Picking up apples is a good thing

November 8, 2011

Old town Issaquah is about as good as it gets on a sunny day.

On such a day last month, I had the privilege of being a docent at the old Gilman Town Hall Museum on Andrews Street. In the back of the museum on the neighbor’s property is a wonderful, old apple tree, and while nobody had a good crop of apples around here this year, this tree was loaded. They are beautiful, deep-red apples with a subtle, winey taste. You can bet I was thrilled when the owner offered a basket of them to me.

I asked him what kind they were and he didn’t know. He said they were very old; the tree had been there since the early days. These apples looked like McIntosh to me, like the ones on my tree at home. I checked it out, and I’m convinced that they are. McIntosh is one of the older varieties, developed in Eastern Canada at the beginning of the 19th century. They are very cold hardy, tough trees. I have to say that mine in glacial till on the plateau is not nearly as happy as this one in the good, deep soil of the Issaquah Valley.

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South Cove couple make tired kitchen a keeper

October 18, 2011

Mark and Leslie Gilbert, with son Trey, 4, now enjoy more family time in their ‘great room,’ created by opening up their kitchen space into the little-used living room. By Greg Farrar

With a growing family, Mark and Leslie Gilbert had a tough decision facing them and their two boys (ages 7 and 4) — abandon the home they love for a larger one or upgrade their current house?

“For me, it came down to the question, ‘Do we upgrade within the neighborhood to something with more square feet?” Mark said. “Or do we upgrade our home and reuse the square feet in a different way?”

Leslie looked at the problem from a different angle — what could they do if they stayed?

“We had a lot of floor space that was unused,” she said, adding she thought they could do something better with the flow through the kitchen to the unused formal dining and living room.

After weighing all of their options, they chose to stay in their home and upgrade the kitchen.

The renovation entailed knocking out an L-shaped wall and creating a “great room.” It would feature a central island in the opened-up kitchen that would face a more defined living and dining space, rather than separate rooms.

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Halloween pumpkin’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder

October 18, 2011

Picking perfect jack-o’-lantern comes down to preference

Glenn Dutro hoists a pumpkin on his shoulder in the u-pick pumpkin patch at the Trinity Tree Farm in Issaquah. Photo By Greg Farrar

About 50,000 pounds of pumpkins dot the landscape as far as the eye can see.

There are oblong gourds with ample, flat surface areas for carving.

Others are rotund, boasting a sturdy stem and a thick, perfect shell.

Glenn Dutro, who has offered families a chance to pick their own pumpkins for the past three years at the u-pick pumpkin patch at the Trinity Tree Farm near Issaquah, wants something else out of his Halloween pumpkin entirely.

“The perfect pumpkin is all just a matter of personal preference,” he said. “Most people want a big, bright, beautiful thing. I want one with scars on it. I want it messed up and nasty.”

Ken Allison, a produce manager for PCC Natural Markets, said the perfect pumpkin is all in the eye of the beholder.

“It’s all in a person’s aesthetic judgment,” he said. “Typically, what I look for to carve or to sell is the stem to be attached still. That way you know it’s not knocked or kicked around. You want the pumpkin to feel firm so it won’t rot and collapse right away.”

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Fall chemistry turns leaves from green to gold

October 18, 2011

The mercury dips, rain starts to fall more often and leaves metamorphose from a demure green to riotous colors.

Why? The change of color each autumn involves a complex chemical process as trees prepare for the coming winter.

Throughout the growing season, chlorophyll is produced constantly. Then, as autumn starts and nights turn longer, chlorophyll production slows and then stops. The process allows the other colors in a leaf’s palette —brilliant golds, oranges and reds — to appear.

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Small changes can make big differences

October 18, 2011

Interior designer Cindy Dornon (left) and Eve Ribary show off the interior of Urbanity, an Issaquah home décor store. Joining them center stage is Nike. By Tom Corrigan

A can or two of paint.

The above might be just the answer if you are looking to quickly and inexpensively refresh or renew a room or rooms.

“If you are willing to use some elbow grease, painting is one thing you can do,” said Cindy Dornon, an interior designer with Urbanity, an Issaquah home décor store.

At Issaquah’s Lowe’s, Assistant Store Manager Daniel Pena said essentially the same.

“The quickest thing to do in the area of home improvement is to paint,” Pena said.

Both also talked about not having to do an entire room, but instead applying some color to one wall or entranceway, creating an accent wall.

According to Pena, the current color trend is toward grays.

“But you can never go wrong with bright colors,” he added.

For example, red is perfect for sharpening up a room and it’s a color lots of people think of when they picture an accent wall.

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State Department of Ecology is updating weed permits

October 18, 2011

The state Department of Ecology is in the process of updating a permit needed for the use of herbicides used to control weeds around or near water.

The permit requires that specific actions be taken to protect lakes, rivers, wetlands and marine waters when herbicides are used near those waterways. The permits help state and local governments manage noxious plants, such as spartina and loosestrife.

A different permit, the Aquatic Plant Algae Management Permit, covers the treatment of weeds actually within water.

Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Nov. 18.

Email comments to kathy.harnel@ecy.wa.gov. Comments must contain the sender’s name and postal address. Send written comments to Kathy Harnel, Washington State Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia WA, 98504. Permits are online at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/pesticides.

Magazine ranks bad home remodeling ideas

October 18, 2011

Every year Remodeling magazine gives its list of the worst ideas for remaking your home especially in light of resale value. Many people think large-scale remodels or additions will increase their property’s value. The magazine says that’s not always the case.

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Gardeners: Prepare to endure another La Niña winter

October 18, 2011

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Jeff Renner tells us we are in for another La Niña.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not moping around, crazy mad about the weather. Every little ray of sunshine and every little tinge of warmth have been appreciated to the max by me.

But still, I’m unable to come to grips with the big picture. The issue of global climate change is huge, impacting much more than just gardening, making it hard to comprehend.

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King Conservation District offers soil testing for local lands

September 13, 2011

Homeowners can take advantage of free soil tests from the King Conservation District.

The conservation district offers up to five free soil studies per address for anyone within King County, with a few geographic exceptions. The exceptions do not affect anyone in the Issaquah area.

One main idea behind soil sampling is to prevent overfertilization, said Marcie Myers, a resource planner for the King Conservation District.

And, she added, there are several reasons why using too much fertilizer is a bad idea.

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A proper birdhouse is important for attracting native species

September 13, 2011

If house sparrows overtake a swallow nest box or European starlings claim a house meant for purple martins, the problem might be in the housing provided by gardeners and homeowners.

The design flaws can allow aggressive, non-native birds to thrive and push native species into decline.

Some ready-made birdhouses may look cute, but might not be designed to keep the bullies of the bird world out.

Birds do not need perches, for example, but the features attract house sparrows and starlings.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends for design and construction of birdhouses to be species-specific.

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