Heatwave, Restoration and battling Tansy Ragwort

I was working on a different post for this week, but I’m going to save it for next week. Right now I want to tell you about the last few days. I was fortunate to be way up north this weekend in Blaine, Washington. My reservation was made two months ago, but it was the most comfortable place in Washington state to ride out the heatwave. All the talk around here has been about the great Pacific Northwest heatwave and the collapse of a twelve-story building in Surf City, Florida. Both have resulted in a tragic loss of life and are harbingers of things to come. What can climate scientists say? We thought we had more time. We don’t.

Blaine is the last city on I-5 before you reach the Canadian border. Some lucky people living in Blaine have a gorgeous view of Vancouver, B.C.’s skyline! It’s right there, so close! I’d intended to get you a cool picture to prove it, but there was a milkshake incident. I was not the one wearing the milkshake, but let’s just say someone squeezed their plastic cup too hard. Right now, the border between U.S. and Canada is closed. A lot of us on both sides of the border are not happy about it. I miss my British Columbia people and the closure has kept friends separated from their families.

Here’s a picture of a shore habitat restoration project in Birch Bay. Behind it is the sun frying Vancouver, B.C. just a wee bit longer before it calls it a day. Shoreline restoration is important for many reasons. It provides habitat, helps reduce wind-driven erosion and tidal erosion during storms and high tides, in particular, “King tides” which is a non-scientific name for an exceptionally high tide that happens a few times a year.

Shore Restoration Birch Bay

Today was the first day the Pacific Northwest (PNW) got back down to cooler temperatures, though still above average for this time of year. I took the opportunity to work in the yard. There is so much work to be done! It’s a full-time job creating my own “learn as I go” habitat restoration project on 1.39 acres (0.56 hectare). I’ve tried to find experts in the field to help guide me to know avail. I often find that I end up teaching them instead of the other way around. There is a very deep pain etched in this land. It belonged to the Coast Salish tribes before the government of White colonists started dividing it up to be sold and owned.

To conquer and “civilize” the land, non-indigenous plants and crops were brought in, mostly from Europe and Asia. These are the weeds that I now fight today. Some of these plants became very invasive, some of the others were kind and play well with others, not dominating the landscape, like people or words are sometime inclined to do. Still more of them came generations later both intentionally and unintentionally through livestock manure, soil, or other secondary means.

I‘m not alone in my effort to reclaim the native plants that have been trampled on and abused. The stories of these plants are the stories of the indigenous people, who have also been trampled on and abused. They want to heal, they want to restore, and I want to help. We can’t erase the past, we can’t ignore what has already been done, but we can still work together to preserve what’s left.

Tansy Ragwort

The recent heat wave has invigorated the tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) a highly toxic, Class B noxious weed that is threatening to take over my field of restoration. It so terrible that it has to go in the garbage and can’t go in the compost if its got a head on it. So today, in the sun I tried to remove as much as I could. I’ll be back at it again tomorrow, but its already filled up two garbage bags. That’s going to cost me extra in disposal fees. I just can’t let it go to seed though, so in desperation I’ve decided to go with the Queen of Hearts* advice and it’s “Off with their heads!” Then I can circle back around and pull it out from the roots with slightly less urgency.

I know my wars are frequently invisible and never shall I see a parade for my efforts, but this is important, even in small ways. On days when I feel like giving up and moving to a condo in the city, I take a walk and more often that not find a new native friend to greet me. My greatest successes so far has been the return of Western Starflowers and a few Great Camas.

Western Starflower
Great Camas

What is a King Tide? (noaa.gov)

Tansy Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) – King County Noxious Weed Alert (wa.gov)

Western starflower; Indian potato: Trientalis latifolia – Native Plant Guide (kingcounty.gov)

Great camas (Camassia leichtlinii ssp. suksdorfii) Plant Guide (usda.gov)

*The Queen of Hearts is a fictional character from the book Alice In Wonderland By Lewis Carroll.

What the trees remember

Photo by Caique Silva on Pexels.com

The day will soon come when my son won’t need me to walk him to school anymore. So last week I worked in one of my mini-nature talks about what the trees remember. I want him to respect the trees as living beings. I want him to recognize their place in the world. Not only as a natural resource from which lumber is made, but that they live and grow and die as we do. They remember the years they had to fight off bugs and diseases. They remember the summers of wildfires where their brethren and maybe they themselves had been burned by fire. The smoke and scars all get trapped up into their growth rings. They bear witness or injury from human historical events as well. Miles of mountain tops from Seattle to the Pacific ocean are barren except for the millions of stumps, like gravestones, that harken the growth of the developing metropolises that became Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle.

Seattle is the original home of the term “skid row.” It was a road or track where logs were pulled down on greased skids towards the sawmill. It also became where the destitute came to live and look for work, especially later during the time of the Great Depression in U.S. (late 1920s and early 1930s.) If you said someone was “on the skids” it meant that they had run out of luck and were sliding into poverty. The term “Skid Row” has since been adopted throughout many English-speaking countries across the world to mean a “poverty-stricken neighborhood.”

During the U.S. Civil War, General Sherman with the Union Army marched from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia in a campaign called “the march to the sea.” This march was notable for his use of what military agencies call a “scorched earth” policy. It’s as terrible as it sounds. Everything is destroyed in their path. People and animals are killed. Trees, fields, and buildings are burned. Transportation infrastructure such as railroads, roads and bridges are destroyed. For decades after General Sherman’s army had passed burned and living trees alike could be found with railroad ties bent around their trunks in what was called “Sherman’s neckties.”

General Sherman is not alone in employing the “scorched earth” policy, it has been used throughout the world since the beginning of ancient warfare. Many decades later, the Genova Convention of 1977 explicitly calls out for people who are not active participants of a war or conflict to be treated humanely (i.e. not killed). Were I in such a predicament to be facing an army using the scorched earth tactic I would not wait around in hopes they would abide by the conventions.

The threat of global warming in many ways feels like the beginnings of a war to me. The protection of natural resources vs the continuing onslaught of sloppy, lazy, greed. Throughout the U.S. court system corporations have managed to push for themselves the rights of “personhood” by hijacking the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which was meant to recognize the emancipation of Black Slaves after the U.S. civil war.  

This matters, in that it gives corporations undue agency to act in ways that may be counterintuitive to “the common good” or the will of the people in benefit of their community. I give you these examples based in U.S. History due to my stronger familiarity with it, but I assure you that none of these concepts are unique to the U.S. alone.

If you’re reading this from another country, can you think of any natural landmarks, trees or rocks, that have been marked by a significant historical events in your country? If so, I would love to hear about them!

Have you seen a landscape that’s been mined for heavy metals? Or a river sucked dry, poisoned, or otherwise starved of life? I have. I’ve seen it with my own eyes in the US, Canada, and India. I’ve seen communities of people, fish, animals and plants die by what was done on corporate and government properties, hectares of scorched earth, bled beyond it’s borders. So environmentalists are trying a new tactic to protect what they can by arguing for the personhood of river, lakes, forests and land. After all, if corporations can claim it, why not a river?

We must force governments and corporations to be environmentally responsible now and not just talk about doing it 20 or 30 years from now, by then any such architects of their plans will be retired and happy to let someone else deal with it. Corporations are not held to same level of responsibility as an individual person. If you crash your car into someone house, you don’t get the luxury to do something about it thirty years from now.

To be clear, I’m not anti-business. I recognize that there are several companies that are trying to be partners within the communities where they operate. I applaud them for not waiting 20 to 30 years to make substantial changes. In fact, when I see that a company is committed to making environmentally sustainable practices and not just greenwashing, I make a point to remember them and support them if I can. I’ll also write them an email and say, “As a customer, it makes me very happy to see that you use [carbon-offset shipping] practices and [biodegradable packing materials].” If you’re a business owner, please don’t put it upon your customers to do the right thing. I have a bunch of Styrofoam in my garage that I’ve been saving up for years to make it worth the time and gas to drive it to the special recycling center 45 minutes away.

We need to speak up, as customers, employees, and members of the community when we see thing done right, but also when we see that things could be done better. It’s humbling when you look at a tree several thousand years old and think of all that it has lived through. The civilizations that have come and gone while this tree remained standing. I consider the trees and wild animals in my neighborhood to be members of my community. I do not want to see a grand old tree chopped down and made into toilet paper or shipping boxes.

Related Links:

10 Oldest Trees in the World (Updated 2019)

 Yesler Way: the history & origin of “skid row” | The Filson Journal

 Sherman’s neckties – Wikipedia

The History of Corporate Personhood | Brennan Center for Justice

Common good – Wikipedia

Drought-hit California moves to halt Nestlé from taking millions of gallons of water | California | The Guardian

Uganda joins the rights-of-nature movement but won’t stop oil drilling (msn.com)

20 Firms Are Behind Half Of Globe’s Single-Use Plastic Waste : NPR

A Spring Walk through Pensthorpe

These beautiful images are brought to you by my friend Inexplicable Device near Norfolk, England.

An Artful Stag

Bluebells carpet the forest

A handsome Mandarin Duck

For more wonderful pictures please visit: Inexplicable DeVice

Have a wonderful week!

My next few posts will be focusing on Disaster Preparedness content for this site.

Tuesday, May 18th is the anniversary of the Mt St Helens Eruption in Washington State, USA. My home. I was five years old when the mountain exploded. I believe it was the impetus for my passion in disaster preparedness.