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Category — Gardening and Farming

20+ Not-To-Be-Missed Southwest Washington Events in May

From the Long Beach Peninsula through the Gorge, there is plenty happening in May. No excuses for staying home. Go enjoy Southwest Washington!

"Alice Christiansen" from the Hulda Klager lilac collection

April 21 – May 13Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens Lilac Days –  10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Hulda Klager’s farm home and beautiful gardens will be open and lilac plants and gifts will be offered for sale in a lovely gift shop. During Lilac Days, the farmhouse will feature a display of vintage hats and accessories. For background – Author Jane Kirkpatrick has just released a novel about the life of Hulda Klager, Where Lilacs Still Bloom.  Here is a past  ZEST post on the Hulda Klager Lilac Days. Admission.

Lots happening in downtown Longview

May 3 –  First Thursday in Longview – Many shops and galleries stay open until 7 p.m. and lots will be happening on the First Thursday of the month in downtown Longview. The Cowlitz County Historical Museum will be open until 9 p.m.

Unveiling of New Sculpture at the April Art Work in Downtown Vancouver

May 4First Fridays – If it’s the first Friday of the month,  you know what is happening in Clark County. Vancouver, Camas and Ridgefield continue their First Friday events. Camas has a First Friday Poker Tour happening. The Art Walk will be busy in downtown Vancouver with a special opening reception scheduled at the beautiful Kiggins Theater from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. (21 and older only during the reception). Ridgefield will hold its First Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

May 4, 6, 11-13Touch of Class Chorale – Vancouver’s choral group will present five concerts with half of the proceeds going to various charities, depending on the concert. Check out the schedule here. Admission.

May 5Magenta Improv Theater – Vancouver’s own version of “Whose Line is it Anyway…?” —  takes the stage again at Magenta Theater. The show is family friendly. Players take audience suggestions and improvise. Admission.

May 5Carson-to-Stevenson Ridge Run– Skamania County Facilities & Recreation and the Columbia Gorge Running Club invite runners and walkers of all ages and abilities to embark on the annual Carson to Stevenson Ridge Trail 16k Run. The event starts in Carson and continues  to the Skamania County Fairgrounds with the finish line at the Columbia Gorge Fitness Fair. Admission.

May 5-6Loyalty Days – Not only does Long Beach have the World’s Longest Garage Sale (see May 25-26 below), it has the “longest consecutively running Loyalty Day celebration in the nation.” The two-day event includes a children’s parade, blessing of the fleet, oyster feed (yum!), grand parade and cowboy breakfast. This event is always the first weekend in May.  Saturday schedule here. For Sunday’s schedule, go here.

May 11Contra in the Couve – Put on your dancing shoes. Vancouver has a contra dance, held on the second Friday of every month at the Hazel Dell Grange, 7509 NE Hazel Dell Ave. Seattle band, KGB, and nationally-known caller Woody Lane, from Roseburg, OR will share the stage. 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Admission.

May 11-12Ridgefield Art Association Show and Sale – Don’t miss this annual show and sale. Reception on Friday night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ridgefield Community Center.

May 12It’s a Blast! Volcano Science in Your Backyard – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Join the Mount St. Helens Institute for a fun event at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Kids activities, food, guided hikes, ranger talks, and more. The road will be open! Celebrate the first public event of the season. Admission.

May 12-13Maryhill Museum – The museum will dedicate the new Mary and Bruce Stevenson Wing this weekend. The new 25,500 wing will include galleries, an education center and cafe. The event schedule includes an antique car show on Saturday.

Pat Courtney Gold

May 13Cathlapotle Plankhouse 2nd Sunday Series – Fiber artist Pat Courtney Gold will present “Native American Women of the Columbia River Area” at 2 p.m at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Guided tours of the Plankhouse and children’s activities will be available from noon to 4 p.m. Pat Courtney Gold, and her extraordinary work, is profiled here. A great way to spend Mother’s Day!

May 16-20Society of Washington Artists 50th Anniversary Show – This open entry art exhibit will include an art sale. Exhibit will be in Vancouver at the HH Hall Building, 10000 NE 7th Avenue.

Ed Asner as FDR

May 18Ed Asner as FDR – FDR is based on the Broadway hit “Sunrise at Campobello. ” Emmy-award winning Ed Asner performs the one-man play at the beautiful, historic Columbia Theatre in downtown Longview. Should be a great show! Tickets here.

May 19 –  Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum Anniversary Celebration –  Music, activities, hands-on demonstrations and refreshments from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission to the museum will be free to the public for this special occasion.  For more information, visit

May 1948th Annual Hazel Dell Parade of Bands – If it’s the third Saturday in May, you can count on a whole lot of music happening in Hazel Dell. The theme this year is “Remember When” and will feature two dozen bands and more than 100 entries.  Dust off the lawn chairs. View the route map here. The parade starts at 10:30 a.m.

May 19-20Herb and Garden Festival – It’s the perfect time for a country drive out to the Pomeroy Living History Farm, which is north of Battle Ground. Thousands of plants will be for sale. There will be a farm cafe, vendors and entertainment. This is a lovely destination. Directions here.

May 19-20Geology Weekend at Bonneville Dam – Explore the forces that created the Gorge through special presentations, guest speakers and hands-on activities. Rangers will offer programs about local geology at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Bradford Island Visitor Center. Power house tours will be offered at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. at the Washington Shore Visitor Center. For more information, contact the Bonneville Dam Visitor Center at 541. 374.8820. This event is free.

May 25-26World’s Longest Garage Sale – For more than 20 years on Memorial Weekend, the garages, yards, patios and other flat surfaces of the Long Beach Peninsula have been filled with treasures for, count ’em, 28 miles! Get out your most comfortable shoes and lots of dollar bills. And don’t forget to take a break to enjoy the ocean and the bookstores mentioned in this 2010 ZEST blog post about the booksellers of  Long Beach Peninsula.


Las Colibri - The Hummingbirds

May 26Las Colibri – Enjoy this very talented, all-female mariachi ensemble. Audiences will recognize sounds of  jazz, rock, oldies, and R&B through this unique mariachi ensemble. They will perform at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson at 8 p.m. Admission. Tickets available here.

May 26-27Vancouver Symphony Orchestra – The wonderful VSO adds a new twist for this performance. An interactive, 3-D showing of The Planets will be shown. The concert will also include pianist Linda Lorati Barker and a 2011-12 audience choice piece, which will be announced immediately before the concert. Tickets available here.

Winetasting at East Fork Cellars

May 26-28Clark County Wineries – Memorial Weekend – Visit the wineries of Clark County on Memorial Weekend.  Click on the Web site for a map to 11 wineries in Clark County. And check out this Columbian article on the 2nd largest wine producer in the U.S. — Washington State!

What a great month!

May 1, 2012   2 Comments

SW Washington Wineries: An Interview with Winemaker Michele Bloomquist of Heisen House Vineyards

Southwest Washington has a very dynamic wine industry. WineTrails NW lists 30 wineries in the region. Wineries are scattered throughout the area in scenic rural areas and urban settings like downtown Vancouver.  This is the first in a series of profiles of Southwest Washington wineries and winemakers.

First up – an interview with Michele Bloomquist of  Heisen House Vineyards. With its historic, 1898 home and restored barn, which is one of the oldest in Clark County, Heisen House Vineyards is located just north of Battle Ground at 28005 NE 172nd Avenue on a site with a rich history. The Heisen House is a family home and not open to the public. However, outdoor and indoor tasting rooms (in a beautifully remodeled milking parlor) allow for visiting the winery regardless of the weather on Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 5 p.m.

A benefit of blogging – this interview was conducted while sampling nine(!) different wines in the outdoor tasting room. We are happy to report that all were excellent and two (2009 Sangiovese and 2010 “Happy” Sparkling White Wine) were purchased for later consumption.


Winemaker Michele Bloomquist of Heisen House Vineyards


Michele Bloomquist (MB): The first wine I ever heard of was Boone’s Farm. And then there were all the country coolers and all that stuff. I graduated from college in 1996.  I got a job at a company in San Francisco and I would go down there on Monday morning and come back on Thursday night. I had a good friend who lives down there and she and her husband loved to go wine tasting. They would take me wine tasting to Napa and Sonoma and that was my first introduction to wine tasting. That is how it happened in 1998 or 1999.

ZEST: How did you learn to make wine? Who were your mentors? Did you have special training?

MB: Walt Houser at Bethany Vineyard was very supportive as was Carl English of English Estate Winery. I’ve picked everybody’s brains and whenever a problem comes up, Gary Gouger of Gouger Cellars, has been very helpful. He has a degree in enology. And I also learned from books and just doing it.

I have taken some classes at Clark College. John Dingenthal and Bill Fuller were the teachers and I learned a lot from them as well.  Those classes were really helpful. I was already winemaking  by the time I started taking those classes but both of those professors were 20-year veterans of the industry so it was a great opportunity to learn from them about vines and wines.

The Historic Heisen House (1898)

ZEST: How did you end up with your winery? When was it founded?

MB: It wasn’t a plan. It happened by accident. I was driving by one day and I saw a little glimpse of the peak of the roof of the house. At that time, it was completely surrounded by bushes and shrubs.  You could hardly see there was house there. All this [the vineyard] was blackberries and briars, tires and stumps and concrete chunks. But I could see a little glimpse of the house so I pulled in and there was a for sale sign. That was 2002.

I fell in love with the house and that’s how I came here. During the process of making the offer, I found out that the house was on the state and national historic registers and here it was vacant and falling apart and neglected and the barn was falling down and the house hadn’t been cared for in many years. That is what first brought me to this property. I knew that I wanted to do something to share it with people because it’s a historic place.

So at first I was going to do a lavender farm, which you can see the remnants of my first voyage into lavender. Then that same summer the apple trees were loaded with apples and a friend said “Hey, let’s make hard apple cider.”  I had never made alcohol before but I had been wine tasting and it was so much fun and it turned out good and I was hooked.

So the next year I made cider and wine and then I started helping Walt and other people and reading about it and learning about it. You learn a lot by doing it. I spent about five years of hobby winemaking before Walt (of Bethany Vineyard) and other people were saying “You should open a winery.” So I can either thank Walt or blame him depending on the day!

The barn, tasting building and vineyard.

ZEST: Where do you get your grapes? For on-site grapes – how many acres do you grow and what kind are they?

MB: We opened on Memorial Day weekend, 2010.  We have one acre of grapes in production. I have Gamay Noir, Tempranillo, Gewurztraminer and Orange Muscat. It’s a test for the area. We are still trying to establish what grapes are right for Clark County.

We buy our grapes from growers in Eastern Washington (Walla Walla and Benton City). Our vines are still two summers away from having fruit. We’ll have hopefully four barrels of wine from those vines. But we are making 500 cases of wine a year so we have well exceeded what our vineyard would be able to provide. We are growing and we don’t have enough land to plant all the grapes that we need so we will always have to both purchase and grow, which is very common in the industry.

ZEST: What are your available wines?

MB: Currently, available wines are Reds – Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet, Cab Franc, Tempranillo and “one Love” Reserve Red Blend (all vintage 2009) and Whites – Dry Muscat, Dry Rose and Happy (a sparkling wine) (all vintage 2010). (Descriptions are available here.)

ZEST: Which is your favorite?

MB: Cabernet Franc

ZEST: Where are your wines available?

MB: Just here for now. We are probably going to have our wines soon at the Heisson Store and Mill Creek Pub in Battle Ground.

Heison House Winemakers Chris Eckels and Michelle Bloomquist

ZEST: How do you spend your days? What is a typical day for a winemaker?

MB: Well, I have another business. I work full-time as a freelance writer so Monday through Friday, I’m wearing my writing hat and the winery is our evening and weekend endeavor. My typical day is juggling  responsibilities – family, a freelance career and then the wine.

I don’t know if there is such a typical day. It’s very seasonal, in the fall we are making wine, in the winter, we are planning for the summer and pruning, in the spring we are bottling, in the summer we are open and waiting for the grapes and maintenance.

ZEST: How would you describe the SW Washington wine industry?

MB: We are in the golden age which is the emerging winery region. It’s a very special time. At every one of these wineries most likely the person behind the bar is going to be the winemaker who is pouring the wine. It’s a very special time and a very small window. For a lot of people who are serious wine tourers, that is the epitome of the winery experience to meet the winemaker at every single stop and you can do that here in Clark County.

ZEST: When you aren’t drinking your own wines, what are your current favorites?

MB:  My very favorite and probably the first wine that I tasted it and “got it” what good wine was at a place called The Pines in the Columbia Gorge. Their Red Zinfandel, which often sells out, that was the first time I thought “Wow, this is what good wine tastes like.” I would say that Hood River is one of my favorite areas (for tasting).

Lavender crop

ZEST: What is the best thing about being a winemaker?

MB: The best thing about is when the truck pulls up with a big bin of grapes and it’s time to get dirty.  That’s the very best part of being a winemaker. It is fun to make wine. I LOVE it.

ZEST: What is the hardest thing about being a winemaker?

MB: It is probably that I don’t get to go wine tasting as much as I used to and I miss it! And I would love to do more traveling but for right now we are growing our business and we need to be here.

ZEST: What is coming up that you’re excited about for your winery?

MB: We have the Battle Ground Wine Loop Tour next Saturday. Memorial Weekend is our big kickoff of the season – we will be open Saturday, Sunday and Monday, noon to 6 p.m. We are launching our Friday night music that same weekend. Every Friday night we will have music from 6-9 p.m. and a local restaurant comes out and serves food starting Memorial Day weekend all the way to the end of September. And then we have four farm festivals in the summer where we have artists and craftspeople come and set up and then we have fun that way, too!

Winery Details

Details about Heisen HouseVineyards are available at the winery Web site. The Battle Ground Wine Loop Tour,  which is held the 2nd Saturday of the month, visits Heisen House Vineyards along with Rusty Grape Vineyard and Olequa Cellars. For a complete (and growing!) list and map of 11 Clark County wineries visit here. For a longer list of wineries throughout Southwest Washington, visit WineTrailsNW.  No need to head to Napa. Get out there and try our local wines!

Winery photos courtesy of Heisen House Vineyards.





April 12, 2012   1 Comment

30 April Events in SW Washington to Get You Out of the House!

It’s time to ignore the never-ending rain and get out of the house. From film to flowers, hiking to kayaking, contra to Indian dances, there are no excuses. See you out there!

WSU-V Native American Film Festival

April 4-6Native American Film Festival– Washington State University Vancouver is offering a Native American Film Series at 5:30 p.m. in the Dengerink Administration building, room 110. The series is free and open to the public. Each evening opens with a 30-minute guest lecture at 5:30 p.m. followed by the film screening at 6 p.m. Each film in the series addresses Native -American experiences with boarding schools. The speakers and films are:

April 4, “Older Than America” – Georgina Lightning, the film’s director and actress, will speak before the screening. In this contemporary drama of suspense, a woman’s haunting visions reveal a Catholic priest’s sinister plot to silence her mother from speaking the truth about the atrocities that took place at her Native American boarding school.

April 5, “Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School” – Jacqueline Peterson, WSU Vancouver professor emerita of history, will speak before the screening. This documentary uncovers the dark history of U.S. Government policy which took Indian children from their homes, forced them into boarding schools and enacted a policy of educating them in the ways of western society.

April 6, “The Only Good Indian” – Grace L. Dillon associate professor, indigenous nations studies at Portland State University will speak before the screening. In this film, set in Kansas during the early 1900s, a teen-aged Native American boy is taken from his family and forced to attend a distant Indian “training” school to assimilate into white society.

April 5First Thursday – Downtown Longview and Kelso  – Galleries and the Cowlitz County Historical Museum  are open in the evening with receptions at various galleries.

 April 6Full Moon Hikes at Ridgefield  National Wildlife Refuge . Evening hike, starting at 7:30 p.m. on the Oaks to Wetlands trail at the Refuge. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 360-887-3883 for reservations and details.

 April 6 – As always, there are multiple First Fridays around Clark County including Vancouver, Ridgefield and Camas. For details check out the Arts of Clark County calendar.

In Downtown Vancouver – At 7 p.m., don’t miss the unveiling of the latest addition of public art to downtown Vancouver – a sculpture by Dave and Jennifer at Cobalt Designworks installed at Evergreen and Main. No excuses for staying in on the first Friday of the month!

In Downtown Camas – Visit each participating merchant, pick an egg out of the basket and see if you can select the Golden Egg!  Special deals are inside each golden egg at each of the participating merchants!

First Iron Man Strong Ale Festival

April 7First Iron Man Strong Ale Festival –  Noon – 8 p.m. The inaugural event features this year’s release of Walking Man Brewing’s Iron Man Imperial IPA, live music, hot food and a chance to sample a variety of Strong Ales from various breweries. Held in honor of “Iron Man Jim Caldwell.” Skamania County Fairgrounds. Admission.

April 7Vintage Fishing Gear Show – Display and show at 9 a.m. at the spring meeting of the NW regional of the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club. Red Lion Hotel in Kelso. Details at 360-274-8045. Admission.

April 7Klickitat Trail Conservancy Birding walk – 7 a.m. Lyle trailhead  – 3-4 miles. This is a special area. From the Conservancy: “The Klickitat Trail follows the first 31 miles of an old railroad corridor linking the towns of Lyle and Goldendale.  It is unique among rail trails. Nowhere else is there a rail trail that starts in a remote, beautiful tributary canyon, winds along a nationally designated Wild & Scenic River, and finishes in one of the nation’s only National Scenic Areas.”

 April 7-9Razor Clam Dig! – Three beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch – will be open for morning razor clam digging all three days. Mocrocks will be open for two days, April 7-8, and Copalis will be open April 7 for one day only. Get the details here. Here is a ZEST post about our first excursion digging those delicious bivalves.

April 7-29Columbia River Kayaking has  a plethora of kayaking trips for beginners and experienced kayakers. Check out their calendar of trips here.  The river is really high right now. Be dry, safe and plan accordingly! Trips begin at their Paddle Center in Skamokawa unless otherwise listed.

April Contra in the Couve Caller Mary Devlin

April 13Contra in the Couve – Vancouver has a contra dance on the second Friday of every month at 7:30 p.m. the Hazel Dell Grange, 7509 NE Hazel Dell Ave. New and experience dancers welcome! Popular Portland caller Mary Devlin will be calling the dance. 

April 13-28Magenta Theater – Downtown Vancouver’s always entertaining theater company presents Hitchcock’s 39 Steps. Tickets are available here.

April 14Battle Ground Wine Loop – You can take the Battle Ground Wine Loop Tour bus around the loop for just $5 per person. It will make the loop all day long. Just hop on and off at each of the three participating wineries – Rusty Grape Vineyards, Heisen House Vineyards  and Olequa Cellars. Or take a designated chauffeur and drive the scenic 7-mile loop if you prefer.  Small tasting fees may apply at each location. Battle Ground Wine Loop from noon – 6, followed by live music after at Rusty Grape starting at 7 p.m.

April 14Klickitat Trail Conservancy Wildflower Walk – 10 a.m. 4 miles – Starting at the Lyle trailhead. Easy to moderate.

April 14-15Vancouver Symphony Orchestra – 3 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Winners of the Young Artist Competition will perform  the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. Also All Classical’s Edmund Stone will narrate A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mendelssohn with a performance by the Willamette University Chamber Choir. Buy Vancouver Symphony tickets here.

April 14-21Second Annual Cultural Immersion Week –   Immerse yourself in India! Columbia Theatre offers a wonderful schedule of events, culminating with a April 21 performance of Ragamala Dance (see below). Lots of events happening on Saturday, April 14 including Indian food, music, yoga, henna, fighting kites and “Bollywood Movez” dance lessons.

Holland American Bulb Farm Show Field


April 14-15 Woodland Tulip Festival –  The 10th Annual Woodland Tulip Festival will include annual blooming tulip fields, display garden and gift shop and much more. Check out the Holland America Bulb Farms Web site  for all of the events.

Cathlapotle Plankhouse

April 15Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 28908 NW Main Ave., Ridgefield, WA –   The Plankhouse opens the season with a special presentation at 2 p.m. by Dr. Robert Carriker who will present “A Student in the Pacific Northwest: Sacagawea Travels the Columbia River.” Guided tours of the Plankhouse and children’s activities will be available from noon – 4 p.m.

April 19Sakura Festival – 1-4 p.m. To celebrate the breathtaking cherry blossoms that bloom in the spring, Clark College hosts an annual festival for the college and the region. The festival also honors Vancouver’s sister-city relationship with Joyo, Japan, which was established in 1995. This year, the Festival will also dedicate the new Royce Pollard Japanese Friendship Garden.

April 21Hometown Tourism Day – Many Long Beach Peninsula and Pacific County sites and museums are working together to promote Hometown Tourism Day. Check out the list of locations.

April 21Klickitat Trail Conservancy hike through Swale Canyon – 9 a.m. Lyle trailhead – 13 miles – strenuous. Early flowers should be at peak. The Trail is railroad gravel in places, so sturdy boots are needed.

April 21Kalama Word Catcher –  Writers take note – You can spend the entire day exploring your craft with an excellent roster of instructors including Larry Colton and Carolyn J. Rose. This is a benefit for the Kalama Public Library. Pre-register here.

April 21Columbia Theatre presents Ragamala Dance – 7:30 p.m. The classical dance troupe will perform “Sacred Earth” as part of the Second Annual Cultural Immersion Week sponsored by Columbia Theatre. Tickets available here.

April 21Trout Lake Run – The Half-Marathon, 10K & 5K running/walking events start and finish at Trout Lake School, which is the beneficiary of the event.

April 21Earth Day Celebrations – Lots happening around SW Washington. Check your local papers and Web sites!

April 21-22 Woodland Tulip Festival –  The 10th Annual Woodland Tulip Festival will include annual blooming tulip fields, display garden and gift shop and much more. Check out the Holland America Bulb Farms Web site  for all of the events.

April 21 – May 13Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens Lilac Days –  10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Hulda Klager’s farm home and beautiful gardens will be open and lilac plants and gifts will be offered for sale in a lovely gift shop. During Lilac Days, the farmhouse will feature a display of vintage hats and accessories. Admission.  This is easily combined with a visit to the tulip festival! Here is a past  ZEST post on the Hulda Klager Lilac Days.

April 27-29Home and Garden Idea Fair –  The fair features hundreds of ideas on how to make your home, yard and garden a more beautiful, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly place. Sponsored by Clark Public Utilities.

April 28Klickitat Trail Conservancy hike from the town of Klickitat to Pitt – 9:30 a.m. Lyle trailhead – easy walk.

If these aren’t enough events to get you out of the house, check your local newspapers for more ideas!

April 1, 2012   No Comments

Gardening While Married: To Weed, or Not to Weed? That is the Question.

To weed or not to weed? How could that be such a charged question? It’s a no-brainer to me. Ditto for my husband. But there’s the rub. We come to different conclusions.

We are simpatico on nearly every issue. Politics. No problem. Religion. Not an issue. Money. We jive. But weeds? Where I see invasive interlopers with flying seeds and unruly roots, Gary sees lush green. And when I clean squatters out from around my perennials, Gary cries “scorched earth!”

Our conversations go something like this:

Katlin: I can’t find my daylilies.

Gary: They’re there. Just wait until they bloom.

Katlin: The roses can’t breathe.

Gary: We shouldn’t grow roses.

Katlin: Vinca is taking over the yard.

Gary: Vinca? What vinca?

So imagine my chagrin when I opened the weekend Wall Street Journal to find a massive feature story “Why We Must Learn to Love Weeds” by Richard Mabey.

Darn that article on weeds!

The article invoked Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” That would be Gary’s point of view.

The WSJ piece also mentions my stand: “They (weeds) are plants that sabotage human plans. They rob crops of nourishment, ruin the exquisite visions of garden designers, break our codes of appropriate behavior, make unpleasant and impenetrable hiding places for urban ne’er-do-wells.”

That’s certainly what I found in a recent campaign against unwanted garden guests. They were blocking my plans (and plants), robbing my perennials of nutrients, messing up my garden design and hiding legions of disgusting snails .

At our first house, we found a simple solution. Gary took the backyard. I gardened in front. I can’t remember who tended the sideyard. It didn’t matter. It was a tiny, easy-care yard.

At our current home, that all changed. We have gone out of our way to create a very high-maintenance yard. And we share landscaping duties throughout the multiple garden beds.

So how do you cope with a split household on the subject of weeds? This may sound rather sneaky but it works for us. I suggest that Gary go do something that he loves like, for instance, sailing. Then I move in with trowel and create botanical dig sites throughout the yard, unearthing my beloved plants. Here are a few before and after photos:

A few of the backyard beds:

Before - Jungle of plants

After - Plants with shape and personality

One of the new perennial beds:

Before - Jumble of plants

After - The daylilies are located!

Before - Hidden daylilies and fern

After - Happy plants!

From the frontyard:

Before - Rhodies with encroaching bergenias, end-of-season forget-me-nots and colonies of snails

After - Rhodies waiting for new bulbs and other companions

It’s not that I’m hiding my eradication efforts. The weeds end up in a very obvious pile in the driveway. Then Gary comes back from sailing a happy skipper and hauls them off while I enjoy a drink on the patio.

The great payoff...

Got any better ideas? I’m listening!

June 5, 2011   10 Comments

May Meanderings: Bike rides, trains, tall ships, wine tours and more…

Spring events are in full force now in Southwest Washington. Here are a few ideas to get you out the door:

May 3 – The 39 Steps – Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts in Longview. This 2008 Tony award-winning play “The 39 Steps” is a madcap romp through one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest films. Adapted for the stage, it became one of Broadway’s longest-running comedy thrillers. With a cast of 4, this show has more than 150 characters to keep you on the edge of your seat.

May 7 – The 28th Annual Ride Across Clark County (RACC) sponsored by the Vancouver Bicycle Club WARNING! This event may be sold out. Check the Web site for availability of this scenic and popular day-long ride. Four loops to choose from – 18, 34, 65 and 100 miles

May 7 – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. National Train Day, Historic Train Depot, 210 Railroad Ave, Centralia, WA National Train Day commemorates the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s inception. Special displays and events will be in the Historic Railroad Depot in downtown Centralia.

May 14 – 8 p.m. Al Stewart Concert at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson. Remember the Scottish singer-songwriter’s 1976 hit Year of the Cat? Skamania Performing Arts Foundation, 541-400-9792

May 14 and 15 – Vancouver Symphony Orchestra conducted by Salvador Brotons. Concert times are 3 pm on Saturday and 7 pm on Sunday. Last regular concert of the season. The program will feature Concerto for Horn by Brotons. Roman Festivals by Respighi and Audience Choice (voting now closed).

May 14, 12-4 pm – Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Carty Unit of the Ridgefield NWR, 28908 NW Main Ave., Ridgefield. Artist Judy Bridges, Cowlitz basket weaver, will demonstrate basket weaving techniques. Visitors will have the opportunity to view examples of her basketry and ask her questions about her craft.

May 15, 12-4 pm – Cathlapotle Plankhouse Carty Unit of the Ridgefield NWR, 28908 NW Main Ave, Ridgefield. Artists Greg Robinson, member of the Chinook Indian Nation, and Greg Archuleta, member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, will be in the Plankhouse doing carving and Chinookan lifeways demonstrations. Visitors will be able to see some of their beautiful artwork as well as talk to them about Chinookan art and culture.

Hawaiian Chieftain (left) and Lady Washington cruising together in Grays Harbor near Westport. Photo by Ron Arel, Coastal Images.

May 18-19 – Nautical Renaissance The Port of Ilwaco welcomes back Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Tall Ships, The Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. Self-guided tours are hosted by the crew wearing period costumes. ($3 requested donation). Adventure and Battle Sails are also available. Visit the Web site for prices and other details. From Ilwaco on May 19th guests can book passage to Astoria where the ships will offer tours until May 22, coinciding with Astoria’s opening celebration of its 200th birthday. Contact the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority in Aberdeen (360) 532-8611 or (800) 200-5239 for details and schedules. Go to to track the ships’ locations and purchase discounted price tickets. (Note: There will also be a sail in Ilwaco on May 3rd.)

May 21-22 – 31st Annual Herb and Garden Festival at Pomeroy Living History Farm Thousands of fresh herb and garden plants, many organic selections plus entertainment, farm café, vendors and the herb garden. Admission is free.

May 28-30 – Memorial Day Weekend Clark County Spring Wine Release Visit 11 Clark County wineries in one weekend! See the Web site for details and maps.

May 28-30 – Memorial Day Open House Weekend at Columbia Gorge Wineries Visit more than 30 wineries and tasting rooms on both sides of the river. Details on the event Web site.

Wow, what a May! This is just a small fraction of what is scheduled. See you out there in Southwest Washington!

April 27, 2011   No Comments

Consider the Cranberry.

{Full disclosure from the writer: I love cranberries. This will not be an expose or even objectively reported. However, no free cranberry products were accepted during or after the researching of this blog post. We bloggers have our ethics, right?!}

Consider the cranberry. One of a very few fruits native to North America. Used by Native Americans for food, medicine and dyes. Named “crane berry” by Dutch and German settlers.

Ocean Spray, the cranberry grower co-op, which reports selling seven out of every 10 cranberries in the world, is out to educate us about the cranberry. Me, too.

Did you know these cranberry facts?
• U.S. cranberries are grown primarily in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon and, of course, our beloved Washington. Of those states, Washington ranks fifth in harvest size. I asked. Enquiring minds want to know.

• 20 percent of cranberries are consumed during Thanksgiving. I thought it would be a higher percentage. Then again, you can only eat so many cranberries during one dinner.

• Sailors used cranberries to prevent scurvy. I am married to a sailor. He has never had scurvy to my knowledge. It must be the cranberries I feed him. Case closed.

• Cranberries bounce. It’s true! I tested this statement at home. This, by the way, was discovered by a New Jersey grower named John “Peg Leg” Webb, who dumped his crop down steps because he couldn’t carry the berries. The fresher berries bounced. The rotten berries didn’t. This led to the creation of “bounceboards” which help growers separate their berries. Who knew?!

I will admit that I have had misconceptions about cranberries over the years. As a child, I assumed that cranberries came only in cans. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, a can was opened and a jiggly, red, cylindrical mass with grooves appeared on the table.

Years later, when I moved to the Northwest, I thought, like many, that cranberries grew in large ponds. Wrong again! Cranberries grow on vines in marshy bogs and, in the fall, are “wet harvested” when the bogs are flooded with water and the berries float to the surface or “dry harvested” with lawnmower-like machines. Something else I didn’t know – cranberries are perennials.

So how do WE celebrate the cranberry?
In Southwest Washington, we have apple tree and cherry blossom festivals, crab and salmon celebrations. The bog-rich, Long Beach Peninsula knows how to honor the cranberry. The Cranberrian Fair was first celebrated more than 100 years ago.

This year, the October festivities started at Ilwaco’s Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, which is well worth a visit with or without cranberries. There, 101 cranberry-peach pies were sliced by the ladies of the Willapacific Chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), who were raising money for college scholarships. A craft fair offered art plus cranberry products and baked goods. Cranberry bread, cookies, jam, sauces were featured. We immediately consumed pie and cookies, tasted cranberry chutney and purchased a five-pound bag of cranberries from a grower who was selling on the street.

Cranberries for Sale on the Streets of Ilwaco

The Cranberry Trolley

The Cranberry Trolley transported festival goers to the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation Museum and Gift Shop on Pioneer Road, where the bogs were flooded. Finally, I could witness a Northwest cranberry harvest – floating red berries, men in waders, machines that could remove and corral the berries. Of course it was pouring rain – a quintessential Northwest experience.

Harvesting the Berries

We learned about the history of the cranberry and industry in the museum. From cranberry wine to dental floss, the museum gift shop showed the diversity of these little berries. A salmon lunch was seasoned beautifully with cranberry barbeque sauce. Is there anything that you cannot create with cranberries?

One of the Cranberry Museum Exhibits

Cranberry Wine from K-W Cellars

Salmon with Cranberry Barbeque Sauce

The harvest may be over but the museum and gift shop are open daily (Apr 1 – Dec 15 and by appointment). And you can do a self-guided tour along the bogs. Don’t forget to buy some cranberries and start cooking. You’ll find recipes and a lot more on the Ocean Spray Web site. Why wait for Thanksgiving? I’m starting now with the Roasted Cranberry Quesadillas.

Floating Cranberries in a Bog

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October 26, 2010   6 Comments