Last week, my youngest son and I went out to Oregon and Washington to look at colleges. Patrick is going to be a high school senior (or rising senior as they all say now), so he’s been making a list of schools he’s interested in. I have a good friend that lives in Portland, so we decided to head out and visit her and check out some of the schools on his list in the Northwest.
The northwest has been pretty dry for the past year. They had a mild winter and spring and summer is usually a dry season. There’s been a huge pool of warm water off the west coast which has sustained a large ridge there for almost 2 years. As I learned long ago, “Ridge in the West, Trough in the East”. That translates to warm and dry in the west and cold and wet in the east. I’m sure my East coast friends can attest to that. However, even though it was dry, all the schools we visited had beautiful green campuses. Some of that is due to proximity to the coast, but also, proximity to large rivers that provide lots of water for irrigation. And all of them had exquisite gardens – good for the foraging bees.
Our first visit was to University of Oregon in Eugene. In February, 2014, Eugene passed an ordinance to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on city property which was the first of it’s kind in the nation. Neonics are responsible (IMHO) for killing and weakening the honey (and other) bee populations worldwide. Europe has banned them, but the chemical lobby in this country has it’s hand up the EPA’s butt and a ban here is unlikely given the current power structure. Unfortunately, in June of 2014 after the ban, there was a large bee kill in Eugene due to improper use of pesticides by a private pesticide company which was ultimately fined and had their license revoked. At U of O (home of the Ducks – 1-800-BE-A-DUCK), we saw bees foraging on the various gardens around campus, including the one in front of the building used as Dean Wormer’s office in the movie Animal House. Patrick liked the campus and programs and will probably apply here. With his grades he gets an automatic $9K/year scholarship – so that’s a plus in my book!
Next stop was Lewis & Clark College, just outside of Portland. This was a beautiful campus with lots of gardens and trees. Lots of hydrangeas which like the shade and cool temperatures. Unfortunately, the curriculum wasn’t was Patrick was looking for.
After a couple of days of sightseeing in and around Portland, we drove up to Spokane, Washington to visit Gonzaga University. The only driving ticket I’ve ever had in my life was in Spokane – a parking ticket when I was in graduate school almost 30 years ago and I daresay the spot wasn’t that clearly marked as not being a place to park. Be that as it may, in June of 2014, the Spokane City Council voted to ban city purchase and use of neonicotinoids, becoming the second city in the nation to do so! I guess I can forgive them for the parking ticket. Gonzaga was Patrick’s favorite school by far and of course the most expensive. The highlight of the campus tour for me was the new student center and cafeteria which has a greenhouse and a couple of beehives on the roof. That sold me – now I just have to figure out how to pay the $50K/year. I don’t think my honey sales will cover that.
The last stop was University of Washington, but to get there we had to drive across the state from Spokane to Seattle. Eastern Washington is very dry – lots of dryland farming (winter wheat and grains) and it was very hot when we were there. At one point, the car thermometer read 105 outside and there were huge dust devils (even anticyclonic ones) all over the place. As we were driving along I-90, I saw one clump of bee hives beside a field of wheat. That seemed odd to me since there’s no good forage in that kind of environment. We ran into a fire that closed down the interstate and forced us to take an hour and a half detour down south toward the Columbia river. There was a better variety of foraging crops there – lots of apples and fruit trees, but also carrots, grapes and others that I couldn’t identify. Amazing what a little water can do.
Seattle was much cooler with low clouds drizzle and the foliage shows that even in a dry year, things go more slowly with that kind of climate. The linden trees hadn’t even bloomed yet and it looked more like spring than mid-summer. U-dub was a very pretty campus – lots of trees and some nice rose gardens. There were a couple of bushes that were loaded with bees – honey and bumble. The school was too big for our tastes – one less application to fill out.
So while Gonzaga took top honors for a possible academic venue and U of Oregon still in the running, any one of these campuses would be a great place to live if you were a bee.