Earth Day 2022 – Invest In Our Planet
If there was such thing as a winner in the last two years’ shutdowns, it had to be Mother Earth. Air and waterways became cleaner while many wild animals reemerged from deep cover. Lower levels of manufacturing and fewer cars on the road allowed the earth to literally take a breather. NASA satellite and ground-based observations reported significant reductions in global air pollution over this time period.
Just two years of reduced human activity show how much our actions affect the Earth. So on Earth Day 2022 it’s fitting the theme is “Invest In Our Planet.” As we move back into our daily routines, it makes sense to reflect on this past year and continue to promote environmental protection. If you want to find an event near your home, go to EarthDay.Org – the official Earth Day site for a list of events.
This Earth Day theme also builds upon the emerging concept of restoration. For example, instead of accepting climate change as inevitable, restoration offers pragmatism coupled with hope.
Governments are turning to natural processes such as reforestation and soil conservation. Innovative thinking and green technologies are restoring the world’s ecosystem and forests – and creating renewable jobs. Large corporations are vowing to be carbon neutral within the next decade. These are all significant developments that will help Invest In Our Planet.
But waiting for institutions to act can take time. As individuals, we each play a critical role in the effort to Invest In Our Planet. There are plenty of actions we can take today that, collectively, add up to major impacts:
Want to know more about Earth Day and living in nature? Contact Us.
Getting Hygge With It – It’s Time for Cozy!
The word Hygge is often mispronounced. For example, many think it’s pronounced, higgy – rhymes with jiggy. That’s not correct. It’s actually a Danish word pronounced as, hoo-gah, or hue gah.
Regardless of how you say it, we both embrace the concept. The word is loosely described as cozy contentment. The Danes say it’s the art of fostering well-being through intimate connections to nature and others. Wow, that sounds perfectly lovely to us.
At first glance, winter hygge might appear to be the creation of indoor spaces suitable for hibernating. However, that’s not necessarily the case. While creating pleasing and relaxing indoor rooms is quite hygge, the true concept is more about fostering an atmosphere to nurture relationships.
A group of friends playing a game around a roaring fire is very hygge-like. However, curling up with a good book in a cozy corner is also a hygge move. Any activity that allows us to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and paying attention to what makes us feel alive and open-hearted is representative of the mindset.
Hygge is quite similar to mindfulness with more of a focus on sensual pleasures. Engaging our senses to absorb joy in the moment such as smelling a rose, cherishing the feel of silk or cashmere on your skin, and relishing the warmth of a roaring fire are good examples.
As with most good things, advertisers jumped on the trend and tend to over-used the hygge label to sell everything from sweaters to home furnishings. Ad nauseam, and It’s too bad, as the concept on its own is sound and worth considering.
It’s also worth noting the Danes have one of the highest happiness indexes in the world, despite their cold and dark winters.
Here’s To More Frilutsliv! (“Free-Loofts-Leev”)
January flew in this year with its usual vengeance. Gray overcast days with rainy and windy weather – typical for this time of year. Yet, even when anticipated, these dark winter days can often leave us feeling a bit gloomy. Especially with a pandemic raging, being cooped up inside can add to the sense of isolation.
Paradoxically, one of the best antidotes for the winter blues is to get outside, in spite of the rough weather. The Scandinavians have a term for it, too, it’s called friluftsliv – free-loofts-liv. The word roughly translates to “open-air living.”
Many Nordic parents practice the concept with their children at a young age. Babies, at ages under one year-old, are often spotted napping outdoors, in all weather, throughout the year. No wonder they are a hardy bunch! The phrase. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes,” is a mantra children hear frequently during their formative years.
Recent polls suggest more of us have gained a greater appreciation for nature during the past year. Too many days spent indoors certainly take their toll. Outdoor activities offer us new ways to feel connected to others while still maintaining social distancing protocols. While winter weather can be a challenge, we can still embrace the frilutftsliv attitude and remain outdoor enthusiasts.
We’re lucky to live within close proximity to nature. And, most of us have closets filled with the right clothes to make year-round outside adventures more comfortable. Down jackets, boots, gloves, and rain gear are designed to help us brave the elements. Often, it’s getting out the door that represents the toughest part of bad weather outings. Perhaps we need to shift our perception of the winter months and adopt the Scandinavian mindset.
One recent day, with bitterly cold east winds blowing, we met our daughter and grandchildren at a public park. We all bundled up in layers, toasty jackets, and hats and gloves. The children played and road their bikes around the trails as we walked for over two hours. Large tree branches swayed in the wind, and our golden retriever happily chased leaves as they flew across the pathways. It was a delightful way to reconnect with family and enjoy the outdoors.
Researchers at the University of Exeter in the U.K. found that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week, enjoy better health and well-being. Whether it’s walking the dog at a park, or hiking up a mountain trail, fresh air and exercise is good for our body and soul. Here’s to embracing more friluftsliv this winter!
Remember, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.”
Thanks to a class of fifth-graders in Olympia, the Pacific tree frog is the official amphibian of Washington State. Also known as the chorus frog, its scientific name – Pseudacris (rhymes with Ludacris) regilla – sounds like a rapper. And, like Ludacris, these tiny frogs have a big song in their hearts, especially the males. Every Spring, you hear their loud two-part “ribbit” designed to attract females. The chirping stimulates other males to join in, and often, the resulting chorus of their joint efforts can be heard quite far away. It’s always sweet music to our nature-loving ears. In fact, Hollywood sound studios use the Pacific tree frog’s ribbit as a common background for many outdoor scenes.
(Click to hear)
March 20th was World Frog Day, so it’s timely that we recognize the importance of the Pacific tree frog to our environment. Found in every region of the state, they are beneficial to the environment and crops by eating bugs, including dangerous disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes and ticks. Plus, frogs serve as a food source to other species, including snakes, which help control rodents that can greatly damage crops. Frogs are also an environmental indicator. Like the canary in a coal mine, they thrive when their environment is healthy, but get sick and die off if polluted. So it’s vital that scientists, environmentalists, and ordinary citizens help protect these small amphibians.
The biggest threats to frog larvae include predators and parasites. But pollution and chemical contaminants are the bigger human-generated threats. While the species is not declared threatened in the state, declines in extensively urbanized areas is cause for concern. We can protect frogs by preserving their habitats and not using harmful chemicals and pesticides on our lawns and gardens. Chemical runoffs are known to be especially detrimental to wetlands and natural habitats.
Handling frogs can be hazardous to their health, as lotions and/or bug repellents can be absorbed into their permeable skin. Cute as they are, please resist the temptation to keep them as pets, they belong in outdoor habitats where Mother Nature intended.
Speaking of natural habitats, it’s one of our specialties. If you’d like to find the perfect spot in a rural setting close to nature, call us. That way, as Spring begins anew, you too will wake up to the wonderful songs of the Pacific tree frog.
Want to learn how? Contact us.
The Ins and Outs of Outbuildings in Clark County, WA
Many of our clients looking for more “elbow room for the soul”™ often ask about the possibility of adding structures to a specific property. The request varies from building a shop, a barn, a greenhouse, to an accessory dwelling unit or ADU. Collectively known as outbuildings, they are a popular amenity for those who choose to live in rural areas.
On our acreage in Camas, we have a combination tool/tractor shed. At 200 sq ft, it didn’t require a permit, but the site placement had to adhere to established zoning setbacks. We also hired a licensed and bonded professional to install lights and electrical outlets.
Currently, it’s relatively easy to add an ADU in certain urban areas. But, they are generally not allowed in rural areas. Unless you attach it to an existing single family structure. However, there are some creative ways to get around this rule. For example, in some rural areas you can build a studio, as long as there is no cooking equipment in the structure.
Adding a fence, deck, or woodshed also requires some homework. No permit is required as long as a fence is under 7 feet and set on the owner’s side of the property line. Due to safety concerns, there are very specific guidelines for building a deck in Clark County, WA. And most decks require a permit. As for woodsheds, gazebos, and play structures, as long as they are smaller than 200 sq ft, no permit is required.
However, as with all structures, locating anything within a wetland, habitat, or shoreline area, will require land use review. One of our buyers buyer was in the process of buying a lovely home on the Washougal River. Once we determined she could not build a fence in the backyard for her dog, she had to choose a different property.
There isn’t one simple answer to the question of whether an outbuilding can be added to a property. The good news is, we have the resources to help you determine the ins and outs of outbuildings.
Biophilic design is based on the premise that spending time in natural settings is restorative. It’s one of the big reasons we specialize in homes located in soothing environments. A growing body of evidence confirms being in nature has a profoundly positive impact on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being
This nature-wellness link is resulting in a rising interest in biophilic design. “Biophilia” literally translates to “the passionate love of life and all that is alive.” Therefore, from corporate offices to personal homes, architects and designers are working to help people feel happier, healthier, and more focused at work, and at home.
Over a decade ago, the so-called Godfather of Biophilia, Stephen Kellert, identified more than 70 elements to help create a strong connection to nature in an indoor setting. Rather than discuss the various architectural nuances of biophilic design, we are focused on how to easily create it in your current home.
Amanda Sturgeon, author of Creating Biophilic Buildings, believes a structure should reflect a geographic area. An understanding of the region’s ecosystem make us better stewards of the land, and help satisfy our need for a harmonious connection at home. A “Spirit of Place.”
“Spirit of Place” is defined as the tangible and intangible elements that give meaning, value, emotion, and mystery to a place.
Tangible: Buildings, sites, landscapes (rivers, mountains, meadows), routes.
Intangible: Memories, narratives, written documents, rituals, festivals, tradition, values, and textures.
In short, the soul of a place.
Obviously, a soothing and pleasing view is a great way to increase biophila at home. However, if your current view is lacking, there are other simple things you can do to to foster.
Fresh Air – Make sure you allow plenty of fresh air to move freely about your home. Open windows also allow us to hear the rain, the wind blowing through trees, and the sounds of birds chirping.
Play with Light and Shadow – having access to daylight helps balance our circadian rhytmns. Take note of shadows and sunlight moving through your home and landscape. If you have particularly sunny corner on a deck, create little spot to breathe in the outdoors. Try to minimize the boundaries between inside and outside spaces.
Natural Elements – Bring nature inside. Plants, soothing greens, other natural elements ( think wood and stone) and a simple fountain can help connect us to nature.
Promote a Sense of Refuge – enclosed spaces help us feel secure, but with the addition of the ability to survey the landscape the space becomes restorative. Plant trees or shrubs, create a beautiful garden – there are many ways to add a soothing view to a home.
Natural Shapes and Forms – Obviously not all buildings have natural form in their design, but we can use patterns from nature as decorative motifs. Think of art pieces reflecting an evergreen tree, fern, or salmon – or another symbols to reflect your particular region.
Order and Complexity – Nature is orderly, but quite complex in the detail. Consider while every leaf has a similar shape, the size varies. Bring nature’s designs and principles indoors.
The number one rule of biophilic design – go outside and understand your surroundings first. Observe, listen, and learn about your ecosystem – then bring nature’s lessons and gifts inside.
If you enjoyed reading about Biophilic Design, you’ll likely enjoy this article, written by Bernie, What can we learn from Nature? Everything!
Life is busy at our Multi-Gen house with the kitchen remodel update in full swing. Right now, it’s chaos central. Naturally, the biggest headache is trying to cook and clean up. But a Weber grill with a side burner is getting a lot of use. And a utility sink in the garage works well for washing pots, pans, and dishes.
My sis and her husband, who live on another level of our home, offered to let us use their kitchen. But, honestly, carrying things up and down the stairs would just add to the workload. Plus, it would be pretty crowded with all of us cooking different meals – especially at the same time.
Mom, who lives with us, is a good sport about the remodel and is getting used to the “glamping” aspect of the ordeal. Her morning oatmeal is made in the microwave and we try make sure we still have her favorite foods around. It requires thought, prep, and planning. So far, so good.
Plus, mom is a big Portland Trail Blazers fan and has been pretty distracted with her job as their number one cheerleader. She’s even been wearing her team jersey to her Silver Sneakers classes – we’re sorry they’ve lost the last 3 games, but we also respect and admire the Golden State Warriors. May the best team win.
Back to the kitchen. Hopefully in a few days, we’ll be able to test out the new double ovens. However, installing the new gas stove, the farmhouse sink, and the dishwasher will have to wait until the counter tops are in place. Since the counter fabricators are booked until May 30th, it will be at least a month before we get our new quartz counters.
We’ve been warned, remodeling is an endeavor in patience, and it certainly is. , but we know the end result will be worth the hassles. Tonight, we’re taking a break and having take-out. Woohoo! Happy Sunday.
Want to learn more about multigen households and surviving a remodel? Contact us, we’ll offer some tips.
What can we learn from Nature? Everything!
It turns out, we are surrounded by brilliantly-designed inventions that can teach us a lot. Biomimicry is the science that studies nature’s inventions to inspire innovations for our daily lives. In short, old ideas are new ideas – and they are just waiting to be discovered. Plus, mimicking nature helps identify sustainable solutions that are compatible with our planet.
Natural resource scientist Janine Benyus is a huge proponent who says biomimicry is a new way of inventing. “[W]e live in a competent universe, we are part of a brilliant planet, and we are surrounded by genius. The core idea is that life’s been on Earth 3.8 billion years and that’s a lot of R&D.”
So, what can we learn from nature? Just about everything! Biomimicry is not just a “feel good” activity – it is a real discipline based on eons of awe-inspiring nature. The Biomimicry Institute, for example, is introducing its scientific curriculum to K-12, universities, and other educational institutions. Their goal is to create a new generation of innovators who use nature as a guide to invention. And commerce is paying attention. From agriculture to transportation, the movement is helping corporations design innovations that are both earth-friendly and profitable.
Our connection to nature is profound. Many studies indicate that when we are nature deprived, our health suffers. It’s one of the big reasons we love marketing properties in soothing environments – ViewHomes™! We think home should be a place where you relax, rejuvenate, and feed your soul. Interested in learning more? Contact us today.
Spring is almost here and, if you live in the country, you might be thinking about pruning those fruit trees in your yard. Growing fruit trees is not a passive activity – especially on rural property where you often find lots of them. They actually require year-round attention for optimum health and better fruit production.
Obvious chores include watering and fertilizing during spring and summer. But trees also require attention during the winter, even though they are mostly dormant for that season. In fact, late winter is the ideal time for pruning and spraying – hence the term “dormant” oil for the type of spray used.
Cutting off branches from a healthy tree might seem counterintuitive. But careful pruning removes unproductive branches and shapes the tree to produce healthier fruit. After pruning, we spray a light mineral oil that is compatible with organic gardening – no fungicide or herbicide. The oil coats the branches and seals it from mites and other bugs that might show up during the spring bloom.
For ideal conditions, trees should be dry with no foreseeable precipitation for at least 24 hours. Likewise, ideal temps should be close to freezing. Although in some areas, you may be able to prune as late as April as long as the trees have not sprouted leaf buds.
This past winter was a real challenge because it was so wet. Our continuous days of snow and freezing rain made it nearly impossible to get out and take care of the trees. Finally, with dry weather and temperatures still below 40, we found a perfect day in March.
While pruning is not that hard with the right tools, it helps to know what you want to accomplish with the trimming. A fruit tree continues to grow throughout the year, producing new shoots from its limbs. Unless these shoots have fruit buds, they need to be pruned off. Otherwise, they divert nourishment from the branches that have fruit. Pruning helps direct the nutrients from the tree trunk to branches with fruit.
Likewise, the shape of the tree can determine how productive and healthy the harvest will be. There are several schools of thought about this, but we prefer to prune the center lead (trunk) out. This helps the outer branches spread out and grow into an umbrella shape. The open center allows more air circulation and sunlight into the remaining branches, which helps blooming. This approach also makes it easier to harvest – as the outer branches bear fruit, they tend to bend down, making it easier to reach. Proper pruning can help shape a tree into ideal production.
You will often see a mature fruit trees laden with fruit at the very top branches. This makes the fruit nearly inaccessible when the tree hasn’t been pruned regularly. We had a few mature trees on our property when we moved in four years ago. They were overgrown with misshapen branches that criss-crossed inside the canopy. This not only creates a tangled mess, it also invites bugs and disease. And, of course, the harvest was lacking.
So, two winters ago, we did a dramatic pruning that cut back many of the thick, older branches, and opened up the centers. It is a scary proposition and, again, counterintuitive because it looks like the tree will die from all that major surgery. Plus, trees often appear to “suffer” because they will skip a year in production as they recover. However, after a major pruning, trees usually bounce back, and are healthier for it.
And that was the case with our trees – there were no apples last summer. But spring weather has brought tons of flowering fruit buds, and the trees are thriving. Plus, this summer, as the lower branches fill out, the fruit will be a lot easier to reach. Next winter, we will able to return to light pruning.
So don’t be afraid to trim your trees after you’ve determined how you want them to look. Regular pruning and dormant spray will keep them healthy and producing for years.
If you’d like to hear more about life in the country, with Nature as Neighbors, write or give us a call.
Go Take a Hike – It’s good for body, mind, and soul! The spring hiking season is about to get underway here in the Pacific Northwest. While April’s rainy weather sometimes makes our local trails muddy and slippery, we still try to get out as much as possible. May will bring an influx of adventurous people in boots and backpacks, ready to exercise their bodies and quiet their minds.
We all know that getting out to nature makes us feel good. But now there is data to experiencing the outdoors has physiological effects on our brains. A 2015 study published by the National Academy of Sciences finds that spending time in nature significantly affects our prefrontal cortex where most of our negative thoughts process. Hiking especially helps stop the type of obsessive rumination that can be difficult to break.
In addition, the participants in the study had no electronics as they backpacked through nature. In short, they tuned into Nature, turned on to the environment, and unplugged from electronics. We’re not surprised to learn a nice long hike, without a cell phone, can reduce mental fatigue, soothe our mind, and increase creative thinking. And, once you invest in suitable shoes and a day pack for emergency provisions, it’s free, except for perhaps a parking pass at a trailhead.
Hiking also burns calories (400-700 an hour) and builds muscles and bone density. Your body and mind get in shape as nature works its quiet magic. While we agree with the tech-free advice, we think it’s important to carry a cellphone in your pack for emergencies. Peace of mind while you enjoy the peace-and-quiet is also an important consideration.
There are many trails in our area for hikers to choose from, and because of our close proximately to the Columbia River Gorge, there are some pretty rigorous hikes for those in good shape. However, you can easily find trails for nearly every ability in Southwest Washington. Here’s a list of hikes in the Clark County Washington Parks system.
Here’s a video recap of a hike we took several years ago. The Cape Horn Loop gives you fantastic views of the Columbia River Gorge. A bonus for us, in the spring and early summer months, a profusion of colorful wildflowers dot the meadows.
Keep in mind, the loop is closed between February 1 – to July 15 for nesting falcons. Portions of the trail are quite precarious and exposed, dogs should be on leashes and young hikers should be closely supervised.
Do your body and mind a favor this spring – Take a hike!
Top 10 Features Buyers Want
As we enter the 2022 home buying season, it is important to know what buyers say they want in a home. The National Association of Home Builders survey for 2022 is not out, yet, last year’s survey is helpful. One of the key findings is that the majority of home buyers in the study (67%) report the pandemic has not impacted what they want. Yet, there was a slight increase in the desired size of the home – implying that spending more time at home creates a desire for a little more elbow room.
The survey identifies 175 items that are rated “essential”, “desirable”, “indifferent” and (just as important) “do NOT want”. An interesting note is that, while baby boomers trended along with general home buyers in desirables, they have stronger opinions about what they do and do not want.
The survey reveals some features are not surprises – energy efficiency shows up (explicitly or implied) as four of the top 10 items. But, surprisingly, laundry rooms continue at the top of the essential features buyers want. Although this factors in with the other items baby boomers desire – smaller homes with single-level living and open floor plans. Having a laundry room keeps clutter out of view and helps keep smaller homes organized. Ceiling fans are also big – arguably consistent with the energy efficiency theme.
Also, consistent with baby boomers’ desire for one-level living, elevators were rated the least desirable feature in a home – one that would cause them not to buy it. Although – another surprise – this was not as much of a deal killer of buyers from other age groups.
We also learn from the survey what items will discourage a sale. All are certainly subjective, but informative. Percentages who said “No”:
Elevator – 74%
Wine Cellar – 69%
Second-story Family Room – 59%
Dual Toilets in Master Bath – 57%
While this survey can guide new home construction, by building in features from the start, it also can help sellers of existing homes. Adding a laundry room is not on the list of the best returns for home improvement projects. However, there may be other areas in the home that can be converted easily – like a closet in a bathroom with room for a stackable. Or, even the garage might be an option. Access to utilities will determine the ease and expense of such an addition.
We specialize in view homes on acreage or large lots with “elbow room for the soul”. This not only provides homes with plenty of privacy, but also homes that are well-suited for multigenerational living – households with different generations living together. According to the most recent 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, 1 in 5 homes in the U.S. are now multigen. This trend is likely to continue as one way to address caring for the elderly in a rapidly aging population.
Some homes come with separate living quarters, some need to be modified to provide that space. We live in a multigen home, so we know how to find homes suited for this lifestyle.
Here is the ViewHomes™ Market Report for homes suitable for multigen living:
Market Report for ViewHomes™ With MultiGen Features
76 Active Listings – $400,000 to $4,200,000
Average SQFT – 4,413
Average $/SQFT – $223
32 Pending – $409,900 to $2,495,000
Average SQFT- 3,800
Average $/SQFT – $194
62 Sold in last 3 Mos – $400,000 to $2,430,750
Average SQFT – 3,405
Average $/SQFT – $182
Median Days on Market was 44 days – down from 62 days in January. Multigen homes don’t stay on the market very long!
(Note: Report is for homes priced $400,000 and above, and does not include a spectacular $12,000,000 165-acre multigen property in Woodland, WA)
If you have a home that has multigen features and you want to sell, call us – we are specialists in this field, and we have buyers ready to move!
Many of our ViewHomes of Clark County buyers prefer a home with a 3-bay garage. The reasons vary, but the bottom line is needed space. And as the photo shows, the single car garage in Barbie’s Dream House ( a gift for my granddaughter’s upcoming 4th birthday) is already full.
One parked puppy, and suddenly there’s no room for Barbie’s signature pink convertible. Not to mention her SUV, or Ken’s motorcycle. Barbie is an active woman too. Where will she store her camping gear, skis, bikes, jet-ski, and scuba equipment?
Here are some of the most common reasons we hear from buyers seeking a 3-car garage. And, what we see in garages when previewing ViewHomes™ prior to listing.
Better fit for Larger Cars and SUVs
A third car
Lawn Mowers, pressure washers, etc.
Boats of all kind
Bikes and other sporting gear
Bar and pool table
Potting shed – gardening space
We completely understand the added value of a home with a 3-bay garage. The cost difference when purchasing a home with a 2 car and 3 car garage will vary, but generally speaking, it can a lot of value. For example, in Camas, Washington, a home with a 3-car garage sells for about 8% more than one with a 2-car garage.
In our opinion, the added value is also about preferences and perceptions. Given the current preference for having 3 bays, it makes sense to have a home with the amenities that are most desirable. CC&Rs ( Covenants, conditions, and restrictions), or zoning restrictions might prohibit building a shed, or another type of outbuilding for extra storage space.
Keep in mind though, if the first impression of the house is garage-centric, the curb appeal can be greatly reduced – and perhaps, the value. Oh look, it’s a garage with a house attached! We’ve all seen them.
In more rural areas, where homes tend to be older, many properties have decent sized 2-car garages, with various outbuildings. Zoning often makes it possible to add sheds, RV garages, shops, and barns to make up for any loss associated with the lack of a 3rd bay.
If you’re interested in listing your home with a 3-car garage in Clark County, we know how to price it fairly, and market it to the right demographic. Buyers, we know where to find the view homes with 3 car-garages, and other options to suit your specific needs. Call us today, we’d love to help.