’round the Bend

Roxy Marck, GRI

Roxy Marck, GRI


’round the Bend

  Twin Lakes Loop

       by Roxy Marck

Are you ready for a squishy, adventurous hike? Today I take you   along a trail desperately in need of a sugar daddy, the Twin Lakes loop.

Sunrise at Mountain Lake

This hike begins at the Mountain Lake boat launch. We travel north, clockwise around that lake. A level trail gives us a nice and easy warm-up before we make the short climb up to Twin Lakes. At the northern end, after hiking down a moderate incline and crossing a small wood bridge we see the sign directing us left up the hill.

This shady, sometimes gloomy part of the park is a mushroom hunter’s paradise. During the season a wide variety of fungi festoon the edge of the trail, the logs and the trees. I cannot (under penalty of getting no more) tell you where the edibles grow so please take only photos.


The trail follows a small stream lined with tall cedar trees until, about half way up the hill, the cedars give way to alders. This time of year all have shed their leaves leaving a light, open area. Tall marsh grass hide the pools and ponds hosting the source of that skunk-like odor, the marginally edible skunk-cabbage. Exiting this microenvironment the trail will become a little more steep as we pass through a forest of fir, cedar and hemlock before reaching “the twins” and the intersection of several trails.

At this intersection we have several options. We could turn left to climb up to the top of Mount Constitution, an aerobic climb of about 1289 feet. Or we could turn right following the sign to Mount Pickett for a 740 foot climb. Or we can travel a figure-eight around the lakes. Or we could go jump in a lake.

Today we’ll do the figure-eight. A coin toss sends us counter-clockwise around the big twin. Head to the right as if going to Mount Pickett. Cross the small bridge and continue a short distance to reach the turn-off to Mount Pickett.

Big Twin

Big Twin

Here’s where things start to get a little tricky. First we need to traverse the small gully directly in front of us. The original trail around the big twin is visible on the left as is the lake. If you follow this trail you’ll quickly find yourself facing a hole the size of a small foreign car. Look carefully to see a small, barely visible trace climbing up the knoll almost directly ahead. This detour becomes a little hard to follow just before it meets up with the main trail.

Once back onto the main trail we travel only a few dozen yards DSC_0028before coming to a fallen tree so massive Paul Bunyan would have found it a challenge. A shout out THANK YOU to the volunteers who managed to cut-out a small section so that skinny or small people can get through. Everyone else will have to turn sideways, suck in the gut and push a little.

At this point the trail becomes more difficult to follow. It climbs a steep set of “stairs” and travels along the mossy face of the rocky outcrop  before hitting the first of several water obstacles. Run-off streams pose a small challenge unless, like me, you hike the trail after a serious rain. Crossing successful! New boots waterproof! Onward!

One of many small streams

One of many small streams

Around the back side of the big twin you may notice tall white stakes marking the boundary of the park. The trail actually exits the park and travels through a day camp for Camp Orkila at this point. It’s my guess that the tread of small feet are the reason why this portion of the trail becomes more well-defined although that big fallen cedar across the trail does pose a bit of challenge.

Having completed our journey around the big twin we find ourselves in familiar territory, the cross trail to the top of the mountain. It is tempting to skip the little twin and head back down the hill but a stubborn desire to do an eight and not a zero sends us left over the bridge toward the Mount Pickett trail. This time we veer right after the up and down of the gully to follow the trail clockwise around the little twin.

Evil Twin

Evil Twin

The beginning of this trail is gorgeous with a peaceful view of the lake and a nice big log inviting you for a short sit-down. Deceiver!  The little twin is the evil twin! Just so you know.

About a third of the way around little twin you hit the first of several bridges which appear to be older than light. Uneven, slippery and with gapping holes they invite a twisted ankle or short step into chilly water. Then you hit the squishy part of the trail.

Twin Lakes reside in a marshy saddle between Mount Constitution and Mount Pickett. I made this hike after a period of heavy rain and quickly wished I brought my scuba gear because the trail was under water. A little “off-roading”, a deer skeleton or two and a balancing act along a log or three takes us the final distance around the little twin to the gully and cross-trail.

Orcas Island Message Board

Orcas Island Message Board

Turn left for a third trip over the wooden bridge and left again to head down the hill to Mountain Lake. When you reach the lake check your time. If you have an hour turn left to hike the east side of the lake. You’ll have a teeny, tiny 250 foot elevation gain up a series of switchbacks before you reach the “message board”. There you can check the most recent post and make a new one.

A right turn when you reach Mountain Lake will take you back to the boat launch. Either way the trail will become level near the end so that you’ll have a nice “cool down” walk as you head back to your car. Now that we are back safe and sound would someone please adopt this poor relation, the Twin Lakes loop, and give it some luv! Or if you are ready to adopt Orcas as home, call us at T Willliams Realty. We’ll help you find a lake to call your own.

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On Raising Island Children

IMG_1383IMG_3330_bwBy Marlis K. Sandwith

Last week, our family traveled to my high school sophomore son’s debate tournament in Tacoma from our home on Orcas Island.  As I am packing, my seven-year-old says with gusto, “ I just love going down to the States!”  And as we are driving down Interstate 5, my four-year-old says “I’ve never seen this island before!”  Such are the lives of island children, for whom going “off-island” is a special treat, a visit to a place of Untold Wonders, and sometimes quite an endeavor, depending on how many errands we are trying to schedule along with the main event of our trip.

For most, raising an island teen (or even pre-teen) means a LOT of off-IMG_0590island trips, as they travel about half the time for sports and activities, often making for a whole-day affair, leaving on the “red-eye” and returning on the “late ferry.” For us, it has become such a part of our lives, I forget it is not a reality for most parents in our country, much less the world. Though there are times I wish I could click my heels together three times and arrive home instantaneously, I have come to enjoy these trips very much. There is much camaraderie (and often food) shared amongst both parents and kids, and the ferry is a place of coming together after wins and losses alike.  

But ferry travel is only one part of an island childhood. The biggest part, and the reason my family lives here, is this archipelago of islands itself—the San Juans, and its inhabitants. They provide such unique simplicity and richness at the same time. Here is a list of just some of what it means to have grown up an Island Kid:

  • Beaches, beaches, beaches. They outnumber parks, and a driftwood playground will entertain for hours upon hours.


    Low tide in Eastsound reveals a bridge, called a “tombolo” on which to walk to Indian Island.

  • Nature is King for island kids. But in a county where gravel driveways outnumber paved ones, a patch of cement can be a valuable commodity for bike riding, skateboarding and ball play. 
  • Boating is part of daily life for some. For those who live on outer, non-ferry-served islands, they are more important than cars.
  • Finding (and making up) fun things to do in a place with less structured activity centers.
  • On Orcas, the [newly revived and fabulous] movie theater usually plays one movie at a time, and only on weekends, so it is a special event indeed.
  • Life is very seasonal. Shops and restaurants adjust their hours to the season, many of them even closing for a few months in the winter. Farmers Markets are the hub of much social life and events.
  • Healthy (and delicious) school lunch programs are the norm in the San Juan Islands, with many schools relying on local farms and even school-run gardens for a large portion of their produce and meats.


    Moran State Park lives in the heart of every child who grows up on Orcas Island.

  • The number of kids who learn to drive early is surprising to some. Many learn from helping on their own or local farms, especially those who help with haying season, driving the hay trucks.
  • Island childhood is definitely an experience of being watched after and known (sometimes to the chagrin of the kids). Just about everywhere they go, there is someone who knows them.
  • Celebrations around bonfires, even in fall and winter, are common and enjoyed by many.
  • Pond life. Lake Days. Hot summer days mean finding and knowing the best swimming holes.


    Camp Orkila generously provides programming beyond their summer camp season to the local community and school children.

  • Summer jobs often come earlier for island kids than mainland kids, and since they are not competing with a huge college student population, they have a lot less competition in hiring.
  • The islands are full of some of the most interesting people you’ll meet, often well-traveled, highly experienced in their careers, artistic—many of whom give countless hours of their time and expertise to all sorts of programming and education for island kids.
  • All sorts of animals—whales, porpoise, fish, herons, seals, sea lions, bald eagles, otters, rabbits, a very wide range of farm animals (island kids are avid 4-H’ers), deer, deer and more deer—these are only a mere fraction of the animals island kids encounter in their daily lives.
  • Darvill’s Bookstore. The children’s section has the best view in town. Period.

    The view from Darvill’s children’s section.

    These are only a few aspects of a childhood in the San Juan Islands. I was lucky enough to spend the second half of my childhood on San Juan Island. Now I am lucky enough to raise my own three children on Orcas Island. If you are curious about relocating your family to the San Juan Islands, I would love to talk with you. My “other” career was in education, so I love to talk schools as well. We have so many great ones from which to choose, including several one-room schoolhouses (maybe my next blog post?).

    Give me a call anytime at (360) 298-1375, or email: marlis@twilliamsrealty.com

    Happy holidays and best wishes for the coming year!


Filed under Community, Family Life, Nature

Fall and Winter on Orcas – What’s to love about it?

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerBy Sandi Friel

Now that I’ve recovered from my brief mourning over the end of summer, I’ve fully embraced the change in seasons. Just like the moss and licorice ferns burst back into life at the first rains, I find the slower pace renews me and allows me to grow inwardly.

Sandi Friel's moss terrarium

One of my mini moss creations

This is a great time of year for inside projects and creativity, and one of my hobbies is creating moss terrariums. It combines my love of miniatures, moss and designing with CTnature. And it lets me experience a little bit of the outdoors, inside?

There are plenty of other reasons to love this time of year, too. Here’s a list of a 10 that come to mind:

  1. The departure of tourists and part-timers creates a strong camaraderie among year-round islanders. It’s like being a part of an exclusive club and gives a comforting “we’re all in this together” feeling.
  2. Yes the days are shorter, but the nights are longer. If you’re an avid reader and/or Netflix movie hound, this is the time of year you can indulge yourself without guilt.
  3. I’m loath to leave the island when the weather is picture-perfect, but December gives me a great reason to visit mom in Florida.
  4. Soups, stews and other comfort food. I’m trying a new recipe each week.
  5. Planning and prioritizing for next year helps me gain clarity and focus.
  6. Flannel sheets.
  7. Cozy fires in the fireplace.
  8. Hot apple cider, dusted with nutmeg and stirred with a cinnamon stick.
  9. Reconnecting with people who’ve been on your mind.
  10. The glow of indoor colored lights strung around a gray window scene.

What we experience on Orcas in the quiet season is much like the Danish concept of hygge: a sense of comfort, camaraderie, warmth, coziness, well-being and connectedness. It’s nesting at its best, and one of the simple pleasures of living on a small island.

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty – we’ll help you find your way home.

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So Very Thankful

Teri Williams, T WIlliams RealtyBy Teri Williams

I started to write about how thankful I am for my island community, Orcas farmers, my work, friendships old and new, family, the summer of 2014, grandchildren, my cat’s unconditional love and my health.

But, that is not what I am going to share with you.

Through this exercise, I realized I would not have my life without my husband’s never-ending support. He came home from work to young step sons and sat at the dinner table and passed out love and shared his strengths, resulting in grown loving sons who look up to him and pass along to their children what they learned from this man.

Teri Williams and jay Fowler

Just yesterday, Jay was in the office helping us put a new coat of paint on the walls. This man does not quit!

I wake up each morning to coffee, the garbage taken out and a little note telling me how he will think of me and can’t wait to come home, even though he may take the brunt of the day from me when he returns. The support from this man I have never known anywhere else in my life and I would not have all the things in my life I am grateful for without it.

Thank you, Jay Fowler, for everything, and cheers to another Thanksgiving together!

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and I hope you are able to get together with loved ones and friends on this day of thanks. Why not warm your hearts with the warmth of home cooking, and gather around a pot of hot soup — I offer one of my favorites: Cheddar-Ale Soup.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Cheddar-Ale Soup

4 thick cut Coffelt Farm bacon slices, cut into narrow strips
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup flour
1 cup pale ale
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups each, whole milk and vegetable broth
1-¼ lb. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt to taste

In a 4-5 quart soup pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towel, save for garnish. Reduce heat to medium; add olive oil and butter, melt. Add onion, carrot and celery; cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Add flour; cook, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes. Add ale; cook stirring constantly 2-3 minutes. Add Worcestershire, milk and broth; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Puree in food processor until smooth. Set over low-medium heat. Add cheese gradually, stirring constantly. Do not boil, watch for scorching. Season with salt to taste. Top with bacon.

Serve with toasted baguette slices. Can be made ahead of time. Re-heat slowly, using a whip to smooth out lumps.


Filed under Community, Recipes

My Happy Place

Beth Holmes, T. Williams Realty

Photo by John Curry

Do you like beer? Yeah, me too. That’s why after a day at the office or after a glorious, weekend hike on one of Orcas Island’s many trails, I like to grab mug #097 off the shelf and belly up to the counter at the Island Hoppin’ Brewery taproom. Talk about a place where everybody knows your name; 33 Hope Lane is the place, indeed. The staff is super friendly; always warm and inviting. And guess what? They’re open year round, everyday!

Orcas Island

Hand thrown mugs made on Orcas.

Stop by Tuesday nights for Ping-Pong tournaments or Thursday nights for Mug Club drawing and a chance to win some cold, hard cash! No time to sit down and enjoy a beer? No problem, just grab a growler to go. Easy as pie! The tasting room is kid-friendly, so you can enjoy one of several amazing brews while you play Jenga with your Izze-guzzling, pretzel and peanut devouring rug rat. Right here on Orcas Island, ahhh the luxury.

Look, there's the little, orange car!

Look, there’s the little, orange car!

If you see a bright orange car parked outside, and chances are you will—that’s me! So c’mon in and enjoy Nate, Becca and Jim’s Elwha Rock I.P.A. or one of their other delicious beers with me. Reason #129.5 to love living on beautiful Orcas Island!

Here are another 18 reasons to love living on beautiful Orcas Island. From time to time, each of these local establishments offers Island Hoppin’ Brewery’s beer on tap.

BarnacleDeer Harbor InnDoe Bay CaféLower TavernMadrona Bar and Grill, Mijita’sNew Leaf CaféOrcas HotelRosario, Roses, Inn at Ship BayWestsound CaféWest Beach ResortPortofino’sRandom HowseWhite Horse Pub and The Island Skillet

Brewmaster Nate creating the goodness.

Brewmaster Nate creating the goodness.

Beer selection currently on tap is listed on the board. I'll take a #1, thanks!

Beer selection currently on tap is listed on the board. I’ll take a #1, thanks!

If after visiting Island Hoppin’ Brewery you have found beer bliss and like me, you simply cannot go another minute without living nearby, give us a call at T. Williams Realty and we’ll get you squared away!


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’round the Bend

Roxy Marck, GRI

Hello World!

Teri Williams asked if I’d be interested in posting on her blog as a guest writer. My first thoughts were, “WOW! Me?”.  After which I promptly exclaimed, “Holy unwritten blogs, Batman! What am I going to write about?”

Teri tells of her sailing adventures or posts delicious sounding recipes with photos that make you hungry. Sandi posts entertaining stories about the loves of her island life. Marlis, Beth and Mandy have the social scene down especially when it comes to children’s activities. What’s left?

A Path Well Traveled

Hiking of course! Whether you are a hardy hiker or a Sunday stroller, Orcas Island has a hike for you. All hikes feature a lush, green forest with moss covered logs or rocks inviting you for a sit-down amid quiet serenity. Many offer phenomenal  sweeping views of the islands or roaring waterfalls or reflective lakes. Loads to write about, yes?

For my first post I’d like to take you around Mountain Lake in Moran State Park. This popular hike is an easy 3.9 miles which may take anywhere from one to three hours depending upon your speed and the number of photos you stop to take.

The Mountain Lake loop is what I like to call a “no-brainer” hike in that the trail is wide, well-marked and doesn’t have too many places which test your athleticism. There is decent parking at either trailhead. And, most importantly, there are “potties” near both trailheads!

You have a choice about the intensity of this hike when you start. If you start at the north trailhead toward Twin Lakes the route presents a few switchbacks with a fairly steep incline. If you start at the south trailhead toward the dam the route achieves the elevation gain along a long gentle incline.IMG_0824

Today I’m a wimp so let’s head south or counter-clockwise around the lake. Before we start let us take a moment to drink in the view from the parking lot. This view varies not only from day to day but hour to hour. Some mornings the fog shrouds the opposite shore giving you an eerie feeling as sounds are muted and the air feels heavy. Sometimes the sun shines on rippling water sending out flashes of silver. And some days the lake is so clear you can see the trout undulating in the shadows. What this means is, if you don’t like the view now, come back later as it is guaranteed to change.

The trail starts with a “little bit up”, levels out and then gives you a “a lot up” for a good warm-up to get you started on your hike. About the time you “warm-up” you’ll reach the dam. I like the photo ops from the dam area. It is usually a good place to catch the mirror effect from the lake and, depending on the season, there may be a waterfall photo op where the water spills over the dam.

BRRR! Heron on a Log

When you round the bend to the east side of the lake you’ll pass a small cove with a number of fallen trees. Herons perch on these logs giving you another great photo op. Herons on the island are a little shy so you’ll need to be quiet and careful not to disturb them before you are ready to snap the photo.

After a long climb up a gentle incline, you reach the highest elevation gain of this hike. A gigantic moss-covered fallen tree crosses the trail overhead. No worries, it’s been there for ages so it is doubtful that it will chose to fall on you when you are under it. Even so, I don’t dawdle at this point. Just past this tree you’ll find an antique message board in the form of a log with twigs spelling out a message. My informal study finds that about 95% of the “posts” have the word “love” in them. How creative can your “post” be using a few twigs? Give it a whirl before heading down the switchbacks!

Bald Eagle Hunting for Fish

At the north-end you might find that heron you missed back at the dam. When you round the bend to the westside of the lake you will finally pass all the trees sticking out of the lake and another small cove with logs. If you don’t find one perched on a log at this point you have most likely passed any heron photo op. So sorry. Come back tomorrow. But do keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers, bald eagles and osprey. They love to fish for trout in the lake.

The trail along the westside twists through fir, hemlock and cedar. A tree came down in the winter storm of 2013 taking out a small portion of the trail. Energetic youths from the mainland cleared the tree and rebuilt the trail but it is still a bit rough for a short distance so I suggest you tread carefully. After that it is a fairly easy stroll to the north trailhead and boat launch.

There is almost always a photo op at the boat launch. Some misty mornings you can shoot the island as it rises through the mist. Other times the lake is so calm and the reflection of the opposite shore so clear it is difficult to find where the land ends and the lake begins.



Island in the Mist








Finally, the “cool down” walk along the road back to the parking lot near the old ranger cabin. You are almost finished when you pass the huge, scarred, old grandmother cedar tree at the edge of the road. Oh, go ahead, give her a hug! Build a fire at the shelter and have a nice lunch. But come back tomorrow for a hike in the opposite direction. It’s completely different hike with a whole new view! Or, if you are sold on the island, stop by T Williams Realty and we’ll help you to find you your very own piece of the rock.


Filed under Adventure

The Great Potato Dig!


Orcas Island School District is home to one fantastic school garden. You’ll find it right there next to the great maple tree in front of the big brick building that houses Orcas Island Elementary School.

The garden is maintained by the Elementary Children during a weekly class called Farm to Classroom. I have been teaching this class since its inception almost six years ago. It is a labor of love and a time of great discovery by all.


Miss Mandy sharing a watermelon grown in the school garden with some eager students!

One of my favorite activities in the garden is the yearly “great potato dig” with the Kindergarteners. It is early October in the school garden and the potato patch is ready for picking! Enter 35 Kindergarten Students. First a quick lesson on potatoes. You wouldn’t believe how many 5 year olds don’t know that potatoes grow under the ground. You can imagine the delight on their faces once they realize that they get to dig for the buried treasure.


Farm to Classroom students digging for potatoes!

The digging commences and soil starts flying from the children who dig with wild abandon. Some of the kids decide it is much tidier to pull the plant and pick the potatoes off the roots. Everyone is actively engaged.


Beautiful red potatoes and the excitement of pulling out the entire plant with potatoes still attached at the roots!

Oh, the squeals of delight as they find their first potato! And then the variety of colors and potato shapes cause more shrieks of delight and several shouts of “Show me, show me!”


Just look at our variety of potatoes. Red, purple, blue, yellow, and we even grew a heart shaped potato!

The potato patch was plentiful this year. We started a new patch in a well-seasoned compost pile. Added to that was a delivery of soil from San Juan Sanitation to establish a nice deep area of loose soil. We planted organic potato seeds of several varieties. What a fabulous combination. We will use these potatoes for cooking projects in the classroom this winter.


“This one looks like a person!”

The children have put the garden “to bed” for the winter. The potato patch was gently tucked in with a cover crop of fava beans that will certainly provide another exciting opportunity for discovery next spring!


Third and Fourth grade students prepare the potato patch for the fava bean cover crop planting.


Filed under Gardening, Nature

oh…… what to do with those luscious, juicy, colorful tasty tomatoes.

Here are 4 easy recipes to preserve your summer harvest.Toms

No Cook Sunshine Tomato Sauce- Clean Eating September 2014-Give several summer ripe tomatoes a light rinse. Chop

Easy Sunshine Tomatoes Sauce

Easy Sunshine Tomatoes Sauce

coarsely and dump into a large jar. Mash a few garlic cloves (I like a lot of garlic) add to jar. Add 1 cup of olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. If you don’t have vinegar, use lemon or lime juice. The better the quality, the better the flavor on both oil and vinegar. Add sea salt and ground pepper to taste. If you have fresh basil, oregano, rosemary or thyme, tie up in bunch and toss in too. Put the lid on; shake the jar to mix contents, set in the sun or hot sunny window. Let sit to soak up the heat of the sun for 4 hours (can do longer time, do not recommend shorter time). Pull herbs out. Serve with crusty bread or use as a light raw sauce for pasta. I blended my jar contents and warmed in a cast iron skillet, spoon over ravioli, top with shaved parmesan cheese. You can freeze or keep in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Homemade Tomato Paste- Maple Rock’s Farmer John-Take your split and over ripe toms and cook them down in a pot to the point that you can macerate them with a potato masher or even a stick blender if you have one.  After mashing them, run them through a food mill to remove the skin and seeds (I skipped this step). At this point you have a watered down sauce (sometimes I’ll drain off some of that liquid prior to mashing). Transfer the sauce in the pot onto the biggest sheet pans (I used cake pans) that will fit in your oven and cook it down for one hour at 350 then take it down to 250 for another two- three hours.  Stir occasionally and add some nice olive oil and salt to taste.  We like to make as big of a batch of this as we can and freeze it in pint jars not quite filled to the top.  Keep one in the fridge all the time to add to just about anything you can think of.

Salsa- Years of Adding and Subtracting in Teri’s Kitchen and Ball Blue Book

Add chips and tequila!!!!

Add chips and tequila!!!!

10 cups chopped tomatoes (I include skin and seeds, can remove if desired) about 6 lbs.

5 cups chopped green bell pepper, seeded. About 2 lbs.

5 cups chopped onion (you choose type, I use Walla Walla) about 2 lbs.

2.5 cups chopped, seeded hot peppers. (I usually use a variety based on what my farmer is growing. Include some seeds for more heat). For deeper flavor, roast peppers first, then remove skins. About 1-2 lbs. Be sure to wear gloves

2 garlic heads. (can vary dependent on your taste, however, too little is not good).

1 tblsp hot sauce

2 tblsp dried red pepper

1-2 tblsp crushed cumin

1 ¼ cup cider vinegar

Salt to taste

Big hand full of chopped cilantro

Chopped and combine all ingredients (EXCEPT CILANTRO). Place in large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cilantro. Ladle hot salsa in prepared jars, leaving ½” headroom. Cover with seal/screw top. Process 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Dried Tomatoes- Easy-This is great use of blemished or split tomatoes. I usually use this method after I have done all of the

Better than sun dried tomatoes and can done any time of the year!

Can be done any time of the year!

above and am tired or ran out of jar space in the pantry. Clean tomatoes, cut stem and blemish/bad areas away. Slice the tomatoes about 1/8” thick. This is a guideline. Too thin, they come out crispy, too thick, they come out chewing and are more likely to mold in the jar. Coat the trays with a non stick spray or rub with olive oil to keep slices from sticking to the tray. Place slices on tray, leaving room around the slices so they have air circulation around all sides. Set dryer on 135 degrees for 5 hours. The timing can vary, checking every two hours until dried to your preference (close to potato chip crisp). Turn off the dryer and let tomatoes cool completely. Store in an airtight jar. Great to eat as is, or add to quiche, soups or sauces for a strong tomato flavor that will delight your taste buds.

Enjoy preserving, eating, sharing and pairing all of the above- teri

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We {heart} Orcas Island Rowing.

Luke Practice group MT

Photo courtesy of Martin Taylor, Edna Gallery.

IMG_3330_bwby Marlis K. Sandwith

One of the things I love about living on Orcas Island is the creativity and resourcefulness of Island People. While Orcas is a relatively small island, with a small town (and a few small hamlets) and a small population, we often bring Big Things to fruition. It all begins when someone has an idea, or feels something’s missing, and before long, someone is gathering all the people they know, with whatever means they have available, and they are making it happen. Orcas has a long history of just this sort of thing. Truly grass-roots.

I look around and see many examples of this–the new food co-op, the saving and reinvention of the Sea View Theatre, the first annual Orcas Island Film Festival beginning tonight (!!!), farm stands, the weekly art market, the Exchange, the brewery, music festivals, yoga workshops, singing workshops, writer’s workshops, art openings, the Farm-to-Cafeteria program, Camp Orkila, Funhouse Commons, the upcoming TEDx Orcas Island, and on and on…all the way down to the little gatherings of people in houses, gardens, and studios, making great things happen here every day for our community.

One such “start-up” is near and dear to my heart, and to several people in our office: Orcas Island Rowing Association. It’s one of Orcas Island’s best kept secrets. Thousands of people come to Orcas Island each year to enjoy one of our greatest treasures–Moran State Park.  Among it’s riches: Mount Constitution, hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, boating, and swimming. But we also have a rowing club, whose boathouse enjoys a stunning location on the way to South End Camp.

“Orcas has a rowing club???” many of my off-island and other-island friends often ask me, when they find out my high school son is a member. Yep. And it’s all volunteer. My son finished his third season last spring. On the way to a regatta in Canada, I asked Coaches Dave Roseberry and Martin Taylor how it all began. As Dave told me, “It all began in a rowboat…” And it did. While hearing it directly from them is much more entertaining (and I highly recommend a conversation with them if you ever get the chance), here is their history from the O.I.R.A. web site in a nutshell:

“It was founded in 1996 by Mike Reid and Dave Roseberry. They boot-strapped their own rowing careers and the club. Those two guys are still  the backbone of the club as they have always been. The club built a beautiful boathouse on the shore of Cascade Lake in Moran State Park using all volunteer labor and expertise. The club and the local park service have an excellent relationship and frequently work together on projects to enhance life in the park.

OIRA now has a dedicated set of volunteer coaches, led by head coach Tina Brown” (ahem…Olympian Rower Tina Brown, who is also the long-time accountant for T Williams Realty and Permit Resources). Martin Taylor heads up fall season, and co-coaches spring.

tina and mel MZ

Coach Tina Brown and her Crew. Photo courtesy of Marty Zier, Edna Gallery.

Martin on dock MZ

Coach Martin Taylor. Photo courtesy of Marty Zier, Edna Gallery.

They offer a competitive rowing program for high school and junior high age students. There are two seasons, a Fall season starting in September and finishing in November and a Spring season starting in February and ending in May. Currently, Fall season is well underway with high participation. They will be hosting a regatta here at home called the Headless Head, on October 26th, to which the whole community is invited to attend.

Coaches Dave and Mike JP

Founding Coaches Dave Roseberry and Mike Reid, at the Headless Head. Photo courtesy of Jeff Pietsch, Edna Gallery.

Duel Duel Tents MZ

Headless Head at OIRA Boathouse, Cascade Lake. Photo courtesy of Marty Zier, Edna Gallery.

Another lesser-known bit of information: they also have a small, but active and growing adult rowing program. In fact, Fall season is open to adults, and many of the regattas are multi-age, so it’s not unusual to see adults, high-schoolers and middle schoolers in the same boat.

We are incredibly lucky to have this program in our small and remote location. Participation in most off-island clubs costs thousands of dollars, while our costs are a fraction of that.  This requires a lot of fundraising, but we are also lucky to live in a community that heartily supports us each year at our fundraisers. Island Market lets us camp out in front of the grocery store for the 24-hour Row. Camp Orkila helps us host mainland clubs for home regattas. Last season’s dinner was a wood-fired pizza night, hosted by Maple Rock Farm, on a windy spring day in their barn.

So if you happen to be out driving or hiking around Cascade Lake  around 6 am, depending on the time of year, you just might see a group of dedicated rowers, warming up for practice by running around the frigid lake, in the dark with head lamps. Or perhaps you might catch the beautiful sight of them rowing across the lake in their shells (boats). They make it look easy, but it is hard work indeed, and I am sincerely moved by this sight each time I see it.

For more information about this fantastic program, please visit their web site: http://orcasislandrowing.org/

Leaving dock MZ

Photo courtesy of Marty Zier, Edna Gallery.

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I’m in Love with a Spiny Lumpsucker

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerBy Sandi Friel

And no, that’s not my latest nickname for my husband! I’m smitten with a tiny fish that looks like a living Christmas ornament. This bobble-eyed bottom-dweller is called the Spiny Lumpsucker and it gets my vote for the cutest among the thousands of fascinating critters that call our Salish Sea home.

It’s easy to forget while enjoying our beautiful islands that the majority of San Juan County is below sea level, along with the vast majority of its inhabitants. Here are some of our more colorful and unusual neighbors. Click on any photo to enlarge and start a slideshow:

The underwater world here is so varied because a rich stew of nutrients from both mainland rivers and Pacific ocean waters is stirred and dispersed by strong tidal currents to feed the Salish Sea’s plankton, which in turn supports an incredible diversity of marine life from shrimp to humpback whales.

My husband, a long-time diver with a background in marine science, frequently surveys the area sea-life with researchers from the SeaDoc Society. SeaDoc does serious science to monitor the health of the Salish Sea. Most recently they’ve been examining a die-off of starfish caused, they suspect, by a combination of factors, including a naturally occurring virus.

The Salish Sea includes Puget Sound, Georgia Strait and Juan de Fuca Strait, and it washes along the shores of Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Tacoma and Bellingham as well as the San Juan and Gulf Islands. That’s a lot of people, and one thing we all need to be conscious about – both out here in the islands and along the mainland coast – is controlling stormwater runoff, which is the leading cause of pollution in Puget Sound.

We can all do our part, from picking up pet waste, fixing oil leaks, repairing failing septic systems, curtailing use of fertilizers, keeping culverts clear, and using Low Impact Development (LID) techniques such as rain gardens when developing new homesites. San Juan County Public Works even has a new website where you can identify any stormwater issues you notice along the roadside.

Stormwater management is not a sexy topic, but understanding the downstream impact to our undersea neighbors helps us to act. Just remember the Spiny Lumpsuckers out there, Orca whales or whatever critter melts your heart. They’re depending on us to keep our shared ecosystem intact.

 Note: Simply Orcas Blog is moving to a new home at http://www.twilliamsrealty.com. Follow us by signing up at the new site!



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