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Snoqualmie Valley Record • April 23, 2014 • 11

Snoqualmie Valley


Summit of stone Preston’s StoneFest passes on living language of stone workers BY SETH TRUSCOTT


Courtesy Photo

Learning ages-old techniques for building in stone, beehive workers put together a “clochan,” or dry-stacked stone hut for protection from the elements used by monks and herdsmen, at the 2010 StoneFest. The finished clochan, inset, used about 70 tons of stone. StoneFest returns to Preston in May.


t takes a lot of people and a lot of focus to build a stone church in just five days. OK, the church may be in miniature—the sanctuary can fit perhaps one small visitor—but it’s still real local granite, done much the way its models were built in Ireland 1,000 years ago. “We laugh about it being a church for a congregation of one,” said Alexandra Morosco, founding codirector of StoneFest, the instructional seminar hosted by Preston’s Marenakos Rock Center for the past decade. “But the design will be true to a style seen in that period.” Ten years ago, Morosco founded StoneFest with co-director and Marenakos owner Scott Hackney as a way to bring stoneworkers together. StoneFest annually brings between 75 and 125 craftspeople and enthusiasts to Preston. For the 10th anniversary, May 12 to 16, the festival brings leaders from many different organizations—nonprofits, educational communities and clubs from Scotland,

Ireland, Canada and the United States—all linked to stone. It’s a summit of stoneworkers from many walks of life— builders, carvers, landscapers and instructors in the trade. The festival “is for anyone who works with stone or has a passion for stone,” Morosco said. “They might be customers who say, ‘I just love putting rocks in my garden. I want to handle them (better). A lot are in the trade and do this professionally.” For a week, visitors work and share knowledge. One night, there’s a Stone FEAST, in which workers (hopefully) drop their tools for a moment and enjoy food, drink and entertainment together on the grounds at Marenako’s. The cost for a full week is $495, but scholarships or daily passes are available for those on a budget.

Passing on knowledge Today, stone is thought of as a green material. There’s less processing and handling of stone than other building materials. SEE STONEFEST, 12

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12 • April 23, 2014 • Snoqualmie Valley Record

Spring clean-up with safety in mind As spring approaches thoughts turn to cleaning up our yards from the long winter months, making repairs around the home, and enjoying the outdoors. Keeping a few safety thoughts in mind will help make your spring experience more enjoyable. Eastside Fire and Rescue offers the following tips to ensure your home is made safer as well as spic and span this spring.

Visible home addressing Can emergency personnel find your home in the dark of the night? Is your driveway clearly marked? If you are like many people in rural King County, your address may be on a group mailbox, but your driveway may not have any address marking. This can cause a delay when emergency responders are trying to locate your home. Properly posting your address sign will help responders locate your home more quickly when minutes count during an emergency situation.

Keeping the hydrant visible Are hanging tree branches and shrubs blocking the view of the hydrant in front from your home? Fire hydrants are a critical element in providing fire protection to a community. It is important for emergency responders to be able to see the hydrant easily from the street. Eastside Fire & Rescue requires a three-foot clear space be maintained around the circumference of the fire hydrant. Do not customize the fire hydrant in your lawn. Fire personnel need working space around the hydrant.

Road access In an emergency, a few minutes or even seconds can make a difference to your safety. Can fire equipment such as an engine or aid car access your road or driveway to your home? Parked cars blocking driveways, large trees, shrubs and other vegetation hampering access needs to be maintained. Road widths cannot be less than 20 feet, and vertical clearance not less than 13 feet, six inches. Put yourself in the place of an emergency responder and safely step out onto the curb in front of your home. Is your address marked and clearly visible? If not, it may affect the time it takes for emergency personnel to locate your home in the event of an emergency situation. This spring clean-up should include a safety minded approach by checking the visibility of your home address. • Learn more about safety at


STONEFEST FROM 11 But stone isn’t used as widely as it was hundreds of years ago. “There was a time when lots of people were in the stone trade,” said Morosco. “It was a given that you would work for years as an apprentice before you learned your trade.” Today, the skills aren’t as prevalent, and they aren’t always something you can learn on YouTube or through books. Stone skills must be handed on inperson before they disappear forever. StoneFest’s mentor and apprenticeship programs help that happen. Some of the older stoneworkers, men in their 90s, “are amazing, Morosco said. “They know things no one knows about. If we lose these guys before they share the knowledge, it goes with them.” “These are people that work with their hands and learn with their hands,” she said. “That’s why this is hands-on.” So, through classroom time, design workshops, and hard work with bare hands and tools, skills are renewed. “We hope the real results are when they go back home to work,” Morosco said. “If nothing gets built at this event, what’s important is that they learn. The two major projects happening at this year’s StoneFest include both the miniature church and a castle rampart, to be built up between six and ten feet high. The festival requires up to 70 tons of stone. Stone blocks fetch between $300 to $600 a ton, so it’s a sizeable investment from the festival’s sponsors. All the visitors, the projects and activity show off that stone to strong effect. “It does put Marenako’s on the map (as) one of the most extraordinary stoneyards in the country,” said Morosco. Some of the best StoneFest creations become permanent attractions, such as the 2010 clochan, or monk’s stone cell, or the portrait arch. Stone craftspeople can come back with clients and show them

Courtesy photo

At StoneFest, Nicholas Fairplay demonstrates carving on a memorial a participant designed for her beloved lost pets their finished projects anytime. Besides construction, another big aspect of the festival is carving. There is an emphasis on hand tools, but power tools are allowed for those who work harder stone Some of the craftspeople at StoneFest work on their own projects, and end up bringing their worked block of stone home with them. Others put their effort into a group project—a carved portrait arch from a past StoneFest permanently memorializes that team task. “We connect people to stone,” Morosco said. “We also connect people

to people. StoneFest creates a network that helps people gather knowledge and experience, so they have the confidence to do work.” “We’ve always had a connection to stone,” she said. “We’ve had this long, deep resonance.... That’s why we walk on a beach and pick up pebbles.” The festival helps make stone more user-friendly for beginners, and deepens experts’ relationship with this age-old material. “By being around it, and sharing ideas, it brings people the confidence to work with stone,” Morosco said.

StoneFest seminars StoneFest shares skill and knowledge of the stone trade. Visitors work as a community for five intense days. This year’s projects include: • Elements of Sacred Space: An Early Irish Church: Visitors build a small-scale church • Every Man’s Home is His Castle: Participants build a scaled down castle rampart with dry stone talus, small towers or turrets and a pyramid spur. This will be an advanced project involving setting out geometry and merging shapes to challenge the experienced mason. • Richard Rhodes, of Rhodesworks Design Studio and Rhodes Architectural Stone will be offering two workshops, a Design Charrette and Presentation workshop To learn more, visit


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Showtime in the garden

Snoqualmie Valley Record • April 23, 2014 • 13

Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Helping grow your garden: Nursery at Mount Si staff Nels Melgaard, Carlos Gomez, Jose Larios and Kate Herlihy pack colored baskets and annuals in the retail barn. Below, spring blooms and colorful pots on the grounds.

Season’s changes on display at North Bend’s Nursery at Mount Si



ith spring in full swing, color comes quickly to the grounds of North Bend’s Nursery at Mount Si. So staff are hard at work to keep the plants, and the knowledge, growing and spreading to customers. “It’s showtime in the garden business,” says owner Nels Melgaard, who’s at the center of the activity. This month, their production greenhouses become retail houses, where shoppers can browse among the hundreds of plants, ground covers, grasses, hostas, sages, peonies, sedums, choosing form and color. Meanwhile, at center stage—the nursery’s retail barn—trays of veggies and edibles mix with colorful annuals—petunias, pansies— that have been popular with the arrival of spring. Soil and amendments, fertilizers and organic pest control await to help ready the ground, and a selection of bird feeders, birdhouses and hummingbird feeders sit nearby to tempt feathered visitors. Outside, an aisle of trees are sheltered from the last of winter’s winds. Flowering shrubs are coming into their glory. As spring progresses, roses enter the mix.

Veggie gardens Food that you can grow is the big thing right now, says Melgaard, who nurtures clients’ interest in home orchards and vegetable gardens. “There are a lot of people just growing food,” he said, “gardening, producing and involving their children. People are concerned about their food. They want to grow their own.” At the same time, the moment

is right to start composting and building your soil. “There’s definitely planting going in, but there’s a lot of soil preparation, a lot of additions or organic amendments,” Melgaard said. “It’s like the foundation you build a house on. You have to invest, and put energy into the ground, so that it will reward you throughout the season.” SEE SHOWTIME, 14


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BY MELINDA MYERS Contributing Writer

No matter where you live, being a waterwise gardener makes environmental and economic sense. And it’s really easier than you think. Here are just a few of the easy and affordable ways to conserve water while growing a beautiful garden. Grow plants suited to your climate, and this includes the average rainfall for your area. Select drought tolerant plants that, once established, require less on-going care. Consider native plants like coneflower, yucca and penstemon as well as native and non-invasive ornamental grasses. Be sure to group moisture-loving plants together and near a source of water. You’ll save time and water by concentrating your efforts on fewer plants. Move containers to the shade or provide additional shade during hot dry weather to reduce the plant’s water needs. Use organic nitrogen fertilizers like Milorganite ( This slow release fertilizer encourages slow steady growth that requires less water. Plus, it will not burn plants during hot dry weather. It simply stays in the soil until the growing conditions, moisture and temperature are right for the plants. Install a rain barrel or two to capture rain for watering in-ground and container gardens. Or place a rain barrel near your garden and collect rain directly from the sky. Use this water to supplement your garden’s moisture needs during drought. Decorate or mask the barrels with vines, decorative fencing, containers, or nearby plantings. And check with your local municipality as several states and communities have banned rain harvesting on private property. Use soaker hoses and drip irrigation to save water by applying the water directly to the soil where it is needed. Consider connecting your rain barrel to a soaker hose in a nearby garden. Just open the spigot and allow gravity to slowly empty the water throughout the day. Check to make sure water is evenly distributed throughout the garden. And always water thoroughly and less frequently to encourage deep, drought-tolerant roots. Add a layer of organic mulch like shredded leaves, evergreen needles or herbicide-free grass clippings to conserve moisture and keep roots cool. As these break down, they add organic matter to the soil improving the water holding ability of sandy and rocky soils. Allow lawns to go dormant during droughts. Apply ¼ inch of water every three to four weeks during extended droughts. This keeps the crown of the plant alive while the grass remains dormant. Do not apply weed killers and minimize foot and equipment traffic on dormant lawns. Incorporate one or more of these techniques to your garden care this season. You’ll conserve water while creating healthier and more attractive gardens.

SHOWTIME FROM 13 The nursery started out years ago as an organic farm, so it takes the healthy approach very seriously, starting with the soil. “We evolved from a certified organic farm. We didn’t know a lot about chemicals, and we tried to learn as little as possible,” Melgaard said. All soils at The Nursery at Mount Si are inoculated with life-giving or living materials, such as organic bonemeal, worm castings or old-fashioned manure. Melgaard said every measurement shows that beneficial soils mean healthier plants.

Making it easy A big, particolored koi ambles past a shoal of goldfish and up to nursery staff member Kate Herlihy, looking for a handout. The pond is one of the centerpieces of the Nursery, and is surrounded by rockery, statues, and hundreds of colorful pots, all meant to inspire creativity in your own garden. The Nursery gets new life every spring. The pond, sheds and grounds here all have a new look and different products for 2014. “Lots of new products,” said Herlihy. Greeting customers is

Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Mount Si overlooks the nursery’s water feature and stage. a new and popular item: Raised cedar planters that bring beds off the ground to table height. For gardeners who don’t need all the bending down, deer, slugs and pests, they can bring plants up to your level. “These are very well built,” Melgaard said. “We’ve sold through one batch already.”

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buyer, readies hanging baskets and containers at the rear of one of the green-

houses. Her creations are custom-made to the needs of clients, and are an easy way to bring a professional touch to your deck or patio. Customers, who often turn into repeat customers, simply bring her their containers, and she brings them to life. Earl helps complement the plants with a handpicked selection of garden art and furniture, water features, planters, trees and shrubs, all with an eye for helping people enjoy the outdoors and green, growing things. “We can help you set up a living garden space,” Earl said. “Every bit of it—all the furniture you will need, earth-friendly pesticides, soils.” • The Nursery at Mount Si is located at 42328 N.E. 12th St., North Bend; call the nursery at (425) 8312274 or visit


Don’t let summer droughts stop you from gardening


14 • April 23, 2014 • Snoqualmie Valley Record

SVR Special Pages - Valley Spring Home and Garden 2014  


SVR Special Pages - Valley Spring Home and Garden 2014