Disaster Preparedness Month.

By now we’ve all about had it up to here with the nanny-state government telling us what to do. The last I heard, this was still a free country where we have the right to pursue happiness, whatever that means. For me, it means doing whatever the heck I want to preserve my precious freedom.

Then, I heard that September was declared to be “National Disaster Preparedness” month. Now, there’s a government program I could really get behind.

Into each life, a little rain must fall. That’s where disaster preparedness comes in. It can be something simple like checking the batteries in your smoke detector or getting one of those disaster preparedness kits they’re always harping about. You know, the kits with food, blankets, water, flashlights and a radio and stuff. Or you can take on a more substantial project to get ready. This month, in honor of Disaster Preparedness month, I rearranged my sock drawer.

There are, however, other steps we can take to prepare for the disasters that seem to be headed our way more frequently with each passing year.

• Stay calm. Don’t panic. Experts are always telling us to stay calm and not to panic when we are facing everything from murder hornets to the Internal Revenue Service. This is probably because they’ve never been faced with these threats. It’s easy for experts not to panic, but it’s bad advice. I say panic early and often. It’s never too early to panic. Practice panicking now before the disaster hits, so you get it out of your system when the real trouble hits the fan. Maybe you’ll panic enough to get a generator. Don’t forget the fuel.

• Migrate. Millions of birds are beginning their migration down our Pacific Coast from the Arctic tundra to the tropics. Get a clue. If these dumb animals have sense enough to figure out that moving to a more civilized climate is a good idea in the winter, what is your problem? One of the best ways to avoid a disaster here is to leave home and head south. Problem solved.

• Bulk up. Here is another tip we can take from our animal friends. Many of whom are incapable of migrating south. Bears, for example, spend the summer and autumn putting on fat to adapt to the colder winter weather. In addition to the survival benefits of having an increased blubber content, the larger you are, the more likely you will be seen by would-be rescuers when disaster strikes.

• Grow your hair longer. In addition to blubber, many creatures grow a thicker coat of fur in the winter. Longer hair will not only keep you warmer, it will save you money on haircuts.

• Hibernate. Once again, we can take a hint from our animal friends. I’m not saying that everyone can attain a state of true hibernation like our iconic Olympic marmots or members of Congress, but you don’t know until you try.

• Super-size fast food orders. This is a no-brainer. We’ve all seen demonstrations of fast-food morsels locked in glass cases for years with no apparent deterioration. Our modern-day chemicals and food preservatives are not only good, they’re good for you.

• Contact your neighbors. A good neighbor will loan you stuff. Find out what to borrow from your neighbors now, before disaster strikes. By then, it will probably be too late.

These are just a few of the many things you can do for disaster preparedness month besides panicking and rearranging your sock drawer. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.

Fall Chores.

Autumn must be my favorite time of year. When the Olympic Mountains stand so stark and tall in the smoke-free air, they almost seem like they are about to fall over, but they don’t.

Although there’s no time to stand around and admire the view when you have chores to do.

Autumn is the time of harvest. You can’t eat the view, so you’d better get to work.

The fact is, there are not enough hours in the day to get all of the chores done because the days are getting shorter.

Experts tell us not to get stressed out or bogged down by the details of life on the farm.

We should prioritize, delegate and move on to the next chore with the rhythm of the season.

Whatever that means.

I think it means now that the vines have died down, it’s time to dig the potatoes.

There are few things I enjoy more than digging potatoes.

To thrust the shovel into the mellow loam, exposing colorful tubers of varied hues of red, white, blue and yellow. Digging potatoes is a treasure hunt.

I was really looking forward to it.

Until I remembered loaning the shovel to a worthless clam digger.

It was a rare antique that was in really good shape. All of my tools are.

That’s another secret to life on the farm. Don’t use your tool and it won’t wear out.

I could never find a shovel that would fit my hand anyway.

It was time to prioritize, delegate and move on.

It’s time to pick a winter’s supply of apples.

An old apple farmer told me that once the coyotes started eating the apples, they were ready to pick. Lately there’s been a coyote party in the orchard every night.

People often wonder how the coyotes pick apples. They don’t.

The coyotes get the apples laying on the ground that the bear knocked out of the tree.

It turns out the bears figured out the apples were ripe before I did.

They must have camped out in the trees for a few nights and ate themselves sick, if the mess around the trees was any indication.

People said I should shoot the bear and tan the hide. Like I need another chore.

I tried to tan a hide once, using the old Indian cure that involved a greasy mixture of brains to do the trick.

It turns out that tanning a hide and writing a newspaper column have a lot in common. I ran out of brains before it was half done.

Besides, the bears have obviously read the hunting laws.

That’s why they never emerge from the blackberry tangles until at least a minute and a half after legal shooting light.

It was just another case of “if you snooze, you lose.”

All that was left of the apples was a few half-eaten ones that neither the bears nor the coyotes wanted.

It was a tragic end to another struggle to survive in the wilderness.

What could I do but prioritize, delegate and move on?

Autumn is also a good time to stock up on firewood.

Stacking firewood is another one of my favorite chores. But you have to cut and split the firewood before you can stack it.

That’s why it was too bad that I could not get the chainsaw started.

I was burning daylight. It was time to prioritize, delegate and move on.

That’s life in the wilderness.

We work through the rhythm of the seasons until salmon season starts — when, if any chore isn’t done by then, it won’t get done.

Labor Day Appreciation

Dealing with the crush of vacationing hordes that invaded the Olympic Peninsula this summer has stressed the tourist infrastructure to the breaking point. The problem is, many of our tourists have unrealistic expectations about their vacations. As a general rule, we like to advise tourists that the sooner they realize that their expectations are unrealistic, the better.

For example, every tourist wants to see a bear. And who doesn’t?

Unless you saw a bear like I did this summer. It was as big as a cow and cut right in front of me out on U.S. Highway 101 without even signaling. It could have been a disaster! Bears have no insurance. Bears, like most of our other wild animals, are irresponsible and unreliable. I can’t tell you how many times we have floated by Elk Creek without seeing an elk. That’s just wrong.

We have petitioned the Geographic Board of Names to rename it No-Elk Creek, but we haven’t heard anything back from them yet.

There could be many reasons for this record number of tourists. People were tired of being cooped up due to COVID. The Canadians wouldn’t let us in their country. And who could blame them? We wouldn’t let them into our country. Americans were trapped here so they decided to hit the road in everything from rental cars to the largest recreational vehicles on Earth.

There are only so many campsites and parking spots, and once these were taken, the tourists fanned out through the hinterland, blocking logging roads and boat launches with their fire rings and questionable bathroom habits.

Floating tourists down a river in a raft gives one a bird’s-eye lowdown on the tourist problem. I hear the horror stories. Like waiting for an hour for a hamburger only to wait for another hour to complain that you ordered it with no cheese. Or waiting hours to get into Olympic National Park only to have the park shut down because of a “law enforcement situation.” All the while trying to find the dump station for their RV before there’s an accident. That’s what it’s all about — creating family vacation memories that will last a lifetime.

Then there is the supply chain fiasco that has interrupted the flow of vital supplies needed for the production of apple fritters in Forks.

The only thing we can count on is the Hoh River, which will flow until the glaciers melt. While it lasts, the Hoh remains the last best river in America. Floating people down it is a rare privilege.

The most notable rafters this summer have been health care workers. They come to the Olympic Peninsula from all of our nation’s COVID hot spots to unwind and try to forget the horror of their working lives.

On the river, they often relax and tell stories of working 24-hour shifts while dealing with dying people they cannot help. They talk of arguing with people who insist they don’t have COVID while they are being intubated. They tell about the patients’ isolation from their families with no chance to say goodbye. They talk of being isolated from their own families and loved ones in an effort to keep them from getting sick. They feel victimized by people blaming them for the pandemic and guilty for feeling like they could do more to stop it. They spill their guts until they cry and so do I.

I can think of no better time than Labor Day to appreciate the selfless actions of these brave people. All of which makes me wish they could see a bear. It’s the least we could do.