Monday, March 30, 2009

Grand Girls

My granddaughters are beautiful, absolutely beautiful! Here's Megan, ready for her sweet-sixteen birthday dinner.
And Brittany, dressed with such style!
They are beautiful!
Thanks, Jen!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rain Gardens, Lagoons, Heronries and Cold Storage

Fridays are field trip days for our WSU Whatcom County Extension, Beach Watchers Program class series. This week, three trips in one day!
First up, we learned about the benefit of rain gardens for stormwater management and their basic how-to. WSU, Pierce County, Low Impact Development has a great handbook on building a rain garden at Rain Garden Handbook. Our class walked to the parking lot of a nearby credit union to view their rain garden.
More photos from the rain garden.

Gifted at entertaining an audience while conveying his message, Glen "Alex" Alexander, the education director at Padilla Bay Interpretive Center, provided us the basic information we needed before we headed out to the Post Point Lagoon to observe the marine habitat in and around that lagoon.
Learning the importance the ongoing restoration project at Post Point has in helping to maintain a healthy marine environment and how replanted eelgrass growing in the lagoon creates a valuable habitat for wildlife in the area, we watched as Great Blue Herons landed and perched on the tree tops and observed their heronery.
Then it was time to put the net in the water to see what kind of creatures we could find living in the lagoon. I like that our class gets to go where others cannot. This week, we jumped the fence!

Pulling the net to shore.

Discovering creatures in the Post Point Lagoon - from hermit crabs, tiny little shrimp, baby fishes and so much more, life abounds in this little pocket of the Salish Sea.

Photos from Post Point Lagoon.


A tour led by Tim Unger, the Squalicum Plant Manager, of Bellingham Cold Storage (BCS) was next for us and helped me realize the benefit that dredging the sediments in Bellingham Bay has to our local businesses and economy.

Bellingham Cold Storage tour photos.


An online tour of the Bellingham Cold Storage facility is available on their website. Follow this link - - to view. A live web cam that updates every minute set up at the Squalicum Bellingham Cold Storage dock. Click this link to see what is happening right now - (My home is less than one mile from there!)


Goals were discussed today in class. One of mine, to work outside near the tide pools - rather than in an office. It is time to feel the salt air, the sun, the wind and rain on my face - rather than fluorescent lighting and recirculated air.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Drum roll please! The order from Park Seeds is here!Careful examination of all those little packets of seeds that filled my box felt even more exciting than when I perused all those seed catalogs. Now, one step closer to growing my own fresh, organic produce, I am also one step closer to being ready for the grand opening of our new Cordata Community Gardens.
My schedule had not allowed me to help out during their recent call for volunteer workers, so receipt of my seeds today seemed a good excuse to take a break long enough to go view their progress.
Our access road has been chained off and marked as "Private Property, No Trespassing" to discourage those not involved in our community gardening project from entering our site.
It was obvious to me that someone has been working very hard during the last few days. Good job! I was delighted to see all the progress. Our tool shed has been cleaned up and received a new coat of paint. Posts for the deer-proof fencing around the perimeter of the garden have been securely set in the ground and some of the wire is attached. Soon the deer will no longer be grazing in our garden spot!
There is still so much more work that needs to be done before we can actually plant our seeds in the soil, but what an exciting project in which to be involved!
The Cordata Community Gardens is receiving lots of support from the community and great coverage in our local newspaper, The Bellingham Herald. Here's a copy of another article from the paper today telling about a grant our gardens have received through the City of Bellingham!
Mar, 25, 2009
Bellingham's Small and Simple grants fund community gardens, other projects
BELLINGHAM - Volunteers are just waiting for another sunny day to finish driving fence posts and putting up fence wire for the Guide Meridian/Cordata Neighborhood Association's community garden.
"We have work days scheduled for this weekend," said Ben Andrews, who is coordinating the garden project with his wife, Dee Andrews. "If it doesn't rain, we hope to get up a lot of fencing and some of the gates and some of the raised beds built."
Once the 53-bed garden is ready for planting in early May, neighbors who have purchased a plot for a yearly $35 fee can grow their own produce using tools and supplies provided by the neighborhood association.
Some of the materials used to build the community garden - which will cost about $25,000, Ben Andrews said - were paid for by the city of Bellingham through a $2,500 Small and Simple grant. The Small and Simple program funds neighborhood and community projects in Bellingham.
Across the board budget cuts caused the city to reduce the money pool for this year's grants to just under $17,000 - about half the amount of 2008's awards. Eight local projects got a chunk of that money.
"There's got to be some things that we continue to do, but in a smaller fashion," said Linda Stewart, neighborhoods and special projects coordinator for the city. "Of course we could shut down all kinds of nonessential everything, but we're trying to keep things going during a temporary downturn."
In recent years, the grants often have gone to nonprofit or community-based organizations and schools, but this year the program's focus shifted to have neighborhoods bring such groups into the fold to work together, with neighborhoods leading the way.
Local organizations submitted 36 applications totaling more than $56,000 this year, according to the city. Applications were reviewed by a panel of community members and city staff before the eight were chosen.
Projects that will be funded this year include Mt. Baker Bicycle Club's Bike to Work Day and improvements to the Fairhaven Rose Garden.
• For more information about the 2009 Small and Simple Grant awards, go to
• For more information on volunteering for or gardening at the community garden, contact Dee and Ben Andrews at
This truly is a great project for our community!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Artisan Breads

No longer will I have to pay upwards of $3.00 to $4.00 for a loaf of rustic crunchy-crusted artisan bread. Now, I can enjoy making my own right here at home, and at a fraction of the cost!
My copy of Artisan Bread in Five-Minutes a Day arrived last week, and I finally found time today to mix up the basic dough. So easy to mix, I could hardly wait until I could bake that very first loaf!
The authors, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, say it is easy, and they really aren't kidding! Once the yeast and salt were dissolved in warm water, all I had to do was stir in the flour until there were no lumps. It seemed like I barely even had to mix it! The dough, left sticky with absolutely no kneading, is set aside to rise at room temperature, then covered and refrigerated. Seriously, it was almost too easy! To make my loaves, all I had to do was cut off chunks of the refrigerated dough, barely shape them into balls and let them rise for a couple of hours on my pizza peel. I dusted the tops with flour, slashed them so they looked like authentic artisan bread from a fancy bakery and slid them off the pizza peel onto my preheated baking stone in my oven.
The secret to this wonderful bread and its crunchy crust seems to be the pan of water placed in the oven while the loaves bake. As the authors recommend, I used the bottom portion of my broiler pan and let the crust get quite brown and hard before I removed the loaves from the oven. These first loaves had to bake about ten minutes longer than recommended in the book, perhaps because my dough was so moist and mixed fresh just this morning.
The book mentions that as the dough ages, the baking times as well as texture and flavor of the bread can change - baking time will lesson and the flavor will be enhanced. Wow! And these first loaves are already so unbelievably delicious!
The remainder of the dough is simply stored in the refrigerator - for up to two weeks, or can even be frozen for a longer period of time. Since all I will have to do now is pull off a chunk and shape it into a ball when I want a fresh loaf, it couldn't be any easier. The authors indicate that the basic recipe makes four loaves. I prefer loaves on the small side, so will probably be able to make six or eight loaves out of this one basic recipe.
Look how very easy it was!

My loaves, a hard, crunchy crust on the outside and moist texture on the inside with an absolutely wonderful aroma. Like some of the artisan breads available in the stores, next time I'll try adding a little something - maybe a handful of thyme and rosemary, or fresh basil leaves.
For more information on Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, check out their website at you'll even find their master recipe there. Their site, regularly updated with new recipes designed around the master recipe, other recipes for foods to eat with all those wonderful breads, helpful hints and tips and photos of breads so lovely that you can almost smell their aroma as they come out of their ovens.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Begins

Winter, seeming particularly brutal this year, has finally ended and Spring has sprung. Finally! Sunny skies on our first full day of Spring prompted a drive across town for a little tour of Fairhaven after taking the Boulevard Park and Taylor Dock walks.We stopped to chat with the skipper of the Gato Verde about a sailing later this summer.
Walking up the ramp from where the catamaran docks, I admired the view of the Bellingham Cruise Terminal for the Port of Bellingham.
Reflections in the windows.
Then, a tour of the fine Persian rugs at the Fairhaven Rug Gallery.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Great Classrooms - Tennant Lake

Learning has never been so much fun! I so appreciate the great classroom settings for the WSU Master Watershed / Beach Watchers Program. Our first stop, the Tennant Lake Interpretive Center for a wetlands lecture followed by a trek around the lake to explore the wetlands and study this portion of our watershed.
The raised boardwalk around the marshy portion of Tennant Lake had been covered by over six feet of water during the flooding last month and was still roped off. We went under and began exploring.
In our boots, we braved passage over still submerged portions of the boardwalk. Other portions of the boardwalk were high and dry.
We spotted these salamander eggs floating in the marsh waters along the way.
More photos from our Tennant Lake fieldtrip.

The time to enjoy the amenities at Tennant Lake is now! The Tennant Lake Interpretive Center, operated under joint management by the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is in danger of closing. On the list of cuts due to the shortage of State monies, all interpretive staff at this facility employed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife have already been informed that their positions will end at the end of this fiscal year - the end of June. Without staff, the Interpretive Programs enjoyed by so many will go away too. There is even some speculation that Whatcom County may have to entirely close this facility.
Currently, a majority of the trails and the boardwalk are closed due to damage sustained during the recent flooding event with an anticipated opening date scheduled for April 4th. Some of the buildings and trails have already be repaired and have re-opened. A listing of the Spring 2009 Interpretive Programs is available on their website at -
Located along the Pacific Flyway, birding enthusiasts have ample opportunities to view migratory birds around Tennant Lake. A list of the birds identified at Tennant Lake is available in pdf format at - The Birds of Tennant Lake. Happy birding!

Great Classrooms - A Forest

A forest, a real tree farm, on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains near Everson was one more great classroom location in our WSU Master Watershed / Beach Watchers Program series of classes.The log manager for Great Western Lumber, a third generation tree farmer, shared information about forest regeneration and its watershed impact.Replanted with Douglas Fir and Cedar trees last fall, we toured a clearcut, being careful not to step on any of those new, tiny little trees.
At another clearcut, replanted two years ago, we were shown how to count the age of a Douglas Fir based on the number of rounds of limbs.
Far below, the sound of water rapidly flowing in Collins Creek is heard as we view a Pacific Yew about halfway up the creek bed wall.
More photos from the forest watershed.