In Grayland, the glowing color of the cranberries makes for a gorgeous display in autumn, but in March the bogs could definitely use a little facelift. Inspired by the daffodils Rebekah Ohagan planted a few years ago, a group of North Willapa Harbor Grange members decided to launch the Daffodil Project with the goal of framing as many bogs as possible with beautiful yellow flowers in spring.
The project is officially presided over by Grange Master Clare Conlan. Born and raised in Seattle, Clare bought a house in Grayland and moved there after she retired. She soon became active in the community and has been Grange Master since 2014. She has become very much part of the cranberry farming community. Her involvement includes cooking for the harvest crew of pickers. Clare is trying to revive the spirit of the grange, which has been struggling with a dwindling membership.
“Start a project,” she encouraged members at meetings. “Do something fun.”
Cranberry farmer Bob Hitt is always good for starting a project. The Hoquiam native went to work at his grandfather’s cranberry bog after he left the United States Air Force. A few years ago, he noticed the daffodils blooming on the edges of his neighbor’s bog. “I thought it was the neatest thing.”
The daffodils came to mind when Clare talked about projects. Bob pictured the yellow flowers blooming all along the bog divisions and he became the driving force behind the project asking farmers for permission to plant on their property, enlisting help and getting the word out.
Rebekah Ohagan, the original daffodil lady, remembers: “I just started planting daffodils when things were a little dismal. It was a happy idea.” The Los Angeles native came to the Harbor in 1979, the year before Mount Saint Helens erupted. She worked at Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. for 17 years and she has extensive experience in cranberry farming. She was happy to join Bob in getting the project off the ground.
Clare, Bob and Rebekah hope to involve as many people as possible. Experience in cranberry farming has taught them that recruiting help needs to be conducted strategically. While fundraising in the community Bob found that “it is not a good idea to ask anything of a cranberry grower just before or during the harvest. Everybody is under pressure and tempers flare easily. But the day after the harvest is over, the sky is the limit.”
A few growers have already given permission to plant on their bogs and more will be approached after the harvest. Donations of bulbs are gladly accepted.
Starting out with 200 bulbs of assorted early and late blooming varieties purchased from the Satsop Bulb Farm, the crew expects to have daffodils blooming throughout the month of March. The Grayland area soil is good for the flowers. Bulb farming used to be common here and flowers grew all along the roads. “There used to be daffodils in the ditch at the Ocosta triangle, “says Rebekah. “ I used to dig some up before they started spraying herbicide.” As daffodil bulbs multiply naturally over the years, a few spots of starter bulbs will eventually yield large lots of yellow blooms.
“They are the first flowers in spring, a sign that things are waking up. They make you feel good,” says Bob. He has devised a planting implement, a drill with a lime green bulb auger attachment, which he sticks through a hole punched into the bottom of an inverted plastic mixing bowl. The bowl keeps the dirt from flying into his face. Bob is quite proud of his tool, but Rebekah thinks she is more of a shovel person. She believes her clam digging shovel will do a great job. Yellow flags will mark the places where bulbs have been planted. Clare is planning to post signs along the plantings announcing the work of the Daffodil Project. The signs will serve the dual purpose of advertising the project to the community and keeping passers-by from digging up bulbs to take home. This has happened to Rebekah’s own flowers in the past.
The crew has started to plant around the telephone poles along Heather Road at the Otterstetter Bog whose owner has already granted them permission. Grayland’s cranberry bogs are located in a continuous six-mile strip, about three quarter of a mile wide, east of coastal highway 105. They are hidden from the highway by a strip of shrubbery. However, many tourists do turn east to admire the beautiful red fields of cranberries. Soon they will also find the trip worthwhile in March.
The North Willapa Harbor Grange Daffodil Project may be just a little thing in the great run of the world but it has the potential to bring new life and enthusiasm to the grange and the community.