Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wolf Hollow

Here's a cute picture of that stranded harbor seal pup at Birch Bay taken as I assisted Mariann, the principal investigator for the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN), during the evaluation. It amazes me how her colors and markings match the pebbles on the beach. She blended in so well, I wondered if she was smiling about that.
Actually, mostly Mariann did the evaluation and I learned a little more about how to complete the Level A (the Marine Mammal Stranding Report - Level A, to be exact) form that is required by NOAA Fisheries, Office of Protected Resources during an investigation "in the field". The Level A form is used by all stranding networks to collect marine mammal stranding data for inclusion in a database of marine mammal stranding incidents.While the pup was alert at times, she must not have eaten for a couple of days as she was visibly more thin and less responsive than the day before. It had been reported that children were seen pouring water on the pup at a different location on the beach prior to our agency having been called. We could see no sign that the pup's mother had come around to care for her any time during the previous night. It was becoming apparent that she might not survive much longer without intervention. Mariann made several phone calls to local, and some not-so-local, agencies until one was found that could care for this stranded harbor seal pup and nurse her back to health.The nearest facility available was the Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on San Juan Island, so plans were made to send the pup off. I continued with the pup watch on the beach so that it would not be disturbed by any of the many people and pets out enjoying the beach on such a beautiful summer's day while Julie, an experienced volunteer on the WMMSN Stranding Response Team, was out rounding up the necessary supplies - a pet carrier, large towel and a couple of pairs of heavy-duty gloves. Once back, Julie explained how to move the seal pup in a way that would cause it the least stress. Working together, we gently carried the pup from where it was stranded on the beach, carefully placing it into the carrier for transport.
Julie cared for the pup overnight, giving it necessary fluids, and put it on the morning flight to San Juan Island. She reported that the pup did well during the night and was alert this morning, even showing its little teeth while being cared for. Staff from Wolf Hollow met the plane and took the seal pup to their facility where they will care for her, releasing her back into the wild once she is stronger and old enough to survive on her own. It feels good knowing that we helped save her.
Meanwhile, I was on a beach and it was low tide. With my normal fascination in marine life, I was thrilled to spot this lion's mane jellyfish. The jellyfish, also stranded - at the high tide strand line, very near the large rock I had sat on while harbor seal pup watching.
More pics from a not so typical afternoon at Birch Bay.

If you share a love and concern for our local marine mammals and are interested in learning how you can help out by becoming a volunteer, or contribute in some other way (donations are always needed and welcomed), please contact Bob Ryerson, Director of Volunteers at the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network, by calling him at 360-306-1568.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Seal Pup Sitting

Things have been pretty quiet on the seal pup stranding front this summer with only a few calls to the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) so far but seal pup season is not over by any stretch and we've been called out again. This time it's a harbor seal, just a pup, stranded on a beach at Birch Bay. Think of me as that afternoon temperature soars to a predicted season high - as a stranding response team member authorized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administraton (NOAA), I'll be sitting on the beach at Birch Bay, protecting that stranded pup and helping to educate the public about the importance of sharing the shore with marine mammals.Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, harbor seal populations have recovered to healthy numbers. Federal marine mammal regulations prohibit harassing seals on shore to reduce the human disturbance of their important life process. If you find a stranded seal pup on the beach, give the animal space - stay back 100 yards if possible. Respect the role of nature by not touching, handling or feeding any seals found on the shore.

If the animal appears injured or stranded, or to report incidents of harassment, please contact the NOAA hotline through the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 800-853-1964, or in Whatcom County, call WMMSN directly at 360-966-8845. The Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network is an organization of volunteers that are dedicated to the care of distressed or deceased marine mammals. Under an authority granted by NOAA, the WMMSN does the following:

  • Responds to reports of stranded, distressed or deceased marine mammals.
  • Assesses the condition of stranded marine mammals and determine how best to help them.
  • Prevents human contact and interference with stranded marine mammals.
  • In some cases, careful and safe removal of deceased marine mammals.
  • Determines why marine mammals died, performing necropsies when necessary.
  • Determines if stranded or deceased marine mammals pose a biological threat to humans or other marine life.
  • Educates the public about local marine mammals and how best to cohabitate with them.
Visit the WMMSN website at - - to learn more about what we do and find out how you can help.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Seattle's "must-have accessory": a reusable bag

Check this article in the Seattle Times out - Seattle's "must-have accessory": a reusable bag. What's so cool about this article? Photos of a couple of my upcycled green coffee bean bags are in their gallery of "green" fashion - Seattle's "must-have accessory:" - as "green" grocery accessories! Here's my upcycled green coffee bean messenger bag in their gallery.
And here is one of my tote bags.
Both are made from upcycled green coffee bean bags that I rescued from a local coffee roaster. Treating each discarded burlap sack like a piece of fabric, I remove the stitching along the sides and bottom, wash them and make a wide variety of unique tote bags, messenger bags, shoulder bags, purses - even throw rugs. Inside is a layer of 100% cotton quilt batting and a lining in a pretty contrasting cotton fabric, all freehand machine stipple quilted together to provide extra strength. I try to include as many of the colorful logos printed by the coffee growers on their sacks into the designs that I make. I like how the words and colors decorate my bags. No two are ever quite the same!
Tuning discarded burlap sacks into reuseable shopping bags is just one more way to help keep useable stuff from clogging up our landfills. There is a lot of life left in the fabric in discarded gunny sacks, and by reuseing them, they make great shopping bags - and more. Since we have so many coffee roasters and shops in the Pacific Northwest, reusing the green coffee bean bags seemed most appropriate.
Grocery, convenience and drug stores commonly offer plastic bags at checkout. Plastic bag pollution is a problem world wide. I like what Seattle is proposing in their effort to eliminate some of the plastic bag pollution and would like to see more communities join in this effort to help solve the problem. Here's a great video, The Bay vs. The Bag, an effort to help raise awareness about plastic bag pollution in the San Francisco Bay area.

That video just might help us think twice before responding to that "paper or plastic" question we so often hear at the grocery store.
As stated in another article in the Politics and Government section of the Seattle Times, Seattle bag fee on ballot: Would it change our habits?, once again Seattle voters will decide whether to keep or reject the ordinance - Seattle Bag Tax - passed last year by the Seattle City Council that would charge shoppers 20 cents for every new disposable bag they carry out of supermarkets, drugstores and convenience stores. How would you vote if that issue was on your ballot.
If you are interested in purchasing one of my reuseable "Seattle's must-have" upcycled green coffee bean bags, that information is here - Upcycled Coffee Bag - Messenger Bag.
The tote bag, here - Upcycled Coffee Bean Bag - Tote Bag.
Thanks for your interest in reducing plastic waste, recycling and saving our environment!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Coast Salish Day

It was the third annual celebration officially recognizing and honoring the first inhabitants of this land and initiating participation by local tribes in the 2009 Canoe Journey to Suquamish from August 3rd through 8th and crowds gathered as the veterans presented the colors to kick off the celebrations at Boulevard Park.One of the highlights of the event that I particularly enjoyed this year was a presentation given by Marylin Bard. Marylin, the daughter of Canoe Journey founder Emmet Oliver, shared the history of the Canoe Journey. Emmett Oliver, a Quinault tribal elder, revitalized the annual canoe journey among Northwest tribes in modern times when he organized the "Paddle to Seattle" for Washington State’s centennial in 1989. Over the last several years the canoe journeys have become a major catalyst for Coastal Salish people to re-learn, strengthen and reinforce their canoe traditions. The journeys teach people about canoeing, living, working and achieving in a community, the value of knowledge and the value of hard work. The journeys also create an immense sense of pride in, and also an immense sense of respect for, Native Indian culture. The elderly and frail-looking Emmet was sitting in the audience. How wonderful it felt as he stood for a moment and the crowd honored him.

Onlookers watched as the canoe families reached the park for the traditional tribal canoe landings.Canoe families were greeted and invited ashore for food and sharing of cultural protocol.
A song and dance for the girls was shared by a canoe family.
Native art and food vendors were set up throughout the park. Here, a member of the Lummi Ventures Program, an artist and story teller, displays his work.
As a fund raiser, canoe rides were available to the public. Steve and his family participated and experienced pulling (paddling) a native canoe through the water.

Pictures of the 2009 Coast Salish Day Celebration.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Haricot Vert and Sharing the Harvest

Soon, very soon, we will be harvesting green beans from our little garden plots at the Cordata Community Gardens. A long, thin French bean, haricot vert, was planted in B3, and blue lake beans planted in B2. Each variety are compact bush-types since the garden rules at Cordata forbid absolutely anything - plants or supports - being over four feet tall in any gardener's raised bed. Both types of beans are loaded with blooms and have lots of small, not quite ready to pick sized beans throughout their compact vines.
I planted organic blue lake pole beans in my garden at Happy Valley about a month after the beans at the Cordata garden were planted and they are growing fast. Already with their third sets of leaves, soon they should be vining up their support trellis, blooming and, hopefully, providing us more fresh garden beans once those at the Cordata garden have finished bearing.
Today's garden pics.

Tonight at the Happy Valley Community Gardens there was a homeless guy setting up his little camp there for the night. The gardeners on the corner gave him part of a beer and a couple of bottles of water before they left, and the gal with the prayer flags flying over her garden told him her carrots were ready and he was welcome to as many as he liked. All of the gardeners had left before I was finished watering my space so he came over to let me know that he was just passing through Bellingham and was going to spend the night there at the gardens. He went on to say that if I was uncomfortable with him being there while I was alone that he could go up by the road and wait until I left. I suggested he be the garden guard while I finished watering. Then I asked if I could take his picture and his reply, "sure, I guess." Here he is, leaning on the outside of my garden fence.
Interestingly, while walking by the composting area at the Cordata gardens tonight, I couldn't help but notice that some gardener had added a bunch of perfectly fine, fresh and crisp spinach leaves, beet greens, Swiss chard and radishes to the top of the "green" compost heap.
Also interesting is this sign that we are greeted with every time we open and close the gate to the Cordata Community Gardens.
Having just witnessed such generousity by the gardeners at Happy Valley to that homeless man, I couldn't help but remember the Gardener's Use Agreement we all had to sign in order to garden at the Cordata Community Gardens.

"In the spirit of community, I will freely exchange varieties from my plot with my neighbors and contribute some of my plot's production to our garden basket for the less fortunate."

I've noticed perfectly good fresh produce tossed onto the top of the compost heap there before, and the Cordata gardens appears to me to be a very neat and tidy garden without any serious sign of being overrun by weeds. So, why are some of the Cordata gardeners throwing freshly harvested produce onto the compost heap rather than sharing it with those less fortunate? Perhaps it would be more appropriate for that entry gate sign to state something about not wasting good vegetables but to share them with those less fortunate. And just where is that garden basket?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Valley Grows

The weeds are growing fast, but fortunately all those vegetable and flower plants that I planted in my Happy Valley Community Gardens garden spot seem to be growing faster.With common weeds like dandelions and grasses to keep up with, the most prominent of weeds throughout these gardens seem to be the horsetail plant and comfry. I spent a little time pulling those little weeds today and now my garden looks great again.
More pics from my Happy Valley garden.

I was not sure if this was a weed or a flower, but there were large stocks of it as tall as me growing around the big clump of lupins in my garden. I've been watching them as they formed masses of yellow buds and their stocks were getting out of control and beginning to impose into the walkway through my garden. I found their fragrance rather unpleasant too, so I decided to pull them out and break them down to add to my compost bin. Out of curiosity as to what they actually are though, I left a couple of their stocks near the back of that particular bed so that I'll have a sample for identification once they bloom. I think they actually are a weed of some sort that has simply grown out of control.
Do you know what they are?

Saturday, July 11, 2009


The Chryslers, the Chryslers Band not the cars! They've been entertaining us at locally for 23 years and this was announced as their last public performance. Wow, what a great turn-out as the crowds poured in to fill Boulevard Park for that last performance during Bellingham's 2009 Concerts in the Parks Series.
Joining friends, we parked in Fairhaven and walked Taylor Dock to the concert at Boulevard Park.
The view as the sun sets over Bellingham Bay just before the concert ends is always enjoyed by the concert goers.
Heading back to Fairhaven via Taylor Dock after the concert, I enjoyed the view of this boat. Such a lovely backdrop.
Download your own 2009 schedule for Bellingham's Concerts in the Parks series here - Summer 2009. Maybe we'll see you there!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Water Wise Gardens

On the Rain Garden team for the WSU Whatcom County Extension Beach Watchers, I was invited to join the local Master Gardener Foundation for an educational and fun tour of three water wise home gardens in the Lake Whatcom watershed. The first garden, located on Lake Whatcom in Agate Bay, had undergone a major shoreline restoration project a number of years ago when an old bulkhead started to deteriorate. Now one more beach on Lake Whatcom, the source of drinking water for the residents of Bellingham, is water friendly.The next home garden, a demonstration rain garden located in a residential area of the Silver Beach neighborhood was a combined project constructed by the WSU Master Gardeners, Beach Watchers and Master Composters classes last year. Rainwater from the roof of the house and excess stormwater from the street that were traditionally directed to a neighborhood storm drain were redirected to feed the rain garden. Plants tolerant in both rainy and dry seasons were selected for specific areas of the rain garden based upon the moisture level that those different areas of the garden were expected to maintain.
The last home garden on our tour, also located in the Silver Beach neighborhood, was on top of a hill and utilized a number of water-friendly features with walking trails throughout its obviously healthy natural habitat.
More photos from our water wise garden tour.

MORE UPCOMING GARDEN TOURS! Want to go on a garden tour yourself? If so, you might consider the upcoming tour of community gardens located in Whatcom County sponsored by the WSU Whatcom County Extension Community First Gardens Project on July 18th and again on July 25th from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. This is a self-guided tour and master gardeners will be at each site to help provide information. The following community gardens will be open to the public for the tour:
  • Fairhaven Community Garden, 10th Avenue and Wilson, Bellingham
  • Happy Valley Community Garden, 32nd Street between Taylor and Donovan, Bellingham
  • Lakeway Community Garden, Lakeway Avenue and Woburn Street, Bellingham
  • Shuravloff Garden, 1815 Texas Street, Bellingham
  • Miller Garden, 1005 East Illinois, Bellingham
  • West Garden, 2527 Pacific Street, Bellingham (open the 18th ONLY)
  • Outback Garden, On WWU campus off of South College Drive and Fairhaven College, 25th Street north of Bill MacDonald Parkway, Bellingham
  • Broadway Youth Center Garden, Broadway and Dupont, Bellingham
  • Spring Creek Apartments Garden, 196 East Kellogg Road, Bellingham
  • Cordata Community Garden, at northern dead end of Cordata Parkway, Bellingham
  • First Christian Church Garden, 495 East Bakerview Road, Bellingham
  • Ferndale Friendship Garden, Ferndale Road, Ferndale
  • North City Community Garden, 8844 Bender Road, Lynden
  • United Methodist Garden, 14th and Main Street, Lynden
  • 5 Loaves Farm, 514 Liberty Street, Lynden
  • Sumas Community Garden, 399 Frost Rodeo Drive, in the H. Bowen Memorial Park, Sumas
  • Everson Community Garden, Kirsch Road across from library, Everson
  • Maple Falls Community Garden, Mount Baker Highway next to the Harvest Moon Bakery

A map of Whatcom County showing the location of each of these participating gardens is available on the Community First Gardens website at - Whatcom County Community Garden Tour. I have a small raised-bed garden at the Cordata Community Gardens and a 10-foot by 40-foot garden spot at the Happy Valley Community Gardens. I will be available at my Happy Valley garden during the tour on the 25th. Maybe I'll see you there!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sister Wives

The music in the park series on Orcas Island means great music on the stage at the San Juan County Village Green Park on Sunday evenings. The concert this week featured the Sister Wives, a rock and blues band comprised of four women from Salt Lake City. Ritambhara, a friend on Orcas who more often performs with her cello and the sister of one of the band members, added her great blues harmonica riffs to the show. The stage is large and built with huge timbers with supports on each side made from large tree trunks, and has a green roof. Green roofs were covered in the WSU watershed master/beach watcher classes I took last spring. Follow this link to the Greenroofs Project database website - Orcas Park Village Greenroof - to learn more about the design of this stage and its green roof.
I liked this totem pole on display in the park.
Walking by this compost bin made from old lumber at the edge of the park after the concert reminded me that composting can be easy and the bins do not have to start with new lumber. I thought this looked so natural and blended so well with the landscape.
More pics from the concert in the park.