Category Archives: South County News

Holey Moley

Peso and moleBy Pat Nelson, January 23, 2008

Reprinted with permission, South County News/The Daily News, Longview, WA

Gardeners like Woodland’s sandy soil because digging is easy and rocks are seldom encountered. Moles like it too. That became obvious after I landscaped a few years ago. Almost before I had time to stand back and admire the yard, brown mounds of dirt started popping up, making my lawn look like a page out of a connect-the-dots book.

It’s hard to shake a finger at the pesky mammal because even though the hills of dirt can ruin the appearance of a yard, the moles are seldom seen. They stay underground most of the time, cruising their tunnels looking for worms and larvae, with their broad and powerful front feet allowing them to move through the dirt as though they’re swimming.

Most people aren’t willing to forgive moles for ruining their yards, even when they’re told that moles eat lawn pests and improve soil aeration and drainage. Cody Arocho, customer service specialist for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, referred me to the agency’s website www.wdfw.wa.gov to learn the differences between pocket gophers and moles, and the laws pertaining to trapping and lethal control of these mammals.

Everyone seems to recommend a different mole deterrent to add to the runways. The list is long: Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum, Ex-Lax, hair, broken glass, castor oil, Marigolds, pickle juice, mothballs, household lye, flooding, fumigants, hard pellet poison baits, razor blades, spearmint leaves, barbed wire, Euphorbia plants, thorned rosebush canes, gas cartridges, and smoke bombs.

In stores, you’ll find commercial products to eradicate moles: there are poisons and vibrating or ultrasonic devices, pinwheels, and traps. Still, moles continue to tear up lawns while foraging through their tunnels for insects, larvae, small slugs, and other soil invertebrates. To date, no chemical or physical repellents, baits, or live traps have proven to consistently eradicate moles. My cat, though, has caught a few. He brought two large moles into the house last year. I screamed when I saw the first one in our bathroom, and it was still alive until my husband rescued me by attacking it with the toilet plunger. A few days later, the cat brought me a second mole…this one was dead… and placed it on the living room floor as my birthday gift.

I’ve tried many of the mole-eradication methods listed above. For awhile, I thought some of them worked, but actually the moles had just blocked off their tunnels and moved to a different part of the yard. The here-today, gone-tomorrow behavior of the moles helps lend credibility to the non-proven measures.

I’ve read about constructing underground barriers to keep moles out of small areas, but that method sounds expensive and labor-intensive. I decided, instead, to cover my backyard with concrete pavers.  “There,” I thought. “Try pushing those out of your way.”  Now when I look at my backyard,  I don’t see mole hills, but I don’t see green grass either.

Moles continued to raise cosmetic havoc with my front yard. I wanted a green lawn, and was determined to keep the insectivores from dotting it with hills of dirt. I said to my husband, “I have one last plan. If it doesn’t work, we’ll cover the front yard with pavers too.” After knocking down the existing molehills, we spread a grub-control product over the yard before covering the entire lawn with weed fabric. We then topped the weed fabric with new sod. That was 2 ½ years ago. With the exception of a few mounds that pop up around the edges, I still have a green lawn without molehills.

When I walk across the lawn, I notice a slight rolling effect created by underground tunnels. The grass isn’t as thick as I would like; but it is green. I know I’m breaking the rules for growing a nice lawn, but this is my last chance to win the battle. If the moles win, I’ll remove the grass and put in pavers, and there will be a lawnmower for sale at my house.

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Filed under gardening, moles, plants, South County News, Woodland

A return to sweet and simple things

pie and chocolateBy Pat Nelson, January 2, 2008
Reprinted with permission, South County News/The Daily News, Longview, WA

I see a diet in my future, but today, I still have a few pieces of rich, dark chocolate in a box, a Christmas gift from our nephew, Paul, who lives in Amsterdam. When Paul said he was coming for a visit, I e-mailed and asked if he could bring me just a couple pieces of the fantastic chocolate from Puccini Bomboni, a shop we visited in Amsterdam last June.We met up with Paul at his mother’s house in Dundee, Ore., on Christmas Eve, and he hadn’t forgotten the chocolates. Unfortunately, the deep blue Puccini Bomboni box he gave me contained more than just two pieces.Today, the waistband of my pants feels too tight. Either the jeans shrunk again or I ate too much throughout the past year, and especially over the recent holidays. I can’t begin a diet with those incredible chocolates in my house, so I’ll have to eat them today. Then there’s that leftover apple pie I made for Christmas. If my husband and I each eat two pieces, the pie will be gone and I’ll be ready to diet … unless I postpone it until after our New Year’s Eve party. Crumpled wrapping paper still covers the floor and the cat has shredded the tissue. I haven’t turned on the Christmas tree lights today or opened the latest batch of cards. I’m tired and a cold sore has sprouted on my lip from eating too much chocolate. The holiday is over and the phone has sprung back to life with urgent business calls. I’d like to crawl into bed with a good book, a cup of tea, a slice of pie with ice cream, and a few pieces of Puccini Bomboni chocolate, but responsibilities are calling.Ah, if only times were simpler so that we wouldn’t feel so drained — and broke — by the time the holidays are over.

We long for more and more, but sometimes lean holidays create the most special memories, standing out because of their simplicity rather than being lost in the over-abundance of food and commercialism.

When my older brothers were children in the 1930s, they didn’t have expectations of grand gifts under the tree. I remember my mother telling me, “One year, we didn’t have money to buy any Christmas gifts at all, so I took a jelly glass out of the cupboard and wrapped it for your brothers to share.”

A few days ago as neighbors gathered around a piano singing carols at a Christmas party, I remembered a Christmas when I was a child, standing the doorway of our house in Kelso on a crisp, dark December evening listening to carolers. The gift of music coming from the sidewalk was not expensive or hi-tech, but it created a lasting memory.

When I was a child, Mom often made gifts, and we made Christmas cards together from used greeting cards, construction paper trimmed with pinking shears, and little scraps of ribbon. We didn’t buy new tree ornaments every year to create a different theme, and re-visiting the familiar ornaments each December was like seeing old friends.

As 2007 ends, I finish my rich Puccini Bomboni chocolates and sugar-glazed apple pie. I toss the crushed wrapping paper from gifts into the trash can and pack away this year’s fish-themed Christmas decorations. I wonder — is a diet just about food, or can I use the same principles to celebrate next Christmas with more simplicity, not obscuring the joy of the season with an overabundance of material things — or rich, dark chocolate? 

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Filed under chocolate, Family Memories, Holidays, South County News

Recycle trees through Jan. 10

tree recyclingBy Pat Nelson, January 9, 2008

Reprinted with permission, South County News/The Daily News, Longview, WA  

When you take down your Christmas tree, the story doesn’t end there. Your tree still has to be undecorated and disposed of, and it usually leaves confetti made up of needles and glitter and possibly a few pieces of broken ornaments on your floor.

Are you wondering how to dispose of your tree? We’re taking ours to the Christmas tree drop-off point on the east side of Horseshoe Lake near the skateboard park.

In the case of tree recycling, bigger isn’t better. If your tree has a trunk diameter of more than 6 inches, it is too large to be recycled because it won’t fit into the chipper. Solution: use a saw to cut off the portion of the trunk that is more than 6 inches in diameter, and take the rest of the tree to the recycling lot.

The next time you add fuel to the fire, consider that your tree will be chipped into bits to make compost or fuel, but when recycling Christmas trees, don’t include decorations, stands or tree-flock.

My tree is headed for the recycling lot, but unfortunately it never did have its moment of twinkling glory. At our house, a ledge in our living room overhangs the deck. Our novel approach to having what appears to be a huge Christmas tree — but not — is to place an artificial tree on the ledge inside the house and a real tree on the deck outside, just below the artificial tree.

When we look through the sliding doors from inside the house, the two trees, decorated identically, appear to be one very tall tree.

This year, our plan didn’t work so well. The Moose lodge delivered a 10-foot noble Christmas tree to our deck. My husband cut off the top so the tree would match up well with the tree above. By the time the top had been cut off, the noble was too short to reach the roof of the deck, so we had to place it on a platform. It was a heavy tree, and it took both of us and plenty of groaning to put it in place. We checked the effect from inside the house and adjusted the placement of the tree on the ledge — the lighter-weight tree — so both would line up. After wrestling the heavy tree, we decided to leave the decorating for another day.

Two evenings later, we heard a crash. “What’s that,” asked my husband.

“The tree fell over,” I replied.

We both struggled to right the tree and return it to its platform, but we were unable to lift it high enough. My husband felt a pain in his back and dropped the tree. “This tree will have to stay there,” he said, and it did.

Now, we will have to get the tree off the patio and over to the designated recycling spot at the park. We might have to cut it into smaller pieces with a chain saw. Whatever we decide to do, we’ll have to hurry. Tomorrow, Jan. 10, is the last day to drop off trees

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Mother Nature gets a helping hand

Holland America Bulb FarmBy Pat Nelson
January 16, 2008
Reprinted with permission, South County News/The Daily News, Longview, WA

Rain-soaked rows stretch across the 125 acres of fertile farmland at the Holland America Bulb Farm at 1066 South Pekin Rd. in Woodland. It’s hard to image now, looking at the brown rows glistening in the sunlight after a morning shower, that in just 2 ½ months a wide rainbow of vibrant tulips will stand proudly above the soil, impressing thousands of visitors at the annual tulip festival.  

The town of Woodland will be decked out too, because the farm donates around 700 pots of stunning spring flowers to decorate the city. Four hundred of those will be the Woodland tulip, the hybridized variety that, thanks to the efforts of Holland America owner Benno Dobbe, was named for the town in 2005. The Woodland tulip is a cross between the deep pink Don Quichotte tulip and Prominence, a red variety.

To guarantee tulips for the festival, the Dobbes give mother nature a hand. According to warehouse manager Ernst Terhorst, bulbs are planted November through January and then are forced so that they will bloom at the desired time. “We create the climate to fool the bulb,” he said. “We put the bulbs in a cooling unit because they need winter. Depending on the type of bulb, they cool for four to eight weeks.”

Refrigerating bulbs persuades the tulips to flower earlier. “We adjust the temperature of the cooling rooms as needed,” said Terhorst. “With flowers, you can’t read out of a book. You have to have it in your fingers…you have to communicate with them.”

Terhorst, along with the Dobbe’s daughter Nicolette Wakefield, who operates the facility’s Royal Dutch Flower Gardens Gift Shop, took me on a tour of the operation. In one of many large coolers, I saw tall stacks of plastic bins filled with already-potted spring bulbs including tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, iris, and others. Some had sprouted, and I could see the tiny hair-like roots poking out the bottoms of pots.

According to Wakefield, “besides the bulbs grown to decorate the downtown, 5000 bulbs are being planted in pots for the Tulip Festival. Some will decorate the display garden and the rest are being grown to sell at the festival.”

Terhorst and Wakefield next showed me the potting area, where three employees pot the bulbs. One places peat moss in the bottom of the pot. The next plants the bulbs. A third adds sand, which is heavy and holds the bulbs in place, while providing good drainage.

The Holland America Bulb Farm sells cut flower from September through Mother’s Day. Both bulbs and cut flowers are sold nationwide.

The cut flower operation involves an assembly line to de-bulb and package the flowers. First, a machine cuts a small portion off the bottom of the bulb. That allows it to be crushed, releasing the portion of the stem that was inside the bulb, and leaving a longer flower stem. Ten stems are packaged in a bunch; then they are banded, sleeved in plastic, and placed in water before being boxed and shipped. The bulbs that are cut away are composted. According to Nicolette Wakefield, “Nothing is wasted.”

The farm employs thirty now, and will employ 150 in the spring.

I was shown a cooler where lily bulbs are frozen and stored for up to a year at a precise temperature. “The temperature can’t be off even a couple tenths of a degree,” said Terhorst. “The bulbs contain their own type of antifreeze to keep them from being damaged by freezing.”

During the April festival, Holland America owners Benno and Klazina Dobbe turn their front yard into a display garden, where visitors can stroll along the paths, admire the tulips, and mark their favorite varieties on an order form for October pick-up.

Today, it might look like nothing’s going on in the 125 acres of fields, but don’t be fooled. Beneath that rich soil, bulbs are getting ready to put on a spectacular April show.

  

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South County News team gets in holiday spirit

South County News TeamBy Pat Nelson
Reprinted with permission, South Sounty News/Daily News, Longview, WA


Reporter Leila Summers brought South County News contributors together in Woodland on Dec. 18 for a Christmas party at Los Pepe’s restaurant. When I entered the room, I saw two familiar faces: those of Noel and Nancy Johnson.
Noel’s Web site, www.lewisriver.com, is a leading source of information about our area. He’s seen with his camera at just about every event that’s held in the area, and his photos have bailed me out more than once when my camera didn’t work or his pictures were better than mine. His photographs of area events are often used by South County News. Next, I met Cheryll Borgaard, region editor of the South County News, and Linda Pharr, who contributes Kalama news. It was good to put faces with names.I had already met Leila Summers, South County News reporter, who has become a frequent face at Woodland and Kalama council meetings and area events.

Cheryll Borgaard wears many hats. Not only is she the region editor for South County News, but she is also assistant city editor and night editor for the Daily News. I asked Cheryll if The Daily News has other regional editions like the South County News. “We have two ‘Extra’ pages that we run once a week,” she said. “…one for Columbia County and one for north Cowlitz County (Castle Rock, Toutle, etc.) but they’re only one page in the regular paper while SCN is a full four.”

The first issue of South County News, she said, was Nov. 22, 2006.

Borgaard became a reporter for The Daily News in late 1999 after 10 years as editor of the now defunct Cowlitz County Advocate. She was made editor in 2000.

Reporter Leila Summers began work on South County News just two days before the publication of its second issue. Leila, a Spokane native, came here from the Shoshone News-Press in Kellogg, Idaho. She received her journalism degree from Washington State University.

Linda Pharr reports on Kalama-area news and events. She has lived in Kalama since 2000, and she said, “Writing for the paper has helped me get to know people.”

Another contributor, Ladisa Quintanilla, was unable to attend the party. She features Woodland and Kalama residents in the “People to Know” column.

Quintanilla was born in Guam where she lived with her family until 2000. She has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and business administration from the University of Guam and is currently working on getting her master’s degree from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She is employed in Vancouver by Education Opportunities for Children and Families.

I started writing this column for South County News in April. I take writing classes from bestselling author Julie Fast in Portland and I am working on a young-adult book when I’m not helping my husband with Big Deals, our retail and wholesale business. Once a week, I visit my granddaughter’s second-grade classroom to help with writing lessons.

Leila had a good idea in getting us all together. After all, it takes a team to write a newspaper, and it’s easier to feel like part of a team now that we’ve met. We got to know each other a little better when we exchanged gifts and played the game of stealing them from each other. Noel Johnson felt triumphant when he ended up with a set of coasters that hold photos — the perfect gift for this photographer on our team!

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Thankul for Memories

Thanksgiving morning 2007By Pat Nelson, November 28, 2007
Reprinted with permission, South County News/Daily News, Longview, WA
When I was growing up, my mother would get up Thanksgiving morning around 5 a.m.to “put the bird in the oven.” She had worked hard the day before making pies and preparing side dishes. In those days, you made your own pies and lots of them. I can remember the sound of the rolling pin as it rolled across the dough, and flour flying for hours as Mom rolled out the perfect rounds that would become flaky pie shells. She always rolled out and baked the scraps of dough, too, and put jam on them for me as a treat.By the time I would get up on Thanksgiving morning, the turkey would be cooking, and Mom, tired from preparations the day before and from getting up early, would be elbow deep in soapsuds, washing the mountain of dishes she had created while cooking. That, of course, was before dishwashers were a standard item in homes. At our house, Mom was the dishwasher, and I was the reluctant assistant when I couldn’t find a way to get out of it.We’d go to church Thanksgiving morning, and then hurry home to finish preparing the meal. My aunt Agnes always brought stacks of lefse, the thin Norwegian bread made from mashed potatoes, butter and cream. Lefse looks something like tortillas, but thinner. In our family, we always butter our lefse and roll it like crepes, but some people prefer to eat it with cinnamon and sugar.We always ate Thanksgiving dinner early in the day, and I can remember my brother eating several helpings before falling asleep on the couch. There was always too much food, and it was hard to make room in the refrigerator for all the leftovers, even after sending food home with guests.Occasionally we would go to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Dad had low blood sugar and required frequent meals. He learned quickly that if we went to one particular home for dinner, he had to eat first and bring snacks, because the meal was always served several hours late.When I decided to cook my first Thanksgiving dinner, I talked my mother-in-law into coming to my house at 5 a.m.to help me. There we were, her with sleepy eyes and me in my robe, slipping my first turkey into the oven. I was shocked at how easy it was. Once in the oven, there was plenty of time to get the rest of the meal ready. The only bad parts were getting up out of a warm bed to handle a cold bird and trying to ignore the butterflies in my stomach because I was afraid to make gravy.It was important to me that my dinner be served on time. It would have been, but one guest arrived thirty minutes late — with her sweet potatoes still in the can and the marshmallows still in the bag; the dish still had to be cooked. I was devastated. I was also tired from getting up so early.That was the only time I got up early to cook a turkey. Now, my first rule is that dinner will be served at 4 p.m. so I won’t have to get up early. Even with a 20-pound turkey, I never have to have it in the oven before 9 a.m.My second rule is that the meal be served on time; if someone is late, we eat without them.It isn’t Thanksgiving without lefse, so after my dear Aunt Agnes passed away, I learned to make it myself. It was time-consuming and I was a messy cook, with more flour on the kitchen surfaces than the pie-making ever caused. I suddenly felt guilty about the stacks of lefse I had consumed every holiday season when Agnes was alive. I had never given a thought to the time and effort it took for her to supply all of us with our favorite treat.Eventually, I learned that members of the Sons of Norway in Kelso sell lefse once each November at their holiday bazaar. The date is on my calendar, and I show up there every year for 10 packs of perfect lefse.Now, holiday dinners are no longer stressful. I get up at 8 a.m. and have the turkey in the oven by 9 a.m. I use Pillsbury pie crusts that are ready to roll out into my pans, allowing me to bake homemade pies with perfect crust and little mess.I keep the menu simple: my daughter-in-law brings the mashed potatoes; my daughter brings the green-bean casserole. I open a can of cranberries, put a few pickles and olives on a plate, and make the gravy while the turkey is cooling.I haven’t been nervous about the gravy since I learned to cheat. I cook the giblets and save the broth to add to the turkey drippings. Then, I add packaged turkey gravy mix. Along with the drippings and the broth, I make perfect gravy every time.This Thanksgiving, Woodland sparkled in the sunshine as my family arrived. The sky was blue, the air was crisp, and Horseshoe Lake looked like a mirror, reflecting the autumn leaves of the trees on shore. We shot baskets in the driveway, rode bikes and ate on time.

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Filed under celebrations, Family Memories, grandchildren, Holidays, Horseshoe Lake, South County News, Thanksgiving, Woodland

Christmas angels give gifts

By Pat Nelson December 19, 2007
Reprinted with permission, South County News/Daily News, Longview, WA

Weeks of effort by volunteers for the Woodland Community Center culminated in a two-hour gift-giving party Saturday at the Woodland High School Commons.Volunteer Portia Brown, who is on the center’s board of directors, headed up the giving tree portion of the event. She placed 16 “giving trees” decorated with paper angels in area businesses and churches. Each angel represented a child who is served by the Woodland Community Center. It listed the child’s sex and age as well as three gifts on the child’s wish list.Community members were encouraged to choose an angel from a tree and to fill a child’s Christmas wish.Three hours before the event, executive director Sheri Monge’s husband, Doug, and the couple’s sons were already at the high school commons delivering gifts to get ready for the 259 children who had signed up, plus a few more. Their car was loaded to the brim with wrapped presents.“This year twice the number of children signed up as last year,” Brown said.

People of all ages gave generously. “Last night,” said Brown,” a family delivered presents. Their daughter had chosen a tag for a 10-year-old girl, and she used her birthday money to buy the gift.”

The event started at noon, and when I arrived, there were already many children sitting around the large decorated tables, tracing their hands on construction paper. Each table held paper, scissors and crayons. Some children carefully cut around the constructions-paper fingers, and others cut the paper into tiny confetti-like bits. The arts and crafts project at the tables gave the excited children something to do while waiting to visit Santa and receive their gifts.

Volunteers served refreshments at the back of the room, and youngsters loaded their plates with some of their favorites: graham crackers, cheese, crackers and homemade cookies.

“The party is for babies through high-school aged children,” Brown said.

Though I noticed kids of all ages, most appeared to be under 10. There were lots of strollers, baby carriers, and babes in arms. Blonde hair stuck out from under one young boy’s green elf hat. With a large crowd of children waiting to receive presents, Santa must have been happy to see an elf.

Doug Monge called the names of the children whose turn it was to visit Santa, and they excitedly left their tables to wait in line. One of the first to visit Santa was Sierra Rose, age 12, who visited with Santa and received her gifts, but thought she was too old to sit on his knee.

Most of the younger kids, and a few of the older ones, were happy to sit with Santa to have their picture taken, but one toddler cried as soon as he saw the bearded man in the red suit. His mother comforted him, but as they again took a step towards Santa, his whimpering turned to a loud wail. Not even a candy cane could make him less afraid, so a volunteer gave him his gifts without the traditional visit.

After visiting Santa, children next moved on to choose a plush animal, a pencil box and a toy from a barrel. They left with their arms loaded with gifts. Two-year-old Jose Zavala cried because he couldn’t remove the cellophane from his candy cane, and he wasn’t ready to choose a teddy bear before tasting the sweet mint of the red and white candy.

As the crowd thinned, volunteers started clearing empty tables. Children became restless, and they chased each other around tables, tossing their floppy teddy bears into the air. Some colored in coloring books while parents visited. I overheard some kids who were already looking forward to next year’s event.

At the end, when each child had received gifts, the garbage cans were stuffed with Christmas wrappings covered with pictures of Santa, snowmen, Christmas trees and angels — reminding me of the angels who had worked so hard to bring joyous smiles to these children.

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