Friday, June 20, 2008

June-uary in the Skagit Valley

They're calling it June-uary in the Skagit Valley because it's been so cold and so wet. The slugs and snails are eating everything. Anybody who planted a garden has to re-plant their beans and cucumbers and any tender-seeded vegetable.

Onions and peas are doing all right, though, but just growing slowly.

The farmers are looking at a disaster. Strawberries are rotting in the field. Some potato fields haven't even been planted. Everything else is either late or soggy.

Farmer Dave once said, "I can add anything but heat." How true, all the fertilizer in the world won't make up for a lack of warm, sunny days.

The farmers seem remarkably calm in the face of financial ruin except that farmers, more than anybody, know that weather can be fickle and the best plans of mankind are puny. All this talk about global warming is very welcome -- it seems that urban people are beginning to realize what their country cousins never forgot -- our lives depend on the weather.

Out on Fir Island, where I live, at the mouth of the Skagit River, I have spent a lot of time walking up and down the slough in the back of the house. The slough has wheat fields on either side, and I can tread a narrow path between the emerging wheat and the cattails that tumble into the water. The wheat is 8 inches tall now -- it keeps growing in this cold, wet weather, but slowly, and any fertilizer or herbicide might get washed off and be useless.

The slough is bursting with wildlife -- schools of minnows darting about, probably sticklebacks, but I'll bet the salmon fry get in there too. The little fish feed the stalking herons -- some pretty big bull frogs too.

What do the ducks eat? I could ask Meynard Axelson, he lives one mile down the road and he keeps more than 30 varieties of ducks and other waterfowl in a half-acre sized pen with a net roof. Meynard is known far and wide as the go-to guy if you have a duck problem.

I did ask Meynard about the nest of duck eggs I stumbled across. It was in a side ditch near the slough, with eleven eggs, and the mama duck burst out of the tall grass and flew away as I approached. Meynard advised me to avoid going near the nest until the eggs were hatched.

He said the mama duck usually tucks feathersand grass over the eggs when she goes off to feed to keep them hidden, but if the mama duck leaves suddenly, she leaves her eggs exposed to the crows and hawks. He also said some possum or raccoon might follow my foot trail and discover the eggs.

So I will walk another way for the next couple of weeks. Otherwise I can still watch the red winged blackbirds and the sparrows and this beautiful yellow bird I saw yesterday -- but I don't know what it is.

There's a beaver, one or two, that lives in the slough somewhere. I saw it swimming around last month. Around here, the beavers dig burrows in the bank. I discovered one burrow, but it seems not be used anymore because there are no fresh tracks.

Meanwhile, and everywhere, people are complaining and talking of gloom and doom. All you readers have no doubt joined in these gripe sessions. It seems that most people don't trust the oil companies, to put it mildly. But there is a development of great importance which has not been reported in the media, but you will read it here, in Frog Hospital.

The news is that we have definitely embarked on a course of energy independence. The media reports how the Republicans favor nuclear power and off-shore drilling while the Democrats favor conservation, wind power and other alternatives. This is a vital debate. But the underlying and unreported premise to this debate is that ALL NEW SOURCES OF ENERGY WILL COME FROM WITHIN OUR OWN COUNTRY. This is great news and this is something we can do, because nation building begins at home.

Every conceivable source of energy comes with a toxic cost -- there is no free ride, there is no 100% clean, pollution-free supply. And every solution to our energy crisis will create further problems which will, in turn, require further solutions.

That means stay flexible in your thinking. Don't be discouraged and NO WHINING -- because I'm getting tired of hearing gripe sessions day after day. After a while, you gotta stop talking and get your rear end in gear.

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