Monthly Archives: July 2016

Peace Where We Find It

apple picNorth Pole Columnar Apples. Photo by Paul Mayer


Not since the 60’s has this country seen so many demonstrations. Now I am in my sixties and standing in a Demonstration Garden. What’s a Demonstration Garden, you ask? Well it’s the Master Gardeners’ way of inviting you into their space to see what grows well in a particular area and to share their gardening practices.

This place, I have decided, is my personal act of resistance. Against all the violence, hatred and bigotry in the world, this is my personal act of resistance because it is a working model. I am planting myself here as much as possible.

The first scent to hit me is fish fertilizer, and I rather like it. I’ve got dirt under my fingernails before I remember to wear my gloves, and I don’t mind that either.

Tomatoes are growing under plastic tarps for heat. In the temperate summers of the Pacific Northwest, tomatoes often need a little help. Patty pan squash, zucchini, peppers, and Bush beans aplenty. Little eggplants, dangling like amethyst earrings.

A new crop of chard is coming along, whereas my first crop is still in the process of coming up at home. Potatoes, garlic, kale. Herbs of all description. Tomatio, looking like pretty little Japanese lanterns. Grape vines gone berserk.

“And peas that are beginning to say goodnight,” as one Master Gardener put it.

Arugula that wintered-over, a skinnier leafed variety than what we are growing at home, with a more pungent peppery taste. Rhubarb, which could be grown outside the fence, as deer don’t care for it.

It’s all about food here—indeed the only blossoms are flowering food plants, artichokes, squash, and such. Despite the small plot, The Master Gardener Demonstration Garden on San Juan Island donates over 1,000 lbs. of produce annually to the Friday Harbor Food Bank, and no wonder. As we stood in the garden, Master Gardeners showed up to work carrying excess produce from their home gardens to contribute as well. Everything is organic, weighed and delivered to the Food Bank, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, just steps away.

I hopped over there to have a look and found a sweet little store, clean as can be, meticulously organized and stocked, where everything is free—all it asks of customers is island residency. Fresh produce, of course. Eggs, meat, milk, canned goods, pasta, dried beans, soups, frozen chickens, frozen sausage, and ice cream treats for kids while shopping. Some signs say take one item per shelf, or two items per shelf. Large families, of course, get extra.

Like so many things on island, the Friday Harbor Food Bank is run by volunteers. But then, this is an island where drivers in cars wave as they pass. Where there are more people walking or running or biking than driving. Where there are no traffic lights. Where the wildlife is harmless and the people are kind. Where the town of Friday Harbor looks like Main Street, Disneyland.

It isn’t fair, I get to live here.

The more I think about it, the island itself may be my personal act of resistance as well.


Filed under food gardening, personal act of resistance

Notes from an Old Volvo Driving South to Tahoe for the 4th of July

Tahoe Blog


It’s a country of alfalfa, potato, and cattle around Merrill, Oregon. Western storefronts still standing. The Wild Goose Lodge. Here Mexican food gets good. Lost River and Lava Beds National Monument, who knew?

Over the border and in California without knowing it. No wonder the green turned gray, Sage Brush and Scrub Pines. All the many Jeffrey Pine with edible leaves and a bark that smells like vanilla.

Bee farms, and rivers running dry. Barns, and farm house architecture inspired by barns. Butte Creek.

Mt. Lassen, site of my husband’s first camping trip with his parents. Their first and last time camping.

Rusted incinerators once used for burning at old saw mills. Now we repurpose the bark and chips in a multitude of ways.

We’re doing something right.

Cactus appears like roadside daisies in the North country where I come from. Ranches with acreage too vast to fence. Cattle crossing signs on the road. I think of the difference between watching for leaping deer versus a big old, going nowhere, bull.


Transformation to an apocalyptic terrain. Looking like Death Valley.

Pit stop: we need to get out. We need to get back in the car and go. Too hot–even the dogs say so.

Eagle Lake. Susanville. Nearing Reno, more ranch country. Nothing like a city do we see. Instead John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath come to mind. “Dust devils” kicking up like little cyclones.

What is that light on the dash?

Bordertown, Nevada. A white salt lake that’s been browned by dirt dust. Boomtown. Truckee River, and I know we’re getting there. Gold Ranch Road. Having grown up on the east coast, how I love these western names.

Tahoe Nat’l Forest. Squaw Valley. We’re in the Sierras here.

All the rafting on the Truckee River alongside us, as we bumper-to-bumper our way in to Tahoe City. Rafts tied up like traffic, laughing all the way. Summer break happens here & now. I’m thinking I could live here.

Freedom of movement. Haven’t I always loved that about this country?




Filed under roadtrip