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Monthly Archives: November 2013

 

We were taking a lunch break from office details when I shouted, “Orcas swimming by!” Immediately we headed out the door and toward the beach stairs.

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We could see a group of orcas loblolling and circling as they actively fished for salmon about four miles off shore in a surprisingly calm Puget Sound. These extraordinary animals, sometimes called “the wolves of the sea”, were clearly working together to corral salmon.

Puget Sound resident orcas feed exclusively on salmon. Our resident J, K, and L pods are among the most intensively studied marine mammals in the world and yet many months of the year their whereabouts are a mystery. 

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The most famous member of these pods is Granny, (J-2), who will be 102 years old this year! She became a great, great, great grandmother in the summer of 2012 and is the oldest known orca in the entire world. As the matriarch of this pod, she still plays an active part in guiding pod movement, babysitting, and teaching the young. 

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As we headed back to the office, I was lost in my own thoughts. What a privilege to see these magnificent creatures! They represent the wild, spectacular edge of our lives here. But I am well aware of their tenuous status. Salmon are their sole source of food and salmon numbers in the region continue to decline.

And then I think of Granny and I am inspired. Since her 1911 birth here, she has experienced stunning changes—massive amounts of logging, industrial and population growth, and declining water quality. She and her clan have changed and adjusted through it all. I am not planning on living to 102, but I am dedicating my elder years to making this region better for my wild friends.

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Ann and her little dog, Gracie, heading into the garden

Ann and her little dog, Gracie, heading into the garden

If you love the earth, gardening is a marvelous way to watch and participate in the changing of the seasons. Here in the north us winter gardeners are busily cutting back dying vegetation and preparing the soil for winter rains or snows. My Australian gardening friends, Linette and Marie, are all excited about new lettuce, basil, and tomato plants—the often more exciting end of the gardening spectrum.

But I love putting my garden to bed and thinking about protecting my soil! Winter rains or snow can severely compact things. And since one-half of a healthy soil is air pockets, avoiding compaction is important.

garden bed covered with leaves

garden bed covered with leaves

One way I protect my soils is to cover them with leaves. Another more productive way is to plant a cover crop. Cover crops not only stabilize soils, they bring deep-rooted minerals to the surface and lessen the loss of nutrients during winter rainfall.

cover crop sprinkled on the soil

cover crop sprinkled on the soil

 

Where I live a good cover crop consists of a mixture of winter rye, fava beans, Austrian field peas, hairy vetch, and crimson clover. Birds love this mix of seed—they are also getting ready for winter! So, to insure that you actually get a cover crop it is helpful to lay down some garden fabric or row cover until the seeds germinate.

cover crop with row cover on top to keep birds from eating the seeds

cover crop with row cover on top to keep birds from eating the seeds

More on cover crops in a few months when I turn ours over!