hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Monday, October 31, 2011

Local Dangers

Yesterday, Ed was out for a walk and as he came back home, he ran into a small critter that appeared to be just resting in the middle of the street where a vehicle could easily run over it.  He picked it up, brought it home, and we both inspected it.  That's him (or her) in the picture below.  Maybe 3-4 inches, brown nubbly skin on top and gorgeous orange skin on the underside.

We poked and prodded a bit, trying to get him to turn over so we could inspect the soft, moist orange side.  He/she was not cooperative.  I checked out 'salamander images' and found the critter pretty quickly.  Turns out, it's one of the most toxic wild animals in the world:

"The rough-skin newt (Taricha granulosa) is one of the most toxic animals known to science. One case involved a 29-year-old man who had been drinking heavily and swallowed a newt on a dare in Coos Bay, Oregon. Within 10 minutes, he complained of tingling in the lips. During the next two hours he complained of numbness and weakness and then experienced cardiopulmonary arrest. He died later during the day (despite hospital treatment). In another case, toxin from a Taricha entered a puncture wound on a scientist's index finger, and he suffered 30 minutes of numbness up the arm into the shoulder, and some accompanying nausea and light-headedness.  It can emit, from its skin, a milky fluid that contains a neurotoxin that is fatal to larger animals including people. " Source here.

It seems quite amazing that we would never have heard of a local creature with such toxicity.  It's said to be quite docile and exudes its poison only if you irritate it sufficiently.  I guess we weren't irritating enough in our attempts to turn him over.  At least, we are both still alive 30 hours later.  But best not to mess much with newts with orange undersides.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Life's Little Indignities

I feel kind of bad about people in the post-70 age group who are very technophobic about computers.  There's a lot of wonderful stuff that they don't have access to because of that.  I'm not talking about Farmville or Bejeweled or the endless recountings of the misadventures of Lindsey Lohan.  The things I care most about are (1) the quick email access to my kids, my grandchildren, and my friends who are still living one of the various places where I used to live; and (2) the ability to find information easily, and especially when the information is something I used to know but because of my brain files having all filled up, I can no longer get access to.

I can do without Facebook; I don't really care much about everybody's minute to minute status.  I can even do without Jon Stewart (we have no TV).   But the email and the information (think 'Wikipedia'), I would really miss.  And so I'm sorry that my age-group acquaintances and friends are missing out on that, even if they aren't sorry.

What they are not missing out on, however, is a few experiences I have had, the most recent one yesterday.  I have to admit that I read a lot of politics on the Web.  A really lot, in truth.  I've got a dozen or so blogs that I attend to regularly (reading not writing, but I do write on three regularly), and various newspapers both here and outside the U.S. (as long as they are written in English) are regularly before my eyes.   I have one child (when will I stop calling an almost 50-year-old 'a child'?) who is very much on top of the technology and always telling me what to be attending to.  As a result, I was on Twitter and Reddit and Dig long before most people had ever heard of them.  And very long before I had much idea of what to do with them.  (Twitter?  Do nothing.)

Similarly, when Daily Kos showed up in the world, he became a writer there and urged me to do the same.  I joined up, wrote a few 'diaries' about healthcare reform and the need for same, and read many other writers' views on various public issues and on politics more generally.  (For those who don't follow this stuff, 'Daily Kos' is a sprawling kind of network for people of the progressive or leftist persuasion.  Or at least it is said to be that, although in recent times, it has become much more centrist in some ways. )

Anyway, another of my children followed us on to the Daily Kos site and she wrote with great frequency there, formed lots of cyber-relationships, had a good time.  But, she's more inclined to argue with people than either her brother or I am, and she got into some kind of shouting match with various other writers and the upshot was she was banned from the site.  So, since I rarely wrote anything there, I told her to use my account instead, writing under my name.  And then, I got banned yesterday for letting her do that.

So there you go: this is not going to happen to any of my friends who don't fool with computers and the net.  But it happened to me.  I have lived long enough to be banned, literally, by some group.  Me, personally.  Not only BANNED by Daily Kos; I have also had the peculiar experience of being Unfriended on Facebook--and by a relative.    This is also what technology is bringing us.  Too strange.

It may be enough to make me reconsider the virtues of information and email, but probably not.  And it definitely would have happened even if I didn't live in Point Roberts.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Getting the EPA Out of Our Land and One Other Thing

A little entertainment for those of us close to the border:  The Republicans want border agents to roam around a little more freely within 100 miles of the Canadian and the Mexican border.  Not a law; just a proposed law in the U.S. Congress.  But it just goes to show how important we are to those in places of power.

Another thing that has to do with elections and politics.  We don't have much local government up here: there's the water board and the fire department and the clinic board and the Parks Board.  All of them of considerable importance to our daily lives.  No one more important than the other, but....

The Parks Board operates the Community Center which is called that because it is that.  It has to have enough funds to pay for the utilities and upkeep.  It has to ask us for those funds every so often.  This year is the year to ask.  So, it's up to the voters of Point Roberts to say yes to those funds or else there won't be any Community Center or any of the things that go on there (public meetings, public programs, library, seniors' programs, Saturday markets, etc.).  And, for no useful reason, it requires a 60% 'yes' vote.  Don't not vote at all, please; and please vote yes on this levy which will cost property owners very little (a total of $49,000/year split among 3,000 properties amounts to about $16 per property on average, with more expensive property owners paying more, less expensive property owners paying less).

If we don't pass this, the center of the community will be gone.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Return of the Racoons

(And other wild life).

It is the fall harvest season and it would be the time that the squirrels were making off with all the walnuts from the walnut tree.  Except that...well, following the general rule that the right time to prune is when  you have a pruning instrument in your hand, we severely pruned the walnut tree this spring after it bloomed.  It was really just all over the place and we had to walk around it.  The result, of course, was no walnuts for the squirrels.  No way to communicate the reasons for this action to the squirrels, of course.  By now, they've discovered the result for themselves.

However, since these walnuts have come to be a major part of their winter diet (they clean the tree out every year), I needed to find some other nutrition for them.  As it happened, I had several bags of pecans in my neighbor's freezer and my neighbor needed me to remove them from her freezer...they'd been there over a year and she might reasonably have thought that was long enough, but it was really more that they were thinking of selling the property and I was thinking about a source of nuts.

I have all these pecans because my older daughter owns a pecan tree in New Mexico and sends me many pounds of pecans each January.  Usually, I manage to allot the pecans (which I must shell; she's a wonderful daughter, but she doesn't shell 30-40 pounds of pecans for her dear old mother, or at least not yet) over the year, coming to the end of the supply about the time the new year's supply arrives.  But a couple of years ago, that didn't happen and I was still working on that year's supply when the new supply arrived.

Possibly, nuts in shells are okay for years when they are living in the freezer, but this particular lot had been a little dry in the first place and more difficult than usual to shell.  Sitting in the freezer was probably making them yet drier and it wasn't making them easier to shell.  So, it's almost November; I have yet two big bags of this year's pecans to get me through the next two months; and the squirrels can have the old pecans from the freezer.

I put out the first quart of nuts under the walnut tree about four days ago.  The next morning, nothing had happened.  The pecans were just where I put them.  Then, mid-day I saw the squirrel in the walnut tree.  And in the morning,  all pecans were gone.  So, I kept putting out more quarts as soon as the previously placed ones disappeared.  I never saw the squirrel touch them, but they would disappear.  Then, yesterday, after putting out a new bunch, two of our three raccoons showed up to poke around the pecans.  I didn't see them put them in their mouths but they did bat them around with their paws, as if trying to figure out what they could do with them.  Unsuccessfully.  And then two black cats appeared to take in the game.  And then, there was the squirrel up in the tree, his tail waving frantically, but not coming to ground.

Finally, I went out and the sight of me sent cats and raccoons racing away, while the squirrel went into hiding among the tree leaves higher up.  By nightfall, the last of about a gallon of pecans had disappeared.  The larder well stacked, the squirrel is likely to do all right this winter.  While the raccoons think about all the apples they could have stock-piled.  And the cats?  I don't know who they belong to, but they sure spend a lot of time in our yard as if they think we ought to be provisioning them.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Puzzle

We are heading for an election in which, fortunately, there are very few people to vote for and very few issues to vote on.  Nevertheless, the mail box and the p.o. box and the telephone are unusually full of voices and papers urging me to champion one person, one issue or another  Most of the championing is over a proposition which, as I understand it, will take the state out of running liquor stores and open the running of liquor stores to the wonders of the free market.  Well, fairly regulated free market.  The people who support this assure me that competition will do wonders for the sale of liquor and that the state surely ought not to be in the business of selling anything.

I am guessing that the wonders of competition means that prices will be lower, not that thousands more gallons of liquor will be sold.  At least they don't mention that the outcome would be much more drinking going on in the state, but if prices were lower, surely consumption would increase.

They haven't, at least so far, mentioned that the state shouldn't be in the business of selling liquor because the state is too incompetent to do so, but I suppose that is at the bottom of their reasoning; that and the idea that if there is any money to be made here, the state ought not to be making it when liquor store owners, instead, could be making it.  Thus reducing the unemployment rate.

Right now it's hard to say whether we would be better off if more people were working or if the state had more revenue.  Of course, if more people were working that would produce more revenue.  But if the state had more revenue, it could hire more workers.  Like teachers, particularly the ones they are busy laying off.

Well, it's a hard question, especially for someone who doesn't buy liquor in the first place.  But, it does seem to me that if the state is competent to run a prison system of vast size, it is surely up to the much simpler task of running liquor stores.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I went over to the library today because they were having a mask-making session, presumably in honor of the upcoming Halloween season.  I noticed the newspaper announcement of this event and checked with the library to see whether I was welcome or whether this was just a kids' event.  Graciously, they said they expected only kids, but I was welcome to come if I were in the mask-making market.  I felt like being behind a mask at the moment, so I made my way over, grateful that they hadn't asked me to volunteer my services in helping the kids make masks.

I got there just before the kids arrived: all 13 of them from the local K-3 school.  Then another little girl arrived a bit later; home schooler?  They all got themselves arranged at tables where the priority was eating something.  Everyone had some apple juice and an oatmeal or a pumpkin/chocolate chip cookies.  Then the leader began the explanation of what was going to happen next.  Tables had been set up with supplies and each table had slightly different supplies, depending upon what the kids wanted to make.

"Any questions?"
"Can we make more than one?" from a little boy.
"Can we have another cupcake," from a little girl.
"I want to make a bat," from another boy.  (There were about 10 girls and 4 boys; Point Roberts making up for the reverse ratios in India and China.)

The extra cupcake issue was generously addressed (everybody got one more cupcake OR one more cookie) and then we (the 14 kids and me) were set free to do our will with the goods.

In no time at all, masks were on faces, finger puppets were produced, and addition rounds of masks were being undertaken.  I had the advantage of being an adult (only adults were allowed to use glue guns, which were required for feather use; a rule objected to by one little boy who noted to his seat partner that he used glue guns all the time).  Not only was I an adults with privileges but I also carry a good pair of scissors in my puirse for cloth cutting, which possibility the kids were entirely bereft of.

I completed my project (an owl finger puppet) and made my way to my car.  In the hallway, four little girl escapees from the mask making were painting one another's fingernails with a sparkly lavender polish.  Alas, they were missing a good thing, I thought, but maybe they already lead lives filled with creative endeavours and didn't need any more.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In Which We Run Out of Our Sense of Humor

For 17 years now, I've been being generally good humored, I think, about the vagaries of the border people and their agricultural prohibitions. I memorize the rules they give to me, I am tediously meticulous about telling them what food products I am transporting into the U.S. from Tsawwassen's markets. In fact, the guards usually stop listening while I am reciting my list: ten Canadian apples in season, six bananas, six pounds of peaches, 436 blueberries (no, that last one is a joke).

And for 17 years, long before 9/11, I've been bringing in Canadian apples and pears in season, which is to say in the fall, without any questions being asked. Today, however, some otherwise bored dude who asked me "Where are you going?" (note that he has on his computer monitor the information that I live in P.R., but he hasn't bothered to look), wanted proof that my six apples and my four pears were grown in Canada. And what he wanted was stickers. I pointed out that at this time of the year, they would only come from the U.S. or Canada, because Ukraine isn't trying to break into the northern American apple market and Mexico isn't growing them. (I didn't actually say that about Ukraine, but I did about Mexico.). He graciously granted my point, but insisted tht they could have come from anywhere, and only a sticker would show otherwise.

Only a sticker would show that I had not injected the apple with nanobot terrorists, I suppose.

Now if I buy the apples and pears at Thrifty or Safeway, they will have stickers, but if I go to the Farm Market, where the fruits are fresher and from local sources, they will not have stickers. The solution to this problem, obviously, is to save my fruit stickers, carry them with me at all times, and apply as necessary.

I do grow weary of people pretending that their pronouncements/solutions are based on anything other than a pretense at rationality. The Age of Reason. Wish I'd been there for it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Three raccoons just walked through the yard and by my kitchen window: a mom and her two midsized offspring. On their way, they had to walk virtually through a two-foot pile of apples that I'm not using because they are small, but I am a lot bigger than a raccoon. Apples not good enough for the wildlife? Probably they were hoping we would be growing salmon or fried chicken or chocolate ice-cream.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cleaning Up the Garden

It's that time of year when there is almost nothing to feel about the garden but guilt. Everything that is going to bloom or produce something has done it. The raspberries have not been able to produce their fall crop because everything got pushed back too far, and there is just no way that all the miniscule berries covering the branches are going to get bigger and turn red when the highs are barely in the 60's. Alas.

I have bought three dozen+ tulips and managed to get them under the gound here and there and next spring I will be saying, "What was I thinking putting them there where the water pools, or where there is no sun or some such. This past summer, I saw a wonderful lily garden here on the Point and decided I needed to have some lilies in my yard. We might say I was inspired by what I saw, but it was actually more like great envy. Then, scouting someplace on the net where I could order a raft of lily bulbs, I discovered why there aren't lots of lily gardens: at $6-$8 a bulb, it's going to take awhile to have a big bank of 8-foot tall fragrant lilies. I may not live long enough to get such a collection. A few this year; a few more next.

My 15 lily bulbs will be arriving in a few weeks, so there is going to have to be a big push to clear out an area to plant them so that like army recruits, they can be all they can be. One more item on an endless list including cut back campion, Shasta daisies; fertilize peonies and iris; cut back every thing, really. Rake leaves. Get rid of lingering weeds. Do all the things that every year I swear I'm going to do, but that I never quite get done. Guilt is my companion as I don't get these things done.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Pleasures and Problems of Maple Beach

First of all, it's a lovely beach; and second of all, it's tides are so far out and back that it is always a surprise to see it.  On the other hand, given that I don't live in that area of the Point, I seldom go there.  And that is not because I'm a masochist.  It's because there is no place to park there except in someone else's yard.

We used to have good friends who lived right down on the beachfront, and I usually felt okay about asking them to let us park in their driveway.  But they have gone elsewhere and so, in the summer when our grandchildren are around, one of us, Ed or me, agrees not to go to the beach with the crew but instead to drive everyone down there and in a specified time drive back and pick them all up.

When the summer is gone and all the tourists with it, it's a little easier.  There still isn't any real public parking but every cottager is not having to host some unknown person's automobile full time, so it feels a little less of an infringement to park on the edge of the street/lawn/easement for an hour or so in midday.  We were there both last week and the week before with visitors and it was lovely both times.  We spent the second trip down at what we call Shady Beach, which is to the south, just before the corner where Point Roberts shore turns more or less west.  There are trees that are growing out of the hillside and whose branches come down and shade that section of beach.  It's rocky and odd, with bouncy branches that you can ride.

Last week, the big red jelly fish (lion jelly fish?) were plunked about the beach in great abundance, separated by big wrapped/twisted quantities of eel grass.  The jelly fish with their beautiful red gelatinous shapes are not to be touched, I'm told.  And then, the rest of the U.S., right there before your eyes.

But why isn't there any parking?  That beach area is our fourth County Park.  Over at Lily Point Reserve, they are hell-bent on getting in parking, even though the number of people who go there is remarkably small and for all I can tell well within what the shoulder parking on APA can handle.  At Maple Beach, the number of visitors is very large, and the County doesn't seem to care at all.

I'm told that the County is thinking about something that would involve some one-way streets in that area that would free up room on Roosevelt for parking on one side.  They ought to be thinking a little harder, I would say.  They ought to be getting a little more encouragement to think harder.  For my part, I'd like to say, "HEY, COUNTY PEOPLE!  THINK HARDER ABOUT GETTING SOME PUBLIC PARKING ON MAPLE BEACH BEFORE NEXT SUMMER COMES ROUND!  AND THEN DO SOMETHING, FOR AN ENCORE PERFORMANCE."  You're welcome.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Worthy Projects

The Community Advisory Committee (it advocates for the Point with the County by mission, but also works with other agencies whose work affects life here on the Point) met last night with the goal of discussing possible funding mechanisms for what were described as 'three worthy projects.'  These included the necessary repairs to the Community Center, the renovation of the Julius Firehall for a new library, and the production of a lighthouse at Lighthouse Point.  Each will ultimately involve costs of about a half million dollars.

The discussion part never mentioned the Community Center repairs and I had thought that the Parks Board had developed a plan for that which would not, at least currently, involve seeking either new taxes or an additional levy.   Nevertheless, it does seem to me that the community ought to be prepared to cover maintenance costs for the main community building in Point Roberts via the tax system.  But that is not going to happen now.  So people who resist having taxes pay for anything can sleep well in their beds.

Indeed, all three projects involve funding outside of raising taxes.  There are private institutions that provide grants, there are private donors, there is grassroots' fundraising, and, to a small degree, there are government agencies that provide funds for such projects (e.g., restoration of historical buildings).

Unfortunately, the discussion seemed to drift into peoples' feeling that the projects were not the projects they wanted, sort of.  One discussant pointed out that, although he had no data, he felt the price tag of renovations for the Firehall was too high.  Thanks for sharing, was my inner response.  Another voice urged thinking 'out of the box,' and suggested putting the library in Baker Field.   Not exactly a vital location for a community library, I'd say, but definitely out of the box.  Way out of the box.  Someone expressed the view that the new library would be just the same as the old library and we would be out a half million.  However, when asked whether she had looked at the architectural plans, her reply was a succinct, 'No.'  And with an implied 'and I have no plans to do so.'

The Lighthouse Project simply presented its status and its plans.  Nobody objected, at least.

The most useful information of the evening was that the Point Roberts PREP group (which encompasses both the Food Bank and Emergency Preparedness) is currently using the Julius Firehall as a storage site for its supplies.  Obviously, if the Library project is to proceed, some other storage will need to be found for them.  

Given that my focus and interests are largely on the Library Improvement Project, I can't exactly conclude that it was an evening well spent, but maybe just hearing these dissenting voices will tell me something that I need to know.  Or, maybe not.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hard Times for Blogging

Many days involved in guests and rain and internet problems has left me writing not at all.  But, I am back in the internet business, I think, and tomorrow I will begin posting again.  Tonight is the Community Advisory Committee Meeting where the Point's many needs will be discussed anew.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Very Short Story with a Good Ending

Yesterday, a hermit thrush flew into our kitchen window, stunned himself (sitting upright still), lost some feathers (including a tail feather) from the shock of it all (?), got his picture taken, got warmed up a bit, recovered, and flew away with a pair of fledglings in tow.

Drama in the woods with windows.  The birds seem, sometimes, to be as out of it as I sometimes seem to be.  But I probably wouldn't have recovered as well as she did.

[Forgot to say that Ed did that excellent photography up there.]

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Such Service!

Not only do we get new pavement on Tyee and a hard surface on the south shoulder of Benson to South Beach, but now they've come round and painted white and yellow lines all over the place.  It's a remarkable sign of urban life, somehow, at least here on South Beach.  It looks entirely out of place.  But I appreciate the thought and the work nevertheless.  I suppose it is possible that, now that Whatcom Public Works has been up here doing this road work, they'll have fallen in love with us and be hanging around all the time, trying to figure out what else we might need that would require them to come up here and hang out.