Organic Boutique is located at 218 Pioneer St. in downtown Ridgefield, 360-727-3588. The shop carries clothing, cosmetics, linens, pet supplies and other products that are organic and geared toward a holistic lifestyle. The store also retails online at its robust website.
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Get in with a good flock, and you could be birding the world before you know it
Years ago I lived in South Minneapolis near the urban “chain of lakes.” As I was walking around Lake Calhoun one day, I came across a horde of people standing near a scope, blocking the sidewalk. I made some comment about it and heard pretty quickly that a rare bird had been spotted and that these several dozen people had gathered to “watch” it. I was totally baffled.
Today, I get it. Bird watching is second only to gardening as the most popular hobby in America, and the passion of birders may outshine those of almost any other activity. But birding, as it turns out, isn’t just watching birds, it’s a reason to travel the world, spend time in the wilderness, champion conservation and meet others who are doing the same. I like it.
Everyday, people are discovering birding for the first time. But, as it turns out, beginner birders often find themselves on a crash course.
In 1997, some friends took Vancouver resident Eric Bjorkman and his wife Tammy to a little house in central Vancouver to look at a western tanager, “a beautiful bird with a red head, yellow body and black wings.” This is the moment Bjorkman started birding.
“I had never seen that, and if I’ve missed that, what else have I missed?” he said. “At that point, my wife and I were both 37 years old. We fell in love with it right off the bat.”
Birding the world
The Bjorkmans started going on birding trips with Vancouver Audubon and its founder Wilson Cady, a local conservationist and bird expert. Today Eric Bjorkman is the president of Vancouver Audubon while Tammy is the secretary.
“We went in head over heels,” he said. “We have traveled all over the world looking for birds.” The Bjorkmans have been on birding trips to Ecuador, Costa Rica, and the African countries of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Uganda. Last November, they went in together on a tour of India with four other local birders. The group spotted about 220 species of birds, which is “a pretty low amount for two weeks of hard birding,” said Bjorkman, referring to the dwindling wilderness in the country. By contrast, Bjorkman and I spotted 30 to 40 species of birds in one hour of birding at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.
Before birding, Bjorkman said, “We would go up and down the I-5 corridor; shopping is what our vacations consisted of. Now we spend our vacations out in the wilderness, and I think our lives are much richer for it.”
The website birdingpal.org helps connect birders with guides and lodgings all over the world.
Bob Hansen, former Marion County, Ore., director of public works, is now retired and living near Lyle in Klickitat County. By his account, he has been birding all his life, and it has meshed well with his travels as a mountain climber.
“I could point back to the fourth grade when I saw my first bird book and didn’t realize there were different kinds of hummingbirds,” he said. Other pivotal birding moments were watching dancing sandhill cranes in Malheur, Ore., and during a difficult climb in Peru, when he sketched a picture of a bird he noticed and described it in his journal, even though he could not identify it.
Getting in deep
Both Hansen and Bjorkman say that taking trips with a local Audubon Society or with birding friends or family is a great way to get started. Birding can appeal to solitary types, but soaking up information from someone with more knowledge can be exciting. Of course, some can take it quite far.
“I have many friends who are Tweeters addicts,” said Hansen, referring to a website for Washington State birding lists, sightings and resources. And, he said, it can wreak havoc on relationships when one spouse is in too deep. “I met this guy in England whose first marriage dissolved because of birding and second was because of birding.”
While birding tends to attract retirees, Hansen found ways to get his young son involved in the hobby that means so much to him. “I always encouraged him but didn’t want to over-encourage,” he said. Hansen would pay his son 25 cents for every bird he saw at their feeder, an additional quarter if he could identify it and another 50 cents if it was the first one of the day. For Hansen’s son, bird watching literally paid off.
Their habitat, our habitat
Helen and Mike Hackett are new to bird watching. When they retired to Ocean Park ten years ago, “I had no idea how beautiful the area was, “said Helen Hackett.
Today they are co-presidents of Shoalwater Birders, an organization that was formed in 1999 for bird watching and conservation on Washington’s southern coast.
When friends and family would come to visit, she said, the couple would take them to Fort Canby and other nearby tourist attractions.
“Then I’d say, what are we going to do now? Now I have beautiful places I can take people to that are just down the road.”
Helen is most impressed with what birding has taught her about her environment. “Their habitat becomes our habitat and we learn from them.”
Made in Washougal, these reusable snack and sandwich bags by BugBaby Designs are totally adorable and totally practical at the same time. The snack bags are the perfect size for a fat single serving, and the sandwich bags even fit a double decker. The bags are made with a 100 percent cotton print lined with waterproof polyurethane-lined knit, which keeps the outside of the bag clean and dry, and your sandwich or snack fresh. The flap closure is secured with Velcro. With these cutie-pie sacks, it’s almost fun to pack a lunch. Handmade Moses baskets are also available from BugBaby Designs, as well as custom bedding.
Avalon Art Gallery and Studio has inhabited a light-filled, two-story space in the live-work-shop development Battle Ground Village since last May. Complete with a top floor classroom and wrought-iron upper balcony, Avalon has fashioned itself a place to gather and support culture in North County. Paulette Wanless Smith and her husband and silent partner Bruce Smith came out of retirement to bring more life to an already flourishing local arts community. However, with the close of the Cupola Gallery in April of 2010, North County artists were facing a venue shortage.
Wanless Smith, herself a hobby potter, has been involved with the Battle Ground Art Alliance for 10 years and is the current president. So finding a passel of unique local artists came easy, pulling from the Ridgefield Art Association and the Northwest Oil Painters Guild, as well as the BGAA and others.
The 1500-square-foot space is a showcase of Northwest artists, and many mediums are unusual such as Bob Cossman’s leather arts. More than two dozen artists are represented in the gallery, and most live in Clark County, but others are based around the region, hailing from Whidbey Island, Gig Harbor and Lake Oswego, Ore. Current and recent artists include Austin Barton (bronze sculpture), Tina Hunter (mosaic), Diane Ringer (gourds and paper), Ann Cavanaugh (fused glass) and Jim Gola (oil).
In this economy, a proprietor has to have a few tricks up her sleeve to make a go of a new art gallery in a small community. Wanless Smith, fortunately, has more than a few. Each artist who shows in the gallery pays $30 per month to be there, and the gallery takes a modest 30 percent commission on top. Avalon also has two classroom spaces for use by local instructors who pay a fee to teach in the space.
On one wall is a collection of artists who offer portraits on commission. And custom framing by Vancouver’s Aurora Gallery is available by appointment in the upstairs space. Artists who are framing their own work get 20 percent off on framing. The gallery is also available for meeting and event rental. Another revenue generator are monthly events hosted in the space. Each featured artist is highlighted for two months. On the second Friday of the first month, a traditional art opening showcases the artists’ work. On the following Friday, a varying special event is on the books.
Avalon Art Gallery & Studio
Battle Ground Village
819 S.E 14th Loop, Ste. 109, Battle Ground
Econstruction NW aspires to build houses real people can feel good about
Story by Mary Preiser Potts
Econstruction NW owner Richard Haig has been involved in green construction for 30 years. He lived in Santa Cruz during the 1970s gas crunch when energy efficient housing made its debut. It was there that he got his start in passive solar construction. A Pacific Northwest native, Haig eventually returned and four years ago Econstruction NW was born.
Because green building is often associated with exorbitant prices, Haig hopes to expose people to the concept that affordable, energy efficient and healthier homes are within reach. For Econstruction NW, this also means building smaller homes under 2,000 square feet.
“We’re not building ‘McMansions,’” Haig said.
Many of Haig’s new houses implement SIPs technology. SIPs, or Structural Insulated Panels, are made of two OSB (oriented strand board) panels sandwiched around a layer of expanded polystyrene and are used in place of lumber.
SIPs have been on the market for 40 years, but their popularity is largely overshadowed by the higher cost. While it’s true that SIPs construction adds about 10 percent more to the cost of materials, according to Haig, it actually saves on labor costs because the oversized panels are so easy to install.
An advantage of using SIPs over lumber is that they are more air-tight and energy efficient, eliminating the thermal breaks that typically occur at the wall studs of a house. There is also less material waste because SIPs are custom-made in a factory to specifications.
Because interior air quality becomes a factor when creating airtight housing envelopes, SIPs houses built by Econstruction NW are equipped with a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV). The HRV unit swaps indoor air for fresh, outside air while retaining the indoor air temperature. The unit also keeps the relative indoor humidity around 50 percent, thus inhibiting the growth of molds, mites and other indoor polluters.
SIPs designer, Patrick Sughrue of Structures NW in Vancouver, says that HRVs are a standard part of the building envelope packages he provides for green builders like Econstruction NW.
Because of the health and environmental hazards of fiberglass, some insulation alternatives used by Econstruction NW are rockwool, denim batt and sprayed foam insulations. Rockwool is made from minerals, heated to extreme temperatures, then spun like cotton candy to form a mass of fibers. Haig uses rockwool as a sound barrier for interior walls. Denim bat insulation is made from recycled materials, usually jeans, and provides a sound and heat barrier for both interior and exterior walls. Floors are insulated with sprayed closed cell foam insulation, which is noted for its superior insulating properties as well as the interior air quality it affords.
In addition to new housing, Econstruction NW also specializes in energy retrofits and remodeling. Haig focuses on his goal of creating healthier homes by using reclaimed and formaldehyde-free wood, as well as chemical-free carpeting and tile, and buying materials locally when possible.
Richard Haig, owner