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Gardening Tips for Beginners, Part 2: Starting Raised Beds

It may still be winter outside, but in my mind summer is starting. To help me beat the winter blues I dream of crunchy, sweet peas fresh from the garden melting in my mouth and hummingbirds whizzing past my ears.

In my last post, Gardening Tips for Beginners, Part 1: The Potted Garden, I talked about starting a garden in pots. In this post I’ll share what I’m learning as I plan to create garden beds.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith is my main guide because it has thorough, simple steps for everything from choosing what material to use for raised beds to naturally controlling common pests and diseases.

The decision for where to place the beds was based on where there is the most sun exposure, which means facing south without trees in the way. There are a lot of trees and brush to clear (thank goodness for my boyfriend’s strong arms!), but soon enough we’ll begin creating the beds…I’m so excited!

Here are the steps I’ll be taking to create my garden beds:

  1. Mark where the beds will be with stakes and string.
  2. Deep fork (love that term!) the soil beneath where those beds will be, which means shoving a pitch fork into the ground and rocking it back and forth to loosen the soil. Ed says this will allow roots to grow longer and so be more productive. I’ll deep fork about 8 inches down.
  3. Build my boxes, making sure to build in support in the corners. I’ll most likely use untreated cedar because I don’t want nasty chemicals leaching into my garden.
  4. Put one inch of compost over the soil that’s been deep forked
  5. Put about 10 inches of topsoil and compost over the top, filling in to about two inches from the top of the wall.
  6. Let the soil settle for at least one week.
  7. Nestle in my plant baby plants and watch them grow!

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that gardeners always have more to learn, so if you have gardening tips, tricks and treasures, please share! 

Gardening Tips for Beginners, Part 1: The Potted Garden

squash-flower (1)

A cold, gray day in January is a great time to plan a summer vegetable garden! Imagining warm sunshine on your back back as you pop a sweet, juicy cherry tomato in your mouth is like offering the mind a warm cup of tea.

A garden can be as simple as a few inexpensive pots on a porch with a few plants, or as complex as my friend Cari Schumaker’s giant garden, which provides a large amount of food year-round for her family of five.

In this post I’ll share tips on beginning to garden in pots. In my next post I’ll share what I’m learning for creating garden beds. Over the summer I’ll share how it’s going, and in the fall I’ll write about what I’ve learned.

If you’re new to vegetable gardening and have any trepidation, as I did, please know that it’s actually so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!

If gardening is old news to you, passing on the joy of gardening to those who haven’t experienced it yet is a great new year’s resolution.

I started gardening a few years ago in a few pots on my porch. Even though I had a tiny budget, almost no knowledge and limited space, I harvested cucumbers, chard, a few tomatoes, basil and a few other herbs. I loved coming home from work and taking care of my plants, as well as the fresh tastes in my meals.

For the last few summers I’ve had a little more room and have experimented. Now I have the budget, time and space for a larger garden, so I’m planning to create raised beds for a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers. I found an excellent book to help me plan and I thought I’d share some of what I’m learning with you.

The book is The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith. He also has a good book called The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible: How to grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs and Other Containers.

gardeners bible

To start, any nursery will have inexpensive pots and potting soil. Farmers markets and nurseries will have plant starts – and staff will happily give you planting tips.

Once you have all your pieces, all you need to do is put them together and pay attention as they grow – water before they get dry, check for issues such as disease or bugs (ask those same farmers market or nursery staff if you get these) and then harvest your goods!

A few tips that helped me begin gardening – most of which I learned the hard way:

Don’t be attached to the results. If your plants thrive, that’s wonderful! If they die, it isn’t the end of the world and you aren’t a terrible gardener. Think about what could be done differently and try again, and maybe talk to someone at a farmer’s market or nursery about your experience. Just keep trying – you will succeed!

Get pots with drainage holes and put plates or pot bottoms under them so you don’t get dirty wet spots underneath. Without drainage, roots will likely rot.

Get a good fertilizer and follow the directions. Everyone seems to have a different favorite – just ask your friends at the nursery or farmers market where you get your plant starts and/or supplies and experiment to find your favorite.

Plant things you’ll actually eat. I’ve found that more than half of my lettuce goes to see before I eat it. That’s precious space that could be used for the carrots that I’m still harvesting in January! Be realistic about what you’ll actually eat and start there, then add more in future years.

Check water levels daily until you know how much they require. It’s important not to overwater plants or let them dry out. Get in the habit of poking your finger up to the first knuckle into the soil every day – if it comes out dry, it’s time to water.

Try to avoid watering over the top of your plants. If you water directly onto the soil, rather than over the top of leaves, you can help avoid mildew, which can spread through plants quickly and kill them, or at least drastically reduce their production levels.

Gardening is a continuous learning process. There are thousands of books out there to choose from to get started and the choices can be overwhelming. The important thing is just to start!

Here are my two favorite gardening books right now. Please let me know if you have other favorites and/or gardening tips!

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith. “Discover Ed’s High-Yeild WORD System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil.”

McGee and Stuckey’s Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits and Edible Flowers (also a staff pick at Powell’s Books).

Did Flea Shampoo Kill Boo?

This week I had the sad task of bearing bad news to my 14 year-old friend Coea about his cat, Boo, dying in the night.

boo2Boo was 13 years old and had been with Coea and his Mom since he was a kitten. Coea’s Mom, my good friend, was away for the weekend, so I stayed for two nights to make sure all was well.

All was not well. Four days before, my friend had given Boo a bath with Sentry Flea Shampoo for cats, and Coea reported that he’d been acting strange since then.


Boo wasn’t eating (he’s usually a big fan of food), he was sleeping in funny places, his breathing was more rapid than usual, and he wobbled – both when he walked and when he tried to sit still.

I googled “sentry flea shampoo cats reactions” and the first thing that came up is “Top 291 Complaints and Reviews about Sentry Pet Products.” I highly recommend you visit this site, then share it with everyone you know, whether they have a pet or not.

My jaw dropped as I read one account after another, with pet owners saying things like this:

“Several days later, he had a seizure in the middle of the night that lasted one to two minutes. He was never the same after this. He had loss of balance, vision, tremors, restlessness, trouble sleeping, crying, and labored breathing. His breathing became progressively worse, and had to let him ago less than a week later. My wife and I are so heartbroken.”

Since Boo seemed to be off but somewhat ok, we opted to try some things people on the consumer reports site had tried before taking him to the vet.

Some people had seen positive results from bathing pets with Dawn dish soap and giving them a little Benedryl. The emergency vet also said a bath with Dawn was all they could recommend other than taking him in for tests.

It was my first time bathing a cat, and besides Boo sticking a claw all the way through the skin on Coea’s neck, it went pretty smoothly (Coea may not agree).

The Benedryl wasn’t so smooth. I only gave him about 1/8 of a pill, but he wouldn’t eat the turkey it was wrapped in (which he’d normally gobble up). So we had to do that nasty thing where you hold his mouth open and put the pill on the back of their tongue so they instinctively swallow.

Boo was not a happy cat after that.

boo4He immediately began making a strange noise and licking the back of his mouth and foaming from the mouth.

“OK, that’s it! Get your shoes on and wrap him up, we’re going to the vet!” I said as I jumped up and grabbed my keys.

I’d never given a cat a pill, so it was traumatic for me – was he choking? What was all that foam about?!

I called my friend to tell her what was happening, and she said the pills are very bitter, so it was normal for Boo to be acting strange and foaming at the mouth.

By now we were sitting in the car, but Boo had calmed down and the string of saliva wasn’t getting any longer. He calmed down and his breathing became more normal.

“OK, let’s see how he does,” I said to Coea. We went back inside and watched Boo carefully. He was still walking funny, but we decided to see how things went overnight and take him to the vet in the morning if he was still acting strange.

A few minutes later, we put a bowl of tuna juice in front of him and he lapped it up! He wasn’t wobbling and he seemed more calm. We were ecstatic. Things seemed to be on the up and up. Coea chose to have Boo sleep with him, and I said goodnight with a good feeling.

The good feeling turned into a very bad feeling a few hours later.

When I went to see how Boo was doing as Coea slept, I found Boo laying just outside his bedroom door. He looked all fluffy and cute, as he always does, but my heart skipped a beat as I watched for his breathing. When I saw none, I fell to my knees and stifled a shout. Boo looked like he was resting peacefully, but when I touched him he was stiff as a board.

I picked him up and wrapped him in a blanket, then took him downstairs to lay him by the fire and shed some tears. The rest is too sad to share. Telling a cat’s family that he has left this world is not a thing I care to do again, I’ll just leave it at that.

Did the flea shampoo kill Boo?

My friend used a normal amount and followed instructions on the label. Boo was older, but not in terrible health, so we didn’t consider him elderly. He was fine before the bath, and not fine after the bath.

You can come to your own conclusions, but I’m convinced the shampoo killed Boo. I’m now on a campaign to tell the world about it.

I’ve made little signs that I’ll carry in my purse with a small roll of tape. Every time I go to a store where flea shampoos is sold, I’m going to tape my little sign under it. Sargeant, Hartz and other brands have similar reports.

Here’s my sign – I’m printing it on fluorescent orange paper and will cut it into card-sized sheets.

If you’re so inclined, please print it out and help me in my campaign to get these nasties off the market.

My next post will be about non-toxic flea control…

RIP_Booboo3RIP Sweet Boo. I hope others can learn from your life and death.

Love from Your Friends,

Spring and Cricket the Dog

Best Salad in the World

DSC_0453OK, I know, I’m a healthy person and I should love salads, right? Well, I don’t. Or rather, I didn’t until this salad found me.

Over the solstice weekend Mum and two of her wonderful friends from the Winslow Cohousing Group came to stay at my family home in Seabeck. I had no idea they were going to revolutionize my feelings towards salad.

That Friday evening, they lured me away from my work with calls for dinner and wine. I have to admit I wasn’t all that excited to learn salad was the only thing on the menu, but I could sense there was a lot of love in this meal. And the fact that Mum and her friends are radiantly glowing people helped me feel that whatever they’re eating, I want!

Anyhoo, when they asked if I wanted beets and candied ginger, I hesitantly said, “Sure, I’m open to anything these days.”

After we all shared what we were grateful for on that wonderful solstice evening, we dug into our colorful salad.

“WOW!” popped out of my mouth before I’d even finished my first bite.

It was seriously the best salad I have ever eaten. I shared it again this week with my boyfriend, and he said the same thing – unprompted even!

So here it is, the recipe for the Best Salad in the World:

Use whatever amounts work for you…

  • Shredded salad greens – can include baby kale, red lettuce, swiss chard, beet greens…just no iceberg lettuce
  • Candied ginger – cut into tiny pieces (you can buy it in bulk at Central Market in Seattle, Bainbridge or Poulsbo)
  • Shredded beets – I’ve found I like them on top because they’re so pretty
  • Nuts – I like salted sunflower seeds or cashews best, but almond pieces and other nuts are delicious, too
  • Black pepper – fresh ground over the top to your taste
  • Olive oil – pour over the top for dressing
  • Balsamic vinegar – pour over the top for dressing, to your taste
  • Optional:
    • fresh nasturtium flowers (for additional prettiness)
    • crumbled feta or other cheese
    • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (for additional saltiness and healthiness)
    • Chopped fresh parsley, chives, rosemary and other greens

DSC_0455All you need to make any salad taste good…no need for bottles of dressings. Add lemon, garlic and herbs for additional flavor

Yum, yum, YUM!

Maybe if I eat enough of this I’ll glow like Mum and her friends…

What’s your favorite salad? 


DSC_0446Happy Salad Eating!


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Seven Delicious Strawberry Recipes

straw1In recent post about my EduCulture adventure, I showed photos of delicious Bainbridge Island-grown strawberries. At the end of my visit with the EduCulture students, they all shared their favorite ways to use strawberries. I loved the ideas so much that I just have to share them with you.

There are endless amazing strawberry recipes out there, but here are seven creative ideas…

Important note: choosing organic is always best, but especially regarding strawberries. According to the Environmental Working Group, strawberries have the second highest amount of pesticides (after apples). See the full list by clicking here.

The first five are EduCulture student favorites and they make my mouth water just thinking about them!

1. Dip strawberries in chocolate, let harden in fridge, then dip in whipped cream.

2. Dip damp strawberries in powdered sugar.

3. Mash strawberries and pour over vanilla icecream.

4. Make strawberry pie and eat warm with vanilla icecream on top.

5. Dip strawberries in whipped cream, then in mini chocolate chips.


6. Spring’s Summer Smoothie – I’ve been making this every morning for a couple weeks now and I drink it with my morning cup of fresh mint tea. If you’ve check out my fb page lately, you’ll see I’ve had the most INCREDIBLE two weeks…just sayin’…

  • fresh strawberries
  • frozen or fresh raspberries
  • frozen blueberries
  • protein powder and/or nuts
  • squeeze of lemon
  • fresh ginger
  • dollop of honey
  • frozen kale (see this post to see how and why to use cooked, frozen kale rather than fresh)
  • almond or other milk alternative – add enough to make it smooth and drinkable
  • a few pieces of ice or other frozen fruit
  • extra tasty, healthy treats: avocado, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, drizzle of olive oil.

Spring's Summer Smoothie - great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert!

Spring’s Summer Smoothie – great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert!

7. Vegan Chocolate Strawberry Cups – I’m a wannabe vegan, so this recipe from Molly Pearson jumped out at me when she posted it on one of my favorite blogs, I haven’t tried it yet but it’s on my list of to-do’s.

Ingredients for chocolate coating:

  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1.5 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp. raw creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp. agave

Ingredients for filling:

  • 3 mashed strawberries
  • 1 Tbsp. melted coconut oil


  • Mix first 4 ingredients together. Place tsp. of chocolate mixture in the bottom of a muffin cup and freeze 15 minutes.
  • While waiting, mix strawberries and coconut oil.
  • Layer strawberry filling on top of frozen chocolate mixture. Freeze 15 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the chocolate to the top. Freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Do away with processed peanut butter cups forever.

Strawberries as Vitamins

Since I’m a berry-holic, I was thrilled to learn that not only are strawberries tastier than candy, they pack a nutritional punch. The vitamin C and antioxidant content alone is worth eating them every day, but they’re also high in manganese, folate, potassium and fiber. Check out this list for more on their nutritional value.

According to, strawberries are “among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity,” and “Just one serving — about eight strawberries — provides more vitamin C than an orange.”

Where to get berries:

I’d love to hear about your favorite strawberry recipes!

Happy Berry Eating,


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Community Supported Agriculture: A Smart Way to Shop Local

csaPhoto from The Food Shed CSA web page

I meant to post this ages ago, but the season of kayak guiding is upon me and so free time is sparse. If you hurry, though, you can jump on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) bandwagon…

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be present when a friend received her weekly bakery share of her Food Shed CSA . I honestly thought I might fall on the floor the food was so delicious. There is a sample menu of their bakery share below.

A CSA is an amazing way to get fresh, local, organic produce and give much-needed support to local farms. The general idea is that you buy shares from the farm of your choice at the beginning of a season, then get weekly shipments of whatever that farm has available that week. Some farms deliver, but most on the Kitsap Peninsula provide your shipment for you to pick up on a specified day to save on costs and time. You literally provide the seed money for their growing season.

To learn more about the CSA concept, click here to see the Wikipedia definition.

There are numerous CSA’s around Kitsap County and beyond, which you can see on this list. Today, though, I want to share about the Food Shed CSA because I’ve experienced it and the time to join is upon us. I’m also very, very proud to be a new member of the board of advisors for The Food Shed and I want to support this amazing endeavor in any way possible.

The summer season Food Shed CSA has items such as:

  • fresh kale
  • swiss chard
  • lettuce
  • radishes
  • eggplant
  • MUCH more! See the whole list by clicking here.

They also have these amazing share options:

  • Locally wood-roasted coffee
  • Adventurous eater: a small addition of special treats each week. Spice up your cooking with exciting ingredients – think mushrooms, specialty herbs, ginger, dry beans and more.
  • Cut flowers

If you want to get in on their summer CSA goodness, you need to contact them asap (like today!).

If the bakery share menu below entices you, I definitely recommend making a request to get a share next season.

Food Shed Bakery CSA Menu Example

(non-summer season)

A Bakery Share includes 4 units each week – you can add on extra units and any value added items listed. They’ll have your order and any amount due at pick up. The pick is at Mossback: 26185 Ohio Ave. NE, Kingston

1 unit per serving: 

Asparagus, Cheese and Black Pepper Brioche Twists – $4

Cinnamon Rolls – $4

Maggie’s Farm Rhubarb

Sweetie Pies – $4

Strawberry and Toasted Walnut Buttermilk Scones with Vanilla Bean Glaze – $4

Sweet Potato, Spinach, Black Bean and Cheese Hand Pies – $4

Gluten Free

Rhubarb Streusal Muffins – $4

Chocolate brownie wedges – $4

1 unit per serving – can order more than one serving :

Spring Vegetable Soup  – $4 per serving

(includes asparagus, peas, potatoes white beans)

Green lentils, asparagus, arugula and spinach salad  – $4 per serving

Collard Greens and Radish Slaw with Crispy Leek Shallots – $4 per serving

2 units  (this bread counts as 2 of your units) :

Herb and Garlic Johnny Bread – $6 per loaf

To learn more and sign up for your Food Shed CSA, visit or send them an e-mail:, or send a direct message on their Facebook page. But hurry, the summer season started last week! Tell them you heard about it through Spring’s blog.



Happy Eating!


EduCulture Stole My Heart…then Gave Me Strawberries


We use revolutionary incrementalism: small steps, big ideas. ~ EduCulture founder and director, Jon Garfunkel.

Tears popped into the corners of my eyes this morning as I walked away from my experience with EduCulture on a Bainbridge Island farm. I began dreaming of what the world would be like if every school had a program like this.

I wish I’d had my big camera, but my phone had to suffice as I didn’t want to seem too imposing as a visitor…

EduCulture‘s brochure says they bridge “local farms, classrooms, lunchrooms and the larger food community through edible education programs.”

This week I had the privilege of seeing this bridging in action – and tasting the results.

I joined 25 fourth graders and their teachers from Wilkes Elementary as they literally tasted the fruits of their labor – fresh, perfectly ripe Shuksan Strawberries picked from plants at Morales Farm, from which they took young plants and transplanted to Suyematsu and Bentryn Family Farms (which is where the photos are from).

Students from Wilkes, Ordway and Blakely Elementaries and Island Coop Preschool have also planted greens and heirloom potatoes, pumpkin and squash, which students next fall will harvest. The potatoes are the Makah Ozette Potato, which was cultivated by the indigenous people of this region. They grow a few types of strawberries, which at one time Bainbridge Island was famous for, and they’re helping to bring the endangered Marshall Strawberry back from it’s endangered status.

Curriculum in these schools has been tied to their farming projects, such as math, science and social studies, and the classes walk to the farms to learn plant, tend and harvest plants.


The Student Story

Students today didn’t get to just reach in and grab the strawberries. There was a great deal of learning just in the eating of the berries, which is one of the things I loved most about the experience.

First, the EduCulture instructor, Madison Taylor (known as Madi), had each person smell the large mound of strawberries in her bowl.

“Mmm…I can smell these! I can’t usually smell the ones at the store!” exclaimed one student.

Then Madison had everyone take one berry, but asked them to resist the temptation to pop the whole thing into their mouths and instead just bite the tip off, paying attention to all the flavors they experienced.

There were shouts ofEduC4 “Sweet! Sour! Bitter! Delicious!”

She then had everyone bite their strawberry in half and asked them to look at the color.

“It’s bright red!” exclaimed many. One student said, “The ones I get at the store are usually white.”

She finally let them eat the entire berry while explaining that the reason the flavor, smell and color of these berries were so deep and complex was because they were fresh and ripe, whereas the ones bought in grocery stores are often not completely ripe or, if they are, they’re often unnaturally ripened by ethanol and other chemical processes.

One teacher’s face fell, “But not for organic ones, right?!” she asked.

Madison assured her that no, organics are usually not ripened by ethanol (though I’ve read that farmers who don’t use chemical processes to ripen fruit are feeling the pressure due to other farmers getting their products to market sooner).

As she let the students take more berries and eat them, she then explained that when the class took strawberry runners, or “babies,” to another bed and planted them, it allowed the “mother” plants to grow big and strong.

She also explained, “These are Bainbridge Island strawberries,” through and through. Their mothers came from other mothers who came from other mothers on this same farm, and the berries they were eating carried flavors from the land here.

“What if I took soil and plants from Bainbridge to California, what would happen then? Would the berries taste the same?” asked one student.

“Try it and let me know what happens, because I’m curious, too!” she answered.

Past to Present

The Suyematsu and Bentryn Family Farms where the students have been planting, learning and harvesting was started in 1928 and is the oldest working farm in the region. Many immigrant families have worked on these farms to earn enough money to start their own farm or restaurant, including the locally loved Sawatdy Thai restaurant on Bainbridge Island.

In 2000 part of the 40 acre farm became publicly owned, and in 2007 the Educulture Project was founded by a handful of local teachers and farmers. EduCulture then began using the land as “a center of teaching and learning, and a seedbed for our local edible education movement.”

Two other farms on Bainbridge Island  are also used for EduCulture – Morales Farm and Heyday Farm.

In 2010, EduCulture partnered with the Bainbridge school district and now uses hundreds of pounds of corn, potatoes and raspberries grown by students and local farmers are featured in the school lunch program.

In 2013, the EduCulture Project partnered with food communities in Suquamish and Seattle to launch the Edible Democracy Project, which is an entire blog post in itself.

Special Note: Jonathan Garfunkel, founder and director of EduCulture Programs, wanted to give a shout out to Brian MacWhorter and Butler Green Farms.  It is on public land he leases at Morales and Suyematsu & Bentryn Farms and through his partnership that we have these plots. This photo is from his farm…


Learn more and get involved

(or get help starting your own farm to school project!)


Recommended reading by John Garfunkel, EduCulture Founder and Director:

Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods by Gary Nabhan

Renewing Salmon Nation’s Food Traditions by Gary Paul Nabhan

Terroir-ists Manifesto for Eating in Place by Gary Nabhan (read this first about terroir if you don’t know what it is)

Never do unto others what they can do for themselves ~ Ernesto CortesEduc5

Happy Hummers: Healthy Hummingbird Food

Rufous Hummingbird. Photo by Roger van Gelder of Bainbridge Island.

I have grown quite fond of hummingbirds, the beautiful little helicopters of the bird world. I’ve had occasion to hold them in my hand twice now and feel I’ve been touched by forces of nature. One time was to pull a foxglove flower off a little guy’s head!

Spring_Courtright_HummingbirdThis is a photo of a Rufous Hummingbird with a foxglove flower stuck on it’s head! Don’t worry, we pulled it off and it flew away.

My boyfriend Will is even more enamored with these little guys than I am and he has feeders everywhere.

One night a few weeks ago, he treated me to their “evening feeding.” We stood still outside between two feeders just before sunset, and we were swarmed by hummingbirds!

I was moved to tears as they hovered inches from my face to look at me with bright, intelligent eyes, then chirped in their curious manner and hopped back onto Will’s finger to sit as they fed.

The next day, I rushed out and did something very uncharacteristic – I bought hummingbird food from Fred Meyer. I know, I KNOW, what was I thinking, right?! All that fake coloring and who knows what else. It didn’t even attract hummers – they liked my red-flowering currant far more than the food I put out.

safe_imageAnna’s Hummingbird feeding from a Red-flowering Currant.
Photo by Roger van-Gelder




The next time Will came over and saw the container full of red dyed sugar water, he tsk-tsked me and told me about his magic hummingbird food.

I’ve been using his sugar water recipe ever since, and I’m happy to say I have two hummers who buzz around all throughout the day to drink my now dye-free food. As I write, one is visiting my feeder…

We use organic, fair trade, non-gmo sugar, which we buy in 10 pound bags at the Silverdale Costco.



On, Bob Sargent is quoted as saying, “‘Hummers need nectar to power the bug eating machine that they are.’ Think of them as miniature flycatchers, and sugar is just the fuel for getting their real nourishment.”

When I read that they eat soft bodied insects and spiders I decided I love them even more – natural bug control by beautiful birds!

Will’s Happy Hummer Recipe:

2 parts water
1 part sugar
Mix thoroughly
Rest of the year: 
3 or 4 parts water
1 part sugar

Will credits George Gerdst, birder extraordinaire, for the winter recipe. George said the higher sugar content helps the little hummers survive freezing winter nights and keeps the mixture from freezing.

We’ve found that they really like feeders with a little bar to stand on, like the one below, but they’ll drink out of anything red. It’s important to refresh the mixture every 3-5 days if it’s in the sun as the sunlight damages and spoils it.

Happy hummer photo by Will Fletcher

We have two kinds of native hummingbirds west of the Cascades: Rufous and Anna’s. Rufous hummers arrive by May and stay through October, with males arriving 2-3 weeks before females. They winter in Mexico and nest from southeast Alaska to northern California, and at least as far east as Georgia. Anna’s live here year-round, hence the need for sugar water that doesn’t freeze.

For a list of plants that attract hummingbirds in Washington state, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation page here.

Male Anna’s Hummingbird. Photo by Roger van Gelder of Bainbridge Island.

Thank you to Roger van Gelder and Will Fletcher for the great photos.

Thank you to these great websites for the information provided in this article:  – great FAQ section!
Hummer Bird Study Group
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Happy Birding!


EcoFest this Saturday in Kingston 11-3:00


Woohoooo for EcoFest! This is an event all outdoor-nature-sustainability-fun lovers on or around the Kitsap Peninsula should check out. Especially when the weather forecast is this:




The 15th annual EcoFest is this Saturday, May 31 from 11 am – 3 pm at the wonderful Stillwater’s Environmental Education Center in Kingston (26059 Barber Cutoff Road, Kingston 98346).

There will be booths all ages will love, with everything from Backyard Farm Animals to the Institute for Responsible Technology. Stillwaters will have native plants for sale at great prices (LOVE THEM!), as well as a kids open mic and other activities on their stage. There are food booths and fun booths and information booths…so much fun!!

For a complete list of booths and other information, click here to see the PDF flier, or visit the Stillwaters Environmental Education Center website at



“Stillwaters Environmental Center is dedicated to informing and empowering our community to make ecologically responsible decisions. We assist people to achieve sustainability of Earth’s resources  – including both humans and our natural environment.  We use our Carpenter Creek watershed  to teach  about the many interactions  between the plants, animals and humans that inhabit any ecosystem. We foster action  by being a model of sustainability. We teach citizens practical, everyday changes  to improve the ecosystems in which they live.”

Need I say more? I absolutely love this organization and the two ladies who founded it are local heroes for me – Joleen Palmer and Naomi Maasburg. I’ll share more about their amazing efforts another time, but for now, know that you should pack up and get on over to their wonderful EcoFest event!

Happy Festivaling,


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Party Hosting with Sustainable Style

bday2I’ve missed writing the last couple weeks! It was my birthday last weekend and there’s always a fluster of activity around my house, with friends and family coming to stay for the entire weekend. We call it the Gemini Party because we celebrate at least three May birthdays, but I consider it my annual thank you party – I celebrate friends, family and just being alive.

As I was cleaning up after it was all over, first I realized there were many simple things I and others did that helped keep the waste down from the two-day party.

According to the Clean Air Council, “every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times.” 

Isn’t that just crazy?! I like to do my part in stemming the tide of garbage, no matter how strong that tide is. I imagine you feel the same way if you’re reading this, so…

Here are six things to keep a house party green, whether it’s a work potluck, children’s birthday party or another kind of gathering:

1. Use reusable plates, cups and utensils. Yes, it takes water to wash them, but to me being able to use them year after year is the most important thing. Second hand stores have amazing selections of both plastic and other options.


2. If you’re doing a potluck, let guests know ahead of time that you’re into organic, home made and fresh garden items. Don’t be shy – you never know when your honesty will help influence someone else’s life choices…

3. Use reusable cloth napkins. I know, it take water to wash them, but again, it’s less materials shipped around the world to wipe your dirty hands, and less waste in the landfills.

4. Collect interesting fabric to use for table cloths and decorations. Rather than use disposable plastic or other decorations, keep colorful fabric swatches around and lay them out on tables for color and fun. I love finding cool fabric swatches at second hand stores – I have a drawer full of large fabric pieces to choose from, with everything from plain colors to flowers to sheer materials. After the party I just I toss them in the washing machine with my fabric napkins, and on sunny days I hang dry them.


5. Bake your own cake or ask someone to bring it as a potluck item. Home made cakes always taste better than store bought ones, especially when they’re baked with love! I have two friends who love to bake and who make DELICIOUS treats, so I ask them each year to bring whatever cake-like item they want to make.

6. Give sustainable gifts. Whether in a gift bag for each guest or for a special birthday guest, a small thoughtful, sustainable gift can carry more meaning than a fancy, unsustainable item. For example, my friend always gives me a fair trade, organic chocolate bar – I love these not only because they’re chocolate (duh), but because she knows my desire to have a positive impact with purchases.


fair trade






Anyone who knows me knows I love to throw a party, and with these simple steps I can feel good about doing so as many times a year as I please.

One more thing I do for my smaller parties is to ask guests to scour their closets and cupboards for clothes and other items they don’t wear or use, then bring them to the party. When the time feels right, we have “naked lady party” time where we pile everything on my bed, then dig through and try things on. Everyone goes home with something! I’ll write more about naked lady parties later…

For more green party ideas, visit Green Planet Parties

Visit the Clean Air Council for more garbage and recycling facts.

I’d love to hear what you do to keep waste down at parties!

Happy Partying!


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