hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Tax Man Cometh

Ed has spent the past two days documenting the capital improvements we made to our Canadian house in the 20+ years we owned it.  Fortunately, he kept receipts for everything, but they want copies of everything as well as before-and-after photos which, amazingly, we were able to track down in our vast photo archive, which spans the shift from chemical film to digital prints.  Some piece of work.  And then, once completed and accepted by Canada's IRS equivalent, he must file the actual Canadian tax forms to get some of the many dollars they held back in case we skipped the country without paying them their share.  And then, he  gets to shift his attention over to the U.S. IRS which has its own interest in this sale.

I would say, at this moment, that buying and selling a house in a foreign country may not have been the smartest move we ever made.  Or at least not the most thoroughly thought through.  I'm giving jEd an Academy Award for best performance as a person being patient with bureaucratic needs.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Deer Breath

The slightly warmer weather in the past four week convinced the garlic (planted in the fall) that it was time to make its way up above its straw covering.  By last week, when the new weather hit, it was about 5 inches above the straw.  The cold or something drove local deer to make their way through our yard to see whether we had any greens to offer.  And we did!  Garlic tops now all gone.  But, the deer seem to have overlooked the tulip leaves.  And I'm told they never mess with daffodils, but if things don't warm up soon and provide them with some grass, they may be forced into daffodils, too.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ice! Tobacco! Alcohol!

Update below.

Woke up this morning to find an indoor temperature of 55 degrees and an outside temperature of 24 degrees (right at the house).  Older houses up here aren't really constructed to withstand such cold temperatures and the heating isn't designed to defeat them unless you have wood stoves.  We don't.  My, it's cold in here, trying to write with very cold fingers and decked out in hat, coat, and scarf.  Almost March.  Which I sincerely hope means something.

Yesterday, as we were going through the border with several vacuum cleaners we were finally collecting from a friend after moving out of our Canada house, the guard listened to us explain the vacuums with an increasingly bored look on his face.  Finally, he said, 'What I mean is, are you bringing in any food, tobacco or alcohol?'  Quel surprise!  I've never had them ask about alcohol or tobacco because Canadian taxes on both are much higher than U.S. taxes and it would thus make little sense to bring them in from Canada.  The Canadian border people often ask about both, but never the Americans.  The sign at the border says something like "Declare all meats, vegetables, and plants."  But then they have pictures of meats, vegetables, and plants, plus a picture of a parrot (What about the parrot??).  No pictures, no mention of alcohol and tobacco.  Are they just confused?  Or are they just trying to confuse me?

My daughter sent me a link to a Canadian government site which is very concise about what can't be brought in.  For unknown reasons, only a liter of alcohol into the U.S., and the cigarette rules are very complicated (probably just as well not to smoke for that reason alone), but here's the link.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Up in the Air

Throughout the winter, the winds blow and the branches on the fir, maple, and alder trees, especially, break off and fall all about us.  It's natural pruning for tall trees, but it leaves a mess on the ground.  Today, we gathered and burned them all.  That's usually an all day activity, but this winter has been a little less generous with its wind and thus we have somewhat fewer branches to get rid of, so it didn't take all day.

Because of that, we also spent a little time helping a friend trim his goats' hooves.  That's what life is like in Point Roberts at this time of year: a little goat nail trimming, a little outdoor fire, and after a while, a little nap.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pay as You Go

The U.S. thinks it might be a good idea to have Canadians pay an 'inspection fee' upon entering the US by plane or ship. Canadians not so enthusiastic about the idea.

The conversation chez nous:

Says Ed, "well, we used to have to pay an airport fee when we came into the Vancouver airport."

Says Me, "Ah, I actually loved the idea that I was helping to build that lovely airport. Used to look around as I went through and think about exactly what bits and pieces my ten dollarses had paid for. The idea that I (if Canadian) was being asked to pay for the privilege of being 'inspected' by the CBP hardly seems the same at all. In fact, it seems to me that they ought to have to pay ME for the indignity of the inspection."

Says Ed, "Good point."

However, we might ask why an inspection fee is good for plane and ship travellers but not for automobile travellers? And, if they introduced it for automobile travellers, what would that do to our beloved gas tax revenues? And our thriving internet mail delivery business?

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Getting Your Money Back

When my youngest granddaughter was about 4, I used to take her for a walk around the block about this time of year on the annual 'Signs of Spring' tour.  She lives in southern Missouri, and there was always something you could find that would suggest an end to winter.  Back in the Pacific Northwest, though, I could always count on crocuses (or is it croci?).  In the twenty years we've been up in this area, I have always been able to see our crocuses, or at least a few of them, in bloom by Valentine's Day.  The first time I saw them, I was astounded: crocuses in February?  But there they have been, year after year.

But not this year.  The picture above is the closest I've got to a blooming crocus.  It's trying to bloom, certainly, but it has the problem of still being trapped down at the bottom of the leaf bundle.  The leaves, apparently, know better about whether things are looking good for signs of spring and the emergence of crocus buds.

So, dear Lydia, if you were here, we would have to credit this with being a sign of spring, but a very weak one.  Perhaps we could ask for our money back?

(Side Note:  I know local people who have crocuses blooming already, but my point is that MY crocuses have always bloomed by now.  And my crocuses are definitely not blooming now.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Coyote Country

We have received a couple of posts recently from Point Interface reminding locals that this is 'coyote country,' and that they need to keep their small pets inside at night.  Although I've lived around coyotes all my life, I've rarely seen one and don't know too much about them.  They did in one of our cats in Los Angeles, so I know they are thriving there; as a kid in southeastern Idaho, people talked about coyotes but I never actually saw one as far as I know: probably they stayed more in the foothills.

I read a little about coyotes last night (the net will make us all much better informed if we just use it).  I turns out that the term 'coyote country' and the term 'United States' are now pretty much one and the same.  They're everywhere.  Last year, they chased one down (with police cars and news helicopters) in NYC's Central Park.  They're one of the most adaptive species ever.  They and humans have a lot in common, in that respect, and should have more respect for one another.  Well, the coyotes probably do have considerable respect for humans, but it doesn't go so much the other way, I'd guess.

Like humans, they eat whatever is edible: grass, snails, small animals, meat and vegetable alike.  Unlike humans, they are almost invisible.  They see you, you don't see them.  They move around mostly in the dark, which helps.  And, since here in Point Roberts, the number of people roaming around in the dark is vanishingly small, it's no surprise that we don't see them more often. In the 16 years I've been here, I remember seeing a coyote only twice, both times in mid-afternoon, and both times a single animal.  More likely to hear them than see them.  They make burrows along steep cliffs but also in tall grasses.  Bound to find one of those pretty much anywhere.

What most surprised me was that the home territory of a single family group (1-4 full sized fellas) ranges from 2 square miles to 40 or so square miles.  Given that Point Roberts is only 5 square miles, we don't have a lot of room for too many home ranges.  I'd always assumed that there were a lot of coyote on the Point: dozens?  But even with only 2 square miles per coyote group, that suggests a number between 2 and 8.  We ought to be able to figure out how to live respectfully with that number of animals, surely.

The big advice is, as with bears, 'DON'T FEED THEM.'  Not unintentionally, not intentionally.  What we have going for us with coyotes is that they are afraid of us.  God knows why (other than the gun stuff).  I mean, if a coyote or two went for me, I doubt if it would be much of a contest.  But they don't attack us because they're afraid of us, and the better they get to know us, the less afraid they'll be.  (There's a lesson there, I think.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Anticipating Summer

Other news from the Community Advisory Committee meeting this past week had to do with the paving of Tyee.  If you've driven on Tyee, you know that it needs re-paving, so there is no question about the appropriateness of such action.  The County has been saying that it would do it and that it would use County funds and not gas tax funds (which are vaguely under the control/recommendation of Point Roberts itself).  The last time the County people were up, they said that it would happen in the spring of 2011.

Now, they think the summer of 2011.  Doubtless in time for the 4th of July parade.  However, if 'twere done, 'twere well  be done quickly (which is a loose quote from MacBeth) and summer is as quickly as it is going to happen.  They are still a little vague about how much of Tyee: from the Border Station to Gulf?  or to APA?  Wait till later for that news.

However, there is an additional upside.  The re-do will be, it was said, asphalt, and they would be taking the old road away (I know nothing of the technical aspects of this so only can report what appeared to be important words) and will end up with 'grindings'.  And that's the good part because the grindings will then be used to make the walkway/pathway along the south side of Benson, perhaps from Tyee as far as Boundary.  That walkway project will be paid for with the Gas Tax Funds, but it won't cost all of it because of the economies of using the grindings, equipment up here, whatever.  I'd guess that there will be no walkways until after the Tyee project is done, however, which makes it sound like fall, but there were no times on report.

It will be good to have Tyee improved but I'm sure we will all be mighty cranky about the inconvenience involved in having Tyee improved.  No good deed goes unpunished, as the County well knows.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Floating Your Boat, Not

I took myself to the Community Advisory Committee every-so-often meeting last night to find out the news on the Point's need for a pier and dock and ramp or whatever it is that you need to launch a boat and fish from and also climb into the boat.  There's creosote on the old piers and the State has no tolerance for creosote any longer for environmental reasons.  Last time the County folks were up, they were planning to submit a proposal for a grant from a state agency that does such things to get about 3/4 of the money that would be needed to rebuild all the stuff that is needed (about $300,000).  The County was planning to pay the remaining 1/4, and, if the proposal was accepted, then dock and pier, etc., voila!

In the interim, life and politics intervened.  Whatcom County was declared to be in non-compliance with State zoning policy with respect to urban sprawl, and one of the many off-shoots of that finding is that a County in non-compliance with State regulations is not eligible for grants from the State.  Thus, although it is is possible that the County will submit a grant proposal for this money, it is vanishingly unlikely that it will get the money that would make the pier and dock possible, at least in the foreseeable future.

A big setback for the small boating population here, as well as seasonal boating visitors.  Not surprising, in most respects, though.  Nothing happens quickly and anything that involves public money is increasingly at risk of not happening.  Perhaps when we are living without public services of any sort it will occur to the general public that taxes are required for the kind of life it wants.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What Do We Know?

It's still raining, still cold, still grey.  It's not the Midwest, so we can be grateful it's not providing us with a blizzard or, as in Australia, a cyclone, or, as in the Amazon, a drought.  We are pretty interested in what's happening in Egypt because we remember the 1960's very well.  But, what do we know?  Probably not much of anything.  That's it for Sunday.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Oh, Dear, The Border

According to a report on Talking Points Memo, the GAO is now complaining about the Dept. of Homeland Security's control of the Northern Border.  That can't be good for us up here on the actual border, especially because Blaine is one of the border areas they looked at (that would be the 89 miles of land border and 163 miles of coastal border that constitutes Blaine.  That would be Blaine, with its "known presence of terrorist organizations"...I mean, if we know about them, then aren't we doing some kind of law enforcement action/investigation?  Or are we just hoping that some well-meaning border guard will discover them through some kind of Vulcan mind meld when said bad guys come to the border?  Or does "known" simply mean that we heard something about some bad guys talking bad stuff, but we don't actually know who they were or what they were really talking about?

Perhaps we need to be prepared for more questioning at the border.  I suggest, "Where have you been?  Are you carrying weapons?  Are you a member of a terrorist organization?"  That ought to cover all the bases.