Life in Bay Center on Willapa Bay

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

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Winter Brothers; A Season at the Edge of America

Posted by Lietta on March 11, 2015

Wanted to capture the referenced two links, the book, the article and also the documentary that Keith Cox has made of Oyster Farming in the Willapa. So ‘home’ for me, we lived in Bay Center on the Willapa among oyster farmers for 10 out of the 13 years we lived in Pacific County.

Phase Three

Discovery this morning, before I could even get going with my email inbox.   A book I will want to purchase for my Kindle, our former stomping grounds while not precisely in Willapa Bay area references relate strongly to life in pristine Willapa Bay area.  ‘ Winter Brothers; A Season at the Edge of America‘ by author, Ivan Doig, writes to  the Pacific Northwest through the diaries of James Gilchrist Swan, a settler of the region, fusing the diaries of James Swan with Ivan Doig’s own voice.

The book was brought to my attention because of the  nature of article in Our Coast ‘Willapa Dreaming‘ by Matt Winters which speaks beautifully to how I experienced our life in Willapa Bay….oyster farmers and all.




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Make Your Own Seed Tapes

Posted by Lietta on June 18, 2009

Make Your Own Seed TapesMore DIY How To Projects

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Another of the views we see in Bay Center

Posted by Lietta on April 8, 2009

Dock on Palix River side of Bay Center

Dock on Palix River side of Bay Center

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Video – making seedling pots from newspapers

Posted by Lietta on March 4, 2009

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A nation of gardeners

Posted by Lietta on December 1, 2008

Fruit and vegetable gardens in the US are rising in popularity as environmental consciousness meets depression economics

Last week, while helping a friend turn over her soil, I came across a giant bean that had grown out of old compost. “Fava beans,” said my friend the gardener. I opened the pod and there they were, nestling in fuzzy little pockets. How come I had never seen a fava bean pod before?

These epiphanies of mine usually follow the same pattern. The way a pinch of herb smells or the precise indentations on the body of a bean reduce me to mute wonder. This is immediately followed by a resolution to plant my own kitchen garden. Technicolour fantasies come after, featuring the same homegrown cherry tomatoes and basil that I have been fantasising about for years now. And then … nothing.

The excuses are legion. It’s winter, too cold for plants to grow. I don’t have enough outdoor space. It’s illegal to use the fire escape for anything other than escaping from fires. And what is this strange new language of annuals, biennials, perennials, hardy through zone six, pinch back and soil pH? Will I really remember to water the plants everyday?

Yet, as we move into the holiday season, and then the new year with its promise of newer improved versions of ourselves and the world, my fava-bean-inspired resolution seems to have something it did not have in previous years: a socio-cultural momentum.

Roger Doiron, the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, reminds Barack Obama that he is the eater-in-chief. To Michael Pollan, Obama is the farmer-in-chief. Both men have asked for parts of the White House lawn to be replaced by an organic fruit and vegetable garden as a symbolic and practical measure to meet the growing food crisis. (As symbols go, this is guaranteed to be a smarter gesture than outgoing President Bush’s comment about Indians and Chinese eating more and more.)

The case against lawns has been growing increasingly hard to ignore over the last two decades as we learn more about the ways in which human consumption is destroying the earth. In 2008, the artist Fritz Haeg published Edible Estates, a chronicle of the garden as art and activism. Haeg links the seemingly insignificant fruit and vegetable garden with larger issues: where our food comes from, how it is cultivated, creating communities in neighbourhoods, ownership over what we eat and whether it will rain tomorrow.

We may be approaching the tipping point of the kitchen garden movement as environmental consciousness meets depression economics. In the US, vegetables have gone from fourth place to second place in the average garden budget. Greenhouse managers report more first-time gardeners coming to their door. (In the UK, vegetables are being stolen from community gardens on an unprecedented scale.)


read more at link here

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40,000 Show Up For Free Food; Weld County Farmer Shares Bounty From Platteville Fields

Posted by Lietta on December 1, 2008

DENVER — About 40,000 people showed up to a Weld County farm Saturday in the hopes of getting some free food.

But within an hour the food was gone.

“We had originally planned to take everyone by tractor to the fields but due to the overwhelming response we had to allow people to walk or drive themselves,” said Dave Miller.

Many families had be to turned away and sheriff’s deputies were called in to handle traffic.

The farm had planned to be open all weekend handing out potatoes, onions, beets and carrots, but now organizers said everything has been given away.


read more at link here

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Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates

Posted by Lietta on November 28, 2008

Playing around with the templates to my blogger blogs and I ran across this gift from this blogger, some fresh new 3 column templates to use.  I liked what I saw and immediately began changing the templates on several of my blogs.   You can play around with your templates too — visit her site .   Oh and a little bonus, she has added many holiday templates

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Summer Garden into Autumn garden

Posted by Lietta on October 11, 2008

Summer ends.  Autum leaves turn.  The garden valiantly lives on…the carrots are growing, the beets, newly planted lettuce varieties.  Parsnips planted (but  I think the visiting dog dug that section up).  I already know that parsnips, carrots and beets will be okay in the ground from my ‘accidental’ discoveries i previous years.  I had given up on the garden and was surprised to find these root vegetables were quite content to be in the ground, and entirely still viable.   Now I will more deliberately, not accidentally, have root crops growing this Fall and Winter.

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Fighting slugs in our container veggie gardens

Posted by Lietta on August 15, 2008

Last year I had no produce from my gardening efforts. Why? Because mostly the slugs, native to our Pacific Northwest, ate, usually in one overnight, anything tender that tried to grow. This year I was determined not to grow my vegetable garden for the slugs to eat.

This year, though, the weather decided to not to be spring when it was spring, to be only sort of summer with a periodic warm day, and here it is August and I can pretty much say there wasn’t much of a spring and summer this year where I live. So growing the vegetables was not going to be easy with neither the weather cooperating nor the voracious eaters – those slugs!

Determined to persevere against the odds, I so thoroughly reasearched slugs, that I felt ready to take aim and do serious battle with the critters. And even with the delayed to non-existent spring weather, I was equally determined to grow a veggie garden this year.

For the slugs; used several methods – bait traps, beer traps, copper pennies laid out along the top edge of the container boards, going out at dusk and spearing them. My knight contemplated the problem and came up with a unique solution. He built the container beds and then he nailed the ‘slug gutters’ to the outside of the container boards. I could fill the slug gutters with salt and any slugs daring to cross would not make it to the vegetables. That seemed to work quite well. I still set the beer traps – just in case. Result – we have growing vegetables which haven’t been eaten by the slugs. I think my knight has been very knightly about saving me and my vegetables from the slug eaters!

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Growing Sweet Potatoes – underneath those vines, there really are sweet potatoes

Posted by Lietta on June 30, 2008

I have a sweet potato vine growing in a container in my kitchen window, and I keep wondering if it would actually grown a sweet potato underneath the soil. Perhaps so. From a poster at one of the listservs I am subscribed to, she cites her experience with sweet potatoe vines…and it sounds like it was an unexpected surprise to her to find actual sweet potatoes growing.

I am put off a bit by learning the sweet potato is a cousin to the morning glory vines, and yes, the leaves of the vine do look much like the morning glory vines in my yard. Since I already ‘fight’ with the spreading morning glory vines that never really are eradicated, but I try to keep them from overtaking our intentional plantings, I’m not sure I would want to generate another aggressive vine spreader with sweet potatoes. So, I will think some about this, how I can grow and keep contained, because I do want sweet potatoes – Yes!

A shout out of thanks to Brenda for sharing her experience (below):

I just took pieces that were sprouting & put them against a chain link fence. The vines grew all over the fencing. Then they branched out all over my garden.. like weeds. When the leaves started to die a little, you could see the potatoes peeking up from the mound at the base of the plant. As I started pulling up the runners, I kept finding more.

They are a member of the morning glory family & the vines act like it… I had one potato that was the size of a coconut!! No special care. Didn’t water them any more than the normal grey water from the laundry & whatever water God gave me. No pesticides. A little mulch from the horse stable but nothing special. I harvested more today. Very hardy. Willing to take over the world if you let it.

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Growing Potatoes in Garbage Can (or other similar container)

Posted by Lietta on June 30, 2008

Okay, I wanted to try this last year, and so another growing season, and I am doing it this year (2008).
From a poster on one of my listservs – the simple explanation and then the detailed explanation with link to site.

We have been growing potatoes in containers for years and it is really easy. You need to put drainage holes in the bottom and broken clay pot pieces to help drain water off the roots to prevent root rot. Add some rich soil (we compost all left over veggies from the kitchen) then plant your potato eyes. As the vines grow cover them with more loose compost and they will keep growing. Web site that explains the process in more detail.

Link to detailed instructions;

How to Grow Potatoes in a Container (Ciscoe’s Secrets) ——————————————————————————–

Get a clean garbage can or similar container. Plastic works great because it won’t rust out. Drainage is absolutely necessary. Drill several 1/2 inch holes in the bottom. It also helps to drill some holes in the side about half-inch up from the bottom of the container.

Fill the container with about 6 inches of good potting soil. Mix in about a handful of osmocote 14-14-14 fertilizer. Osmocote is a slow release fertilizer that will stay active for approximately 2 1/2 months. Organic fertilizers formulated for acid loving plants such as rhododendrons also works well. (Note: After 2 1/2 months with osmocote, or about 1 1/2 months with organic, fertilize with a good water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Grow about every two weeks according to directions on the label). Place whole seed potatoes in the soil. There should be about 5 inches between potatoes. Cover with an additional inch or so of soil. All potatoes should be completely covered with soil. Water the spuds in.

The potatoes will begin to grow. When the vines reach 4 inches, cover all but 1 inch with compost or straw. I like to use compost, because it is easy to reach in to pick potatoes. Every time the vines grow another 4 inches, keep covering all but the top inch. Eventually, the vines will grow out of the top of the container. It is a good idea to stake up the vines so they don’t fall over and brake. Place 4 bamboo or wood stakes (one in each corner) and tie the vines to the stakes with twine. By now the whole container will be filled with compost. Soon the vines will flower. Not long after that, the vines will begin to produce potatoes all along the vines that are covered with compost in the container. Once they have become big enough, you can reach in and pick a few for dinner any time you want. These spuds are called “new potatoes.” They won’t keep long in the fridge, so pick-em and eat em. After the vines die back at the end of summer, the potatoes remaining are storing potatoes. You can harvest and store them as you normally would. These will keep well as long as they are stored in a dark, cool, and relatively dry location.

One last note: take care to provide adequate water. You don’t want to drown the plants but it’s also important the soil at the bottom never dries out. In late summer spuds may need to be watered on a daily basis. Use a watering can to water to avoid wetting the foliage. I found that keeping the containers in an area with morning sun exposure prevents the soil from drying out too rapidly and still allows enough sun for a bumper crop.

This method of growing spuds is really fun. You get lots of them without using much space, and it amazes visitors to your yard. Last year I harvested 35 large Yukon Gold and 55 good sized Peruvian Blue potatoes. Great served with brussels sprouts!

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Epsom Salts – Nutrient for flowers and plants

Posted by Lietta on June 30, 2008

entry from the Tacoma News Tribune ‘Get Growing’ blog

Alert! This just in from the Epsom Salt Council. Could it possibly be true?

Just as “Milk does a body good,” Epsom Salt may be one of the most perfect nutrients for flowers and plants. And mid-to-late spring is the ideal time to nourish the soils and roots of your favorite foliage and flowers with this inexpensive and easy-to-use compound. According to the Epsom Salt Council, research indicates Epsom Salt can help seeds germinate; make plants grow bushier; produce more flowers; increase chlorophyll production; improve phosphorus and nitrogen uptake; and deter pests, including slugs and voles.

Anyone used Epsom salt? What did you think? If you haven’t tried it, but want to, the Epsom Salt Council recommends these amounts:

Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron): 1 tablespoon per 9 square feet. Apply over root zone every 2-4 weeks.

Lawns: Apply 3 pounds for every 1,250 square feet with a spreader, or dilute in water and apply with a sprayer.

Trees: Apply 2 tablespoons per 9 square feet. Apply over the root zone 3 times annually.

Garden Startup: Sprinkle 1 cup per 100 square feet. Mix into soil before planting.

Roses & Tomatoes: Use 1 tablespoon per foot of plant height per plant; apply every two weeks.

For more details, click here.

UPDATE: WSU professor Linda Chalker-Scott has written an interesting article that takes a skeptical look at using Epsom salt in the garden. Click here to read.

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

Posted by Lietta 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.

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How To : Canning Tomatoes. Salsa, Tomato Sauce

Posted by Lietta on November 2, 2007

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Sunny Autumn Day at the very blue Bay Center

Posted by Lietta on October 26, 2007

I took my dog, Jake, for a thorough and long walk yesterday, going a little further than we usually walk. It was a crisp, sunny, Autumn day and perfect for getting out of the house after the wind and rain storms of the week before. My mother had sent some of her digital photos of Autumn colors where she lives and I had thought I might take some photos to show off Autumn where I live. Well, I didn’t find much color, found a lot of blue, but some great photos anyway. Sharing a few here.

processing building Bay Center

full size click here – processing building Palix River, on Bay Center Dike Road

Fishing boat

full size click here – Fishing boat on Palix River, Bay Center Dike Road

processing building on pier posts

full size click here – processing building on pier posts, Palix River on Bay Center Dike Road

private ramp and dock

full size click here – private ramp and dock on Palix River, Bay Center Dike Road

dock for fishing boats

full size click here – private dock for fishing boats, Palix River, Bay Center Dike Road

Dock of the Bay tavern and restaraunt Bay Center, WA
full size click here – Dock of the Bay tavern and restaraunt Bay Center, WA

old historic Pioneer Cemetary, Bay Center, WA
full size click here – old historic Pioneer Cemetary, Bay Center, WA

historic former owners of our house; Bochau marker at  Pioneer Cemetary, Bay Center, WA

full size click here – historic former owners of our house; Bochau marker at Pioneer Cemetary, Bay Center, WA

View of the Palix River and Bay Center Port from old historic Pioneer Cemetary

full size click here – View of the Palix River and Bay Center Port from old historic Pioneer Cemetary

Oyster shell holding area - oyster shells galore

full size click here – Oyster shell holding area – oyster shells galore

Posted in Bochau family, dock, oyster farms, oysters, Pacific County, photos, restaraunts, tideflats, Uncategorized, wetlands, willapa bay | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Too early for winter storms in Autumn

Posted by Lietta on October 20, 2007

 It is not even the end of October yet, and I’m still looking at the color palette nature displays as the leaves on the trees turn various shades of gold, orange, brown and red when the first of the ‘winter’ storms hit this week.    Wind and rain storms hit Washington coasts Thursday without much of a transition as the winds blew in at 50-60 mph.  The night before on our local channels, the weather forecasts indicated expected wind storm, but with assurance it was not going to be one of the ‘big ones’.

Well it was a big one.  And as I watched the tall evergreens at the back of our lot swaying back and forth in a furious dance, I knew those winds had to be considerably higher than what the weather forecast predicted.   Well thank goodness that through what is sometimes called persistent nagging when women do it, but something quite more visionary when men do it, I was able to convince husband to have the limbs of our almost 100 year old monkey puzzle tree taken down before October.

The monkey puzzle tree died – probably last year and had been slowly deteriorating over the years since we bought this house.  My husband is very attached to the tree, and despite the fact that it has turned brown with only a hint of green in the uppermost branches, he was convinced it still had life in it and could be saved.  This summer my husband finally acknowledged that there was no life left in the tree and we would bring it down.

With a slight summer breeze in early September, a couple of the branches cracked and came down.  Remembering the fury of the winter wind storms last year, I was very anxious to get the limbs off the tree and get the tree down.   Sweetie scheduled it for mid-October and I insisted it had to be done before October.    As I watched the trees swaying nearly to bending over this week, I am so relieved we got the better part of bringing the tree down done before the first wind storm hit.

Note to myself to take a photo of the evergreens swaying in wind storm…..

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Is the Idyllic Estuary known as Willapa Bay under threat?

Posted by Lietta on October 17, 2007

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Many say yes to the need to control spartina in Willapa Bay while some say no need to spray chemicals in pristine Willapa Bay to control spartina. I’m paying curious attention, since we are now residents on this wondrous bay. What we have come to take as indicative and a large part of the reason why we chose to put roots down here in the region of Willapa Bay – Willapa Hills – in Pacific County of Washington was the untouched by humans wilderness aspect of life in this area. In the near decade we have lived here, we have learned a bit about the region from our neighbors at work, at church, at home and in the community.

We do not work in the primary industries of timber, commercial fishing, farming, tourism, or small business that make up most of the industry in this region. So we remain always respectful onlookers, observers, if you will, of those who labor in these industries.

Of late though, my attention has been drawn to something that would likely not have been more than passing interest to me were it not for the fact that it is the reality of where we live. More out of curiosity than necessity, I’ve been drawn into doing a bit of looking into the research of others, far more expert than I, on the matter of eco-relationship of life forms who share the Willapa Bay; plant life, marine life, bird refuge, and human life.

We know a bit about the oyster farms, oyster farmers, and commercial fishing industry in the area because they are our neighbors, but also because our employment vocations put us in touch with the ebbs and flows of human economic sustenance in this region. If it isn’t going well for the marine life here, then it isn’t going well for the human life here either. There is a strong interdependence and one in which human stewardship plays an important role. A role seemingly well understood by the people who know and appreciate with respect the history, the immediate present and the future of Willapa Bay.

Oyster farming on Willapa Bay, Washington

Oyster farming on Willapa Bay

My (step) father introduced us to awareness of Willapa Bay because he and my mother made almost annual visits here, and both would tell us of their trip that year. One of the things he used to tell us, often and with great pride, was that Willapa Bay was the third largest bay in the country and the most pristine. He was a longshoreman and had at an earlier time in his life, in his younger years worked the docks and boats on Willapa Bay. He passed last year, Jan 2006, and some of his friends may well remember Charlie Ellsworth. He was a guy’s guy kind of man, honest, forthright, sincere, loyal, a veteran and had a strong work ethic. His pride of the Willapa often piqued my interest, but not enough to seek it out and see for myself until one day…..

My husband and I took a planned camping trip ourselves to meet up with my children at Fort Stevens in Warrenton, Oregon. Causing us to drive on Highway 101, through towns of South Bend, Raymond, which we actually had never heard of before and then about 10 miles out of South Bend, was the road sign for Bay Center — the place were my mom and dad took an annual vacation trip. Thus was our introduction to this region of Washington and it was so breath-taking that I wondered aloud if we could transfer our employment here and take up residence here. (We both were employees for State of Washington, Dept. Social and Health Services and can transfer where openings exist in offices in Washington state).

There was one opening, not two, and my husband got himself transferred to South Bend, and we moved here and thus began our life in Willapa. Over the years, as we got acquainted with the area, we knew it was among those considered economically depressed and that while it was not flourishing in terms of human economic development, it was an environmental treasure not yet exploited. Unlike some residents who are generational families living in the area, we are imports – from the city – no less, but we have become very attached to the beauty of the region and feel blessed to have the opportunity to live here.

This was more quiet knowing on my part. Over the years we have lived here, I have only begun to understand how important the region is to Washington state and on a larger scale to other bay, estuary, wilderness communities that have been less cautious in their over development and exploitation of the fragile co-existence that must remain to preserve the quality of life that keeps Willapa Bay the least spoiled estuary environments in North America.

No, this is not me bragging – this is me being astonished at how others, more versed and knowledgeable define Willapa Bay. And that does then, cause me to be proud of where we live, and desire to enter into a stewardship to preserve what is here for future generations to appreciate. Do my grandchildren care deeply whether spartina will overtake the bay and turn it from a mud bay estuary refuge for the thousands of migratory birds? Or will they care if the oyster farmers who have an enormous stake in the condition of the bay will continue to be watchful stewards and keepers of the bay? Will they care – not likely, but if not my grandchildren, than I know some others grandchildren may indeed care – and deeply.

I defer to others more learned than I on the matter, in recognition that I could not begin to acquire that kind of knowlege base beyond that of a reader, listener, and resident here on Willapa Bay. What do I know about burrowing shrimp, ghost shrimp, mud shrimp – native species to Willapa Bay and their impact on oysters – not native to Willapa Bay yet perhaps exactly because of the shepherding of oyster farmers exists Willapa Bay as I have come to know it — as my father said in pride – it is the most pristine bay in the country.

Thalassinidea (ghost shrimp)

Thalassinidea (ghost shrimp)

What do I know of the plant life spartina, except what I see waving on the shore and in the waters at the beaches where I live on Willapa Bay, in the Palix river that borders Bay Center Dike Road on it’s way to emptying into Willapa Bay. What do I know about the ongoing environmentally controversial matter of whether to use chemical sprays to help (or hinder) the interplay of life that now exists on Willapa Bay and likely needs to continue to remain, if not thrive and flourish on Willapa Bay.

A clump of Spartina alterniflora

A clump of Spartina alterniflora

I know very little, but I know enough to know that it is worthwhile to remain curious and interested enough to try to follow along as an interested observer, an interested bystander, an interested onlooker. And for that reason, I want to add links like the one below that do a better job of investigative reporting than I could begin to do. My son, attending Oregon State University, not that interested in what happens at Willapa Bay found himself having to learn about geology and with that a study of Willapa Bay. I have come to understand that universities and colleges in both Washington and Oregon continue to study Willapa Bay. I have come to appreciate that Willapa Bay has much to offer as a study in what is working that keeps it what it is; a clean, pristine bay – estuary – mudflats – tidelands – wilderness – refuge.

Willapa Bay Migrating Birds

photo courtesy of Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge

Washington State Magazine

Willapa Bay, also known as Shoalwater, is the largest estuary between San Francisco and Puget Sound. It boasts one of the least-spoiled environments and the healthiest salmon runs south of Canada, produces one in every four oysters farmed in the United States, and is a favorite pit stop for tens of thousands of migratory birds.

And it’s in trouble.

The infestation of Spartina, imported by accident from the East Coast, collects enough silt to raise the bay floor by up to a foot, turning much of Willapa’s enviably productive tidal zone into a giant, unkempt lawn. At the same time, other introduced plants and animals and two opportunistic species of native shrimp also threaten to spoil the pristine bay.

“If you lose Willapa Bay, it’s of both state and national significance,” says Kim Patten (’83 Ph.D. Horticulture), a Washington State University researcher and associate professor of horticulture who is a leader in the battle for the bay.

“I think it’s a national treasure, because every estuary in North America would try to emulate it. There’s no other estuary out there like it,” Patten says. “We have sort of an idyllic estuary. It’s not perfect, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a very functioning estuary. You don’t get better than that.”

Environmentally, aquatic landscapes from Chesapeake Bay to San Francisco Bay are infamous for what they’ve lost. Willapa Bay’s protectors want to make it renowned for what it kept. They’re starting to get noticed.

Last June, the National Audubon Society ranked Willapa Bay second—just behind part of Florida’s Everglades—in its Cooling the Hot Spots report detailing wildlife areas threatened by invasive species. That followed a similar listing in the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s 2002 report, Silent Invasion. And the Nature Conservancy has made protecting the bay and its rich watershed one of its highest Washington priorities.

Senator Patty Murray (’72 Recreation) and her colleagues helped secure another $1 million in federal funding for this season’s work, the second in a six-year, multi-partner plan to eradicate Spartina. The state is pitching in hundreds of thousands more.

“It’s so common for us to not realize what we’ve got until we lost it,” says U.S. Representative Brian Baird, D-Vancouver. “This wonderful bay faces some real threats. Spartina, for example, is a nightmare. It can turn the Willapa Bay into the Willapa Prairie.”


President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in 1937 to protect habitat for migrating birds. But as Spartina has thickened, Willapa’s legions of shorebirds have thinned.

Shorebirds flock to unspoiled tidal flats to peck for worms, midges, nematodes, and other critters that make up the “groceries” that fuel the birds’ long migrations along the West Coast. Some also will forage among the stubble and wrack of dead Spartina, but they won’t venture into living meadows where predators might lurk.

“Willapa Bay is one of the few stepping-stones of habitat left for migrating birds from South and Central America to Canada and Alaska,” says Nina Carter, policy director for Audubon Washington. She helped lobby her national organization to train a spotlight on Willapa’s disappearing habitat for short-billed dowitchers and tens of thousands of other shorebirds that migrate through each year.

Posted in burrowing shrimp, estuary, Friends of Willapa, ghost shrimp, marine life, marsh, migratory birds, mud shrimp, oyster farms, oysters, Pacific County, shorebirds, spartina, tideflats, Uncategorized, waterfowl habitat, wetlands, willapa, willapa bay | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Those Yellow Evergreens at White Pass

Posted by Lietta on October 9, 2007

Subalpine Larch or Tamarack

This is our second trip in October over White Pass en route to Eastern WA. The first time we took the trip over White Pass, I distinctly remember what I called those yellow Evergreens and how I told people about them and receiving a rather ho hum reaction. Either like I didn’t know what I was talking about or had mistaken the varieties of other trees with leaves that turn yellow in Autumn.

But this time, I was prepared, sort of – because I knew what I was looking for and despite that my digital camera was too low on batteries to snap photos, I knew I planned to google it when we got home and find out once and for all about those yellow Evergreen trees.

And, sure enough, I did find what I was looking for – it is called the Western Larch, or Subalpine Larch, or also known as Tamarack, or more precisely Larix Occidentalis.

Elevation 1,000 to 4,500 feet in 20 miles on Highway 12 from Packwood to White Pass, and along White Pass where those Western Larch grow is a spectacular view in October. Western larch, a deciduous evergreen and the needles turn vivid yellow after the first frost. We seemed to catch the season just in time as the yellow Western Larch just popped amongst the permanent green evergreens alongside the mountain. It is so much worth the drive just to see the view.

Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson, who graciously provided creative common license for use of his photo.

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EZ home test to learn more about your soil

Posted by Lietta on August 6, 2007

Do you have good garden soil? Is it sandy, clay or loam? Do you have enough organic matter? Find out by making this simple soil test recipe:

1 quart jar
2 cups water
1 tblsp water softener

Take a soil sample from the top 12 inches in your garden beds. Since your soil may vary throughout your property, take samples from each area and test each one separately.

Place your soil sample, water and water softener in a quart jar. Cover with a tight fitting lid on the jar, shake vigorously until everything is floating in the water. Set the jar aside for 24 hours.

What settles first is the sand, the next layer is the silt, followed by the clay, and frosting all the layers is the organic material on top. When everything has settled after 24 hours, measure each layer. Then divide the thickness of each layer by the total depth of all layers together. To get the percentages, multiply the answers by 100.

Optimum soil percentages are:

Sand – 30-50%
Silt – 30-50%
Clay – 20- 30%
Organic material – 5-10%

(article is from Rainy Side Gardeners)

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Front yard vegetable patches make food, but some gardens rile the neighbors

Posted by Lietta on July 26, 2007

One tomato plant at a time equates to one step at a time in a growing new ‘movement’ of front yard vegetable patches. Yes, people are getting on board with the idea that one can actually grow food in their own yard and growing it in their front yard sends a message. Instead of all the work and chemicals to maintain a home and garden magazine type yard, one can grow their own food and still have a beautiful ‘growing’ front yard. What constitutes what is beautiful is in the eye of the beholder anyway, so who says that a perfect, green front lawn equates to the only kind of beauty a homeowner can share?

In this time of heightening awareness of sustainability, environmental concerns, global warming, ‘green’ living, I am pleased to see the return of something resembling the ‘Victory Garden’ of WW II era. Another time when this country was at ‘war’, although, I don’t subscribe to the invasion/occupation of Iraq as a ‘just war’, our troops are deployed in combat in wartime.

We chose to move away from urbania and don’t live in a cul de sac of well tended front lawns and landscaping, so I can appreciate that it is a courageous step for people who do live in those kind of ‘traditional’ neighborhoods to shift to planting vegetables in the front yard instead of trying to grow the perfect grass lawn edged by the perfect compliment of landscaped specimens.

The article mentions how neighbor concerns are met with compromise in growing vegetables in attractive ways that don’t detract. Fitting vegetables in among traditional landscaping can be done in such a way as to enhance both. I’m not sure it has to be one way or the other but a compliment of both ways. I saw a home where the front yard had been converted into raised bed gardening and it was quite attractive in a geometric kind of way.

I recently claimed a bit of our front yard to make a combination new flower and vegetable bed. I then claimed a piece along the side for more vegetables. This in addition to my actual kitchen vegetable garden which, btw, I plan to double or triple in size over the coming years. Now I will even plant a tomato plant or maybe a squash in the flower bed that faces the street as my own proud statement to the neighbors, although my neighbors where I live don’t require such a statement, they aren’t too likely to complain if I turn my entire yard into a vegetable garden and orchard.

Do it – make a statement, plant one vegetable in your front yard and then two and maybe you too will want to rip out your front lawn and grown vegetables instead.

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