, so 8 or 9 sellers fill the space/tables, and the library's patrons come cross the hall, providing the market's sellers with a steady stream of customers.  Ed and I are yet working off the supply of CDs that are excess to the 100 that I want to get the collection down to, and he also has an expanded collection of 'Somewhere in Point Roberts' postcards, which I was urging on people as their chance to send Point Roberts Christmas Cards.  And we sold a respectable amount but, more important, talked to a lot of people.  I made fudge for the customers and it was interesting that there was a pretty neat break in numbers as to those who asked if they could have a piece, and those who simply took one.  Kids all looked to their parents for OK's, even if I specifically offered them one.  Good Kids!

Also in the market today were terrific cookies (I buy a bag of ginger snaps each market day and am always sorry that I didn't buy more), several jewelers with their wares, a couple of ladies spinning beautiful wools and offering to sell same, dried hydrangea blossoms, various cards and photos and postcards and books, a table of varied food in jars, and--what the auctioneers in Lakeville, Massachusetts, where I once lived, would refer to as 'boxed lots'--various household goods that came out of and to a considerable extent returned to their boxes at the end of the day.

And, for music, we had a harpist.  Not bad for a cold day in November!

I hoped the market would be able to hold on this first year, and it certainly has.  My guess is that it will take at least two and maybe three years before it gets a stable format and enough record that you don't have to worry about whether there will be enough vendors and enough buyers.  For the vendors that are there each time, it is becoming something of a social event, even though we don't necessarily know one another very well.  But we are getting there!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


It's been a difficult week what with the snow and the ice and the unusually low temperatures and the continuous presence of all three.  The roads have been completely drivable, which is a good thing, although I haven't had any particular need to drive upon them much other than to go to the post office and buy the occasional quart of milk.  But the coldness has been way too much for our heating capacities: the propane stove just can't keep up with it, and a couple of electric heaters help, but even then it's a struggle to keep the house at 65 degrees.  And in the morning, with just the propane on, we awakened to a brisk 51 degrees on Wednesday morning.  This morning, it was 0 under the house.  Of course, I wasn't under the house, so who cares?  But there is some kind of heat exchange that goes on there that makes it matter to me.  My feet have been cold for days, even though I am wearing 2 pairs of socks and a pair of down slippers.

But today it is better, and we are giving Thanks for that.  But today, also, the power has been off for five or so hours.  The first time, this morning, it was for about 3 hours, and then this evening, for another almost 2 hours.  The first time, it began around 10 a.m., so you could see, even though there was no power for the lights.  But the second time, it was around 5 p.m., and it was dark outside, and I was in an outbuilding without windows, and suddenly I was in the dark.  The really dark.  Over near the door, there is a table with a flashlight, if only I can manage to get to the door without falling over something.  It took me awhile, very cautiously moving in the direction of the door.  I missed it by about 3 feet, but eventually found the flashlight and closed things up and betook myself back home where Ed had turned on a propane lamp that I could see from where I was.

And after a couple more hours of general darkness, it was time to cook the Thanksgiving dinner.  Not a turkey, obviously.  But I thought about all those people who were trying to do a big dinner while the power went off and on and off and on.  Not the most festive of events, I'd think.  We could have cooked it outdoors on the barbeque, I guess, although it was yet a little cold to be roasting outdoors.

Well, thankful for the power that is back with us.  Long may it stay.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Movies Go Postal

When we first moved to Point Roberts, some fifteen or so years ago, there was a movie theatre in Tsawwassen...right there where the Thrifty parking lot is.  We went there fairly often.  The tickets were about $7.00 each, as I recall.  It was very much like the Orpheum Theatre in Pocatello, Idaho, where I began my moviegoing career 67 years ago.  I've always loved the movies, so I suppose it was inevitable that I ended up in Los Angeles for so many years.

But, I digress, a little.  What I have always found that I missed since I left L.A. was not the cultural amenities but the movie access, so Tsawwassen's little theatre meant a lot to me.  And then, they tore it down and we were obliged to trek 20 minutes drive across to Steveston to the big theatre with 18 screens, each one larger than the next one, each one louder than the next one, each one providing a, for me, not very satisfactory movie experience.  But to Steveston we went.

Then, Netflix arrived.  We were among its earliest subscribers and I did not much mind that I did not have to leave the house to see a movie, that I did not have to have blaring sound or constant quick edits on a giant screen.  I was happy with the small screen.  And the price was tolerable.  And then the price went down.  And now, we get a notice that the price is going up a bit, but that we can watch endless movies on streaming video and also have an endless supply of movies coming to us via the post office.  Better than Los Angeles access ever was, I have to say, although I have yet to watch a movie on my I-Pad, even though Ed says it's very tolerable.

Anyway, the point of all this is that just as Netflix begins to give up its postal business (which it surely will if streaming works out okay from a band access point of view), the Post Office here on the Point has given it official recognition.  There used to be two slots where you mailed letters at the Post Office.  One was 'Outgoing" (that is to say, the rest of the world); the other was 'Point Roberts.'  The Point Roberts slot was discontinued a couple of years ago since all the mail goes to Bellingham to be sorted nowadays.  But yesterday I saw that the second slot had been brought back to life.  Its label?  Netflix Only.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winter, No Kidding

Winter didn't really arrive this year; more like it attacked us.  We occasionally get snow in November, but mostly it's not until December in my experience, and some years it's virtually no snow in any month at all.  But when we do begin with the snow, it is almost always on a day wherein the temperature is about 40 degrees F. and you look out the window and there are great big fat snow flakes falling fast, oh so fast, and by the end of the day, there is no snow on the ground because the ground is too warm to sustain snow.

But this year, not.  It came down a little at a time, the air temperature was below freezing, and the ground accommodated to the freezing temperature slowly and thoroughly.  So not only was there snow on the ground after that first snow fall, but it was icy and crystally, and it looks to stay that way for more than a day or so because it keeps on being below freezing.  Today, nothing melted as far as I could see. And they are predicting several more days of the same.

On my kitchen table is a list of garden chores I was getting around to doing.  Next on the list of things that haven't been done: "Bury pots with hydrangea cuttings before it freezes."  I got one of the three pots in the ground last week.  But the other two are out there in the snow ;are, in fact, buried in snow.  Sigh....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Point Roberts Coastal Photos, Second Round

Do you remember July?  I am thinking about this partly because it was snowing today, first snow of the season.  And I was thinking what a long time ago it was hot and sunny and green and July.  And indeed it was.

It was also back in July when Ed and two of his photographer friends re-shot the coast of Point Roberts for the 'Point Roberts Coastal Photo Project.'  He and our granddaughter, Gianna, did this the first time two years ago.  It was always his plan to re-do it at a future time, and in July, when it was hot and sunny, he did it, but the granddaughter wasn't available this time because she had other plans for her life right then.

However, now that the summer has gone and the winter has arrived, the second set of photos are up.  Actually, the second and third, because this time, Ed flew two rounds, one at 600 feet and one at 300 feet.  Here is the link to all three sets of photos, 2008 and 2010.

If you have any questions or comments, I have re-opened the comments sections on this blog, or you can write to me at the email address on the front page of the blog.  Our thanks to Anne and John who not only took all the photos, but also spent a lot of time in post-photo-taking to get these all organized.  And to Gianna, who showed the way.  And my thanks to Ed, who spent a lot of time getting this all coordinated, from the original flights to the web presentation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sterling Returns, and Nearly Disappears

Updated below.
2nd update, below.

Well, it returns to my attention (aided by a reader's prompt). When last we visited with our Sterling Bank and its owners, several months ago, it had just got a second passel of money from private investors (Pinkus, Warburg, as I recall), and the FDIC had taken it off its bad bank list, and happy days were here again. And its stock was poking along in the $.50-.65 cent range, with daily little ups and downs. And there was no particular news of any note.

And then. This past Monday morning, upon no news, a very big sell-off happened--millions of shares--cutting the stock's price in half; down to $.25/share. Millions of shares suddenly were dumped on the market. No news to account for this, either Monday or Tuesdya or indeed on Wednesday or Thursday, either. Now, the stock is just meandering along around $.24-.25. Too strange!

I went poking round the Net, found a little information and a little speculation there. In the options arena, there are more investors interested in buying than selling, which makes it sound like the company was still seen as okay. Some folks, on financial chat boards, were speculating that the earlier Sterling private equity investors, Lee and company in Boston, might just be dumping some of its late spring investment, which bought a lot of shares for $.20/share, and was now taking a nice little 20 or so % profit over six months by selling, even at the $.25/share level.

The strangeness of capitalism. Sterling Financial is worth half of what it was worth last Friday, even though nothing essental appears to have happened. Although its capitalization level still looks good, I think.  But I am no master of the economy.

However, although I follow Sterling and Banner fates just because they are our local banks, I did discover yesterday that Vanguard holds a couple of million shares of Sterling in its Market Index Fund and its Extended Market Index Fund, so in a very small way, I, too, am a Sterling shareholder and thus affected by these moves.  Maybe you, too.

Thursday: The tubes were a little slow in getting the news up, but Sterling announced this morning  that it was having a reverse stock split, in which every 66 shares of Sterling would, Friday morning, turn into 1 share of Sterling.  I look forward to seeing the trading price of those now very fat single shares tomorrow a.m.

Friday: Opened at $15, closed at $16.50, 35,000 shares traded.  These new fat shares are fairly close in price to the $.24/thin share.  (multiply .24x66, on a 66/1 split).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rigors of Fall

Last night, up here on the Sunshine Coast, we got a sudden rain and windstorm that was as fierce as anything I've been through and very brief.  Torrents of rain, terrific winds for about 20 minutes.  Lights were flashing on and off as the power lines tried to figure out whether they were going to bear up.  Eventually, they decided, 'Not!' and about 10 pm we lost power for 14 hours, although our next door neighbor's lines held up.  (They're on a different grouping.)

During the storm, our living room (on a 2-story, log house with a cathedral ceiling and a metal roof) sounded like The 1812 Overture, played only on percussion instruments.  Objects were crashing down on the roof constantly and it really felt that any minute they would come right through the roof.

And, then everything frenetic stopped, and a nearly full moon appeared and everything outside, because it was very dark otherwise, was bathed in the silvery glow of the moon.  For a moment, I thought it had snowed, too, during that intense 1/3 of an hour.

And this morning, the yard was not strewn with big branches that had crashed down upon us.  A few small pieces, but little in quantity and size.  So I don't know what that was all about.  Walpurgisnacht, maybe?  A little late, though.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kids in Point Roberts

I often mention that Point Roberts is largely a very small community of old people, of retirees. Of course, in the summer it is filled with kids who have come down from Canada to spend some time at the family cottage. But even in the winter, there are some real kids here, kids who live here all the time with their unretired and younger parents.

We have the first three four years of elementary school, K-2,K-3, usually around a dozen kids who have an exquisite school tucked back in a forested area, a setting as beautiful as the day is long in an equally appealing building. And that school has a playschool one day a week for kids under five. Once you hit third fourth grade though, it is off by school bus to Blaine, right over the U.S. Border, a maybe 45 minute ride, to be repeated each year/every day/twice a day until you graduate from high school. (A few kids avoid this because they go to B.C. schools or are home-schooled.)  Nevertheless, each year, there are six or so kids from Point Roberts who graduate from Blaine High School having spent all those years commuting to school.

Now, a town of any size generally makes some effort to provide services and resources for kids through its governmental structure and schools. Not so easy here where we have so little government to look to. (When the tea partiers extol the virtues of small government, it occurs to me that they ought to come here and see what small government might look like.)  We do have a Parks Board and they are in charge of Baker Field, where you could play baseball, if you had a team to play with. Or if the kids were used to organizing the kind of scrappy baseball games in vacant lots that I grew up with. But they are not. Still, the field exists although I, personally, have no knowledge of its being used for baseball, which doesn't mean that it isn't occasionally.

And there is a skateboard park that was built by volunteers, where I occasionally see a kid practicing with his (always a his) skateboard. The library has a basketball hoop, but it is in the parking lot, which surely sends a mixed message to kids about what is supposed to be going on in that space.

The whole peninsula is really something of a natural playground, but the fact is that the kids who live here are kind of invisible to us once summer is over. Except at the library, where they come in to listen to stories, or to do a special art/craft project, or just take out books. The library has made a big commitment to engaging the kids here with reading contests and evening activities, most recently a 'Game Night,' where you can come and play boardgames and have something to eat, a kind of dessert potluck, I think.  And the church provides some music opportunities, although those are pretty much just in the summer.  And there is a piano teacher.

So, there is not that much, even if there are not that many kids.  Maybe 60 or so total?  It is surely an odd place to live, but perhaps even stranger to grow up here, and living here must pose some special challenges for these kids in addition to that tiresome bus ride crossing two boarders each morning and again each afternoon. They'll have a lot of stories to tell when they grow up about what it was like, as if they had grown up someplace strangely foreign, as indeed it may truly be for them. But they will certainly know something about the difference between life on the border and life deeper inside a country.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Act II: Archaeology

The state archeologist who last week informed us that we all knew that all of Point Roberts was an archeological site and thus should also know we needed a permit and an archeologist at hand if we so much as wanted to dig a posthole or plant a tree has reconsidered her position. I would have thought that the state had a few public relations people around who might have advised her exactly how best to make this volte-face. Apparently not.

She explains that the subject line of her email pontification was "In Maple Beach," implying that her admonitions applied only to that area. But, alas, what she wrote was,In Point Roberts, it appears that everyone is aware that they are living on a large archaeological site. So it would be hard for anyone to state that they did not know and unknowingly dug into a site.” 

 Further, she cluelessly notes, had she known that a thousand people would read her email rather than just one person, she would have phrased it more carefully. Why it is okay to misinform one person but not a thousand, I will leave to the archaeologist's nimble mind, but I assume it's a matter of scale. Also, she has offered to come up and speak to us, but I wouldn't look for a big turnout at that putative meeting. And finally, she suggests that her warnings were accurate as they applied to Maple Beach. So now she has just ticked off those residents and not the rest of us. Again, a matter of scale?

I wish she had said, "Lordy, lordy, I really screwed this up! Can we just start over? Ask me the question again, and I'll write you the answer I should have written the first time. I am really sorry."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This is the week of seed preparation. For weeks,as summer wound down, I have cut the seed pods from the various previously blooming flowers, dropped them in small paper bags, and waited for them to dry. This week, I gathered all the brown bags together, found some small plastic bags and gummed labels, and got to work. First I crushed or otherwise opened each pod over a square of wax paper, letting the seeds gather on the paper, and putting the chaff aside. It's about the only time each year that the word chaff comes to my mind, let alone gets spoken aloud. "Gosh, there's an amazing amount of chaff from these Queen Anne's lace seed balls," I say to Ed.

And there is. And a lot of seeds as well; thousands of them. And thousands more of rose campion, and hollyhock, and columbine. And many hundreds of nasturtium,Welsh poppies, California poppies, opium poppies, and evening primrose, and of the sunflowers in the photo, as well as of the many more flower garden gifts that keep giving. There are tens, only, of water iris and of meadow rue, but more may come of even these less abundant seed producers.

It is a good time to be doing this because it is cold and gray and rainy and hard to temember that there was once a time of great and abundant color everywhere, whenever I looked out the windows. November is the month that brings you to your senses as to where you live, how far north you live, and what's in store for you over the
next five months.

When I am finished there is nice little stack of plastic bags, neatly labeled, waiting to be stacked into the freezer, where I will see them regularly, at least daily, and thus will serve to remind me that the flowers will be back with us, even though it seems at this moment that we have permanently succumbed to a cold, gray world.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

12 Carrot, Maybe Even 20 Carrot

The International Market does an amazingly good job of supplying food for us here.  It isn't what you get at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or whatever really good place you might shop in U.S. and Canadian cities, but considering that it is serving a pretty small population (2000 people, maybe?) nine months of the year, it's amazing it has anything but boxes of cereal, I think.

I assume that like many small businesses make virtually all their income during the Christmas season, the International Market makes its during the Summer season.  Lots of summer weekends, you go in and the shelves are almost picked bare, especially in the produce section.

This week, however, that is not so much the case.  Despite the fact that the tourists are in short supply, what we have this week is CARROTS!  It's true that nobody is inventing new vegetables for me to cook, but still it does seem that this is an excessive number of carrots.  There's soup and there's carrots and there's bunny salad, but that's about it.  There was one eggplant in the eggplant section, which is tiny section including other things such as zucchini (6 of them) in any case.  And there were two leeks; 8 English cucumbers.  A small passel of red cabbage (at $1.99/pound: does anyone like red cabbage enough to pay that much for it?) and a few other things of a vegetable nature.  But what there really were were carrots.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

With Greenery

The Community Events Sign once again (this time literally) breaks new ground.  The sign, the posts, the roof, the gutters, the solar light, and the big rocks are now joined by greenery: various and sundry small and medium-sized plants to provide it with the impact of a very tiny park.  Now we have a park at each of the four corners of the Point and one in the center, as well!  Thanks to all those who keep making this sign an event in apparently endless progress.  Next, a tiny stage?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On Behalf of Community

George Wright has an excellent piece in the All Point Bulletin this month (November 2010) that speaks particularly to our situation here in Point Roberts and its echoes in the larger polity in light of today's election with respect to everyone's working on and contributing to the larger public good.  "Who put that chair there?  Not me: not my chair, not my problem, that's what I say."   (To quote Dan Deacon.)  But, alas, it often is our problem, and solutions are not likely to arise from beyond the border.

Anyone who has lived here very long has probably spent some time thinking about what it means to belong to a community and probably most of us have made one or more attempts to contribute to the community over time.  What always knocks me out is how hard it is to do it.  Such a good ideal, such a simple aim, such an appealing goal, and yet how very hard it is to do it.  I think a lot of the time, we attribute failures to the negativists out there, but it may be more a matter of our not knowing very well how to work cooperatively.  We are introduced, largely, into a competitive culture, and what we mostly seem to learn is how to compete.  And competition doesn't always sit well with community as a way to get something done.  (Which doesn't mean there are no negativists, but rather that they're more like small but permanent obstacles that it is easy to work around because they're never there when the work needs to be done anyway.)

The people who are coming out to clean up the litter on the roads are a good example of community-based action, but it's an endless job.  I think we tend to vaguely think that if we go out and show people what a good thing it is to have clean shoulders to walk and bike on that people will stop throwing their beer cans and candy wrappers and cigarette butts there.  But, as someone who has cleaned a fair number of road shoulders at one time or another, the sad news is that it makes no impact at all on others' behaviors.  I used to think that, if it didn't keep people from trashing the roadsides, perhaps it would at least inspire others to get out there and do some of the cleaning.  Apparently not.  And I realized finally that it was a permanent job with no other road that that of a job well done that needed doing.

And, I think, so is it with all community work.  It's a job, and if you (or I) are not going to do it forever, somebody else will have to eventually step in.  And that's okay.  There are a lot of us.  And George is definitely one of the positivists.