A slice of local life: Apple Valley artist creates homemade perfection

The sweet aroma of delicious dark purple berries bubbling on the stove. Vibrant patterned fabric aprons and purses hanging gaily from antique wooden racks. Delectable pies of every variety calling out, tempting, from inviting display cases.

Enter the world of expert baker, seamstress and jam-maker Marcia Spooner, manager and one of the creative geniuses behind the cherished homemade eatables and handcrafts at Apple Valley Country Store.

“This is my eighth season,” said Spooner, bedecked in a jaunty apron of her own design. “Everything here is done by hand ... jams, pies, the Rag-a-Muffin aprons.”

The personal pride Spooner takes in stocking the shelves of the historic 100-year-old store, is evident everywhere. Neat rows of pie filling, applesauce and jarred jams stand out among the ceiling-high wood shelves and creaking floorboards.

The fabric art, created by Spooner and her daughter Ann, bring bright splashes of color to the earthy, warm interior.

And then there are the pies: Marionberry, apple crumb, rhubarb, bumbleberry ...

Bumbleberry? Yes, bumbleberry.

“It’s a great recipe that combines huckleberry, Marionberry and blueberry. We tried a few combinations and this one is the absolute best,” said Spooner, who has a degree in nutrition. “We don’t use preservatives in anything and keep the sugar down.” It is apparently a winning combination and has become the store’s biggest seller.

In addition to developing just the right combination of fruits, Spooner and store owners Bob and Justin White source almost all their fresh fruit locally.

“We don’t use anything but Hood River apples,” said Spooner. “When we run out of apple pie made from local apples, we are out of apple pie.”

What goes into the pie filling isn’t the only important taste goal for Spooner. “I hand mix and hand roll my pie crust. I’ve tweaked the crust recipe. It browns up really nicely now.”

Spooner, who spends anywhere from three days a week to six during high season, resides in Glenwood, Wash., but loves to make the scenic drive into work. After moving to the Gorge after living in San Diego and Texas, the commute doesn’t seem bad at all.

It’s a good thing Spooner doesn’t mind the drive because in addition to keeping the shelves stocked with freshly made jams and other canned fruit, she produces more than 3,500 pies a year.

Though the production is significant for such a small operation and staff (about six full-time people during high season), new ideas and products are always turning up in Spooner’s mind.

“We are doing gluten-free pies this year,” she said with a smile.

While Spooner may now spend more time behind the scenes in the kitchen, she can still be found behind the front counter occasionally.

Hours for the store located at 2363 Tucker Road, on the southeast end of Tucker Bridge on the Hood River, are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bring your appetite.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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