Recent local blog posts

100-Year-Old Lost Lake House Added to Thurston County Historic Register

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 3:14pm



Submitted by Thurston County

thurston county historic register

This historic cabin is situated along the shores of Lost Lake. It’s been added to the Thurston County historic register.

Thurston County has added a 1900s-era log house to its inventory of 140 historic sites. The cabin-style structure is located near the Nisqually Indian Reservation in North Thurston County. Situated on the edge of spring-fed Lost Lake, it is believed to have been built almost 100 years ago. Its original construction of Saddle Notched interlocking logs, chinking material between the logs used as weatherproofing, and stone chimney and hearth stand testament to the quality of its original hand craftsmanship.

County researchers discovered evidence that the property was settled by pioneers at the time of the McAllister Party in the 1850s. An article on the front page of Tacoma’s The Daily Ledger in August 1896 gives a reference to the settlement’s storied past – a skirmish with Native Americans while trying to build an earlier cabin. The then-owner from 1896 claimed to have found skeletal remains from the fight that he reburied as homage to the life lost.

Thurston County’s Historic Commission manages the county’s historic register. Their goal is to preserve county properties that have archaeological, architectural or historic importance. Learn more about the history of Thurston County at or apply to add a site to the historic register at

Mike and Brenda Williams Heading to National Senior Games in Tennis

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 8:09am



By Grant Clark

tumwater auto spaBrenda Williams is surrounded by medals and trophies.

She and her husband Mike have owned TAGS since 2001. The Olympia store specializes in plaques, trophies, and all sorts of other awards. Basically, if it’s shiny, they have it.

Scanning the inside of her office, which is layered with product samples, it is quite clear TAGS can handled any request, but despite being flanked by virtually every type of trophy you can imagine, the medal Brenda is holding has significantly more value to her than all the others.

This one was earned, not made.

Brenda was one of nearly 11,000 athletes to compete in the 2013 National Senior Games in Cleveland. The medal she proudly clutches is for the third place she won in tennis for the women’s 55-59 age division.

senior games tennis

Mike and Brenda Williams celebrate after both placed at a national tennis tournament in Palm Springs in 2011.

A biennial event, Brenda will look to secure a second medal when she competes in the 2015 National Senior Games. This year the Games will be held in Minnesota with events held throughout the Twin Cities and Bloomington.

“It was inspiring,” Brenda said about the 2013 Senior Games. “It was competitive. It was fun and a well-organized event.”

All that made it an easy decision to return.

However, this year she will not only compete as a single, but also in mixed doubles with her husband.

By winning last year’s mixed doubles tournament at the Washington Senior Games, Brenda and Mike qualified for the National Games. The tournament begins July 6.

Mike was unable to make the trip to Cleveland in 2013 to cheer his wife on. Instead Brenda frequently sent him updates via pictures.

“I said, ‘This could be you,’” Brenda joked. “It was such a great experience. It was too bad he couldn’t make it last time. We’ve been looking forward to it for quite a while.”

This will mark Brenda’s second trip to the National Senior Games, while Mike will be making his first appearance. Both also placed as singles in a national tournament in Palm Springs in 2011.

“It’s competitive. These people are good,” said Mike about the level of competition. “We’ve both kept ourselves in shape. We’ve worked hard at that. I used to think when I turned 50 it was going to be great because we were in such good shape, but it hasn’t worked out that way because everyone else is in great shape too. It really makes it competitive. But that’s the fun part of it.”

Unseeded in the 16-player tournament in 2013, Brenda won her opening round in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0, before facing the tournament’s third seeded player in the quarterfinals.

“My first match I won pretty easily,” Brenda said. “That second match was a nail biter – a three setter.”

Brenda dropped the first set before rallying to win the match, 2-6, 6-2, 1-0 (9), to advance to the semifinals where she squared off against top-seeded Deborah Burgess, who won the division in 2011.

senior games tennis

Brenda Williams (left) poses at the 2013 National Senior Games in Cleveland where she finished third in women’s 55-59 age group in tennis. She will be returning to the competition this month.

Burgess won in three sets, 1-6, 7-5, 1-0 (3), and went on to win her second consecutive championship.

But Brenda didn’t go home empty handed. She knocked off the No. 4 seed in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0, to take home the division’s third-place medal.

In addition to repeating as a singles medalist, Brenda will attempt to also bring some hardware home with Mike.

The couple have played tennis together since their teens while growing up in Pasadena, Calif.

“I’m steady and calm,” Brenda states about the duo’s paying styles, “and Mike is quick and all over the place.”

The National Senior Games is a 19-sport, biennial competition for men and women 50 and over. It is the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors and features events such as archery, badminton, cycling, golf, horseshoes, racquetball, swimming and track and field.

The event was inaugurated in 1987 with St. Louis, Mo. serving as the host city to 2,500 competitors. The Games having steadily grown, adding sports from its initial total of 15 and seeing its total number of athletes increase dramatically.

Cleveland played host to the 14th summer national championships in 2013 with 10,881 participants. More than 12,000 athletes are expected to compete in this year’s Games.

“I think it’s good to be a role model and to be active when you are 50 plus,” Brenda said. “I’d like to be a model for my kids and anyone else. That’s a good thing.”


Thurston County Offers Tips to Help Defend Against Wildfires This Season

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 6:28am



Submitted by Thurston County

Do you know how to make your home and garden “firewise?” Summer heat has set early and Washington wildfires have already scorched thousands of acres this season, so Thurston County emergency management officials are offering some tips and resources to help local residents protect their homes and property against the dangers of wildfires.

The National Fire Protection Association has created a “one-stop shop” website for communities across the country to access tips, information and tools to help make their properties and communities more resistant to wildfires. The public can access wildfire news, education materials, project ideas, and lots more at

“Washington is in the grip of a statewide drought right now, and I don’t think anyone is surprised by the fact that wildfires are a very serious concern this year, even on the west side of the Cascades,” said Thurston County Emergency Management Coordinator Andrew Kinney. “We’re really looking to residents to help reduce the wildfire danger on their own property this season. Each person who takes some steps to protect against wildfire helps reduce the risk for their neighbors and, really, the whole county.”

As a Fourth of July holiday heatwave sets in across the Puget Sound region, Thurston County residents are reminded that a countywide outdoor burn ban is currently in place to help protect against wildfires. For more details about the burn ban restrictions, go to the county’s homepage at and click on the “Countywide Burn Ban” link.

County officials also remind residents that there are restrictions on the sale and discharge of fireworks in the county. But with the current heat and dry conditions, residents are urged to keep this holiday season safe and sane and enjoy the region’s professional fireworks shows this year instead. To learn more, go to the county’s homepage at and click on the “Fireworks restrictions and safety tips” link.

As temperatures climb this week, keeps tabs on weather conditions and hot weather tips and information with the Thurston County Emergency Management Division social media—find us on Facebook at ThurstonEM, or on Twitter at @ThurstonEM.

Allison Savin – A Real Estate Matchmaker

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 6:00am



allisan savin real estate

Having studied abroad, shown here in Vietnam, Allison recognizes the value of stable, suitable housing.

Buying a home doesn’t have to be a scary, overwhelming process. Instead, as Allison Savin a broker at Olympia’s Van Dorm Realty explains, “I never feel like I’m in the sales industry, and I never think of myself as a salesperson. I like to think of it as a treasure hunt or matchmaking. Instead of two people, it’s matching the perfect home with the perfect person, couple, or family.”

U.S. News and World Report recently explained that “as the millennial generation, also known as Generation Y, takes a greater role in the housing market, young people’s preferences are starting to shape the way real estate business is done. The real estate portal Zillow predicts that millennials will overtake baby boomers as the generation purchasing the largest number of homes this year, making their preferences even more important…Dealing with these tech-savvy buyers has posed a challenge for the nation’s real estate agents, who are considerably older than the home buying population they serve. A NAR survey of its members in 2012 found that only 3 percent of agents were under 30.”

And this is where Savin shines. A Capital High School and University of Washington grad, Savin started working at Van Dorm Realty when she was just 16 years old. She spent summers and extracurricular hours as a receptionist and became a full-fledged broker two years ago at the age of 22.

Born and raised in the Steamboat Island neighborhood, Savin now gives back by volunteering with various educational clubs and groups as well as serving on the Board of Trustees for the Griffin School Foundation along with fellow Van Dorm brokers Catherine Haag and Diane Pust.

Professionally, Allison admits “I like working with everybody. I like the variety.” She is comfortable with first time homebuyers, investment buyers, and properties at any price point. Like many in her field, she knows that the last few years have left potential buyers wary of future interest rate spikes but encourages the unsure to act now.

allison savin real estate

Savin started working for Van Dorm realty at 16, staffing the reception desk on summer vacations.

Because there are more buyers than available homes in our area, anyone considering selling their home should definitely take action. Savin admits that “the market is so hot! I never thought I’d be 24 with a thriving business like this!”

Interested clients can view her wealth of listings, advice, and research online here or through her Facebook page. There you can find photographs, learn tools of the trade, read 5-star customer reviews, and find details on upcoming Open Houses and property showings.

With reviewers claiming that “Allison is organized and extremely knowledgeable about the market. She is dedicated to selling your home (or helping you find your dream house!)” and “The most professional, organized, and helpful agent you will ever work with,” it’s easy to see that Savin is a rising star in her industry.

When Savin isn’t showing homes, you can find her involved in many volunteer roles.  “I think one of the greatest things I can do with my time is give back to communities who have given so much to me,” Savin describes. She is the community advisory chair for the Capital High School Marketing Program and also sits on the South Sound Council for Career and Technical Education classes. “In this role, we review curriculum framework before it’s submitted to OSPI.”

You can reach Allison via her cell phone at 360-556-5018 or through the Van Dorm Realty’s West Olympia offices at 1530 Black Lake Boulevard SW. They are open seven days a week and someone is always on hand to answer questions or direct you to an available agent. The office number is 360-943-3800.

The Sweet Niche: New Owners Continue the Legacy of The Bearded Lady

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 6:00am



By Kelli Samson

batdorflogoDevotees of The Bearded Lady’s gluten-free and vegan desserts may have felt a swell of panic when they noticed their shop at 412 Franklin Street in downtown Olympia had changed hands this winter. However, only half of The Bearded Lady’s staff has moved on, as the remaining two employees have opened up under the name The Sweet Niche to supply the high-quality vegan and gluten-free goodies which so many in our community have counted on.

olympia gluten-free bakery

Owners Erin Zimmerman (right) and Lauren Gabrielle run The Sweet Niche together, having met while working at The Bearded Lady.

Melanie Shelton and Jordan Marsicek recently sold the bakery to Erin Zimmerman and her husband Patrick.  The couple is also partners with Zimmerman’s former Bearded Lady co-worker, the gregarious Lauren Gabrielle.

“I’ve always wanted to open a bakery, but I sure never expected one to fall into my lap,” says Zimmerman. She and Gabrielle used to joke about working in their own bakery together one day, and now it is a reality.

Shelton is now running the baking and pastry program at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC), and she and Marsicek are contemplating writing a cookbook based upon their Bearded Lady brunch recipes.

As it turns out, Zimmerman and Gabrielle are the perfect partners to run a business together. They compliment one another well. Zimmerman is the more reserved of the two, and she is perfectly content to be baking back in the kitchen. Gabrielle, on the other hand, is energized by laughing and mingling with customers, so she works in the front of the bakery.

olympia gluten-free bakery

The Sweet Niche specializes in vegan and/or gluten-free treats, like these delectable cupcakes, which are their best-sellers.

“Lauren’s focus is on the front and on ideas, while I am just thinking about the food,” says Zimmerman. “She’s such a people-person.”

Zimmerman has always been a baker. She grew up in Lake Chelan with a lot of sisters. “On our birthdays my mom always made sure we each had a special, unique birthday cake. She also made homemade bread a lot, and she and my dad both cooked from scratch all the time,” recalls Zimmerman.

“I’ve been working in the food industry since I was fifteen,” adds Zimmerman. She went on to graduate from SPSCC’s Culinary Arts program.

Gabrielle, who is from California’s Bay Area, grew up with an adventurous cook for a mother. She herself came to the world of cooking when she became a vegan. “I had to learn how to cook for myself because there just aren’t that many options out there,” she explains.

olympia gluten-free bakery

Zimmerman prefers to do the baking for the Sweet Niche, while Gabrielle works with the customers.

These days, vegans, gluten-free individuals, and others with food sensitivities no longer have to depend upon their own skills in the kitchen if they want or need to eat a certain way. More and more restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores have options friendly to all. The Sweet Niche fills a niche in Olympia (pardon the pun – I couldn’t resist) in that it primarily caters to the vegan and gluten-free populations, rather than having just a few items that meet those customers’ needs. People can come to the bakery to enjoy dessert with friends and will know that there will be plenty of appetizing menu items that fit their criteria. Their products can also be found at a plethora of other locations all over town, like Bar Francis, Obsidian, Olympia Food Co-op, and Batdorf & Bronson, to name just a few.

Zimmerman and Gabrielle themselves each possess quite the sweet tooth. “We promised each other we’d start eating more salads since we’re constantly snacking on our treats and taste-testing,” says Gabrielle. “The sticky buns are my favorite thing on the menu,” she giggles. “I’ve finally put them into our weekly rotation,” adds Zimmerman. “They’ll be available on Saturdays.”

olympia gluten-free bakery

Their potato focaccia will knock your socks off.

Zimmerman remains a fan of the pies. “I love all pies. I don’t discriminate,” she explains.

As for the customers, “everyone is going nuts over our cake-of-the-week, which is usually something really creative and decadent that we sell by the slice,” says Gabrielle.

And if you don’t have dietary restrictions? By all means, one can still enjoy any of the items for sale without missing the traditional flour or dairy ingredients. I can personally vouch for their cupcakes (don’t get me started on the addictive frosting) and their focaccia breads (perfect texture and salted exactly right).

The Sweet Niche also accepts special orders for desserts with any type of ingredients. “It’s important for people to be able to get exactly what they want,” explains Gabrielle. “We want everything in our case to be as accessible to as many people as possible,” adds Zimmerman.

What’s next for The Sweet Niche? After they get into the rhythm of just surviving with a new business, Zimmerman and Gabrielle hope to be open for lunch. They have great ideas for grab-and-go savory hand pies and soups that they’d like to offer. They’ve also bought equipment for making their own vegan, soy-free, coconut-based ice cream.

olympia gluten-free bakery

The Sweet Niche is located in the The Bearded Lady’s previous location, 412 Franklin Street in downtown Olympia. Their signage was painted by local favorite Ira Coyne.

Meanwhile, the two are grateful to their predecessors from The Bearded Lady for giving them their start, and also to the greater Olympia community. “There’s such a great support network of other small business owners,” says Gabrielle.

“Please come enjoy this space that we’ve made, and come hang out with us,” invites Gabrielle.

You can visit The Sweet Niche Wednesdays through Sundays from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., or follow them on Facebook and Instagram (thesweetniche). Please visit their website for more information. If you want to contribute toward their start-up costs, you can fund them via their site on

The Sweet Niche Bakery

412 Franklin St. SE in downtown Olympia

(360) 943-6235


July is Smart Irrigation Month

Thurston Talk - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 6:01pm



Submitted by The City of Olympia

LawnJuly is Smart Irrigation Month in Olympia. Because lawns and landscapes are typically overwatered by up to 30%, the City of Olympia’s Water Conservation Program is encouraging water customers to cut their irrigation water waste through a variety of incentives. By watering wisely, maintaining and upgrading automated irrigation systems, consumers can save money and help protect our drinking water resources for future generations.

The City’s Water Conservation Program offers residential water customers a $200 rebate on the installation of a “smart” irrigation controller and/or a free rain sensor – both for in-ground irrigation systems. Smart controllers automatically adjust watering times based on weather conditions to provide optimal moisture for healthy plants and landscapes, and conserves water. Rain sensors simply shut off irrigation systems when it is raining, so you don’t water when nature is doing it for you. Customers who water with a hose-end sprinkler can benefit from a free hose watering timer.

City of Olympia commercial water customers may be eligible for a rebate of up to $2500 on efficient irrigation system upgrades, including spray nozzle retrofits, smart controller upgrades and drip irrigation conversions.

The City’s efficient irrigation consultant says, “Olympia has made it easy for commercial customers and irrigation contractors to get rebates for installing efficient sprinkler nozzles, controllers with conservation features, and other water saving equipment. The rebate process is simple for most items, and the rebate amounts are generous enough that customers can start saving money right away.”

Visit our website for Smart Irrigation Month incentives, rebate applications, resources and tips on how you can join your fellow neighbors and get smart about irrigation!

Smart Irrigation Month is an initiative of the Irrigation Association, a non-profit industry organization dedicated to promoting efficient irrigation.

For more information, contact the City of Olympia Water Conservation Program at 360.753.8271 or


Riverwalk Tours At Tumwater’s Falls Park Begin July 16

Thurston Talk - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 5:27pm



Submitted by The Olympia Tumwater Foundation

 Diane Waiste

Photo credit: Diane Waiste

Led by local historians, the free Riverwalk tours lead you along the historic heart of old Tumwater, along the beautiful Deschutes River with its falls, foot bridges and salmon fish ladders.  Along the way you’ll learn first-hand about the rich history of the first permanent American community in what is now the State of Washington, Tumwater.

You’ll hear about the native tribes, the first settlers attracted by the water power of the river to run industry, and the artesian water that attracted a business that made Tumwater and Olympia famous, the Olympia Brewing Company and the Schmidt family.

You’ll hear stories about the growth through the years, from the special railway running through Tumwater that connected Olympia to the Northern Pacific Railroad and about the arrival of the automobile and the major highway that ran through the town, later to be replaced by I-5.

The tours take less than an hour and begin by the park office near the upper falls on Thursday mornings at 10:30 (July 16 – September 3).  This year we are adding some special tours led by Don Trosper.  These include five tours on a Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. (July 14, 28, August 18, September 1, and one on August 25 led by Terra Hegy) and three on Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. (July 19, August 9 and September 6).  The tours are limited to 30 people.

For more details visit the foundation website:  Our thanks to the City of Tumwater for their help in bringing these popular tours to both residents and tourists.

Tumwater’s 4th of July: Parade, Festival, Road Closures, Services, and Fireworks

Thurston Talk - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 2:38pm



Submitted by The City of Tumwater

tumwater 4th of july parade

The 4th of July parade steps off in Tumwater at 11:00 a.m.

Celebrate this 4th of July in Tumwater.  Events for Independence Day are listed below.

Independence Day Parade – Saturday, July 4, 11:00 a.m.

The parade will be led by Grand Marshals from the Tumwater Soccer Club, representing this year’s parade theme, “Just Kickin’ It!” The parade begins at 11:00 a.m. The parade is closed to new entries.


Parade Road Closures and Restricted Vehicle Access

  • Traffic on Linderson Way and West Lee Street will be restricted to emergency access only, beginning at approx. 8:30 a.m. on July 4.   If you need access to these streets after 8:30 a.m. and prior to 12:30 p.m., please make advance arrangements for your vehicle in the event that you need to travel.
  • From approx. 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., vehicular access to and from property along the parade route will be restricted due to street closures.
  • The parade route begins at the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Lee Street, moves south on Capitol Boulevard to Israel Road, then turns west (right) onto Israel Road and continues past City Hall, ending at the Linderson Way/Israel Rd intersection. Parade route map is available online here.

Artesian Family Festival & Thunder Valley Fireworks Show

  • Held at the Tumwater Valley Golf Course Driving Range. Festival gates open at 6:00 p.m.  Event features music, food vendors, games, and much more.
  • Thunder Valley Fireworks Show begins at 10:15 p.m. and is accompanied by music on site.
  • Festival entry is free; event parking is $10/car. No alcohol, pets, personal fireworks, or BBQs allowed.

Tumwater Farmers Market

tumwater farmers market

The Tumwater Farmers’ Market

The Farmer’s Market will be open on Saturday, July 4, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The market is located at the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Israel Road SW. For more details, visit


Fireworks Safety

Although personal fireworks are allowed within the City limits, conditions are exceedingly dry this season and fire danger is high. Please consider alternatives to personal fireworks this year to celebrate Independence Day—the City hosts a full day of festivities, including a professional fireworks show. If you do use personal fireworks this holiday season, please remember:

  • Ignition or discharge of safe and sane fireworks are allowed within the City of Tumwater on July 3 and 4, between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. only.
  • Patrol officers will enforce these regulations during the holiday season. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000.


Find more fireworks information online at


Please Note: Pioneer Park will be closed all day on Saturday, July 4, 2015.  City services will be closed on Friday, July 3 in honor of the holiday.

For more information about activities, please contact Tumwater Parks and Recreation at (360) 754-4160. More details available online at or


Residents Invited to Take Survey on Clean Energy and Climate Change

Thurston Talk - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 1:50pm


Submitted by The Port of Olympia

In partnership with Thurston County and LOTT Clean Water Alliance, Thurston County Climate Action Team (TCAT) developed a survey to gauge public opinion about clean energy and climate change. TCAT asked the Port of Olympia to help distribute the survey to Thurston County residents.

The survey is part of TCAT’s work to raise awareness about climate change and to implement practical clean energy solutions. Thurston County residents can take the survey online until July 5. Click here to take the survey.

Thurston County and LOTT have committed financial support for the survey. In addition, faculty members from the three higher education institutions in the county collaborated on the design and implementation of the survey. The team recruited area college students to make survey phone calls during the week of June 22.

TCAT hopes survey results will help local elected officials make effective decisions about policies and investments to promote clean energy in local communities, while reducing our carbon footprint.

Results of the survey will be available in September on the Thurston Climate Action Team website, Results will also be reported to local elected officials in September and October, including to the Port Commission at its September study session.

Those interested in additional information about the survey can contact TCAT at


Thurston Economic Development Council Announces Key Employee Promotions  

Thurston Talk - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 1:40pm



Submitted by Thurston Economic Development Council

Thurston Economic Development Council is pleased to announce the promotion of two of its key staff people, Annette Roth to Marketing & Communications Director, and Kyle Weise to Project Manager, effective July 1, 2015.

Annette Roth, most recently Marketing & Communications Manager, was promoted to Marketing and Communications Director. Ms. Roth will be responsible for the development and implementation of the organization’s marketing, outreach and communications strategies and activities; overseeing investor relations, community and public relations, and employer outreach, providing leadership in those capacities to EDC staff. She has been with Thurston EDC since September 2010, and has over 15 years’ experience in marketing and communications.

In addition, Kyle Weise was promoted to Project Manager, from Research and Project Coordinator. Mr. Weise will manage site location cases for business that are looking at either expanding their business within Thurston County or relocating their business to Thurston County. Additionally, he will keep track of statistics pertaining to the local and regional economies and conduct business outreach. He originally joined the EDC as an intern from The Evergreen State College in April 2012.

We congratulate both Ms. Roth and Mr. Weise, and look forward to a prosperous future with them both.

The Thurston Economic Development Council is a private non-profit organization focused on creating a vital and sustainable economy throughout Thurston County that supports the livelihood and values of our residents.


Pug Bujeaud and Christian Carvajal Pick Their Fab 5

South Sound Arts - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 9:49am

Some time ago actor Rick Pearlstein asked fellow actors and directors on Facebook to pick the favorite five plays they’ve been involved with. The responses were many and fun to read. I asked two local theater personalities if I could reprint their responses (originally intended for publication in the Weekly Volcano but now appearing here).

Pug Bujeaud has acted and directed more plays than Carter has little liver pills (who’s old enough to remember that?). Christian Carvajal is also an actor and director, and until recently a theater critic. Bujeaud and Carvajal each graciously shared their comments (slightly edited).
Ryan Holmberg (back) and Dennis Rolly (front) in Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol. Photo Matt Ackerman CrimsonFlick Photo.
Pug Bujeaud
Ten Years ago I directed my first Shakespeare for Theater Artists Olympia. Macbeth. It was the first time I really put my own spin on a concept, WWI never ended and it is modern day. It was a study of what happens to good people living in terrible times. Something I have continued to explore in various shows and writings. I hope to get my hands on this one again someday soon.

Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol was a joy to work on. The script was a find. The cast was full of some of my favorite people who were all working at the top of their game. Ryan Holmberg, Tim Goebel, Chris Cantrell, and Dennis Rolly. The sound design was Matt Ackerman, the first time we actually worked together on something.  And Cecelia Sommerville's   lighting design was sublime. I was especially proud of the opening moments of that show. OLT didn't know what hit 'em.
I have put Reservoir Dogs on the list. And I am going to have to tap both productions. Because well, I directed them simultaneously, so for me it was one very large show. What I was thinking I ...don't really know. But man what a wild ride. A great study in what actors bring to the table, and how they affect the direction a show takes. Same director different actors totally different shows.
Inherit the Wind was one of the first shows I was in back in High School, I never fell out of love with it. When The Evergreen Playhouse gave me a chance to direct it I jumped on it.
from left: Tom Sanders, Michael Christopher and Deya Ozburn in MacBeth. Photo by DK Photography.There were almost 30 people in this, I think. And the world they built was amazing. I totally believed them as a township. I particularly loved the church rally and the way the congregation was intermingled with the audience the way it moved one emotionally because you were totally a part of the action. I tried very hard to portray both sides of this story without vilifying either side. Keeping my own personal politics out of it. I think I managed it quite well. And Scott Petersen and Dennis Rolly as Drummond and Brady were a joy to watch every night.

So for my final entry on the Five Day Artist Challenge I am going to have to cheat. I gotta have three. I have a three-way tie. Three totally different pieces as my favorite for totally different reasons.
The Weir at The Tacoma Little Theatre was hard, it was frightening, we were swimming upstream for the majority of the rehearsal process. The script is brilliant. It had been on my bucket list for a long time. The final product ... as close to perfection as I can ever hope to come. Just five actors sitting around telling stories and listening to each other. And it was magic, theater at its best. I never got tired of watching them spin their yarns. Special thanks go out to David Wright for saving our collective bacon on that one.
The HEAD! that Wouldn't DIE! with TAO of course. What fun. What a freezing our butts off, what the hell are we doing, lets just jump into the deep end, labor of love. The writing, the music, and the wonderful cast made all of the sleepless nights and near frostbite worth it. Such funny, funny people. And the reception was the frosting on the already tasty cake. So gratifying. Can't wait to do it again in the fall.

Titus Andronicus with Theater Artists Olympia! Titus was a raging blaze of over-the-top, brutal performances. Everyone pushed their comfort zones in commitment to the cause. I am honored that folks trusted me and allowed me to take them to such hard places. I miss this show more than any other. I got to become real friends with a number of people who to this day are some of those closest to my heart. It was an audacious production and boy did that cast embrace it. Special thanks to the amazing Matt Ackerman  for scoring the whole thing. I miss it really all the time.

from left: Robert McConkey, Brian Jansen, David Wright, Ellen Peters and Gabriel McClelland. Photo by DK Photography.
Christin Carvajal

As some of you may very well have expected, this brings us to Frost/Nixon at Tacoma Little Theatre (January 2011).

I'd been wanting to play Nixon in Peter Morgan's riveting play for several years. In fact, after Don Juan in Chicago, I lobbied to have Keith Eisner direct it in the Midnight Sun. So when I heard some yahoo named Brie Yost was directing it for TLT, I decided to squelch my anxiety about some kid fresh out of PLU helming a show about events that transpired before she was born. I auditioned in a 1960s style suit with my hair slicked back. I didn't perform an actual Nixon monologue, but I may as well have. It was pretty on-the-nose, but frankly, I thought I crushed it.

When I arrived at callbacks, I felt even better about my chances. None of these guys looked anything like Richard Nixon, I thought. I got up on stage, did my scenes, and there was an audible mumble of approval. And then ... friggin' Steve friggin' Tarry took the stage, and my dreams jackknifed clean off the 405. I knew he had the part before he finished his first scene. I was so crushed that when Brie offered me another part in the show, I told her it was too small to justify the drive back and forth from Tumwater. Jerk move, I know, but you can understand my feelings.

Brie called a few days later and asked if I'd play another part, ABC News producer Bob Zelnick, instead. Having rethought my letdown and refusal, I said yes. And so it was that I found myself sharing a stage, and dressing room, with Curtis Beech, Charlie Birdsell, James A. Gilletti, Bob Gossman, Josh Johnson, Brian Lewis, Gabriel McClelland, Paul Neet, Duane Petersen, and the inimitable Mr. Tarry. That's a hell of a lot of talent in one dressing room. It's also a lot of warm, smelly bodies and clothes, so after a week of that I bid a hearty adieu and promoted myself to the much more spacious women's dressing room. Luckily, those actresses were game, so I spent the next two months in the half-dressed company of Sarahann Elizabeth Rickner, Alleena Tribble, and Anjelica Wolf (now McMillan). I can tell you I've never had a better time rehearsing or performing a show in almost four decades on the boards.

Consider: I had a couple of fun scenes to perform, including a comically over-the-top impersonation of Richard Nixon. I got to bitch out David Frost and wear an awesome suit selected by Naarah McDonald. Then I got to sit there and emote with no lines for most of an act—which meant limited memorization! I believe that was the show on which I met Nic Olson, who was stage managing for Brie. I found Brie herself to be knowledgeable, passionate, smart, engaging, and in all respects the perfect ringleader for our merry circus. It was, at least from my point of view, a charmed show. It was how I met ASMs Jess Allan and Sergio Americo Vendetti. I'm looking at the program now and realizing how many wonderful people came together behind the scenes to make that show a success. They were all at the top of their game, and crowds were gracious and responsive in post-show Q&As.

Mostly, though, I remember the undergraduate-style camaraderie. I hadn't felt as joyous in my work since ECU. It brought back all the feelings of being in my HOUSE, the place I was meant to be at the time I was meant to be there, and I saw very clearly how my talents meshed with so many others to form something richer than its parts. Four years later, I still consider most of these people dear friends, even the ones who drifted away on distant orbits. Shortly after Frost/Nixon closed, I was able to propose to Amanda Stevens, so I felt I'd been gifted with a two-month-long bachelor party. I would've done that show for years if it'd been an option. Amanda and I were married in May of 2011, and Brie Yost performed our wedding ceremony.

In the years since, actor Carv has had his ups and downs. As I said previously, I loved doing radio shows at Lakewood Playhouse. Performing 12 Angry Men there was a blast, and I have nothing but good things to say about the cast and experience of Angels in America, Parts 1 and 2 at Olympia Little Theatre—directed by Nic Olson. I directed Steve Tarry as the Great Detective in Sherlock's Last Case at Lakewood Playhouse, and Jess Allan as Susannah in Laughing Stock at OLT. Both shows were wonderfully rewarding experiences for me and, I gather, their fine casts.

I intend to direct The Credeaux Canvassomehow, somewhere, by the end of 2016. I might even self-produce in a found space, with attendance by invitation only. Amanda and I are currently rehearsing Tartuffe for Theater Artists Olympia, a rehearsal process that in some ways reminds me of that of Frost/Nixon. Maybe it's all the corsets. (Note: this was written before Tartuffe was performed. See my review here.)

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Exhibitor’s Guide for 2015 Thurston County Fair Now Online

Thurston Talk - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 5:14pm



Submitted by The Thurston County Fair

Whether your specialty is food, crafts, animals or art, the 2015 Thurston County Fair has an exhibit or contest you’re sure to love. The 2015 Fair Exhibitor’s Guide is now available online with over 60 pages filled with information and contest rules.

All of the information and details you need to compete in hundreds of open class and club contests are included in the guide, plus information on entry forms, camping, the annual Youth Market Animal Sale, and other information about this year’s fair which runs July 29 through August 2. Download the complete 2015 Exhibitor’s Guide here.  

Entry forms for all animals for the 2015 fair contests are due on Wednesday, July 1. All FFA members and open class entries must be turned in to the Fair Office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1, and all 4-H animal participants must submit their entry forms by 5 p.m. to the 4-H Extension Office at 5033 Harrison Ave. NW in West Olympia. Many entry forms are available at the Fair Office or online here.   Members of FFA and 4-H should contact their local club for more information on animal entries.

The 2015 Thurston County Fair also has lots of volunteer opportunities that will get you even closer to the good old fashioned fair fun. Contact the Thurston County Fair Office for more information about volunteering for this year’s fair.

For more information on the 2015 Thurston County Fair Exhibitor’s Guide, contest entry forms, volunteer opportunities, or other fair activities, contact the Thurston County Fair Office at (360) 786-5453 or visit the fair online here.

“Picture Yourself at the Thurston County Fair!”

July 29 – Aug. 2



The Community Farm Land Trust Permanently Protects West Olympia Farmland

Thurston Talk - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 4:11pm



Submitted by South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust (SSCFLT)

garlic harvest grubOn June 26, 2015, the South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust (SSCFLT) successfully completed its efforts to permanently preserve 1.18 acres of urban farmland in West Olympia. The land will be used by non-profit Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB) for their nationally recognized youth programming. GRuB brings together youth and people who identify as low-income to grow themselves good food and community.

Funded by Thurston County’s Conservation Futures program, SSCFLT’s acquisition protects an irreplaceable parcel of land that yields over 10,000 pounds of produce annually. Food grown on the land is donated to the Thurston County Food Bank, goes home with low-income youth, and is sold through a farm stand and farmers markets to support GRuB’s operations.

The acquisition not only helps GRuB continue its important work, but also furthers SSCFLT’s mission to preserve working farmland and keep it accessible and affordable for local farmers. The average age of farmers in the U.S. is 57 and rising, and over two-thirds of the country’s farmland is expected to change hands in the next two decades. SSCFLT views its partnership with GRuB as a way to help train and empower a new generation of farmers and farmland stewards.

grub olympia

GRuB In The School provides students an opportunity to lead farm and community work while learning leadership and life skills. The program is designed to help students grow and succeed in school, life and future employment.

GRuB’s alternative school model brings low-income and disengaged youth to the urban farm for a unique hands-on learning experience and vocational training. Their innovative curriculum creates opportunities for youth to grow food, learn about leadership and life skills, and contribute to community food solutions. GRuB students gain deeper leadership skills by hosting younger students in GRuB’s field trip program or being employed as second year summer crew leaders. In addition, GRuB’s pollination program now teaches its youth program model and provides technical assistance so other communities can replicate it.

GRuB’s Kitchen Garden Project also gives low-income people access to resources and community connections by offering them backyard gardens, training and mentorship. Lastly, GRuB relies on volunteers to accomplish much of its work. Inspired by its success with youth, GRuB trains its volunteers and stakeholders to increase their awareness, self-advocacy, communication skills and leadership so they may more deeply engage in GRuB’s programs, the community, and the broader Food Movement.

SSCFLT’s preservation of the 1.18 acres of farmland ensures that GRuB can continue its programming in perpetuity. SSCFLT is proud to support the important role GRuB plays in the South Sound community. For more information about SSCFLT and its work to preserve local farmland, visit For more information about GRuB, visit


Westport Winery Wins in San Francisco and Chicago

Thurston Talk - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 4:05pm



Submitted by Westport Winery

2015 Captain Front Westport WineryWestport Winery earned two awards at the 35th Annual San Francisco International Wine Competition held June 12–14, 2015, in San Francisco. The judges tasted more than 4,900 wines from around the world. Rapture of the Deep, a sparkling cranberry wine, earned a silver medal. Captain Gray, a varietal Gewurztrainer made from from Red Willow Vineyard grapes, earned a bronze medal.

At the World Wine Championships in Chicago, Illinois, Westport earned 87 points on Surfer Syrah and 89 points on Swimmer Petite Sirah.

When you visit Westport Winery Garden Resort be sure to explore the unique sculpture garden, lavender labyrinth, musical fence, 9-hole executive golf course, giant chess set, outdoor scrabble game, and grape maze, all located on the corner of Highway 105 and South Arbor Road halfway between Aberdeen and Westport. You will see why four times this has been voted Best of the Northwest Wine Destination.

These award-winning wines are exclusively available at the resort. The tasting room, gift shop, produce market, plant nursery, bakery and gardens, are open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The restaurant is open for lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and for dinner on Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information contact Westport Winery Garden Resort at 360-648-2224 or visit the website at



Personal Fireworks Not Allowed in Lacey and Olympia

Thurston Talk - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 11:19am



parade tumwaterThe cities of Lacey and Olympia remind residents and visitors that the sale and discharge of consumer (personal) fireworks are not allowed in either community. Novelty devices such as snakes, glowworms, and party poppers are permitted; however sparklers and all other types of fireworks are not. Fireworks purchased elsewhere, such as at tribal stands or fireworks sales booths in other communities, may not be used in Lacey or Olympia.

A majority of voters in both communities approved propositions to ban consumer fireworks. Fireworks ordinances may be viewed on the cities’ websites:, and

Lacey continues its tradition of kicking off the area’s Independence Day celebrations with the Lacey Fireworks Spectacular and Freedom Concert on Friday, July 3.

tumwater 4th of july paradeThe Freedom Concert begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Lacey Crossroads Shopping Center, 5500 Corporate Center Loop SE. The Fireworks Spectacular will be in the vicinity of William A. Bush Park, 4400 Chardonnay Drive NE, Lacey, beginning around 10:15 p.m.  A complete schedule of activities can be found here.

Another area tradition is the Tumwater 4th of July Parade, Artesian Family Festival and Thunder Valley Fireworks Display on Saturday, July 4.

Olympia’s fireworks show is later in July as the Grand Finale for the annual Capital Lakefair celebration, Sunday, July 19 in downtown Olympia at Heritage Park/Capitol Lake.

Residents and visitors celebrating Independence Day are urged to do so in a safe and enjoyable manner that is within the law. With everyone’s cooperation, our residents and pets will be safe, and our fire and police responders can focus on non-fireworks emergencies.


Adopt-A-Pet Dog of the Week

Thurston Talk - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 8:58am



Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet of Shelton

MIA - Adopt-A-Pet SheltonMeet Mia, an adult female Aussie Mix with maybe a little Shar Pei thrown in for good measure. Mia enjoys quiet walks on the trails and spending one on one time with her favorite volunteers. A lot of dogs come into the shelter scared and unsure about what is happening. Mia was no exception but she is learning that she is in a safe place with people who want the best for her and are looking out for her well being.

Mia now enjoys the attention she gets from the volunteers and the special attention. Mia is looking for a forever home with an owner who will provide her with a quiet and calm environment where she can relax and enjoy her new life with her human.

We have lots of great dogs and always need volunteers to help them.  Contact Adopt-A-Pet dog shelter on Jensen Road in Shelton at or contact us at or (360) 432-3091.

How much cross over was there between the OK Boys Ranch and the Paul Ingram's case?

Olympia Time - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 6:05am
I'm not going to go back and explain the Paul Ingram case. Or, the OK Boys Camp scandal/tragedy.

But, suffice to say that both of those events were insane shocks to the core of the Thurston County power structure about 25 years ago. I'd highly suggest reading the links above, just to get an idea of what I'm talking about.

What I really didn't realize until right now, but that these two seemingly independent events (though similar in content) overlapped a lot.

At the center of this overlap is Ingram himself. Just a note: this is the point that I'm going to start writing as if the reader knows a few details about both Ingram and OK Boys Camp.

As Ingram's life began dissolving toward his eventual guilty plea, the subsequent retraction of that plea, his prosecution and conviction, he also had a front seat to what was going on a the OK Boys Camp. Ingram was a member of the Kiwanis (not a big surprise as a deputy sheriff and former county Republican chair). But, well into 1989, he was on the board of the OK Boys Camp.

Ingram's daughter made her first accusation in August of 1988, he was arrested in late November, and the investigation was in full swing the next spring when Ingram was finally removed from the board in March.

It is odd enough for Olympia to have one odd abuse case, it is another for it to have two. And, also two that in hindsight land fairly well on opposite ends of the the varsity scale. The Thurston County criminal justice system went hard at Ingram and the fantastical tales levelled against him, to the point of digging up his entire back yard looking for the remains of babies. But it took a few more years to catch up with the actual abuse happening at the OK Boys Ranch.

And, the question that keeps rolling around in my brain: how much was known (but not approached) by folks about the horrible conditions at the ranch. And, how much of that community knowledge morphed into the fantastical accusations against Ingram by his daughters? Had they heard about the crimes at the ranch? Had they been to the ranch and heard them first hand from residents?

Artist Chris Maynard Captures the Essence of Flight in his Feather Shadow Boxes

Thurston Talk - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 5:48am



By Melanie Kallas Ricklefs

sunset airAs I approached Chris Maynard’s art studio in Olympia, I couldn’t help but notice the number of birds zipping around over the landscape. When Chris came out, the birds seemed to gravitate toward him. A few moments later I found out why. One of Chris’s favorite pastimes is to blow feathers up into the air from a long tube, and watch as the birds come to compete for them. He has five species of swallows on his property, including barn swallows that use these feathers to build their nests. Chris also raises geese, Heritage Turkeys, and Impeyan Pheasants. All of these birds, and so many more, provide inspiration for Chris’s unique form of artwork.

chris maynard feathers

Artist Chris Maynard contemplates the possibilities for meaningful augmentation of a feather in his art studio in Olympia.

Chris grew up in a household where creativity was always encouraged. His mother was an artist who painted in watercolors, oil, and Sumi-e before ultimately going blind and turning to the art of poetry. She encouraged her children to paint, and allowed them the freedom to create works of art from any material they could find. When Chris was 12 years old, he visited the zoo and found flamingo and peacock feathers on the ground. He was captivated by the natural beauty embodied in the feathers. The head bird-keeper let him bring the feathers home, where he used them to decorate a lampshade for his little sister. This was Chris’s first piece of feather art.

Chris’s art has evolved significantly in the years since that lampshade. He started by photographing whole feathers in a multitude of designs to showcase their innate beauty, structure, and form. Chris uses feathers as his medium because he wants “to foster an understanding and appreciation of the natural world.” The colors and shapes of the patterns on the feathers intrigue him, as they do so many of us, but the form is what draws Chris to feathers.

When creating feather shadow boxes, Chris allows each feather to retain its natural curve rather than flattening it to its background. In this way, the feather casts a unique shadow on its background, while retaining the form that speaks to its original function. Chris described that “each flight feather curves a bit to form an airfoil,” while body feathers curve differently, like shingles on a roof that can be expanded, or contracted, to adjust for air and water flow. Chris’s artwork is designed to capture the essence of birds, whether in flight, or at rest.

chris maynard feathers

Chris Maynard used a crowned crane feather to create this shadow box entitled Crote Umble. Photo credit: Chris Maynard.

Chris views every feather as a “small bit of perfection that art cannot enhance.” To Chris, feathers represent “flight, transcendence, bridges between worlds, and escape.” He feels that he is detracting from the feathers in a way by cutting them, but he does so to augment the meaning of each piece. We all tend to look for meaning in life, and in art. It is the meaning that draws us to a certain painting, or sculpture, and there are endless ways of manipulating objects in space to create new meaning.

Chris says that when he holds a feather, he often finds himself “in the middle of three spaces of perception: wonder and awe at the form; a small sense of connection to the feather’s original owner; and the desire for creative construction, with the accompanying thought, ‘How can I manipulate this into elegant, compelling, and meaningful art that will make people stop and wonder?’”

When I first saw one of Chris’s shadow boxes, I was fascinated. Not only was it incredibly unique, but he managed to create a sense of movement, of flight, using finely cut pieces of feather, each tiny piece cut to resemble the feather’s original owner. Chris’s favorite tools are his tiny eye surgery scissors, forceps, and magnifying glasses that were passed down to him from his father. His father was an ophthalmologist, and used those tools for an entirely different purpose, but the precision involved in his surgeries and Chris’s art requires the same fine instruments.

chris maynard feathers

Feathers from twenty species of starlings were photographed and collaged to create this photographic piece by Chris Maynard. Photo credit: Chris Maynard.

Chris gets his feathers from zoos and aviaries, so no birds are harmed in obtaining his materials. He views his art as recycling the feathers lost by birds. While Chris says that turkey feathers are the easiest to work with, his favorite feathers are those of the Great Argus Pheasant, which are large with intricate designs. One of Chris’s photographic pieces is a feather alphabet found in the designs of Great Argus Pheasant feathers.

Chris’s recently published book entitled Feathers, Form & Function includes a collection of his artwork, along with his thoughts about the biology and meaning of feathers. Some of his pieces will be on display in the Lieutenant Governor’s office of the Capital Building throughout July and August. In September, he will be presenting at TEDxOlympia 2015.

To learn more about Chris, view his artwork, or follow his blog, visit  You can also visit his art on display at Childhood’s End Gallery in downtown Olympia.

Roosevelt Elementary School’s Solar Panels Still a Hot Commodity

Thurston Talk - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 5:40am



roosevelt elementary solar

The solar panels were installed by Sunset Air at Roosevelt Elementary School in 2013.

Like the Beatles, students at Olympia’s Roosevelt Elementary School reap lasting benefits whenever someone says ‘Here comes the sun.’ Thanks to Community Solar donations and the generosity of Lacey’s award-winning Sunset Air, their solar panels are exceeding everyone’s expectations.

Installed in 2013, the Roosevelt solar array is a striking example of how our region embraces all things green and renewable. The Sunset Air family also has a long tradition of giving back to our community. In solar alone, they’ve spearheaded installations at the Shelton Civic Center, Willapa Valley Elementary, the Olympia Farmers Market, and Saint Martin’s LEED-certified Cebula Hall.

Sunset Air Commercial Project Manager Jacob Alexander is excited that the 2014-2015 school year will offer “the first full recording and picture of the system. Everything to date is on track and an annual picture is showing above average production for the year. To date the system has produced a little over 100,000 kilowatt-hours of power and climbing with each sunny day or clear moonlight night.”

Since the average American home uses only 11,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, you can imagine what a financial and environmental savings this is to the school, district, and community overall.

sunset air solar

Recent studies and reports find that schools are cutting their utility bills by transitioning to solar power.

Because of green upgrades like these, the Olympia School District was named a “Green District Leader.” In 2013 the district was recognized for its goals of energy conservation and granted a Jobs Now Grant for Energy Efficiency by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. This money was part of the initial funding for the Roosevelt solar project.

In recent years, solar energy has proven an easy way to reduce energy costs and reliance on outside power supplies. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that “The U.S. Solar industry achieved another record year in 2014, growing by 34% over 2013…With over 195,000 installations in 2014, nearly 645,000 U.S. homes and businesses have now gone solar. In 2014, a new solar project was installed every 2.5 minutes.”

SEIA’s report ‘Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools’ was released in 2014. It is “the first nationwide assessment of how solar energy helps to power schools in communities across America. Most importantly, the report shows that thousands of schools are already cutting their utility bills by choosing solar, using the savings to pay for teacher salaries and textbooks.” They’ve shown that “there are 3,752 K-12 schools in the United States with solar installations, meaning nearly 2.7 million students attend schools with solar energy systems.” These schools receive an average of $21,000 a year in extra funds thanks to their solar arrays.

Politics aside, we can all agree that schools are often underfunded. Solar is one simple way the buildings can pay for themselves, 24 hours a day, even during summer vacation.

To learn more about commercial or residential solar installation, contact Sunset Air at 360-456-4956.


The Commons at Fertile Ground Welcomes the Public to Wander and Learn

Thurston Talk - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 5:30am



By Kelli Samson

sunset airWhen my daughters and I visit the Olympia Timberland Library, we often like to end our trip with a jaunt across 9th Avenue. There we find the chickens in their run at The Commons, a public garden adjacent to the bed and breakfast called Fertile Ground. We sit on the tractor sculpture and laugh at the hens as they scratch up bugs and pester one another.

The history behind this space is a storied one. The home was built in 1908 by W.N. and Ellen Bailey, who ran it as a boarding house during the Great Depression. Following the Baileys, the Wisniewski family owned the home from 1936-1988. Bill and Josephine Wisniewski owned the Liberty Cafe downtown, which is an infamous part of Olympia’s history because its kitchen was barreled through by a runaway train in 1959.

fertile ground olympia

Karen Ray has served as the head of current and future garden-based programming at The Commons for over a year.

When Karen Nelson and Stanley Stahl first purchased the home in 1988, they had a vision of creating an urban oasis of green living that they could share with the entire city. “I wanted to create something that would enhance the image of Olympia as a sustainable city,” recalls Nelson. “Right from the beginning, I knew this was a stewardship.”

While they rented furnished rooms to students from The Evergreen State College (TESC) for the next ten years, they also got the house placed on the National Historic Register.

Decades and numerous changes later, the home is called Fertile Ground and serves as a bed and breakfast. Stahl has since pursued other endeavors, but Gail O’Sullivan and Nelson have been running the inn together since 2000. “After years of renting to students, we decided we would start a business where we could get paid for cleaning up after people,” laughs Nelson.

In 2010 they began renting the adjacent lot and the small home now known as the Eco House.

fertile ground commons

The Commons is open every day to the public. Bring a picnic or your library books and enjoy the serenity.

Nelson’s goal has always been to run the business as a non-profit, “demonstrating urban sustainability and resilience on a neighborhood scale.” This finally came to fruition when The Fertile Ground Community Center, a Washington State non-profit, was formed in 2005. “Our idea was to hold the space and invite the community to use it,” Nelson explains. “We try to connect with our community in as many different ways as we can.”

The bed and breakfast side of things is about as environmentally friendly as you can get, right down to the organic bedding made by local company Holy Lamb. Nelson and O’Sullivan also own the bed and breakfasts Union Space and the Bamboo Bungalow.

The lot adjacent to Fertile Ground is known as The Commons at Fertile Ground. It’s open to visitors from dawn to dusk and is a space for people to escape the bustle of downtown. It has been slowly and lovingly turned into an enchanting garden, in great part due to work from The Stone People, The Northwest Eco Builders Guild, and the internships of TESC students. “Evergreen was really an excellent partner for us in getting our business started,” credits Nelson, “and they still are.”

fertile ground commons

The garden at Fertile Ground is extensive, growing everything from lettuces to artichokes and date trees at its 311 9th Ave. SE location in downtown Olympia, right across the street from the Olympia Timberland Library.

Kids, especially, are invited to enjoy the garden and learn about our connection to the earth. “We really want to focus on children and education,” says Nelson. This is where their garden programmer, Karen Ray, came in last summer. Ray is a former student of the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California.

“My long-term goal is to have some kind of educational kitchen and garden. My kids went to Lincoln Options Elementary School, and I managed the garden when they were there and just loved it. Spending my day with kids in a garden is about as much fun as I can imagine. You can see them really developing an appreciation for fresh food. They will eat anything that they have a hand in growing,” shares Ray.

In the summer, The Commons presents their Seed to Table summer camps, which are week long camps for children ages five to 12. Kids learn about gardening, composting, and cooking with their bounty every day of camp. Fertile Ground also hosts an all ages art came during the summer.

During the fall and the spring, The Commons has a preschool garden program that is 45 minutes long, one morning a week. “That has been really sweet,” says Ray. “We usually read a garden-related book, and then we explore the garden.”

fertile ground commons

Preschool Garden Time is enjoyed by Oliver Kim and his nanny, Joan Maurizi.

“It’s showing them a lifestyle that’s based on sharing and focused on our connection with the land and with each other,” explains Nelson. The Commons at Fertile Ground also recently hosted students from Komachin Middle School to educate them on green building. They also have a building set from local start-up Bilderhoos, which kids can use to create their own building.

Additionally, The Commons boasts The Food Nook, a small, hyper-local general store that is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Here, folks can come by for grab-and-go goods from local businesses such as OlyKraut, Lucky Lunchbox, and Eight Arms Bakery. Since Fertile Ground is a non-profit, all monies from these community programs are earmarked toward, hopefully, one day purchasing the lot where The Commons lives, along with the Eco House.

Currently, the Eco House is being used as a shared office space and a meeting place that is available for rent. Renters of the office space pay a low fee in addition to putting in volunteer hours at The Commons or Fertile Ground.

fertile ground commons

The dahlias are in full bloom about a month early this year due to the unseasonably warm weather. The environmentally friendly bed and breakfast, Fertile Ground, can be seen in the background.

The Commons at Fertile Ground is always looking for donations of time, money and expertise. Learn more about The Commons by visiting their website, their Facebook page, or by calling gardener Karen Ray at 360-786-9297. More information on Fertile Ground can be found on their website or Facebook page, also.

The Commons at Fertile Ground is located at 311 – 9th Avenue SE in downtown Olympia.

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