Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wintertime for the Other Gulch Residents

By Elizabeth J. Ruther

Hi Neighbors! I’m excited to bring people, habitat, and critters closer together by writing articles that connect you and your backyard to the wildlife that live there. Many people are aware of the footprint humans leave on the landscape and what to do to reduce it (i.e. recycling, bicycling, gardening) but often, as we go about our business, we overlook the small actions that can impact, sometimes severely, the wildlife that live among us. Additionally, there are plenty of small and, dare I say, fun things to do that have a profound benefit for wildlife with very little, IF any, effort. Sure, we prefer our gardens and yards to look a certain way and that’s cool. I’m not getting in the way of individuality, the freedom of creative expression, or the love of green lawns. I promise; there will be something for everyone in these articles, even for those who know all of our neighborhood birds and are nature-O-philes. At the very least, I hope my writing is entertaining. Who knows, you may find yourself reciting an interesting wildlife fact at your next game night. Even better, you may jump up and exclaim, “Look! The hummer is drinking from the Aquilegia formosa I just planted!” during an evening with friends on your back deck. And maybe, if we see our neighbors tearing up their green lawn to replant native prairie grass species, we will lend a hand instead of thinking they just fell off their rocker.

I’ve worked in many different aspects of the environmental field. I have come to believe that the light bulb theory (the theory that if everyone changed one light bulb to an energy efficient bulb, the energy savings would be tremendous) can be applied to wildlife and has even larger ramifications for wildlife when compared to the light bulb theory and energy conservation. There is nothing better than local action for birds, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles. One large tree really does make a difference; a certain native plant really does provide an important food source; a dead tree provides a hole that literally spells the difference between success and failure for local populations of animals. The fact is that when you maintain local populations, you contribute to meta-populations (the larger group of local populations) that help a species of animal survive and thrive. The larger the local populations, the less likely the overall population will spiral toward extinction because the species has back-ups. I hope that with the addition (or purposeful retention) of certain plants and habitat elements, Sullivan’s Gulch will become a fantastic draw for migrating birds, butterflies, and others—a highway rest stop as they continue on their incredible annual migration—minus the large, tacky neon signs and bad coffee.

Get ready for tangible results! Rather than banking on your recycling efforts or hoping that riding your bike makes a difference, you’ll get to see the success of your actions such as increased bird noises, more bird nests, new frog noises, and more butterflies. It’s downright exciting to think that our neighborhood could become a habitat haven; that the Gulch might become known for purposeful wildlife-friendly urban living. Build it and they will come. (Unfortunately baseball diamonds are not that habitat friendly, but they are fun.) I’m getting ahead of myself, but I suppose it’s good to get my personal bias out of the way. Enough said, let’s talk about wildlife and habitat.

Winter is Coming

The amphibians and reptiles are digging into the soil, dens, and duff to over-winter, and many birds are flying south to find warmer weather. The Northwest is special because many birds are able to live here all year long. They are called residents, like us. For other birds, the Northwest is actually a toasty warm destination to ride out the winter before they head back up north (way up north). During this time of year, birds are always hunting for food. It is in short supply because it is cold. If you haven’t turned over your garden yet, consider leaving it through the month of January. The seed heads (especially sunflowers) provide much-needed energy. Vegetables that have flowered and gone to seed are also great. Flower seed heads, depending on the species, are also eaten by birds in the winter. The tried-and-true peanut-butter-covered-pinecone-rolled-in-seeds are like energy bars for birds. When I was young, I always thought this was a “bonus” snack, but for birds, particularly during cold days, it provides the extra energy needed to keep their body temperature up, and I mean up—the body temperatures of birds are around 105 degrees F.

Oh, Tannenbaum

In my work travelling the Willamette Valley to advise people on ways to lessen their impact on wildlife habitat, I’ve come to learn a great deal about the Christmas tree industry. It is huge in Oregon. Collectively, this industry has a major impact on our native flora and fauna. Many times, heavy herbicides are sprayed to kill all the plants between the trees simply so that when they are cut, no grass is caught in the bottom branches. This causes a number of problems. First, the herbicide/pesticide finds its way into streams and rivers and affects water quality. Second, the bare soil erodes easily during rainstorms, which also runs into streams and causes significant problems for salmon and other fish by ruining spawning habitat or killing the aquatic insects that fish eat. Lastly, letting plants grow between trees provides more habitat for several of the Valley’s declining bird populations, provides cover for animals trying to move from one area to another, and encourages healthy soil. In one instance, I witnessed dead birds and mammals on an adjacent property that resulted from over-spraying, a common problem in the agricultural industry. Where you buy your tree will support responsible farming practices and help the industry move toward a more sustainable system.

There are tree growers who do it right, providing us with holiday trees that keep streams clear, don’t deliver chemicals to our water, and provide animals with much needed habitat to stave off dwindling population numbers. If you feel like actively supporting tree growers who take wildlife into consideration and the general health of the area, I’ve listed some here. If you ARE AWARE of a farm I should know about, please contact me so that I can continue to compile my list of wildlife-friendly farms.

• NJ Christmas Tree Farm
22515 SE Hoffmeister Road, Damascus, OR 97089 (503) 658-2766
No pesticides or herbicides are used. Christmas trees you choose and cut, saws provided. 

• Deininger Farms, South Fischers Mill Road, Oregon City, OR 97045 (503) 631-4711
Follows organic practices, Christmas trees—you choose and cut,saws provided.

•Natural Nobles Tree Farm, 21888 S Fellows Rd, Estacada, OR 97023 (503) 631-4527
No pesticides are used, Christmas trees—you choose and cut, saws provided. Christmas trees—you choose, they cut. Tree shaking, baling provided. Precut Christmas trees, Christmas wreaths, Christmas boughs, garlands, mistletoe.

• Christmas Nobles by Holscher’s, 16530 S.E. Foster Road, Gresham, OR 97080 (503)761-1209.
Minimizes chemical, pesticide use. Christmas trees—you choose, they cut, saws provided.

If you’re adventurous and budget conscious, tree cutting permits are available from the U.S. Forest Service for $5. Hand-thinning the forest for small trees is extremely low impact and does not have the issues associated with farms. Remember to check for dens under a tree before cutting—if there is a hole, odds are that this is home to an animal and it would be better to continue to search for the “perfect” tree.

Happy tree hunting! In the spring, I’ll writer about creating hummingbird plant islands, wildlife hedgerows, nesting habitat, when not to remove vegetation in your yard and luring native pollinators to our neighborhood.

Elizabeth Ruther moved to Portland in February to work for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. She is the District Habitat Biologist and works with city, county, and state and federal governments to lessen impacts on natural resources in Oregon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy “Strong and Fit” Holidays!!

By Brenn Simonen, CFT, SFN, CLC, GST-TRX, NLP, EFT, Silver Sneakers

Hi there, Sullivan’s Gulch.

Let’s do what we can to make our neighborhood heart healthy, fit, and fabulous. Since moving to Portland, we’ve fallen in love with this area. We bought our home here because of the friendliness of the people we met on the streets, and now you and your smiles are our neighbors. This is the first of many Health and Fitness articles for your well being. I have been passionate about health and fitness for more than 14 years and several years of scholastic sports prior to that. I want to share simple steps that you can take to create a healthier, more balanced, more fit you. So let’s tackle HOLIDAY EATING and EXERCISE EXCUSES.

Okay. Some of you, I’m sure, just let out a heavy sigh, looked away, or even put this paper down intending to pick it up later. Let’s be real. Exercising regularly can be a trying task on any given day. But mix together your office parties, your happy hours and dinners with friends, your children’s parties at school, church, or clubs, then fold in your mother-in-law’s favorites, your neighbor’s fruitcake, your grandmother’s old-fashioned, butter-bathed foods, your sister’s gluten-free demands, and finally, sprinkle with the candy cane battles of her five children and a little chaos, and you have a recipe to drink a spiked eggnog and eat an apple pie all by yourself. Whew! What can you do to stay calm and fit? Keep Moving.

Whether you are traveling or entertaining your closest 20 relatives for the week, you can stay fit with these easy ideas.
Take at least 30 minutes each day for yourself. Yes, you can. I promise. Use it for quiet time or use it to exercise. I vote for both. Walking, jogging, running, biking, walking the dog, stretching, and yoga are all good ways to do both.
Invite your guests to join you because your loved ones need to stay healthy too, and because you’ll be setting a great example. You may not be sweating it out at the gym, but you will be getting results.

Get the kids, old and young, away from the tv and video games and outside for games or relay races. Tantrum or not, they’ll get used to it. Childhood obesity is at a record high, and it’s up to parents to start making a difference. San Francisco just passed a law that fast food restaurants cannot put toys in their kid’s meals unless they meet nutritional guidelines. Get the fries, and you don’t get the toy. I respect the truth behind this law, and I hope it spreads like wildfire nationwide.

Living in the Pacific Northwest can pose challenges, so taking up a good in-home exercise routine for those days is a great idea. Whether the information comes from your gym, a fitness DVD, personal trainer, book, friend, online, be sure you are acting within the physical exertion guidelines set forth by your doctor. And remember, it’s not about the special equipment, it’s about the time and effort you put into your health. Other than a stability ball that you can get for around $10-$15, some household items that replace equipment and can be enough to create a program at home are: Dumbbells: Various sizes of water bottles or Ziploc bags (doubled) filled with sand. Stretching stick: Broom/mop Handle. Gliders: Two Frisbees. Stair-stepper: Your stairs and any weighted item you are comfortable carrying up and down. Resistance machine: Strength band, with or without handles, usually under $5.

These are just a few ideas. Use your imagination, along with good judgment, to create your own safe options. There are many videos on You Tube that provide access to exercise programs. I teach a strength-band and AB class that my clients use at home, on the road, and even on a plane or train. When there is a will to succeed, there’s a way to get the job done.
I have put together many exercise programs based simply on what I have on hand. You can, too. A simple rule I learned many years ago is that “everything is exercise.” Every time you reach in the cabinet for an item, pass a dish across the table, put clothes in the washer and dryer, or lift your kids in and out of the car, contract your arm muscles and consider it exercise. What you do every minute of every day matters. Do you take the stairs or the elevator? When you step on an escalator, do your ride or do you walk? Studies show the goal for heart healthy daily activity is a minimum of 10,000 steps. Do you walk the dog to the curb or walk a few blocks? How many steps would you add by using the upstairs bathroom instead of the downstairs bathroom? We do this at our house. There are so many ways to create a positive change. Have fun with it.

Clients tell me that they feel dread and fear going into the holidays because of the abundance of food. Holidays are festive, fun, and full of joy. That doesn’t mean they have to be full of calories, fats, sugars, and overeating. It starts with your choices at the supermarket. My school-of-thumb is “If you don’t own it, you cannot eat it.” Try Canola Oil instead of butter, sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, leave the creams and cheeses off the vegetables, drink hot cocoa instead of eggnog, and have the carbohydrates and starches—if you must—at breakfast or lunch. Keep dinner light with lean meats or fish and fresh vegetables and see what happens.

Email me at for a list of simple steps to cook lighter, fresher, and healthier for you and your family as well as additional resources. Give me your fitness questions for Spring’s article by going onto Let me know what’s on your mind. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2010

'Clean Sweep' clears the Gulch!

Leaf Removal Day in the Gulch was largely a success. While there were quite a few cars(81) that didn't 'get the memo', the streets looked really good by 4 o' clock. And no one was ticketed or towed! How did Leaf day work out for you?

Today's Clean Sweep

Hello Gulchers. Our 'Clean Sweep' leaf removal day is today. You may have noticed the yellow easels with No Parking signs attached on every block in the Gulch. Today you MUST obey them or else be ticketed and towed to the tune of $242. This year Sullivan's Gulch becomes a Clean Sweep neighborhood, so today our streets will be completely cleared of cars, voluntarily or otherwise, so that the street sweepers can do a more thorough job. So please remember to get your cars off the streets this morning by 9 a.m. There's usually plenty of parking at Fred Meyer and at the Lloyd Center and they are not so far away. If you do end up with a scofflaw parked in front of your house between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. call the Leaf Day Hotline 503-823-1700 and PDOT will send out a hotspot crew to blow the leaves away from the offending vehicle so that the sweep will get them. You can also comment here at the blog if you need help. Have a happy leaf day!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lights on Broadway!!

NE Broadway is your home for the holidays this December

NE Broadway merchants and the NE Broadway Business Association are coming together in December to invite shoppers to check out Lights on Broadway and enjoy holiday sales, events, special tastes and entertainment. from 33rd Ave to NE 6th Ave. Over 40 participating businesses highlight the fantastic features of this truly 20-minute neighborhood, where something is happening every day. Everything really is on NE Broadway, so you can shop local, save time and gas, and relax a bit this holiday season.

Staying home never was this much fun before. Get your cards out early by getting pictures of your pet and the whole family taken with Santa at Furever Pets, or enjoy the crème de la crème at Great Wine Buys Champagne Tasting & Sale. Feeling lucky? Try your hand at the Gambler’s Sale at Sofa, Table, Chair. And especially for friends, try out the Ugly Christmas Sweater Fashion Show and Sale at I Heart Retro. Traditional entertainment will be happening every weekend at local cafés and restaurants, including fire juggling and wandering carolers.

All the details of merchants’ specials, events and entertainment can be found at, the brand-new business district website. It’s a great year-round resource where you can easily browse business listings and then click through to a merchant’s website for all the info, plus find lists of all the happenings on NE Broadway.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Leaf Removal Day is Monday!

Hello Gulchers. This coming week our street leaf nightmare is over. Our 'Clean Sweep' leaf removal day is Monday, December 6th. Today you may have noticed the yellow easels with No Parking signs attached on every block in the Gulch. The good news is that you can probably ignore them until Monday. The bad, on Monday December 6th, you MUST obey them or else be ticketed and towed to the tune of $242. This year Sullivan's Gulch became a Clean Sweep neighborhood. This means that on leaf day our streets will be completely cleared of cars, voluntarily or otherwise, so that the sweepers can do a more thorough job. So please remember to get your cars off the streets Monday morning by 9 a.m. There's usually plenty of parking at Fred Meyer and at the Lloyd Center and they are not so far away. If you do end up with a scofflaw parked in front of your house call the Leaf Day Hotline 503-823-1700 and PDOT will send out a hotspot crew to blow the leaves away from the offending vehicle so that the sweep will get them. You can also comment here at the blog if you need help. Have a happy leaf day!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your SGNA Board of Directors (Updated)


Craig Nyschens, Chair
503 335-7018 -

Darren Knittle, Deputy Chair
503 280-0326 -

Gretchen Milhaupt, Secretary, Safety & Preparedness Chair
503 287-7813 -

Kari LaForge, Treasurer
503 422-2936 -

Dave Brook, Parliamentarian
503 313-1320 -

Chris Lopez, Communications Chair
503 290-6871 -

Will Elder, Land Use Chair
503 335-8212 -

Stephen Chase, Lifestyles Chair
971 227-2800 -

Dan Lerch-Walters, SG Bike Trail Liaison
503 284-7605 -

Cynthia Braun, Director at large
503 781-4962 -

Jackleen De La Harpe, Director at large
401 474-5274 -

Carol Gossett, Director at large
503 449-1253 -