Life in Bay Center on Willapa Bay

Living in a maritime fishing village in Southwest Washington state on Willapa Bay

The neighbor who knows a thing or two about a thing or two

Posted by pallix on November 21, 2007

My neighbor, a generational oyster farmer, has taken a shine to sharing information with us, believing we are uninformed city dwellers (we were, but we are learning), and what he likes to call ‘Yankees’ when he is in a bad temper. He has Native American blood, Chinook. I don’t know how much and while he presents as if he is fully Chinook, I am given to understand it may be a percentile. So, he has seen me attempting my kitchen garden and has given me his insights as to how he did it when he was a kid growing up.

Seems though, that I would need chickens, a chicken coop built atop the garden to create the scenario he describes with natural fertilizer for the garden, and bonus of eggs. Well it sounds efficient to me, but we don’t live on a farm, it’s a lot within the township. Although this is not as much a town as a fishing community, so not too likely my neighbors would complain too much if I was inclined to take his advice. Nah, I’m not quite ready to go there.

Further, he’d have me kill a bear for the fat to make pies as he shares a story with me of how his mother asked him when he was a kid if he wanted a blackberry pie. Sure, he says, and she says, well go kill me a bear. Seems she used the bear fat for lard. Or so that is how he tells me it was, back in the day, when he was a kid growing up around here. Well, there are no shortage of blackberries, in fact, they threaten to overtake anything in their path, including houses. I have actually seen here a house completely overgrown and ensconced in blackberry brambles . I haven’t seen a bear, but my other neighbors have on one of their walks along the beach.

Recently, my neighbors who have overgrown blackberries in the unused part of their lot, had the thickets cut down. One morning I look out my door to see a sign that says ‘Lietta’s Garden’. We had talked about having me expand my kitchen garden to include growing some vegetables and a couple of fruit trees on this part of their lot. Apparantly, they thought it a good enough idea to have paid to have the thicket cut down. As I explained to her, I think that blackberry brambles come back ferociously and cutting them back isn’t going to be enough; they would have to actually be eradicated.
Lietta’s Patch
Lietta’s Patch

My other neighbor (the oyster farmer) has taken to letting his yard go to wild, so blackberries have overtaken the front and side parts of his yard. I had been telling him about our other neighbors yielding part of their lot to the idea of a community garden and I’d like to extend that to include his yard too. He agreed, said sure, go ahead. I doubt we will actually, as he is known to have a change of heart and having said one thing one time, wouldn’t necessarily have ‘meant’ it.

He has been amused at some of what he calls my city philosophies as I’ve talked to him about community garden, sustainable living, 100 mile diet. But he keeps bringing me bits of information. Research papers on spartina, that plant life growing in Willapa Bay that has generated controversy about effects Willapa Bay and on oyster farms in the area. More recently though, he is intrigued (and terribly amused) at my mention of wanting to help grow a farmer’s market in our area (existing Public Market on the Willapa), as an extension of the idea of the 100 mile diet. He brought me a magazine, ‘Mother Earth News’ because of an article that mentions the 100 mile diet. I actually appreciated and enjoyed the magazine, and subscribed to the online email newsletter.

Oh, and that reminds me to mention how my oyster farmer neighbor does not have a computer, does not want a computer, and calls it ‘the box’. He knows we do have computer, use it daily, write our blogs, including as contributing editors to political blog forum Washblog, and that topics come up in our political blogging that sometimes more directly affect Southwest Washington, Willapa Bay, Pacific County.

A couple weeks ago, he brought us a treat – some fresh oysters and said ‘enjoy lunch’. Oh, how sweet, I said, but you know neither of us eat or like oysters. He looked at me in utter surprise and said exactly what one of my other neighbors said to me when he learned we don’t eat oysters and my husband doesn’t eat much seafood at all — ‘whaddya move here for then’. So that makes twice I’ve heard that now from my immediate neighbors. Guess not too many people don’t like oysters. And being that the town up the road calls itself ‘The Oyster Capital of the World’, one could indeed wonder why we moved to this area at all. We don’t have a boat, we don’t boat, we don’t fish, we don’t hunt, we don’t farm and lately we don’t even get much hiking, walking in.

This week, my oyster farmer neighbor brought me a newspaper – Capital Press, because it had a few articles that referenced the 100 mile diet and sustainable living. Oh, I said, I just learned of Capital Press because of the award The Daily Astorian won for it’s comprehensive reporting on climate warming. Pshah, he says – ”I don’t believe in that climate warming stuff”. Ahh, I said, well you will when you recognize it has potential to affect oysters and Willapa Bay. “How”, he says.

And I launch into my newly developing language about how climate warming will affect the Western Coast and salmon and he cuts me off to remind me he is a studied geologist and launches into some history about the salmon. I listen politely for a while, then explain to him that what he is telling me is very likely true (salmon hatcheries, diseased spawnings, etc) and that he very obviously knows more about that than I could begin to know, BUT, I tell him — with climate warming, what was may not continue to be and that was more the point I was wanting to make while applauding The Daily Astorian for the many articles that explore climate warming in our region.

I was startled though with so many of the other facts he was rattling off including his statement that grain can’t grow here in Western WA – too wet, so where was I going to get grain (wheat, etc) within 100 miles for my 100 mile diet. And he also pointed out that since we are located at water’s edge, rural, and distant from most of the farming communities in SW Washington, perhaps I could expand my search beyond 100 miles. I searched my mind for a moment, recognizing the truth of what he was saying. Now I really have to rethink the whole concept of the 100 mile diet. Ah, those early tribes did eat fish, berries, and now I have to go learn what they did for grains. Ah, and that perhaps is why it is necessary to ‘trade’ and/or ‘barter’ with neighboring communities. Across the mountains in our state, is the drier and warmer climates, where most of the agriculture is grown – wheat, grain, fruit.

He was also quick to rattle off all the various diseases that can affect crops; seems he had done some farming in the area when he was younger man. After listening to him for awhile, I exclaimed in mild distress, that if I listened to him, I would give up already, and not ready to give up. Much I need to learn, I know, and how about being a resource when I have questions. He does know a thing or two about a thing or two, but he also doesn’t know some things about some things and not usually easy conversations. Friendly, but not easy.

This morning I read through the articles in the edition of the The Capital Press he provided and there was a wealth of useful information on agricuture, farming, and so I figured if there was an online email newsletter, I’d sign up and get online updates. Yep, there is, and I subscribed.

Now…about that grain problem with grain not likely to grow in Western WA along the coastline, how am I going to fit that into the 100 mile diet……..

well, article in The Capital Press about Shepherds Grain grown in Spokane – direct seed, organic, sustainable sparks an idea for trade with my daughter who lives in Spokane. She says blackberries don’t grow readily in Spokane and she is having to $6.00 for 1/4 lb while I have them growing around here all over the place at no charge. I took her pounds of blackberries that I’d picked for her this summer. Now I’ll make an offer to trade her blackberries for Shepherd’s Grain. While it isn’t quite within the 100 mile diet distance limits, it’s conceptually keeping within the concept. It’s grain that isn’t grown and shipped from thousands of miles away. Hundreds, yes, because Spokane is a few hundred miles from here – one side of the state to the other in this state is hundreds of miles – but it is from within the state and therefore Local! I solved that problem nicely. Well sorta – still got to work out the shipping exchange with maximum carbon reduced methodology.

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