The Masters

Gardening icons

Get to know your local Master Gardeners

The Thurston County Extension Service is one of the hundreds of county extension services in the United States that are provided by each state’s land-grant colleges or universities. The original land grants were established by the Morrill Act, named for US Representative Justin Smith Morrill who proposed the act. The act was proposed to make higher education available to the industrial classes and it opened the doors to college for many Americans.

The Morrill Act sought to provide a college education “without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

Additional land-grants were added via amendment in 1994. In Washington, the land-grant colleges are Washington State University and Northwest Indian College.

The Smith–Lever Act of 1914 added federal funding of cooperative extension, with the land-grant universities serving as agents in virtually every county in the United States. Today, the mission of cooperative extensions is to “advance agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities.” Cooperative extensions use a research-based approach to improve health and well being.

When it comes to being a gardener, there are many resources provided by cooperative extension offices. This is a great way to get information on proven methods for your area. As is true in many counties across the U.S., Thurston County offers a Master Gardener training program. Master Gardeners go through an intensive training program to learn about the best gardening practices for the country where they live. Once upon a time, I went through the training in another county and the main thing I learned is that you very often have to unlearn what you have learned when you move to a new place. What worked in one place may not help you in another.

After the training, Master Gardeners commit to ongoing volunteer work to train and advise the public on best practices, garden and pest troubleshooting, and they help maintain demonstration gardens.

Demonstration gardens provide great plant and layout ideas for novice and experienced gardeners alike.

In Thurston County, there are three demonstration gardens:

  1. Dirt Works Demonstration and Composting Garden in Yauger Park
    Located in West Olympia near Capital Mall.
    Open Tuesdays,  9 am- 1 pm, April–October and on select Saturdays. Check the website for details.
  2. Closed Loop Park Demonstration Garden at the Waste and Recovery Center
    Hours:  Closed Loop Park is open the same hours as the Waste and Recovery Center. Visit  for hours. When available, Master Gardeners staff the garden April-October, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 am to noon.
  3. Olympia Farmers Market Garden. Located on the east end of the Farmer’s Market in downtown Olympia.
    Hours: The garden is open from dawn until dusk, year-round. When available WSU Master Gardeners and/or Thurston County Master Recycler Composters staff the garden during the days and times the Market is open April-October, Thursday through Sunday 10 am – 3 pm.

WSU Extension also provides an online library on many topics including gardening. For example, see this PDF download on bumble bees in the home garden. Yay, pollinators! There’s a lot to learn at the extension site and it’s a great way to get specific gardening questions answered.

And, if you have a composting question, you can call the “Rot line”: 360-867-2163 or email [email protected]

Happy gardening, composting and learning!


Today’s weather: It was another build the ark day. Temps in the low 40s each time I looked.

Burn Baby Burn

Compost Bins

So. Much. Yard. Debris. I have seen several of my neighbors with fires and wondered: Is a permit needed to burn yard waste? The answer is yes if you live in unincorporated areas of Thurston County AND you have a permit.

Meet ORCAA. ORCAA is The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) is a local government agency charged with regulatory and enforcement authority for air quality issues in Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston counties. You can fill out the permit online. Permits are free and are valid October 1 through July 14. A new permit must be obtained each year after Oct. 1. There’s a no-burn rule in effect July 15 through September 30.

ORCAA does encourage residents to find other ways to dispose of yard waste including the following ideas from their website:


  • Curb-side pickup service for yard waste material exists throughout most of Thurston County. Contact Thurston County Solid Waste.
  • Composting turns your yard waste into a great soil additive, at NO COST.
  • Chipping woody materials create an effective ground cover that blocks weed growth and improves drainage.
  • Dropping off yard waste at composting facilities and transfer stations is easy and cost-effective.


I am not a big fan of burning everything–I just feel like a pollution creator when I do. So, I look for alternatives when I can. I have been using curbside pickup (which actually means something a little different where I live, it means dragging my bin a quarter mile to the end of my street). But still, it is pretty convenient in the grand scheme of things. I get a pretty large bin and it’s picked up every two weeks.

This year, I am going to do more composting. I have a big yard and while the barrel helps, it’s not really enough. I already compost all of my kitchen waste and grass clippings. It’s time to add leaves, small branches and the millions of Douglas Fir pinecones to the mix.

In the recent windstorm, a couple of large branches came down so we are going to drop off a load at the Waste and Recovery Center–they also do composting in addition to recycling. One stop reduce, reuse and recycling!

When I am feeling low …

Lenten Rose

Just whisper, “Let’s go to the garden center.”

I confess, any garden center, any time of year is a pick me up. Even January in Olympia. We went to Lowe’s to pick up some clearcoat for the new Little Free Library. So, OF COURSE, I went to the garden center even though it looked abandoned from the parking lot.

I was not disappointed.

True, not much in the way of plants outside but I picked up a couple of clematis for an arbor out front. I need something that the deer might ignore. Last year’s effort barely got off the ground. 🙁 I was also pleasantly surprised by the air plant selection. They had quite a few types and different containers. Air plants are often misunderstood plants. Air plants or Tillandsias are actually a hugely varied genus from the Bromeliaceae family (yep, related to pineapples) with well over 500 species. Some are epiphytes, meaning they attach themselves to other plants. Some are aerophytes, with no roots. While air plants don’t need soil, they do need water. I soak my air plants in warmish water every 1-2 weeks and then let dry upside down. Tillandsias are not parasitic in that they don’t feed off the host plant, instead, they rely on other plants for structure and support. This opens up air plant display to all kinds of things. I purchased a 3-D metal ampersand with three air plants tucked in it plus an extra little guy for good luck.

Also in the houseplants, I picked up a very nice looking peace lily (Spathiphyllum). Peace lilies are easy plants to grow as long as you lay off the water. Seriously. Overwatering will kill these plants. They are actually drought tolerant and some people wait until they start to droop as a signal to water them. (Apparently this doesn’t have adverse effects and it’s preferable to overwatering.) As with most plants, if the soil seems damp, don’t water regardless of your watering schedule.

I also picked up a hellebore, commonly known as a Lenten rose. I recently became acquainted with this plant perusing my garden magazines because it blooms in winter. IT BLOOMS IN WINTER. It’s a pretty gray time to be a gardener so we need any pick-me-up we can get. In Olympia, that means Kale and hellebores!

Lowe’s is located at 230 Martin Way East, Olympia, WA 98516. Phone: (360) 486-0856

Hours: 6 am – 9 pm, Monday-Saturday and 8 am – 8 pm on Sunday. (It’s always a good idea to call around holidays to confirm hours.)

So, when you are feeling low, head to Lowe’s and hang out with the plants for a while. See you at the Garden Center!


Today’s weather: It was another “build the ark” day. May have seen a little blue in the sky–maybe. About 47 degrees at 5 pm.

Going native

Backyard trees.

Going native in the garden is a good idea for multiple reasons. First, native plants are better suited to your growing environment. They grow well in the soil, temperatures, and rainfall that you have. Second, some native plants out-compete invasive species. Invasive species can create a dangerous monoculture of undesirable plants that damage the ecosystem in multiple ways (erosion, outcompeting important plants, attracting pests, increasing fire risk, clogging waterways and more). Third, native plants support the ecosystem and help your part of it remain in balance with the surrounding areas. This can be especially important if you live in an area adjacent to forests or other naturalized areas. Non-native plants, even if they aren’t invasive can jump the perimeter of your property.

Sound complicated? It’s not really and there’s a great organization that helps landowners in Thurston County. The Thurston Conservation District promotes non-regulatory and voluntary stewardship, a fancy way of saying that they help people do the right thing on their property. The Thurston Conservation District has been around since 1947. A conservation district is a legal subdivision of state government that administers programs to conserve natural resources. These conservation districts exist in almost every county in the United States. Their services are free and they are committed to meeting the needs of local land-users for the conservation of soil, water and related resources.

To aid in conservations efforts, the Thurston Conservation District holds an Annual Native Plant Festival & Sale the first weekend of March each year. The 2018 sale will be Saturday, March 3  from 10 am – 3 pm. This is a great opportunity to purchase low-cost native plants for your yard.

You can also pre-order plants online until January 31 and pick them up the day of the sale.

Learn more about the Thurston Conservation District and the goals of the TCD in their strategic plan. It has some pretty interesting data if you want to learn more about Olympia and land use over time.

Top 10 Most Wanted Noxious Weeds in Thurston CountyIt’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the list of plants that are considered noxious weeds in Thurston County. If you have any of these on your property, I urge you to remove them and replant with native plants. We are doing battle with the dreaded blackberry in our yard. I think we can get the rest of it out this year.

Love your town.


Today’s weather: Drizzly and a little gloomy but warmer with temps in the mid-50s. The rain backed off long enough for me to help fill potholes on our gravel street and I was able to clearcoat the little library and its post AND I filled our green barrel with all of the little branches that came down in the wind over the last several days.

Sylvester Park: End of the Oregon Trail Marker

End of the Oregon Trail marker in Sylvester Park, Olympia

Stop by Sylvester Park in Olympia to see the End of the Oregon Trail marker, dedicated in 1913 by the Sacajawea Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. You might wonder, “How did this get here?”It’s probably an example of good old-fashioned marketing and seizing an opportunity to lend historical importance to the area. It helps that there was not a set path for the Oregon Trail. And it was the idea of Ezra Meeker who eventually made the trip by plane, train and automobile — and covered wagon. Meeker was an advocate of preserving the history of the route.

Location: Capitol Way S and Legion Way SE, Olympia, WA 98501. Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer.

There are free concerts during the summer months in Sylvester Park. The concerts are held every Wednesday at 7 p.m. Check the Olympia Downtown site for details.


Today’s weather: cold and wet with high winds in the morning and a power outage most of the day in our neighborhood.

King Solomon’s Reef

Yummy potato gems

We went to King Solomon’s Reef diner with an out-of-town guest and they had something for everyone including the vegetarians who lean toward the vegan end of the spectrum. It’s a quirky place but the service was friendly and we felt right at home. (Some readers of this blog might like to point out that I am also a little quirky. Guilty as charged; I am a vernacular girl.)

I had the “Chicken-Fried” Tofu Burger. They pretty much had me at tofu. I am one of those apparently rare individuals who really like tofu and I am always up for a new take on my long-time love. My better half had the Buffalo Tempeh and our guest had the Monte Carlo. We all had pie for dessert. If you are a vegetarian, desserts can be few and far between. But King Solomon’s has vegan pie, people! More than one! Choices!

Fun fact: While we were ordering we learned that our octogenarian guest had never had tater tots, one of the sides offered with his sandwich. How do you describe a tater tot to someone who has never had one? Tasty fried nuggets of potato deliciousness?

I did a little research and learned that Tater Tots is a registered trademark of Ore-Ida. Ore-Ida’s founders created Tater Tots in 1953 as a way to use up all the extra pieces of potato. According to Wikipedia, Americans eat 70 million pounds of potato gems per year.

Please, for the love of diner food, please don’t wait until you are in your 80s to try tots. You may not like them, but they might be your new favorite side dish.

Located in downtown Olympia at 212 4th Avenue E, Olympia, WA 98501, (360) 742-3199
King Solomon’s Reef is open every day, 8am-3am; always a good idea to call ahead on holidays.


PS Check out the Olympia Downtown Associations guide to shopping and dining.

PPS I support the Wikimedia Foundation and I encourage everyone to do the same. From their site: “The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual, educational content, and to providing the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge. The Wikimedia Foundation operates some of the largest collaboratively edited reference projects in the world, including Wikipedia, a top-ten internet property.”

Today’s weather: A little colder today, highs in the 30s the couple times that I checked. Drizzly rain on all three dog walks. The Evergreen State is also the Evergloom State sometimes. Just keepin’ it real.

Shop the world

Birch panels

A recent article in Apartment Therapy (great newsletter whether you are an apartment dweller or not) has the Cat’s Out of the Bag: 8 “Secret” Shopping Sources Designers Love, including Cost Plus World Market. Not sure it’s all that secret, seeing as we have one in little ol’ Olympia, but the author’s point that World Market is an underappreciated store is probably valid.

World Market got its start in the 1950s with a San Francisco businessman turned importer who was importing baskets. They later branched out a number of other items including furniture, lighting, rugs, artwork, stationery, food, kitchenware, seasonal items and more.

The Olympia store just moved to a new location so it’s all shiny and new. It also has a better cash register setup than I have seen at other stores where I inevitably pick the wrong line!

If you haven’t tried the shop online and pick up in store, I can recommend it. It does let you think about things in place–especially important when you are looking at lighting, rugs and artwork, making sure that the color and size are just right.

Favorite items: Some of my favorite decorative items came from World Market. We also love the Nyåkers Gingersnaps that were initially a holiday item and then someone realized a good cookie is a necessity throughout the year. Try them with pumpkin dip. You will not be disappointed.

World Market is located in West Olympia at 2401 4th Ave W, Olympia, WA 98502, (360) 890-3820.

Hours: Open 10-9, Monday through Friday, 9-9 on Saturday and 10-7 on Sunday. Always a good idea to call.

Happy eating! Happy decorating!


Today’s weather: Build the ark. Rain, rain and more rain. And gloom galore. Yikes. Turn on the lights and wear bright colors, my friends. Remember those long and dry summer days that are coming our way.

Think Pink

Pink Paint!

I have been on a quest for pretty pink spray paint for some time. I want to make a Valentine’s Day ornament wreath, and my quest to find light pink ornaments during the holidays was unsuccessful. While on I was on the hunt for pink ornaments, it occurred to me that it might be possible to paint a rag-tag assortment or ornaments that I already have on hand unifying them with a pretty coat of pink plastic-safe spray paint. Even though princess-themed everything endures, none of the many hardware sections that I perused had what I was looking for. Everything was some variation of brown, green, red, black or white with a few metallics thrown in. Very much like the paint in my garage.

Last weekend, I swung by Michael’s in Lacey to look for pink ornaments just in case. I found the same heart shaped ones that I purchased last year and I happened to walk right by their display of … spray paint. They have spray paint! And more than one pink! I actually had to make a decision! I went from nothing to choices! I was very excited and ultimately selected the Rust-oleum Champagne Pink spray paint for plastic, wood, metal and masonry! I’ll keep you posted on my progress once the rain lets up. 

Michael’s is located in South Sound Center, near Target and Kohl’s in Lacey.  701 Sleater Kinney Rd SE, Lacey, WA 98503, (360) 923-0550.

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9am-9pm. Sunday, 10am-7pm (always a good idea to call and confirm)

Download the app or go online for weekly specials and coupons.

Happy creating!


Weather today: Rainy and gloomy all day today, I’m sorry to report. 🙁 46°F at 2 pm but feels slightly cooler than that.

Are you all lost in the supermarket?

Shopping Cart

Do your grocery shopping in 10 minutes

Looking for ways to save your time and/or your sanity? If you are one of those people who like to get the max out of the min, you should try grocery pickup at Walmart if you haven’t already. There are several places that offer grocery store delivery but there are some advantages to grocery pickup. The biggest one is that it’s free with a minimum $30 order, a pretty low bar for groceries. You can schedule it when you need it–no monthly commitments. It’s easy, especially if you tend to buy the same things.

Grocery pickup is currently available at the Walmart in Lacey. You need to select and schedule your order at least the day before. There will be limited availability if you try to schedule the same day.

Here’s how it works:

  • Go to
  • Enter your zip code to confirm delivery in your area (it will show you the Lacey Walmart as the option)
  • Set up an account or login if you have one. (Once you have an account, it will default to your pickup location and the “Reserve a time” option will appear at the top.
  • Select your pickup window. You have about 90 minutes from the time you select your slot to place your order.
  • Forget something after placing your order? Depending on how far in advance you place your order, you can also add to or edit your order after you place it. You will get a message when you place your order, something like, “you can edit your order any time before 10 pm tonight.”
  • Add items to your cart. This usually takes me about 10 minutes now that I have done it a few times. The interface is easy to use and you can browse through categories. Just like walking up and down the aisles. But from your couch with your feet up.
  • If you are ordering produce and aren’t super good about remembering how many pounds you order of something, it’s probably a good idea to estimate low. Once I ended up with a rather large bag of summer squash. Oopsie.
  • Review your order. You will be asked which items you will accept substitutions for. If you are very particular, select no substitutes. If you are more go with the flow, try it out. You can refuse substitutions at pickup time. If you accept a substitution that is higher in price than the item you initially selected, you pay the lower price.
  • You will get a call when your order is ready. Many times, we have received the call 15-30 minutes before the pickup window we selected.
  • Drive to the store and go to the pickup area. (Designated parking spots, usually on the side or back of the store – the Lacey store pickup area is on the left-hand side.) Call the number to let them know that you are there. Sometimes, they will ask you to call when you are 10 minutes away but honestly, I don’t mind waiting a few minutes if needed. Your groceries are kept in a cold area so they need time to pull them out for you.
  • Staff will bring your groceries out to your car and load them up. Don’t forget your reusable bags! You can also use bins if you have them.
  • And you are off! Shopping is done!

We have done Walmart grocery store pick up in three states and have been impressed with the service. Sometimes, staff picking the groceries have a hard time finding very unusual items but this has always worked out in our favor.

Pro tip: need printer paper, glue, zip ties, needles or cosmetics? There is a wide range of things you can pick up along with groceries.

Happy shopping!


Today’s weather: Not gonna lie, today’s weather is what gives the PNW a bad rap. Rainy, gloomy, overcast and depressing. 45° at about 4:30 p.m. <sigh> Make it stop.

What’s a Haggen?


When I first moved to Olympia, I noticed Haggen and thought, “What’s that?”

Located off the Black Lake Boulevard exit off the 101 at the corner of Cooper Point Road, Haggen is a family-owned 24-hour grocery store with 15 locations in Washington. Haggen has a large produce section, pharmacy, floral, food to go, nursery and more.

If you live in the Olympia area, you’ll receive a Haggen’s flier with the weekly bundle of inserts delivered with your mail. Check out the coupons–we have found more than one deal on things we buy.

The number one thing we buy is Zevia, a zero-calorie soda made with stevia. They also have a good selection of vegan and vegetarian brands that we like including Amy’s and Gardein.

I bought a few really nice looking plants there last summer. They all did well in my yard and the prices were good. Most Haggen stores also sell Christmas trees.

Haggen’s Chef Express offers ready to heat and ready to eat foods. Check out their recipes on their blog.

Haggen is also a ballot drop off location and there’s a library book drop-off bin inside for the Timberland Regional Libraries (in the front of the store just past the customer service counter).

Location: 1313 Cooper Point Road Northwest, Olympia, WA 98502, (360) 754-1428. Typically, they are open 24 hours but they have reduced hours for some holidays. Check their website or call for details.

Happy shopping!


Today’s weather: On the cold side today and rainy this morning, overcast most of the rest of the day. I did wear sunglasses on the second dog walk because I am stubborn like that. 40°F at 4:30 p.m. but the dampness makes it feel colder, I guess. For me, there’s a big difference between 46/47°F and “feels like 39°F.”