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Agriculture

Fall 2017

Build your own rain garden

Learn how to design, install and maintain your rain garden with the free Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington (PDF).

You can find out more rain garden ideas and details from WSU Extension. If you have more questions, please contact your County Extension rain garden expert.

Be sure to check out where and where not to build your garden. Not every place is suitable.

 

Visit WSU Extension’s rain garden website.

Fall 2017

Shifting waters

On the south end of Puget Sound, where I lived for a number of years, water surrounds Olympia: Black Lake, Budd Bay, Capitol Lake, inlets, rivers, and creeks. It’s part of the picturesque scenery that I enjoyed daily, until I saw a half-submerged SUV at an intersection. The storms of 2007 flooded some streets, not to mention covering I-5 just south in Centralia. Water had become an unexpected hazard.

We can expect even more heavy storms and major floods, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, as the climate changes. Floods that were once seen every 20 years are projected to happen as much as … » More …

Barley. Photo United States National Arboretum
Fall 2017

100% Made in Washington

In the verdant woods outside Covington, Dane Scarimbolo brews local beer.

After graduating from Washington State University’s viticulture and enology program, Scarimbolo ’10 realized a wine startup would take a lot of money and time. He enjoyed making beer, so he opened Four Horsemen Brewery in 2015 with an eye toward an older, community-minded ethos that could please the beer equivalent of a locavore.

“I was adamant about sourcing everything from Washington,” he says. In that spirit, Scarimbolo sells his craft beer at farmers markets in the region, just like farmers offer lettuce, carrots, and berries grown locally. Scarimbolo knows the beekeepers who … » More …

Fall 2017

Till gone

“Life can multiply until all the phosphorus is gone, and then there is an inexorable halt which nothing can prevent. We may be able to substitute nuclear power for coal, plastics for wood, yeast for meat, and friendliness for isolation—but for phosphorus there is neither substitute nor replacement.”

—Isaac Asimov

The Greeks called phosphorus “the bearer of light,” a chalky white mineral that ignites spontaneously and gives pizazz to matchsticks and fireworks. Theories suggest it even arrived on Earth in a fiery meteorite crash billions of years ago.

The fifteenth element could also be called the bearer of life. Wound into DNA … » More …

Plums
Fall 2017

Plums

Of all the fruit trees, it sometimes seems like the most common backyard resident is the plum. Whether you live in Lynden or Lind, if you don’t have a nearby plum tree, chances are you can find one. A neighbor might even give you a big bag of purple fruit.

Although apples, pears, and cherries dominate the commercial tree fruit of Washington, the state produces the second-most plums in the nation. To be fair, California commands that sector, with 97 percent of the plum market.

That doesn’t diminish the plum as a tasty addition to any homegrown suite of fruit. In fact, Washington … » More …

Palouse Ridge Golf Club in morning
Fall 2017

Game changer

A small, brownish dry spot is visible on the ninth fairway at Palouse Ridge Golf Club.

Superintendent Mike Bednar is unbothered, which might seem a bit surprising given the course’s enviable reputation among national golfing groups.

“This is designed to play hard and fast,” says Bednar ’92, ’04, explaining Palouse Ridge needs to be a bit on the dry side to deliver the kind of gameplay challenge that’s kept it atop national rankings ever since its 2008 opening. “We’ve got an irrigation system that lets us water only when and where it’s necessary.”

 

The design isn’t just about gameplay, though.

As water becomes … » More …

Fall 2017

Plant for the future

Somewhere in the dryland wilds of eastern Washington, Michael Neff and his wife stop the car.

“I’ve always wanted to hike these dunes,” he says to her. “I could not believe the grasses that were stabilizing those dunes!” Neff says later. He refuses to identify where, exactly, the dunes in question are located. “It’s those little pockets of diversity that we need to identify and preserve,” he explains, almost—but not quite—apologetic.

Trained as a botanist and now a professor of molecular biology at Washington State University, Neff expands on why this is important: “If we’re going to be resilient in the face of climate … » More …

White Willow. Wikimedia
Fall 2017

Medicinal plants

At least 10 percent of the 250 most essential modern medicines are derived from flowering plants.

Aspirin (genus Salix)  Known to the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians, Hippocrates in about 400 BCE mentions the use of salicylic tea as a fever reducer. Willow bark extracts have been a standard component of the European pharmacopoeia ever since. Modern aspirin was first synthesized in 1853.

Cinnamon bark (obtained from the inner bark of trees of the genus Cinnamomum)  While there is no scientific evidence of its efficacy (yet), cinnamon has been used medicinally for at least 4,000 years, especially in Ayurvedic medicine. The word derives from an ancient Phoenician one … » More …

First Words
Summer 2017

Left turns

I recently learned that drivers for UPS make 90 percent of their turns to the right. Since 2004, the package delivery company has had a policy to avoid left turns. They save millions of gallons of fuel and dollars each year because there’s less idling.

While I applaud the UPS effort to save gas and reduce emissions, there’s still something adventurous about the left turn, the unexpected veer in a new direction. We often refer to a left turn as a complete shift in our lives. Some of us even change our entire careers, such as Washington State University alumni Berenice Burdet, Richard Larsen, and … » More …