hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Monday, May 30, 2011

Canadians All In

The Saturday Market showed that the Canadians had arrived for the 'summer' in Point Roberts.  Summer in quotation marks because, except for the abundance of greenery, it still is pretty cold and wet for summer.  The Canadians have spent the 'spring' being exceptionally excited about the Canucks, which I take to be the hockey team, but because I am not a sports person, I don't know what the current status of their excitement is.  Largely, I know what's happening by the number of cars I see that have blue flags streaming from their roofs.

Back to the Market: the Point Roberts Garden Club made a wonderful appearance, selling their abundant excess plants for a dollar or two (probably not received with that much excitement by the now three local nurseries, but it's only competitive selling for a few hours).  People were pouring out the door with plants that needed to go right into the ground, which was a little problematic since it was somewhat damp outside, but within a few hours of the market, the sun had picked up, and then Sunday was a really lovely day for planting.

Ed dispensed with lots of postcards, even to locals, but mostly to Canadians and other tourists.  One couple, who allowed their two children to choose five postcards each (certainly the longest transaction of the day...children really know how to put energy into the act of choosing) was from Dunedin, New Zealand, also the home of the only people I know in New Zealand, but they didn't know my friends.  I must have looked disappointed because the wife comforted me in that distinctive Kiwi accent, 'Well, there are 125,000 people in Dunedin."  As compared with 1,300 or 5,000 here, depending upon whether you are counting permanent residents only or summer residents, too.  And I don't even know most of the 1,300, I'd guess.

I brought some quilted baskets and quilted postcards to the market, now that my used CD's have been prohibited (not just mine: everyone's used anything...said to lower the tone), and they received a nice welcome.  Probably have to work on more of them for the Christmas Craft Faire.

Like the Canadians, the hummingbirds have all arrived but their food supply seems to be very short.  Usually, by now, there are lots of flowers awaiting them, but the late season makes them dependent upon the sugar water feeders. The fuchsias,  which are the main source of food in our yard, almost froze unto death this winter and are coming up only from the ground, which makes it a long trip to all those red flowers.  We are cooking up a new bottle of nectar every day, as are our neighbors, and yet they are eating and eating.

So Good Memorial Day, Good Beginning of the Tourist Season, Good Growing and Eating to us all!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Trees Get Sick and Die

Like everyone here, we have a number of big-leaf maples on our property.  They are wondrous trees and only in the middle of winter when I feel saddened by the fact that I neglected to rake up all their enormous volume of leaf fallings, am I sorry to be their owner.

There is a pair of maples right outside our back door that grow straight and tall: about 40-50 feet tall and with a big spread.  They're not all that old, and you would expect them to live a very long time, indeed to outlive you so that you don't have ever to deal with getting them removed from their spot.  Unfortunately, one (and perhaps both) of these maples has run into hard times.  In fact, has run into being dead.  The last couple of years, fewer and fewer branches have had leaves, and this year, one side (it's a tree with a split trunk) of one of the maples has no leaves at all.  So, yesterday, in a brief spell of not raining, Ed and our two visiting 20 year/old grandsons took to cutting the maple down.

That starts first with planning the cut and the fall.  Step two involves getting out the 24-foot ladder and toting a massive amount of climbing ropes out to the porch.  Harnesses, belaying ropes, sliders, all kinds of stuff gets attached to trees, ladders, boys, and then up somebody goes with a pruning saw to start the cut.  Ed prunes stuff around here all the time and he figured it would work fine.  But he had forgotten that even a medium-sized maple tree is hard wood, not soft wood, and the pruning saw, after about 20 minutes of diligent work up on top of the ladder, wore out the grandson.

Next, the neighbor's small chain saw was appropriated and Ed went up the ladder with all the appropriate ropes now attached to him, and within moments, the top 15-20 feet and all its attached branches came crashing down.  Another fifteen minutes of rearranging and the next 20 feet of trunk was gone.  The neighbor quickly cut all the pieces into firewood; the grandsons packed it into his cadillac of wheelbarrows, and within an hour total, our dead tree was gone, totally gone.  Bye!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


One cannot, I fear, devote an entire blog to slugs, but really, they are awfully interesting as well as appalling.  Normally nocturnal, they were all over the place, all daylight long, the last few days in the damp grass and under the grey skies.  This early evening, here is a slug trying to eat a rock.

It's pretty surprising that they have time to seek out and eat my little vegetable plants when they are otherwise engaged in either eating or travelling across a 3-foot tall rock.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Oddities of the Season

Last evening, around 6:30 p.m., I went out to check on the slug activity in the kale bed.  There are still a few there each night, but mostly they are not eating the new kale.  This is because each of the young kale plants is now surrounded first by a thin cardboard tube, then a yogurt container, and finally by a circle of copper mesh.  They could parachute in, or tunnel, but it's much harder than it was at the beginning with just the cardboard tube.

However, on my way to the kale, I passed by a 5-foot tall forsythia.  At the 4.5 foot level, I found 2 large black slugs, each about 3-4 inches long and as thick round as my thumb.  They were posed on neighboring branches of the forsythia, each eating the little new leaves that follow the flowers.

I have never seen slugs that high in the air; indeed, have never seen them have any interest in a bush of any size.  Just one more strange thing in this strange spring-ish season.  At least they haven't discovered the peony buds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Where's the Fainting Couch?

The weather people are predicting that the temperature in this part of the world will be, tomorrow, Thursday, May 19th, 2011, 68 degrees Farenheit.  What will we do?

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Vision in Pink

The streets of East Vancouver, today, were inches deep in light pink cherry blossoms and deeper pink plum blossoms. And me without a camera. Who could find fault with a day that had such a vision in it?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another Excellent Day (to be followed by rain)

Good sun, blue skies, warm temperatures: who could ask for anything more?  The Canadians were visible today on the roads and in the stores, coming down early for a nice-ish weekend, perhaps.  Alas, I spent most of the day indoors with the quilters, working on a project.  But we quit early enough so that I could spend a little time weeding in the garden, which weeding turned out to be something of a botanical study.

There is a very common weed here which grows early and late and spreads itself around very freely.  I think of it as 'sticker weed,' because it's leaves have something of a velcro quality, easily sticking to anything that touches it and thus able freely to propagate its parts.  But I noticed something else about it today as I was uprooting about 3,000 plants per hour.

It is a plant that grows in a very spreadout fashion as if it were a vine, but it has a very sturdy stem that allows it also to stand upright to a height of 6-8 inches.  However, as the stem gets closer to the ground, it gets ever thinner, thinner than a human hair, so that, should you try to uproot the plant, it quickly breaks, right at the dirt-surface.  If you make an effort to hold onto it carefully, it breaks off a little below the surface, leaving its roots firmly entrenched.  And the roots are very shallowly placed but extend well out, 360 degrees, from the plant's stem so that even if you did get a little bit of root, you aren't going to get it all.  Later on, the plant will be covered with little white flowers, and these produce the seeds that travel with the stickery leaves to make yet millions more little plants.

All round, this is the most effectively protected pointless plant I've ever run into.  It's amazing it hasn't covered the entire earth to a depth of about 5 feet!  But it seems to be content simply to cover my yard to the depth, so far, of about 12 inches.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mixed Bag

At last, we got an introduction to spring of two days in which, if it was not terribly sunny, at least the wind wasn't blowing and one could get down on one's hands and knees in the dirt and not get either drenched or succumb quickly to bitterly cold fingers.  And thus does the gardening season begin.

With the long cold wet awful spring, everyone is way behind on their gardening chores, and even more so if you are one of those people (as I am) who got a little behind on the fall gardening chores.  So here I sit/stand/kneel with lots of leaves yet to rake, although I did manage to get the fall pruning done.

First of all, I took my 6 kale seedlings out to my tiny vegetable garden and planted them in their raised bed.  To protect them from slugs, I encased their stalks in cardboard tubes (from paper towel rolls); then I encased their cardboard tubes with continuous copper mesh, since slugs and copper are said to generate some kind of electric charge unpleasant to the slugs.  AND THEN, I sprinkled some goat hair here and there as my goat owner friend thought the slugs might be deterred by the goat guard hairs (which are prickly).  AND, after dinner, I went out to see how things were and found a couple of slugs on the old kale plants which I hadn't yet pulled up because they were yet producing quite nice kale leaves.  But, no slugs on the baby kales (which were about 6 inches high).

In the morning, about half the leaves on the old kale were slug-eaten, and 4 of my six kale seedlings were without any leaves at all.  So much for the beginning part of gardening.

On the second day, when I might well have chosen to rest (no, that's the seventh day, I believe), I planted new kale plants.  Safely, indoors, in a window sill, where I can protect them for awhile longer.  But I hear from others that, despite the cold winter, the slugs have flourished in the long wet spring, and this could well be 'the year of the slug.'  Which might make it 'the year of no kale.'

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Feathering, Sort of, One's Nest

Ed went over to our neighbor's pond the other day to investigate the possibility of tadpoles for another friend's frog-less pond.  He didn't find any tadpoles or even frog egg masses, although there were frogs in residence.  What he did find was hummingbirds swishing to and fro to gather cattail fluff for their nests.  And so, he cut a few cattails and brought them home to hang about 10 feet away from our hummingbird feeder.

The feeder is a very busy place at this time of year, in part because our neighbors have been much away and thus not able to supply their share of sugar syrup: we are feeding an entire street's worth of hummingbirds, it sometimes seems.  And now, we are also supplying homemaking supplies.  They come if not as often to the cattails as to the feeder, but yet, very frequently.  However, they do not like to have their photos taken during this activity.  Although they come and go freely if we are just standing around, they have become very standoffish if Ed goes out and tries to take their photos while they are gathering cattail fluff.

However, if looking at rather than photographing birds/hummingbirds is your main interest, I strongly recommend a few cattails as an addition to your feeder for viewing interest.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Slow Burn

A puzzling and awkward story in this week's All Point Bulletin about the Point Roberts Fire District and its doings. These District Commissioner groups are about the closest we get here to self-governance.  The Parks Board, the Water Board, the Wellness Clinic Board, the Fire District Board: that's about it, and it often isn't pretty.

Mostly, in my view, the Fire District Commissioners are always longing for more money for more equipment. And mostly they get it. Boys and their toys is how, uncharitably, I usually think of it. On the other hand, I probably always vote to give it to them because I mostly think of their being less in the fire business than in the rescue business and we probably need more rescue equipment than places less isolated and border-complexified.  It's not obvious what is enough, so I give them the benefit of the doubt.

Last fall, the Fire District made a big push for a levy increase and the electorate gave it to them by ballot. The amount of money they wanted wasn't exactly specific; it wasn't a bond they were issuing or a loan they were trying to get.  It was a levy increase which was, presumably, closely related to what they expected and needed to raise for their new projects, given the assessed value of property in Point Roberts.   It was a substantial increase:  it nearly doubled the levy rate and thus doubled the Fire District's budget in what are widely billed as difficult economic times for local and state governments.

Then, when the assessments and the ensuing tax bills came out this year, we were all pretty surprised to find, in the worst real estate environment in pretty much all of our histories, the assessed value of Point Roberts property increased, on average, by 16%.  The Assessor 'explains' how this happened here.  However, I still don't understand how the evaluations could have gone up 16% in 2010.  But that's what happened, with or without an explanation that explains.

Anyway, this 16% increase means that the new Fire District levy brought in about 16% more than it had expected and that all the property owners paid about 16% more than they expected in addition to the additional levy.  Which, one can imagine, might not have sat well with a lot of people.  Or perhaps most people if they had thought about it.

I had looked at our tax bill and been impressed with how little the library got and how much the Fire District got.  But I hadn't thought about that latter amount in relation to the fall election and the assessment increase.  However, somebody else did.

Fred DeHaan, a volunteer fire fighter and long-time resident, contacted the Fire District about this unexpected windfall the District had received as a result not of the election but of the 16% increase in property evaluation.  Mr. DeHaan proposed that Fire District return some of? all? that levy increase to the property owners.  Mr. Gellatly, a Fire District Commissioner, suggested that Mr. DeHaan was just a big property owner who would, of course, have to pay more, but that the voters had spoken.  The APB quotes Mr. Meursing, another Fire District Commissioner,  as saying "I don’t like to go back on what we have received from the public.”  

This makes it sound as if we (ie, 'the public,' had made a charitable contribution to the Fire District and the Fire District would be doing the property owners/voters a great disservice if they didn't use that contribution to the fullest extent for whatever was in their minds.  Another Commissioner seems to say that it would be a good idea to keep track of how these funds are spent.  She must surely have meant something other than that because "keeping track of how the money is spent" must be more than just a good idea.  Surely that's a requirement.  

And then the Fire District Commissioners voted to keep all the money and spend it on their projects, whatever they may be.

Now, I don't know what the alternative possibilities are here.  I doubt if the Fire District can simply refuse a levy that the voters approved.  But the attitude on view of the Fire Commissioners is simply appalling to my ears.  They sound as if they had made some kind of sharp business deal and would go to the mats to keep their profits, including their windfall profits.  They serve the community right?  Or is it that we serve them?  I never can keep that straight.  

I think the Commisioners may look forward to long voters' memories on this one.  For me, the boys have enough toys for a very extensive period of time.  The benefit of the doubt now goes the other way: that would be, no way.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Here's an Idea!

I was at the International Marketplace this afternoon buying a pineapple obligingly sent to us by the Hawaiians or the Mexicans, and permitted to us somehow by the border guards. The customer ahead of me in the checkout lane was buying a bottle of red wine and an avocado. The checker kindly pointed out to her that 'they' would take the avocado away from her at the border, but 'they' might let the bottle of wine go through. I didn't know that about avocadoes because i don't usually go to Canada with fruits and vegetables. I guess I am more alert to the rules coming into the U.S. than to the rules going out. But the preponderance of customers at the grocery store are probably Canadian and it is a nice service the market provides to them as to what will or won't work on their way out.

She assured her that if they wouldn't let the wine through, the Canadian customer should come back and the market would refund her money. And the now-educated customer left with her wine but without her avocado. The checker rang up my pineapple -- she knows I live on the Point so no advice was offered. But she did note that earlier in the dsy some Canadian teenage girls had wandered into the store and asked her where the mall was.

Good question! Now there's an idea for our ever mysteriously absent economic development.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Love That Technology

There was never enough room for a washing machine in our tiny house here, so for the past 16 years or so, I've been doing my laundry at a laundromat across the border. International Laundry R Us, complete with explanations to border guards!

But now we've got this bigger house and we finally got around to buying a washing machine. Given the pressures on water use, especially in the summer here, we were looking at the HE, front-loading machines which are certainly pricier. Then the local energy supplier offered us a substantial rebate and the Home Depot people had a sale, and there we were with this bells and whistles unlimited piece of technology. It even has a 'handwash wool' cycle.

Ed installed it yesterday and I put a load in it--1.5 tablespoons of soap! I read the manual, dumped the clothes in and went outside asking Ed to call me when it finished, a machine-predicted 49 minutes, which seemed a long time, but what do I know compared to the machine? An hour later, Ed called me and reported he had spent all that time watching the washing machine do the washing. I did a second load and found myself standing in front of the machine the whole time, equally puzzled and interested by its extraordinarily large repertoire of movements and sounds. For a process that is just washing clothes, its computer parts do a lot of thinking and adjusting to maximize the just rightness of it all.  I particularly like the little wiggle movement that it does when it is making sure that the load is well balanced.  Lot of thinking going into that decision.

What a surprise to think that a washing machine, which I would have thought of as a perfected technology could be absolutely reinvented.  Made me wonder whether the sewing machine, which (sans computer) is also a perfected technology could also be re-imagined, re-thought through from scratch, instead of just building on what Elias Howe and the Singer Company learned two centuries ago.  What other wonders are out there that could be old rather than new?

I don't know whether this staring at the washing machine will pass, but it is possible that, if it does, we might try buying a TV set.