Featured North Bank magazine stories

This category features stories from North Bank magazine.

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).

Don’t miss out on Lake Merwin

What is so special about Lake Merwin? My friends and I all love to take our kids there. Though most of my friends are bringing their families from nearby Woodland, Yacolt and La Center, I relish the occasional trek from downtown Vancouver to clear my head and let my kids run and play in the crystal clear lake.

Lake Merwin is a reservoir on the East Fork of the Lewis River. The lake is cool and clear even on the most scorching of summer days Vancouver seems to be suffering lately, and worth paying a visit in the cool days as well.

Merwin Park, at the west end of the Merwin reservoir, is open year round for swimming, boarding, fishing and general hanging about. The park can accommodate big groups of people, with 250 parking spots and 135 picnic tables. Merwin Park is especially family friendly, with a playground, clean and spacious restrooms, and hiking trails. Speelyai Bay Park at the east end is also open for day use year round. Smaller but equally as beautiful as Merwin Park, Speelyai offers a busy two-lane boat ramp, another 250 parking spots, but only 25 picnic tables.

Cresap Bay campground, east of Speelyai Bay Park, is open the Friday before Memorial Day and closed September 30. So consider making campsite reservations now for the busy time. Reservations can be made up to nine months in advance, and considering the increasing pull of the East Fork, it’s a good idea to be planning ahead. Cresap Bay Campground has a swimming beach, 56 overnight campsites and a group camping facility with 15 sites, a covered shelter and a fireplace. A two-lane boat ramp and 23-slip marina are available to overnight guests.

While you won’t be able to camp at Lake Merwin yet, take a day trip to two to this spectacular portion of the Upper Lewis River during one of our many beautiful spring days.

photo by evans burik


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



Fuel runs on fresh and foraged farmer-driven foods

story + photos by kendra pearce

Fuel Bistro and Wine
109 S. 65th Ave., Ste. 108, Ridgefield


Fuel Bistro and Wine has cut its teeth and is embracing its second autumn tucked away in the unlikeliest of places, the Ridgefield Junction. Although the location is peculiar, the menu and chef are remarkable.

Sebastian Carosi is exactly what one would expect from a man who has chosen local food as his life’s path leaving a wake of national and international accolades behind him as he moves toward new food passions, projects and continued community activism. Unapologetic for his beliefs, unflinching in his choices, and nearly unequalled in his talents for providing inventive local food, Carosi has provided yet another affordable place to enjoy the best of the region.

The menu, a simple piece of paper, the Slow Food Snail and Monsanto Skull and Crossbones in the corner (a direct reflection of the tattoo on Carosi’s wrist), and a wine list that showcases Fuel’s understated yet consistent message to their patronage – eat local. “Every wine served here is from Oregon and Washington; I know the winery or I won’t sell it” is Carosi’s philosophy and reflected in his staff’s ability to discuss the wine and food at length.

The fare is more than one expects from the minute kitchen – salads, soups, single plates and sandwiches, but the ingredients are what make this place work. A thoughtful seasonal menu reflects Carosi’s foraging passions and his ability to seek out the best regional ingredients, including salt from Jacobsen’s, cheese from Cascadia and Rogue creameries and bitters, nettle and mushrooms from Carosi’s forays.

While the summer menu boasted tomatoes from Ridgefield’s own Northwest Organics, the autumn menu focuses on heartier flavors. Carosi has brought back a favorite: the slightly spicy, incredibly flavorful vegetarian Farmhouse Soup, as well as new additions – mushroom strudel featuring foraged chanterelles in a mustard cream, and the smoked salmon club with applewood bacon, smoky mayonnaise on pumpernickel served with a side of lemonade vinaigrette dressed greens or fresh kettle chips.

There are many places that have jumped on the local food bandwagon; Fuel Bistro and Wine has the unique fortune of having a man behind the food that is a true pioneer in the concept. You won’t find artificial sweetener for the tea, you will pay extra for bread and fat, and you will find that Carosi and staff truly believe that “food and wine are a passion-driven business; it comes from your heart and your hands.”


Opus School of Music charts new course in Camas

Opus School of Music, in Ridgefield since 2006, recently set up shop in a Camas house on Northeast Second Avenue with two pianos donated from Portland Piano Company and, seemingly, a line of students out the door.

Director Rob Melton chose Camas because he wanted to locate in a community that has “great school teachers” and “families that invest in their kids.” When a friend, Dave Pitassi, ultimately led Melton to the space the school occupies now, a practice room was named after him. Room naming is an important part of the Opus aesthetic — all the rooms in the school are named after different people and things — and it lends an air of aspiration to greatness and gratitude for support.

While the school offers individual and group lessons from pre-K to adult, light retail and rentals, what sets it apart from similar schools is the jam band. All classes participate in performances and recitals throughout the year, but the jam band is a different beast. All students learn four of the same songs, including The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Brown Eyed Girl and pick up gigs around the county throughout the year. A performance might include between four and twelve kids running through their set twice. Often, previous students join in, and there are always extra bongos and shakers for audience participation.

In addition to the jam band, the Polyroux Music Festival takes place at the Old Liberty Theater in Ridgefield and showcases local and rising talent. The festival, founded and curated by Melton, has just completed its fifth year. The Autumnal showcase is, of course, each fall.

“The idea is that music is meant to be played for people,” said Melton, adding that he was “bummed out” taking lessons as a child only to learn that he had to “find that community” on his own.

Today Melton is a graduate of Portland State University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in piano performance and a Masters in Teaching Music (MAT). He used a captivating Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 for the new venture. Families are included at every turn. A cozy backyard deck, front yard raised bed garden and comfy sofas inside the front door welcomes all to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

CRESA Community Expo

Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) will open its doors to the public during its annual CRESA Community Expo from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. The event will take place in downtown Vancouver on 13th Street, between Franklin and Ingalls Streets.

Activities planned for children of all ages include face painting, button making, games, and exploring emergency vehicles—in addition to meeting firefighters, police officers, search-and-rescue dogs and horses. Kids can stop by the information booth to receive a passport on which they can collect stickers. Local businesses like NW Natural Gas, Corwin, and Frito Lay have generously donated hot dogs, chips, and beverages available for free to attendees (while they last, that is!).

Enjoy a demonstration by the Sheriff’s K-9 team or learn hands-free CPR. The local SWAT team, firefighters, and members of search-and-rescue groups will all be on hand. Explore the latest in public safety vehicles, including an armored personnel carrier, a heavy rescue vehicle, fire engines, ambulances, and police command vehicles. Tour the 9-1-1 center and see dispatchers in action taking emergency calls, get a sneak peek inside the workings of CRESA’s Emergency Operations Center, and talk with Homeland Security representatives, a National Weather Service meteorologist, and amateur radio technical experts. For more details, visit cresa911.org.

National Trails Day

On Saturdays, June 6 and June 13, you can “park” for free in honor of National Trails Day (June 6) and National Get Outdoors Day (June 13). On these two days, the day-use fees will be waived for all local trails and in national parks. These are only two of the six fee-free days offered by the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service during 2015. The remaining fee-free dates this year are Sept. 26 (National Public Lands Day) and Nov. 11 (Veterans Day).

National Trails Day on June 6 encourages people to hike on their National Forest trails Saturday, and to volunteer to help keep them maintained and enjoyable for everyone. V isit www.americanhiking.org/ntd-events for volunteer opportunities.

The fee waiver applies to day-use fees at U.S. Forest Service recreation sites in Washington and Oregon, and the many trails in nearby Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This includes many picnic areas, boat launches, trailheads and visitor centers. Concession operations will continue to charge fees unless the permit holder wishes to participate. Fees for camping, cabin rentals, heritage expeditions, or other permits will not be waived.

Above photograph: a springtime view of Mount St. Helens. See more when you visit the The Forest Service-Gifford Pinchot National Forest Facebook page.

Fall North Bank Magazine

North Magazine Autumn CoverWhat’s wildly popular this season, goes with everything, and makes you look ten pounds thinner? Fall’s trendiest new accessory is nothing other than the latest edition of North Bank magazine. (OK, we can’t guarantee that the magazine will make you look thinner. But it WILL make you look smarter!)

You can view the entire issue online at this website—just scroll down a bit; it’s on the lower right-hand side, underneath the calendar listings—or you can get the print version for free at savvy stores, restaurants, coffee houses, and brewpubs all over Southwest Washington. You’ll also find it in doctor’s offices, business lobbies, and government buildings. If it’s not there, ask for it! New issues get snatched up faster than free coffee. And if you visit someplace that you think would look nicer with a North Bank magazine on its premises, call the Vancouver Business Journal at 360-695-3056 and we’ll invite that establishment to join our illustrious circulation list. In the meantime, here’s what you can expect to find inside North Bank magazine:

  • A sneak peek at The Grocery Cocktail & Social, opening in October in downtown Vancouver
  • Three fall drives with stunning views and unsurpassed North Bank charm
  • A closer look at Gorge Delights, makers of the two-ingredient JustFruit bars
  • Kids in the garden, both at home and at Mini Mozarts Preschool
  • Rethinking traditional education with WSU Vancouver’s 25th anniversary and yoga balls in elementary classrooms

Do you have an idea for a story, or know about something new, innovative, delicious, green, sustainable, community-minded, or just plain awesome happening on the North Bank? Contact editor Jessica Swanson at 360-695-2442 or jswanson@vbjusa.com.



Shorewood Cafe: Right, At Home

Tucked into the Shorewood Apartment complex just off SR14 on the bluff, the Shorewood Market, Cafe and Bar is a unique community feature. But you don't have to be a resident of the apartments or the neighboring Shorewood Condominiums to enjoy this little gem of a restaurant.

Owner Adrienne Foster has worked her whole life in the restaurant business, and she's clearly a natural at creating a welcoming environment. Walking into the cafe it feels like a vibrant community hub. The apartment/condo residents make up much of the customer base, but they also help Foster advertise outside the complex via old-fashioned word of mouth.

According to Foster, the apartment complex was built in the 1960s, and the space has always been either a market or a cafe. As last May, it's both with a new bar providing just one more reason to stop in for a bite. The market portion offers an array of staple foods, local condiments and refrigerated beverages. Though it isn't a huge space, it feels spacious with ample seating in the small bar, a comfortable dining room and open kitchen.

Lunch and dinner are served seven days a week and breakfast is served on the weekends, including an all you can eat Sunday Brunch Buffet. Perhaps the outstanding feature of the cafe menu is the charcuterie sandwiches. Canadian-style ham, smoked turkey, pulled pork and pastrami are all made in-house. On Fridays, you can also enjoy house smoked salmon chowder. Weekly dinner specials are new to the menu, and every Friday is all you can eat Fish n' Chips. A generous appetizer menu is available all day as well.

“When they come in for the first time, people are always pleasantly surprised by our offerings,” Foster said. “They also can't believe the prices.”

It was difficult to decide, but I opted for the Reuben Panini with a side of Shorewood's Signature Fries. The Reuben came on marbled rye bread and the house pastrami was a beautiful burgundy. The sandwich was pastrami heavy with sauerkraut, and just enough Thousand Island dressing and melted Swiss cheese to enhance the flavor. The Signature Fries were subtly seasoned with rosemary and garlic, topped with crumbled blue cheese and served with blue cheese dressing for dipping.

I hope to get back there to sample the Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon and Lobster dinner special sometime soon. And, I'd top it off with a homemade cookie for dessert!

photo by mary preiser potts

5555 E Evergreen Blvd, Suite D, Vancouver
Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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The Photography Issue

We flashmobbed Dan. We had to.

I had arranged for five photographers to meet on a sunny weekend afternoon and shoot up some rolls. But Daniel Wickwire, he couldn’t make it. He was engaged in the (admittedly) nobler pursuit of keeping Gallery 360’s doors open for the afternoon. I tried to convince him to come – no go, no how – and then warned him we might have to pop in.

When Julian Nelson, Kelly Keigwin, Sam MacKenzie and Trevor Warren showed up at Torque Coffee cameras in hand, game to engage in an afternoon of they-didn’t-really-know-what, it was agreed immediately – we’d mob Dan at 360. So the photographers lugged all their equipment a few blocks north, and lit up Ninth Street for an hour. Dan was a great sport, and not surprisingly, we got our absolutely perfect cover shot of fellow shooter, Julian Nelson, setting up the shot you see here on this page. Trevor nabbed headshots of Kelly, Sam, Dan and Julian, and Sam shot the cameras themselves, who, let’s face it, are the stars of this show.

Damn the limits of print, but for more from our shoot, our photographers, and some quotes from a beautiful group interview we did on photography and the art of living, check out our blog, The Photography Issue, at northbankeditor.tumblr.com.

Jessica Swanson, editor

Sam MacKenzie mugSam MacKenzie

Sam MacKenzie is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, farmer, and lifelong Vancouver resident. She began working in darkroom photography while pursuing a media studies degree at Scripps College and later earned a post-baccalaureate in photography at Oregon College of Art and Craft. MacKenzie has a particular love for the darkroom, alternative processes, and low-tech cameras. One of her favorite alternative processes is the albumen print, a hand-coated paper. MacKenzie mixes her own albumen solution from eggs from her chickens. Sam was a member of Sixth Street Gallery and served as president of its parent non-profit MOSAIC Arts Alliance for three-and-a-half years. Her photograph Harvest was the promotional image for Clark County Historical Museum's Sustaining Change on the American Farm exhibit, and she was the graphic design artist for the Boomer! exhibit. She is currently working on a collaborative art project with her wife, Kelly Keigwin, called Love is a Radical Act.


Trevor WarrenTrevor Warren

Trevor Warren is a second generation photographer who grew up in Vancouver’s Lincoln Neighborhood. His first job was delivering newspapers at the age of 12, and now Warren has a studio just blocks away from his old paper route. Warren began his photography career photographing fashion and beauty but in recent years has become passionate about portraiture. Warren employs some of the abstract and creative techniques he learned shooting fashion to his portraiture creating truly unique images of everyday people and children.

George Hope

Julian Nelson Julian Nelson

A native of Hannover, Julian is professor of German and the director of the German Studies Program in Berlin, Germany, at Clark College. Julian has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and some of his academic interests are World Literature, Philosophy, Modernist Aesthetics, Contemporary Theory, the Weimar Republic, and advertisement and popular culture.

Other interests include a passion for travel, fencing and traditional, large format, black and white photography with a particular emphasis on portraiture. Julian has had a life-long love of photography in all its forms, but prefers the medium of traditional, analogue film. His camera of choice is a 4×5 Linhof Technika III from 1952 with an assortment of vintage lenses. He develops all of his silver gelatin prints on fiber paper in his darkroom.

Julian lives in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, daughter, two cats and Penelope, his adopted dog.

Jamie SuckowJamie Suckow
Facebook: Jamie Suckow Photography

One of twelve children, Jamie Suckow was born and raised in the Vancouver area.

She juggled working at Sargo's, Rocky's Pizza and Battle Ground City Hall before marrying her wonderful husband, Dan, in 2004, and moving on to work full-time for the Vancouver Public Library. In 2006, the couple decided to start a family of their own.

Suckow now subs, on occasion, for the library system, but children have become her world and leave little time for much else. Feeling that her artistic side was put on the back burner after children, she picked up a camera, found she had an eye for photography and a new love ensued.She still considers herself a freelance/hobbyist photographer, but does make herself available when somebody calls upon her services. She loves to capture the expression in a child's face, the soft glow of an expecting mother, the joy of family and the beauty of nature.

Posing girl

Kelly KeigwinKelly Keigwin

Kelly Keigwin is a professional artist and instructor who lives in Vancouver. She works in photography, mixed media collage, and ceramics. In addition to using film and digital cameras, she often utilizes found imagery, text, paint and recycled materials in her work. Her most recent works include I Am Woman, a collaborative work with Vancouver artist Sam MacKenzie, The Things We Carry, a collaborative work with Portland artist Chris Haberman, and The Real Americans. Keigwin has been published in Juxtapoz magazine and is represented in private collections in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. She is exhibited nationally and holds a B.A. from Washington State University.

Keigwin currently is an instructor at Oregon College of Art and Craft, teaching Digital Photography Essentials (Grades 9-12) and Intro to Digital Photography for adults. She also is a blogger for PQ Monthly, the co-chair of Equality SW Washington’s Queer Art Project, and co-founder of Love is a Radical Act, an interactive art project. Keigwin also created Fear is a 4-Letter Word, an on-going blog/zine project that offers support and positive reinforcement in what can be a negative and lonely world.

Green Chair

Daniel WickwireDaniel Wickwire

Daniel Wickwire creates his art through photography. His early work was dominated by quiet mono color landscapes. This slowly evolved to include a more personal focus. His style has been described as emotive and sometimes melancholic. He often gravitates to these themes and believes that this flows from his “inner workings” and his processing of the information rich world around him. In recent years he has created strong portraits of interesting individuals. He seeks out opportunities to experience uniqueness, vulnerability, strength, wisdom, relationship… all of the wonderful qualities that we possess as fellow human beings. Wickwire lives and photographs in Vancouver.


Something old, something cool

Go vintage and your gift could be the most unique one under the tree

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photos by mary preiser potts

If you’re on a mission to keep it local this holiday season, consider the advantages of giving vintage, antique and re-purposed gifts. Not only is it friendlier to the environment, it can be easier on your budget as well. The following are a handful of shops in downtown Vancouver where you’ll find a selection of unique and useful treasures with personality, pizzazz or a pinch of whimsy. PS: Check out our excursion to Kalama on page 14 for more antiquing opportunities.

The Cat’s Pajamas

1411 Broadway Street



If sheer variety is important, The Cat’s Pajamas should be at the top of your list. The space is not huge, but it’s well-utilized and the displays are eye-popping. Standout items are industrial and primitive furnishings, a collection of colorful perfume bottles, cowboy boots, western handbags, pictures, prints, Native American pottery and a magician’s rabbit table (you just have to see it). Kitchen items, ornate boxes, camping gear, telephones and typewriters round out an impressive assortment of desirable items from yesteryear.

2nd Bloom

108 Ninth Street


2nd Bloom is owned by sisters Keri Frendt and Kayla Castiglioni. Inviting displays feature an eclectic mix of rustic vintage home décor items, silver, lamps and jewelry. They also carry unique jewelry made locally from re-purposed objects by Humblebug Jewelry (humblebugjewelry.com). Vegan, organic candles made by Objects with Purpose also make a great gift. The warm candle wax is scented with essential oils and is pure enough to be used warm as a body butter or dabbed on wrists as perfume.

Most Everything

815 Washington Street



If it’s vintage fashion you seek, this is the place to find an amazing collection of plaid, leather jackets, hats, women’s gloves and men’s long-sleeve shirts. There’s also luggage, jewelry, vintage glass, local art and handbags created locally from re-purposed materials. Most Everything is also the engine behind Couve Couture, Vancouver’s fall fashion show event.

Divine Consign

904 Main Street



Divine Consign is a community fundraiser nonprofit staffed by volunteers. The ample showroom is filled with mid-century, traditional and contemporary home furnishings for every room of the house, as well as rugs, tableware, lighting and smaller home décor items. Divine Consign gives grants to local charities providing community services in the arts, education and human services. Not only do they have a great selection, but it’s for a great cause.

Main Street Vintage

1817 Main Street



Owned by home decorating enthusiast Marci Fitzgerald and her husband, Glen, Main Street Vintage features 30 antique and vintage dealers. The displays are impeccable and the selection of merchandise is well curated. From large furniture pieces to vintage toys, tools, storage solutions and unique lighting fixtures, this is a store to get lost in.

Meadow Lark Tea Room & Antiques

1803 Main Street



Located in the same shopping center as Main Street Vintage, Meadow Lark Tea Room & Antiques is an antique mall with a twist. The mall showcases more than 25 antique dealers with an emphasis on glass, china and costume jewelry. A large English tea room serves home baked items and a wide selection of loose leaf teas. There’s also a gift area featuring the work of local artisans. Do a little shopping, have a bite to eat, do a little more shopping, all while staying dry!

Amour Mercantile

1006 Main Street


Amour Mercantile is a fusion of mercantile, vintage and antique shop where you’ll find an array of home decor, reclaimed and re-purposed treasures of all kinds, vintage treats and military collectibles. And, just in time for the holidays, the mercantile is also carrying wearable arts from local artisans in the form of cashmere hats, gloves and scarves, as well as playful skirts and t-shirts; simple, locally crafted and custom jewelry; and a line of organic bath and beauty products.

Hot holiday shopping

So, what items do the proprietors of downtown Vancouver’s fine vintage and antique shops think will top gift giving lists this holiday season? Let’s have a look:

2nd Bloom: Angel wings wall décor and jewelry, because of the versatility and range of style and price.

Most Everything: Anything with owls on it and crazy Christmas sweaters.

Amour Mercantile: Vintage candy, handmade jewelry and soap.

Meadow Lark Tea & Antiques: Tea cups, hand-embroidered pillowcases and loose leaf tea.

Main Street Vintage: Mercury glass, pewter and Native American blankets in neutral tones.

Divine Consign: Pairs of traditional chairs, unique glass items and anything in the color range from apple green to turquoise.

Home for good

Pet placement presents an ever-changing set of challenges

photos courtesy of Humane Society For Southwest Washington

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There is no shortage of pets who need homes in Clark County. Fortunately, there are several shelter and pet adoption agencies that call this their first priority.

The Humane Society for Southwest Washington continues to be an anchor regionally. HSSW is an open admission shelter, which means no animals of any kind are ever turned away. The shelter has accepted alligators, bunnies, ferrets, fish and spiders, according to Erin Griffin, marketing and public relations manager for the HSSW. Only cats and dogs are adopted out, but HSSW will liaison with the appropriate organization for whatever legged or non-legged creatures enter the door. From summer through October, is feline breeding season, and it is “wall-to-wall with cats and kittens” said Griffin, and the shelter has instituted a wait list for cats until there is more room. HSSW is the largest capacity shelter in the Portland Metro area, and the only shelter that, until now, took in both stray and owned animals without a waiting list. The three-year-old, 30,000-square-foot shelter receives about 10,000 animals a year, and the organization never euthanizes an animal for space reasons.The HSSW does medical and behavioral evaluations and has an in-house veterinary clinic, all to help make pets more adoptable.

Griffin said the HSSW accepts quite a lot of so-called “bully breeds” and also smaller dogs like Chihuahuas, which are in vogue right now. She said the society is a big advocate for bully breeds, which includes Terriers, Bulldogs, Boxers and others.

HSSW does much if its advocacy through education and as such has a huge presence in the community. An especially sweet program is Read to the Dogs, a program that utilizes Pet Facilitated Therapy animals to provide a calm and fun learning environment for children mainly in grades 1-3 to practice their reading skills. “It builds their skill level and confidence,” said Griffin, “and makes them feel calm and comfortable.”

The HSSW has several fun community events every year and one large fundraiser. (See sidebar for more info on late summer and fall events.)

Furry Friends is another organization that rescues animals, but its focus is on cats. The small shelter has one location but does not publicize it because it is usually close to or at capacity, which is only 20 to 25 cats. However, the no-kill organization adopts out 250 to 300 cats a year, according to President of the Board David Cox, and it depends heavily on a network of people who will foster cats until they can be adopted out. Started in 1999 by Nancy McMartin, the organization is a private nonprofit that is completely run and staffed by volunteers. (See page 30 for a profile of a very dedicated volunteer.)

Second Chance Companions will be celebrating 20 years in 2013. The no-kill organization has three initiatives: adoptions, spay and neuter, and AniMeals. It does not have a shelter but rather tries to keep animals in their homes until they can be adopted out. Those who want to adopt animals from Second Chance as well as Furry Friends can find them on the web, at events and fairs and at local pet stores. Second Chance is considered more of a matchmaker, and will try to match any type of pet with a new owner, said Dawn Forline, vice president of the board. They also subsidize spaying and neutering at a number of local veterinary clinics, and helped alter a record 703 pets in 2010. A large area of growth is involvement with AniMeals, a national organization that supplies needed food to pets and other animals. Second Chance volunteers spend time procuring donations of pet food, packing it into one-gallon bags and distributing it to the elderly, homebound and disabled, such as to residents of Vancouver’s Smith Tower.

Forline got involved when her dog passed away, and she decided to foster a dog or two to find the right fit for her home. To date, she has fostered 60 dogs, and today is heavily involved with Second Chance Companions. Having volunteered with the organization for ten years, she has seen the effects of the economic downturn on pets in the area. In short, “the available pet population has increased,” she said, “but the adopters have decreased.”

Paddle up!

Attending events and fundraisers is a great
way to support local pet adoptions organizations.

Humane Society for Southwest Washington

Doggie Dive
Sept. 29, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
$10 Suggested Donation

Annual Dinner & Auction:
Make a Difference

October 6, 5 p.m.
Hilton Vancouver Washington
Tickets $100, includes silent and live auctions,
dinner and program

Pet Portraits with Santa
Nov. 17 & Dec. 1
Time and details TBD

Furry Friends

Our Cats Rock! Fundraising Event
Sept. 22, 5 p.m.
Club Green Meadows
Tickets $40 in advance or $45 at the door, includes live music, auctions and dinner and program

Second Chance Companions

Local food is going to the dogs

Canine Utopia and Beastie Boutique provide natural, quality pet food and supplies

photos by zachary rice

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Just a year ago, Vancouver residents Evan Smith and Jason Pickering would drive to North Portland every two weeks for natural dog food. Food allergies among the couple’s three dogs, Dunkin’, Hera and Kyle, required them to look deeper into their dog food bag.

“Skin problems, ear infections, you name it and [Hera] was getting it,” said Pickering, “and it was the food that was doing it to her.”

Helping animals and owners “eat well, play well, sleep well and live well” became Smith and Pickering’s motto when they founded Canine Utopia in June of 2011.

In the past year Canine Utopia landed a spot in the Vancouver Business Journal’s Southwest Washington Business Growth Awards as a 2011 Start-up of the Year finalist and became established in the Uptown Village community.

Smith emphasized their research into pet food brands for the store. The two didn’t want any label that was co-packed — all of their manufacturers needed to own their production facilities. Manufacturers needed to prove where their meat and ingredients were being sourced and that no corn or substitute ingredients were used. Most importantly all food needed to be human-grade. “If worse came to worse, we would both eat the food that’s in the store,” said Pickering.

All three of Pickering and Smith’s dogs have eaten each brand of dog food Canine Utopia carries. “We wanted to be able to tell the customer this is how it feeds, what it looks like when it comes out, one dog didn’t like it, this dog loved it.”

Salmon Creek shop owners release e-book on pet Nutrition

Created by Kristina and Roger McLeskey, Beastie Boutique began as a web store in 2004 focusing on natural food gift baskets and by 2006 they had opened up their Salmon Creek storefront, providing all aspects of care and feeding to local pet owners.

From essentials to the whimsical, Beastie Boutique offers something
special to each four-legged family member to walk through their doors. Blinged-out collars, Cougar and Huskie team doggie jackets and other pet sweaters and coats are just a few items that can be found in the store. A number of porcelain figurines of dogs and cats peer out of display cases through the store. Grooming is another feature Beastie Boutique has to offer, inspired by popular demand. The store’s homey atmosphere and pet-friendliness provides more than just quality products for pets, it provides a quality, specialized experience with knowledgeable customer service and a comprehensive product guarantee.

Nutrition is at the forefront of the McLeskeys’ business. After raising a dog with food allergies the couple realized the importance of proper nutrition in their three dogs’ diets. Roger McLeskey has since become certified in nutrition and Kristina is currently working on her own certification. “Grocery food is just full of wheat, corn, byproducts, chemicals, food color, and low quality meats and vegetables,” says McLeskey, “There are too many carbs in dogs’ diets — we like to see a higher protein diet.” No one diet is the best for every pet, McLeskey noted, and the Beastie Boutique team helps pet owners discover the right fit.

The McLeskeys have also funneled their combined expertise into Dog Food Decoded, a soon to be released e-book. The book discusses the differences between natural dog food and that available at grocery stores; examining ingredients, nutritional values, diets as well as supplements within all price ranges. Debut is anticipated within the next couple of weeks and pre-order options can be found on the website.

Beastie Boutique also has a strong impact on local adoption and charity donations. Each week the McLeskeys host one or two Los Angeles shelter animals through Pet Rescue at the store. “Unlike in this area [L.A. shelters are] high-kill centers,” says McLeskey. AniMeal is another organization Beastie Boutique promotes. The sister organization to Meals on Wheels helps give donated pet food and bedding to those in need. The organization found that Meals on Wheels recipients tend to feed their food to their pets and established AniMeal to keep both pet and owners in need fed.

Canine Utopia

2309 Main Street, Vancouver



Beastie Boutique

13023 N.E. Highway 99, Suite 8, Vancouver




Family gardening

Clark County Home Grown evolving into community facing nonprofit for income-eligible

Kris Potter is a master composter/recycler, gardening educator, and former coordinator for Clark County Home Grown, a program which placed more than 100 raised bed gardens across the county for use by income eligible families.

Between 2009 and 2011, Potter, using a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology, played matchmaker between 14 host sites, gardening mentors and dozens of people who were interested in learning how to feed their families through organic square-foot gardening. Host sites included churches and schools.

Before Potter became administrator of the program, the gardens were installed on the gardners’ personal property. But the host sites have turned the project outward, creating partners in the community.

For example, said Kris, “Maple Grove Middle School wanted to start a school garden and got a garden installed at no cost through the grant funded program. School kids have first choice (for planting) during the school year, and families adopt it during the rest of the growing season when there is still plenty of time to add to it.

The Ecology grant was for $75,000, and each bed came supplied with season plants, trowel, gloves, kneeling pad and the All-New Square Foot Gardening book. Kris also set up composting on most of the sites. The host sites supplied space and water.

When that grant expired at end of 2010, Clark County Home Grown moved out of the county and is now operated privately by Potter. She partnered in 2011 with Americans Building Communities and the Vancouver Watersheds Alliance with a grant from Walmart to install three community gardens along the Fourth Plain Corridor. Five free CCHG beds were offered. The rest were for lease.

This season leaves Potter with no money. Instead, a seed has been planted for future growth. She started the business Family Gardening to administer the Department of Ecology grant, and is in the process of turning it into a 501(c)3 to keep doing the work that has been started. All the host sites have taken over the beds that were planted there, and they are going to various uses. For example, Vancouver Heights Methodist Church continues to offer the beds to low-income families, while Ridgefield Methodist uses them to fund church projects.

Ideally, the program would be “turn-key,” said Potter, where she sets up the gardens on host sites and the sites take them over and continue to do work for the community with them. This has happened with a number of the sites so far.

At Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver, volunteers have recruited five families from Martin Luther King Jr Elementary School, which is “adopted” by the church for such projects. Potter is consulting with the coordinator from the church, but the project is now “out of my hands and into theirs,” she said.

Potter also consults with some other schools on their community gardens and loves it, but, she said “I would like to continue to work with income-qualified households.” Community gardens, she said, are “a way to get fresh organic vegetables, family time and community building. The benefits are especially pertinent to income qualified households.”

Kris Potter is seeking volunteers to help coordinate gardens, mentor families and manage compost on sites. She can be reached at familygardening@gmail.com or 360-695-5627.

Heritage orchards

Preserve Diversity and Provide Links to the Past

Tree blossomsWhen Biological Science Technician Robert Goughnour came to work at the Washington State University Vancouver Extension in 2000, his job was researching apple maggots and cherry fruit flies in collaboration with the USDA Agricultural Research Foundation. The goal of his research was to find out what kinds of plants and trees fruit flies lay their eggs in – vital information for Washington apple and cherry farmers.

As Goughnour traveled into the fields around Clark, Skamania and Cowlitz counties, he often found himself at old homesteads where he discovered some unusual varieties of apple trees. Research into the history of apples revealed, not surprisingly, that there were many more varieties grown in the 1800s than there are now. An interest in anthropology and archeology fueled Goughnour’s desire to save these heritage trees for future generations.

“We still don’t know what some of the varieties are because it’s so costly to find out,” Goughnour said. “And, when these trees are gone, they’re gone.”

Historic trees get a new future

With the help of Blair Wolfley, former WSU Extension District Director and current 78th Street Heritage Farm manager, and other members of the Master Gardener Foundation, Goughnour formed a committee to begin plans for a heritage orchard in 2003.

The WSU Heritage Orchard got off the ground with a grant from the Master Gardener Foundation to purchase tools and root stock for the original tree grafts. They were given permission to use space at the WSU Heritage Site on the Salmon Creek campus, and in 2004, the WSU Heritage Orchard was dedicated.

robert-exporchardAccording to Goughnour (pictured), several well-known community members have supported the WSU Heritage Orchard, including former educator and state legislator, Al Bauer, who contributed cuttings from two trees from his property originating in the 1920s, and Clark County Commissioner Mark Boldt.

The WSU Heritage Orchard is planted along a public walking trail that winds through the Heritage Site. The orchard was recently moved and replanted due to a salmon preservation project on the nearby banks of Mill Creek. According to John Benson from WSU facilities operations and a Clark County Master Gardener, invasive reed canary grass and Himalayan blackberry bushes were removed from along the creek. Native riparian plants were then introduced to address soil erosion and other factors contributing to the decline of salmon populations in recent years.

“The heritage orchard is a living repository,” Benson said, “It’s a part of preserving the history of the area, and it adds interest on the walking trail.”

There are currently 50 to 60 heritage apple and pear trees planted in the WSU Heritage Orchard. They bear modest tags stating their type and which pioneer homestead they came from (see sidebar). Goughnour says there’s room to expand the orchard at this site, and he hopes to someday replace the tags with plaques to identify the tree type and its origin. The trees in the orchard are intentionally low maintenance. The cuttings were grafted onto semi-dwarf root stock, so they’ll grow only about eight to 10 feet tall. The most mature trees in the orchards are six years old and just now beginning to bear fruit.

Goughnour’s vision for the future of the WSU Heritage Orchard has evolved beyond the preservation of fruit trees. There are several lilacs near the old homestead ruins at the WSU Heritage Site that he’d like to see moved to the orchard. He imagines adding heirloom flowers and other perennials someday as well.

A site for research and demonstration

Extra cuttings from WSU Heritage Orchard were planted in a small orchard at the 78th Street Heritage Farm, where Goughnour conducts his fruit fly research. This became the Experimental and Heritage Orchard where Goughnour also grows ornamental shrubs, currants, grapes, blueberries and cherry trees among the heritage trees. Many of these come from the same pioneer homesteads as the heritage apple and pear trees.

“This not only utilizes the space between the trees but allows me to continue my research on how fruit flies interact with different shrubs and fruit bearing plants,” Goughnour explained.

There is currently no walking trail at the Experimental and Heritage Orchard, but it can be viewed by appointment. The WSU Vancouver Extension also offers several public workshops on site. Goughnour hopes that when his research is finished, the Experimental and Heritage Orchard will continue to be utilized as a demonstration site for backyard growers.

Washington State University Heritage Orchard

WSU Vancouver Barn at Salmon Creek Avenue, Vancouver

The WSU Heritage Orchard is a repository of heritage fruit trees from area pioneer homesteads. An on-site walking trail is open daily, dawn to dusk.

Experimental and Heritage Orchard

WSU Clark County Extension / 78th Street Heritage Farm

1919 N.E. 78th St., Vancouver


The Experimental and Heritage Orchard contains heritage fruit trees from pioneer homesteads, and other shrubs, bushes and trees for demonstration and research. It is open weekdays by appointment.


Companion planting

A Vancouver family with young children works together to grow a plentiful organic garden

Claire and Drew Beagle have a yard many city dwellers dream about – huge. A 10,000-square-foot lot, they have sectioned it off to represent the various segments of their contemporary lifestyle. There is a play yard for the kids, Henry, two-and-a-half-years old, and Elliot, 10 months, a garden space for Claire and a back patio and play area for adults, complete with a hand-me-down half-pipe skate ramp.

Drew, a Washington State Department of Transportation civil engineer, and Claire, a graphic designer and stay-at-home-mom, have put their talents and interests together to begin a garden that today encompasses 750 to 800 square feet in nine raised beds. Drew designed the beds with Claire’s help and Claire chooses the crops and – the best part – does the cooking.

Claire’s parents grew up farming literally down the road from each other in the Philippines before moving to California when her father joined the Navy more than 40 years ago. They grew vegetables, rice, bananas, kept animals and made wine. Her father’s farm is still in the family. Even on their small city lot in Sacramento, they have a large year-round garden, and send Claire the seeds of plants from their home like long beans, a special purple onion and gourds that literally grow six feet high.

“Their garden is huge. They eat three-quarters of their meals out of the backyard,” she said.

Though Drew’s father ran a nursery for the state of Utah, he did not grow up gardening, but he is happy to reap the benefits of handmade and garden grown pizza all year round.

“My parents taught me how to flash freeze,” said Claire. “They are about living off the land and using every little bit of everything they can.”

She taught herself how to waterbath can, and they have two chest freezers in the basement. Claire laughs while she shows me pictures of their impressive harvests from a previous season. Because of a method for growing tomatoes which involves a plastic bag called a watertower that is wrapped around the base of the tomato plants, they have had tomatoes towering over their bird netting when the rest of Clark County was complaining about terrible tomato seasons. They also grow the “three sisters,” which is a planting method of co-locating corn, beans and gourds or squash for optimal harvest and space saving.

Drew and Claire do not use any herbicides or pesticides, rather encouraging the spider population and purchasing ladybugs to help with aphids. Companion planting is another method of keeping vegetables healthy. When the dandelions start to get too prolific, they have little Henry head out to “pick Mommy some flowers.”

Is isn’t easy with two small children to keep up a large garden. Claire has set her limits – she grows from starts or seeds that can be sown directly into the ground. She does not do any seed starting and transplanting. She checks out Millenium Farms’ stash of plants weekends at the Vancouver Farmers Market, and then makes trips to the Ridgefield organic farm itself to get the good stuff – the interesting varieties of tomatoes that aren’t on sale at the market. She also shops at Portland Nursery and Shorty’s Garden and Home. Seeds come from Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit heirloom seed company.

They started in 2009 with three raised beds in the backyard (pictured at right), and learned from their mistakes as they went along. In 2010, Drew built a sweet set of six more raised beds with a bench in the middle. The beds have mini-benches for Claire’s ease and are raised off the ground by inexpensive pavers to keep the untreated 2x12s from rotting.

The new bed location is very lovely and is in close proximity to the kids’ play area, but it has one drawback – a black walnut tree. The juglone from the tree’s dripline, secretions from the roots and the walnuts themselves kill or maim most vegetables. They can only plant certain veggies and are opting for flowers in the bed closest to the tree. But they would never cut it down, as it provides great shade for the kids’ play area. Also, Claire is a crew leader for Friends of the Trees as well as a Neighborwoods Steward – her aim is save a tree where possible, not cut one down. So they are working around it, and planting what is possible, such as beans, carrots, corn, melons and squash.

Raised beds are very popular right now. They can be found in backyards across Southwest Washington, but are also dotting more and more front yards as time goes on. They are easy to work with, help with back-breaking labor, and save time, space and water. But they have to be topped off with many cubic feet of compost and fresh soil every year. To that end, Drew designed and hand-built modular fencing on their property, with wood and wire panels that simply slide up and out. This way, truck loads of compost, dirt and other materials may be brought in with little hassle.

On the day I visited their property, these modern parents were out in their garden with a baby monitor while both kids napped. And Drew, not needed for heavy lifting, had spent the morning with the kids while Claire readied the gardens for the season. Gardening is time-consuming but the Beagles make it a family affair, and it’s well worth it, sharing fresh organic food with their family all year long.


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.






Doorway to delicious: Bleu Door Bakery offers pastries, breakfast and lunch fare

story by jessica swanson | photo by nicholas shannon kulmac

Bleu Door Bakery
2413 Main St., Vancouver

360-693-2538 | Facebook

Don’t tell me change is good. I have to taste it for myself.

When Main Street favorite, Je T’aime Bakery, owned by local restaurateur Claire Ghormley, made way for Bleu Door Bakery, my first response was “No! (Followed by dramatic gasp.) But it was time for Ghormley to move on and for Bonnie Gougér to expand her homegrown bakeshop, known for Brownies from Heaven.

On a trip to the bakery soon after it opened in October, I was delighted to see a packed case of French and American-inspired pastries, sandwiches, cookies and a rack full of classic rustic breads. The daily specials, including soup and quiche were listed on a lovely chalkboard.

The coffee selection – much expanded from its predecessor’s – now competes with (nay, trumps) the Starbucks located across the street. A full espresso menu at Bleu Door is available from Café Femenino, a fair trade line of coffees that help women worldwide. The attentive barista asked me if I wanted my cappuccino dry or wet. Dry, of course, but the attention to detail made me smile. In fact, the customer service was quite impeccable. (I can’t help but compare to a similar new business in the area, where I seem to have to repeat every aspect of my order at least once before it is made. “Did you say large? Did you say room for cream? Did you say you wanted that heated? Etc.)

I ordered a huge butter croissant (they only seemed to come in “huge”), a pear Danish (which is really more of a deep pastry dish holding a delectable stash of melty pear compote and light, sweet cheese), a blue cheese and mushroom frittata croissant sandwich, and a coffee chocolate chip scone. I topped it off with a rustic rosemary potato bread.

I brought all of these offerings back to the office to be photographed and to share with my coworkers. But by lunchtime I had eaten the scone and the frittata and had dug all of the pear and cheese out of the Danish in the name of “reviewing” the items.

Well, here’s the review: Yum! Thank you, Bleu Door! The photographer was pleased with his butter croissant, and the potato loaf is going home to family for further “review.”

(Update: Potato loaf was well-received! However, I went back a couple of days later to try a different version of the pear Danish. As I was purchasing it, I was told it was “the biggest pear Danish in the world” and they would be smaller in the future. Also, the traditional French pastry crust was dark and dense/chewy, rather than light and fluffy. So…maybe the kinks are still being worked out. Still, this won’t stop me from going back for the lunchtime Hungarian mushroom soup….)




Magenta Theater expands its horizons

The 10-year-old Vancouver nonprofit moves into music, murder and drama

photos by anni becker

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Magenta Theater was founded by Vancouver transplant Jaynie Roberts in 2002 when she was homeschooling her children. Formerly from England, where she studied theater before completing her university degree in California, Roberts had begun writing plays around this time, and she wanted a place to produce them while spending time with her children.

It started very simply, Magenta’s artistic director and president said: “I wanted to put on a play and have my kids involved.”

The theater took off fairly quickly, but for the first few years Roberts was writing all the plays. Then ticket sales created enough income to put on a few well-known productions, focusing mostly on family-oriented plays and musicals.

In November 2008, after years of renting stages and spaces at local churches, Magenta leased its own space at 606 Main St. in downtown Vancouver. Originally, they thought they would be renting out the theater to other groups for events and productions, but the schedule quickly filled.

Magenta has an eclectic repertoire, and the group is always trying something new. Its offerings include an improv troupe, which was performing regularly on First Fridays; Magenta and Friends, a full rock band that is featured in the Best of Rock and Roll, a music revue that also invokes the spirits of musicians such as Janis Joplin and Elvis; and dinner theater at Main Street’s Rosemary Café.

And while the theater has generally been known for its family friendly musicals and other productions, now annually, it puts on a murder mystery.

“At first, we were a little bit leery about doing a more edgy show because we have been known for more family friendly stuff, but it’s once a year and we love it,” said Roberts.

In the spring, Magenta will be headed again into new territory with a dramatic piece, Shadowlands, the story of C.S. Lewis and his relationship with Joy Gresham.

Ending the summer will be a dramatic reading of Doubt in the Magenta After Hours series. The first reading was The Laramie Project, which was very well received. Each reading is followed by a “talk back” session, where questions can be asked of the director, actors and producer, as well as other professionals.

The After Hours series is a project of the theater’s educational arm, Magenta Theater Academy. The readings “are an opportunity for people who don’t want to take on a large project, but [would like to] direct or act in an After Hours project,” said Roberts.

The theater is a nonprofit, taking in money through ticket sales, small fundraisers and the theater academy. The group has received one grant in the past and is actively seeking grants today. The cast and crew are all volunteers and anyone is welcome to audition, although a core group performs in many of the plays.

“Recently, we have had some amazing new actors that we are hopeful will come back and do more shows with us,” said Roberts. “We do really like to use fresh faces.”


606 Main St., Vancouver



For a complete listing of the season’s events, check the website. All tickets available online.


Blind Date

Aug. 12–13

Dinner theater at Rosemary Café

Talent for Murder

Oct. 14–29

You Can’t Take it With You

Dec. 2–17