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Archive for January, 2010

My $60 tulip …

I bought several dozen tulips last fall. All but a few were planted in the ground. This is all I have to show for my efforts.

My neighbor has dozens of naturalized tulips. I thought they were a safe bet. But no, the squirrels just thought I’d buried their food.

Then there’s my Sarcococca (sar-ko-KOAK-ka) plant – touted for its “intense” even “piercingly sweet” fragrance. I was advised to plant it near an entry way as the fragrance would overwhelm a 100 foot area.

I must not have the “confusa” cultivar (but rather the “ruscifolia“). For the 2nd year running I can barely detect any fragrance (if at all).

On the other hand, my witchhazel (Hemamelis “Arnold Promise”) is blooming and nicely scented. I still have to put my nose in it, but it has a delicate powdery fragrance — very distinctive and “bewitching”.

The crocus are budding up and the primulas are developing.

Another casualty has been the lovely pink camellia by my front door. It’s been full of plump buds since last summer. But those over-ripe buds proved to be no match for a hard freeze in early December when the temps dropped to 10 degrees at night.

My camellia now has a skirt of plump brown dead buds. So much for best laid plans. As Robert Burns avowed, they “gang oft astray”.

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My “shed”

I’m training to be a watershed steward. It is SO fascinating! I’ve only taken one night’s class and I learned so much already. So here’s the big picture for Clark County, WA:

… and here’s the smaller picture of Burnt Bridge Creek:

Now of course these are both ‘small’ pictures. They’re both part of the Columbia River basin — which flows through seven states and two countries. It’s the size of France!

Watersheds are always named for the body of water they flow into. Their perimeter is defined by the uppermost points — which aren’t always obvious, I must point out. There are no less than 5 aquifers underneath Vancouver and Portland. My tap water comes from wells as deep as 1,000 feet.

In Clark county the water moves at a rate of about one mile per year in a SW direction. Whatever goes in the ground comes out in the tap. Even washing your car in the street (or driveway) is a no-no. (I had no idea!) Any commercial car wash has to treat all the runoff before it goes into the storm drains! Needless to say, we don’t have a lot of car washes in town.

Every neighborhood in town has what I’ve called a “bio-swale”. The correct term is a “depression pond”. They’re the size of a family home lot and seem to be depressed about 6-10 feet. The idea is for the storm water to percolate through the earth rather than run into the storm drains and treatment plants.

We also have several water treatment facilities. They’re good as far as they go. Hormonal and pharmaceutical waste remains to be resolved.

Here’s a terrific link to a web tour of the hydrological cycle (and much more). Image below courtesy of NOAA.

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Port of Call

Hello again! It’s taken me a while to get back in the saddle after being away for 2 weeks in the SF Bay Area and a 10 day trip to La Paz, Baja California. Came home sick as a dog. Yeah, yeah … life is rough.

OK, my latest venture was a tour of the Port of Vancouver. First off it’s “public” — that’s right state owned. Folks in Washington stateĀ  had their fill of “corporatocracy” (from the railroads) back in the 1911 and passed the Port District Act. That’s their logo … I thought it was so neat (doubles as bow of ship or mountain).

No photos were allowed on the tour … what with homeland security. The photo above was on the web so I suppose it’s legal to reproduce.

A few Vancouver port factoids (as I remember them):

  1. exclusive West coast port of entry for Subaru
  2. niche market for wind-energy turbines (they’re big and heavy!)
  3. 6 different types of wheat … mixed by formula at the port!

Wind energy is the biggie. It’s keeping the port afloat in this down economy. Just one blade is 160 feet long — but a mere 10 mph breeze will turn them. These will be shipped by rail throughout the mid-west.

This market was made possible by a pair of very large cranes — at one time the largest in the country. Ours are blue.

Do you have a port in your area? All I can say is, go visit it!

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