From Frogs, Logs, Dogs, Slogs, Bogs, Hogs, and Pollywogs - It's the Methow Conservancy Blog!
Occasional posts - from the quirky to the momentous - on the life and times of the Methow Conservancy.
(What you won't find in E-News)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

First Impressions

by summer intern Claire Bartholomew

As a rising senior in college the pressure to figure out what comes next after graduation is a constant stress that tugs at the back of my mind on a daily basis—finding an important internship for my last summer before “real life” seemed daunting. What’s going to look good on a resume? How will the experience give me tools to succeed later on? Am I even going to find something? These were just a few of the anxiety filled questions I began to ask myself starting around Christmas vacation. Let’s face it, internships go fast and college students are chomping at the bit to find summer work that will help them find a job after graduation. 

I’m not ashamed to say that it was my dad’s idea to contact the conservancy about a summer internship. When Associate Director Sarah Brooks said that she was willing to talk to me about a possible internship, it was honestly a no-brainer:  A) I love the Methow Valley. B) I’ve always been interested in nonprofit management and what that might entail. And finally C) I could tell after one phone call with Sarah that the office was going to be a great place to intern, with interesting projects and a welcoming and friendly staff…. And thankfully I was right.

My first week at the Conservancy, I was on invitation duty for an upcoming major donor event. My first lesson from Sarah was the difference between a “bad pen” and a “good pen” (ballpoint is bad). Never again will I even think about writing a formal letter in ballpoint—Thanks Sarah!

I am now diving into the project of expanding the “This Methow Life: A Library of Conservator Interviews” started by Sophie Daudon, last year’s intern. The project was created to collect recorded interviews with landowners who have conservation easements with the Methow Conservancy. These interviews are for future landowners to learn and hopefully understand why an easement was placed on their land in the first place and how important it is to continue the work of stewardship.

Going through the already completed interviews from last summer, I’ve learned so much about the different homestead stories in the valley. It’s amazing to hear the things people’s ancestors did to make living in the Methow Valley possible. Along with the longtime landowners are first generation newcomers to the valley who are so passionate and captivated by everything this place has to offer.  The passion and commitment of this diverse community of people is both amazing and inspiring.

My first two weeks living in the valley have been great and have shown me how truly beautiful and unique the Methow Valley is. I have also discovered a new appreciation for the proximity of wildlife on a daily basis. Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of putting on waders, getting into a raceway tank and feeding some wild beavers at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. How many people can actually say they’ve actually done that?

A couple times this week I have returned to my dad’s house to find a doe lounging in the front yard. The first time, she was fairly close to the door and was happily laying in the grass, while I, a confused city girl, sat in my car eating my lunch hoping she would soon let me pass to the front door. After twenty minutes I moved my car as close to the front door as possible and then tiptoed to safety. The second time, she (I’m assuming it was the same doe) was a little farther away so I made a mad dash for the door dropping everything that had been in my arms in the process. The next night, at the Conservancy’s monthly board meeting, Vice President Richard Hart educated me on the ways of the deer and taught me that a deer won’t attack unless there is a fawn present. Naturally, I felt stupid, kept my mouth shut about my ridiculous standoffs with a sweet doe and soaked up the information Richard was so nice to share with me.

Thus far, I am so thankful for this experience and cannot wait to begin interviews with conservation easement landowners in the coming weeks!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Farming Ancient Grains - Notes & Video from the June First Tuesday

Post-Program Notes & Thoughts by Volunteer Bob Herbert
Watch a video of the whole program (1 hour 15 minutes) below. 

Everyone who attended the Conservancy’s First Tuesday in June enjoyed a beautiful evening outside with Sam Lucy from Bluebird Grain Farms.  Sam and his wife Brooke started Bluebird eight years ago and their organically grown ancient grains are a feather in the cap of the Methow Valley.  How many people these days in America can say that their grains are grown and milled locally and organically? 

Sam grew up on a farm in New England, so when he found himself working on a ranch in Washington his interest in agriculture was revitalized.  Once the decision was made to start growing grains, the next question for Sam and his wife was which grains to grow.  They researched the ancient grains and they decided to plant the oldest and simplest ones they could find.  They chose emmer because they could trace its lineage back 10,000 years.  Wheat has been bred and hybridized over time to increase yields and as a result, its molecular structure has become increasingly more complex.  This goes a long way to explain why so many people these days have problems digesting wheat and gluten (a protein in wheat).  As an ancient grain, emmer has 28 chromosomes; it is high in protein, low glycemic, and high in omega-3’s and other vitamins and nutrients.  Bluebird has also recently added another ancient grain called einkorn.  

Sam shared some of the history of grains with us. 
By the 1800’s white flour became known as rich people’s flour, and grains like emmer were considered peasant grains.  Bleaching techniques were also developed over time which made white flour even whiter.  As the flour got whiter however, the nutrient content diminished.  Vitamin B deficiencies became common in urban areas and plagues struck as a result.   

When World War II ended agriculture in the United States quickly transformed from organic and sustainable to chemical and petroleum based.  Large mechanized farms began growing single hybridized crops on large parcels of land.  This type of farming required chemical fertilizers and pesticides in order to grow the same crop year after year on depleted soil.  Mechanized farming continued to ‘progress’ and ultimately opened the doorway to genetic engineering. 

Genetically modified foods fill the shelves of every grocery store in America, so people like Sam and his wife who are dedicated to bringing top quality organically grown ancient grains are a very small minority these days.  The corporatization of agriculture has put people’s health at the bottom of their concerns, and GMO’s have taken over the majority of commercial farming in the United States.  Over 80% of the corn and soy grown in America is now genetically modified.  Many of us were surprised to learn that no genetically modified wheat has been released in America.  It's a surprise, one because we just don't know this stuff, and two, because a couple of weeks ago a farmer in Oregon found Round Up resistant wheat in his fields, meaning that wheat is genetically-modified and got there some how or another.  Round Up is the most commonly used pesticide worldwide, and its parent company Monsanto is responsible for most of the genetically modified food grown in America.  Sadly, Americans are the GMO guinea pigs and the legislation that recently passed will protect Monsanto from any legal action that may arise from their genetically engineered ‘Frankenfood.’      

Companies like Bluebird Grain Farms that are dedicated to providing organic food and operate in a sustainable, environmentally sound manner are few and far between.  We all know how lucky we are to live in the Methow valley, and companies like Bluebird are part of the matrix that makes this valley so special.  The residents of the Methow send out a big thank you to Sam’s family and all the employees at Bluebird - keep up the great work! 

Sam also shared some of his poetry with us throughout the evening.  Here's "Rain."
By Samuel Lucy

Not just sprinkles
A moving chorus-
Lost in heavy fog
'Cross the springtime valley
From shrouded melting peaks
Hidden as if never there.

Cool and easy
Kiss the brittle sage
Make sweet and tangy
Love these hard dry hills
Come unafraid and curious
Tip-toeing to this tilled soil.

Open and clutch
This anxious eager earth
Harrowed, sown, waiting
Through sunrise and moon-set
For gentle May breezes rise up
An sing this long spring song.

Thrushes' trill
Meadowlarks' lullaby
A Building patter
Dancing 'cross dusty stone
Along tender green aspen run
Pelting dusty dirt
Swallowing the land whole.