Ain't nuthin like ridin' a fine horse in a new country - Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove

The Woods

"Garden;  A Thing of Beauty & a Job Forever"

April 18, 2004
We'd lived on the Homestead for ten-years before we had the time to work on the woods.  We'd cleared around the perimeter - to put in fencing, our first priority & an absolute must!  We were both working full time & commuting.  Our oldest daughter had married & our youngest was still at home.  We were also riding our horses in competition, there were too many other priorities.

The woods had been one of those projects low on the priority list.  When my work schedule changed to part-time, I finally started thinking about what we were going to do with the area &  exploring to see what was actually up there.  About that same time, a large evergreen along the road blew down during a strong spring storm.  When we surveyed the damage, we realized that the area was very wet - the stream had moved well out of it's original bed & the entire area had become swampy - which had contributed to the loss of the tree.  We started to clear debris & underbrush out of the creek bed, allowing the water to move back into it's original channel.   ( I'll never forget the day I was trying to get from point A to point B & sunk in to muck up to my knees & blackberries to my neck!  I had visions of Butch finding me - still there - that night!)
Homestead Hill~
I started thinking of the woods as a garden of sorts.  I would pick an area & start in with hand pruners & a small saw.  It took most of two-years to rough out & map a trail system.  The more I worked, the more excited I became at the potential of a woodland garden.  With the creek traversing the woods from the NW to the SE corner, we needed several small bridges.  Butch helped with the heavy labor as we worked to remove invasive species;  cutting, chopping & hauling out mound after mound of blackberry.  Digging up ferns & natives that had to be transplanted to make way for the paths.  We brought in load after load of cedar bark, using a wheelbarrow to get it up the hill, to use for the surface of the new trails.  Butch installed light-posts, Jentry worked for hours, hand-painting the first set of trail signs.
Creek at West Woods~
By 1999 I'd learned about the Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Program offered by the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife.  We applied for & were awarded that certification in February.
Soon after we applied for & received our designation with the National Wildlife Federation as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.
Interested in learning all I could about native plants, I discovered the Washington Native Plant Society.   I signed up for classes, then passed the requirements to become a Native Plant Steward with the Growing Wild Program
It was another two-years of work before the "Walk-in-the-Woods" party that we hosted in May of 2000 - for family & friends.
Spring 2002, we entered the 10th annual Pacific Northwest Competition for Home Gardeners.  This contest is sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Magazine through the Seattle Times, the Northwest Flower & Garden Show & along with the Arboretum Foundation.

Several judges arrived at the Homestead early, on a clear mid-July morning - to walk through the woods.  The cottage was open & supplied with bottled water, cookies & mints.  It was a very hot day, the ferns were past their mid-May prime, but it was at least ten degrees cooler under the canopy of the Cedars.  The ladies all seemed to really enjoy the little hike, making positive comments along the way.

July 31st., we were invited to the Garden Party & Awards Ceremony held at the Washington Park Arboretum.  The quality & variety of the almost 140 gardens entered was truly amazing.  Butch & I felt totally out-classed by the caliber of the entries.  After the winners had been announced, we learned of the Golden Scoop Award - given to the top-ten gardens that the judges felt deserved Honorable Mention.   Much to our surprise;  the Homestead Woods received this honor.  Below is an exert from the judging sheets as it was announced at the reception.

"Butch & Connie Hoge have a wonderful woodland garden that encompasses 2-plus acres of their property.  As gardeners, they have worked very hard to preserve the woodland portion in an environmentally conscious way.  The trails were beautifully signposted with lighting installed to light the way.  There were birdbaths, containers and statuary tucked into special areas.  These owners are passionate about preserving these woods and have created a memorable setting."