To our family, sustainability is more than a fad, political movement, or marketing ploy. We have lived in the beautiful area of the Columbia River Gorge for decades and we hope to help maintain its natural beauty. The way we have done this is by committing to using home-grown and local products, being stewards of our land, and by looking to the future for new ways to reduce our footprint, save resources, and enhance our community.
When we started the Icehouse Café in the summer of 2015, we had two goals; provide good food at a reasonable price and use as many local ingredients as possible. For anyone that has tried this, even in your own home, this is not an easy task. We went to the farmers market every week, and changed our menu frequently to highlight what was in season. We visited local farm stands such as Riggleman Orchards, right near us off of highway 141. We purchased fruit from The Fruit Company is Hood River who sells seconds and culls during Fruit Friday each week. And we featured local cheeses from Cascadia Creamery. While we were happy with the results, especially the quality of the local items, it wasn’t always the most economical. Slowly over the summer we transitioned to making more products from scratch and growing our own products. Currently we make our own breads, hamburger buns, granola, yogurt, and butter, and we grow many of the herbs and vegetables needed for the restaurant.
In the spring of 2015 we purchased some chicks as well as some young hens. As they started laying, it allowed us to use farm fresh eggs, which was especially beneficial for our breakfasts. The chickens also serve an additional purpose of eating and recycling left over produce and restaurant scraps. This cycle allows us to cut costs and waste and makes the chickens quite happy. They roam free on the property and are taken care of by the littlest member of the family, Aaron Short.
While we don’t have room for too many more animals, we have talked about planting more gardens, setting up worm composting, and maybe even attempting to cultivate our own mushrooms (we do also have some yummy Morels that pop up on the property in the spring).
The process of growing your own food brings up other sustainability issues. Since we have kids, animals, and guests we extra cautious about how we fertilize and protect our plants. We are researching ways to organically and holistically maintain our fruit trees and have planted flowers that will attract pollinators and natural insect predators. We irrigate from our own private well, but have spent time optimizing our water schedule and system to be as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible.
The bed and breakfast presents many sustainability challenges, but we are always working to improve. We wash much of our laundry on cold in our high efficiency washer. We have started to replace many of our light bulbs with LED and utilize solar lights for our paths and gardens. We are researching ecofriendly amenity products and try to reuse or recycle as much as we can from both the café and the bed and breakfast. And we have discussed projects in the future such as installing roof-mounted solar panels.
Sustainability is an ongoing endeavor, but it is one we are proud to invest in for our guests and the future of our community and family.