Purge the Spurge!

All of us at Keepers of course have other lives, and this is true for our volunteer activities as well. So when fearless BLM Leader Nick Teague announced a “Volunteer Appreciation Day” to be held on Victim Island, I jumped at the chance. Of course as Nick’s meaning of  “Volunteer Appreciation” usually means slaving away for hours in the hot sun in some god forsaken (but beautiful) place, I knew I was once again signing up for some hard work.

I was right. Nick’s team for the day was to journey to Victim Island (in Westsound, Orcas Island) and spend the day pulling a nasty smelling noxious weed known as Spurge Laurel. Nick explained that Spurge Laurel is a garden escapee that likes to grow in the shade; really bad news for the Pacific Northwest. Why it is a “garden escapee” mystifies me as the plant looks like an unwatered rhododendron and, when cut,  smells like a cross between sewer gas and kerosene. Who would want it in their garden?

After an initial safety talk (this time including how to protect ourselves from allergic reactions to plant sap) we headed off to rid the island (partially) of this highly invasive weed. Our method was to cut down everything in a wide perimeter of the island and to leave the heavily infested shaded center for another day.

After a lunch with a view, (always a given on Nick’s volunteer days), we continued our attack on the Laurel. After about 5 hours of work we had circled back to our starting point and there was time for a wash up and photo-op before our boat arrived to pick us up and take us back to civilization.

Oh, and Victim Island? Here is the entry from Tacoma Public Library’s database “Washington State Place names”:

Victim Island is southeast of Deer Harbor in West Sound in north central San Juan County. It was charted under this name in 1858 by Capt. Henry G. Richards, of the Royal Navy because it showed evidence of massacre of local Indians by Haida Indians from the Queen Charlotte Islands. Indians from the Queen Charlotte Islands raided the Indian villages along the shores of Puget Sound killing the men and taking the women and children as slaves and destroying everything that could not be taken as loot. 1 record displayed

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