hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Update, below.

I pried myself out of the house today (need I mention that it is cold, grey, and rainy?), and made the rounds of a few commercial establishments. Over the border to Safeways for basmati rice and tulips (neither of which is sold locally). Then back to the Point for a pound of freshly roasted coffee beans and a blueberry muffin at Dylan's. Then a stop at the USA gas station for five gallons of gas. And, finally, a stop at the international market for fruits and vegetables.

And at the end of my rounds, which took about an hour, total, including the two international border crossings, I had spent $100.00. I can remember when it took all day to spend that much on ordinary purchases. I wish someone could explain to me why, if I can easily spend $100.00 in an hour on minor purchases, why my wallet is always weighed down with pennies? Really, are these economically meaningless coins necessary? Or are they nostalgia, too?

Update: An interesting proposal..make the pennies into nickels.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Martial Law in Our Future

A Point Roberts resident recently made a presentation to the Whatcom County Council describing the high probability of a giant economic storm which would destroy the U.S. and would then result in such chaos that martial law would need to be established.  He was urging the County to have a plan so that, I think, we could avoid martial law, or maybe so that the martial law would begin early enough to be effective.  Not entirely clear to me.

Anyway, in the interest of knowing what's happening locally, I offer below a link to his statement to the Council.  In reply, the Sheriff of Whatcom county noted that the Sheriff's Department has plans for all kinds of emergencies but that he believed "it is beyond my expertise and responsibility to accurately predict a national economic collapse that will lead to public chaos."  Good to hear from civil officials who have some sense of their limitations, I think.

You can read Mr. Hammel's presentation to the Council here, and the Sheriff's response here.  We will file this under 'Going to Hell in a hand basket,' as my grandmother would have said.  But, I wonder, 'What is a hand basket?'

Friday, March 25, 2011

Just Us Folks Here

A couple of days ago, I made a left turn off of South Beach onto Benson Road only to be faced with a big square orange sign saying "Road Closed."   So, I could go back home and try this trip some other day, or I could turn around and go the other way on South Beach, eventually getting myself to Tyee.

Now, anybody who lives here would know exactly what to do in that circumstance without the help of bystanders or signage.  But the fact is, everyone here doesn't live here and that Benson is one of the three major cross streets.  So, it's kind of funny that it didn't occur to anyone that a stranger might come up to that 'Road Closed' sign and not know exactly what to do.  That's funny in a humorous way, not a strange way.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Times Do Change

Here we have a young fellow in the library, working on something while seated in a fancy lime-green chair at an elegant table with an excellent reading lamp behind him, and a lively rug beneath him.  This is a teen reader in the new furniture for teens in the teen library section at the Point Roberts Library.  It's a small library, serving the needs of toddlers with picture books and my elderly colleagues who need big print or audio to make it through a book, not to mention the other age groups in between them.  That is no small task, but our local library does do a nice job of trying to have something special for everyone.  This month, the teens got their special furniture.

I can definitely remember when things were different in libraries with respect to teenagers.  In Pocatello, where I grew up, there was a kids library in the basement and there was the 'main', which is to say 'adult' library on the upper two floors.  My guess is that they would have preferred that the teens stay underground reading Nancy Drew until they were old enough to vote and drink, except that the library didn't stock Nancy Drew books because they were not fine enough literature for children.  Whatever, indeed.

Eventually, however, the librarians had to let us go upstairs and read their books, which we doubtless would not take care of.  We would write in them or dog-ear the corners to mark our places or not bring them back on time or even lose them.  There were any number of vices that teenagers could bring to an adult library.  I still remember indulging in one of those vices (well, I doubtless indulged in all of them, but there is the one that was rather special).  Books that had bad words and unsavory activities (at least bad and unsavory for teenagers to be reading about) were in the adult library and they were definitely not in the children's library and if the teenagers came upstairs, they might be finding those books and reading those words and about those activities.  And I did.  I distinctly remember leaning in a corner and wandering through the pages of Forever Amber, as well as the pages of The Amboy Dukes.  The former had the unsavory activities and the latter the words and the activities.  Smooshed in the dark corner (no reading lamps for us), I could read here and there in the book although I never actually read either of the books from beginning to end.  At least not at that time.  Later.  I read enough at 14 to get some idea of what it was all about.

The Amboy Dukes was a famously tough novel about delinquents, gangs, in New York, I think.  It was written by Irving Shulman.  I read at his novel leaning in that corner.  And the next time I ran into Mr. Shulman, ten years later, it was to replace him as a Teaching Assistant in the Dept. of English at UCLA in 1961.  Shulman had run out of writing steam and had decided to get a Ph.D.  But then he ran out of Ph.D. steam and decided to return to writing.  His job came to me.  And then, more or less unrelated to Mr. Shulman, but definitely related to that English Ph.D. pursuit that I was still pursuing, I put in some time testifying as an 'expert witness' in pornography trials with respect to 'Contemporary Community Standards.'

Which only goes to show that you need to pay attention to teens in libraries.  Who knows what will come of their being there with all those books?  At the very least, they should have a table, a chair, and a good reading lamp.  What happens next is probably beyond the control of librarians, though.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Collateral Damage

Hard times everywhere.  Japan can hardly figure out which of its calamities to deal with first; the U.S. (joined by Canada!) seems to be bombing yet another Middle-Eastern country.  Not to mention our back yard.

Our garden/yard (it's not a yard in the sense of grass and a fence, but not quite a garden in the sense of planned beds) is  like a forest with flowers here and there, intermingled with the ordinary northwestern forest ground cloth of ferns and Oregon grape and such like.  It's big enough to require paths, so over the years I have enlisted various children and grandchildren to help me in the construction of several interconnected pathways.  Each pathway--about 24 inches wide) has either stones or bricks on each side for delineation.  The bricks are set down into the ground a couple of inches and the stones stack above ground.  In between, in the pathway itself, there is a mixture of pecan shells and chopped bark/branch material.  It's all very nice, very orderly, very picturesque.  The paths don't require much maintenance except that the bark mulch has to be replaced every so often.  And the pecan shells get added to as I shell the pecans that my New Mexico daughter kindly sends me each year.  If I live long enough and if her pecan tree lives long enough, we'll be knee deep in pecan shells eventually.

However, Saturday night (the night of the super moon), the raccoons appeared in the night and went lunatic, presumably in response to the moon.  They dug bricks and stones up and out and just through them around for a distance of about 8-10 feet.  They do dig around here and there throughout the year and particularly in the winter, but they have never done this kind of damage.  I don't think they were just frolicking.  I suppose they were looking for grubs or something underneath the bricks.  But, Please!  It's like an invasion or something.  Although, I suppose I'm just experiencing collateral damage to the raccoons vastly more important agenda.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Market Day Again

Another market day here at the Point despite cold weather that definitely keeps people at home and not visiting their P.R. cottages and the market.  What between the small turnout of people and one's tendency to shop if you are there (as a vendor), the day easily moves into a net loss as a financial matter.  But it is actually, for us, not about the selling as much as about the fun of being there and talking to people.  Although there weren't a lot of people, there are always some people who choose to talk to Ed about his photos, especially, or to me about why I'm getting rid of these wonderful CD's.  Today, I was so taken with one woman's careful selection of five CD's that I gave her one that I had been very ambivalent about selling because I felt that she would surely give it a good home.

The market is having its second year problems, of course, but the vendors were numerous today, relative to the space they were in.  There were some fresh vegetables (carrots and leaks, anyway) and samples of vegetable juices; jewelry, knit and sewn items, fiber art (not mine), chocolates, canned goods, pies, photographs and cards, plants and dog treats, and a few household goods.  Last year's market organizers who had some considerable commitment to getting this off the ground (and one of whom had an internship to do it) have been replaced by other who have volunteered for the task, and that kind of transition is always hard.  Also, although it started out being thought of as a farmers' market, there really aren't enough farmers around the Point (at least entrepreneurial ones) to make it work.  Thus, the small amount of produce must be joined by something else, turning it into Community Market.  Last year, that included art and craft items, baked and preserved goods, and household goods.

This year, there is some kind of push for everything to be handmade, handgrown, or handcooked.  Which makes for a different kind of 'market,' of course.  Not exactly a 'community' market, although at least open to some members of the community.  And now called 'The Saturday Market.'

This discomforting break (discomforting at least to me because I'm inclined to go with including not excluding people when you are trying to get something started, and especially when you are in a place where it's hard to get things going) was added to when somebody complained to the County that people were selling home-cooked items.  The County's Public Health Department doubtless has at least 3,000 rules about that.  And most of those rules don't look to it being a good idea.  And then the County, it turns out, has even more rules about 'Farmers' Markets,' which include individual sellers of foods (not produce) paying for permits, etc. etc. etc. down the the last of the 3,000 rules.  The County may or may not care about enforcing all these rules, but it's another obstacle, in either case.

Life in Point Roberts: it's always something.  I'm finished selling CD's, however; the collection is now reduced to a reasonable size and unless I take to selling our excess plates and bowls, my selling days may be over.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More on Water

Everywhere around us there is more water. It comes from the sky, it creeps up on the beaches, it is making the ground absolutely squishy.  And yet there is a shortage of water and it is expensive.  I keep mulling this over.

The main result of the mulling has been to realize that although conserving water is, in general, a good thing, it makes no particular difference to us here in Point Roberts during the colder and wetter months because we pay (as a community) for the water whether we use it or not (and as I understand it, except in the summer, we don't).  Thus, being careful about the water use at this time of year has no impact on anybody or anything except maybe our habits of mind.  This is so counter-intuitive for me that I have a lot of trouble keeping it in mind as I think about it.

Well, it has some impact on the Vancouver water supply because it is actually supplying less than would otherwise be required if I weren't being careful about my water use, but since it is raining all the time, Vancouver has plenty of water supply such that it makes no difference to them.

It is only, then, in the warmer months that we need to be thinking about the advisability of short showers, no bathtubs full of water, limited outdoor water use, no long-running faucets (you turn the faucet off in between uses even when brushing teeth, e.g.), catchments of various sorts (from rain barrels to bottles of water saved when one is running the faucet until the water gets hot).  And this is definitely not proving to be one of the warmer months.

However, my outside storage does include about 50 gallons of water (in one-gallon milk jugs) obtained from the aforementioned running the faucet waiting for the hot water to get there, and a good deal more in a rain barrel, awaiting that time, that time of warmth, should it ever come.  It is probably a pittance, but it is my econo move for the summer, for the moment.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Water Everywhere; Not?

This week, the news is out that we can look for significant water rate increases in the near future as Vancouver is upping the price of water (Vancouver is from where we get water) over the next five years, it predicts, in a substantial way..starting with 15%.  It does seem to me that an increase in the price of water has been talked about with amazing regularity over the last five years.  First there was the lack of water that led to no new water connections permitted over a lengthy period.  The interim conclusion then was that water rates needed to be raised so that we could expand our water storage capacity.

As I understand it, the contract with Vancouver requires us to pay for X gallons of water each day, whether we need/use that much water on that day or not.  But the X is a daily limit, so we can't get more than that amount on any day.  If we need less, then the extra gallons we could have gotten (and that we did pay for) could go into the storage area, if it has room.  In the summer, we frequently are up at the X level, but not during the rest of the year.  So, we are paying for a lot more water than we actually get because of the unevenness of demand and because we can store only a limited amount.

That interim conclusion during the water connection ban that we needed more storage capacity led to an increase in water rates.  Then, the state intervened in the water connection controversy to say that there had been a mathematical error and we could still have water connections.  But the cost of the connection had already dramatically increased and the tier rate for our use had changed and, effectively, increased.  Even though we were now not going to have to increase capacity.  But, said the water people, well, we need to do a lot of water infrastructure upgrades, so the increases make sense anyway.

These newly-announced increases from Vancouver mean, once again, that storage capacity should be increased, which would mean an additional increase for construction costs in advance of the Vancouver rate increases.  Or it means taking on the Vancouver increases by means of directly increasing Point Roberts' water rates again.

What this all means is that we are going to have to start taking water use seriously.  In Los Angeles, we were always being cautioned about lower water use.  Here, given that it rains so much, that is not an ingrained state of mind.  In the summer time, when rain is infrequent and population and water use are high, people have sprinklers turned on all day long.  There does not appear to be any way (given our lack of local government) to enact and enforce water use restrictions.  The only way to do that is to use high prices as the blunt tool.  Surely we are better than that.

So, we are going to be needing to think about this.  The irony of it, of course, is that at the moment, the ground is so soggy and slippery that walking on the grass is a challenge.  Too much water?  Right; so now we have to think about how to use less water.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Apparently we were not swept away in the tsunami following the Japanese earthquake.  When I turned on the computer this morning at 9 a.m., I saw that there was a tsunami advisory for Point Roberts, suggesting that it would arrive around 7 a.m.  It didn't get this far, anyway (we are about a half-mile up from the beach), or cause any of our sirens to wail, so I guess it didn't happen. The advisory information came from Point Interface (Yeay, Carol!), but I do wonder whether she had to get up at 3 a.m. to send this out to us all (that was the time stamp on the message).  And whether I should have awakened the computer (as well as myself) earlier to assay the news.

Apparently, according to this AP report, said tsunami did make it to the Oregon coast, but this is the peculiar part of the report that addresses the Oregon experience:

"Fryer said high water reached Port Orford, Ore., around 11:30 a.m. PST Friday. Evacuations were ordered and beaches closed all along the coast, and fishermen in Crescent City, Calif., fired up their crab boats and left the harbor to ride out an expected swell. A tsunami in 1964 killed 11 people in Crescent City."

Insofar as it is only 9 a.m. PST Friday right at this moment, it is hard to know how it is that AP knows that the wave hit Oregon at 11:30 a.m. PST.  Well, typos occur to and for everyone.  Happily, millions are not reading my typos.  But the news today in Point Roberts is that we are safe.  The news in Japan, not so good, though. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shock Therapy

Yesterday, the sun came out aggressively, accompanied by convertibles.  On  a west-facing porch, it was probably 70 degrees F. at least by 2 p.m.  We hardly knew what to do with ourselves, so went over the border to see what the Canadians were doing.  That's where I saw two convertibles, tops down, parked at the mall.  I guess it must be spring if the convertibles are out.

And it must be spring because the community garden here in Point Roberts is coming again to life.  The ground is still way too wet in my view to be doing any gardening, but they are mainly just stirring up interest.  A Point Interface message came out yesterday inviting anyone who wants to participate to come right down, or at least to give an email ring.  This will be their second year and making it this far is an achievement in Point Roberts, the land of short term voluntary groups.  Well, it's not really that the groups are short-term, but more that they begin with enthusiasm and then run out of steam pretty quickly (or run into internal disagreements which uses up all the steam) and then just stumble along.  Some drifting groups re-group every decade, only to go through the same cycle, leading to yet another attempt at regrouping and re-energizing.  It may be the essential nature of voluntary groups.

In any case, the community garden offers people here who don't have sun or dirt a place to garden, although the place has a somewhat problematic sun availability.  But it has plenty of dirt.  I've got a lot of dirt of my own and at least some sun here and there, so I probably won't be much inclined to participate in this activity, but I wish them well.  And the pleasure of one another's company and gardening knowledge.  If you're here and want to participate, email Pat at patc@RecipeNutrition.com

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What a Gas!

Update below.

The lines are ever longer at the border these days.  Yesterday, the quilters had an all-day workshop and members coming in from cross border reported lines way, way back down the hill, past the stop light: the kind of lines we see in mid-summer.  But it is not mid-summer, although yesterday was a particularly nice, sunny and even windless day.  Perhaps it was people coming down to check their cottages.

But probably not.  Probably it was the search for cheaper gas.  The mideast problems are the new reason for higher gas prices, although the mideast seems to be continuing to pump oil out of the ground, but who knows?  Maybe they'll quit so we better increase prices now, on the possibility.  California, says the news, currently has the most expensive gas in the country.  If Point Roberts were a state, instead of just a state of mind, WE could be famous (or notorious) for having  the most expensive gas in the country.  Still, the Canadians would pour over the border, seeking (and finding) cheaper gas.  Does Michigan also have this experience?

Update: Good article on oil production and exactly how much it's falling in Libya in The Economist.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hard News

Environment Canada reports that the spring will be unusually cold and unusually wet.  That would make it pretty much the same as winter, I'd think.  But the dividing point is March 1, so I guess we are now doing the unusually wet and cold spring.  The crocuses continue to hesitate to bloom.  There's color, but they're still locked up.  The daffs are up and with big buds but showing no signs of opening.  Probably cut them and force them indoors.  The rhododendrons look permanent frozen into a limp shape.  It will be sad to see, I guess later this month, what plants that usually make it through the winter haven't.  Amazingly, the parsley in a pot on the deck is still looking pretty much like living parsley, though much reduced in size.

Eventually, I suppose, we will give up obsessing about the weather, either because it improves or because we have been rendered speechless.

The community market is rumbling back into life.  It had a surprise one-day opening in February.  Surprise because the plan after the November occasion was to let it rest until Easter.  But, not.  New people in charge anxious to force its growth (probably not as easy as bringing daffodil buds into the warm house).  The February event (we attended only as shoppers) was pretty sparsely attended by other shoppers as far as I could tell, probably because all the potential shoppers were either at home hugging their warm clothes and stoves or standing in line at the parcel delivery places.

One new entry was the new enterprise, Sagewood Farms, which plans to raise edibles and sell them by subscription. (Their website is a work in progress only at this time, however.)  Subscription sales (you pay for a weekly or biweekly delivery of whatever is ripening) works other places; might work here, although the perpetually on-the-move nature of the Point Roberts population might make it a little dicey.  The Sagewood people came armed with many kale quiches which were all for sampling, and very tasty.  Maybe they should sell quiche by subscription?

The current plan is for the community market to come to life again on March 19th.  We'll be sellers again that day and see how it goes.  Of course, if it's unusually cold and/or wet, probably too early to attract many buyers.  Did I mention how problematic the weather has been?