Snohomish Conservation District 528 - 91st Ave NE, Ste A Lake Stevens, WA 98258-2538 Address Service Requested

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage

Lake Stevens, WA Permit No. 26

The Nexus Local Dairies Change with the Times
By Alan Shank, Certified Farm Planner

Fall 2012
Serving Snohomish County and Camano Island Volunteer Board Members Sought
Snohomish Conservation District has two volunteer positions open (one elected, one appointed) for three-year terms. To be eligible for either, you must be a registered voter and must own or occupy land within the District, which includes most of Snohomish County and Camano Island. A conservation district supervisor is a public official who serves without compensation to help set policy and direction. The filing deadline is February 19, 2013. If you’re interested, contact the Conservation District at 425-335-5634 ext. 4 or call the Washington State Conservation Commission at 360-407-6200 for an application and more information.

An oft-asked question of Snohomish Conservation District staff is, “How many dairies are left in Snohomish County?” To answer that question literally, there are 27. However, some of the dairies that remain are not the same dairies that were here just ten years ago, and those that remain may have added other venues and products to stay viable, productive farms.

Why Dairies Struggle

What‘s behind the dairy question is a recognition of how hard dairies have struggled to survive over the last few decades. Prices for wholesale milk have gone up much slower over the years Guernsey cows at the Old Silvana Creamery have large pastures, plenty of water, and sunshine. than the cost of feed, fertilMany dairies decided to fold rather than make the izer, fuel and other materials needed to produce that milk. switch to bulk tanks. In 2003, Washington dairies were Dairies have had to make a living with an ever thinner District To Hold Election required by state government to have and use a dairy profit margin. The District election will be held on nutrient waste plan that outlines how manure and other March 19, 2013 at 528 - 91st Ave NE, wastes would be managed. This At times, there are long periods of Ste A, Lake Stevens. Polls will be required an investment in waste losing money when milk prices are open from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM. storage, collection, treatment, too low to make a profit - no matproper application and record ter how much farmers try to keep Registered voters who reside within keeping. costs down. When that happens, the Conservation District boundary dairies often borrow money to are eligible to vote. Absentee ballots The requirement for a dairy nutrikeep going, and it may take years are available at the District office and ent plan, and the structures and to pay off the added expense of must be requested on or before March equipment needed to properly debt and interest. 1 and returned to the District office by store and spread wastes, resulted 6:00 PM, March 19. in Snohomish County dairies Cow nutritional research, selecdropping from approximately tive breeding, and improved grass 60 dairies in 2000 to and corn species have 30 dairies in 2003. helped farmers produce However, this decrease more milk per cow and has been going on more feed per acre. That for decades, and the  Tale of Two Dairies actually contributes to main driver is, and has  Time to Think Lime the problem, since milk always been, the price production has increased  Scotch Broom of milk. faster than markets have  Bugs and Blights expanded. More supply Survival Options without more demand  Beaver - Friend or Foe Some options to surputs downward pres Tips for Fire Safety vive are to cut costs, sure on wholesale milk diversify, or brand your  Sorrel, Septics, Farms prices. In addition, with product. Cow feed is fewer milk processors  Plant Sale & Events Top, Guernsey milk in quart jugs at the Old Silvana Creamery. Lower left, more than 50 percent and retail grocers to sell a metal pail that remained from the former Groeneweg Dairy still in use. of a dairy’s costs. Costto, competition to buy Lower right, glass bottles ready to be filled at The Art of Milk near Duvall. cutting options have milk is more limited. included growing more This means dairies have few options to seek higher prices. feed, carefully rationing cow nutrients, double cropping corn and grass, grazing cows instead of confinement Requirements and Regulations feeding, and reducing labor costs. Increased milk processor requirements and government regulation have also played a role in the attrition of local Some of our dairies have diversified by selling hay to dairies. According to Frank Bueler of Bueler Farms in horse owners, growing feed for other dairy farmers or Snohomish, dairy processors (not government) required selling composted manure solids to the public. One grade A milk dairies to use a refrigerated bulk tank indairy runs an anaerobic digester that produces energy, stead of milk cans in the early 1950s. Bulk tanks enabled processes other waste products for a fee and sells the processors to automate milk pickup and maintain cooler The sentry at The Art of Milk, LLC , a rawtreated waste as fertilizer. temperatures more consistently. milk dairy south of Monroe.


~ continued on page 2


Local Dairies Change with the Times ~ continued
Ironically, one way to diversify is to sell the milking cows and do something entirely different -- produce replacement heifers and feed for other dairies, sell hay for horses, direct market via a produce stand, run a horse stable, process and sell compost, provide agricultural entertainment (pumpkin patches, corn mazes), or rent the farm for weddings and other celebrations. Some dairy families retire and rent their farm to another dairy operator. Five years ago an uncle of mine in Wisconsin told me it was either sell the cows or lose the farm. They sold their herd, raised heifer replacements, rented some land to another dairy, and raised a few commodity crops themselves while taking jobs in town to supplement their income. Snohomish County is home to two raw milk dairies that started in the past year selling direct to raw food enthusiasts from the farm or through specialty food stores. (A raw milk dairyman from Whatcom County said a few years ago, “It was either sell raw milk or sell the farm.”) These dairies tend to have anywhere from two to 50 cows, and are small in comparison to local conventional dairies that can have 1,000 or more adult cows. Raw milk dairies usually have Jersey or Guernsey herds. If the number of cows is really small, the dairyman usually has another source of income. However, some raw milk dairies have done so well, it’s become a fulltime enterprise for them. There is no one way that dairA Guernsey calf enjoys a sunny pasture at the ies have sustained themselves Old Silvana Creamery, LLC, near Silvana. through the downward pressure of milk prices and the upward pressure of costs, but many farmers of whatever type in Snohomish County have experience running a dairy, even if they’re currently producing something else. One thing is for sure, being sustainable today includes a keen eye for cutting costs, flexibility to adapt, and a host of skills that include agronomy, animal husbandry, mechanics, business acumen, determination and a passion to farm.

Successful Product Branding
Another path is to sell milk direct and brand your own product. For years, Arlington had a very successful full service dairy called Country Charm Dairy run by Hank Graafstra. Hank retired a few years ago and the dairy operation did not continue. Organic wholesale milk prices are much higher than conventional milk prices and tend to not have the extreme price swings of conventional milk. However, organic cow feed can be hard to find and is more expensive than conventional feed if not grown at home. There are two dairies in our county that are organic; one sells through Organic Valley and the other Horizon Organic. One of the organic dairymen says that he’s never regretted the decision to go organic.

A Tale of Two Dairies
By Lois Ruskell, Information and Education Coordinator

Old Silvana Creamery, LLC
Jim Sinnema’s family dairy - the Old Silvana Creamery, LLC - is just west of I-5 at Island Crossing. Jim has been producing raw milk in plastic cartons since the day after Thanksgiving, 2011. They currently sell 10 to 20 gallons a day, self-serve, out of a cooler on the farm, and another 200 gallons a week via delivery to area stores.
Jim Sinnema and his self-serve cooler which al-

Really, I only planned to run out to two dairies for a few minutes on a recent sunny Friday. Mostly to take photos and get a couple of quotes for our cover story, but also to check out two new raw milk, grass-fed dairy operations that had successfully transitioned from traditional dairying. Traditional dairy farmers often use confinement stalls, supplement hay or grass with grains, and are typically much larger. The volume of milk they produce often fills a large bulk tank daily. They aren’t involved in bottling or distribution, and they rarely meet the end user. On the other hand, grassfed dairies have cows grazing grass fields daily, bringing them in twice a day for milking. They are usually only confined if sick or about to calve. Customers stop by on a daily basis and often get to know the farmer. Having spent way more time in a milking parlor and calf barn than I care to remember, I found it surprisingly hard to tear myself away. It didn’t help any that the enthusiasm Art Groeneweg and Jim Sinnema showed for their newly formatted businesses was impressive and inspiring.

The Art of Milk, LLC
The Art Groeneweg dairy, named ‘The Art of Milk, LLC’, is on Hwy 204 between Monroe and Duvall. The day after I visited was to be the first day their raw milk would be sold - in signature glass bottles no less - from a new stand in front of the dairy. Two decades ago I worked with Art’s father, Art Groeneweg outside his new drive-up milk Jake, when the operation stand. on Hwy 204 south of Monroe. was more traditional. That farm partnership was eventually dissolved after Jake passed away. Since then, Art has been busy getting the farm back into pristine condition with a new business plan, ten Holstein cows, and a state-of-the-art bottling plant next to the milking parlor. Art may increase the number of cows he milks, but to no more than 40. That way, the cows get lots of attention and his operation stays manageable. According to Art, “There is a real desire by people to know where their food comes from and to have a relationship with a local farmer”. Art wants everything extremely clean to prevent the possibility of producing anything but the best quality, grade A, raw milk. Attention to detail is evident -- from the unique bottling system to the scaled-back milking parlor, which once milked 32 cows at a time, 16 on each side. Even the parlor’s cement floors have been refinished after the rubber mats were removed, all in the name of cleanliness. And I Sign at the Groeneweg milk don’t think I’ve ever been in a milking parlor stand south of Monroe. that didn’t have spider webs; nope, none here.

Jim grew up on this dairy as lows customers to come and go all day to pick up one of five children, and well fresh raw milk from grass-fed cows. remembers the hard work and lack of vacations. He later ran a dairy with his brother in the 1990’s, but stray electricity from a nearby power pole cost them all but 40 cows out of 150. Farming was over for the brothers, and other occupations kept Jim going. To this day, he still drives truck when needed. Jim and his wife have four children, all home-schooled, that help with the dairy. His 15- and 17-year-old sons help with the milking while mom does the bookkeeping. The Sinnema dairy milks Guernsey cows, a light brown and white cow known for producing a rich, golden milk which, when bottled, has a thick layer of cream floating on the top. Jim explains that Guernseys are rather rare in this area, and hard to come by. Most raw milk dairies milk either Jersey or Guernsey cows because of the high butterfat and rich color, which is the result of their stomachs not breaking down beta carotene like a Holstein cow. A cooler outside their barn is open from 6 am to 8 pm for customers to stop by and purchase milk. When I visited, a gentleman in shirt and tie stopped to buy milk, and asked Jim if he fed his cows hormones. Jim explained that he did not, and why he didn’t. Not only does he not use hormones (which is better for the cows’ health), he uses no genetically modified feeds, chemical fertilizers or herbicides. Cows are out in the pasture all day and receive only a small amount of barley grain (produced without chemicals, fertilizers or herbicides) to entice them into the milking parlor. Like Art, Jim also would like to expand slowly, but only as long as it stays manageable, to maybe 31 cows. The farm originally consisted of 120 acres, but 100 acres were sold to help save the rest of the farm. There is land nearby available to rent to help with expansion, but Jim seems happy with where his operation is now, and the fact that his family is nearby and sharing the farm experience. I left the Old Silvana Creamery with a bottle of fresh, creamy milk and a new appreciation for the dedicated, innovative folks who are running successful family farms, and their customers who are helping local agriculture thrive. If these two dairies are any indication, local farming in Snohomish County is alive and growing. To see more photos of my farm visit, go to http://www.


The Four R’s of Managing Nutrients With Lime
By Leif Fixen, Resource Planner

When it comes to managing soil health in the Northwest, it’s easy to focus on the big three nutrients - nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and overlook a fourth key aspect - soil pH. Soil pH refers to how acidic (sour) or alkaline (sweet) soil is on a scale between 0 and 14, with 7.0 being neutral.

a more neutral pH. Do not exceed applications greater than 2.5 tons/acre. If the soil requires more than that, split the recommendation into two separate applications and apply them at least three to four months apart. 2. Right Time In general, lime can be applied year-round. For the Pacific Northwest, there may be a slight advantage to applying it in the fall so lime can be drawn down further into the soil during our rainy winter months. Lime usually takes three to four months to fully react with the soil. By applying it in the fall, this reaction can take place in advance of the spring planting/growing season. 3. Right Place It’s best to till in lime to reduce losses from rain run-off and wind, and to increase the amount of surface area exposed to your soil, allowing a faster reaction. Top-dressing is also a viable application method. A broadcast spreader is commonly used to apply lime. If you don’t have one, contact the Conservation District to rent a pull-type spreader for liming your fields and pastures. 4. Right Source When choosing the right source of lime, you want to look for three main things: purity or neutralizing value, particle size, and cost. A. Purity or neutralizing value. Neutralizing value is expressed as a percentage of calcium carbonate equivalent (CCE), where pure calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is set at 100 percent. The higher the CCE, the greater the liming effect. Some aglime, such as dolomitic limestone, can have a rating higher than 100 percent. Aglime usually contains impurities such as clays, sand, and organic matter, which reduce CCE (see table below for more details). B. Particle size. Often called “fineness of grind”, this factor determines how rapidly aglime will react and neutralize soil acidity. The finer the grind, the quicker it reacts and neutralizes. The down side to a finer grind is that wind can be an issue during application. Also, in situations where appearance is a factor, use a pelletized form to prevent everything from being covered in lime dust. Some plants and crops do not like quick changes in pH, so a larger particle size may be desired to provide a more gradual/slower change. C. Cost. Economics is always important. Always look at the calcium carbonate equivalent percentage (CCE) to determine the actual amount of liming effect you are purchasing. Caution: Some limes can be “hotter” than others. If you’re using a lime other than aglime, be sure to remove livestock until a good rain washes in the lime. There have been instances of lime irritating an animal’s hooves. Otherwise aglime is safe for animals to continue grazing on after an application.

This is a logarithmic scale, meaning a soil with a pH of 5.0 is ten times more acidic than a soil with a pH of 6.0, and 100 times more acidic than a soil with a pH of 7. Chemically speaking, the scale refers to the concentration of either hydrogen ions (an acid soil) or hydroxyl ions (an alkaline soil). Most plants and crops prefer soil pH levels in the 6.0 – 7.0 range.

Why Our Soils are Acidic
Here in Western Washington, our soils are typically mildly to strongly acidic (5.0 – 6.5). A small part of this is due to the type of rock that our soil is formed from, along with the native vegetation (evergreen needles are acidic). More important though is the large amount of rain that falls in our region. The greater the amount of rain, the greater the effect of leaching, which removes elements in the soil that would neutralize acidity. Another influencing factor is the land’s history of fertilizer applications. Nitrogen fertilizers typically lower pH slightly, creating more acidic soils over time. As a result, lime applications are a must for any balanced nutrient management plan.

Why Does Soil pH Matter?
Soil pH is important for a number of reasons. First of all, it controls the rate of chemical reactions and the activity of soil microorganisms. As you move towards the ends of the scale, different nutrients will either become more or less available for plants. For example, phosphorus is readily available when soil pH is 6.5; decreasing the pH to 5.5 reduces its availability by half.
Buttercup is a common indicator of Secondly, as soil pH decreases, beneficial acidic soil. nitrogen-fixing bacteria slow down and many Photo by Dean Swan, Washington detrimental disease-causing fungi become State University (retired). more active. It’s important to factor pH into your fertilizer applications to ensure that nutrients will be available to plants. Often after a lime application, a lawn or pasture may ‘green-up’. This is due to nutrients already in the soil becoming available during the pH adjustment.

Another reason why it’s important to manage pH is that certain crops grow better in either acidic soil or alkaline soil. To achieve maximum plant health and growth, you want to adjust the pH accordingly. A plant is going to be healthier if it’s growing in its ideal soil type, with the ideal pH. This helps the plant compete better with weeds, resist disease, and be more productive.

Acid-Neutralizing Values for Aglime Materials

The Four R’s of Liming
1. Right Rate Adjusting soil pH is no easy task. It’s a slow and long-term process that will usually require several tons of lime over several years. It’s important to know exactly how much to apply to be both productive and economical. There are two main factors to look at when determining how much lime to apply:

A broadcast spreader helps apply the correct rate of lime.

A. Soil test results. Testing your soil is THE most important thing you can do to determine the correct amount of lime you need to apply. There are take-home tests that can be purchased at garden centers that will give you a rough idea of your pH, but no recommendations. For an accurate test and precise application recommendations, use a certified soil testing lab. Here is a link to a list of labs serving the Pacific Northwest: PNW_EB1578E.pdf. B. The crop or plant to be grown. Different plants desire different pH levels. For example, blueberries prefer acidic soils and will require less lime than beans that prefer

Get Your Soil Tested - FREE!
If you’d like your soil tested, contact the District to enroll in our “Free Soil Testing Program”. We can also help you put together a soil nutrient management plan specifically tailored for your needs and operation. If you have questions on liming or soil testing, contact Leif Fixen at 425-335-5634 ext. 110, or


Beautiful Yet Aggressive: Scotch Broom
By H. F. “Sonny” Gohrman, Snohomish County Noxious Weed Coordinator

This well-known plant (also called Scot’s Broom) is an invasive flowering shrub from Europe that grows all too well throughout Puget Sound. It was introduced to Washington in the 1800’s as an ornamental plant; sadly it is now widespread along the West Coast from California up to British Columbia. Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) is considered highly aggressive, and forms dense stands that reduce wildlife habitat and prevent native plants from growing on invaded areas, from dry uplands to wetland edges. Scotch broom can also be found along roads, in pastures, grasslands, open areas and places where land has been recently disturbed. Scotch broom has no trouble living in poor soil, which explains why it can grow along many of our roads and interstate highways. Scotch broom is a Class B noxious weed on the State’s noxious weed list. The Class B listing requires containing and controlling existing Scotch broom plants in Western Washington to prevent the weed from spreading further. Like other Western Washington counties though, the Snohomish County Noxious Weed Control Board does not list Scotch broom for control. This is because weed laws are based on prevention, and we are, unfortunately, well past the prevention stage in dealing with Scotch broom (see map below). Also, from a distance Spanish broom (Spartium junceum), a Class A noxious weed in Washington (meaning elimination is required), and gorse (Ulex europaeus), a Class B noxious weed in Washington (meaning control is required), both look similar to Scotch broom. The local Weed Board urges property owners to be good neighbors and to control Scotch broom and all noxious weeds on their property.

2. Biological Control
Biological control involves using other living organisms to control the pest, whether the pest is an insect, disease or plant. There are two biological controls for Scotch broom – both are beetles that help reduce seed production by up to 80 percent. These seed-feeding beetles (Exapion fuscirostre and Bruchidius villosus) don’t kill the plant, instead they eat its seeds. Goats can also be a cost effective way to control Scotch broom, but desired plants will need to be protected from grazing.

3. Herbicide Control
Herbicides are chemicals that kill unwanted plants. Several herbicides can control Scotch broom. Cutting or mowing is always recommended before applying an herbicide. Allow enough time for plants to sprout new growth BEFORE you use an herbicide. These chemicals are sprays that are best absorbed through the leaves. Spraying re-growth is more effective and uses less herbicide than spraying full size plants. If Scotch broom stems or trunks are cut instead, herbicide needs to be applied immediately to the cut stump. Please refer to the PNW Weed Management Handbook (, or contact the Weed Control Board for more details. Two ways to help keep Scotch broom from re-establishing via seeds are: grow cover plants to compete for space, sun, and water, and limit soil disturbance after control work is completed in an area.

Scotch Broom Biology
Scotch broom is a perennial shrub in the legume (Fabaceae) family that typically grows three to 10 feet Illustration of Cytisus scoparius (Scotch broom) tall. Young stems are green and hairy with five ridges. from Köhler’s Medicinal Plants (1887) Leaves can be sparse. Lower stem leaves are three-parted while on the upper stem they are single leaves. Flowers are typical of those in the pea family, and are about 3/4 inches long and have five petals. The blooms are bright yellow, sometimes with red markings. Flowers form brown-black, legume-like seed pods that have hairy edges and several seeds per pod. When pods are dry, they split open and eject their seeds. Due to its very long-lived seeds and high seed production, Scotch broom plants are difficult to control once they have begun to flower and produce seed. Seeds can be viable for up to 60 years ~ possibly longer! Removing Scotch broom seedlings needs to be part of any management plan for this plant.

How to Control Scotch Broom
Because of the long life of its seeds, as well as its large seed production, control methods must be repeated for many years to eliminate this weed. There are three methods of controlling Scotch broom - manually, biologically or with chemicals.

1. Manual Control
Hand pulling and digging may be an option for small infestations. A tool called a Weed Wrench can be very effective in pulling Scotch broom and other woody-stem plants, especially after a good rain. Weed Wrenches are available from the Weed Wrench Company at Chopping, cutting, chaining, or mowing is an option for flat areas. Mowing small plants can be effective, especially when broom is under stress during our summer drought. For more information, contact the Snohomish County Noxious Weed Control Board at 425-388-7548 or visit them at 8915 Cathcart Way in Snohomish. You can also visit Snohomish County’s website to learn more about weeds and the county weed board at:


Bugs and Blights
By Sharon J. Collman, Horticulture and IPM, WSU Snohomish County Extension

This column is to help farmers, woodland foresters, and gardeners manage pests. I planned to begin with the definition of “integrated pest management” (IPM), but there are already 67 unique yet similar definitions with lengthy explanations. [See the list of IPM definitions published by Waheed Ibrihim Bajwa and Marcos Kogan, Oregon State University International Plant Protection Center at:]. The science and art of managing pests gets lost in all those words. It really comes down to making a choice that what we do CAN make a difference: a good or a bad difference. We can make our pest management decisions more earth- and people-friendly AND still get the job done.

Ladybugs (and boybugs)
These colorful little beetles (usually orange with black spots) will be moving into house walls to spend the winter. They won’t breed there or do any damage. On sunny winter days, they will crawl to the warmest wall. That would be the inside of your home or outbuilding. Without aphids or other prey to eat, they will eventually die. The number of spots is unique to each species of ladybug and is NOT an indicator of its age. More great facts at:

Target the Pest and Protect the Rest!

A hunter, of course, would know all about integrated pest management. A good Integrated Prey Manager would learn all about their prey (in this case pests), give thought to where and when their quarry hangs out, and why they will be there. Then the hunter/manager would choose the best weapon (gun, bow or fishing rod), for that prey, in that season. In other words, they target their prey with precision. They darn well know the difference between deer, elk and a (beneficial) cow -- or there’s the farmer to pay. THEY TARGET THE PEST, AND PROTECT THE REST. So, my goal here is to spotlight, and give a brief description of a pest, helpful insect, or disease you might encounter, plus links to more detailed information.

Flies of Various Kinds
Flies will move into house and outbuilding walls as well. There they will hibernate and wait for spring. In areas rich with earthworms, the cluster fly, an earthworm parasite, is known to fill a wall or attic. House flies and other flies also overwinter in walls. More information can be found at: http://www.ext.colostate. edu/pubs/insect/05502.html.

Red Lily Beetle (Lilioceris lilii)
This beautiful little beetle just arrived - it was first detected in Bellevue in April, 2012. It can totally trash lily family plants such as native Solomon’s seal, Fritillarias, and garden lilies. It will likely have the biggest impact on organic flower growers, native lilies and lily collectors.
Photo by Eric LaGasa

Wasps and Yellowjackets
Wasps and yellowjackets spend winter in the same way, or in piles of lumber and old logs. Both wasps and yellowjackets may be found groggily wandering inside. Some wasps and yellowjackets may be brought in on firewood.

If found or suspected, please capture and bring or mail in a secure, crush proof container, to WSU Snohomish County Extension office (contact information at end of article). For more information, see: dept/nurspest/RLLB.pdf.

Sapsucker Woodpecker (Sphyrapicus spp.)
Damage by Sapsucker woodpeckers, like that shown at right, consists of fairly straight rows of small holes in the bark of many kinds of trees. A sapsucker is a lovely woodpecker with black-and-white markings on its head and wings, and a red head. The holes cause sap to leak out so the bird can feast on it, or the insects attracted to the sap. Trees usually thrive despite the holes. A new publication by WSU Snohomish County Extension forester, Kevin Zobrist, gives more details and photos: pdf.

In fall, the nest is abandoned as workers start to die with the onset of cold weather. All the wasps die after the first hard freeze. Only the mated queen survives the winter, so she can start a new colony in the spring. The patterns in their papery nest covering come from different wood fibers. Check out: and search for Yellowjackets.

More Resources
For a range of integrated pest management options and pesticides (if needed), here are more sources of excellent information: 1. Hortsense ( Contains brief descriptions, integrated pest management options and pesticides listed by brand. 2. Pacific NW Insect Management Handbook (http:// This book now has expanded information for each of the pests covered. It includes damage, description, biology, life cycle, scouting and monitoring, plus cultural controls, biological controls and pesticides labeled for home and commercial users. 3. National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) ( 1-800-858-7378). Great source of information on safety, human and environmental health questions. 4. Pesticide Information Center On Line (PICOL) http://cru66.cahe.wsu. edu/. For information on pesticide products labeled in Washington and Oregon.
WSU Snohomish County Extension can be reached at 425-338-2400 and is located at 600 128th St SE, Everett. The author can be reached at Ladybugs come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of spots and colors.

Mountain Ash Sawfly (Prisotophora geniculata)
This is another new pest. It first arrived in Snohomish County around 2008. This past spring we received photos of totally defoliated mountain ash trees, its only host. Why talk about it now? The third of three generations is about to hatch. Prune them out if practical. The good news is that after larvae quickly strip a leaf to its petiole (attachment to the branch), they drop to the soil. They aren’t likely to kill healthy trees. The tree will still produce berries for birds to distribute everywhere. You can find more details at:

All photos by Sharon Collman, unless otherwise noted.


Your Neighborhood Beaver: Friend or Foe?
By Cindy Flint, Habitat Specialist

The mention of beavers usually elicits strong reactions from landowners. Some live next to a lake created by a beaver dam and want to make sure beavers maintain their dam and keep the lake’s water level consistent. Others are concerned about downed trees and flooded yards or fields. The truth is that beavers provide many benefits to our landscape, but at times, they can also create situations we’re not willing to live with.

Leaving beavers and their dams alone, however, is not always an option residents are willing to take. Beavers have voracious appetites that can include felling trees and chewing off shrubs you planted. Beaver ponds often flood agricultural lands and lower productivity. They can also flood wells and septic drain fields, leading to water pollution and failed septic systems. The good news is that there are ways you can protect your property while allowing beavers to co-exist with you and your family. If your beaver pond’s water level is too high and/or rising, there is a simple device, called a pond leveler, that can be installed to control the water level. After choosing a water level you’re comfortable with, you install the device and no matter how much beavers try to build up their dam, they are unable to raise the pond’s water level. If beavers are plugging up a culvert under a road or your driveway, another device, called a beaver deceiver, can be installed to encourage them to build their dam elsewhere. To install either of these devices, you need a permit from the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife. The cost of the permit and construction supplies are fairly low. The Conservation District can help you decide if these devices are right for your situation and show you how to construct and install them.

Benefits to Other Creatures
Beavers create dams across streams and rivers to flood the area surrounding their lodge. This protects them from predators and wets nearby soils to promote the growth of their favorite (water-loving) plants, such as willows. These beaver ponds and their associIs this little guy a friend or foe? Like all creatures, they do provide some benefits to our ated wetlands also provide food and landscape, although you might not think so if you have a flooded field or driveway, or shelter for many other kinds of wildlife they harvested your new young cedar trees. -- herons, ducks, deer, elk, weasels, raccoons and various species of fish. Salmon are heavily dependent on beavers as their ponds create the ideal place for young juvenile salmon to hide from predators and feed as they grow into sub-adults. Beaver dams rarely block the upstream migration of adult salmon. The fish wait until a heavy rain raises the water level. This allows them to swim over the dam and continue upstream.

Benefits to People
On a much larger scale, beavers also provide many benefits to the landscape and to humans. Historically, it’s estimated there were between ten and 70 beavers per square mile across North America. A recent study of the Stillaguamish River system estimates our streams once held about ten beaver ponds per mile. These abundant ponds and wetlands stored extra water during rain storms and snowmelt events, preventing floods. Much of this stored water then soaked into the soil and recharged groundwater supplies.

Removing Beavers
Beaver removal and lethal control are also options. If you trap a beaver, you need a permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife to relocate it. Research shows, however, that beavers seldom survive this relocation process and surrounding beavers often re-colonize your property. Dam removal and beaver re-location are both illegal if no permit is acquired.

Due to the many benefits beavers provide to our landscape, I encourage Over time, changes to the landscape, you to think about ways you can live including the loss of wetlands and the A pond leveler device was installed in this beaver dam to control the level of the with them nearby. This may involve removal of forests and beaver dams, pond. Photos by B. Dittbrenner, Snohomish County re-thinking the vision you had for your have resulted in more frequent floodproperty or landscaping. A natural ing and higher water levels than in the past. These more aggressive floods not wetland provides aesthetic beauty to your property and can increase property only cause damage to private property, but they also damage or destroy imporvalues. The Conservation District can help you choose plants to beautify your tant feeding, nesting and hiding habitat for fish and wildlife. wetland or pond and show you how to protect plants from beavers.

How to Co-exist with Beavers
When landowners ask me what they can do to improve the health of their stream or river, I tell them “slow the water down.” One of the best ways to do that is to leave beaver dams intact on your property.

If you are struggling with beaver issues on your property, the District’s habitat staff is happy to visit your property at no charge, answer your questions, and help you come up with a solution. To learn more, contact Cindy Flint, Habitat Restoration Specialist, at or 425-335-5634 ext. 113.
Better Ground is a new website geared towards helping people live, work and play sustainably, and to enjoy all of the benefits our landscape has to offer. Whether you’re on a city lot, rural acreage, beachfront property or a large farm, you will find resources at to help you in your decisions on land and water use, natural yard care, livestock ownership and more. We hope you enjoy your visit and come back often. We will be adding more great articles, how-to videos, fact sheets, landowner profiles, and local events to help you learn, enjoy and share our beautiful landscape here in the Pacific Northwest!

“Let Me Stay”
Still warm from stacking hay I sat on a bale in the field, Felt a cool breeze, the sun’s warmth, they comfort me in their own way. Gazed at the Cascade Mountains, inhaled the fragrance of fresh hay and thought... “This is all I want, let me stay.” Reflection on haying by Alan Shank


Make Sure Wildfires Aren’t Welcome at Your House
By Kristin Marshall, Habitat Restoration Specialist

As our state and the nation near the end of another wildfire season, we continue to hear stories that link the survival of individual homes, properties, and even entire communities with the adoption of Firewise Communities principles. For example, following the Taylor Bridge fire in Kittitas County near Cle Elum, a widely-circulated news story told of a chimpanzee sanctuary that survived the fire. The sanctuary’s survival was due to the hard work of firefighters, and just as importantly, to the actions the property owners took well ahead of time to prepare for a fire.

September is National Preparedness Month
Make every September your month to review and update your family’s emergency and disaster preparedness plan. Learn more at:

The Firewise Communities Program provides people with the tools to become resilient, fire-adapted communities. It’s a national recognition and advocacy program coordinated by the National Fire Protection Association that brings together science, disaster preparedness principles, local resources, and voluntary community action to reduce wildfire risk to people and property. Snohomish Conservation District, WSU Snohomish County Extension, and other conservation districts in Washington are working with local communities to promote Firewise. “There’s a general lack of awareness about the realities and risks of living in these locations,” says Skagit Conservation District Forester Al Craney.

The Waldo Canyon wildfire that swept through Colorado Springs this past June provides an eye-opening Jennifer Hinderman, Skagit Conserexample of the effectiveness of vation District Firewise Coordinator Firewise principals: according to adds, “We need to change the percepthe Firewise Communities National tion that property owners shouldn’t Coordinator, “no homes were lost be concerned with wildfire in Western within the nationally-recognized Washington, and that someone will be Firewise Communities Cedar Heights there to help save your home – that Neighborhood”. This neighborhood also highlighted the importance of a Seasonal cabins and homes in urban-wildland fringe areas are especially prone to damage isn’t always the case in a lot of places neighborhood-wide approach to adapt by wildfire. Clearing trees ten feet from structures helps prevent damage. Danger trees, such we live.” and prepare for a wildfire – individual as the one leaning on the roof, should be removed before they become a path for flames. efforts in an adjacent subdivision Added Benefits of Being Prepared were less effective, and much of that subdivision burned. Being prepared for a wildfire means 1) identifying factors that make a community susceptible to a wildfire, and then 2) taking individual and communityWildfires in Snohomish County wide actions to reduce that risk. These actions are critical to improving a fire Snohomish Conservation District’s Firewise Communities Program is working departments’ ability to defend against wildlife, whether it’s one structure or with several neighborhoods in the county to become Firewise. It may seem a an entire community. Firewise practices include forest thinning, building with bit excessive to be concerned about wildfire in Western Washington, but wildfire-resistant materials, creating a defensible space around structures, reducfire is a natural part of the ecosystem in this region. Since 1970, Washington ing vegetation and other possible fuels within the ‘home ignition zone’, and State Department of Natural Resources has recorded 8,133 fires in Snohomish general emergency planning such as identifying emergency evacuation routes. County; of those, 57 fires burned five acres or more, including three fires that burned more than 100 acres. Many of these practices are not only about improving your chances of surviving a wildfire – they can also help homeowners and communities better While wildland fires are a natural occurrence, the steady increase of suburban maintain their property, improve forest health, adopt natural yard care habits, and rural developments at the ‘wildland-urban interface’ (where homes are and prepare for natural disasters such as flooding, serious storms, and other built in or near the natural environment) has created a situation where more emergencies. The Firewise Program often has the added benefit of bringing a than 70,000 communities in the US are at risk from wildfire. Wildland fireneighborhood closer together and creating a stronger community. fighting costs are spiraling ever upward, and a disproportionate amount of that money is spent on protecting life and homes from wildfire. According to a recent report by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, “almost 40 percent of new homes in the U.S. in the past decade were built in the ‘wildland-urban interface’ or residential communities bordering forests or grasslands”. Snohomish County is no exception. Washington Department of Natural Resources has identified six “wildland-urban risk areas” in Snohomish County (encompassing about 350 square miles) as being at an extreme or high risk for a wildland fire. Communities in these high risk areas are basically little cities in the middle of the forest -- without the benefit of a local fire department that can respond within minutes. To learn more, or for a FREE Firewise assessment, contact Kristin Marshall or Leif Fixen at 425-335-5634 ext 116 or

Fall Season Firewise Tips
Fall is a great time for planting, and the perfect time to think about adding fire resistant plants to your landscape. Many fire resistant plant species are attractive, beneficial for wildlife, and low maintenance. Snohomish Conservation District staff can recommend firewise plants for your property.

More Great Tips:
• It isn’t too late to prune plants growing near your home! Firewise recommends keeping vegetation at least ten feet from buildings to reduce the likelihood of fire igniting them. Although we are near the end of the high-risk fire season, you will have less work next year by pruning vegetation around buildings now. Bonus: you’ll also decrease your risk of damage this winter from wind and snow storms! Along with planting, fall is a great time to apply mulch or compost to lawns, trees and planting beds for an end-of-season nutrient boost. Compost is a great option for adding nutrients without increasing your susceptibility to wildfire. Avoid using beauty bark and other combustible mulches. Make sure that firewood stacks and other combustible items you’re storing for winter are at least 30 feet from your buildings. If there is the possibility it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch! Remember to remove leaves, branches and needle debris from your gutters, eaves, porches and decks. Windblown cinders can quickly ignite this debris and your home. You’ll also be doing yourself a favor this winter by reducing the chance of clogging up your gutters and damaging your home during our rainy season.

Adapt and Prepare to Reduce Your Risk
Wildfire scientists and Firewise principles have replaced the failed mindset of “suppress and prevent” wildfires with the more realistic phrase “adapt and prepare” for a wildfire. This was done because, for people who live in a more natural environment, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ a wildfire will happen, but ‘when’. Since neither Snohomish nor Island counties have a Community Fire Protection Plan in place, it’s largely left up to individual property owners and communities to address wildfire risks and take appropriate actions to adapt to living in fire-prone areas and to be prepared for wildfire. At a time of belt-tightening budget cuts, prolonged drought, and longer and hotter summers, fire response crews from the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service are stretched thin during the wildfire season. Skagit County Fire Marshal Fred Wefer estimates that state and federal fire fighting resources in Washington have been reduced by two-thirds from the level they were at five years ago. Reduced fire fighting resources, coupled with the cumulative impacts of hotter, longer and drier summers, leaves our expanding suburban and wildland communities at an even greater risk, so it’s more important than ever that neighbors plan and work together.


Upcoming Events
Twilight Rain Garden Tour in Everett
Tuesday, September 25, 6 PM – 7:30 PM, Free The public is invited to take a summer stroll through a north Everett neighborhood on Tuesday, September 25th, from 6 – 7:30 PM to view seven rain gardens that were installed last year to combat neighborhood flooding problems. The gardens were a creative approach to drainage issues supported by the City of Everett, WSU Snohomish County Extension, and Snohomish Conservation District. Because this is the one year anniversary of the project, participants will be able to see which plants have done the best and how effective they have been in reducing stormwater impacts to the neighborhood. Cake will be served after the free tour. Register at For more information, contact Stacy Aleksich, Low Impact Development Specialist at 425-335-5634 ext. 116.

Monroe to Sultan Landowners to Get FREE Assistance
By Ryan Williams, Habitat Restoration Specialist

Snohomish Conservation District begins work in the Sultan area starting this fall. Paid for with a grant from the Washington Department of Ecology, the District will be able to provide significant technical assistance – FREE – to rural and urban landowners on various habitat, farm and stream/river issues along US Highway 2, between Sultan and Monroe.

Saturday, October 20
Fern Bluff Grange 32401 Cascade View Dr, Sultan Register at links below event 9 AM - 10:30 AM
Tips for Winterizing Your Farm Learn how to prepare for winter with popular speaker Alan Shank!

Farm Walk-About in North County
Tuesday, October 2, 5:30 PM - 7 PM, Free Hosts: Mark and Jenny Lucianna Join Leif Fixen, Snohomish Conservation District resource planner, for a farm walk-about at Half-Trak Farm in the Victoria Heights Neighborhood in north Snohomish County. This private dressage and sport-horse facility partnered with Snohomish Conservation District to go green. The farm composts and spreads all of their manure on site and manages eight acres of pasture. Come see compost bins, heavy-use areas, mud-free paddocks, covered and outdoor riding arenas, and alternative bedding systems. For a map and directions, register for the tour at For questions, call Snohomish Conservation District at 425-335-5634 ext 4.

Through this grant, the District and its partner, Sound Salmon Solutions, will provide workshops, farm tours and neighborhood meetings to residents in the area. The first of many workshops planned will be this fall - on septic system care and fall farm tips. The Conservation District and Sound Salmon Solutions will also work with landowners along a slough south of Sultan, called Tychman Slough, to restore six acres of streamside habitat. This will reduce soil erosion and improve water quality in the slough and in the Skykomish River.

10:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Septic Sense - A fun speaker and important tips to help you prevent expensive repairs and learn how to protect this important feature of your home!

Mill Creek Natural Yard Care Series
Register for the next three classes at 1. Putting the Garden to Bed for Fall
Wednesday, October 3, 7 PM – 8:30 PM, Free Speaker: Wink Cushman, WSU Master Gardener | Mother Nature doesn’t clean up her space in the winter so why should we? There are lots of reasons to prepare your garden for winter and the tips, methods and rationale will be covered in this class. Topics will include mulching, pruning, perennials and shrubs. Bring your questions! Location: City of Mill Creek, Council Chambers, 15728 Main St.

If you are interested in hosting a neighborhood meeting (to get your questions answered and to see how we can help you), hosting a farm tour, or need technical assistance, please contact Ryan Williams at or 425-335-5634 ext. 116.

What’s New For Our 2013 Plant Sale?
At Snohomish Conservation District’s Spring 2013 Plant Sale, you will see a return of many favorite and well-loved plants, as well as some brand new plants. One new entry will be Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana), available in plugs. Redwood Sorrel is a shade-loving plant commonly found in forests from California to British Columbia. At first glance, this plant looks very much like clover because it has three heart-shaped leaves at the end of each stem. It also produces small, white to pink five-petal flowers that attract pollinators and some wild birds. Sorrel grows to 10 inches tall and can spread rapidly (in a good way) once it is established. Plant sorrel in shady areas between taller shrubs to provide a spring, summer and fall groundcover that out-competes many weeds and provides cover for small mammals. Plant them 12 inches apart and watch them fill in empty spaces. Redwood Sorrel is adapted to living under dense tree canopies because its leaves can function with only 1/200th of available sunlight! Due to this adaptation, direct sunlight can harm the leaves, so the plant will fold its leaves down against the stem when in full sunlight. This happens within minutes and can be easily observed by the naked eye. So, if you have any troublesome shady spots in your yard, get ready to order Redwood Sorrel plugs starting December 3 to solve your problem. Or pick them up the day of the 2013 Plant Sale, Saturday March 2, 8:30 AM to 6 PM, at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe.

2. Curb Appeal by Naturescaping
Wednesday, October 10, 7 PM – 8:30 PM, Free Speaker: Monica Van der Vieren, Native Plant Steward | Landscaping with native plants is a great alternative to lawns and it can be done in a way that enhances curb appeal AND reduces yardwork. Monica has helped residents in Seattle and other urban areas learn about landscaping for wildlife habitat and stormwater control. She will have great examples of plants that attract birds, bees and butterflies, and are the right size for small yards. This class will be in the Mill Creek Community Room at 15720 Main St.

3. Mud, Muck and Drainage
Wednesday, October 17, 7 PM – 8:30 PM, Free Speakers: Stacy Aleksich, Low Impact Development Specialist & Derek Hann, Engineer | You may think mud and drainage aren’t an issue in your neighborhood, until you try to drive home through a flooded street. Our two speakers recently worked with a neighborhood in north Everett to install seven rain gardens to creatively handle flooding while also creating beautiful features in their yards. Learn about free design services, how to coordinate ‘neighborhood rain garden socials’, and other nature-friendly ways to address drainage problems on your property.

~~~~ Fall Farm Tips and Septic Sense
October 20, Two Great Classes - 9 AM - 1 PM, Free Fern Bluff Grange, 32401 Cascade View Dr, Sultan. 1. Fall Farm Tips: 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM
Rural property owners - if you also own livestock, or want to establish animals on your property, you won’t want to miss this class. Keeping fall chores easy, minimizing mud and manure issues, and avoiding weed problems are key to establishing a healthy environment for your livestock. Alan Shank, farm planner and horse owner, will cover fall farm practices, mud and manure tips, and great ideas for keeping pastures green and lush. Register for this class at

Snohomish Conservation District
Board of Supervisors Mark Craven, Chair Adam Farnham, Vice-chair Karl Hereth Steve Van Valkenburg Jeff Ellingsen Associate Members Duane Weston District Manager Monte Marti Phone 425-335-5634, ext 4 FAX 425-335-5024 Contact: Lois Ruskell 425-335-5634, ext 108 Editing: Donna Gleisner The Written Edge 425-923-7110

2. Septic Sense 10:30 AM – 1 PM
Join your friends and neighbors for a lively class on keeping your septic system in tip top shape! Preventing problems with on-site septic systems can save you thousands of dollars in repair costs. This class has been standing-room-only in north Snohomish County, and is being offered for the first time in the Sultan area. Teri King from the University of Washington SeaGrant program leads the class. Register for this class at

The NEXUS is published quarterly and distributed free of charge to residents of the District. Funding provided by Snohomish County Surface Water Management, Washington Department of Ecology, and the Washington State Conservation Commission.