Posts Tagged ‘Willapa Bay’

Are the girls learning yet another language?

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Lake Little, 11-19-20

Now that the tide has decided to stay within its normal boundaries and not wander around while high, Lake Little has also resumed it’s usual winter size.  Granted, it fluctuates with the amount of rain we must all endure, but it seems to call out to the waterfowl, “Come on in!  It’s a good day for ducks.”  And come they do.

I wish my duck I.D.-ing skills were better.  All I can say about who is visiting right now is that there seem to be quite a variety and they are LOUD!  Loud and busy.  I imagine they are talking to one another, mostly, but I’ve noticed these last few mornings that our chickens seem to be trying to get into the conversation.

Lake Little 11-17-20

Truly!  Amidst their usual clucking and squawking, I’m hearing  the chickens chatter with sounds suspiciously like quacking.  Plus they seem to wait for responses from the gaggle on the lake.  I’m thinking that now that they’ve mastered a little human speak (they have been quite receptive to my constant demands for “Egg! Egg!”) they are branching out.

I should point out that the above reference should read “raft on the lake” rather than “gaggle on the lake.”  Geese gather in gaggles and I have not yet seen any geese on Lake Little this year.  Ducks gather in rafts, apparently, but when talking about how noisy they are, “gaggle” seems louder than “raft.”  Maybe I should just referto them as a “gabble  on  the lake”…

Little Red Hen Listening to the Ducks

But I digress.  I just wanted to let everyone know that the girls in the coop seem to be in favor of virtual learning.  At least, I’ve never seen them actually approach the pond for up close instruction in duck dialects.  Nevertheless, I think they are getting the hang of it.  You never can tell with chickens…

Look who came calling!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

Yesterday afternoon the bay came calling.  Right into Oysterville she came just as bold as can be.  Quietly.  Relentlessly.  Creeping, creeping on and ever onward.

First she passed right by her usual stopping place.  Up and over the bank she came.  Into the meadow, co-mingling with Lake Little just as brazenly as you please.  She flooded out the egret pair who had been poking around the swampy edges .  And then she swallowed up the meadow all together.

She didn’t even hesitate at our fence. Under it she went, sliding along at a pretty good clip.  The wind died down and watched with ‘nary a sound ‘nor a ripple.  Over our east lawn she came, filling in the low spots, heading for higher ground.

She never made it to the front porch, but not for lack of trying.  She just ran out of time.  I didn’t hear the signal for retreat but it must have happened shortly after two.  I went to check on the chickens and the tide seemed to recede with each step I took.

It was a 12.3 footer.  Not as high as Monday’s 12.6.  But that stormy west wind yesterday morning helped blow her shoreward.  In December there will be some 13-foot tides.  I wonder if we’ll be lucky enough to welcome them clear into downtown Oysterville.  It’s been a while since anyone rowed a skiff up Territory Road, but maybe we’ll get a chance next month.  If we can find a skiff…

Time and Tide…

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

Sydney c. 1944

When I was growing up, there were only two sacrosanct rules:  obey the person in charge and be mindful of the tide.  The first edict applied everywhere; the second, only to my summers on Willapa Bay and/or when at the beach.  Those words to live by came into conflict only once and it was not a pretty picture.

It was 1946.  I was a scrawny ten-year-old and was spending my fifth summer at Dorothy Elliott’s Camp Willapa.  Although my grandparents were in nearby Oysterville, I visited them only on occasional weekends and between camp sessions in deference to my grandmother’s frail health and, more importantly, because she was blind.

On the occasion of my transgression, our camp “unit” — about seven or eight girls of 10 or 11 and a college-age counseler — had gone up to Leadbetter Point for an overnight campout.   Miss Elliott had dropped us off in the morning and had then returned with our sleeping bags, knapsacks and food supplies.  By lunchtime we were “on our own at the end of the known world” as we told each other with shivery delight.

Typical Transport with Miss Elliott

After lunch, the counselor said we were going over to Grassy Island which, in those days, was still separated from the mainland by a fairly wide channel of water.   At low tide, however, it was but a stretch of wet sand, quickly transversed and, since the tide was out, our trek was an easy one.  I can’t really remember what we did over there but I do remember keeping an eye on the water.  When the rivulets began to trickle into our homeward path, I said something to the counseler about it being time to go back.  Cheeky me!

I don’t remember her response — only that I soon was concerned enough to leave the group and head back to our campsite on my own.  By the time the rest joined me, they had had to wade in water up to their waists and I remember that they tried to dry thier clothes by standing as near to the campfire as they could.  I, of course, was grounded for the rest of the trip.  No dinner.  No campfire singsong.  A cool reception at breakfast the next day and, when we finally returnned to camp, I was confined to quarters for the rest of that day as well.

Not far from our campsite.

I do remember feeling that I was being unjustly punished and, in my weekly letter home to my folks in California, I recounted the experience (apparently in lurid detail.)  What I didn’t learn until I was a young mother myself, was that my mother wasted no time in calling Miss Elliott and giving her a piece of her mind.

According to my Aunt Mona (who was the one who told me “the rest of the story”), Mom said something like, “How dare you let a counselor, who has had no experience with our bay at all, take charge of a group of children on an overnight trip such as that!  And how dare you discipline Sydney who was absolutely right with her suggestion to go back to the mainland?  She’s been on the bay every summer of her life and knew exactly what she was talking about!”

I don’t think I ever did talk about that incident with my mom or with Dorothy Elliott, either, for that matter.  But I do think that my inclination to question authority figures probably stems from that long-ago visit to Grassy Island.

 

Apples and Oranges

Monday, January 19th, 2015

 

Dredge in Front of Oysterville, c. 1950s

Dredge in Front of Oysterville, c. 1950s

Despite the title of today’s blog, I really want to talk about oysters, not fruit – well maybe ‘fruits de mer’ on a fancy French menu. I am continuously amazed at how sparse my knowledge is of the Willapa Bay oyster industry, especially considering that its main headquarters is right outside my front yard.

Every day we watch oyster dredges ply the waters of the bay and most times we have not a clue as to who they belong to or what they are doing. In fact, they are so much a part of our landscape (or is it seascape?) that we don’t always pay attention. It is often a visitor who calls our attention to activity out there and usually there are accompanying questions. “Like how many oysters are grown out there, anyway?”

Charles Fitzpatrick Postcard, 1941

Charles Fitzpatrick Postcard, 1941

I always feel I should have ready answers but I’m never sure of my ground (or oyster beds, you might say.) Some years ago, I was told that one out of every three oysters purchased in restaurants across the United States comes from Willapa Bay. I don’t know if that is still true. I tried to look it up online and found that the annual production of oysters in our bay is 1,500 metric tons shucked. Whoo! That sounds like a bunch.

"Willapa Bay Oysters"

“Willapa Bay Oysters”

But, I have no basis for comparing it with the one-out-of-three figure that I remember. That’s where the apples and oranges come in. Nor can I compare 1,500 metric tons with the 80,000 gallons produced back in 1941 – or at least that was the claim made on a wonderful old Charles Fitzpatrick postcard I ran across recently. That card also claims that 7,650 cases of canned oysters and 5,845 cases of smoked oysters were produced that year. Maybe it’s a matter of comparing apples, oranges and raisins.

My “answer” to oyster questions these days usually involves a recommendation to buy or at least to watch Keith Cox’s oyster documentary, “Willapa Bay Oysters.” The five-disc set will answer just about any oyster question possible. And no apples or oranges (or raisins) involved!

Mark your calendars! Hollywood’s coming!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

WBO_Appelo_081614Keith Cox of “Willapa Bay Oysters” (the movie) fame does things in the grand manner. The Grand Hollywood Manner! He knows the ropes, living in L.A. and working in the film industry as he does. And, we-of-Pacific-County, long understood to be on the edge of the known world, are to be the recipients (and, in some cases the participants) of Keith’s soon-to-be presented pomp and circumstance.

We got “just a taste” (as they say in the oyster world) last summer when Keith previewed his documentary at the Raymond Theater. At that time it was more-or-less a ‘sneak preview’ minus the sneak. He freely admitted that he had run out of time and couldn’t present the entire finished product.

This summer and fall, however, Keith will be presenting the “full meal deal” here in Pacific County. He called last week to get my opinion (YIKES!) on optimum dates. I wasn’t very helpful, I’m afraid. There are very few white spaces on Pacific County calendars at this time of year. Personally, I feel that the documentary is SO fabulous that everyone in the county (and beyond) should try to make it to several of the showings – especially to the events at which some of the oystermen “stars” of the film will be making personal appearances. Just like Hollywood!

The late-breaking news is that we will have at least five opportunities to attend a screening. A note in this morning’s email from Keith says:

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 (11am – 1pm) – Appelo Archive Center, Naselle
“Oyster Industry and the Growers”
a screening from the documentary series “Willapa Bay Oysters” episodes 1, 2, and 3, followed by a discussion with Keith about creating the project and observations of the industry.
(Free Admission) – Open to the public

??Sunday, August 17th, 2014 (6:20pm – 8pm) – Neptune Theater, Long Beach
The documentary features “Oyster Farming in a Changing World”
This is a great chance for folks to watch the film alongside many of the oyster growers and their families, in celebration of the DVD release of this project.
($5 Admission or 2 tickets for $7, children 12 and under are free) – Open to the public

Pacific County Fair in Menlo, WA (August 20th – 23rd)
Keith will be sharing a booth with the Willapa Bay Oyster Growers.

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 (time: 12pm – 6pm), Raymond Theater, Raymond
At this event Keith will be screening multiple episodes, as well as leading 20-minute discussions with oyster growers following each screening.

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 (4pm – 6pm) – Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, Ilwaco
DVD/Book signing, screening event and reception (this will also include a discussion with a few of the “old timers”

We’ve marked our calendar! Multiple times! See you at the movies!

An Evening on the Tarlatt Trail

Sunday, May 25th, 2014
Tarlatt Slough

Tarlatt Slough

Last night we sacrificed our usual Saturday night date with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer (in the re-run of “A Time Goes By”) to go hiking.! It was a highly unusual undertaking for us and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

The occasion, “Listen to the Night,” was the first in a year-long series of events being sponsored by the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. With dozens of others, we walked a mile-long track on the Refuge lands at the head of the bay, stopping at various ‘stations’ along the way where enthusiastic volunteers talked to us about what we were seeing and hearing and what the plans are to make the Refuge more user friendly.

Ben Walton, an avid birder (and hunter) talked to us about the importance of Willapa Bay as a primary migratory bird flyway – more than 100,000 geese counted during the big spring migration just a few weeks ago. He said that a prime viewing location (and where he does his count) is at Dan’s Oysterville Sea Farms, four blocks north of us.  We tried not to look smug or to say, “Yep, we know that! We watch from our house, too!”

Bear Scat

Bear Scat

Farther along the way, Community Historian colleagues Ellen Wallace and Betsy Millard talked about the importance of Tarlatt Slough as a Native American and early pioneer portage route.  And a bit farther on,  volunteers cautioned us to “Watch out for the bear scat” and to “Look to your right over the next rise to see the elk herd in the distance.” The bear scat we saw but the only herd we glimpsed in the distance were cows. We took the charitable view that the elk had moved on before we were in viewing range.

My favorite stop was to see the two little saw whet owls. I had never seen any ‘in person’ before, though I used to hear their distinctive metallic-sounding call when I lived on the bay on the old Douglas land claim. Josh Saranpaa, assistant director at the Wildlife Center of the North Coast (a bird rescue organization) talked to us about the saw whets. One has a permanently injured shoulder and the other is blind in one eye. Since they cannot be released back into the wild, they have become ambassadors for bird rescue, traveling with handlers to schools and other venues such as last night’s trail walk.

Saw Whet Owls

Saw Whet Owls

At the far end of the trail, Bob Duke had some serious looking telescopes set up for viewing the night sky. It was fairly clear, the moon was in its last quarter, a slight breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay (mostly), and it should have been a perfect night for taking a look upward. But it would be at least an hour before it would be dark enough and was already approaching our bedtime. When we decided that we’d give the telescope experience a miss, Bob kindly said that the fall sky would offer better viewing opportunities and suggested that we come back to a similar event planned for September.

Before we headed homeward, the president of the Friends of the Refuge, Clay Nichols, told us a bit about the plan for this particular part of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge – the part called the Tarlatt Slough unit. Federal funding has already been appropriated but not yet allocated (or is it allocated but not yet appropriated?) for the construction of a Visitors’ Center and plans include a boardwalk path that will hook up with the already existing Discovery Trail and go clear to the bay. How fabulous!

All-in-all, we didn’t miss Judi or Geoffrey even once during the course of the evening.  Maybe that was because we did meet an amazing number of other friends and acquaintances along the way.  In fact, someone remarked that it felt like ‘old home week on the trail.’  But, I did realize as I sat down to sing the praises of the evening in this blog that I really don’t know the official name of the route we took. “Tarlatt Trail” sounds great, though, doesn’t it?

Ahoy! Sails on the Bay!

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Although I am a Pisces, I’m not really a water person except in one respect:  I love being near the water and watching any activity taking place on it.  I guess I am a water voyeur.  And, for a great view of what’s happening out on Willapa Bay, our house is perfectly situated.

I’ve always maintained that, vista-wise, living on the bay side of the peninsula is far preferable to being on the ocean side. Our stretch of ocean here on the peninsula is pretty bland – no rocks for dramatic wave-watching and any boating activity is too far out toward the horizon.  It’s a great walking and clamming beach, but it doesn’t offer interesting viewing.

The bay, on the other hand, is viewer-friendly almost year-around.  Whether it’s low tide or high tide, stormy or mild, there is usually something going on out there.  There are oystermen at work, boats and dredges moving north or south, or clam crews fanning out from the cannery.  Occasionally, there is a speed boat or a recreational vessel of some sort, especially in summer.

Right now and right in front of our house is the best time of all for bay-watching – at least in my opinion.  It’s sailboat time!  The annual Oysterville Regatta is always scheduled for a Saturday toward the end of August and about now the participants are starting to hone their skills.  There’s nothing like glancing out our east windows, or better yet relaxing in one of our Adirondack chairs, and seeing the sails being hoisted in readiness.

Since the staging area is at the end of “our lane,” we are also treated to watching all the activity involved in hauling the boats down to their summer anchorage.  On weekends following that occurrence, there is often a colorful parade of sailors on their way out for an afternoon at sea.  They come back a few hours later with reports about the wind – “tricky,” or “not much,”  or “couldn’t have been better!”  No matter what, they are almost always smiling.

A few days ago, Tucker and Carol were in town with two of Tucker’s young cousins who were visiting from Germany.  Sailing was on the agenda, of course! Their agenda, that is.  I was happily into my voyeur mode.  Summer-by-the-bay in Oysterville never fails to offer the complete and perfect viewing opportunity!

Standing Room Only in Meeting Room A

Friday, November 4th, 2011

The Cannery at Oysterville, circa 1945

     I counted seventy-six in the audience at the Planning Commission hearing last night.  When all was said and done, it looked as though 73 of us were there to support the endeavors of Dan Driscoll and Oysterville Sea Farms.  That left three in opposition.
     They are a formidable threesome.  Their ‘leader’ mentioned that people have called him a “bully.”   I can attest to that.  He was called a bully back in the 1940s when he was my classmate at Ocean Park School.  I think that “zealot” might be a better term these days.  I wondered how many people in the audience have gone head-to-head with him over the years.  I certainly have.  And now his sights are set upon a member of his own family.  Not a pretty picture.
     At issue last night was Dan’s retail business – specifically his recent and very successful service of clam chowder and beer and wine on the deck of his business.  “Against the zoning laws,” according to the opposition who talked long and loud about protecting the water quality in the bay.  Yet they couldn’t be specific about how or why Dan’s business could possibly have a negative impact.
     Instead they used terms like “a slippery slope” and talked about the dire aspects of development on the shores of Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound.  To listen to them talk, we in Pacific County are only steps away from a bayshore lined with Wallmarts and lumber mills and Silicon Valley factories.  It all hinges on Oysterville Sea Farms, they said.
     While the opposition was narrow in their focus, Dan’s supporters covered a wide spectrum.  The business community of Ocean Park was represented.  Both port managers spoke. People involved in historic preservation spoke.    Members of Dan’s immediate family spoke.  They pointed out the positive impact Oysterville Sea Farms has had on tourism, on economic development, on adding to knowledge and understanding about our bay. Dan’s employees spoke about the very real impact of closing down his retail business is having on local job opportunities.
     A scientist who has been studying the water quality of our bay for ten years spoke, and to me his testimony was the most telling of all.  Basically, he said that there is nothing to save the bay from these days – the thriving communities and businesses that once added to our economy here are gone.  Even the native species in the bay are gone. Our chances of maintaining and developing a sustainable economy have been severely curtailed over the years.
     I’m sure others in the audience were left wondering whether the zealous protection of water quality in the bay has, in fact improved life for the rest of us.  Or, have the self-interests of a few been supported for too long at the expense of the community at large?
     And, in the end, what will the recommendation of the Planning Commission be?  Will they, once again, go along with the few?  Or will they see a larger picture this time and find a way for Oysterville Sea Farms to continue?  And, can Dan hold out long enough for the decision to be made?  We wonder and we worry…

Bay Karma

Saturday, September 17th, 2011
Triumph!

     The other day the doorbell rang and there was Tucker with a smile as wide as all outdoors.  He was holding something I thought at first glance to be a campaign sign.  It was the right shape and size – a long stick-like part and, on its end at right angles, a rectangular piece that should have had writing on it.  But it was blank and the whole thing was a little ‘off.’
     For just a moment I felt totally disoriented.  And then he said, “I found it!  I found the rudder!” and my view came back into focus.  This was the rudder that had come off his son Clark’s boat a few weeks back when the two were out sailing together.  Since then, Tucker had ‘walked the bay’ whenever he was here – searching, searching, searching.  Now, he had found it!
     Talk about the proverbial needle in the haystack!  Even though our tides are sometimes low enough that you can walk clear out to the channel a mile from shore, judging where something fell into the water is quite a trick.   Things look different when you’re wandering the bay at low tide – not at all the same view as from a boat when the tide is high.
     Tucker had gone out the very next day and looked, but the tide wasn’t terribly low.  Not to mention all the eel grass out there now.  Things can easily get covered up or camouflaged.  On the plus side, though – although the rudder blade, itself, is wood and might float away, the long metal piece that it is attached to is heavy.  Tucker was certain it was just lying there, if only he could find it.
     And he was right!  It was just about as far out as he had thought, but a little south of the area he had been concentrating on.  “And then I thought I saw a piece of something white,” he said.  “Could it be?  The closer I got to it, the more possible it looked.  And… there it was!  Just the tip of the blade showing through the mud and eel grass.”
     A new rudder costs $400; a used one about half that.  But I don’t think it was just saving the money that pleased Tucker so much.  It was that feeling that, against high odds, he had found the rudder!  He was at one with the bay.  “Bay Karma” his son calls it.