Category Archives: WA

Costumes and treats make lasting Halloween memories

ally-will-save-the-day-071ally-will-save-the-day-07by Pat Nelson

 Every fall when leaves turn orange and pumpkins decorate yards, a think of Halloweens past. When I was a child, my mother usually created a costume for me from discarded clothing, scraps of material, face paint, and imagination.

My best friend Marilyn and I liked to dress in the same theme. One year, she dressed as George Washington and I dressed as Martha. In those days, it was still safe to trick-or-treat from house to house, whether or not we knew the homeowners. Some residents handed out gooey popcorn balls or homemade chocolate chip cookies. If they gave us apples, we didn’t have to check for sharp objects.

As soon as it was dusk, we would start ringing doorbells. Some boys, intent on collecting as much candy as possible, would race from door to door with pillowcases, trick-or-treating from before dusk until past the bewitching hour of 9:00. Marilyn and I trick-or-treated until about 7:00, when we went to a party at our school.

When my children were young, they begged to go to a haunted house. I gave in one year and promised them a trip to the Haunted Mansion in Longview. My daughter was sick a few days before the event, and she was so looking forward to going that when her fever subsided, I gave in. Part way through, she became so frightened that the ghosts and goblins had to let her out the side exit, and her fever returned.

Both of my kids enjoyed entering pumpkin-decorating contests, and both usually won prizes. One year at school, my daughter entered a particularly charming pumpkin. A medium-sized pumpkin, the head, perched on a plump pumpkin body. Whimsical gourds became eyes, nose, mouth, ears, arms and legs. Alas, her pumpkin was disqualified because it was decorated, not carved. However, a carved watermelon took the prize. For her, it was a lesson in “life’s not fair.”

Each Halloween, I think of Maggie McQuarrie, a 70-something Woodland Library supporter who passed away a few years ago. The tiny woman loved to dress up in costume, and one year borrowed a green, feather-decorated sweatshirt from my grandson, along with a bird headdress, just to surprise her “morning coffee” friends at McDonalds. On Halloween, she dressed up and knocked on our door. We felt kind of sorry for the kid who had to go out trick-or-treating alone until we caught the scent of her cigarettes and heard her raspy voice say, “Trick-or-Treat.”

From the time my grandchildren were small, they dressed up and joined 1000 other costumed kids in marching past the businesses on Woodland’s Goerig Street and Davidson Avenue, down one side and back the other, stopping at each business to trick-or-treat. Woodland continues this tradition each year, blocking streets to provide safety. Many businesses that would like to participate, but that are not located in the designated trick-or-treat area, set up booths along the route in the Grange Hall at 404 Davidson Avenue.

Area kids will form their own Halloween memories this October 31 when they trick-or-treat downtown Woodland between 3:00 and 5:00 P.M.

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Filed under celebrations, Halloween, Holidays, WA, Woodland, Woodland Community Library

Skate park goes green

by Pat Nelson
Reprinted with permission, The Daily News, Longview, WA 5/23/2008

  A sign stating “Tree City USA” now sits near three newly planted flowering trees at the edge of the lawn stretching gently downhill from Woodland’s skateboard park. In late April, City of Woodland employees and volunteers laid sod to convert the area surrounding the skate park from a muddy mess into a lush lawn.

I’m not a stranger to laying sod, so I was curious when I saw the pallets of healthy grass being delivered to Horseshoe Lake Park. My husband and I installed sod in our front yard in 2005 because of its ease of installation and immediate results. We also liked the idea that it would be less susceptible to weed invasion than a seeded lawn. Those were all good, logical reasons, but the main reason I wanted to lay sod was that I had done it once before, and it was fun.

My first sod-laying experience was 15 years ago when my son, Steve, bought a home. It was a hot day, and I remember being busy with the hose, watering the pallets of sod so they wouldn’t dry out and keeping the already-laid sod and the bare soil moist. Looking at Steve’s brown yard, and then at the pallets of sod, I couldn’t have predicted the rewarding transformation that took place that day, into a dense, green, healthy lawn. As Steve and I carried the sections of turf and placed one tightly against another, a beautiful lawn quickly formed. We were filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Don Schmitt, owner of Far West Turf Farm and Circle S Landscape Supplies, LTD., made the grassy slopes surrounding the skateboard park possible by donating 16,000 square feet of sod. Schmitt’s turf farm and nursery, formerly located on Old Lewis River Road, moved to its present location at 35306 NW Toenjer Rd. a little more than a year ago. The Circle S nursery also has a location in Fairview, OR. Schmitt’s grass is grown from perennial rye grass seed produced in the Willamette Valley. The Port of Woodland donated soil to prepare the area for landscaping. Before laying the sod, City of Woodland employees graded the area and then applied fertilizer and lime on top of the finished grade.

At the skateboard park this April, frequent spring showers took care of keeping the sod cool and damp during installation, and sprinklers have been keeping it moist since then. City employees and volunteers quickly learned that when laying sod, it helps to be able to touch your toes; the task requires repeated bending in order to place the five-square-foot sections of lawn on the soil. The sod is grown in meshed net for support and to aid in installation, and it is cut into sections before delivery. Installers start with the longest straight edge, and work towards irregular boundaries. They fit the pieces close together, without overlapping, staggering the sections like bricks.

One thing I like about working with sod is that it is forgiving. If you need to move a section, you simply pick it up and move it. If you need to create a better fit or round a corner, you cut it with a sharp knife, a garden spade, or shears. Rather than disposing of the scraps, you can keep them damp for possible use later in the installation. These scraps can mean the difference between finishing the project or ordering more sod.

Once sod is in place, it is usually rolled with a half-full water-weighted roller to provide good contact between the roots and the soil, and to eliminate air pockets. Conditions were too wet for using the roller, so workers placed plywood on the grass to keep the soil from being disturbed when walked on and to help the grass roots bond. Large boulders from Kalama were placed around the grassy area, separating it from the parking lot where fishermen gather at the northeast side of Horseshoe Lake.

City employees Scott Summers, Paul Trice, Mark Sarvela, Brent Shelton, Jason Sloan, and Mark Cook, along with volunteers Ken Huston and Blayden Wall, worked on the project. The sod is in place, but that doesn’t mean the job is over for city employees. In a few days, the lawn will be ready for mowing.

The new sod completely transformed the landscape around the skateboard park. Brown soil almost instantly became a lush green carpet of grass, As it turned out, this carpet was rolled out just in time as Woodlanders gathered next to the new lawn to celebrate receiving, for the very fist time, the title “Tree City USA” from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

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Filed under Horseshoe Lake, Kalama, National Arbor Day Foundation, sod, The Daily News, Tree City USA, turf farm, WA, Woodland

Save gas…find fun close to home

by Pat Nelson

Reprinted with permission, The Daily News, Longview, WA June 6, 2008

If you’re worried about this summer’s high gas prices putting the brakes on your vacation plans, try thinking closer to home.

We’re fortunate to live close to mountains, forests, lakes and beaches, as well as places to go birding or to explore caves.  A couple years ago, before we were facing gas prices in excess of $4 per gallon, I took my two grandchildren, Max and Chelsea, on a camping trip…only ten minutes from home. We packed up toys, sleeping bags, swimsuits and food and headed for the Echo Park campground, only a few minutes east of I-5 at Woodland, on Lewis River Road.  The trip was so short that the kids didn’t even have time to sing our favorite travel song, which goes like this: “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I have to go to the bathroom.”

The adventure started as soon as we registered at the camp store. The kids had fun choosing our campsite. After driving through the small, privately-owned campground a couple times, they agreed upon a spot away from the road, but not far from the restrooms and the heated swimming pool. As long as our vehicle was level, I didn’t care which site they chose. At the campsite, tall trees stood over us, and the aroma of the forest told us we were on vacation. The Lewis River flowed peacefully nearby. The site had water, electricity, and a picnic table, and the three of us agreed that it was perfect.

It was a hot day, and it didn’t take long for us to change into swimsuits and get into the refreshing swimming pool.  Max jumped in, over and over, and then dove for colored rings with some newfound friends. I heard myself saying, “No running,” “feet first,” and “be careful,” all the warnings a good grandma gives her grandchildren when they’re swimming.

At that time, Chelsea was just learning to swim, and as I gave her a push through the water towards the side of the pool and let her go, she paddled fiercely to the edge, emerging wide-eyed with wet hair slicked back against her head, droplets of water clinging to her long lashes, and a wide smile. The same scene was repeated over and over, until , hours later, the kids finally admitted to being tired and decided to play at the campsite.

Max is a picky eater, so my biggest concern about camping was feeding him. With a burn ban in effect, we couldn’t build a campfire to cook his favorite food, hot dogs. We were about to make sandwiches for dinner when my husband called from Woodland to say he was on his way with dinner from Burgerville…including Max’s other favorite food, chicken strips .

At night, we snuggled into our sleeping bags and told stories in the dark. The night was quiet, and we soon fell asleep in a forest that seemed like it was far, far from home.

Later that summer, we visited the park again, but just for the day. The campground allows visitors to pay a fee to swim when pool capacity allows, so Max and Chelsea invited friends to join us for swimming and picnicking.

We’re looking forward to camping there again this summer, so I stopped by recently and talked with Assistant Manager Diane Cretsinger, who told me, “The park has new owners. Now it’s the Lewis River Country Store and R. V. Park.” Diane proudly listed the features of the park: hot food available in the store, firewood for sale, heated swimming pool, fishing hole, bath house, dump station, and gas pumps.

If you want to save gas this year, try a vacation close to home. One more advantage is that when the trip is over, you won’t be faced with a long, tiring drive home.

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Filed under camping, fishing, grandchildren, The Daily News, travel, WA, Woodland

Kids, birds will compete for Horseshoe Lake fish

Cormorants fish at Horseshoe Lake 

 

April 18, 2008

 

 

By Pat Nelson
For The Daily News, Longview, WA
Copyright
Reprinted with permission

In preparation for spring fishing at Woodland’s Horseshoe Lake, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife planted more than 8800 rainbow trout and more than 6510 brown trout during the first eight days of April. Another 2,500-3,500 rainbows will be trucked to Horseshoe Lake for the fifth annual Moose Lodge kids’ fishing derby, to be held 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The derby is for children ages 5 to 14.

Moose Lodge volunteers will place a large net in the lake to hold the fish that the hatchery delivers for the derby. Then, they will stand guard through the night to make sure no fish-loving banditos catch the trout before the kids have had their fun.

The cormorants flew in this month just after the first fish were planted. They must have followed the truck from the hatchery.  They eat their share of the newly-planted fish, but according to fishing derby chairman Fred Rotinski, they don’t seem to bother the fish that are in the net. The ospreys, on the other hand, see the fish in the net and dive right in.

Cormorants work together when they fish. Last Friday at dawn, I watched several of the black, web-footed birds pick off some tasty treats with their hooked beaks. First, they flew in low and then settled on the water. They seemed to be just floating along leisurely, with their bodies under water and their long, straight necks sticking straight up like periscopes. Suddenly they started diving. I looked out at a group of cormorants in front of me, only to blink my eyes and then to see no birds at all; they had disappeared under water. I continued to watch the spot where I had last seen them, but after about 30 seconds, they popped up in another spot, and then dove again.

Cormorants can dive from 8 to 20 feet, sometimes even more. Here, though, they don’t have to work that hard because the newly-planted fish swim close to the surface.

The cormorants weren’t the only fishermen out in the early morning. A heron swooped low on the lake, just above the cormorants, surveying the seafood buffet, and three ospreys flew high in the air, often flapping their wings quickly to stay in place, like a helicopoter in a holding pattern, before diving for fish..

Competing with the birds doesn’t deter Moose Lodge volunteers, who have held eight or nine planning meetings to get ready for the derby. They will arrive at the park Saturday morning with 50 rods and reels for the youngsters to use. The kids only have to bring the $2 entry fee.

Volunteers in aprons will have their pockets loaded with hooks and bait. Kids can have their picture taken with their catch, and can even have their fish cleaned. Thanks to donations from local citizens and merchants, bikes, fishing rods, and other prizes will be awarded.

The birds are doing their best to make a dent in the more than 18,000 fish planted in Horseshoe Lake  this month, but there should be plenty of fish left for the five hundred kids expected at the derby. Moose Lodge volunteers are excited about the event. “If you see some little kid catch his first fish, you’ll understand why we do this,” chairman Rotinski said.

Sidebar:

What: 5th annual Moose Lodge Kids’ Fishing Derby

When: Saturday April 19, 8 AM-2 PM

Where: Horseshoe Lake Park, just  west of the skateboard park

FOR: AGES 5-14

Cost: $2

DETAILS: Poles and bait provided; Food, fun, and prizes.

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Filed under birding, fishing, fishing derby, hatchery trout, heron, Horseshoe Lake, Moose Lodge, The Daily News, Uncategorized, WA, Woodland

Natasha the blue heron has the ultimate license to fish

Natashe the heron By Pat Nelson
For “The Daily News,” Longview, WA
Reprinted with permission

Wednesday morning, I looked out at Woodland’s Horseshoe Lake and realized that spring is almost here. There was Natasha, back from her winter’s journey south. She sat motionless on a metal railing, her yellow eyes scanning the chilly water for breakfast.

Natasha has always behaved differently from the other blue herons I’ve watched at Horseshoe Lake. She spends a lot of time around people, more out of laziness than love, I think… or maybe she’s just plain smart. She’s likely to claim a spot for herself right next to a fisherman’s chair over on the beach near the skate park, hoping for a handout. She was given her name by a Horseshoe Lake fisherman.

In past years, she tried to make a neighbor’s pond her fish market. The neighbor tried adding a gazing ball to the pond so that Natasha would be frightened by her reflection, but that didn’t stop the bird from having her pick of the pond. Next, the neighbor added a sprinkler system on a motion detector to scare Natasha away, but she soon learned that it took a minute or two for the sprinklers to reset, giving her time to fish.

After that, stronger measures were required. My friend spread a net over the entire pond. If you try this, keep the net a couple inches off  the water so that the hungry blue heron does not use it to stand on while poking its beak through the net to nab a fish.

As I watched Natasha Wednesday morning, something must have frightened her because she flew away with a low-pitched squawk, her head folded back onto her shoulders, with her long legs out behind her body. Her broad gray wings resembled leather stretched over a frame, flapping slowly and with great strength. Her 6’ wingspan was impressive. 

Herons use their sharp bills to grasp or spear their prey. With toes designed to navigate muddy lake bottoms, they wade as deep as two feet, moving slowly while watching for their next meal. They don’t land on the water, but rather stand and wait motionless, often at the edge of a pond or lake, not just watching for fish to swim by, but also looking for insects, rodents, frogs, and small birds.

Wednesday was a sunny day, and I decided that I, too, would stand on the dock and look at the lake. There, where Natasha had been earlier, I watched a two-foot steelhead lazily swim by, and then an even larger one. Both were covered with ugly white patches, but I don’t think such cosmetic flaws deter herons. Earlier in the day, Natasha had probably been watching those big fish, wondering if she dared eat one. Even though herons can swallow fish many times wider than their narrow necks, Natasha must have decided her eyes were bigger than her stomach.

She’s probably looking forward to April, when tasty fish pour out of a truck into the lake for the Moose Lodge fishing derby, fish just the right size to slide easily down her long throat.

When Natasha isn’t fishing, she’s protecting her territory. One day, I watched her as she stood on a small boat with a cabin, peering with her beady eyes into a Plexiglas window. Seeing another bird on the other side of the glass and wanting to protect her space, she began pecking at the glass, but every time she did, the other bird jutted its beak towards her. Whatever Natasha did, her reflection mirrored her actions, and she finally gave up and flew away. She’s pretty smart about fishing, but when it comes to defending herself against her own reflection, I think she’s just a bird brain.

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Filed under birding, blue heron, fishing, heron, Horseshoe Lake, The Daily News, WA, Woodland