Feline Friends Plant Sale This Saturday, May 5

From the folks at Feline Friends, we received this email:

Hello from Cameron Gardens!

The huge, annual Feline Friends Plant Sale will be this Saturday, May 5th, at Griffin School. Once again a number of you have volunteered your Saturdays in April and helped Dig & Pot many different perennials and divided dahlias for the sale that benefits our own neighborhood “cat house”.

Rain or shine, the sale starts at 9am and ends at 3pm. Many plants for hummingbird and butterfly gardening, as well as great cut flowers (the same you see in the summer bouquets at Island Market), tomatoes, fuchsias, petunias and marigolds are ready to grace your garden.

100% of the proceeds benefit Feline Friends, and it couldn’t be done without your support. If you can’t make it this Saturday, but would like to attend one of the other animal rescue Plant Sales that Cameron Gardens supports in Mason and Thurston Counties, please email me for a schedule.

Diane Jacob

Feline Friends Cat House will be open Saturday for Cat Adoption. Stop by or visit the website to find a new furry friend. Thank you for your support!

Sheriff’s Department Seeking Citizen Volunteers

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office is seeking citizens to volunteer in our community. The Department’s program includes volunteer opportunities in areas such as vacation house checks, community presentations, special events, and clerical support.

For anyone who is interested in helping your community and the Sheriff’s Office, this is a great opportunity.

Click here to read more details about volunteer opportunities with the Sheriff’s Department [PDF document]. If you are interested in volunteering, click here to download an application [PDF].

Please have your completed applications back to the Sheriff’s Office no later than 5:00 PM,  May 20th, 2012.

If you have any questions, please contact Lieutenant John Price, of the Support Services Bureau, at  (360) 786-5657.

Thank you all for your support of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

Japan: A Year After the Tsunami

Japan: A Year After the Tsunami

April 26, 2012 at 7:30pm
The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. Olympia
Free lecture, open to the public

Professor Robert Pekkanen, Associate Professor in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, will discuss politics, economics, demographics, Japan’s role in the region and its relations with the USA.

His first book, Japan’s Dual Civil Society: Members Without Advocates (Stanford, 2006) won the Ohira Prize in 2008.  Pekkanen’s fourth book examines party organization and theories of institutional change and origin through the case of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party. The Rise and Fall of Japan’s LDP: Political Party Organizations as Historical Institutions (Cornell University Press, 2010).

Sponsored by the Olympia World Affairs Council.

The Annual “Death to Scotch Broom” Blog Posting

Every year, around this time, all those yellow flags – those scotch broom flowers – come out to wave. Next will come the seeds and, next year, more scotch broom. There are noxious weeds and then there’s scotch broom. Now is an excellent time of year to get serious about reducing the amount of scotch broom on your property.

So, responsible rural property owners want to know: What makes scotch broom so bad?

Scotch broom is a prodigious seed producer. The seeds have hard coats enabling them to survive in the environment for up to 80 years. Once established, scotch broom forms dense brush fields over six feet tall. The brush fields diminish habitat for grazing animals, such as livestock and native animals. Areas of dense brush shade out and kill native grassland plants in invaded areas, and favor invasion by other woody, non-grassland plant species.

Scotch broom prevents reforestation, creates a high fire hazard, renders rangeland worthless and greatly increases the cost of maintenance of roads, ditches, power and telephone lines. Wildlife suffers as the growth becomes too dense for even quail and other ground birds to thrive. Being slightly toxic and unpalatable it is browsed very little by livestock.

If you cut your trees, so that a lot of sunlight reaches the ground, you’ve probably now got scotch broom to cut.

How do you eradicate scotch broom?

There are two schools of thought, those who say pull out the whole plant and those who will tell you, if you’re clever and your timing is right, all you need are a pair of lopping shears.

From the School of Pulling Out the Plant, we get these instructions:

Pull out the entire plant, including roots. When the soil is moist, small plants can be pulled easily by hand. Winter and spring are good seasons to do this.

Larger plants must be removed with a tool such as a Weed Wrench. Be sure to remove the entire plant. Broken stems re-sprout and are much harder to remove for the next person. Plants can be left where pulled.

One of the benefits of being a member of the Griffin Neighborhood Association is members can rent our Weed Wrench.

Not yet a member of the GNA? Dang, what are you waiting for?! Click here to join online.

From the School of Cutting Broom in Bloom, we get these instructions:

First, cut broom in bloom. Use loppers or small saws and cut broom right at ground level.

Broom puts all of its energy into making flowers. If you cut it while in bloom, it will most likely die in the summer’s dry heat.

If you have to make a choice, go after single plants and small infestation to prevent its spread.

If the broom is huge, cut off as many of the branches as you can. If the broom is small and not blooming, you can return and cut it next year when it blooms.

It is most important to not let the broom go to seed! Cut before June 17 (this date is from Vancouver Island’s “BroomBusters” web site, so it’s probably earlier, down here in the South Sound).

CUT DOWN ALL YELLOW FLOWERS so that they can not turn into seeds. Each scotch broom plant can produce 2,000 to 3,500 seed pods – which burst open, shooting seeds into adjacent soil. If you cut them while in bloom – no seeds!

HERBICIDES applied in the spring when new leaves are present are another effective control tool, but always remember to read the labels carefully and exercise extreme care when applying chemicals, especially near waterways.

DO NOT BURN SCOTCH BROOM! When exposed to fire, its seeds burst from their seedpods. Also, the smoke from burning scotch broom is actually toxic and may seriously irritate the respiratory tracts of you, your family, or your neighbors.

TAKE SCOTCH BROOM TO THE DUMP. The best way to get rid of scotch broom, once it is cut, is to take it to Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center.

The Thurston County Noxious Weed Control Agency offers the following information and services to the public: Educational presentations, plant identification especially those that may be noxious weeds, consults on your property, prescriptions for specific noxious weed problems and what the county approves for its own use, free disposal of designated noxious weeds at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery centers, and limited use of a manual removal tool called the wrench. Also available are many informational brochures and pamphlets as well as several videos.

So, responsible homeowner, get out there and cut your scotch broom!

Local Roaster Stickman Coffee Offers Home Delivery

Recently, you probably noticed a stand was set up by the side of Steamboat Island Road at the US-101 overpass. Folks stopping at the stand had an opportunity to taste locally-roasted coffee,  being offered for home delivery by Stickman Coffee. Stickman Coffee is the brainchild of local resident Kenneth Albert.

“Most people my age started drinking percolated diner coffee with a Wonder Bread and Velveeta sandwich,” says Mr. Albert. “I remember more than one such meal on my way across the country to New York to catch a flight to Amsterdam.”
“In Europe, food, drink and especially coffee were very different than what I had enjoyed  next to the pie rack at the diner counter. I returned, like many other travelers in the late 60’s, with a radically altered idea of what  I preferred to eat and drink.”

“Since those days, our choices have expanded to fit our more varied tastes. Eating and preparing things to eat has been one of my main hobbies for forty years. When I found in the mid 90’s that it was possible to roast my own coffee, it was a natural addition to my food activities.”

The Internet has allowed people to find each other in online communities and share knowledge of their hobbies. So it was with the home coffee roasting community. As a result, “Home roasting has become extremely sophisticated,” says Mr. Albert.

“Because home roasters work with such small batches, they are able to experiment often with ingredients and technique. They often  taste a greater variety of blends and brews than many larger commercial roasters. This gives them obvious advantages if they become commercial roasters. Coincidentally, that description fits me perfectly. I am shamelessly blowing my own horn, but I do believe that there are many home roasters today who have attained a very high level of coffee roasting skill. If you can find one who has recently opened his own business, chances are good that his product will be tasty.”

Those of us, of a certain age, will remember a time when home delivery was common. The web site for Stickman Coffee presents a compelling argument for home delivery of locally-roasted coffee.

Coffee has a strong aroma because it gives its goodness up to the atmosphere so quickly. It has lost many of its best qualities within ten days of roasting.

Stickman Coffee roasts on Mondays and Mr. Albert’s goal is to deliver, within the Steamboat area, the same day.

Stickman Coffee offers organic, fair trade beans when they are available.

You can purchase Stickman Coffee online or with a phone call to (360) 866-8614. Customers can set up an automatic schedule so they never run out and seldom have to re-order. If you are going on vacation, you can put your order on hold by email or by phone.

Give Stickman Coffee a try. Home delivery of freshly-roasted, high quality Arabica beans sounds like another fine benefit of living in the Steamboat area.

If You are Even Remotely Interested in Solar Equipment on Your Home, Learn About “Solarize Thurston”

There may not, for a long time to come, be a better time to install photovoltaic equipment on your home. Specific federal and state incentives now exist – but will expire – and interest rates are low. Plus, Thurston Energy, a local nonprofit, has introduced a program they call “Solarize Thurston.” Let’s take a look at the financial incentives which make now a great time to install solar on your home. Then we’ll describe the Solarize Thurston approach.

The specific financial incentives in place now, which make the installation of solar worthy of serious consideration are:

  • Sales tax exemption
  • 30% Federal tax credit
  • Washington state production incentive
  • Net metering

There currently exists in Washington a Renewable Energy Sales and Use Tax Exemption. Through June 30, 2013, purchases of machinery and equipment that will be used directly in a facility that generates no more than ten kilowatts of electricity using solar energy are exempt from Washington State sales/use tax. Click here for more details about this exemption. It’s under the heading “Machinery & Equipment Used to Generate Electricity Using Renewable Energy – Sales/Use Tax Exemption”.

The 30% Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit expires at the end of Tax Year 2016. You may claim a credit of 30% of qualified expenditures for a system that serves a dwelling unit located in the United States that is owned and used as a residence by the taxpayer. If the federal tax credit exceeds tax liability, the excess amount may be carried forward to the succeeding taxable year. The excess credit may be carried forward until 2016.

“Qualified expenditures” include labor costs for on-site preparation, assembly or original system installation, and for wiring to interconnect a system to the home.

And remember, this is a tax credit, not a tax deduction. A tax credit lowers your tax bill dollar for dollar. A deduction only shaves money off your taxable income, so the value depends on your tax bracket. A tax credit is usually much more desirable than a tax deduction.

Click here for more details about this federal tax credit.

You with all this, so far? Good. Now we come to the Washington Renewable Energy Production Incentives. This was set up to both encourage the installation of equipment to generate power, plus help to grow the capacity of solar manufacturing right here in our state. With this incentive, your electrical provider, Puget Sound Energy, will pay you for the power your system generates, through June 30, 2020. How much will PSE pay? It depends on where your system’s solar panel and inverter were manufactured.

If your solar panels and inverter are both manufactured in Washington, you will receive from PSE a production credit of $0.54 per kWH, to a maximum of $5000 per year.

If one component – the solar panels, for example – are manufactured in Washington state, but the other component is not, you will receive from PSE a production credit of $0.36/kWh (again, a $5000 annual maximum).

If both your panels and your inverter are from out-of-state, your production credit is $0.15/kWh ($5000/year maximum).

So, you can see there’s a significant incentive to buy from in-state. There are presently two manufacturers in-state and a third is coming online soon.

Why would PSE participate? Because the state’s utilities earn a tax credit equal to the cost of the production incentive payments they make. Plus, there are regulations which oblige a certain portion of the electricity generated by the utilities to be from renewable sources. Installation of solar generation equipment on private homes help to achieve these objectives.

Click here for the fine print behind the production incentive.

Special notice regarding the tax information in this piece: Although efforts have been taken to provide accurate information, it is up to you, the individual taxpayer, to confirm the tax credit, tax exemption and production incentives apply to you and the system you choose to install.

Now we come to the gift that keeps giving: Net metering. You’re probably already familiar with this. It’s the concept some folks describe as “running your electrical meter backwards.” If you install a photovoltaic system on your home, a second meter will be installed. This meter will register the amount of electricity your system generates. The electricity produced by your system is first used to offset electricity provided by the utility to you; any excess kilowatt-hours from a billing period will be credited equally to your PSE meter. This is credited to your bill at the retail rate; granted by utility at the end of 12-month billing period.

Some limits apply. But the size of the typical residential system will keep you below the limit on the excess production PSE will be obliged to purchase from you.

Click here for details about net metering.

What is the combined effect of these incentives? Depending on your tax situation and the size of the system you install, you could receive close to half the cost of your system back to you, by the end of the first year. By the end of the first year.

If you’ve been generally interested in installing solar power on your home, these combined incentives have probably really got your interest.

What’s a typical cost for solar equipment? As you can probably guess, it depends on the installation and the size of the system. A modest-sized system is  4kW in size. The Solarize Washington experience has been that systems of that size cost about $16,000 before the federal tax credit.

Now, what’s this “Solarize Thurston” program all about?

Beginning in Portland, a couple of years back, and then spreading to Seattle, an concept grew up around the idea of taking a “group approach” to installing solar equipment. Put simply, individual homeowners will come together and seek the best deal from a single installer which will produce economies of scale. Discounts through this group approach have generally run from 15% to 25%.

This concept has been championed by the non-profit Northwest SEED (Sustainable Energy for Economic Development). In our state, this effort was named “Solarize Washington” and has already been used in several Seattle area neighborhoods to allow individual homeowners to come together, get the best deal, and contract individually with an installer to put solar equipment on their homes.

Here in Thurston County, the “Solarize Thurston”  program is led by Thurston Energy. You may know Thurston Energy as the organization that helps individual homeowners and companies achieve greater energy efficiency in existing and new buildings. The combined expertise of Thurston Energy and the knowledgebase of Northwest SEED will be used to help groups of homeowners to get the best deal on solar equipment and to get that equipment installed quick, to take advantage of all the incentives described in the first half of this (very lengthy) piece.

Here’s how Solarize Thurston could work, right here in the Steamboat area:

First, some folks will need to volunteer. Two groups need to be created. One group is the “communication committee” and the other is the “contractor selection committee”. It’s okay for some of the same people to be on both committees, but we don’t want people to burn out, so it’s better to have more volunteers, than fewer.

It’s the responsibility of the communication committee to work with Thurston Energy to get the word out to local homeowners about this opportunity. This doesn’t need to be a big committee. Maybe three to five people. Thurston Energy can host informational meetings and provide materials, but it’s up to the communication committee to schedule meetings and talk this up with existing groups (the Griffin Foundation, the Griffin PTO, Prosperity Grange, neighborhood groups, church groups, staff a table outside the Island Market, take over a couple of tables at Character’s Corner, etc.).

The goal of the communication committee is to gauge individual homeowner interest and to build a mailing list of those who might be interested – if the price is right – in installing solar equipment on their homes within the next few months.

Within the next few months?! That’s right; the beauty of the Solarize Thurston concept is that it’s possible to compress the kind of work it might take an individual up to 2 years to accomplish, in just a few short months.

While the communication committee is doing their work, the contractor selection committee springs into action. This committee, comprised of only three to five members, is responsible for working with Thurston Energy and their partner, Northwest SEED, to create a Request for Proposal (RFP) for solar equipment and installation. The objective will be to obtain competitive bids at a price per watt, including any permitting and other fees and including certain variations. These variations might include different prices for equipment manufactured in-state and out-of-state, installation of equipment on rooftops or ground-mounted, increased costs of installing on difficult rooftops (steep roofs, for example), etc.

With assistance from Thurston Energy and Northwest SEED, the contractor selection committee will – well, like the name of the committee says – actually select an installer.

At that point, a contract will be available for interested homeowners to use. The communication committee re-enters the picture. It’s time to gather interested homeowners together to meet the selected installer and to hear and ask questions about the RFP and what the selected installer is actually offering.

A no-obligation site evaluation will be conducted by the installer selected by the contractor selection committee. A design for the installation will be completed, based on the site assessment. The homeowner is still under no obligation to purchase the system. On the other hand, should the homeowner decide to buy, the final contract is between the homeowner and the installer. The actual scheduling of installations in the area and the purchase of all the needed equipment will be handled by the installer for all participating homeowners in the Steamboat area, at the same time.

And now we come to one more financial incentive. Thurston Energy has made a deal with the local Generations Credit Union to provide 3% financing over seven years, for installation of solar equipment under the Solarize Thurston program. Called “Title 9 financing,” This isn’t tied to home equity and it’s not a home equity line of credit. It’s available for a $46 fee. Generations CU will require homeowners to undergo an energy assessment of their home. Many of you may have already had such an assessment, through Thurston Energy or some other provider. These currently cost $300-$350 to complete.

The offer of 3% financing from Generations CU presently expires on June 30.

Financing through Generations CU is simply an option available for those who wish to take advantage of it. Homeowners do not have to finance their purchase through Generations CU to participate in Solarize Thurston.

What’s your next step?

If you have ever been interested in installing solar on your home, please re-read this article, visit the web pages to which it is linked, and consider whether this might possibly be something of interest to you.

Are you interested in serving on either the communication or the contractor selection committee? If so, please contact Mark Messinger, by email.

Are you interested in installing solar equipment on your home, as part of the Solarize Thurston project? Add your contact information for the “Steamboat neighborhood” group, to the Solarize Thurston web page at http://solarizethurston.org/sign-up-today/. Your contact information will be kept secure and you are under no obligation to install solar equipment, by indicating your interest.

If neighbors are able to put together the communication and contractor selection committees, it will be possible to host informational meetings, led by representatives of Thurston Energy, to describe the Solarize Thurston approach and answer questions. But, if those of us living in this area cannot staff these two committees, we will not participate in the Solarize Thurston program and homeowners will be left to their own devices to install solar equipment on their homes.

Arts & Crafts/Flea Market an Opportunity to Support the Prosperity Grange

The Prosperity Grange is holding an Arts & Crafts/ Flea Market Sale on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21. The hours both days are 9AM to 5PM. 

The Prosperity Grange is located at 3701 Steamboat Island Rd. NW.

Arts & Crafts Sale

Grange members will set up an arts and crafts sale, in the kitchen of the grange hall.

If you have new or gently-used items to donate for sale, please drop those off at the Prosperity Grange on Thursday, April 19, between the hours of noon and 5PM. The items should be priced to eliminate a lot of work for a few grange members.

Donated items which are unsold need to be picked up on Sunday after the event. Or other arrangements can be made with Faye Olson when the items are dropped off.

Flea Market

Come sell at the Flea Market!

To reserve a table and sell at the Flea Market, please contact Faye Olson by e-mail at jnomad56@comcast.net or phone at (360) 534-0456. The cost is $20 and a table is included. Whatever you make, in sales, you keep.

If the weather is nice and folks want to set up outside that will also be okay.

Please support the Prosperity Grange

The Prosperity Grange is in significant financial jeopardy. It is presently a challenge for them to pay property taxes and to purchase propane to heat the building. Event rentals of the facility, a significant source of income, have dropped off in recent years.

The Prosperity Grange was formed in 1910 as a community hub with social, charitable, and community support as its goals. It is affiliated with the Washington State Grange and the national Grange.

Are you looking for a location to host your event? Rental rates at Prosperity Grange are reasonable. Monday – Thursday (excluding holidays) rent at $125.00. Rentals on Friday – Sunday and holidays are $225. For rental information, contact Bill Wake at (360) 866-3909.

The Grange meets monthly on the first Wednesday (except July and August), 7PM to 8PM.

The Prosperity Grange is on Facebook. They are also online here.

“Truth Like the Sun”, the Latest from Local Author Jim Lynch, is Released April 10

The latest book from local resident Jim Lynch, the author of The Highest Tide and Border Songs, goes on sale Tuesday, April 10.

To celebrate, Fireside Bookstore is hosting an event in the ballroom of the Hotel Olympia (116 Legion Way SE) beginning at 7 PM, Tuesday, April 10. Come hear Mr. Lynch discussing his book. He will also be available to autograph copies.

Amazon.com describes the novel as:

A classic and hugely entertaining political novel, the cat-and-mouse story of urban intrigue in Seattle both in 1962, when Seattle hosted the World’s Fair, and in 2001, after its transformation in the Microsoft gold rush.

Larger than life, Roger Morgan was the mastermind behind the fair that made the city famous and is still a backstage power forty years later, when at the age of seventy he runs for mayor in hopes of restoring all of Seattle’s former glory. Helen Gulanos, a reporter every bit as eager to make her mark, sees her assignment to investigate the events of 1962 become front-page news with Morgan’s candidacy, and resolves to find out who he really is and where his power comes from: in 1962, a brash and excitable young promoter, greeting everyone from Elvis Presley to Lyndon Johnson, smooth-talking himself out of difficult situations, dipping in and out of secret card games; now, a beloved public figure with, it turns out, still-plentiful secrets. Wonderfully interwoven into this tale of the city of dreams are backroom deals, idealism and pragmatism, the best and worst ambitions, and all the aspirations that shape our communities and our lives.

Click here to read the New York Times review of Truth Like the Sun.

Click here to purchase the book online or to purchase an edition for your Kindle.


Public Power Moves Closer to Reality in Thurston County

Over the past few months you’ve read in these pages and elsewhere about the evolving movement to electrify the Thurston County Public Utility District (PUD). As we discuss this with citizens of various political ideologies and persuasions, we are realizing that this is a non-partisan issue that resonates very favorably with most people – liberals, conservatives, or middle-of-the-roaders.

It’s time for the citizens of Thurston County, Washington to take control of their electrical destiny and initiate the transfer of ownership for this and all future generations – by telling the foreign corporation pulling Puget Sound Energy’s puppet strings, “Thanks, but we’ve got it from here.”

Most of the people we talk with immediately see the values of ownership:  local control; increased reliability; improved service; lower costs; and the economic stimulus that comes from bringing skilled jobs back to Thurston County from wherever they were outsourced by PSE years ago. Some are wary or downright hostile to the thought of giving our power to “The Government” either because they fear it or they think “The Government” screws up everything it gets its hands on. With them, we talk about the difference between Big Government with a capital ‘G’ (IRS, Congress, etc.) and local government with a small ‘g’ (the library, the school, and the fire department). We explain how the PUD is definitely small government because it is responsible only for Thurston County and consists of only three Commissioners, each of whom represents 1/3 of Thurston County, or approximately 82,000 citizens. More than 70% of the citizens we ask to sign the petition to get the Initiative on the ballot happily do so – we even got 75% of the people we asked at the recent Republican party caucuses to sign on!

“Small g” government consists of our neighbors who want to make our life better. After all, they live here, too. Small government is directly responsible to its citizens who, if they don’t approve of what the elected officials do, vote them out of office.

The campaign for Public Power is shifting into full-power mode and will be more and more visible throughout April, May, and June as we collect at least 10,733 valid signatures of Thurston County voters on our petitions and qualify for the November 6 ballot. We need your help in making Public Power a Thurston County reality. Ways you can help include:

  • Sign the petition 
  • Attend one of our Community Meetings
  • Circulate a petition among your friends and work mates
  • Talk with everyone you know about the benefits of Public Power
  • Collect signatures at an approved location in Olympia, Yelm, Bucoda, or Tumwater
  • Donate whatever you can to help extend our outreach to fellow citizens

Are you looking for a good reason to go to the Democratic Party caucuses on April 15? If you’ve not yet signed our petition, look for one at your caucus – or email us at info@ThurstonPublicPower.org for a location near you.

Public Power is coming to Thurston County… and all we need is a little help from those who’d like to cut the puppet strings.


John Pearce is the chairperson of the Thurston Public Power Initiative.

Reprinted with permission from the April 2012 issue of Works in Progress.

The Griffin Neighborhood Association, its Board and members, neither support nor oppose a public electrical utility in Thurston County. We welcome the opportunity to publish material either in support or in opposition to the initiative to place this question on November’s ballot. Leave your comments below, join us for a discussion on our Facebook Page, talk to your neighbors about this issue.