Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Timber company Merrill & Ring poised to commit herbicide

View from the uphill side of the logged area; the clearcut is to the left. 
This is about 200 yards from our gate.

As if Merrill & Ring's recent logging of 120 acres on Fish Hatchery Road wasn't destructive enough, now they are planning to carpet-bomb the area with Roundup and two other herbicides. We are outraged and more than a little upset by this news. We are the only ones who live full-time near the area to be sprayed, one border of which is about 200 yards downhill from our gate. In addition to growing a lot of organic garden and tree crops, we also raise free-ranging chickens, turkeys and ducks. Not to mention the 30-some acres of gorgeous second-growth forest that make up the majority of our 40 acres. Oh and the two large ponds, both of which are home to many migratory birds as well as year-round resident wildlife, and one of which supplies our animals and ourselves with water.

The logging operation, which involved removing every single tree on both sides of the road, went on from mid-November 2014 to early January 2015. Just like that, all those acres of animal habitat, erosion control, oxygen production and beautiful scenery gone.

This is about 1/4 mile down from our gate, shortly after the clearcut. 
The remaining trees are mostly 80' tall or more; as you can see, they are nearly all fir, not the alder or cherry trees targeted by the planned spraying.

Six months after the logging was concluded, the area was just starting to look green again. Alder stumps are sending out shoots, a favorite food for deer to browse on. Lots of sword ferns are thriving. I have seen Red-Tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, and even a Golden Eagle hunting over this ground this summer. I have no doubt that many small birds and mammals have moved back in, now that there is some cover and more food sources.

By the way, the eastern border of the spray area runs very close to the Dungeness River and is less than a mile upstream from the Dungeness Fish Hatchery. For those unfamiliar with the Dungeness River, it is a major spawning ground for salmon and steelhead, and we're rapidly approaching that time of year again.

 This is all the notice we were given about the impending spraying. I actually never noticed it until David told me where to look for it, although I passed it several times on the road.

About a week ago, my husband David noticed a sign posted on a tree at the northern border of the logged area. The white 11" x 14" sign is on a tree at least 30 feet from the road, and not at all easy to get to, which you have to do in order to read the thing. It announces the impending aerial application of not one but three horrible herbicides: Glyphosate (Roundup), Sulphometron Extra, and Clopyralid. When? Anywhere between August 24 and September 30!

Over to the right, just above center, you can see the sign as it appears from the road. 
It is impossible to read unless you're within a few feet of it.

This area is quite hilly and frequently windy; the winds are more noticeable since all those tall trees were removed. Because of the terrain and the tall trees surrounding the spray area, we believe that the helicopter will have to fly high enough that it can't possibly confine the spray to the designated space.

When we called Merrill & Ring, we were told that the spraying is to control alder trees; around here alders are considered weed trees by many, although many others (including ourselves) rely on the fast-growing alder as an excellent firewood for heating our homes. However, according to the sign, the “target” vegetation includes salmonberries, elderberries, cherry, thistle and (wait for it) grass. Presumably they are planning to replant the area with fir and other non-weedy timber trees, and someone thinks it's a good idea to prepare the ground by killing everything in or near it.

Incidentally, I see very little evidence –and believe me, I have been looking– of salmonberries and elderberries surreptitiously taking over the place. I grant you there is grass. Are they seriously saying grass is going to impede their efforts to plant trees here?

I didn't have to look far to find out some very disturbing details about the herbicides. Take a look at the Wikipedia page about Roundup (glyphosate). Or this fact sheet about sulphometron extra. The third chemical, Wikipedia page about chlopyralid, is just as bad. Here is a little of what its Wikipedia page says: “... damaging to peas, tomatoes and sunflowers... may make potatoes, lettuce and spinach inedible... known to persist in dead plants [i.e. compost].” OK, you pretty much had me at Roundup.

Is that really all the notice that M & R is required to give us, an inconspicuous small sign on a tree? Would it have been so terrible to pick up the phone, let us know what was happening, and give us an opportunity to ask questions and express our concerns? How about an environmental impact statement, with notices in local papers? So far we've been unable to get a straight answer to our question about exactly when the spraying will occur; presumably there are possible weather issues when it comes to flying helicopters, but still, the range of possible dates is ridiculous. 

Merrill & Ring had better get used to hearing our voices on the phone. Damn right I'm upset.

Like David said, every time we hear a helicopter near us we're going to wonder if today is the day. Or one of the days. At the moment, all we know is that sometime soon, they will be spraying horrible, poisonous stuff on both sides of a road we use daily, near our home, our food and water supply, our animals and the local environment at large. It matters not a bit that we are the only ones –at least the only humans– living near the area to be sprayed. It is simply not right.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Being alive: Musings on the mysteries of marriage

I love musical theatre. One of my favorite shows is Company, in which Bobby, a thirtyish New York Citian is the last of his circle of friends to remain single. He shares meals and social events with these friends, listening to them and observing their lives: how they interact, how they treat each other and their children, what they like and don't like about marriage. Some are recently married and a bit tentative, others settled into the amiable companionship of longtime friends and lovers. One couple is divorced but living together with their children.

Bobby takes it all in and throughout the show, he considers the pros and cons of marriage. At the end, he expresses all his doubts, anticipation, and finally, his rising wonder and excitement as he concludes that it would be worth taking the chance. A chance too good to be missed. The song is Being Alive:

Someone to hold you too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair, and ruin your sleep
And make you aware of being alive...

 David before I knew him, before the mustache.

I was 39 when, 15 years ago today, I got married for the first time. I have been asked why I got married so “late.” Let's just say that life circumstances in my early adulthood did not allow marriage to be a priority. In retrospect, I don't believe I would have been ready for such a commitment at a younger age. Actually I think, for me, it happened at just the right time.

David near the base of Snoqualmie Falls, shortly before our wedding

What is it about being married anyway? Why is it so different from, say, living together? I hazard the guess that it has to do with the expectations we naturally have about what marriage is, or should be, or will be, or what we want it to be.

Someone to need you too much
Someone to know you too well
Someone to pull you up short, and put you through hell
And give you support for being alive...

Celebrating back at our house in Seattle

I like, and often feel the need for, quantities of time to myself. I lived by myself for a long time before I got married, and am used to having space and time. This hasn't changed. Still, I love the companionship of being together, talking or not, doing something important or not... sitting outside looking at the stars, enjoying the quiet sounds of the birds settling down to sleep, curled up with good books near the living-room woodstove, working on a project together. I'm much more of a realist than a romantic type, but I can, and do, appreciate the romance of sharing simple things. Companionship. Nice.

David with Old Tom, our farm mascot

I have rarely felt what I would call lonely in my life, but I have certainly had many moments of feeling alone. The most memorable, painful, almost heart-stopping of these moments have occurred within my marriage. The almost indescribable vulnerability of being disconnected from someone you love so much... like being on the outside of a house, the structure, the bones of the edifice you imagined to be so solid, so sure... looking up at the windows to see all the shades pulled down. What has happened here? Am I locked out? Is he huddled somewhere inside, in the dark, as frightened and miserable as I?

Make me confused, mock me with praise
Let me be used, vary my days
But alone is alone, not alive

Gotta love a man who hauls wood and picks up eggs at the same time!

We both brought a lot of baggage with us into this relationship. It is frustrating to me that, in spite of all my efforts and willingness to let things go, to forgive and move on, so many past hurts still lurk in the shadows, waiting their moment to rear up and cause new pain. Some of my most awful moments have been those where I find myself wanting to strike back, to force him to experience the pain I want to blame him for... and I know that isn't really me, that in my heart what I want him to experience is how much I love him, adore him, care for him, want to be here with him. It is probably inevitable that we hurt each other at times, although I suspect this is mostly about wanting someone to share our own pain. I just want to always be sorry when I cause him pain, not glad.

Someone you have to let in
Someone whose feelings you spare
Someone who, like it or not, will want you to share
A little, a lot, of being alive

Terror at 1000 feet! I love a man with a sense of humor.

There is so much that I want to give this man. So much I want –no, need– to share with him. We are both people who find it easier to give than to receive, though, both a little wary of being rejected. What would happen if it turned out that he doesn't want or need anything that I have to offer? When this thought intrudes occasionally I push it away; whatever is happening at the moment, it simply can't be true. I have the evidence of these 15 years for that.

Yes, life is a dynamic thing, evolving and changing and transforming us in the process. But the things that drew us together, attracted us to each other, stirred up and wrapped us round with whatever mysterious glue it is that forms that bond between two people... those things are still there, still just as true as ever. Like a kaleidoscope; all the pieces are there, always the same, but when you shake it, turn it over, aim it at the light, the pieces roll and clatter and slip into an almost infinite variety of unpredictable patterns. That's how I see marriage. I hope I never find myself taking it for granted.

David and our cat Cosmo napping

What ever happened to Bobby, I wonder? Did he follow his heart, find a true partner and learn to navigate the risky but glorious, unknown but exciting experience of marriage? I hope so. Perhaps it sounds simplistic, or even a bit silly, but I honestly like being married. I love and treasure the man I married, and I want to be grateful every day that I am here in this beautiful place, this home that is ours, all that we share and know as our marriage.

Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody make me come through, I'll always be there
Frightened as you to help us survive
Being alive, being alive, being alive... being alive!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A personal note on the Charleston church tragedy

I don't usually air my views on things like this publicly. The recent shooting at a church in South Carolina has moved me to make an exception.

For quite some time now, I have avoided listening to the news as much as possible. This isn't a put-my-head-in-the-sand strategy, it's more about trying not to allow myself to be bombarded by negativity. I do like to be informed, especially during election years, though, and I must admit that it isn't easy to find that balance between learning what I'd like to know in order to make good choices and not absorbing too much negative energy.

I am not on Facebook every day. In fact, this morning is the first time I've logged onto FB in over a week, and I feel a bit overwhelmed by the quantity and tone of the posts relating to the Charleston shooting. One post was about a woman who was reportedly calling for a "race war" in response to the shooting. Several speculated about whether the shooting victims were actually actors who were paid to be there. While I had heard a little on the radio about the messages of forgiveness and compassion coming from the church congregation, there was very little mention of this on FB.

My husband likes to listen to the news headlines at the top of every hour on NPR, and while I am usually in the other room, I can't always avoid hearing some of it. So I did hear the soundbites about the church shooting in Charleston. Then there was the inevitable reaction; on the radio, on Facebook, and elsewhere. I don't want to talk about the exploitation of this horrible event by those seeking to make political hay out of other people's pain. Nor do I have a personal agenda having to do with race or gun control or religion. I would like to share my opinion on what leads to this kind of violence, and what we can and should do about it.

Here's what happened: This individual made a series of choices that led him to this church. He had some kind of issue (real or imagined, who knows?) and chose to address his problem with violence toward others. What we should be asking is, how, in a society like ours, does a person get to a place where he (or she) decides that the solution to his or her problem is to respond with violence? Even young children are making this choice. Something is very wrong here, and it is bigger than race or arms or religion.

I do not believe that what happened in Charleston was based on race. I don't believe that the person responsible would not have committed a violent act if only he hadn't had access to a gun. Why are we so quick to want to place the responsibility for this kind of thing outside the individual who did it? I think it's time to start separating symptoms of problems from the actual problem that lies at the root of awful violence like this. It's not enough to shrug our shoulders and say it couldn't have been prevented; once we concede that, we have declared we are powerless to change anything, and we have condemned ourselves to a life of fear.

We should not accept that! I don't know what the answers are, and I'm sure that any solution will take time and it will be difficult. Yes, ultimately it was this individual's choice to act as he did. But we are all sharing this planet for a reason, and I believe it's our responsibility to support each other in the choices that we make, including teaching our children problem-solving skills that work in the long run.

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of everything being turned into a "war." To me, this implies an adversarial situation, and leads us to view each other as enemies or at least potential enemies. What if, instead, we use this opportunity to look into our own hearts, reach out to those around us in love and compassion, and promote messages of peace? Let the healing begin.