Tag Archives: Nature

Project Earth Day Ivy Pull in Washington Park

I’m a tree hugger!

Seriously, since my childhood camping in the woods on a regular basis with  my family, I’ve developed a deep and abiding love of trees and nature. So naturally when I saw that Kalso Earth Shoes was awarding community service project scholarships for Earth Day, I wanted to apply and do something great for trees.

Several of my coworkers at Oregon Zoo are raising awareness and funds for Acres for the Atmosphere, which has the goal of planting more trees to combat climate change. Climate change, of course, being the biggest threat to polar bears.

Photo courtesy City of Portland, No Ivy League. The No Ivy League hosts ivy removal projects on the first and third Saturdays of every month. Take the kids!

But instead of planting more trees, I’ve decided to rally around the removal of ivy. I love planting trees – it provides instant gratification! In fact, I’ve been a crew leader, volunteer and board member for Friends of Trees.

But so many of our existing, big giant trees in Portland are being suffocated by invasive English ivy. Ivy in Oregon is devastating and inexorable. Pulling ivy is hard work. Which is why we need to draw more attention to it, and rally people to fight for our urban forests!

So here’s my plan:

WHAT • Ivy removal in Washington Park: “girdle” as many trees as possible!

WHEN • Wednesday, April 18, 3 – 5 p.m.  (I chose this time because most zoo keepers get off work at 3:30, plus kids are out of school. Also, who doesn’t want a good excuse to get out of work early – for those that work until 5?)

WHO • Specific target will be all the staff of the attractions around Washington Park (Oregon Zoo, Children’s Museum, World Forestry Center, Hoyt Arboretum, Japanese Garden, International Rose Test Gardens, City of Portland). Anyone else who can take an hour to come help, plus my kids, your kids, their kids!

HOW • Gather equipment in a central location. Keep a trainer to orient people as they drop in to give instruction and send them to work sites.

COMMUNICATION • insert into employee newsletters of above institutions, targeted online advertising, and earned media via press release to local papers, television and radio stations. Email to neighborhood associations surrounding Washington Park to invite neighbors to join.

AFTER PARTY, 5 – 7 p.m. • Approach local restaurant (Sylvan Steakhouse!) to co-host an after party to celebrate our success – which should help encourage more volunteers!


I really believe that most people want to do good for our community, but often we don’t know where to start, or our good intentions just turn into delayed action until nothing happens. By providing this Earth Day opportunity, Kalso Earth Shoes and I will give people a fun and direct way to help wildlife habitats, and the planet itself! I know I am looking forward to pulling some ivy with my family!


Thanks to Leah Segedie and Mamavation for making me aware of this opportunity!


Filed under Nature, Oregon

Rebirth of the Fairy Garden {Wordless Wednesday}

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Filed under Home, Nature, Oregon

{Wordless Wednesday} Have you hugged a tree today?

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Filed under Fashion, Nature, Oregon

A Dam Good Day

I used to enjoy a good Super Bowl Commercial Party – my friends and I would mute the tv during all the cumbersome football, and watch the commercials and half time with glee. That’s “glee,” not “Glee,” BTW.  Brian is always occupied with his annual poker game during the super bowl, so I’m left to my own devices.

But once I had kids, the old Champagne-drinking commercial-watching party just wouldn’t do anymore.

Blessed with gorgeous weather today (seriously – is it really February in Oregon?), we headed eastward to meet up with Dayl and Zephyr for some outdoor play. Other than the snacks we brought and the fuel to get there, it was all FREE family fun!

We stopped first at Bonneville Dam. The visitor center was fairly empty, so the kids could run around a bit.

We didn’t want to be inside too much with the sun shining, but thought the fish ladders would be pretty cool to check out.

Now that is a giant turbine! I was surprised at how interested they were in this thing. They made me read the whole sign, and they had a lot of questions about how it worked.

This video was way over their heads, but they liked being able to push the buttons! Interactive = popular.

Fortunately nobody minded that they were running...

Unfortunately, the ladders were empty. I mean really empty. The guy manning the visitor center informed us that since the ladders were empty, we could see some baby fish in an aquarium, so we headed down to check it out.

No water, and certainly no fish!

Eric thinks he saw a fish in here. I'm not convinced!

After the visitor center, we made our way to the fish hatchery to feed some fish and visit with Herman the Sturgeon, the famous 70+ year-old sturgeon. The Fish Hatchery has beautiful grounds, with pretty ponds and old stone paths. I was a bit paranoid about one of the kids falling in to a pond, but it didn’t happen, and everyone had a great time.

The viewing house at Herman's pond

Herman, in the flesh

Dayl made a new friend, and named him Fred

We stopped for a snack, always a good idea with little ones. Herman's House was a great place for this, with built in benches and awesome fish to watch.

Bring quarters! Several fish-food dispensers are placed around the grounds, and the proceeds go to park maintenance. The fish get all jumpy and active when you feed them, which is fun for the kidlets. We won't talk about the accidental graham cracker feeding.

We had a great time at Bonneville Dam and the Fish Hatchery with Dayl and Zephyr. We had some great discussions about the fur trade, and carnivorous animals, got to play in nature, and spend time with our good friends.

We followed it up with a short hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from Cascade Locks, and then a late lunch at Charburger. Perfect for our non-Super Bowl Day!


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Filed under Family, Nature, Oregon, Travel

La Mariposa Hotel in Quepos, Costa Rica

You know those unexpected and magical discoveries you make? The ones that just can’t be planned, but that change your view of the world?

La Mariposa Hotel was one such discovery for Brian and I while we were on our honeymoon in Costa Rica. We were sitting in a hot tub watching the lava run down Volcano Arenal, chatting with an older couple. We were on Night 2 of our honeymoon, they were on the last legs of a two-week vacation. They told us about the most beautiful hotel, La Mariposa, and encouraged us to find a way to stay there.

Brian and I like to build our travel with some flexibility. Our  honeymoon was in fact all flexibility: no actual plans, just a list of things we wanted to see and do. So we added La Mariposa to our list (nearby Manuel Antonio State Park was already on the list, so no trouble there).

The hotel is remarkably priced considering it’s beauty and luxury. 10 years ago, we paid $100/night, and they upgraded us to a premium suite. The prices are only double that now, which is still a steal. Check it out:

We stayed on the second floor, on that very corner

They've updated the furnishings since we stayed there, but we loved the airy rooms and tile floors, and everywhere we turned we saw gorgeous views of the ocean and forest.

You can see Manuel Antonio State Park if you look south from any of the many terraces.

You know I'm a sucker for a good pool. This is the view from the upper terraces on our (north) end of the hotel.

La Mariposa Hotel in Costa Rica at night. That's our room, on the 2nd floor terrace corner. So romantic! Lifestyles of the rich and famous? Yes, please!

If you’re ever traveling to Costa Rica, it’s simply required that you visit Manuel Antonio State Park. It boasts tremendous wildlife viewing, gorgeous beaches, and nearby cute towns. And since you’ll be in the area anyway, you may as well stay at La Mariposa. It was worth every penny, and we’d stay there again in a heartbeat.

Happy travels!

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Filed under Nature, Travel

Pine Cone Bird Feeders

Okay, they’re probably more likely to be squirrel feeders. But we don’t care much!

Anna gathering

We have been so happy to be feeding the wildlife around our house. Between the hummingbird feeder and the popcorn & cranberry garlands, we’ve been having a lot of crafty wildlife fun. The pine cone bird feeders were a natural next step!

Fortunately, we live in a part of the world that has a lot of evergreens with cones, so it was easy to find friends with beautiful and plentiful pine cones for us to collect. It helped us with our project, and saved them from picking up cones for a while!


Pine cones (fir cones could work, but they tend to be smaller). If the cones are closed up or moist, put them in the oven at 200 for a while until they are dry and/or open. TIP: put foil under them, so if any sap drips out it doesn’t get on your pan!

I quickly realized that foil would save me a giant sap mess later, so I pulled them out and slipped a sheet of foil between them and the pan

• Peanut butter or lard. Make sure the peanut butter is all natural, no sense giving the woodland creatures a bunch of sugar or corn syrup. We don’t buy that crap artificial stuff anyway, so we used the Adams all natural that we had on hand. We used more than I expected, and I started feeling cheap about the peanut butter, so I went to Winco and bought some lard. It was much less expensive than peanut butter, and according to my handy bird expert (the zoo director!), lard & peanut butter are both great for the birds.

• Bird seed. I bought a 10 lb. bag at Fred Meyer for $9. I got a general mix that would appeal to widest variety of North American birds. Make sure it includes some black sunflowers, as those have really good protein.*

• String or ribbon to hang them.


1. Tie the string around whichever end of the cone you want to be the top. Don’t do what I did at first and start with the peanut butter – it only took one super-messy peanut butter string situation to teach me that the string should go first.

2. Use a butter knife to spread the peanut butter or lard all over the cone, tucking it into the spaces. I like mine to still look like pine cones and not just big blobs, but I’m sure the birds didn’t care.

3. Roll the coated cones in a bowl of seeds, and gently press the seeds into the lard/butter.

4. Hang it in a tree, and wait for the wildlife!

Happy birding!


*You can get specific seed blends for your area, so be sure to check. Cornell Ornithology Lab or your local Audubon Society are good places to check. I’ve also found a lot of good information on the Oregon State Extension Service website, so check your state.

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Filed under Family, Home, Nature

Come Hither, Young Hummingbird

I’ve had a bird feeder hanging outside our living room window for a good year. Our very first hummingbird visitor was on New Year’s Day, 2011. I thought it a propitious beginning to the year, but since then we’ve had infrequent hummingbird visitors. It’s always been a tremendously big deal when we see one, and our freaking out usually scares the birds away.

I’ve kept it stocked with yummy hummingbird goodness, but other than the rare fly-by, we haven’t had a lot of action.

Until now…. The visitation numbers really started jumping this fall, and we’ve noticed at least two different kinds frequenting the feeder. I just restocked the nectar a few days ago, and WOW. They are loving it! There’s no need to buy commercial nectar, it’s super easy to make:  Boil 1 part sugar to 4 parts of water. Easy, eh? I make up extra and put it in the refrigerator – which is why it’s important to boil it. NEVER put food coloring in it. Most feeders have colorful plastic parts to attract the birds.

This guy has been GORGING today!

According to Oregon State Extension Service, there are more than 340 types of hummingbirds, but only five that live in Oregon. If my birdspotting is accurate, here are the two types we have visiting our feeder:

Anna's Hummingbird, Calypte anna. My Anna is of course delighted by this. © Edgar Paul Coral, courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Black-chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri © Robinsegg, courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Happy birding!



Filed under Family, Nature