Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On Fir Island

Fir Island is about the best place I ever lived. It’s a delta island five miles across, surrounded by dikes. You could plow it from one to the other because it’s completely flat, and it is plowed for the rich alluvial soil that has filtered down from the Cascade Mountains for thousands of years. The Skagit River built this island, although it could destroy this island at will.

The dike broke in the flood of1990 and put the whole island under six feet of water. Those with raised-up houses suffered the least, but it was a big mess just the same, everything caked with mud, and debris all over the place.

Living at sea level, we are on the front lines of global warming, so if I tell you that my feet are getting wet, then you’ll know we have a problem.

The farms are plentiful. You couldn’t a find rock as big as tennis ball anywhere on this island. The top soil is deep and fine. The water table is just two or three feet below the surface, and the crops get sub-irrigated.

We have potatoes across the road from the house. They are blooming their little purple flowers and looking bright from a recent rain. Potato plants aren’t really pretty, but you can’t blame them -- they’re not for looks, they’re for making spuds.
The potatoes will be harvested sometime in the fall. They harvest the potatoes last because there’s no hurry. Potatoes, once grown, can sit in the ground for weeks or months with no harm to them.

But it is a question of how big the crop will be this year -- the cold, wet spring meant that crops were planted late and will have a shorter growing season.

We grow the famous Skagit red potatoes -- smaller, and much better tasting than those honkin’ Idaho spuds. Red potatoes fetch a higher price too.

On our side of the road, two wheat fields are golden and ready to be combined. It’s a pleasure to watch the wheat waving in the wind.

Right next to the house is five acres of raspberries. What a treat! I go out for a snack every morning. The farm workers have just about finished the picking, and they said it was a good crop.

We got invaded by about five hundred starlings at the peak of the crop. Starlings come to plunder and raid -- I can’t stand them. Anyway, they’re gone now -- bothering somebody else.

We have a lot of swallows around the house. They are the prettiest, sleekest fliers you could imagine. They come in the spring and build their little mud-daubed nests under the eaves of the house.

One nest was right near the kitchen door. And the little eggs hatched, and the little birds stuck their heads out waiting for food -- they had no fear of humans coming in the door, only two feet away.

But last week the nest was empty and the little swallows were making their own way in the world.

Otherwise, the mama duck still has her brood in the slough behind the barn. The young ducks can fly now, but they still stick close to mama.

The herons eat frogs and squawk in the slough. The coyotes are around, plenty of them -- you here them at night, and there aren’t many cats left around this island unless they be house cats.

But the coyotes haven’t gotten all the rabbits, because I see them every day.

The big cherry tree doesn’t have too many cherries, nor the plum tree, nor the apple tree, I’m not sure why. Last year we had a ton of apples.

Snow Goose Produce is a mile down the road going to LaConner. Mike and Mary Louise Rust own that business. I often walk down there just to say hi. I bought a basket from them for $8 -- but they’re not really making a living off of the neighbors, mainly they cater to the thousands of visitors who come up from Seattle and elsewhere -- they sell a LOT of ice cream cones.

Going the other way it’s four miles to Conway, a village/town, and there I get on the Interstate to go to work at the hospital in Mount Vernon, another five miles.
---- Best place I ever lived.

TIRE GAUGES AND NUCLEAR ENERGY. The candidates are sparring over energy policy. The rules of their debate are as follows, “If you’re for it, then I’m against it.”
Personally, I want it all. Keeping your tires inflated is “small ball,” and that works. It’s like getting rich by saving your nickels and dimes -- is that wrong?
Nuclear power plants are like a home run swing. That’s okay with me. Recent events show that any energy source is better than getting oil from the Persian Gulf.

The Republicans are singing a one-note song on offshore drilling. I believe Obama has taken that issue away from them when he said, “Okay, we can have a few, if it’s part of a comprehensive program.”

So, the tire gauge and the nuclear plant frame the energy debate. There are a million choices in between those two ideas. Most of these ideas are good ones, at least worth a try. I believe there is no cost-free source of energy, and usually a toxic side effect, so the best choice is a highly diversified mix.

PAY PAL. I’ve added a Pay Pal button on my blog. So if you want to pay the voluntary $25 subscription to Frog Hospital, you choose this convenient method. Subscription income supports the effort and is greatly appreciated.

No comments: