The Cons of Living on Orcas Island {TIP: the cons are really pros}

IMG_3330_bwBy Marlis K. Sandwith

So you’ve been to Orcas Island. You’ve walked around Eastsound Village, hit the Farmer’s Market at the Village Green, hiked Turtleback and Moran, sailed out to Sucia Island, and soaked in the tubs at Doe Bay Resort. Before you even board the ferry and head home, you’ve given yourself over to all sorts of daydreams about what it would be like to live here. You’ve looked at the real estate ads. You’ve even decided you’d like to farm now. In between your daily catch of fish that you’ll catch off your kayak. But before you get too far in your reverie, just take a gander at this list, so you can get a little more in touch with the reality of living on Orcas Island. You know the pros, but here are the cons. The catch? If you’re like me (and most other people who love living here), you’ll see most, if not all , as pros.


Many restaurants and shops close for 1-3 months of the year.
It’s true—I cry a little during the Winter months when I can’t sit in the cozy lounge at New Leaf Café, order Szechuan pork noodle bowl from The Kitchen, sip beer and eat wood-fired pizza at Hogstone’s, or browse the goods at Olga’s and Springboard. But I admire that my friends, business owners, and their employees set aside time to take a breather after a long and busy tourist season. They are attending to their own needs during this time, and it makes me appreciate them all the more when they open their doors just before Spring makes her appearance.

Closed for winter

There are no fast food or chain restaurants.
Is this really a bad thing? I think not. If you really need yourself a greasy burger, head to the Lower Tavern. And if you’re really attached, you won’t feel as guilty when you head through the drive-through on your once-per-month mainland trip. There is REALLY GOOD FOOD on Orcas Island. I promise. Even our public school’s lunches are really good.

farm 2 tableIMG_2295

There are no chain retail stores.
Again—can’t say that I find this to be a bad thing. I’ve found our local shops to be very accommodating if there is something I can’t find. Many of them will order items not generally carried in their stores. There are also several heavily used local Facebook sites that function much like Craigslist. It’s amazing what you can find in the backyards and garages of Orcas neighbors. If all else fails, many use Amazon. Yes—you can get things here in one day. Even a lawn mower.

no big box

Going off-island is, in general, an all-day affair.
You’ve got me a little bit here—it can certainly be a drag. But honestly, most of the time, I look forward to a mainland trip. It’s an Event. Some Islanders call it “going to America.” Some of us even dress up a little more for the occasion. One winter, a big group of us were going to see a show at the Paramount in Seattle. We met at the ferry landing, ALL of us dressed in black. The ferry worker smiled and said, “ahhh, you must be going to Seattle!” The bonus: coming home to Orcas always feels amazing when you’ve been away.

Despite what many people think prior to moving to Orcas, life is VERY BUSY here.
We’ve seen it time and time again: people move to Orcas thinking they’re just going to hole up and live their simple life in a cabin in the woods. Only then they meet a few people, go to a few events, get invited somewhere, get involved in something, meet some more people. Then, they get asked to volunteer, coach, teach, perform, mentor, and often—all of the above. Of course, you can always say no, but hopefully not to all of it. The point is: you can be as busy or as free as you want to be, even on a small island.


Movies only show on weekend nights, with one movie per week.
This is another one that just adds to the novelty of seeing a film in the theater. The great thing about the Sea View Theater is that they do more than just show films. They hold a variety of community events, such as magic shows, burlesque shows, FREE Seahawks game screenings (best place to watch the Superbowl), and they even have a lounge where you can get beer and wine before and during the show. What’s more, they are one of the hosts of the Orcas Island Film Festival in October, which is not to be missed.

Theater Superbowl Magic Show

Contrary to what many believe, most of us are not boating, fishing, hiking, paddling, and biking every single day.
Well, some of us are (you guys are awesome), but not all. On the whole, I’d say we are a very active bunch, and tend to be outside a lot, even in nasty weather. However, we’re just like our mainland counterparts in that every now and then we get in our grooves, look around and realize we live in this incredible island paradise, and yet we haven’t taken advantage of even a fraction of what it has to offer in the past month.


Gas (and many other necessities) are much more expensive on Orcas than most mainland locations.
No argument here. Although, I’d argue I spend much less money living here than I would on the mainland. There are fewer chances for impulse buys. When my family and I moved back to the San Juans after 18 months on the mainland, our gas bill went down by almost two-thirds. Many shops offer local discounts; all you have to do is ask. As for groceries, if you shop sales or join one of several buying clubs, you can do pretty well. Local farmstands and CSA’s are also a great way to get local, quality food at very reasonable prices. In general, I find that the things I can buy here on the island may be more expensive, but many things are also higher in quality, particularly when I’m shopping for holiday items and gifts. It’s a wonderful feeling to buy something an island neighbor made with his/her own two hands, and there is no shortage of such items on Orcas.

If you’re single, there isn’t a wide pool of potential dates from which to choose.
This may also be true if we’re talking cold, hard numbers here. However, let’s talk about QUALITY. I know—you’re not convinced. Okay, I’m speaking anecdotally here, but several of my dearest friends (a few in our very own office) have the love stories of a lifetime, and are married to someone they met here, in the San Juan Islands.

Because there are so many gravel/dirt roads on Orcas, your car gets really dirty.
So you’ll wash it, and wash it, and then you’ll become so fed up with the futility of it all, and you’ll look around and realize that every other Orcasian has at least a mildly dirty car, and you’ll only wash it for your special, fancy trips to the mainland. Unless you’re a real estate broker. Then you have to keep your car clean. Even if you have three kids and a giant yellow lab. Sigh.

dirty car

It’s expensive to take the ferry.
True. But it’s less expensive than the nearby British Columbia Ferry System in Canada, and less expensive than many other ferry-served regions in the United States. You only pay once—going Westbound. If you buy a commuter ticket (5 car passes or 10 passenger passes), you’ll save a bundle. Plus, it’s FREE to walk-on both ways of the interisland ferry. Look at the bright side: if it were cheap, or better yet, if there were a bridge, everyone and their mother would live here. And then it would be a different place altogether. Besides, just think of all that money you’re saving not driving up and down the freeway every day.


If you live in Deer Harbor or Doe Bay (and beyond), you’re looking at a 20-30 minute commute to the village of Eastsound.
Yes. Have you been to Deer Harbor? It’s truly awful having to wind your way along Massacre Bay, through the sweet little hamlet of Westsound, and over the scenic and pastoral roads of Crow Valley. Very stressful. Or Doe Bay? I’m so sorry you had to give up your I-5 commute for a quiet ride on Point Lawrence Road, down through Buck Bay and past sweet little Olga before coming to the part of Olga Road that drives RIGHT THROUGH Moran State Park and the shores of Cascade Lake. Make sure and keep your windows up; you won’t want to hear the sounds of little rushing waterfalls and creeks, or smell the scent of damp evergreens. That would be too much.

massacre bay from skull island

There are no streetlights in Eastsound.
Believe it or not, this is a hot topic on our little island. The people I’ve heard from are split about down the middle on this issue. So the pro is this: Things must be pretty good on Orcas if this is a hot topic.


Island Time.
So great if you just can’t put that book down, but you’re supposed to be at a meeting in ten minutes. Never fear—most people will be about 5 minutes late. Not so great if you need something fixed at your house. On the whole—daily life on Orcas Island moves at a pace much slower than the city. So just relax, enjoy, and breathe.

Island timeIMG_2301IMG_2131

The off-season is actually a really great time to see Orcas Island. Bring your boots, a raincoat, and yes–even sunglasses, and I’ll show you around this Fall/Winter.

~Marlis K. Sandwith, Associate Broker, T Williams Realty

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An Adventure-Filled Vacation Without Leaving Home

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi

One of the great aspects of living in an outdoor destination like Orcas Island is that people of all ages love to visit. There are so many fun things to do here that even teens who are normally glued to the virtual world of their smartphones and other gadgets find enough real life adventure to stay entertained.

In mid August my father-in-law and 16-year-old niece trekked out from back east to see us. Bob and I took the opportunity to unplug and enjoy a vacation in our own backyard. We packed a month’s worth of activities into a week, ate fresh-caught seafood almost every night and were reminded all over again why we chose to live in this far out northwest paradise. Our family photo album tells the story – click a photo to start the slideshow:


If this type of adventurous lifestyle appeals to you, I’d love to help you make it a reality. I specialize in helping people in all phases of life move to Orcas Island. Contact me and let’s begin!

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Pickle Camp 2015

teri-williams-summer-cropBy Teri Williams

I look forward to pickle camp each year. Friends and family gather to share stories and the thrill of scrubbing cucumbers and peeling garlic.

"pickle pals" for life, Elsa and Teri

“Pickle pals” for life, Elsa and Teri

There are also plenty of laughs and good food enjoyed by all as we sit back at the end of the day and get that warm feeling about what we accomplished, and begin to start counting down the calendar days until Thanksgiving, when the first jar is popped open and pickle camp comes back to life, one jar at a time.


Fresh, ready-to-pack ingredients line the counter for packing jars.

Fresh, ready-to-pack ingredients line the counter for packing jars.

Elsa had the liquid measurements on her wrist likened to a quarterbacks play list. The assembly line behind her was moving fast.

Elsa had the liquid measurements on her wrist likened to a quarterbacks play list. The assembly line behind her was moving fast.




Place the following in the bottom of a quart canning jar:
1 head of dill
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp mustard seed
1 red chili pod
¼ tsp turmeric
4 whole pepper corns

As jars are being filled, another garlic clove, red chili or a pinch more of dill can sneak into the jar, making the recipe really just a guide line.

For 7 jars, in a sauce pan heat:
6 cups vinegar
7-1/2 cups water
1 cup kosher salt
3/8 cup sugar

Place cucumbers in jar standing on end, pack tightly. Fill jar with vinegar liquid mix, place canning lid on top and screw lid on tight. Place into a water bath canner (water should cover top of the jar) and bring to a rolling boil. Process for 15 minutes. Do not open until Thanksgiving.

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Orcas Teens: Living and Working on an Island Paradise


Not a lot has changed since I was a teenager growing up on Orcas Island 20-25 years ago, and that’s not a bad thing. The Sea View Theatre still shows one movie a week and The Village Stop, (Con’s) still has soft serve ice cream. Being a teenager on an island is actually pretty great, especially Orcas Island. The days are long and the weather is generally perfect with average temps in the 70’s and clear, sunny skies. Our island is a major tourist destination during the summer which means that local businesses are in need of seasonal help. Orcas teens are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn new skills and make some money each summer. The jobs are plentiful and range from store clerks to firewood splitters and everything in between. Here are a few Orcas teens that I came across at work recently.


Dropping my son off for a day of fun at Kaleidoscope Preschool and Childcare Center, he runs straight into the arms of Emma Minnis, a high school Senior who spends her days getting messy with the toddlers!


Off to Island Market I am helped by high school Junior Rowan Lister. It is humbling to ask him to reach things on the high shelf for me, after-all I have known him since he was a baby! After handing me the item I ask him what he is saving his money for.  He tells me that he wants to buy a knight’s suit of armor for his younger brother! Shhh… it’s a surprise!


At the local clothing consignment store Sequel, I run into Junior Bethany Hansen. She is just as friendly as always even though she is on the tail end of a 52 hour work week. She works nights at a local restaurant, as well as her day job at Sequel. She says not all weeks are like this, but she wants to earn a lot of money so she can buy a car before school starts.


Walking past The Kitchen I see a familiar face, it’s Brother Murphy! Brother is a high school Junior and all around friendly guy so his job at The Kitchen is a good fit. The Kitchen serves fresh Asian food in a relaxed outdoor environment. Brother helps prep the food, serve, and does the dishes. All good life skills!

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I decide to stop in and see my son Jordan Randolph at the recently opened and very popular Clever Cow Creamery. The line is out the door with people anxiously awaiting a taste of the locally produced handcrafted ice cream. I work my way in and find Jordan and co-worker Kyle happily scooping and serving ice cream. The line doesn’t let up in the time I am there and Jordan tells me later that they didn’t see a break in the line for three hours! As I watch, I see the boys working steady, having pleasant interactions with the customers, and even cracking a few jokes along the way. I am filled with overwhelming “mom pride” as I walk away. My son has grown into a capable and kind young man. I knew this already but seeing him at work somehow makes it more real. I appreciate the owners of the Clever Cow for giving my teenage son his first “real” job.

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Out at Moran State Park the owners of Orcas Adventures rely heavily on Orcas teens to keep a safe and fun working environment. Owners Edward and Fiona Stone grew up on Orcas and were once teens looking for summer work themselves! There are currently six high school and college students working the Sugar Shack and the Boat Dock. Yes, Orcas graduates do consistently come back for summer work on Orcas. Why not? The work is readily available and the rent is usually free!

It’s not all work for Island teens, they know how to make the most of their free time. With no malls to hang out at, and only one movie showing per week, our kids have to get more creative. Orcas teens know they have it good. They take advantage of the beauty that surrounds them. You will find them swimming, hiking, fishing, biking, boating, beach-combing, and sunset watching. Here are a few pictures I found on facebook from some of my son’s friends (yes, they gave me permission to use them).


A morning run on Mt.Constitution!


Friends hanging out at the lake.


Sunset toss in the Salish Sea!


The reward!


Sunset Yogi Charlie.


Stopping by to see mom at TWilliams Realty!

It’s a charmed life for sure! I am grateful to have been raised on this amazing island and so happy that I am providing the same opportunities for my children. If a move to Orcas Island is in your future please give me a call and I’d be happy to show you around… Island Style!


Mandy Randolph Broker/Associate @ TWilliams Realty


Mandy and family on beautiful Orcas Island!

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Funhouse Commons: Enriching the Children (and families) of Orcas Island


IMG_3330_bwBy Marlis K. Sandwith

When I was living on San Juan Island, and my oldest son was still a small one, I had a little case of Orcas Island Envy. The source of my envy? Orcas had the Funhouse. At that time I knew the Funhouse to be an island-size version of a children’s museum, or even a science center. It was also a place where teens could gather on weekend nights, and they reportedly had an awesome sound/recording studio, plus a very established and successful mentoring program…all created and built by the community.


When I finally moved to Orcas Island, I had a second child, and a third on the way. Our first experiences  at the Funhouse were through the Music Together classes offered by Mary Wachter.  After my third was born, we continued classes, and my new baby girl would lie on a blanket in the middle of the circle, while the little ones and their grownups danced and sang and played music around her. My oldest son participated in running club for a season, a few teen nights here and there, and we’ve enjoyed visiting just to play a while on numerous occasions.


Over the years, the Funhouse has changed, morphed and adapted to the community’s needs, and continues to do so even today. In 2001, their board and staff determined that they should expand their role in the community by opening up their facility, their resources and their programs to everyone. The name was formally changed to the Funhouse Commons, which is the short name for The Children’s Discovery Foundation of Orcas Island, Washington.

This past year, my family has used Funhouse Commons quite a lot. My middle son, Finn, is 7 years old. He is a very passionate and unique individual. He is smart and funny and witty, and has a near encyclopedic knowledge of a large number of animal species. However, his biggest challenge lies in the social realm. Luckily, he has had great teachers and staff at the public school the past few years to help him work through this challenge and gain new skills.


What’s more, several months ago he began attending Funhouse Commons after school for a Pokemon club hosted there by a high schooler. After a while, Finn begged to go there a few afternoons per week, as they offer a highly used after school program. My schedule didn’t require him to be in the program, but since he was so excited about it, we tried it out, and I’m so glad we did.  I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the staff there this year. They show me time and again that they take their jobs as seriously as any teacher, and they make every effort to truly know my son, and to give him new social skills while he is in their care. Funhouse Commons is not just a childcare program for Finn; it is an extension of school, an enrichment program, and in many ways it functions a lot like the closely-knit neighborhood in which I grew up playing. For all of this, I am so grateful.

Another claim to fame of Funhouse Commons is the Annual Funhouse Science Fair, in which Finn participated this year, and it was truly inspiring to see over 100 island kids from Orcas and neighboring islands participate, plus many exhibits from community members.

I could go on and on about my appreciation for this magical place and all the many programs they offer and ways in which they contribute to our sweet community, but instead I will leave you with some photos of the Funhouse that might invite you to stop by and visit next time you’re on Orcas Island. Enjoy!

P.S. COMING UP ON JULY 4TH: THE ANNUAL EAT AND RUN 5K RUN! You can run, walk, and there is even a 1K run/walk for kids! I’ll be there helping, so please REGISTER HERE and stop by to say hello! This is a great way for the whole family to have fun while supporting such an important part of our community.


Entryway & coatroom lets you know you are in a fun place!





Funhouse Commons is currently undergoing an interior makeover to brighten up their huge space. This means cool pops of color in different alcoves and learning spaces.







The Climbing Wall with cool sculptures above. Art is everywhere at the Funhouse Commons!


The Art Yurt!



My daughter Ada, dragging big brother Finn away from Funhouse Commons after his first day of Summer day camp. You can see he is not going willingly!

Raising kids on Orcas Island is pretty wonderful. If you want to know more about what it’s really like, I specialize in working with families. My other career was in education (you can read more about my background HERE), so I’m happy to talk schools as well.

Happy Summer!

~Marlis, Broker/Associate TWilliams Realty


Filed under Art, Community, Family Life, Kids, Uncategorized

Beauty from the Trash Bin: the Refined Art of Recycling

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerPosted by Sandi Friel The Exchange Recycled Art Show on Orcas Island

Orcas Island draws many gifted, resourceful, environmentally conscious people to our little community. So events like the yearly display of art made entirely of recycled items, naturally fit the creative island vibe. The 15th annual A.R.T. (Appropriate Recycling Technology) Show kicked off last Friday at Enzo’s Café in downtown Eastsound. Aficionados gathered in the gallery/eatery raved about both the quality of the artwork and fresh pizza spread.

The 2015 Recycled Art Show on Orcas Island

Opening night at the 2015 Recycled Art Show at Enzo’s Cafe

The show’s serious side is that it’s also serving as a fundraiser to help re-build The Exchange, our sorely missed local reuse center, which we lost to an accidental fire in 2013. According to the Orcas Recycling Services team, construction plans and permits are progressing nicely, and the new Exchange is slated to reopen later this year.

Recycled Art - white wolf by Alise Antonio

A white wolf created by recycled-materials artist Elise Antonio

Past A.R.T. shows have included lots of items found at the Exchange itself. But with the Exchange temporarily out of commission, folks were encouraged to make use of what they have lying around the house. A majority of this year’s best pieces were created by recycled-materials artist Elise Antonio, from Seattle. Over the past year she’s experimented with cardboard, paper grocery bags and recycled wood. Elise uses nature as her inspiration, and I loved her white wolf!

Undersea scene - by recycled-materials artist Alise Antonio

An undersea scene, also by Elise Antonio

Other pieces were created using discarded toys and bits of what most people would consider trash. While I can’t draw, paint or carve, I have plenty of raw materials like this around the property just waiting to be recycled into something… Maybe attacking my junk drawer with a glue gun and some inspiration could create art!

Have you created anything artistic out of ordinary trash? Plan to enter it in next year’s Recycled Art Show!

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Green Goddess

teri_cropI have no patience for waiting on the greens in the garden to mature, so with a little help from my local farmer John at Maple Rock Farm, I learned to create and use some of the bounty early.

I have never been good at following recipes and measuring. Everything is done by eyeballing, more liquid or greens can be added to get consistency desired.

Parsley- Walnut Pesto

IMG_0583Fill your blender with 2 cups of chopped parsley, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 3-5 cloves of garlic.

Pour in ½ cup of good olive oil (I used Olivar De La Luna organic extra virgin). Begin blending, add more olive oil as the paste begins to pureé. You do not want it so thick you cannot get it out of the blender, but it should not be too runny.

Use a spoon and scoop into ice cube tray and freeze.IMG_0584

Once cubes are frozen solid, place the tray in a pan of hot water for a few minutes to loosen cubes of pesto, then place them on a cookie sheet to freeze hard again, then store in a container in the freezer.

When you want pesto, place a cube (or several) in a bowl and thaw to room temperature. Add hot or cold pasta and mix.

Grate parmesan cheese over pasta and mix. Do not add cheese before freezing, (it will turn into globs when heated).

Green Garlic Paste

IMG_0743Early summer-late spring, cut the garlic scape off of last year’s garlic you planted in the fall. These can be chopped and put into dressings, sauces and salads, but I like to make a garlic paste that is versatile and keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Fill blender half full of chopped garlic scapes, add ¼ cup of good olive oil and begin blending. You will add more olive oil as the combo begins to blend into a chunky paste.


IMG_0748This paste does not get smooth but will have texture.

Add more oil, or scapes, until you get a consistency of soft paste (if it is too thick you will not get out of the blender). Place green garlic paste in a mason jar with lid and keep in the refrigerator.

I use this as a rub on chicken; add to tomato paste-balsamic vinegar-olive oil as a marinade for beef; add to good olive oil-balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper as a salad dressing; stir into pasta; add to any dish you would add garlic to.


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Five Things I Love About Shaw Island

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerPosted by Sandi Friel

I admit: I lived in the San Juans for years before ever having set foot on 7.7-square-mile Shaw Island, the smallest of our ferried islands. My first introductory trip was back in 2011 when I posted a blog about missing the ferry back to Orcas. It was a whirlwind visit that showed me a few Shaw “scenes” but didn’t really give me its flavor.

That changed recently when I was invited to list a property for sale on Shaw. In getting to know the property owners and speaking to a few other residents, I’ve since become more familiar (and enamored) with this quirky island that 240 people call home. Here are a few aspects that now come to mind when I think of Shaw:

  1. Shaw Island General Store

    The tiny General Store at the ferry landing, open May through through September

    It’s quiet. Really quiet. If you really want to get away from it all, Shaw is the place for you. The fact that there are no restaurants, hotels or even a grocery store (except in the summer) keeps residents down to a minimum and tourism almost non-existent. It’s a minimalist lifestyle focused on the necessities and simple pleasures of life.

  2. 303 Copper Hill Lane, Shaw Island

    The quiet life of Shaw Island within reach: This cedar cabin on 5 acres is listed at just $299k. MLS 765069

    Remote yet connected. I’m told that the seclusion is what privacy-craving residents love most about Shaw, yet the close sense of community is also tops on their list. To get an idea of how cohesive and active this island is, visit their community website:

  3. Fiercely independent Shaw Islanders do their own thing. When the state wanted uniform green metal street signs posted, Shaw said ‘no thank you.’ Instead, Shaw roads are discreetly marked with rustic hand-carved wooden signs.

    Shaw Island School

    The historic Shaw Island school uses a personalized and modern approach to teaching, outfitting its students with laptops and ipads and treating them to hands-on learning and fun field trips. Learn more at

  4. Over the years, devoted residents have created — and continue to create — unique community hubs to serve the island, Shaw style. From the all-volunteer library and log-cabin museum, to the historic little red school (longest continuing operating school in the state) and the active Community Center, energetic islanders have crafted a robust social fabric on this tiny island.
  5. This gorgeous sandy beach is part of 60-acre Shaw Island County Park, one of the nicest in the San Juans.

    This gorgeous sandy beach is part of 60-acre Shaw Island County Park, one of the nicest in the San Juans.

    The pristine south-facing County beach is a gem. Located on protected Indian Cove, the wide sandy beach leads to shallow waters that warm up enough in the summer for a brisk swim. Last time I visited, a pacific white-sided dolphin was breaching! There are also rustic campsites, so you can enjoy the beach in the moonlight.

If Shaw sounds like the type of getaway lifestyle you’re looking for, contact me! I’d love an excuse to go back over to this special island and show you around.



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There’s No Place Like Home

I have been dreaming all winter long of sailing off into the sunset down south in Bahamian waters. Good friends, clear-warm water and a life style to relax in and warm my soul. However, to my surprise, I found myself feeling empty. I could not put my finger on it until I was on the ferry returning to Orcas and rounded the corner at Shaw Island; the Orcas ferry landing came into sight. I missed my island life!

I’ve always had a “welcome home” feeling when getting back on island from a short trip to the mainland, but this trip took me away for three weeks. Returning, I found myself deep in amazement of life right here on this island. Life gets too busy. I had not taken the time to slow down, look around and be thankful. I had been taking my island life for granted, and in fact, had some angst about life not fulfilling my every desire. It was always right in front of me………. If I had just slowed down to look around and see how my life was filled with treasure. I did not have to sail so far away to find what was in my own back yard. Growing my own fresh food, the land around me filled with nature and family memories, work and friendships that challenge and fulfill my soul. I am so glad to be back home and will never again go looking outside my own backyard searching for my heart’s smile. Enjoy today, Teri

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Birdfest on Orcas

teri_cropBy Teri Williams

Spring is my favorite time of the year for so many reasons.

I’m back in my garden, seeds are sprouting, flowers are blooming, and birds are nesting and singing.

From hummingbirds zipping around my garden to eagles nesting across the valley, we have a huge variety of birds to appreciate.


Get your birding book out and enjoy learning about these little chirpers! This photo was found Googling birds in the San Juan Islands.

And Orcas celebrates our feathered friends with a little help from the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the annual Birdfest, a celebration of birds! This year, the Orcas Island Birdfest runs for four days: Thursday, April 30 through Sunday, May 2.


Sharp Shined Hawk


The schedule is packed with bird walks and nature tours, workshops, a fine art exhibition and scientific symposium, all focusing on the wonder of birds and grassroots solutions for maintaining healthy populations.

Even if you are not a “birder,” this is an unforgettable experience showcasing the natural splendor of the San Juan Islands.


Hooded Mergansers at Otter’s Pond, ready to have ducklings in a month.

Grab your binoculars, pack your Birding in the San Juan Islands by Mark G. Lewis, put your hiking boots on and get ready for some local color and sound.

Wood peckers are easy to spot

Pileated woodpeckers are easy to spot.

Visit for a list of birds you can see on Orcas Island.

For information about the 2015 Birdfest and a complete calendar of events, visit

Happy Birding!




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