The Grass is (Not) Always Greener…

It's really not THIS bad...
It’s really not THIS bad…

The rain came back today. Not surprising since I live in Seattle. However, according to the locals summer came a whole month early this year. June gloom is the way of the Pacific Northwest, but not this year. June was gorgeous, and July was downright toasty (by Seattle standard). In fact, no rain fell at all. For the whole month.

This shouldn’t phase me in the slightest. I’m from Las Vegas, where (as a friend pointed out earlier) a drop of rain causes all TV news crews to declare an extreme weather emergency. This isn’t as far fetched as it sounds. Vegas soil is not very absorbent so a tiny bit of rain is usually enough to cause a flash flood, with cars floating their way down to the Las Vegas Wash.

Ahh... a nice clear Seattle day.
Ahh… a nice clear Seattle day.

In Seattle, prolonged lack of rain makes people uneasy. As if mother nature is getting ready to pull something crazy. The reason this place is called the Emerald City is because the rain keeps everything green. It drizzles for 10 months out of the year. It’s peaceful and relaxing and helps us sustain our coffee consumption.

Not that the sunny skies have been unwelcome. We usually treat warm sunny weather like a unicorn. A rare mythical beast that must be worshipped and adored. Schools will have “sun days” instead of snow days, and it is not uncommon for people to call out from work to enjoy solar activity. But a whole month… nobody wants a unicorn to hang out that long. Rainbow crap piles everything, not to mention the horn just knocking stuff over.

Poop happens.
Poop happens.

Then there’s my garden. In Spring, it was awesome. We planted things, they grew. We thought we had magic seeds the way they took off. Some good soil, a raised bed, a little NW rain… instant garden veggies! And we never had to water. Mother nature took care of it all. I’ll  be honest, it made us lazy.

Then July came and mother nature said “Enough of this, I’m going on vacation. Water your own garden.” Heather and I used our rain barrels until they ran dry. Then we started watering from the hose. Everything just keeps on drinking! They are like water zombies; their ravenous thirst will never be sated!

Public water?!?! Socialism!!!!
Public water?!?! Socialism!!!!

We weren’t prepared for this. We hadn’t set up any drip irrigation or water lines. Our rain barrels were horribly inadequate. We believed wholeheartedly in nature providing for us. It’s a good thing we live in a city; if we were subsistence farmers we would have starved to death. Well played nature… well played.

This brings up the issues of water as a human right. Access to water is a worldwide concern. Communities in the desert southwest fight over water. Global climate change causes horrible drought conditions in which affects food supplies that impact the poor the most. Water is by far the most precious commodity the earth has (along with clean air) and I take it for granted.

Mr. Water says "Do it!"
Mr. Water says “Do it!”

Heather and I have been trying to steward our water more efficiently. She’s much better at it than I am. She captures gray water, only takes a shower every other day, and set up our rain barrel system. We made the decision to take out all of our grass and replace it with garden beds and native plant life. I just try to run the faucet less. But I’m learning.

Since moving to Seattle, I’ve experienced more rain than I’ve ever had before. As a result I respect it now more than I ever have. I suppose the grass is always greener, especially when you have enough water to keep it that way.

Taking some (camping) time out…

Yay camping!
Yay camping!

Heather and I just took some time out to go camping. It’s an activity we both enjoy. It gets us out into nature. It allows us to spend some time with each other without being distracted by technology or chores. Plus we have some really great camping equipment. All this is a recipe for a good time. Our destination: a three day trip into Olympic National Park.

Nature Heather loves nature!
Nature Heather loves nature!

 

 

On reflection, we completely over packed the car. I recently learned an important rule of packing; when you finish, go back and take out half of what you put in. I’m going to abide by this from now on. Thankfully we didn’t have to hike into (and out of) our camp site. We decided to camp on the beach right outside of La Push, WA. We had never been to the Olympic Peninsula and wanted to see the Pacific Ocean.

Why to they sparkle...
Why to they sparkle…

 

Quick note: Apparently La Push (and nearby Forks) were the settings used by Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Consider yourself warned.

Happy Subaru is happy!
Happy Subaru is happy!

Sparkly vampires aside, the five hour trip from Seattle was beautiful. We took the northern route, which included a ferry but cut a good hour (and 100 miles) off of the travel time. I highly suggest this option; there is something about traveling along a coast that makes time go by quickly. It reminded me of the PCH, with twists and turns along tall cliffs and sporadic beaches. Once again, the beauty of Washington State keeps on upping the bar.

I would definitely do this again!
I would definitely do this again!

After a slight 15 mile detour (I misread the map) we arrived at our campsite on First Beach, hosted by the Quileute tribe. It took about 20 minutes to get set up. Thankfully the weather was mostly cooperative and we were able to get the rainfly up just in time for a brief shower. The weather for the trip called for scattered showers and temps between 55 and 65 degrees. This may seem to be a bit miserable for a camping trip but it wasn’t that bad. Olympic National Forest is primarily a temperate rainforest, which means that it’s just part of the experience.

Justin is such a fungi! (lulz)
Justin is such a fungi! (lulz)

The first night we enjoyed a walk along the beach, homemade brew from the cooler, and an unexpected fireworks show due to a wedding being held nearby. The next morning, we made coffee, bacon and eggs. After fortifying ourselves with camp food, we headed off for Third Beach. It’s a three mile round trip hike to a beautiful beach of driftwood and sand enclosed by cliffs. I took time to go agate hunting and Heather gathered up debris from the Japanese tsunami.

The ocean is mighty!
The ocean is mighty!

 

 

 

 

We then went to Rialto Beach. This site offered a much longer coastline (and much better agates) but was more crowded by tourists. After another three miles of walking, we took a break for some lunch (sandwiches) and returned to camp. The weather was much warmer with sunbreaks so I laid back for some reading. Heather took off to explore more of the beach to the south. When she returned I unloaded our firewood, dug out a fire pit and got some coals going.

Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside...
Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside…

We took another walk along the beach, giving me the chance to scale a rocky pier out into the bay. When we returned to the tent, I put more wood on the fire and we prepared foil packets of ribs, onions and potatoes. Sealing them up we put them in the coals and 45 minutes later enjoyed a delicious meal accompanied by some Chilean Carménère wine. Dessert, of course, were smores! Well-fed and well boozed, I passed out in front of the fire, only to be roused by Heather to come to bed.

So many sea stars! (NOT starfish)
So many sea stars! (NOT starfish)

The next morning the wind began to pick up which caused us to break camp earlier than planned. This gave us a chance to get a head start to visit the tide pools at Second Beach. This was overall the best part of an already beautiful trip! We timed everything perfectly to arrive right at low tide, giving us access to some great beachcombing and (gentle) marine life petting. Two hours later we began the trip back home.

Heather at the Washington State Capitol building!
Heather at the Washington State Capitol building!

 

We decided to take the southern (and longer) route back to Seattle. Heather wanted a brief stop in Olympia, WA so she could see the Capitol building. Taking advantage of the stop, we had lunch at the Fish Tale brewpub, connected to Fish Brewing, and consumed salmon and chips with gusto! Unfortunately we didn’t time our return trip very well; we ran into 5pm Seattle rush hour traffic.

Remember: beer is a key part of any successful trip!
Remember: beer is a key part of any successful trip!

 

 

 

Overall, this was an amazing (and overdue) trip. Heather and I made the commitment that from now on, we will use her birthday to do some camping in different parts of Olympic National Park. My only regret is that we couldn’t make it into a week long trek. There is so much more to see along the Olympic Peninsula, I suspect we will never exhaust its sights and wonders.

Learning how to share all over again…

Share all the tools!
Share all the tools!

One of my goals for owning my first home is to keep it free of stuff. This includes the garage. Unfortunately, the garage is already filling up with things. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, living spaces seem to follow the same rules. However, Heather and I found a remedy for our unnecessary accumulation: The NE Seattle Tool Library!

I didn’t know what a tool library was until my wife enlightened me. It’s a common place where people donate tools for public use. Not just hammers and hand saws, but power tools and plumbing supplies and electrical equipment. A whole garage full of crafty goodness, plus a bike repair station and in house large equipment woodworking area. All for a yearly membership fee of $20!

It's like a free hardware store!
It’s like a free hardware store!

It’s based off of the premise of shared resources. Home improvement equipment can cost on the upwards of thousands of dollars. Not to mention the amount of space tools take up gathering dust when not being used. Let’s be honest, unless you’re a hard core manly-man who lives and breathes Home Depot, you might pull out a cordless drill twice a year to do an odd project. Or an emergency comes up and you run down to Ace Hardware for $400 worth of supplies that you may never use again. Very inefficient and wasteful!

Work on your bike at the bike station.
Work on your bike at the bike station.
Shelves of crafty items!
Plenty to choose from at the tool library…

If the community comes together and pools its resources, suddenly you have a plethora of equipment that can be checked out and returned with a common storage space. No more cluttered garage and unused items. Beyond just things to use, there are instruction classes and an information library. Everything you need to repair your sink, sand your deck, or build that brand new arcade cabinet you always wanted! Everyone wins!

This is a big push towards a shared resource economy. Another similar idea (and one that may be implemented at the tool library) is time banking, where people make agreements to share skills. A doctor trades 1 hour of medical service to a family for 1 hour of childcare. A plumber trades 1 hour of plumbing service to a carpenter for 1 hour of carpentry. The importance isn’t on profit but connection.

Ridesharing, couchsurfing, and community gardening are all ways that people across the U.S. are coming together to form closer, more sustainable relationships. It’s an extension of the commons… a public space that is a resource for the whole community and is taken care of by the whole community. A reverse on the trend of resource hoarding; taking as much as you can as fast as you can before someone else can take it.

Come visit the NE Tool Library today!

Heather and I recognize that we have more space than any two people really need. In order to be responsible stewards for this space, we’ve decided to make our space productive. By converting our yard into a growing area, we can produce food not only for ourselves but friends and neighbors. We are constantly on the lookout for ways to be more sustainable and sharing oriented in our new home ownership!

If any of this sounds awesome, look around to see if there are groups and organizations nearby engaging in resource sharing. If not, start one! All it takes is a few people deciding to share with each other to get the idea off the ground.