My friend Tara keeps a 30-something turtle named Norton under her bed.

He seems happy there, and once in a great while he'll make his slo-o-o-o-o-o-w way out to request a snack. Then back he goes again.

Another friend, Annie, is expanding her menagerie as fast as her rabbits can breed. And that's not to mention the dog, cats, ponies and chickens.

I've limited my personal zoo to one dog, one cat, one horse and one husband, but as you can see, I like animal people. So I'm pretty sure I'd get on like a house afire with the organizers of the seventh annual Backyard Wildlife Festival in Tukwila, Wash., this year sporting the theme "Gardening for Global Warming."

The May 12 event aims to "inspire people to welcome wildlife into their backyards, gardens and communities."

That inspiration comes in the form of an arts and crafts marketplace, native plant sales, the Procession of the Species Costume Parade, the Certified Backyard Habitat Garden Tour and the Guided Bird Tour along the Duwamish River with Carol Shultz of the Rainier Audubon Society.

Bird Talk, an indie rock band, will set the occasion to music – while they paint bird scenes. I really don't know what to say about that as a creative choice.

The festival coincides with International Migratory Bird Day, which commemorates the return of millions of birds to their breeding grounds in North America.

(Did they organize all that via inter-species conference call? Otherwise, how would the humans have the birds' itinerary? In any event, I hope our feathered friends are more reliable than any of the various commercial airlines that regularly disappoint and infuriate the traveling public.)

The festival doesn't limit itself to birds, however. When they say backyard wildlife, they're talking about butterflies, bees, bats, squirrels and other critters, too.

Most of the events run between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Kids get an Adventure Passport they can use to collect visas by answering trivia questions. They'll learn stewardship skills in the REI Pavilion, and educational workshops in the NW Trek Kids Zone will use hands-on activities to explore wildlife and nature.

Expert workshops like "Gardener's Guide to Global Warming" and "Living with Wildlife" give adults something to think about, and at 3 you can set out for the tour of gardens certified as backyard wildlife habitats by the National Wildlife Federation.

It seems that Tukwila backyards have a lot to offer animal lovers. It was only the fourth city in the country to earn NWF certification as an official Community Wildlife Habitat.

For more information, including a special hotel rate for festival visitors, check out the festival's Facebook page at or call (206) 768-2822.



I'm not sure when cooking became a full-contact, "iron" sport. And now in an unfortunate extension of the trend, the wine world is getting in on the act.

I might pay good money to watch sommeliers throw down in a back alley, but this is of course a more civilized affair.

Portland's first "Dueling Sommelier Dinner Series" gets under way on April 13 and carries on over four more meals before arriving at the championship in the fall. Competitors hail from Andina Restaurant, ten 101, Bluehour and The Heathman Restaurant and Bar.

Round one of the competition features a four-course menu prepared by Philippe Boulot, chef at the Heathman: cauliflower vichyssoise with sea urchin roe, sweetbreads retour du Japan, Kobe a la Ficelle with sorrel mousseline and pot au feu vegetables, and Szechuan chocolate pots au crème.

Each course comes with four different wine selections, courtesy of the combatants.

If you're one of the lucky diners, you vote on the best pairings – and once the series winds its cutthroat way through subsequent meals, only two sommeliers will be left standing to duke it out at October's Grand Finale Dinner.

The April feast will set you back $125. To make your reservation, call (503) 690-7752. There's additional information at

Regional events


•Spring Plant Sale, April 21, Boise. The Idaho Botanical Gardens will offer up the latest in African daisies, zinnias, dahlias, blanket flowers, clematis, coleus and geraniums. You'll also find herb bowls with recipes, an expanded native and drought-resistant plant area, lots of tomatoes and more. (www.idahobotanicalgarden. org/208-343-8649)

•Celebrating the Earth, April 22, Anchorage. Learn about soil and the life hidden therein, then set out on a half-mile walk to explore the forest floor. ( 907-694-2108)

•Eureka Rendezvous Days, April 27-29, Eureka, Mont. According to its ambitious organizers, this spring festival includes "mountain man events," a parade, the Historical Village, craft and food vendors, a quilt show, flea market, "Mud Bog," museum exhibits, kids' games and more still. ( 406-889-4636)