A Green Life

Design nature play spaces for even the smallest yard

Garden columnist Eve Hanlin is a landscape designer and professional plant nerd in the Clark County, Wash., area. She has a knack for low-maintenance landscapes that serve a greater purpose. Her ultimate goal is to help others foster their passions for the botanical world and live healthier, more sustainable lifestyles. Visit her website, www.GardensByEvelyn.com for resources, and details regarding her design work, consultation services, and upcoming classes and workshops. Photo by Jessica Swanson

Study after study is proving that children benefit (physically and cognitively) from time spent in nature. Reduced levels of stress, depression, & aggravation, increased ability to concentrate, reduced risk of obesity and diabetes, and improved academic performance are just a few of the benefits.* Additionally, children love spending time outdoors when they have the space. Many people believe that their backyards are too small to provide the opportunity for nature-adventures, but this is never the case. You do not need a large yard, nor do you need construction skills, a large budget or hours to spare. Here are some things anyone can do to add more nature play space to their yard.

Bring in a diversity of materials

Sensory items are great for all ages. Most materials can be accumulated by networking with those who have an overabundance. Bring in rocks. Logs. Plants. Branches. Tires. Pinecones. These things aren’t necessarily fancy. They are often things that people with an overabundance aim to get rid of. These things will become toys and building materials.

Sandboxes, dirt piles, gravel areas, mulch, and similar provide fantastic opportunities for play (an old, small tent can become a perfect, shady, rain-proof sandbox that can be zipped closed).

Turn ‘inside’ toys into ‘outside’ toys

Plastic things can be easily cleaned, so why not get them dirty? Small figurines can be live in miniature twig forts and chairs made out of flower petals. “Clothes” for dolls and figures can be easily crafted from large leaves and rubber bands. Dump trucks are MADE for piles of gravel, sand, dirt or wood chips. A plastic kitchen set can make for mud pie heaven.

Plant things that:

  • Create a cool, shady play environment, or to grow into havens, thickets, forts and hideaways.
  • Can be picked and played with, are texturally interesting and interactive (snapdragons snap, herbs smell, and sword fern fiddleheads are fuzzy).
  • That attract fascinating wildlife and mimic natural environments.
  • That are edible and useful. Many fruiting shrubs can be more or less neglected and still produce tasty snacks. Kids can become very passionate about gardening, as well.
  • That are SAFE. No poisonous berries, thanks. If something is not safe, just be sure the kiddos are mature enough to be careful.

Whenever you can, start with larger plants to create play spaces as quickly as possible. The larger the plant, of course, the more expensive. However, the sooner plants can serve their function in the landscape, the better. Children grow up fast, sometimes faster than the plants seem to.

Consider a lawn reduction

When most people want to design a yard for kids, they first think that children need as much grass as possible for picnics and rolling around. While there are many fun things that require grass, children tend to gravitate to more diverse and interactive parts of the landscape. Most of the year in our Pacific Northwest, lawns tend to be too soggy to be much fun, anyway. Remember that soil should always be covered by something (like wood chip mulch) to reduce weeding and maintenance. Also, children love dandelions. Quit exposing children to lawn chemicals and let nature fill in. A few weeds will attract wildlife and inspire wildflower tiaras and weedy bouquets. Children can learn how to respect honeybees while watching them crawl all over clover blossoms.

Water, water everywhere

Water is so much fun! It’s also an imperative ingredient in mud pies. Leaf boats can be floated in puddles or bird baths. Bringing in water in the form of buckets, bird baths, concrete basins, mock riverbeds, and more can provide many opportunities for fun.

Build a fort, or three!

Many of us grew up with a fort in our lives at one point or another. If a fort cannot be made using materials onsite or carved out of a large shrub, they are easy to craft. Old blankets or tarps can be thrown over teepees or frames made of sticks. Bamboo poles of varying lengths, paired with string, can provide the opportunity for young people to gain construction skills. Forts can also be planted, such as a circle of sunflowers, beans up a trellis or shrubs along a fence.

Incorporate wildlife

Let young people help attract wildlife. This inspires a special connection with the creepy crawlies that will show up when the environment is right. Brush piles create havens for snakes and small critters. Compost piles attract decomposers and worms. Mason bees do not sting, and homes for them can be easily built and installed. Sheltered plantings around water sources attract dragonflies, frogs and bathing birds.

Embrace whimsy!

It is possible to incorporate kiddos’ specific interests into the outdoor space, as well. Do you know a young pirate? Seek out an old boat and bury it partway into the ground, so it doesn’t tip. Add a steering wheel and a flag, and adventure awaits. Have someone who loves little cars? Paint street lines on planks of wood. These can be put together and rearranged into roadways around the yard. The possibilities are endless.

*Learn more about the benefits of nature play in the article “Childhood Development and Access to Nature” (University of Colorado, March 22nd, 2009).


Columbia Gorge fires are sparking opportunities for progress on the North Bank.

There are many organizations in the Columbia River Gorge looking out for the the health of its environment, the lives of its people and the prosperity of its businesses. After a monumental event like the recent Columbia Gorge fires that engulfed the Eagle Creek Wilderness area in Oregon and jumped the Columbia River to burns parts of Skamania County last fall, impacts will be felt far and wide for months and years to come. A silver lining is that some of those impacts may actually benefit Southwest Washington.

These fires are a pivotal moment for the Gorge, which tends to be overrun with day-use congestion on the Oregon side in the summer. But Gorge Towns to Trails, launched by Friends of the Columbia Gorge, is poised to move forward on a multi-year vision for trekking on the Washington side. Renee Tkach is the project manager for Gorge Towns to Trails, an effort to make 200 miles of connected trails in the Columbia River Gorge that bridge Gorge communities on both sides, which are between five and 15 miles apart. The project is nearly seven years in the making.

After the fire: Connecting towns with trails

Tkach describes Gorge Towns to Trails as a “European-style hiking system” connected by shuttles, and sprinkled with lodges and B&Bs. The vision is to transform the Columbia River Gorge from a congested day-use area into a destination for extended multi-day vacations that lead hikers into the communities of the Columbia River Gorge, where they can enjoy the many home grown products like fruit, wine, beer, textiles, fish and so forth, boosting local businesses.

Currently, Gorge Towns to Trails is primarily focused on the North Bank.

Tkach stressed the optimal position of Washougal as the gateway to the Gorge. There is an opportunity for a 34-mile trail connecting Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Horn, Beacon Rock State Park and the Pacific Crest Trail as well as the communities of Washougal, North Bonneville, Stevenson and Cascade Locks. Right now the group is working to connect the remaining 2.5 miles of trail corridor needed for the Washougal to Stevenson trail section, and they have partnered with Port of Camas-Washougal to develop a new, one-mile trail that will serve as the west entrance for Gorge Towns to Trails. In addition, there is a planned expansion and restoration of Steigerwald Refuge, while connecting it to new trail moving east.

Further north, there are plans to connect the urban area of Lyle to the top of the 550-acre Lyle Cherry Orchard property owned by Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust.

“Vancouver and especially Camas and Washougal have really elevated their role in how they interact with this future trail vision. Now Washougal is funding the final connection, the Lewis and Clark Trail. It will be the gateway to Gorge Towns and Trails, setting the pace for the rest of the Gorge community,” Tkach said. “Camas and Washougal are incorporating it into their identity, and now Camas it calling itself a trailhead and developing signage.”

Friends of the Columbia Gorge launched Gorge Towns to Trails in 2011, in celebration of the National Scenic Area’s 30th anniversary and 40,000 acres of new public lands that came into place during that time. And much of the messaging was focused on clearing some of the congestion that had come into the Gorge. The group was exploring ways to disperse people’s usage. “How can we accommodate all these people coming for year round hiking, and the growth in population? The ‘walls and falls’ area had become so congested, it was Disneyland of the Gorge during the summer months,” said Tkach.

The group was already strategizing ways to motivate hikers and visitors to explore east Gorge gems like Stevenson, White Salmon and North Bonneville, when the fires began to rage through the Eagle Creek Wilderness.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge is in the middle of its Preserve the Wonder campaign, which aims to acquire and protect seven unique properties totaling more than 400 acres along the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. The centerpiece of that campaign is Steigerwald Shores, a 160-acre riverfront property adjacent to Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

“With the fire happening on the Oregon side, we have this prime moment in time,” said Tkach. “How do we hit the pause button in this area and develop these other trails as well as let this fire area recover naturally?” The US Forest Service, which is the Friends of the Columbia Gorge’s land manager, is not going to replant at this time, but rather let nature take its course according to Tkach. The famous Angel’s Rest was the hottest area, and the hardest hit, but many were relieved to see that the Gorge wasn’t a barren wasteland as the fires settled down. “It’s a mosaic burn,” said Tkach, “something ideal for the forest, actually.”

Rachel Pawlitz, a public affairs officer with the National Scenic Area, agreed with dispersing tourists and hikers throughout the Gorge, but cautioned that there is crowding on the Washington side as well, especially in places like the popular climb nine miles east of Carson, Dog Mountain. She said the Forest Service hasn’t “settled in our approach” to prevent crowding, environmental impact, parking and associated issues.

As land managers, it’s the Forest Service’s credo to help visitors “leave no trace” and to prevent people having to call search and rescue. Safety and environmental impact are paramount.

Showing the Gorge some love

In the meantime, the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance started a campaign called Show the Gorge Some Love, a month long push in October to bring visitors to the Gorge with special events, sales and targeting marketing of the 18 communities on both side of the river. Similarly, the “Kick Ash” Campaign was spearheaded by the Portland Business Alliance and encouraged Portlanders to head to the Gorge.

Even in Vancouver, unlikely alliances were being formed to support tree planting and the environment in the wake of the fires, including Sky Zone and Friends of Trees.

“In the wake of the Eagle Creek fire, Sky Zone Vancouver approached us with a dodgeball tournament fundraiser for Friends of Trees,” said Sam Erman, Friends of Trees Corporate and Business Relations Specialist. “They expressed their desire to volunteer with an organization in the Gorge once they had the opportunity but wanted to take immediate action for the environment. We partner with businesses in a lot of ways and are thrilled to be working with the business community in Southwest Washington.”

Jill Burnette helms the Columbia Gorge Community Foundation. They are not directly involved with relief or restoration efforts, but rather their role during the fire was to “help disseminate information,” to provide a clearinghouse of resources that were providing relief and services during the fires.

One of the unique things about the CGCF is that is serves both sides of the river, with board members representing every county in the Gorge, including Skamania and Klickitat County in Washington.

Burnette reflected that the fire and relief efforts were well under control, and she had heard a huge amount of gratitude from community members. “The workers were really efficient. They had never met each other and certainly had never worked together before. The entire effort was incredibly well managed.”

Because CGCF is a community foundation it simply manages permanent endowments. But they do an annual grant-making program, where area organizations apply for funding. “We may see fire and restoration in the next grant making cycle. And twice a year, our donor advised funds generally choose to make grants. Any of those fundholders may elect to support a group who is involved in fire support and restoration,” said Burnette.

The Archer Mountain Fire in Skamania County started on Sept. 5 from embers blowing over the river from the Eagle Creek Fire, which had ignited several days prior. A 15-year-old Vancouver boy has since been charged with reckless burning and other allegations. The Archer Mountain Fire burned 240 acres, and was contained by mid-September, while across the river, the Eagle Creek Fire is still considered active. It has burned nearly 50,000 acres and is considered 50 percent contained as of Nov. 9.

“The Gorge is a resilient place,” said Tkach, who lives in Skamania County just a mile from the north side fires. “It’s still there, it’s still beautiful.”

Story by Jessica Swanson
Photo by Mitch Hammontree

Waxing on about bees

Jacqueline Freeman is making a buzz in the field that chose her – beekeeping.

Originally from small towns in New England, Jacqueline and her husband Joseph Freeman moved to Seattle years ago and tried to be city dwellers. Soon, they discovered they just weren’t urbanites and in 2002 found 10 acres in tiny Venersborg in Clark County. While they didn’t intend to farm, today they have acres of gardens, pasture and forest, home to cows, hens, a goat, three cats, a dog and a few hundred thousand honey bees.

Jacqueline’s relationship with bees began when she was offered a hive from a couple that was moving from their house in Portland.

“I was fascinated from day one,” she said. “I was transfixed. I spent all this time with the bees. It wasn’t just a box of bugs.”

Over the years, Jacqueline learned about organic gardening, permaculture, and what really resonated was biodynamics, essentially a spiritual approach to organic gardening. She became a certified beekeeper and joined the Clark County Beekeepers Association. She quickly noticed most methods for contemporary beekeeping involved the use of chemicals and medicines to keep the bees alive and productive. But the more she listened to the bees, the more she knew she couldn’t take this approach. Her fellow beekeepers told her she would lose whole hives – and she did – but today she has ten working hives and a wealth of knowledge to keep them thriving. And the tides are changing – today, four out of the five officers at the bee club are fully organic.

After years of talking and listening to her bees, Jacqueline started writing down what she was learning through experience – and what the bees themselves were saying to her in her meditative sessions by their hives. Eventually, she had a book on organic beekeeping fleshed out. With the help of Susan Chernak McElroy (New York Times bestselling author of “Animals as Teachers & Healers”), she completed “The Song of Increase: Returning to our Sacred Partnership with Honeybees.”

The self-published tome was quickly picked up by Sounds True Publishing and will soon be translated into languages around the world. Jacqueline accepts invitations from across the country and Europe to talk about bees and meet with beekeepers.

Back at the farm, she offers classes of all kinds, and Joseph teaches a physical therapy technique he developed for horses. But the bees have become a central and sacred part of their journey.

Jacqueline Freeman
Friendly Haven Rise Farm
20309 N.E. 242nd Ave., Battle Ground



Plant this: Lettuce

Lactuca sativa

Capitada (head lettuce), crispa (leaf lettuce), longifolia (Romaine)

Start seeds in February for earliest transplanting

Ready to harvest in 45 to 55 days

Lettuce is easy to grow, and available in color variations from deep green to dark red and combinations of both. It takes up very little room and makes an ideal container plant.

Soil should be well-drained and should contain lots of organic matter. Lettuce thrives in cool conditions. Optimum soil temperature for lettuce is 55° to 70°F. Seeds will not germinate in soil temperatures above 85°F.

Start indoors in seed trays or peat pots in late winter a few weeks before final frost. Keep seeds and lettuce plants evenly moist to prevent tip burn. Leaf lettuce may be selectively handpicked from the outside of the plant for continuous harvest.

Slugs can be a problem; hand-pick them off the lettuce.

Plant This courtesy of Anne Lawrence, owner of local CSA, Storytree Farm. Please visit www.storytreefarm.com.



Usually, the items in this space are local, but I couldn’t resist this, since the kind folks of Georgia sent it straight to my desk, our feature is winter play, and our Excursion story is about a campground. Enviro-Log is a firelog made entirely of food grade “waxed old corrugated cardboard” (wocc), making the company the largest recycler of this material. These firelogs do not have any added chemicals or petroleum, so they are safe for campfires and chimneys alike. They burn up to three hours and produce less smoke than wood. I will admit, I haven’t tried it out, since I want to save it for a little later in the season. But if you have, let us know – we’d love to post your review!

Truly, a green life

photo by anne lawrence

Every detail of Garrett and Alyssa Hoyt’s life together with their five children is carefully choreographed with a purpose in mind. That purpose is the art and practice of truly living green – working hard to create a life filled with joy and meaningful relationships and a sense of community, while treading lightly on the earth. Their proving ground is their home on five fertile acres of land they call Five Sprouts Farm.

Their work is evident in every area of the farm. Near the front of the property, Garrett built a long wooden structure to support their hardy kiwi vines. One of Garrett’s handbuilt farm gates allows access to the sheep pasture. Colorful jars of Alyssa’s carefully preserved produce line shelves in an outbuilding near the house. Handbuilt by Alyssa, a wooden rack in the living room holds reading material for the children.

Stumps and tree debris

Following the design principles of Hugelkultur, enormous uprooted tree stumps are carefully positioned across the center of the property, awaiting the next step. (Hugelkultur is the practice of creating raised garden beds by mounding up piles of decomposing wood and then covering them with mulch, soil, and compost for the purpose of enriching the soil and conserving water.)

Garrett and Alyssa choose to use sustainable products at home. They use cloth towels, napkins and toilet cloths. They use vinegar and baking soda for cleaning. They try to minimize home energy consumption by keeping lights off and the temperature down. Whenever possible, they carpool, combine trips, ride bicycles or walk.

Providing the family with a plentiful supply of eggs, robust hens forage in the protection of a thickly wooded area, roosting inside a converted trailer at night. The family’s abundant gardens, filled with myriad vegetables including heirloom tomatoes and rainbow carrots, are productive enough to feed the Hoyts and also to stock produce booths at two weekly farmers markets.

In the spirit of community education, the Hoyts maintain a website and blog and have opened their farm to the public for educational field days and farm tours.

Garrett is involved with the Clark County Food Systems Council, and Alyssa has volunteered with the Master Composter/Recyclers program.

The family’s work load and lifestyle shifted dramatically this year when Garrett accepted a full-time faculty position at Clark College. For example, the couple’s formerly homeschooled children now attend public school. But their purpose is unchanged.

“I love the quote by Ghandi,” said Alyssa. “‘Live simply so that others may simply live.’ As we shift our society’s thinking from being the center of the universe to being a part of a worldwide system, I think we will positively impact the lives of others around the world.”  

The many faces of Botany Bay Farm

photos by anne lawrence

Busy raising their children on a quarter acre lot in east Vancouver, Mark and Cherie Sturtevant always knew they wanted to build a family enterprise. Having read and embraced the principles in Sally Fallon’s groundbreaking book, Nourishing Traditions, Cherie prepared almost all of her family’s food from scratch, but lacked land on which to grow that food. Daughter Heidi says that viewing the 2010 film documentary Food, Inc. was a “game changer” for the family. They wanted a deeper involvement in the production of their food.

Guided by Mark’s entrepreneurial spirit, the family began a yearlong search for land. In early 2011 Mark and Cherie purchased 34 acres with a large home in Brush Prairie, where the family of twelve founded Botany Bay Farm.

Botany Bay chickens in front of tent

That same year, daughters Heidi and Sarah, along with sons Joe and Caleb, and Sarah’s husband Camden, traveled to Swope, VA., for a day-long educational tour of Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. Cherie and Mark, along with sons Joshua and Christian, toured Polyface Farm in spring of 2013. From Salatin, they learned firsthand about rotational grazing and holistic farm management as a method to raise healthy animals and nutritious food without chemicals in a symbiotic relationship with the land. The three siblings returned to Brush Prairie overflowing with new knowledge and enthusiasm.

The Sturtevants planned the layout, cleared out overgrown blackberries, customized existing outbuildings, added and repaired fencing, and built movable structures for animal housing. In spring of 2012, the family launched a website and began selling to local consumers. The farm’s beef, pork, chicken, rabbit, eggs and lamb are all raised on pasture without hormones or antibiotics. Their supplemental feed is non-GMO and soy-free. They graze following a rotational cycle that regularly moves the animals to fresh pasture. No chemical pesticides or herbicides are used on the farm.

At Botany Bay, each family member works at his or her specialty. Daughter Sarah created the website. Son Joe, a computer science major, keeps the computers running smoothly. Heidi is responsible for marketing, and Caleb is the general manager, assisted by John. Maria creates the farm’s line of natural bath and body products. On harvest days, the entire family works together preparing the meat for their local consumers.

Daughter Heidi shared her love of the family enterprise: “One of the things I appreciate most about living on the farm is the many opportunities we have to work together as a family, whether it’s getting our hands dirty in the field or solving problems around the dinner table.”

Botany Bay Farm chicken and other meats can be preordered for pickup at the farm. The next pork harvest is scheduled for late October. Their whole fresh chickens are also available at Chuck’s Produce and New Seasons Market.

Botany Bay Farm


13513 N.E. 132nd Ave., Brush Prairie


Conway Family Farm’s ‘pet-stock’ provides milk and cheese for many


photos by jessica swanson

When Lorrie Conway was a young girl in 4-H, she defied her cattle ranching father – by raising a goat. When her eldest daughter chose a goat as her 4-H project 20 years ago, goats came back into her life. Now, she can’t give them up. So in addition to her full time job and homestead, Lorrie wakes at 4 a.m. each day to milk 15 to 20 Nubian does. “It’s my Zen time,” she says.

Lorrie estimates that she and her husband Shaun spend six hours a day with the goats, providing around 55 loyal customers with fresh raw goat milk every week from their Grade A raw milk dairy. She sets high standards for her products and the health of her animals, and she expects customers to bring the same commitment. She considers each customer a partner, and each must visit the farm and meet with her before becoming a customer.

The Conways also have a small farm store, where you can find woolen yarn and blankets from the farm’s sheep, the occasional dozen eggs, and a few other homemade products. In addition, there is a u-pick blueberry patch, and this year, the Conways built a cheese cave to store cheese made from excess goat milk.

The farm is a member of the Washington State University Clark County Extension Service Model Properties Program, and the Conways are always seeking innovative ways to keep their prices down while sustainably stewarding their partially wooded five-acre parcel. For example, the futures market indicated “no relief in rising feed costs,” said Lorrie. So this year, they put in a hydroponic sprout growing system, so they can feed their pastured goats fresh green grass daily in addition to alfalfa hay but at less than a third of the cost.

Over the last four years, Clark County has seen a rise in the number of small farms, but a decrease in the average acreage. In fact, when Lorrie and Shaun first moved on to their acreage more than 20 years ago, she thought they would eventually go bigger. But today, she believes they have cultivated a “culture of excellence” at their farm, by having to be discriminating and fastidious in all of their ventures. She says, “We are hell bent on showing people what you can do on five acres. It’s big enough. You just have to be efficient.”  

Harvest Days

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This year’s tour offers an inside look at a variety of farms, from stalwarts such as Kunze Farm and Bizi Farms to brand new family operations such as Botany Bay Farm and Five Spouts Farm. (For more on Botany Bay Farm, see the Green Life section on page 8.) Doug Stienbarger, WSU Clark County Extension director, said that in the last two to four years, while the number of small farms has been increasing, the amount of acreage each sits on is decreasing, which supports recent anecdotal evidence that there are simply more, smaller farms.

Eric Lambert, Extension Small Acreage Program coordinator, says properties of most sizes are welcome under the small acreage banner. It’s more about “how you intend to use your land,” he said. “If you have ten acres of lawn, it doesn’t really work, [but if you are] growing some food, raising some animals, and having wildlife habitat, it’s a good fit whether it’s 40 acres or two.”

The Harvest Celebration started in 1998 in Clallam County and spread to 13 or 14 counties in the state. While some counties coordinate a farm dinner and other events, Clark County farms are left to decide what they would like to offer. Most host a day’s worth of family friendly activities. This year, as in years past Northwest Organic Farms is hosting a popular garlic and tomato festival, which draws 500 people, and Half Moon Farm will put on a honey festival to celebrate bees and bee products. An apple fest is also in the works.

“We are trying to connect consumers with their food and agriculture products. Most people didn’t grow up on farms. They don’t know where their food comes from,” said Lambert. “Building relationships is one of the key goals of this event.”

A role for land stewardship education

Some of the farms on the Harvest Celebration Tour are part of the Model Properties Program, a collaboration with Clark County Environmental Services. Lambert said “landowners and farmers can show their commitment to land stewardship,” and receive a designation that they are implementing clean water management practices and good land stewardship on their acreage. These practices include guttering to reduce mud, fencing to keep animals from eroding streams, composting manure and covering compost, siting outbuildings to improve efficiency, properly storing chemicals and fuels away from wells and septic systems, keeping vegetation around waterways and wetlands, limiting bare soil areas and trying to keep a weed free pasture.

Lambert does a casual site visit of a property at the request of an owner, and makes recommendations that fit the above criteria. When the property meets the criteria, it receives a placard recognizing the steward’s efforts.

Several farms on this year’s tour are model properties, including Conway Family Farms, Five Sprouts Farm, Storytree Farm and Garden Delights Herb Farm and CSA, with five other properties in the county currently carrying the designation.

Erin Harwood is a farmer and co-owner of Garden Delights, as well as the previous small acreage coordinator.

“I would say it takes a lot of effort [to become a model property] – all of it well worth it!” she said. “Our family has owned our farm property for more than 20 years, and we have continually worked to improve it over time. This included improving our knowledge, experience and also management skills. While all of this sounds challenging, it is definitely feasible to become a model property! I suspect there are a lot of properties out there that would qualify, they just set such high standards for themselves – which is great and exactly why they would qualify.”

WSU Clark County Extension’s flagship course is coming up in September. Living on the Land: Stewardship for Small Acreages is a 12-week course that includes modules on soil management, best water practices, livestock and animal management, and “Turning Dreams into Reality.” This course is open to anyone who has land or is thinking about acquiring it. Lambert says that farmers who attend this class along with an early winter business planning class have a great shot at success on their land.

Staying connected

While the Harvest Celebration is a great opportunity to connect with farmers once a year, there are ways to connect year round, including an online Farm Finder accessible at http://smallfarms.wsu.edu/farms/locate_search.asp.

“A lot of people are demanding more local food, having that connection with your famer and supporting local economy,” said Stienbarger. “We are trying to preserve the agricultural roots that we have in this county.”  

Half Moon Farm’s 18 hives keeping their large garden and honey business buzzing

Bee Haven

 photos by jessica swanson

When Brenda Calvert’s husband Bob retired from the Navy 10 years ago, he was looking for a hobby. Already flourishing was Brenda’s garden art business and small farm on eight acres in Brush Prairie. When Bob became interested in beekeeping, it was a perfect complement to the business – obviously – and soon, it became a large part of the couple’s business.

“He got hooked,” Brenda said, “and then I got hooked.”

Bees are in the news a lot these days – and it’s never good news. This summer’s lowlight was a 50,000-bee pesticide death in Oregon that prompted the Oregon Department of Agriculture to place a 180-day ban on the use of dinotefuron, a pesticide based on neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide associated with massive bee die-offs. The couple currently manages 18 beehives, each of which can produce up to 250 pounds of honey in a season from a variety of flower sources. More importantly Brenda has become a leader in the beekeeping community, an advocate for bees and sustainable practices, and a mentor to aspiring beekeepers.

Half Moon Farm is a steward of bees and the land use practices they need to survive. When the Calverts moved onto their acreage in 1998, they cleared the overgrown blackberries with pigs, who uprooted the whole property and allowed the Calverts to avoid spraying toxic chemicals on their land. They have continued to develop their land in similar ways, sustainably and in tune with nature. The couple has various pollinator gardens, a large lavender patch with more than 400 plants of various European varieties, heirloom pumpkins and a variety of vegetables, fruits and nuts thriving in concert with a diverse wooded acreage.

Brenda does not use spray pesticides, rather opting for torching weeds, using boiling water on them or, if necessary, injecting them with apple cider vinegar or a “touch of Round Up.” She beams with pride at the amount of beneficial insects and other creatures living on the property, such as praying mantises and “about a million frogs.” For fertilizer, Brenda uses organic chicken and mushroom compost and diatomaceous earth. She raises chickens for eggs, which are in high demand, and this year, a few pigs are hanging out in the front garden. This fall, a new farm store will house all of Half Moon’s products in one place.

Half Moon is not a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, but instead its customers check for availability and then make appointments to come by and pick up produce, flowers and honey. Brenda grew up on her family’s land in the area and remembers “riding my horse to Battle Ground” and remarking that the landscape has truly changed since there were dozens of dairies dotting Clark County and bees weren’t dying by 30 percent a year.

There are a number of theories about why bees are dying at alarming rates – one of Brenda’s is that there are so many chemicals, their immune systems are simply breaking down and the hive cannot stay as strong as it used to. These days, bees need extra care. In the Pacific Northwest, the bees must be protected from the dampness, and to that end the hives at Half Moon Farms have eaves to keep the homes dry.

There is a bit of interest blooming in backyard beekeeping, but Brenda encourages pragmatism – taking a bee-first attitude. “Forget about the honey” she said, and concentrate on establishing the bees when first getting started. A hive of bees needs almost 100 pounds of honey to survive and they spend the first few years establishing themselves.

For more on keeping bees and bee awareness, email clarkcountybee@yahoo.com, or check for up-to-date local information on the Washington Beekeepers Association website: wasba.org/local-beekeeping-organizations/#2.  

Divine – again!

Divine Consign

photo by jessica swanson

A niche that does well in larger markets all over the country has only been in Vancouver about a month – upscale resale clothing.

B. Divine, a newly opened shop on 88th St. in Hazel Dell, is another jewel in the Divine crown, Vancouver’s ever-diversifying nonprofit operation. The best way to shop green is to shop second hand, and B. Divine offers a full range of dress, business and some casual wear for women, including clothing, accessories and shoes. The store is tastefully appointed and decorated with inspirational quotes attributed to various sources, including one by the dressing rooms from God himself: Thou shalt not steal.

For now, the shop accepts all donations in all seasons and keeps those for the 3,500-square-foot floor that fit B. Divine’s demographic – the rest are given away to other charity organizations.

Therese Mills, the store’s manager, shared a larger vision for the shop, which is to mentor young women in retail management and merchandising. Mills spent two decades with Nordstrom as a manager, merchandiser and national buyer, and she would be pleased to send women into the job market with their first reference and letter of recommendation.

“I have 20 years of retail experience, and can give back to the community in that way,” said Mills. The program, which is still in the drawing board is envisioned to be about six months, with graduates walking about with skills and expertise in the sales trade.

Mills is the only paid staff member, and hopes to be managing about 25 volunteers with twice monthly commitments, along with future mentorship participants.

Linda Glover is executive director at Gifts for our Community, which has run Divine Consign on Main Street in Vancouver since 2005, and before that the successful holiday shop fundraisers. She said the boutique “fits right in with what we do here” and is happy to be taking entering the fastest growing sector sector in retail – resale clothing.

GfoC grants dollars to arts, education and human services organizations using sales from its four retail operations, furniture store Divine Consign, B. Divine, Divine Bites (cupcakes) and Divine Again, an upholstery service.

Need fresh local produce? The hunt is over

County’s oldest CSA still strong and sustainable

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photos by jessica swanson

Hunters’ Greens appears to be the oldest CSA in Clark County. A community supported agriculture farm is one that allows membership in the form of a lump payment in order to sustain the whole growing season. Hunters’ Greens has continuously evolved since its inception as a CSA in 2001.

Jim and Diane Hunter live a simple life in Brush Prairie, where Jim does nearly all of the farming, until Diane is called in to manage the weeds when they get wicked in high season. They do not have any staff or interns. For $500 per season, which runs from June to October, customers get a variety of more than 20 vegetables and several tree fruits. Shareholders can pick up their produce at the farm, or opt for a drop off spot near Uptown Village in Vancouver.

Years ago, Jim encountered his first CSA on the East Coast, when he visited his brother who belonged to one. A few years later, Diane purchased a plot of land and Jim started his first farm on it, after having worked on farms during college, as well as the Pomeroy Living History Farm, where he and Diane met. Selling to the public started with a crop of carrots that went to HP workers who were looking to pool their money for fresh local produce. The farm, which was officially started in 1996, took about five years to get up and running and at its peak has had about 40 shareholders.

Diane’s passions are rescuing historic buildings and abandoned pets, so the couple’s acreage is dotted with both. Jim considers himself an activist, and uses farming as “a way to change the world.” His methods are truly sustainable, using as little nonorganic material as possible – the couple won’t put up a big plastic hoop house, for example, instead choosing to grow all their produce in the fresh air. The farm does not use any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

No longer the only game in town, today Hunters’ Greens is competing (and cooperating) with many other entities, such as the dozen or so CSAs now well established in Clark County, several chain and independent retailers, and numerous farmers markets. But their produce can be found in Neighbor’s Market and Dulin’s Cafe on Main Street, and in the hands of some two dozen loyal customers. Hunters’ Greens has added a winter share for $125, an all-you-can-carry/preserve one-time pick-up of winter veggies.

A green life

Hunters’ Greens

Brush Prairie



This CSA farm accepts donations to subsidize shares for those who can’t afford one.

Needy fare better with fresh food

Clark County Food Bank needs volunteers to take advantage of farm programs

Farmer John's Weeding

submitted photo

Clark County Food Bank is working hard to get fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables into the hands of the most needy citizens in our region. While most foods come from supermarkets and distribution centers, that food is canned, dried or otherwise processed and does not provide the same nutrients as fresh and frozen produce. The food bank’s farm and garden projects are expanding by the year, and are in deep need of volunteers on the ground (literally) to help plant, weed and harvest. To keep the food organically grown, a huge amount of people-power is needed.

John and Helen Pachl are entering their fifth season of offering food grown on their personal acreage to the food bank. A retired contractor, John Pachl is not a farmer by trade, but saw the need in the county and started growing what he could, using his own money and resources. This year, Fields of Plenty, as the food bank had dubbed the project, produced 36,000 pounds of produce for needy folks in the county. Seven acres of corn, zucchini, beans, peas, apples, peppers, grapes and plums were grown. Two to three tons of tomatoes alone were offered. Pachl has another 15 acres that could be farmed for the food bank, if only enough volunteers were available to take on the planting, harvesting and weeding necessary to take advantage of the offering.

Pachl also said he “might start asking for a little bit of help,” as the funds to make this food available are topping $10,000 a year for necessities such as fertilizer, lime, sprinkler heads, diesel fuel, and of course plants and seeds. Pachl bought a greenhouse, but got hundreds of starts donated from Chapman’s Greenhouse, a family-owned nursery in Orchards.

In fiscal year 2012, Clark County Food Bank distributed more than 3.9 million pounds of food products, resulting in over 121,055 emergency food boxes for distribution by partner agencies to their clients. Approximately 39 percent of those helped were children. Fresh food offerings, said Executive Director Alan Hamilton, helps the food bank accomplish its mission of “alleviating hunger and its root causes.” Kitchen volunteers are helping families learn how to cook simple recipes with inexpensive, easy-to-grow seasonal foods and enabling them to think differently about feeding their families.

Another fresh food initiative, the popular 78th Street Carrot Patch is heading into its fourth season. To help the Clark County Food Bank take full advantage of these offerings, email volunteer@clarkcountyfoodbank.org, call the number above or visit the website.

Clark County Food Bank

6502 N.E. 47th Ave., Vancouver



Plant This – Fava Beans

Fava Beans (Broad bean, Windsor bean)

Fava Beans

Vicia faba, variety major

Plant late winter, early spring

Well-drained soil

1-2 inches deep, 8” apart.

Used for centuries in the Middle East and Europe, this early season vegetable is gaining fans among health-conscious gardeners and eaters in the U.S. Harvested green, favas are shelled, boiled and served as a vegetable or roasted for a nutritious snack. Harvested after beans have dried, favas can be ground into a flour to make falafel.

Like peas, fava beans prefer cool, mild weather. Sow between February and March, when soil temp is at least 40 degrees. Windsor is an excellent variety with 5-6” pods containing three to five large, green shell beans. Planting in double rows will help support the large leafy plants. Harvest pods about 80 days after germination.

Many varieties of fava are used as an excellent cover crop for pulling nitrogen from the air and fixing it into the soil, adding biomass, etc.

One cup cooked fava beans contains 187 calories, 13g protein, 33g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, 1g fat.

Plant This is provided courtesy of Anne Lawrence at Storytree Farm.

A Green Thing-EcoMopeds



2416 Main St., Vancouver


Ever wondered what those nifty transports are next to the Starbucks sidewalk seating in Uptown Village? They are EcoMopeds, an alternative for commuters that is essentially a battery-powered bicycle. Two new models are available, and the bikes start at $699. They charge like a laptop – just plug into the wall and leave it alone for six to eight hours if it is completely depleted. The bikes do have pedals, so no license or insurance is required. A battery charge can last up to 62 miles, and a battery can last up to 350 charge cycles. All profits from sales of the bikes benefit Arnada Abbey, a local interfaith community.

Home on the Ranch

La Center homestead offers organic vegetables and place to lay your head

photo by jessica swanson

Coyote Ranch garden in La Center Washington

If anyone leads a green life, it’s Val Alexander and Kelly Lindgren, her boyfriend of 29 years. Alexander is the owner of Coyote Ridge Ranch, a family homestead that has become a gathering place for organic food enthusiasts, environmentalists, Native Americans and travelers-through.

Alexander bought her first 11 acres outside of La Center in 1964. Her husband had been a horse jockey and they traveled from place to place. When they started having kids, Alexander decided it was time to settle down. Later, Alexander added 49 more adjacent acres and then another 14.

Today, the property is home to several playfully named dwelling places, including the Lodge, Mary’s Chalet, the Treehouse and the Office. Her daughter lives in a house with her husband and children. Juan Vidal, the ranch’s manager, and his wife Laticia live on the property with their children. A small cabin built in the 1930s referred to as the Last Outpost sits at the very northern edge of the property and is inhabited by a renter.

The lion’s share of property is wooded, but the heart of it is about an acre of organic gardens featuring every kind of vegetable – many in unique raised beds – and several mini orchards situated around the space, as well as flower beds and two greenhouses. Coyote Ridge Ranch has a sparkling clean and organized u-pick station with a sink, scales, knives and so on to accommodate the farm’s customers. Eggs are often available from the resident chickens.

Alexander and Lindgren host harvest dinners in the long greenhouse, and this fall they are hosting visitors of the Grande Ronde tribe, who will canoe up the river and be transported to the Ranch. Alexander is a default member of the tribe, but descends from Cascade Chinook and Yakima. There are Native American symbols, memorabilia and photographs around the Ranch’s buildings.

Alexander opens her doors to like minded individuals for gatherings and stays. The couple has a special place in their hearts for environmentalists and green living, as evidenced in the unique features, furniture and decorations throughout their home. The front door of the Lodge came from the Department of Transportation building off of Main Street in Vancouver via the ReBuilding Center in Portland, as were many other pieces throughout the buildings. Antiques are around every corner, and every item has its own living story.

City Water

Watersheds Alliance bears new name and focus on urban landscapes

The Vancouver Watersheds Alliance, always a repository of Clark County’s most passionate and educated environmentalists, has gained even more visibility in the past years with a series of documentary screenings on green and urban issues. Monthly movies such as “Dirt!” “Dive!” and “Queen of the Sun,” which played at the Vancouver Community Library, take an in-depth look at humans’ impact on the environment, both urban and rural. The film series runs through June 26, and will end on that date with “Good Food.”

A free film and dinner series may seem like a strange fit for a Watersheds Alliance (formerly Vancouver Watersheds Council), but it’s in keeping with the VWA’s evolving mission – to educate and mobilize Vancouver residents around sustainability.

Bob Adams says the organization is setting its sights on the urban landscape and the impacts it has on watersheds.

“We want to educate people on what they do and how it impacts water,” said the new board chair, who is a contractor and landscape designer. Targeting issues like leaky cars and dog waste makes a large impact on the water that we all drink and use, he said. Even beautifying an “asphalt jungle” like Highway 99 in Hazel Dell can have an impact on the way people think about their surroundings and what goes into the water, said Adams. He said in new suburban developments, stormwater drainage infrastructure keeps rivers and creeks cleaner, but in older areas of the city, keeping waste out of water is much trickier.

Adams, who has worked on more than 25,000 square feet of green roof projects in the region, would like to help businesses step up to more innovative projects, such as using plants to cool buildings and keep excess water out of the storm drains.

Adams said the organization, whose strong focus is on community partnerships, is making an effort to expand its grant program to more neighborhoods this year. The Alliance makes small grants to neighborhood organizations for projects such as the recent rubberized sidewalk over tree roots in the Hough Neighborhood, and the new community bulletin board project in the Lincoln Neighborhood, as well as subsidizing street tree plantings and much more. Adams said they would like to reach some neighborhoods they have not previously made grants to, and help neighborhoods without strong organization coalesce over a funded sustainability project.







submitted photo

Vancouver Watersheds Alliance


What is a watershed?


Earth Mama Angel Baby Products

Earth Mama Angel Baby products were developed by a Clackamas-based nurse that noticed many of the products her patients were using were not only not safe and natural, but were not even benefitting the mamas and babies using them. The Earth Mama line includes organic and sustainable products for pregnancy, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, babies and families. Most recently, the company has added a line of product and support materials to help parents deal with the loss of a child. Many of these products can be found at central Vancouver boutique and parent-baby wellness center Santé Mama.

Sante Mama products

Found at Santé Mama

113 N.E. 92nd Ave., Vancouver



Help redesign Fourth Plain public transit!

Did you know?

One out of every three C-TRAN riders uses the Fourth Plain Boulevard transit corridor. With over 6,000 trips provided each day it is the highest ridership corridor within C-TRAN's system. In recent years, transit travel within the corridor has suffered with longer and more unpredictable travel times caused by traffic congestion, bus overcrowding and difficulty getting to and from bus stops.  C-TRAN is attempting to solve these problems through the Fourth Plain Transit Improvement Project whose planning effort is funded by a Federal Transit Administration grant.

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the community is invited to participate in a design workshop to help craft transit solutions for the Fourth Plain corridor. The Wednesday workshop takes place at Clark College's Gaiser Hall Student Center on Fort Vancouver Way, between Fourth Plain and McLoughlin boulevards in Vancouver; and the Saturday workshop will be held at the C-TRAN's Administrative Office, located at 2425 N.E. 65th Ave., Vancouver.   

Breakout sessions will allow participants to choose which part of Fort Vancouver Way and Fourth Plain they would like to help design, while real-time design visuals will be displayed for participants to have an immediate vision of their transit solutions. The workshop also provides participants with a brief overview as to why transit improvements are needed along Fourth Plain Boulevard and a basic understanding of how Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) operates. 

At their November meeting, the C-TRAN Board of Directors approved lane concepts for BRT and design parameters for Forth Plain Boulevard. As a result, the project is now moving towards the development of both BRT and non-BRT solutions for further evaluation. The transit solutions that result from this workshop will be presented to the project's Corridor Advisory Committee and Project Management Team in early December.

The top two or three options that surface during this planning phase will be evaluated over the next six to eight months, with a final decision on the preferred alternative expected by the C-TRAN Board of Directors in the summer of 2012. C-TRAN will then begin seeking federal funding to design and eventually build the selected transit project.  Local funding for construction, operation and maintenance costs for the tr  ansit line will be included in a potential ballot measure in the fall of 2012.

Buy Local Gift Guide: Pick it up on stands today!

Here are a couple of suggestions for buying local this holiday season, from our gift guide in the new North Bank Magazine, out on stands today!

Suburban Contessa
www.suburbancontessa.com, various shops | Facebook

Vancouver-based Suburban Contessa offers three flavors of caramel corn that are available through its website and at stores throughout the region. In addition to the purveyor’s Traditional Caramel Corn, Sweet with Heat is Traditional with added pepper, and Sweet and Salty is Traditional with Hawaiian sea salt, just rolled out in September. The popped corn is available in 6 oz. bags for $5.25, and a variety gift pack featuring a bag of each for $14.95.


Solstice Wood Fire Café
415 W. Steuben St., Bingen
509-493-4006 | Facebook

A trip to this restaurant is a gift to the whole family. A laid-back atmosphere and kids’ area will make anyone who walks in the door feel comfortable. And the pizza (local, seasonal ingredients plus brilliant pairings) will make you feel like you’ve died and gone to a four-star restaurant in a big ol’ city. As for gifts, I recommend a gift certificate of any size, a T-shirt featuring Solstice’s gorgeous logo, or a quart of the famous Moroccan Beef Stew. Bonus! Among the 50 best pies in the country, according to Food Network Magazine: Solstice’s Country Girl Cherry pizza.


Navidi’s Oils and Vinegars
322 N.E. Cedar St., Camas
360-210-5921 | Facebook

Give salt of the earth for a gift this year. Navidi’s Oils and Vinegars has an impressive selection of just what their name says, but don’t miss the gourmet sea salts, almost two dozen of which are available, including White Truffle, Alaea Red, Cyprus Flake and Northwest Alderwood Smoked. Sea salt is a great alternative to table salt and a fun addition to the holiday feast.