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Monday, December 8, 2008

A bill and a tax we should happily pay

Of all the foolishness that we fall prey to, failing to really appreciate -- that is, to truly understand, as well as be thankful for -- the many blessings we enjoy here in Salem is among the worst.

Chief among those unappreciated blessings taken for granted is clean water. Water that doesn't make us sick. Something that, as it turns out, doesn't just magically appear, but requires constant vigilance and disciplined management.

By coincidence, just as I read this story about a small proposed increase in Salem's water and sewer rates (and the many complaints about it), I finished a fascinating book called The Big Necessity: The unmentionable world of human waste and why it matters. Highly recommended. Every person who eats and drinks should read this book.

As the author, Rose George, states in her introduction, sanitation -- keeping poop out of the drinking water -- has done far more to improve human health and social wealth and happiness than all the money spent on health care and all doctors, nurses, and pharmacists combined.

Sadly, we live in a city filled with people who, like most Americans, are happy to throw millions of dollars at useless upgrades to an airport without airlines, big TVs, and acres of "free" parking, but then grumble about a few bucks more a month to upgrade our sewer facilities. In a city where the City Council is eager to blow hundreds of millions of dollars on a third Willamette River bridge, we should be grateful that they recognized the value of good sanitation.

UPDATE: There's a good source of revenue for paying for water/sewer systems that we're overlooking: bottled beverages sold in stores and drinks sold in shops and restaurants.

We should use a small beverage tax devoted entirely to upgrading and maintaining local water and sewer systems. which should be levied on wholesalers of all bottled/canned drinks and on people selling drinks (restaurants, bars, theatre snack bars, coffee shops, etc.).

By getting a tiny fee for each drink sold in Salem --- or, even better, anywhere in Marion County --- we could raise very significant revenue at little or no admin/collection cost and would help account for the fact that a lot of what our sewers handle doesn't start out as tapwater, which was the case many years ago when we tied sewer rates to household/business water use.

Marvelous home gardening site

Rainy-Side Gardeners. Here's a nice example of why this is such a great site*:

Complete Organic Fertilizer

Steve Solomon developed a fertilizer mixture specifically for our maritime climate. It is best to buy each ingredient in bulk, as it is cheaper over time than buying small boxes of fertilizer. Store in metal galvanized garbage cans and keep moisture out.

  • Four parts seed meal (cottonseed or canola meal is usually readily available here in the Northwest.)
  • ½ part lime in equal amounts of agricultural lime and dolomite. Leave out the lime for acid loving plants such as rhododendrons.
  • ½ part phosphate rock or bone meal (for vegetarians phosphate rock would be the obvious choice).
  • ½ part kelp meal.

  • You won't need to be precise when measuring this out. The seed meal and lime are the most important ingredients, and as you build your supply of fertilizer, you can add the latter ingredients as you can afford them. You can mix them all at once or store them separately and mix what you need as you use them.

  • For many of the plants listed in the Plant and Gallery Guide, I recommend using this formula.

    Recommended Reading:
  • I highly recommend the book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. The author, Steve Solomon, developed the complete organic fertilizer recipe. Even if you garden strictly with ornamentals, this book will help you understand our climate, cold spring soils, and what our plants need for year round health. Solomon goes into detail about our soil structure as well as the need to fertilize specifically for our unique situation. A must read, in my opinion, for gardeners in the maritime Pacific Northwest.

    Book Description: Here's a fully revised edition of this regional bestseller- considered to be the definitive food gardening manual for the Pacific Northwest. This is the bible of vegetable gardening for anyone turning the soil west of the Cascade Mountains-from Western British Columbia to Northern California. It includes the basics of soil, when best to plant, the art of composting, what varieties grow well here, which seed companies are reliable, information on handling pests, and an extensive section on the cultivation of each vegetable.

  • * (*Except for plugging Amazon.com (plug deleted from this repost -- support your local bookseller or if you must buy online, shop Powells.com where shipping is free for orders over $50.)