hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Little More on Dirt

For accuracy's sake, I need to tidy up the last post about dirt being forbidden entry on either side of the border.  You actually can bring in plants that are growing in dirt if they are accompanied by a phytocertificate, which guarantees that they are pest free.  You can get the certificate at nurseries, e.g., in B.C., if you want to bring a plant into the U.S.  But you have to pay for the certificate in which, effectively, the nursery promises that it knows the plant and the plant is OK.  We once tried to get phytocertificates for a dozen or so large rhododendrons growing in a friend's property in Bothell, WA.  Since the plants were unknown to a nursery that issued phytocertificates, it proved too onerous a task for us, not to mention expensive.

In addition, dirt without a plant can be brought in if you have the right permits, which must be also be paid for.  According to the U.S. CBP site, "Soil is considered the loose surface material of the earth in which plants, trees, and scrubs grow. In most cases, the soil consists of disintegrated rock with an admixture of organic material and soluble salts. Soil is prohibited entry unless accompanied by an import permit. Soil must be declared and the permit must be verified.

I have no idea how you would prove that your soil is OK, and a quick Google check did not enlighten me, but I am assured that it can be done.  I'd guess it falls under the category of things kids shouldn't try at home when their parents are not around.

[Update: I still haven't got it right, a knowledgeable reader advises:
"However, soil is regularly brought from Canada into Point Roberts, either by PR trucks picking it up at nurseries or manufacturers in Canada  or by individuals taking their own trucks and coming back with a truck load.  We regularly use Augustine Soil & Fibre Ltd who deliver to Point Roberts.  They bring soils from Fraser Richmond Soil & Fibre.  The only fees we have to pay are for the product and the delivery, plus the commercial truck entry fee, when we meet the truck at the border.  No permits are required.

People can also bring in bags of topsoil, mulch, etc bought from nurseries of stores in Canada and Washington – no permits needed."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Difficult Tasks

I just received a phone call from a florist in California.  She was trying to figure out how her outfit might arrange to deliver to me a  floral bouquet for my birthday which, as it happens, is today.  We had a longish talk about this, which once again reminded me of how those of us who live here have accommodated the limitations of life in Point Roberts and how those of us who don't live here have a lot of trouble understanding exactly what is the problem.

The florist lady was clearly someone who rose to the challenge.  How about having somebody in Blaine deliver it?  How about my driving to Blaine to pick it up?  How about finding a Canadian florist to deliver it?  How about my driving to Richmond to pick it up?  How about sending it via the U.S. Post Office?  We didn't get into hiring a private plane or boat from Blaine or Bellingham, or even a taxi driver.  But she finally accepted defeat and sent me the birthday wishes from my oldest non-relative friend in this world.  Which I gratefully accepted.

But then, I began thinking, how much more difficult if my beloved friend had decided to send me a nice potted plant! Dirt: worse than terrorists.  Dirt may not cross the border in any direction and nobody can bring it.  At least nobody we know.

[Update:  I have just returned from Tsawwassen, where I bought a dozen tulips for me from my friend; since her birthday is close to mine, I have urged her to go out and buy a dozen tulips for her from me.  Mission sort of accomplished, though in a kind of clunky way.]

[Yet one more addition]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Apps for Speed Traps

We are probably too small a location with too few drivers to make this a useful device.  But for other places, for other Officer Slicks....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two Things: Updates

1.  Someone wrote to me yesterdayday to tell me that I was in error in a post written long ago in which I said that the people who ran the lavender farm that closed after a to-do with the border and what could cross it had left the Point.  I am informed that they are still here, although the lavender farm and the lavender events and produce are not, alas.  Glad to know that.

2.  The Amaryllis provided by the International Market has bloomed spectacularly, about 8 weeks after first being planted in its ridiculously small pot (5 inch diameter).  The stalk is about 25 inches tall, and it has a small set of leaves about 6 inches tall and growing.  The stalk is topped by four big trumpet flowers, evenly spaced around the stalk.  Each flower is about 5 inches long and 7 inches across.  See photo below, which was taken from above the flower: the only angle at which you can see all four of them!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Almost Non-Existent Government

There is much talk nowadays about how government ought to be smaller.  I often think that those who think that way ought to come and see how Point Roberts works.  Here we have almost no government, including none that could be helpful, although we sort of have some that is the taking not the giving sort.

I was brought to meditate upon this after sitting through a visit from a well-meaning and thoughtful Whatcom County Port Commissioner and a Port Planner to us up here in nowhereville.  On Thursday past, the two of them made the trip up for a kind of 'get to know each other' meeting.  There wasn't anything specific up for discussion, although the underlying issue was the fact that Point Roberts' residents, via property taxes, contribute about $150,000 every year to the budget of the Ports Commissioners, and none of that comes back to Point Roberts.  Nothing that the Ports people do has any specific connection to us.  They are responsible for nothing here.  And, as a result, they pretty much do nothing for us here.  They take our money are spend it.

We don't have a port or a County airport here and that's pretty much what the Port people attend to.   (They don't pay for marinas: marinas pay for themselves.)   They are also responsible in some way for economic development .  (It wasn't clear to me ever whether they share this responsibility with some other agency in Whatcom County, but I suspect they do).  Economic development: that which we also have pretty much none of and maybe can't realistically have much of given our location and unique problems.  It's clear that we could have a little more tourism, but not much without a lot more infrastructure to take care of the tourists once they get here.

And how would that infrastructure arise?  Well, the Port could help in a small way, helping us to get some money to develop a 'professional plan,' which would be based on a local plan that was very concrete and already well-developed.  And then the Port could help us find some financing for the plan, maybe.

But the Port wants an initial plan.  They don't want to hear about a cool idea.  And who is to develop that plan?  Well, if we had a little bit of local government, there might be someone--that is to say a government employee--whose job it would be to work out that cool idea into a preliminary plan.  Doing that preliminary plan with nothing but volunteer labor is not likely to be very effective; it could work, but it's going to be dicey or go on for many years.  We have done it before: see, e.g., the Wellness Clinic.  

The Parks Board Commissioners can do some of that pre-plan work, but they don't have employees to do such things.  The Community Advisory Committee is trying, in some ways, to see if there is some way in which their members can function in that way, building up alliances down in the actual county government and developing some information bases.  But our status as an unincorporated area makes it much harder to get this ever to work.  So, if you are enthusastic about small, even tiny, government, watch us flail.  It's okay as long as you can manage all on your own for pretty much everything.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Count Begins

Last night, the Parks Board met and agreed to the final (and 9th) draft of a Memo of Understanding with the Friends of the Point Roberts Library and the Whatcom County Library System.   In this Memo, the Parks Board gives the Friends of the Library five years to raise sufficient funds to remodel and rennovate the Julius Firehall and the WCLS agrees to take over the operation of a library in that renovated building.  In the interim five years, the Julius Firehall may be used for other purposes by the Parks Board, but at such time as the necessary funds are raised, the Firehall will become the new library.

There was some discussion by some attendees at the meeting suggesting that the Firehall could have better uses: specifically, that it could be used as a gymnasium with little remodeling.  And indeed that could be done during the period when funds are being raised.  And there was some discussion associated with the idea that instead of remodeling an old building, the community should have an entirely new building that would serve both current community center functions as well as a new library and commercial enterprises of various sorts, although there was no mention of where the money would come from for that grandiose vision, and I'm pretty sure that the Friends of the Point Roberts Library aren't interested in raising sufficient funds to build an entire new civic complex.  So I'm not sure what that was all about, except the usual Point Roberts 'Wouldn't It Be Great If....".

I have lived here long enough to have heard this theme numerous times: 'Wouldn't it be great if we had a theater for concerts?' Or a shopping mall?  Or a swimming pool?  Or a pizza delivery place? Or a ferry from Bellingham?  Or whatever it was you had in the place that you used to live in and that you miss.  I, personally, would like Trader Joe's to open  up a branch in Point Roberts.  But I don't expect that to happen.  So I don't spend too much time talking to friends and neighbors about what a good idea that would be.

But about this library: well, I am prepared to talk about what a good idea it would be and to act in the interests of that idea.  The signing of the Memo of Understanding means that the Friends of the Point Roberts Library is about to step forward to raise a half million dollars to create a building that can house a 21st Century American Library.  What we have now is barely a 20th Century American Library.  Andrew Carnegie, who was a major figure in creating this country's public library system, would be proud of this small group of people.  Like Carnegie himself, who promised thousands of communities that he would provide them a building, if they would run a real public library in it, the Parks Board and the Friends of the Library will be working to provide that building which the Whatcom County Library Association has promised to turn into the kind of library that this community needs.

Those of us in Point Roberts, both the Friends of the Library and the much more numerous friends of the library, have five years.  We've got a lot of work to do.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Visions of a Future

In the grey months in Point Roberts, it is easy to feel kind of stuck.  Each day, remarkably like the day before, can easily send you spiraling.  And, this mood, if you are the right kind of person, may have a reverse effect and send you into imagining projects that you might put together someday, maybe today, well, probably not today, but ...  later.

Last summer, I got myself together to order a bunch of lily bulbs because I thought it would be nice to have a bunch of lilies.  Now I await the growth of a dozen or so lily plants.  But in the grey days, I am imagining something better, maybe 80 lilies.  That's what the winter does for you, gives you dreams of grandeur, possibilities of plentitude, surprising plans.

I hear from a Point Roberts friend the other day that she has been spending her grey days planning a multi-summer trip around the U.S. visiting the final resting places of all the U.S. presidents and vice-presidents, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Other Important Americans.  Now there is a project to take hold (or have take hold of you).  She pointed out that the research possibilities that the internet gives us make the planning of such a trip a very engaging process.  Not to mention the wonders of strange information that comes up along the way.  Consider this, for example:

"Alabama's only grave of note is William DeVane King.  Now you ask why I remember this.  Well, Mr. King was actually Vice President King for about 40 days under President Franklin Pierce (1853-1857).  . . . There are a couple of things about Mr. King that are unique.  He was very ill with tuberculosis and so went to Cuba for "the cure" before the election even.  And because of this, he is the only president or vice president who was sworn in on foreign soil (Cuba).  He also served only 43 days of his term of office, growing increasingly ill, he returned to his native Alabama and died shortly after his return.  NOW .. .here's our connection to him.  The Oregon Territory, in celebration of the election of Pierce and King, named two of their territorial counties Pierce County and King County.  And when Washington Territory was carved from Oregon Territory, the names stuck.  And today … King County's county seat is Seattle, Washington … Pierce County's county seat is Tacoma.  Some years back when I lived in Seattle, the county hoi polloi decided that they simply could not continue to sport the name of a slaveholding Alabaman, so they changed the PERSON the county was named for to Martin Luther King."

That's what the grey days can do for you: delight you with unexpected information and challenge you with an unexpected trip.  But not right now: later.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

We Are United

 Last mid-November, the International Market (our local grocery) decided for the first time in my 17-year memory of things here (not entirely reliable, I'm afraid) to sell us winter bulb kits.  (Remember that we cannot bring bulbs in either direction cross the border so we get them only by mail, normally, which is often more trouble than it's worth.)  The grocer laid out a table over in the near-produce section with cardboard boxes of various sizes from which we could choose a future treasure of amaryllis, daffodil, hyacinth, and maybe some other flowers.  As I recall, you could go all out for a $14 flower investment down to about a $4 flower investment.

Now, about 7 weeks later, the boxes are all gone: the lingering lot was on half-price sale last week.  But most of those boxes went home with someone earlier and have been working away on their assigned task.  You opened your box and you got a plastic pot (which really didn't seem big enough for a flower that was going to be very tall) and a packet of high-quality manufactured soil and a big bulb (or more, depending upon the level of your investment).  You put them all together, watered the pot and waited for the magic.

A few days ago, a friend came by and seeing my amaryllis on the coffee table commented that hers, by contrast was only about six inches tall.  Mine is about 25 inches tall.
Now the difference between those results may come from the fact that she left hers alone to fend for itself for a couple of weeks while she was off on vacation; or it may come from the fact that my amaryllis, contrary to package description, neglected to provide any leaves for its flower.  We just have this tall, naked, pale green stalk with the bud on top.  Maybe all its possibilities went into flower, while her bulb was dutifully providing leaves as well.

But, the bud is surging leafless ahead.  The top picture is two days earlier than the bottom one, and today it is even more open.  A few more days, I'd guess, and we'll have a genuine amaryllis flower in our living room.  And, despite the lagging results of my friend, I like to think that all over the Point, there are many other coffee tables with similarly uninspired pots producing prodigious blooms.  There we are, altogether, thanks to the International Market: The Point Roberts Amaryllis Choral Society.

Monday, January 2, 2012

This Is What?

Somehow, between Christmas and now, I seem to have lost track of what we're supposed to be experiencing.  It's the day after New Year's Day and I still don't know who won the Rose Bowl.  It seems to have been played today (as the Rose Parade seems to have happened today) instead of yesterday.

Such news as exists seems to be only about Iowa, where I don't live and don't long to live.

Haven't hardly been out of the house for a week.  Fortunately, Ed goes out every day to work at re-roofing both houses.  Doesn't hardly seem the right time of year for that.  But that's what he's doing and at least he tells me what it's like outdoors.

In any case, this appears to be 2012, a year with a leap year day, and we seem to be moving forward toward it.  Hope I'm better oriented this year than I seem to have been at the end of last year.  Happy New Year, one and all!