hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Wonders of Point Roberts

Earlier this week, I was about ten minutes early for a meeting at the Community Center, so I stopped to investigate the 'new' McFrugal's, which recently announced its grand opening.  It's in the Miller building on Gulf, where Heather McPhee used to have her real estate office.  I don't know where she's gone, although she's still here and still in the real estate business, such as it is nowadays.

But, the 'old' McFrugals was up on Tyee, near the border and, apparently, is still up there.  The 'old' McFrugals was sort of like a very small dollar store.  Handy enough, but probably too small to be a big draw.  It had small things, odd packets of foods, envelopes, t-shirts, crayons, stuff like that.  I assumed that it had moved its stock down to the Miller Bldg.  But when I went in, I was surprised to find multiple rooms, 5? 6?, filled with a very large number of objects.  Less a Dollar Store than Liquidation World.  There were sets of dishes, nice looking sets of cooking pans, stainless steel bowl sets, silverware, leather aprons (leather!), fishing tackle, boat stuff including a pup tent with pontoons for use on land and sea (perhaps for a real pup?), dehumidifiers, coffee makers, a vast selection of fleece blankets and pillows, and a good deal more.

I've never been a big fan of Dollar Stores, although useful enough, like the Kress and Woolworths of my youth (where I had my first actual job).  There used to be a Liquidation World in Tsawwassen and there was also one on the Sunshine Coast and I found them both providers of extremely entertaining shopping when one is in that mood.  They might have anything and it probably will be at an excellent price.  But I never imagined that Point Roberts would have such entertainment.  Seems a real addition to the commercial scene here: for those days when you'd like to shop but don't want to cross the border.

I even went back today and purchased one of those fleece blankets: 60x80" for $10--I can't buy the fleece for $10.  It's a very useful addition underneath a quilt for that season (which is now) when a down comforter is too warm but a quilt is not warm enough and a quilt plus a regular blanket is too heavy.  Welcome to fall, I'm afraid, looking at the last two mornings.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Apples Falling Down

Each morning, the grass is now littered with apples that just betake themselves from their attachment to their respective trees.  We have about five apple trees, each with a somewhat different schedule and each with a different apple, most of them unrecognized by me.  Our most productive tree is a four-graft, and those apples I do know: transparent, jonagold, red delicious, and golden delicious.  But the rest?  Hard to tell.

This year, they are all behaving somewhat peculiarly.  They bloom roughly at the same time, but historically, their ripening time is quite different.  This year, though, four of them are ripening pretty much at once.  The transparents were only slightly ahead of the jonagolds, and the round red apples, which are usually in between those two have been ripening at the same time.  And their sizes are all weird.  The transparents are all stretched out and skinny, whereas the round red apples are round and red but tiny...barely 2" across, though they are usually more like 3.5 inches.  The jonagolds, too, are small this year, and another tree, which usually has large red and green apples this year has even tinier apples, all of which are falling off the tree before they ripen.

The red and golden delicious haven't ripened yet, which is typical, and the final tree, which normally ripens in November or even December has precious few apples of any size or color.  So, it's looking like a disappointing apple year in our yard anyway.  The transparents have provided us with apple pies and applesauce of fine quality, but the rest look like they may have a future mainly as apple juice.  I put a 5-gallon barrel out near the trees so that all the windfalls (even though there is no wind, I guess that's what you call them) can be easily gathered up and delivered to the apple juice machine.

Hard to be a farmer, especially if you're a farmer who doesn't really know much about the crops you are growing and harvesting.  I am, at best I fear, only an incidental farmer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Residents

The 2010 Census showed that Point Roberts had a population increase over ten years of 6 people, a pitiful .45%.  But what the census didn't even look at was the horse population.  It, too, had an increase of at least 6.  I know that because I met six new residents this afternoon.

Yesterday, driving down Benson, I passed the corral wherein six little donkeys are more or less securely held.  Next door, at the entrance to what had been the nursery, was a big grey horse.  A big, grey, commanding horse, standing right next to the fence.  I was taken aback at seeing there a horse where I had never before seen a horse, especially not such a good looking horse.  When I got home and tried to describe him to Ed, I felt like I wanted to say that he had had a feather headpiece, like the big horses at the circus, but that wasn't really true.  But it felt true.

I went back today and met him up close, as they say in TV, as well as his five horse colleagues and his owner.  She, too, is a new resident of Point Roberts and has come to provide a home for her rescued horse group.  Increasingly used to Icelandic ponies, I kept thinking how big these horses were.  The lovely grey horse, named Lance, is an Arabian, with a brown freckled coat (his mother was grey; his father was brown, but the freckles go away in the winter), and is elderly, 28(?), but doesn't look a day over 15.  As if I knew what age a horse looked.

All six of them are terrifically friendly, anxious to get close to you and see how you are doing.  They were having bad lives somewhere else, or at least difficult lives.  Now they have retired to Point Roberts and, like the rest of us here who are retirees, are living lives that are very different from our prior lives.  And, like the rest of us, need special papers to cross the border.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hint of Fall

Yesterday, sunny and very warm, found the raccoons irritated by our outdoor presence.  A mother, who looked pretty juvenile, and her very young baby, strolled about 60 feet straight up a cedar tree in our back yard to take a nap rather than share the yard with us at grass level.  And today, it rained all day.  It wasn't particularly cold, this rain, but it reminded me that the vine maples will be turning red any day now and in less than ten days, it will be September.

I suppose it's good to be reminded, but it does seem way too soon.  The other good news is that the Tyee paving as far as Benson is finished.  And today, there was no sign of workmen contemplating or planning the next section of Tyee, so maybe Whatcom Transportation has decided that enough is enough and that, given how close fall is, they should just call it a month.

A friend comments: "I asked a border guard today if it was time to take down the flashing sign indicating long delays were happening at the border.  He told me that the crew would be back next week to put another layer on the asphalt!!  I thought that somewhere along the way I had heard that the paving job was only happening as far as Benson Rd...."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Shedding More Light

I neglected to mention the fact that, with respect to the gas tax monies (currently approaching $470,000), the Community Advisory Committee has actually in the works one more project.  While the Tyee Drive repaving is underway, the mechanics for a street light at Johnson and Tyee are being installed.  That particularly dark intersection will now be illuminated.  The gas tax monies will pay for the electricity to make that happen as an ongoing matter.

Surely, that is a use of the monies that will be beneficial and appreciated by pretty much all of us, despite the fact that this was not something, probably, that the community gave a thumbs up to in the Committee's survey of 'what do you want'.  Which is the whole point of representative government: the people whose responsibility it is to think through our community problems can do a better job of thinking than the vast bunch of us just milling around in our brains.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Expanding to the Border

The Community Advisory Committee got its beginning when the County decided to have a committee to advise it on the gas tax monies.  Implicit in this creation was the possibility of the committee also serving as a liaison with the county on other issues.  Might have been helpful to have them in place back in the days of the trash wars.

The committee consists of a person appointed by the Taxpayers Association, a person appointed by the Voters Association, a person appointed by the Chamber of Commerce, and two people appointed by the County Administrator (currently Pete Kremmens).  Arthur Reber was appointed/elected, by the committee, as its chair.  Over the past year and half, the group has held almost monthly meetings at the Community Center, open to the public, although the committee members get to sit at the main table and the attending riffraff sit around the outside row of chairs.  Anybody can (and does) talk, but only the Committee members can vote.

Mostly, they futzed around with the gas tax moneys, although the major achievement so far appears to be in the non-use of the gas tax moneys to pave Tyee.  That, the Committee says, was achieved by forcing the County to use its own money for that project, although the gas tax money also is the County's money, in truth.  Moral force is what it is said was used to shame the County into allowing us to use "our" gas tax moneys for other purposes if we could ever figure out exactly what it is that would be both useful, appreciated, and also fit within the County's narrow definition of 'transportation projects.'

The August meeting of the Advisory Committee showed the group moving in a new direction: the border.  They have scheduled a meeting in late August with a variety of Border honchos to discuss 'issues' that we in Point Roberts have with the border.  The purpose of the meeting was to have the community advise the Committee as to what issues the community is having.

I, personally, have found that the border has not ceased to be an occasional irritant (which I can live with), but has ceased to be a daily outrage since Michelle James took over as head of the Northwest Region.  So I went to the meeting not as a suggester but just as an observer.  The suggestions primarily fell under two headings: agriculture and labor.  The short summary of the meeting is that the Advisory Committee is going to try to get the CBP to make a clear statement (a Memo of Understanding) about the "In Transit" rules from Bellingham (i.e., the Mainland) to Point Roberts, and the same for how specific labor issues are to be addressed.  One example of the latter issue is the ability of B.C. veterinarians and ferriers to come across the border both to provide emergency care and routine care for horses.  Other examples are largely problems that business people face.  E.g., if you rent an event tent in B.C., then the rental contract includes people who must be the ones who put the tent up (for liability reasons), but then they are Canadians who are not allowed to work in the U.S. and putting up the tent is working in the U.S., maybe, and the Point Roberts border people may or may not let them in.

I thought that the Canadian people were very clear last time about what could be considered "In Transit."  If the average traveller can't bring X or Y into Canada, then neither can a Point Roberts traveller, even if he/she is taking it to Point Roberts.  Oranges, potted plants, tomatoes: NO; yogurt, cheese, pineapples: YES.  About parrots, they were silent.  But maybe something broader is in the works, although I'd be surprised.

Anyway, that is whom the Committee is currently advising.  They've broadened their mandate and I wish them well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Road Improvements

We're now half-way through the summer transportation project on the Point.  There was a lot of fear around here about what the re-paving of Tyee Drive, the main road into Point Roberts, would mean about our ability to get through the border without horrendous wait times.  The prospects of a single lane of travel in each direction (rendering our Nexus Card privileges useless) seemed pretty daunting.  As a result, I suspect a lot of us have reduced our cross-border travel as much as possible.  Certainly I have, given that this is the season when Okanagan stone fruit is available in Canada (and not in Point Roberts: could someone explain that to me given that it is incredibly fine fruit and right there?). I've been across only  twice in 15 days, and that was because my younger daughter and her two children were here this past week and had to be collected and returned to the Vancouver airport.

Now, this is a pitiful number of data points to base any generalization on, but the fact is that these two occasions, either of which could have been difficult exits from the point, were a piece of cake.  The first one, Monday, early evening, had no one in line going north but us; and the second one, the following Monday, at noon, had three cars ahead of us in line.  So, although we had allowed an extra hour for waiting at the Point Roberts border in our our airport travel schedule, we needed none of those sixty minutes.

Coming back, both occasions, equally easy, though that direction of travel is less problematic because coming from Canada we have the Nexus Card still working for us (i.e., providing a separate lane of entrance: it's only after you cross the border into Point Roberts that you get the one-lane only problem).  Not only that, but they had plenty of Roads people from the County providing good direction for people to figure out what they needed to do to get where they wanted to go.  Good work, County!  That's my experience; others may have had different ones.

Yesterday, they looked to be getting very close to laying the final asphalt covering for the border-Benson Road section.  And with that done, our border fears should be considerably lightened, although there will be yet another two weeks of bumpy travel from Benson to APA and thus to the gas stations and the International Market and the Post Office.  Particularly hard on the Canadians who may get Okanagan fruit easily in their own markets but still come here for other of life's essentials: the gas, the butter, and the internet purchases.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Some Get Bigger, Some Get Smaller

Updated, below.
Lillies in Point Roberts growing very, very tall--some up to 8 feet-- and luxurious this summer.  Not mine, not in my garden, and not even in a garden with a lot of sun.  Congratulations to the gardener!  (The bottom picture is not, of course, lillies but liatrices.)

By contrast with these thriving flowers, the Saturday Market seems to be in a seriously shrinking phase.  This morning, around 11 a.m., there were only 4 vendors and, at least at that moment, about 3 buyers.  Last week, the organizers offered to let the 'used goods' vendors return, but I guess the used goods vendors don't feel inclined to do so.

The plan, I believe, is to have the market continue until Labor Day weekend.  And, on that weekend, the Point Roberts Quilters will have their biannual Quilt Show at the Community Center (10-2).  It was originally scheduled for early August, but their was some confusion about the booking date and the show had to be rescheduled.  One might hope that the Quilt Show doesn't mark the end of the Saturday Markets, but there will have to be more vendors, I'd think, for it to go on.  However, the Quilt Show (and Sale) will go on (cash/check only).

Maybe we could just sell flowers to one another.  There are certainly plenty of them about.  This year also has turned out to be the year when the yucca bloom, even in my yard.  Yet more abundance.  And the transparent apples are falling from the tree and into pie crusts, just as the raspberries fall into breakfast bowls.  Just lovely, these days of sun and fruit and flowers.

Update:  With the permission of the lillies' owner, you can see them on Burns Road, east of Mill and north of Johnson.  She says about her gardening habits:

"Lilies are, in my opinion, temperamental ladies who do what they do, sometimes seeming to disregard whatever you do to encourage them.  A great many of mine grow well beyond their stated height.  I've no idea why; I don't think it is anything that I do.  When I moved here there was an old half dead cedar hedge across the entire front of the yard about where all that stuff is growing now, and soil that appeared to be gray hardpan, old construction rock, and lots of black bags of garbage buried barely under the surface.  We took the hedge out, excavated the garbage, and planted things that bloom instead.  Other than adding some good compost, some good soil, and planting deep, they grow as they grow. "

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sands Everywhere

Day before yesteday, we went to South Beach.  Last evening, we went to Freeman Beach.  This morning, we went to Maple Beach.  Happy to report that all beaches so far are up and running.  Adults, children, dogs are in attendance.  Water at Maple Beach this a.m. was a little spotty what with something like a minus .7 tide, but boats in abundance lying in the sand.  One beached sailboat was playing exquisite music as the breeze played with (or just played) its metal rigging.  Many excellent rocks waiting to be observed and wondered at as far as their origins.  Many tiny living conical shells in the stranded eel grass, awaiting resurrection with the returning tide.

Another sunny day in paradise.

The Friends of the Library held its meeting on Tuesday and agreed to endorse and organize the initial steps for a fundraising campaign for a new library to be created at the Julius Firehall.  It's going to be a community project, it's going to take some time, it's going to work, and it's going to be a wonderful end-project, although I can easily imagine that some of the here to there is going to be difficult.  I mean, it's Point Roberts, no?

Monday, August 8, 2011

About the Library

Watching the stock market with its downward dive, I am reminded that this is very possibly not the greatest time to talk about spending money on the public good.  Actually, if we were sensible folks, it might be the very best time to talk about spending money on the public good since interest rates are very low.  However, one of the downsides of old age is the increasing conviction that humans, or at least the current manifestation of them, lack a certain kind of good sense.

Nevertheless, Point Roberts probably, very probably, ought to be thinking seriously right now about investing in a bigger library.  The way library funding works here in Whatcom County is that the locale provides the completed building and the Whatcom County Library turns the building into a library with books, furnishings, employees, services, computers, and like those things.  If we want a larger library, then what we have to work with at the moment is the Julius Firehall next door to the Community Center, which the community owns.  But it is not a completed building.  It needs about a half million dollars to turn it into a completed building such that the What County Library could turn it into a real library.

There are several ways that could happen, realistically.  The money could be raised locally by private donation, the money could be raised by passing a tax levy, or some combination of these two, or some of the money could be raised by pursuing foundation grants of some sort.  What's your choice?

I haven't made the case for expanding the library's size.  Moving to the Julius Firehall would effectively double the square footage.  There was a meeting last week in which I was persuaded that it needed to be done.  I'm not going to repeat all the content of that meeting today, but I'll come back to it.

What I'm writing about today is the fact that tomorrow at 1 p.m., at the library, the Friends of the Library are meeting to discuss what might be done.  If you are a library user, if you are a fan of Point Roberts as a good place to live, if you remember how important libraries have been to you throughout your life, if you are in the locale, if you are free tomorrow, Tuesday, August 9, at 1 p.m., come and help us think this problem through.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tomatoes and the Border

Went down to a friend's place on a west-facing beach last night to watch the sun not exactly set but at least drop toward to horizon.  Several other people there; a companionable evening talk.  A wonderful ... what?  A story?  An explanation?  Folk wisdom?  Hard to know how to describe what I heard.

The background: for some reason, this past year, the border people decided that no tomatoes could come into Point Roberts (or, more specifically, into the U.S.).  This kind of thing is usually not about terrorism but about agricultural worries from California.  Harm could be coming to its tomato industry.

So my friend asked the border agent, when she noted to his disapproval that she had a tomato in her possession, if there was any way to acceptably bring the tomato across.  And, she swears, he told her that the reason you can't bring tomatoes over the border is that there is some dangerous (to the crop) insect on tomatoes.  Thus, if you slice the tomatoes before approaching the border, you can bring tomatoes across BECAUSE if you've sliced them, then the dreaded insect has doubtless jumped off in the process.

I just don't know what to say about that.  But I'd be interested in running it by California's Agriculture head honcho.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

To the North, But Not For Awhile

We drove up to Simon Fraser University in the Greater Vancouver District (specifically, Burnaby) this weekend to see what it looked like.  It's another Arthur Erickson (architect) project and a very interesting place.  It's a city on a hill (literally), as every university should be but seldom is.  You drive up a long hill through a lovely wooded park and there it is, right at the top.

The first view of it is particularly beautiful as it spreads before you.  It is not, like a cathedral, high so much as it is a spreading edifice.  Great horizontal planes of building open before you, layering with air spaces between that seem quite magical.  But then, when you drive through that section and look at it from the back, it seems more like a massive institution, almost prison-like, with the layers places where people at the top can give orders to the people on the next level down.  Very surprising.

Concrete is the building material, dark grey concrete.  There are many vistas with broad, very broad ranges of stairways that look like something out of a Alfred Hitchcock movie: stairs that people are running across, looking back over their shoulder because someone is chasing them, coming out of the dark that is behind them and just around the corner, bad things, bad events.  The layering of the building, the great widths of steps, the darkness of the concrete all leads to a feeling of being enclosed in a vast and potentially dangerous structure.  It didn't help that the clouds rolled in shortly after we got there making the sky about as grey as the concrete.

Because it was a holiday weekend and summer, it was virtually deserted.  I imagine it might look very different with a big student body roaming around, but it still might have the look of someplace where Mussolini might have gathered his minions to speak down to them.  Not at all what I expected, and I suppose that Mr. Erickson might have had a different image in mind, although the Bennett Library is described as 'Brutalist Architecture' and similar to the FBI building.  The University certainly got its moneys worth for impact, anyway.

So that's what happens when you leave Point Roberts.  But we are not going to be leaving Point Roberts if we can possibly help it for the next month as the County has chosen the highest traffic month of the year to repave the main road into the Point.  Combine closing one lane--leaving us with only one in, one out, and thus no special access out for the Nexus lane--with the ordinary border situation and we are mighty fearful of what lies before us.  But going North is not a choice to be lightly made.