Successful beekeeping for backyards in the Puget Sound area

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

Courtesy Photo.
A 21 Acres student works with bee boxes.


Courtesy Photo.
Bees work hard at 21 Acres

The Sammamish Valley blooming season inspires an explosion of honey-bee activity and with it the activity of their beekeepers. If you’re new to beekeeping and thinking about getting your own hive, this series held at 21 Acres near Woodinville will help you learn how to manage a hive before you actually own bees.  Or, if you already own colonies of honey bees, these courses can serve as a useful review.

Dates for the series:

• Feb. 23, 10 a.m. – noon

• March 23, 10 a.m. – noon

• June 29, 9:30 am - noon

• Aug. 17, 10:30 a.m. – noon and 1 – 3:30 p.m.

• Sept. 14, 10 a.m. – noon .

This twelve-hour course will teach you everything you need to know to safely start and maintain a beehive and is intended to prepare new or experienced beekeepers with specific beekeeping activities before those activities are attempted with your own hives. It includes hands-on training, including assembling hives and opening and examining colonies.

This class will cover everything you need to know to further your hobby or get your business off the ground.

Instructors are Gary Gibbons and Clare MacQueen who are officers and members of the Northwest District Beekeeping Association and possess a wealth of knowledge and skills they are glad to share to help you get started. They maintain three hives on their property and like all beekeepers, learn more about their bees all the time. Both have become Apprentice Level Master Beekeepers and are currently working on the Journeyman Level.

Individual course session descriptions:

1. Intro to Beekeeping (A) – You will become familiar with how to raise bees by learning about the construction of hives and the various hive bodies, safe hive placement, purchasing bee packages, and generally how to get your bees hives started. You’ll also learn some bee biology, too.

2. Intro to Beekeeping (B) – The second Introduction class builds on getting your hive started and introduces you to feeding bees, general maintenance, troubleshooting in the hive, diseases and treatments, and ordering your first packages of bees.

3. Hive Inspection – You will learn how to inspect new and established hives, identify healthy and unhealthy hives, and use proactive, management techniques to prevent and treat common ailments for honeybees in the Pacific Northwest. Participants will inspect 21 Acres hives to identify those that are suitable for honey production. Hives will be adjusted accordingly and preventative maintenance conducted to reduce the likelihood of swarming or disease.

4. Extracting Honey – A combined indoor and outdoor class, you will learn how to remove frames from the hives and then how to extract honey from the comb. The class wraps up with a taste and take-home of the final product—raw, natural honey.

5. Preparing Your Hives for Winter – In the last class of the series, you will learn how to prepare hives for the winter and the steps to be taken during fall and winter months to provide your colonies with the greatest chance of survival.

Most classes will involve visits to hives for hive inspection; consequently, a veil and jacket or head net is required.

The early bird fee, for all five classes in the series, is $99. After February 14, $119. A special discount is offered for families (of up to three people) for $199. Classes may be sold on an individual basis, if space allows after February 21. Interested students may enroll and register one of three ways:; phone: (425) 481-1500; or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Woodinville robotics team wins ticket to FTC® World Championship

  • Written by Laleh Hassibi

Robotics 261
Courtesy Photo. Members of Sigma take the robot into the ring for competition.
Two teams from Swerve Robotics, a Woodinville-based 4-H robotics club, grabbed the spotlight at the recent Washington State FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC) Championship by winning three highly sought-after awards.

Amid cheering fans and loud rock music, the teams, Sigma and Alpha, competed alongside 22 top-ranked robotics teams from the Puget Sound region and two dynamic teams from Oregon.

In the FTC robotics program, students design, build and program robots to compete head to head using a sports model. Teams face off during several qualification rounds to vie for the state championship, as well as for special judged awards.

This event showcased not only robot performance but also highlighted the design, engineering and creativity behind the robots through various displays and exhibits in the pit area.

In the end, Team Sigma won a chance to compete at the World Championship in St. Louis in April. One-hundred twenty-seven teams from 16 different countries will earn spots to compete at the world championships.

Sigma won second place for the Inspire Award. This formally judged award is presented to the team that best represents all aspects of the FTC program. The team is evaluated in the areas of robot performance, community outreach, engineering and Gracious Professionalism®. Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. For the award, teams are judged based on their behavior and activities in the community.

Adding another feather to their cap, Sigma also won the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award, an award that honors the team that not only thinks outside the box, but also has the ingenuity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life. This award recognizes an innovative and creative robot design solution to the game. Sigma was also a PTC Design Award finalist.

Robotics _0272
Courtesy Photo. Team Alpha makes some last minute adjustments.
Malavika Venkatesan, a Woodinville High School junior and Sigma’s team captain, said, “The team is grateful for the opportunity to represent the state of Washington at the world competition and hopeful that we’ll continue to excel.”

Sigma’s sister team, Alpha, was awarded the coveted PTC Design Award. This judged award recognizes the design elements of the robot that are both functional and aesthetic.

All successful robots have innovative design aspects, however the PTC Design Award is presented to teams that incorporate industrial design elements into their solution.

Alpha also persevered in the robot competition to place fifth overall in the qualification matches. Their screaming green fedoras, decorated with flashing LED lights, must have blinded the competition.

“The students from both teams have worked hard,” said Heidi Lovett, lead mentor and team coach.

Other team members agreed that “the whole point of this is gracious professionalism,” noting the value of the mentoring, fundraising, engineering and other skills that they are learning along the way. “It’s pretty much like running a business,” commented another student.

Swerve Robotics club is a community-based club that serves students from kindergarten through high school aged students from Woodinville, Redmond, Snohomish, Duvall and Monroe areas. Swerve participates in the Washington State University’s 4-H engineering and technology program, which is a youth development education program. Learn more about 4-H tech programs at Help the Team get to the World Championship

Swerve Robotics Club is absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to represent the state of Washington at the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, flashing fedoras and all, but they need your help. The cost to send all of the team (and their robots) to the event will be more than $35,000. Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation to Swerve Robotics can visit Please note “Swerve Robotics” in the comments box when you complete the form.

To pay by check, please write your check to  “Washington FIRST Robotics” and send to Heidi Lovett, 18606 201st Ave NE, Woodinville, WA 98077. Note “Swerve Robotics” on the memo line.

To schedule a robot demonstration at your school, business or club, contact Heidi Lovett, mentor, Swerve Robotics, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. or call (206) 679-4305.

Nathan Boyd
Eric Falcon
Tom Gorordo
Dante Chiesa
Claire Mitchell
James Mitchell
Mark Roundhill
Malavika Venkatesan
Mridula Venkatesan
Dryw Wade

Carolyn Atkinson
Katie Burkett
Sam Davids
Jarrod Ehlert
Camden Greenhaigh
Matt Mustarde
Karthik Ramesh
Robin Sherry
Webster Winters

Navigating healthy, resource- efficient choices for your home A course in Sustainable Living at 21 Acres

  • Written by 21 Acres

Bring your home into harmony with your commitment to healthy, resource efficient living.

Whether you plan to remodel or build new, a healthy, energy-efficient home is possible within a very realistic budget.

The key is to plan ahead and make thoughtful choices that will make your home both beautiful and sustainable.

“Navigating Green Choices for Your Home,” Saturday, February 9, is just one of the sustainable living classes offered at 21 Acres near Woodinville.

Instructors Terry Phelan and Sandy Campbell will show you how to make the most of the resources nature gives you, which materials are really healthy, economical and sustainable and how to integrate elements to save money in both the short and long term.

Four learning points attendees will take away from the class are:

1. How to separate green from green-wash

2.  Healthy material choices for indoor air quality

3. Simple passive solar techniques

4. A framework for assessing your family’s needs

Terry Phelan AIA, NAHB CAPS, is the owner and principal designer of Living Shelter Design Architects.

She has over 30 years experience designing homes using many different materials that are both proven and sustainable.

From hands-on straw bale workshops to conference breakout sessions on effecting change, Phelan strives to bring more sustainable living within reach to everyone. She also hosts The Eco-Logical Home, a radio talk show on sustainable homes and communities. Sandy Campbell NCIDQ, LEED AP, is the owner and principal designer of Entero Design.

She has over 20 years of interior design experience in both commercial and residential projects, with the past 16 years focused on environmentally conscious design and materials.

Campbell’s award winning design projects have been featured in a variety of publications, and she has participated as a speaker or panelist on a variety of green building topics.

“Navigating Green Choices for Your Home” is offered, Saturday, February 9, from 1 to 3 p.m.  Fee is $25. 21 Acres members receive an additional discount. Interested students may enroll and register one of three ways:; phone: (425) 481-1500; or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 21 Acres Center for Local Food and Sustainable Living is a comprehensive campus with a farm, school, commercial kitchen, market and green-built facility located at 13701 NE 171st Street, Woodinville. All the programming and services offered through 21 Acres focus on the areas of Growing, Eating and Living.

Click or call for more information: or call (425) 481-1500.

Wiggle, giggle and sing — it’s all OK at the ‘Comfy Concert’

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Courtesy Photo Last year’s Comfy Concert was highly successful with lots of laughing, singing, giggling and dancing.
Marie Juchau’s daughter Grace, 13, is autistic.

The local girl is also nonverbal and functions, according to Juchau, on the level of a 3-year-old child.

Grace loves music and over the years she attended numerous performances of her siblings, who were in the Bothell High music program.

She would go with her family, but mid-way through the program, they would usually have to leave the auditorium.

“Sometimes we would have to go as soon as it started,” explains Juchau, “because Grace would sing and make noises, which was very disruptive for the audience. It’s not that Grace was bored or unengaged in the performance; it’s just that she wanted to sing, even between numbers when there wasn’t any music.”

Juchau adds, “We could tell that she was frustrated and sad that she could not stay for the concerts. I really wanted her to have the opportunity to be able to attend musical performances and not feel as if we had to leave because of her behavior.”

Knowing that there were other families who were in the same situation, the local woman began to brainstorm a solution to this problem.

“I started talking with Sheri Erickson, the vocal instructor at Bothell High, about the possibility of having her students do a concert for these kids,” says Juchau.

“Sheri thought the idea was great, as she saw it as a good opportunity for her students to perform their solo and ensemble music — almost like a dress rehearsal session for them.”

Juchau adds, “Working together, alongside Paula Quigg, a mom of a special needs daughter and a member of Northshore’s SEPAC (Special Education Parent/Professional Advisory Council), we organized the Comfy Concert and opened it up to include all special needs individuals and families with young children.”

Last year was the first year for the event and according to Juchau, it was highly successful.

About half of the 75 people who attended were parents with very young kids; the other half was comprised of special needs children, teens and adults.

“It was truly wonderful,” comments Juchau. “There was a lot of laughing, singing and giggling among the audience members. I saw kids rocking and moving their bodies to the music and there were even some who yelled during the performance. Everyone had a great time and no one had to leave.”

Though the concert was free to the public, most attendees were happy to give a $5 suggested donation.

The money, about $100 total, went back to BHS’s scholarship program for music students.

Juchau viewed the event as a win-win, as she notes that both student performers and audience benefitted.

This year’s Comfy Concert, which is co-sponsored by SEPAC and BHS Music Department, is once again free for children and adults, with or without special needs, and their friends and families.

Approximately 50 BHS students from the school’s choirs, band and orchestra will be participating in the one-hour performance.

The music, according to Sheri Erickson, will be mostly classical.

There will also be songs set to poetry, as well as a sea shanty entitled, “The Capital Ship,” sung by a group of young men.

“The students are really looking forward to this opportunity,” she comments. “They understand that the audience may respond to their songs in a different way than their other concerts. However, they realize this is very meaningful to this audience, as well as their parents.”

She adds, “The music students have a unique opportunity to lift the spirits and bring joy to others through their music. It is very rewarding to know that our music has touched another person in a very special way. It is always beneficial when we have an opportunity to share our talents and efforts with others.”

What: The Comfy Concert
When: Thursday, Feb. 7, 7-8 p.m.
Where: Northshore Performing Arts Center on the Bothell High School campus
Suggested donation: $5 per family

Readers’ pleas motivate local author to pen sequel to beloved historical novel

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Kirby LarsonNot one to rest on her laurels, local writer Kirby Larson has been hard at work since her last book, “The Friendship Doll,” was published in May of 2011.

The prolific author (“The Fences Between Us,” “Nubs,” “Two Bobbies” and “Hattie Big Sky”) has just completed a new book, “Hattie Ever After,” the sequel to her Newbery Honor young adult novel, “Hattie Big Sky” (2006, Delacorte/Random House).

Larson never envisioned she’d do a sequel to the engaging, historical novel. It was the last thing she envisioned at the time.

“When I wrote the last words of ‘Hattie Big Sky,’ I felt I’d finished Hattie’s story,” says Larson. “However, hundreds and hundreds of readers disagreed with me and let me know in uncertain terms! In the end, I couldn’t ignore those pleas.”

She adds, “As for the passage of time: that’s how long it took me to find a new, fresh story for Hattie.”

When she decided to move forward on the project, Larson thought she had it all figured out. Inspired by Joanne Wilke’s book, “Eight Women and Two Model Ts and the American West,” she was certain Hattie was going to take a road trip from Great Falls, Montana, (where she had last left Hattie) to Seattle.

“Little did I know,” comments Larson, “that Hattie’s heart’s desire was to be a writer and that fulfilling that dream would mean getting to San Francisco. So, I had to find a way to get her there, which turned out to involve her becoming a seamstress for a vaudeville troupe. And I had to help her get a job when she got there  –  at the San Francisco Chronicle; first as a cleaning lady, then as a reporter.” It took Larson several years to complete the sequel, as it involved countless hours of research.

Kirby Larson 2She confesses that writing the book was one of the hardest things she’s ever done.

She says, “I wanted to do something fresh and I didn’t want to disappoint readers. Those were huge pressures to operate under. At one point, I remember going into my husband’s office, plunking myself down on his lap and saying, amidst the sobs, that I’d have to give the advance back; that I couldn’t write the book. He told me to call my good friend, Mary Nethery, and she gave me a much needed kick in the keister!”

In “Hattie Ever After,” Larson explains that Hattie, the 17-year-old orphan, sets out to find the secret to her scoundrel uncle’s past and, thanks to a vaudeville troupe, a love token, a snake ball and her own stubbornness, she finds the secret to her own future. The story introduces a host of new characters, along with a few old favorites that make appearances via letters.

According to Larson, the book has already received a starred advance review. Her only expectation for the novel is that “it finds the readers it’s meant to find.”

If it’s anything like “Hattie Big Sky,” the Kenmore woman will have no problem meeting these expectations.

Readers adored the first book, which won numerous awards and accolades, and it won fans from Bellevue to Beirut and thousands of places in between.

Larson continues to keep at her craft, with no rest in sight.

She has two new books coming out from Scholastic. The first is “Duke,” due out in September 2013.

Set in World War II, it tells the story of a young boy who donates his beloved German shepherd to the Dogs for Defense program.

A companion book, tentatively titled “Love, Mitsi,” regales the tale of a young Japanese American girl who must leave her dog behind with a neighbor when her family is sent to Minidoka War Relocation Camp.

She also has a series of picture books in the works, but notes that it’s too soon to discuss them.

As for Hattie, Larson emphatically says, “The Hattie saga is done! I’ve learned something important about myself as a writer: I’m not cut out to write series!”