Life in Bay Center on Willapa Bay

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

Archive for the ‘agriculture’ Category

Chesapeake Bay future of Willapa Bay?

Posted by pallix on December 28, 2008

Article I came across this morning at Washington Post turns out to be much more than one article.  It is an article collection in a series on the clean up efforts and lifestyles of the  Chesapeake Bay reported by the Washington Post.  I read with interest, recognizing that I could well be reading the future of Willapa Bay were it to become more densely populated; were it to become less ecologically sound due to carelessness of it’s stewardship.   Were it to lose it’s oyster population as it already once historically did when the native oysters were harvested into extinction.  

We moved here about 10 years ago from an upscale urban center in Seattle area, with an eye to the pristine beauty of the Willapa region, the historical context, and to downshift gears to a calmer, quieter way of life.   While we are indeed ‘transplants’, we settled in with intention of integrating into a lifestyle that somehow seems to have maintained keeping the Willapa region not too much undisturbed by carelessness of  human contaminations.   We are, for the most part, still considered ‘newcomers’ to the area and we recognize that some families are generational families, having lived here over many generations.  Of course, we are newcomers to that kind of generational family history.  Yet we have felt welcomed, embraced, and if there has been any joking sense of us as newcomers, it has been in good humor.  We have not felt at any time unwelcome.  

 I recognize that is in large part due to the sparse population and towns of Pacific County and a rather untouched land.  One of the things I find myself thinking as we go from place to place within the county is that this must closely resemble how this land looked one hundred, two hundred years ago.  This land must look a  lot like it did to the early settlers.  This must be something close to what Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery saw when they arrived here.   This land must still look much like what it was like for the Native Americans who dwelt here, primarily the Chinook people.  

We habitat as guests in this region comparative to the history of the region, and we recognize that we are guest dwellers on this land.  Our lifestyle is not that of living off the land, in fishing, in timber/lumber, in farming (unless our  small kitchen vegetable garden counts).  By osmosis we become somewhat acquainted with the reality of the issues that beset the mix of people choosing to live in this region.    Some of our neighbors are oyster farmers, and we learn a bit about what is important to them in their livelihoods as oyster farmers.   At least one of our neighbors owns and operates a modestly sizeable dairy farm, and we learn a bit about issues important to their livelihood.  Some neighbors are agricultural farmers, and we learn a bit about issues important to their livelihoods.  And many of our neighbors are part of the timber/lumber industry, consequently we learn about issues important to their livelihoods, for example, the environmentalists efforts to save the spotted owl, which people in the timber/lumber industry will tell you about killed off their entire livelihood in that industry. 

Gradually, over time, we come to know a little bit about a bit of what are important issues to the people who live in this county, who reside along the Willapa Bay, who live in the Willapa Hills .. all our neighbors in the Willapa region.    What is highly important to the livelihood of some does encroach on the livelihood of others and it seems to me a harmonious disharmony has developed over the generations.  

Where we reside now,  homeowners buying one of the older properties still standing in this community, we have a strong regard for the history of not only our immediate community, but the region where we have chosen to live.  We did not buy ‘weekend getaway property’ and we do have a fair share of new residents who are weekenders, along with a fair share of  new residents from out of the area who choose to settle here, buy existing property or build new homes and live here  year round.  We have lived here only ten years, but we can ‘feel’ the shifting tides as the older sense of not only this immediate community but the older sense of the community gives way to the new sense of community in this region.  

For property developers, driven by the property bubble, they began to look upon this region as one of the last vestiges of property development, having developed everything else along the Interstate 5 corridor regions.   As they began to look, signs of what I consider encroachment began to appear; the very things we wanted to get away from – housing developments, condos, and with that the people who buy them and want the accompanying convenience of close by stores and malls and I began to fear the beautiful landscape would give way to …. well, what development looks like, pretty much cookie cutter one to the next.    

But Willapa is an estuary, and as such has environmental protections, making too much development too quickly unlikely.    And, as my own concerns began to take root, the property bubble burst — the mortgage crisis we are in now.  With it the start up developments in our region seemed to quickly wither.  I can’t say I’m sorry to see that happened.  But I also realize it is momentary, contingent on recovery,  the marketability and at some point will once again be back on the developers map as an area to develop.  

Which brings me back to the Washington Post series on the Chesapeake Bay and the seemingly unsuccessful efforts to revive that bay.   Several components are cited as contributing factors to the demise of the vibrancy of the Chesapeake Bay, and they are the very components that affect Willapa Bay.  Why, one might ask, is one bay (Willapa Bay) still considered pristine, vibrant and productive where the Chesapeake Bay is considered contaminated and nearly beyond repair?   The Washington Post series or articles attempts to answer the question of what went wrong, what is trying to be fixed and what is or is not working about the Chesapeake Bay, so there is little need for me to repeat or condense it here.  But it has caused me to look protectively at our own Willapa Bay in a new light, perhaps in recognition that the fact of the wilderness aspect of the region which has a still manageable human population could easily go the way of the Chesapeake Bay in over development, over population, and carelessness of human contaminations. 

The thing weighing a bit on my mind is that this region is under study as part of the Columbia – Pacific National Heritage Area (link to House bill and Senate bill)  , spring boarding from the historical Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery.  Regions designated National Heritage sites promote tourism, tourist $$ and enterprise and perhaps expand the regional economy, but at what cost over the short run?  I have been asking myself this question since I learned of the Columbia-Pacific National Heritage Study Act last summer.   With that question, also comes the issue of Federal recognition of the Chinook people as a recognized tribe – Chinook Nation.  It can hardly be on one hand acknowledged that the concept of  the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery could be used to advance  this region into a National Heritage site without simultaneously acknowledging that  the Chinook people, as a recognized tribe, who gave considerable aid to the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, and are the backbone of what makes this region historically noteworthy.

I watch with interest the events ahead, with the efforts to make this region a National Heritage site, the progress for the Chinook people in being officially recognized at Federal level, the land and property development market, the responsive reaction from the various industries in the region; tourism,  commercial fishing, timber industry, agricultural community, and the newcomers who are less responsive to the history and more anxious to make the area into a region not unlike the area from which they came — overly developed with more cookie cutter type housing developments, malls,  stores and Starbucks on every other corner.   Should that happen, the unique richness of this region will be forever lost.   Should that happen, the arguments are made and some might consider it a good thing for an ailing local economy, livlihoods unlikely to sustain in the coming years, and necessity to make way for change, lest……..  

 

And I ask lest what?  Lest the region remain pretty much the same as it is, and if so, what is terribly wrong with that?

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Posted in agriculture, Chinook Nation, estuary, oyster farms, oysters, willapa, willapa bay | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in 100 mile diet, agriculture, blackberries, climate warming, farmers market, Native Americans, Neighboring communities, oyster farms, oysters, Pacific County, South Bend, spartina | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Daily Astorian wins 2007 Dolly Connelly Award for series on climate change impact on Pacific NW

Posted by pallix on November 13, 2007

I have also posted this as front page story on Washblog.

The Daily Astorian has won the 2007 Dolly Connelly Award for excellence in environmental journalism for a series of articles on how global warming stands to impact the Pacific Northwest and its living creatures.

Established in 1998, the Connelly Award is given out annually by the association. It was established by Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly in memory of his mother, who worked as a freelance journalist and correspondent for Time-Life.

I learned today in Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal publishing a Seattle AP report. Hey, the Daily Astorian is our neck of the woods – out here in Bay Center, in Pacific County. So I followed the link and found a fantastic resource in the collection of articles for this special report featured in the Daily Astorian.

An award wining special report as provided by a collaborating collection of 22 writers, seven photographers, seven editors, six page designers and two logo creators from The Daily Astorian.

There are 71 articles from March 2006 to the most recent one in Sept 2007. I will be reading them over the weeks ahead and I’ve already read through several of the articles. I can see some grave relevance, not only for our immediate region on coastal Southwest WA, but along the WA coastline and those Puget Sound bodies of water.

I’m struck by how the articles reference two of the nearby towns of South Bend and Raymond in the region where we live as the ‘canaries in a coal mine’.

from one of the articles ‘What you would see here would be a hell of a mess’

Not only would the coastline change, but there is no question there would be a corresponding rise in the water table, said Douglas Canning, recently retired from the Washington Department of Ecology’s Shorelands Program and affiliated with the University of Washington’s Climate Impact Group.

A rise in the table water would cause low-lying inland lakes to expand. Areas that are now wetlands could have standing water year-round, or become small lakes. New wetlands could form on previously dry ground. Freshwater marshes could become inundated with saltwater.

Because Raymond and South Bend are feeling the symptoms, Canning suggests county leaders consider them their canaries in a coal mine.

“Those are my poster children,” for demonstrating the dangers of the long-term effects of rising ocean levels, he said. Any unanticipated consequences of climate change and a rise in the ocean level should manifest there first.

I’m also struck by the specific article on Bay Center (where we live) becoming an island. We already are an ‘island’ technically, but the article isn’t talking about the mere channel of water that separates us now from the mainland where a small bridge is our way in and out.

from one of the articles ‘Maps reveal extent of worries for Bay Center, Oysterville’

Washington’s Pacific County covers 928 square miles, but by 2100, based on predictions of ocean level rise caused by global climate change, the county could lose 20 square miles to the ocean.

A Geographic Information System analysis of Pacific County was done using a projected rise in ocean level of 3.4 feet by 2100. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates an approximate rise in ocean level of three feet by 2100, and a Canadian study suggests the Pacific Northwest may experience half as much again again as the global average.

Bay Center, bracketed by Willapa Bay and a river, will become a virtual island at high tide.

Of course, those are immediate concerns to those of us who live in Pacific County, however, I don’t think the effects are limited to Southwest Washington as much as The Daily Astorian chose to do a very comprehensive and scientific analytical report, giving me reason to be very proud of the reporting in our region from what is considered to be a small town newspaper in The Daily Astorian.

Astoria, Oregon, on Highway 101, is a Megler Bridge away from us in Pacific County, so we consider it very much part of our region. The Megler Astoria Bridge spans the mouth of the Columbia River where the river meets the Pacific Ocean.

I wonder if the newspapers to the north of us in the larger cities along western Washington coast have invested this kind of time in reporting? And if not, why not?

By pointing to the concerns we face in our region, I think the smorgasboard of articles points to larger concerns beyond just our immediate region. For example:

Will fishing cool down as the oceans warm up?


Bananas growing in Oregon?


Northwest water supplies rely on storage and conservation


It’s like a freight train coming and no one can stop it
Salmon are hardy – but can they survive warmer water? It may be hard to believe that chinook salmon or steelhead could be bothered or hurt by a few degrees warmer water

Invasive species hurting lifestyles on Long Beach Peninsula

Forests and crops struggle to beat the heat

Cranberry crop on the Peninsula may be vulnerable to climate change


Along with drier landscape comes another problem – more weeds
SPOKANE, Wash. – Bigger weeds. Weeds that go further up mountainsides. Weeds that take advantage, not only of warmer temperatures, but higher carbon dioxide levels that will accompany global climate change.


Sea birds, insects and other critters suffer amid changing climate


Growers around the Northwest point to evidence of more pests


Forests encounter new pest problems in the age of global warming


Effects on bird species bring climate change into focus
Bird count shows some new species are appearing here


Climate change activists converge in Skamakowa
(my note; Skamokawa is a tiny town in Wahkiakum County, the next county over and south from us in Pacific County. A tiny town like that taking a lead in climate change — I’m mightily impressed!)

Climate change team

This installment of the climate change series is produced by the East Oregonian Publishing Group, whose member newspapers include The Daily Astorian in Astoria, Ore., The East Oregonian in Pendleton, Ore., The Capital Press in Salem, Ore., (covering four states); the Blue Mountain Eagle in John Day, Ore., The Wallowa Chieftain in Enterprise, Ore., and the Chinook Observer in Long Beach, Wash.

I seem to have gravitated to a place where I find the focus of my attention on quite hefty and heavy topics, between activism regarding Iraq war (wars in Middle East) and concerns with climate warming. At least I feel like with the climate warming there are some things I can do (we can do, each and every one of us) that might make some difference to the greater sum in effort to work to reduce impacts. And in each little step I find I can take, I feel a small but empowered sense that this is something where we can have a unifying commonality and work together in building communities and work towards life-giving purposes.

Oh, but with Iraq war, I feel like I have failed despite my best efforts after 5 years of focused activism. I feel the failure acutely as my son-in-law leaves at the end of this week for his second deployment to Iraq. I really find myself feeling awkward in knowing what to say to him, and I can’t shake the feeling of having failed him and his wife and children when I am with them. I realize it is in the hands of Congress now, and am coming to the sad realization that there is nothing Congress will do to shift the course of Iraq war for the remainder of this President’s term. I’m not so sure Congress will do much even when (if) a new President takes on the Commander-in-Chief role in Jan 2009.

Posted in agriculture, Bay Center proper, climate warming, estuary, farming, migratory birds, Neighboring communities, oysters, Pacific County, Pacific ocean, shorebirds, South Bend, spartina, tideflats, waterfowl habitat, wetlands, willapa, willapa bay, Willapa Bay in the news | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Doing Something Positive – The Urban Pioneers are doing it, so can we!

Posted by pallix on November 11, 2007

Excellent video encapsulating wide array of concepts in Sustainable Living.  These Urban Pioneers got a jumpstart back when it was called self-sufficiency- meaningful living, abundant living, simplistic living, getting off the grid.  And they go even further back …   see the video below.  Big hat tip to Path To Freedom Journal blog.

from the Path to Freedom Journal blog ‘about us’
On 1/5th of an acre, this family has over 350 varieties of edible and useful plants. The homestead’s productive 1/10 acre organic garden now grows over 6,000 pounds (3 tons) of organic produce annually,providing fresh vegetables and fruit for the family’s vegetarian diet along with a viable income.

In addition they have chickens, ducks, goats, brew their own biodiesel (made from waste (free!) vegetable oil) to fuel their car, compost with worms, solar panels provide their electricity needs, a sun and earthen oven is used to cook food in.

Posted in agriculture, farming | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »