Investing in Generation Z

John Dodge is also a trustee with the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.

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Olympia Tumwater Foundation scholarship committee

A Writers Life - John Dodge

My faith in Generation Z was buoyed this week by an opportunity to help judge two South Sound college scholarship contests, one sponsored by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation and the other by Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty.

Through essays, detailed scholarship applications and interviews, I caught a glimpse of hard times and high hopes, adversity and achievement, dreams and drama playing out for a generation born from 1995 to 2012. They are 23 million strong and coming of age in a world of deadly school gun violence, disruptive climate change, soaring costs of higher education, nuclear proliferation and so much more.

Granted my sample size was just a few more than 100. But I came away convinced that, despite the challenges they face, they are ready to step boldly into adulthood. I met a wannabe astronaut, several aspiring bioengineers, future social workers and architects and design engineers. I hope some…

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Brewery History Presentation Packs out the House

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The Foundation’s latest noon talk, a history of the Olympia Brewing Company, was presented on March 15 by Foundation assistant curator Megan Ockerman to another capacity crowd at the Schmidt House.

Megan earned her Master’s degree from WSU in 2017 with her thesis on the Olympia Brewing Company history.  That was the basis for her well-received lecture that included many historic photos, several artifacts and an Olympia Beer commercial from the early 1970s that brought a big round of applause, and even elicited a few tears.  The one minute spot featured the jingle “Oly Oly O” and highlighted Olympia brewery employees from the era.

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Megan Ockerman

Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet was among those impressed by Megan’s presentation stating “Tumwater is fortunate to have people of Megan’s caliber impassioned by its history.”

The program was video recorded by TC Media and will be replayed on Tumwater’s Comcast local channel 26 and archived on the City’s YouTube link by early April.

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation, in association with the City of Tumwater, offers many talks, tours, and videos throughout the year.  For more information on these popular programs visit: or email: or call 360-786-8117.  All talks are free, but your donations are gratefully accepted to help support these community efforts.

“Elephant Hunting in Thurston County”

The new season of free monthly history talks at the historic Schmidt House kicked off with a full house on Thursday, Oct. 20 with a presentation from archaeologist Dr. Dale Croes about the earliest confirmed humans in our area at the time of the Ice Age.   Talk about history!  This was Pre-History in an illustrated talk titled “Elephant Hunting in Thurston County”.  Dr. Croes not only talked about the mastadons, sabre-toothed tigers, giant bears and other ancient animals that lived here, but also shared artifacts from the early humans that lived here.  He also shared some very interesting evidence-based theories of how those people arrived here on the land bridge from Asia and how they came inland to our area from what is today’s Grays Harbor.

The presentation concluded with a unique demonstration in the back yard of the Schmidt House grounds of a working replica of an early hunting weapon that was used with great impact by those early people.  Those who stayed for the demonstration were impressed with the power and ballistics that early weapon produced.

Our next speaker is from Washington State Parks.  On Thursday, Nov. 17, Sam Wotipka will be giving the history of both Tolmie and Millersylvania State Parks here in Thurston County.  Its first come first seated as doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the noon hour talk.  Doors close as we reach capacity, which happened with Dr. Croes’ talk.  We at the “Heritage Builders” program would love to see you here.

Don Trosper

Fall pruning the Centennial Rose Garden


Photo 1. Volunteers from the Olympia Rose Society pruning roses in the Centennial Garden at the Schmidt House in Tumwater.

One of the most frequent questions I am asked about growing roses in our area goes something like this: “When should I prune my roses and how should I do it”? The answer is, well, it depends.

It depends on what time of year it is and what you plan to achieve by pruning. So let’s talk about the time of year first. In summer, when your roses are blooming furiously week after week, it is a good practice to “prune” them often – perhaps as often as weekly. But during summer the pruning you do is actually called “deadheading”, which means simply removing the spent blossoms along with their stems. Some people claim that this stimulates the bushes to produce more flowers, while others argue that this is not true. Personally, I haven’t seen any scientific studies that address this question so I have no opinion on it. But one thing is clear – deadheading markedly improves the appearance of your rose garden.

If spent blossoms are allowed to remain on the bushes, over time they will wither and die generally dropping petals all over the place creating something of a mess. This debris can build up beneath the bushes and may harbor slugs, destructive insects and fungal disease spores. The conscientious rose gardener therefore deadheads his/her garden frequently throughout summer.

Now let’s discuss actual pruning, as opposed to deadheading. Pruning involves serious removal of many canes from the plant and you should be done two times every year; once in fall and once in spring. Fall pruning has two objectives: to get the bushes down low and out of the wind, and to protect them from winter damage. In spring we prune our roses to remove dead or damaged canes, to influence the plant’s architecture to promote upward and outward growth, and to maintain what is called ‘juvenility” of the bush. When spring arrives I will post here to describe exactly how spring pruning should be done. But now let’s turn our attention to fall pruning.

When and how do you do your fall pruning? Right now – before the risk of hard frost, low temperature and desiccating winter winds is upon us. In the Centennial Rose Garden we typically shoot for the end of October for the reasons cite above. Another reason is that the weather in late October tends to be pretty nice around here. Much more conducive to gardening than the cold, rainy, windy weather of November.


Photo 2. Fall pruning involves cutting the canes down to about a foot tall, striping the leaves from the bushes, and then mounding the bushes up with bark mulch to protect them from winter damage.

The first task in fall pruning is to cut the canes down to about a foot high. We just mow them down with pruners and loppers and get rid of them. The next chore, and it really is a chore, is to remove the remaining leaves from the bushes. This is tedious work but it accomplishes at least two objectives. First, the leaves harbor insect eggs and fungal spores – both ready to jump on your bushes when the first hints of warm spring weather arrive. Second, the bushes are far more attractive over winter after the ratty, brown leaves are gone from them. Also, you’re going to have to do it in March anyway when the weather is often horrible – so why not get this chore done now during the pleasant afternoons of autumn.

After the canes are cut down to a foot or so tall and the leaves stripped off, the final step is to mound the bushes up about 8 to 10 inches with mulch (beauty bark works well). Why? Because this mound of mulch will protect the lower canes from sub-freezing temperatures and the desiccating winds of winter. This is often not necessary during our typical mild Puget Sound winters, but should the occasional severe winter occur, mounds will save the lives of your expensive and beloved rose plants. All it takes is for three or four nights down in the teens to kill an unprotected rose bush.


Photo 3. Protected by their mounds the roses are snug and warm beneath a blanket of new snow.

But we shouldn’t feel too sorry for ourselves here. In the Northeast, Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, many rose growers actually bury their plants underground to protect them. As a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, I remember helping my dad bury his roses every fall. We would dig a trench about three feet long and two feet deep. Then we would dig up our dozen or so rose bushes and lay them in the trench. A few bushel baskets of oak leaves over top of them, finished off with a foot of garden soil did the trick.

To learn more about fall rose pruning, and to see the process up close and personal, come join us at the Centennial Rose Garden, 330 Schmidt Place, Tumwater on Saturday, November 5, from 9:00 to about noon. We’ll have a team of volunteer rose experts on site to show you how to do it and to answer your questions. Along with hot coffee and donuts. I hope you can make it.

Gary Ritchie, Chairman
Centennial Garden Foundation
Olympia Rose Society

Guided Tumwater History Walking Tours at Tumwater Falls Park: The new season has begun

Riverwalk_CardAre you ready for a historic adventure?  The Olympia Tumwater Foundation’s “Heritage Builders” program invites you to a free guided walk through history with local historian and Public History Manager, Don Trosper.  The 2016 weekly tours are offered every Thursday morning from 10:30 to 11:30 now through September 15.

You’ll begin at the Falls Park main office by the history panels overlooking the river’s upper falls and the salmon ladders.  You’ll learn about the rich and significant history of the first permanent American community north of the Columbia.  Don will talk about the founders, the early businesses using the water power of the Deschutes River, how the town grew through the decades since 1845, and the history of the Schmidt family and the Olympia Brewing Company;  all centered upon this historic and beautiful river location.

The tours last about an hour and cover roughly a half mile of trail and are limited to 30 people.  The park is at 110 Deschutes Way, located off I-5, Exit 103, Deschutes Way and “C” Street.  Reservations are not required, but for further information or to arrange a special group tour call 360-786-8117 or email  You can also check out our website and the blog to see our three minute Tumwater history videos called “Talking Over Old Times” (  Our thanks to the City of Tumwater for their assistance for these special programs.