Home + Garden

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).

I see Yellow with Tom Relth

“I See Yellow” is a series of paintings by Tom Relth that explores composition difficulties and pigment challenges, and you can see the whole sunshiny collection at Three Creeks Community Library through Sept. 24. Relth will give a special presentation about the exhibit at the library from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15.

The artist’s talk will include complimentary light refreshments and a chance to meet the artist and ask him questions about his process, his inspiration, his medium, and his style. Relth is an accomplished artist in many mediums, but he gained widespread recognition for his striking collage portraits, created from thousands of magazine pages, cut into tiny strips. Many of Relth’s works can also be seen at Boomerang, where he served as a curator for the coffee shop’s rotating art displays.

All library events and programs are open to the public and absolutely free to attend. Registration is not required. Three Creeks Community Library is located at 800-C NE Tenney Rd. in the Salmon Creek area of Vancouver, near Fred Meyer. To learn more, visit the I See Yellow event page or check out the library’s Facebook page.

Above image: detail from one of Relth’s “I See Yellow” paintings

Save the Date: St. Paddy’s for Parks

Things are greening up on the North Bank, and it’s nearly time for the ‘Couve’s biggest celebration of all things verdant during St. Paddy’s for Parks, the annual 21-and-over St. Patrick’s Day party at Shorty’s Garden & Home starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 11. Enjoy Irish food, music and festivities in a heated indoor space. Tap your toes to music from 5 Guys Named Moe, Vancouver Firefighters Pipes and Drums, and Molly Malone Dancers. Proceeds from the evening are 100% green, benefitting the Parks Foundation in its mission to support the parks, trails, and recreation programs of Clark County.

Advance tickets are $20 per person or $25 at the door, and include one complimentary drink. Tables can be reserved for $225 by calling 360-487-8370, or sponsored tables for eight are available for $500. Tickets and table reservations are available by clicking here. Shorty’s on Mill Plain is located at 10006 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd. in Vancouver.

But wait, there’s more! Come back to Shorty’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, for St. Paddy’s for Kids: a completely free event that’s just for kids. You and your wee ones will enjoy green-themed stories, arts and crafts, hands-on nature activities and more.

Dr. Who Fan Club for Teens

If your young Whovian is looking for a most excellent way to start the New Year, it couldn’t be better than the Camas Library’s Dr. Who Fan Club for Teens, which meets on the the first Wednesday of every month from 4 to 5 p.m. The first meeting of 2016 will be at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Normally, there are Who-themed games, trivia, snacks and crafts; but this time, Who-fans will be treated to “The Husbands of River Song,” shows on the big screen. This is the most recent Dr. Who Christmas special, which aired on the BBC on Christmas day 2015. BYOS! (Bring Your Own Snacks. Jelly Babies, anyone?)

Come in costume as any incarnation of The Doctor or his companions—Rose, Martha, Amy, Donna, River, Rory, or Jack, or whatever other obscure character you can find. Come as a Dalek but please, don’t exterminate anybody, although maybe you can make a soufflé (but where will you get the milk and eggs?). We dare you to come as the Face of Boe. The best costume wins a prize…and so does the person who’s wearing it.

The event is completely free, no registration is required, and it’s open to anyone entering seventh through 12th grades in any school district or with any home school organization. The evening is sponsored by the Friends and Foundation of the Camas Library. The library is located at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave. in downtown Camas. For more details, visit www.camaslibrary.org or see the library’s Facebook page.

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



Science on Tap: Crime Scenes

Have you ever wondered how crime scene investigations actually work? At the next Science on Tap, happening at the Kiggins Theatre from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15, Rod Englert of Englert Forensic Consultants will take you behind the scenes and explain how homicide investigations can test the limits of an investigator’s power of observation, intuitive thinking, and creative ability. He’ll walk you through the evidence of a homicide scene and show you how “everything means something.” Many case studies will be discussed, including high-profile and controversial murders where evidence is often in the details.

As you learn about crime-scene science, you’re invited to enjoy one of the many fine craft beers available from the concession stand and from the Marquee Lounge upstairs. Wine, pizza and other theater-style snacks are also available. Advance tickets for “Crime Scene Reconstruction: The Devil Is in the Details” are $8 and are available here. There’s a $10 suggested charge at the door. Science on Tap is produced in partnership with Washington State University Vancouver. The Kiggins Theatre is offering Science on Tap guests a discounted rate to see Ex Machina, which shows at 9:15 on July 15, for only $5 ($2 off the regular price).

Port of Vancouver Tours

What’s the number one thing people say after touring the Port of Vancouver USA? It’s this: “I had no idea!” There’s a lot going on at Washington’s third oldest port, and now there are six opportunities to see the port in action this year. These free, two-hour public tours showcase many of the industries that call the port home and provide a taste of the maritime industry and global marketplace. Guests may see massive ships berthed along the waterfront as well as some of the many cargoes handled on the Port of Vancouver’s docks, including steel, grain, minerals and automobiles. Interested? The dates for public tours in 2015 are as follows:

  • Saturday, March 7, 10 to 11:30 a.m.
  • Tuesday, April 21, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 21, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, June 17, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 18, 10 to 11:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 13, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Public tours begin at the administrative building, located at 3103 N.W. Lower River Road in Vancouver. Staff will provide a brief presentation about the port’s 103-year history, current projects and enterprises. After the presentation, guests take a bus ride around the port for an interactive tour of bustling marine terminals and expanding industrial centers.

Government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, is required to attend. Cameras aren’t allowed on marine terminals. Reservations are required and tours fill up quickly. Call the port at 360-693-3611 or e-mail RSVP@portvanusa.com in advance of your selected tour date. For more information about public tours at the Port of Vancouver USA, visit www.portvanusa.com/community/know-your-port.


Herbal essence

Simple holiday gifts from the backyard

photo by erin harwood

The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming! For some this inspires a flurry of creativity, for others it inspires a feeling of anxiety. Gifts to give, goodies to bake, how’s a busy person supposed to get it all done? It is possible to enjoy the holidays, celebrate the season whatever your heritage, and also be in the moment with your family. Keeping it simple and sustainable, here are a couple of clever and undemanding things you can do this upcoming season to share the love and joy that the holidays are really about.

During the holidays, gifts are commonly exchanged. Coworkers, in-laws and other relatives, hitting the stores…it can definitely be overwhelming. What you need is a recipe for a simple gift you can make from ingredients you likely have in your kitchen.

Herbal body scrub

Take one cup of fine sugar or sea salt, mix in 1/2 cup of olive, almond or apricot oil, 1/4 cup of honey, 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 10 drops of any essential oil (orange, mint, or lavender would be lovely). Place in a simple glass jar with a handwritten label. This will make a lovely gift, especially paired with a fair trade chocolate bar purchased from the outstanding Neighbors Market in Vancouver’s Uptown Village.

Herbal cooking salt

Add chopped herbs to sea salt for a simple gift for someone who likes to cook. Chop dried herbs, about two tablespoons, and layer with one cup of salt in a small jar. These herb infused salts are beautiful to display and also functional as they add wonderful, fresh flavor to dishes.

Herbal centerpiece

Your backyard or kitchen herb garden along with our regional trails can provide simple and fragrant decorations, too. Gather sage, rose hips, rosemary or thyme and tie around a candle with a ribbon or loosely arrange around the base of a candle inside a shallow decorative bowl. As they dry they will gently scent the air of your table and even help deter pests.

Holiday decor

Take rosemary or winter savory stems, and carefully bend into a small circle, tie with a ribbon and hang up to bring in a bit of the outdoors to decorate your home for the holidays.

Or, buy it the right way

In lieu of a homemade gift, purchase gifts made in others’ homes. A great event to stop by, which has an outstanding selection of sustainable, locally made gifts, is the Check ‘Em Off Green event, set this year for Saturday Dec. 14 at the Marshall Center in Vancouver. Simple, sustainable, and in the moment is the key for an outstanding herbal holiday.

Erin Harwood is one half of the dynamic herbal duo at Garden Delights, a mother-daughter operation based on five acres in Brush Prairie. They specialize in a wide variety of herbal products for people and pets along with fresh produce offered through their CSA. Everything is grown with care and thoughtfulness in partnership with Mother Nature and without chemicals. You can find them at the annual Farm Gals Holiday Market the first weekend of December at Half Moon Farms in Brush Prairie. www.gardendelightsfarm.com 

No pressure!

Canned foods

Food preservation, such as canning, allows for fresher food, few preservatives, a connection to the local food economy and cost savings. Basically, canning in-season foods provides an affordable, high quality product. An increase in preservation popularity means many people are ready for the next step after jams and fruit. Pressure canning can be intimidating – yet with a few simple steps – taking the leap from water bath to pressure canning is a snap.

Fresh fruits are suitable for water bath, or boiling water, canning because of their high acidity content. Fresh vegetables, meats and other low acid foods must be pressure canned due to the potential for botulism, a potentially fatal bacterium that multiplies in environments without oxygen, such as sealed canning jars, and is not destroyed by boiling water. Properly using a pressure canner which reaches a temperature of 240 degrees not only destroys botulism spores but provides a safe product that can be stored and used throughout the year.

Pressure canning requires a specialized pressure canner with a pressure gauge, valve and racks. Before using any pressure canner, whether new or used, have the rings, seals and gauge checked. Gauges, even those purchased off the store shelf, are often 1 to 1 ½ pounds off in measurement. The Clark/Washington State University Extension Master Food Preservers offer pressure canner testing for a minimal fee.

The most important aspect of pressure canner safety is taking the time. Clean and prepare the kitchen, and use highest quality meats and produce for the best quality end product. Follow the directions exactly in books such as The Ball Blue Book or So Easy to Preserve which details food preparation, processing times and pounds of pressure required. Visit any of the national Master Food Preserver sites for additional suggestions which provide safe, tested recipes. Above all else remember that following the instructions provided, using quality product in a clean kitchen, and watching and waiting patiently for the processing time to elapse will lead to a safe, delicious product that can be used throughout the year.

For Canning Fact Sheets, canner testing, and canning hotline information visit www.clark.wsu.edu or call 360-397-6060. Kendra Pearce is owner of Urban Farm School, found at www.urbanfarmschool.com.

Get Fresh!

Summer Steenbarger of Dee Creek Farm, Anne Lawrence of Storytree Farm and Erin Harwood of Garden Delights CSA and Herb Farm are holding their second F.A.R.M. (Farm Advocates Regionally Meet) event on June 21. Last October, the local farmers held their first annual Stocking Up event, where folks could purchase months worth of food for preserving from several different sources and make farmer connections.

On this year’s Summer Solstice, the trio is hosting Get Fresh with your F.A.R.M, an event where people can bring their home-canned goods for swapping with others to refresh the pantry and make room for this year’s harvest.

The canning swap is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and a Washington State University Master Food Preserver will be on hand to test your pressure canner for the season. From 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., there will be a workshop on “old school preserving” including fermenting, oil-sealing, drying and so on.

There will be a resource table for learning about local farms and possibly bonus glassware to take home.

This event is free and open to the public. Donations accepted. Location to be announced soon. Check www.facebook.com/GetFreshWithFarms for more information, or email getfreshwithfarms@gmail.com.

Home decor for the holidays

This year, trim with bright saturated colors, gold and natural elements

Winter holidays are upon us – and while your annoyingly well-prepared neighbor might already know exactly what they’re going to do to decorate, let’s be real: most of us are probably still trying to get around to putting away the stuff from Halloween. So what’s a person who’s short on time but wants their home to look great for the holidays to do?

According to local interior designer Carma Zarosinski, this year’s trends for holiday decor are fun and simple. Whether you’re inclined to give your whole house a makeover or just add a little zip to your table, Zarosinski laid out the basics for staying current during Holiday 2012.

“There’s hardly ever one rule or style,” said Zarosinski, who serves clients out of her Camas studio, Carma for Design. “This year,” she said, “there are two main prongs. One is strong, saturated and vibrant colors. Pantone, the world leader on color, came out with the color of the year this year being a strong, bright tangerine. You’ll see that infused into holiday decorating a lot, along with bright blues, purples, magenta – a lot of colors sort of in the Mediterranean color palette. And then on the other side, more pastel and subdued colors, especially blue.”

Organic materials and looks are also trending, and the main accent color she says we should expect to see is gold. “The big reintroduction this year is gold,” said Zarosinski. “In the past few years you’ve seen a lot of silver, but warm yellows and golds are going to be making a comeback this year. And anything natural or using that natural color palette: driftwood, bamboo, anything organic in nature will be really dominant.”

OK, great – now we know what’s hot – but what the heck do we do with that information? Zarosinski has a couple of simple ideas anyone can do at home.

“Add a little gold to what you’re doing,” she said. “You can find gold wire to use on wreaths, ribbon, and other small accents – it’ll be a really nice warm, yellowish gold.” If you have a tree to decorate, you can try adding in ornament balls in the gold and bright colors, or use them to make a wreath or a swag to hang indoors. “You can also try filling a clear glass hurricane with gold balls, and maybe throw in some of those dynamic colors. Or just try adding some gold ribbon to your tree. Little infusions of sparkle can be really easy.”

For those leaning more toward the softer hues, Zarosinski recommends dashes of pastel color with the natural elements – and, of course, a little sparkle. “You might try some driftwood-color, or woven mats for your table, and intertwine them with some gold ribbon. It’ll be a really nice juxtaposition of the earthy with the sparkle.”

Carma Zarosinski

Carma for Design

231 N.E. Fourth Avenue, Camas


360-834-6091 (o)

360-624-8220 (c)

Staying put?

Stage your home for yourself

photos by joy overstreet

“Why did I wait till I was selling the house to fix it up? Now it looks so great I hate to leave.” It’s sad, but almost every time I stage a home for sale the homeowner says something like this when we’re done.

Why give all the pleasures of an attractive home to future strangers? You could be enjoying them today in the home you intend to keep. After all, who deserves a welcoming and attractive living environment more than you?

The “Stayging” Process

Joy Overstreet1. Start by imagining you’re putting your house on the market. The first thing a realtor would do is a walk-through with you, pointing out the things that will turn off potential buyers: the dying shrub by the front door, the chipped paint on the woodwork, the cluttered countertops, the faded living room draperies, the stuffed closets. On and on.

2. Get help from a neutral party. Recognize that you may be blind to some of your home’s faults and ask a trusted friend (hopefully with a good eye) to do the walk-thru with you, helping you create a list of problem areas to address. Ask them to look not only for eyesores, but also for positive features that could be played up (or revealed, if they’re lost in clutter).

3. Declutter. It’s highly likely you’ve got too much stuff. Until you do some serious weeding out, your home’s best features may remain hidden. Most realtors suggest you get rid of at least 30% of it (furniture included) to give the home an open feeling that allows the energy to flow. Honestly, you will not miss these things.

A "stayged" home4. Make the necessary fixes. You know you’ve been meaning to replace the ripped screen door for years. Do it now. Patch and paint the woodwork. If you don’t want to do the work yourself, hire a handyman. And get rid of those tired towels and the grungy shower curtain – new ones are cheap and cheery.

6. Get your sparkle on. Wash your windows inside and out. Whisk the dust off your baseboards then wash them with a damp soapy rag, using a toothbrush in the corners if necessary to clear out accumulated dirt. Ditto around your bathroom fixtures and faucets. Really.

5. Finally, ratchet up your curb appeal. Use the color and beauty of healthy plants by the front door. Wouldn’t you love to be greeted this way every day?

Joy Overstreet, owner of Joyful Spaces, helps home and small business owners create environments that look and feel great. She offers many tips on using color, design and feng shui at her website, www.creatingjoyfulspaces.com. Or call her at 360-314-2467.

Friday Fiver: Lizzabeth A!

Sue Wall won $5 to spend at Lizzabeth A in dowtown Camas in last week's Friday Fiver!

Lizzabeth A is a home decor shop that carries accessories, furniture, table linens and tableware, wall art, lamps, candles, and much more.  Darren Gygi prints have just arrived in store this month!

Find Lizzabeth A at 415 NE Birch Street in Camas or call 360-834-6071.

Know of any business that would like to gift $5 to some unsuspecting shopper? email me


Gardening for life

Urban Farm School teaches people how to love their gardens


Submitted photo


Kendra Pearce and Toree Hiebert met in 2000. As soon as Kendra saw freshly canned foods stacked floor to ceiling in Toree’s house, she knew they were kindred spirits.

Both women moved to large acreages with their families, Toree to La Center and Kendra to Amboy and were farming and gardening for pleasure and food; pretty soon they had partnered up on a little Community Supported Agriculture operation, where they sold small shares of food they were growing. Eventually the two moved back toward the city, Toree to Vancouver and Kendra to downtown Ridgefield, where they continued to raise vegetables and ornamentals.

“We couldn’t give it up,” said Toree. “We had to do what we could in the
space we had.”

Toree worked as an elementary school teacher, while Kendra did environmental education for the Naturally Beautiful Backyards Program at Clark County.

“One day, I approached her and said ‘I had an epiphany,’” said Toree. “I was trying to find a way to bring everything together. I’m a teacher. I’m a mom who likes to grow good food for my kinds. I’m a farm girl at heart.”


Submitted photo

That epiphany is now known as Urban Farm School.

Complementing each other’s styles and interests, the two women have formed a company that capitalizes, if unintentionally, on a back-to-the-land trend among Americans that appears particularly strong in Southwest Washington. UFS offers more than 40 different hands-on workshops throughout the year, including classes on canning, extending the garden harvest, freezing and drying, different kinds of composting, basic garden design, seed saving and converting grass to food production. The classes are nearly all full in the summer and popular year round.

In addition, the women teach a series of family-oriented classes, lead local field trips and organize springtime and harvest sales and
seed exchanges.

Toree offers in-home garden consultations, mainly in the spring. She also offers ongoing tutorials, which begin with a one-hour consultation for $50 and continue weekly at $25 for a half-hour. Toree’s service bridges the gap between self-teaching and hiring a landscape designer, which can be much more costly. That said, the two are thinking about pursuing a landscape design certification for Toree to continue to add value to the company.

Kendra handles the organization’s outreach, including its website and blog, marketing and administration. For her, it is full-time work from her 100-year-old home and small urban lot in Ridgefield. In her spare time, Kendra cultivates an ever-expanding food garden and has started dabbling in ornamentals, with Toree’s encouragement.toreekendraatcsa

Urban Farm School’s “GardenforLife” parties are a particularly innovative offering. GardenforLife parties are privately commissioned garden parties hosted at a home or other place of the client’s choosing. Kendra and Toree offer activities and teaching on a theme. Friends, family or colleagues are invited to learn a new skill over the space of two hours. Some party themes include Fabulous Fruits, Container Gardening, Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Preservation Basics and From Lawn to Food: Starting your Vegetable Garden. Hosts are also welcome to come up with their own ideas. Each party costs $200 for a two-hour session that includes instruction, educational materials, door prizes and a host gift, and is limited to 15 guests.

“It’s like a Pampered Chef party without all the crap,” joked Kendra. Instead, she said, it’s about learning a skill with family and friends, “and keeping it for a lifetime.”

Kendra and Toree are passionate about creating a connection between food production and consumption. Too often, they hear kids saying food “comes from the store.” But they don’t bring their politics into the classroom. Kendra said their typical student is a mom who wants to get the most out of a little garden to feed her family, someone who says, “I want to do this, but I don’t know where to start.”

“We see that often this stuff builds community,” said Toree, who watches her students sharing ideas and stories after class. Some of these casual relationships turn into friendships.

Kendra has seen it at work in her own life.

“No one (in my neighborhood) talked to me until I put in the garden,” said Kendra. “Now, I know all my neighbors.”

Urban Farm School recently began offering brown bag lunches and intends to reach out to corporations and other organizations interested in bringing these kinds of skills to their employees. Each of the women is working on building a community garden in a different part of the county, and a dream of theirs is for Urban Farm School to have its own location, with a demonstration garden, classrooms and community space.

Students often wonder where the “school” is, said Toree, “as if they picture a little old one-room schoolhouse.”

She smiles as she says it, as if she can picture it too.

Community garden brings a bit of ‘Sunshine’ to Fruit Valley


Story + Photos by Temple Lentz

Hypothetical question: Say it’s winter 2008-2009. You’ve just bought your first house, you’ve moved across town to a neighborhood where you don’t know anyone, and the economy has tanked. What’s the first thing you do?

For Anna Petruolo and Lisa Robbins, the answer was clear: start a neighborhood garden.

On the surface, the idea is deceptively simple. Their Fruit Valley house in Vancouver has a huge yard, and Lisa and Anna wanted to grow their own food in a garden. When they worked out some numbers, the possibilities were staggering.

Anna Petruolo And Lisa Robbins
Sunshine Garden
Fruit Valley Neighborhood, Vancouver

“It turns out we have about 1,000 square feet of plantable space,” Anna said. “There’s no way the two of us could eat that much food.” Instead of scaling back their ambitions, they started to think even bigger.

The Fruit Valley neighborhood is unglamorous but charming. The houses are simple and functional, and the population is broadly diverse. One of the reasons the area is affordable for so many people is that it is somewhat cut off from the rest of the city.

“There is no grocery store nearby,” said Anna. “The only place to go is the Chevron station or the Minit Mart.” Urban farms and community gardens are increasingly popular ways for
residents to empower themselves, get healthier, and spend productive time outdoors.

Anna envisions the garden as a loosely organized neighborhood gathering place.

“Come by, help us weed for a little bit, and take home a few tomatoes. Or bring your own seeds and work with us to learn about companion planting and soils.” Toree Hiebert and Kendra Pearce from Urban Farm School helped plan the garden, and are interested in holding classes there. Within three years, Lisa and Anna plan to have vegetables, fruit trees, succulents, flowering annuals, and even an outdoor kitchen. Petruolo, a personal chef, is very excited about this vision.

“We want it to be full circle. You plant and tend it, harvest, and then come right around the corner and I can show you what to do with, say, 10 pounds of carrots.”

Grow the YWCA Community Garden

A reminder from my e-pal Glenn Grossman — thanks Glenn!

There are only 15 days left in the Umpqua Bank Click 4A Cause contest and the YWCA Community Garden project has fallen from a commanding lead to trailing by over 1000 points. If they win this contest, they’ll get $15,000 to devote to their project and they need your help TODAY. You can vote once per week, so that means you still have time to get a couple of votes in. Please click on the link, cast your vote, and help the fantastic folks at the YWCA win some serious money to help them with their community garden project!

I voted today! Woot!


Clark County ReStore to open


For those who haven’t heard, Habitat for Humanity is opening a Clark County ReStore, with a tentative open date of February 18. The ReStore is a recycled building materials re-sale center that financially supports Habitat for Humanity. The store will be located at 5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. Clarkcountyrestore.org is down for maintenance at the moment, but check back soon.

Thanks to Karen at Formations Design for the reminder!