Monday, June 2, 2008

Portland Rocks!

On Saturday Sweetie and I did two unrelated things that together epitomize some of what's so amazing about Portland.

In the afternoon we attended a Slow Food event at a farm in Gaston, OR (southwest of Portland about an hour) to learn about bees and pollination (just as an added "why Portland rocks" aside, when Slow Food got started in the US, its first chapter-they call them convivia, actually-was begun in-you guessed it-Portland). We met a commercial beekeeper and he introduced us to his 250 hives of honeybees, including one that had escaped and had swarmed on a nearby tree. Wish I'd brought the camera because you don't see a sight like 20,000 bees swarming every day (check out the picture I found online). While we were watching them and eating fresh pollen, the swarm suddenly left the tree and flew away. What was surprising to me was that the bees were incredibly docile around us, including the swarming ones. They basically ignored us in favor of all the tasty nectar in the farmer's fields. I've never been so comfortable being surrounded by so many bees. When we got out of the car the air was literally humming.

We also learned about Oregon's many native bees, which are also important pollinators for commercial crops. One thing we learned is that numbers of pollinators on a farm is directly related to how much area is given over to weeds (weeds are common on organic farms that don't use herbicides, but you see few on conventional farms). I had no idea there were so many native bees in Oregon (can't seem to find any good pics online to show you, sorry), but there are a number, and they are quite different from honeybees. For one thing, they are solitary creatures (no hives, no honeycomb). The bee people provided us with a list of plants native bees like to pollinate, and I'm happy to see we have a number of them growing in our garden already, or will whenever our wildflowers decide to come up.

After the Slow Food event, we raced back to Portland for the annual Starlight Parade, the one Rose Festival event I enjoy attending. For those of you non-Portlanders reading this, you can check out the link, but suffice it to say I'm not usually much of a civic booster, in the traditional rah-rah sense. Plus I have problems being in crowds, so parade watching is problematic for me, but the Starlight Parade is special. It's funky, for one thing, and features lots of local area high school bands (Sweetie taught drumlines and band for many years and is still an unapologetically proud band geek) and wacky human-powered vehicles and related fun stuff. It's much more fun and less stuffy than the big Rose Festival event, the Grand Floral Parade, which decided a few years back to market itself to bands and organizations outside Portland in order to attract corporate and tourist dollars. Result? The Grand Floral Parade features few area high school bands, instead importing groups from Taiwan and Japan (nothing against these groups specifically, but this is supposed to be an event that celebrates Portland, after all), and it's so heavily corporatized that you can't avoid being bombarded by corporate logos on floats, horseback riders, and even float riders like the Rose Festival Court. Oy.

See why Portland rocks? 

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