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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Shake Down Voyage: Summer’s First Night on the Blue Pearl

By Teri Williams

Friday is spent outfitting our sailboat with fresh bedding, rugs, dishes and other items for the new season. I call it a season only due to the lack of time on the boat through fall and winter. No matter rain, sleet or snow, we usually have time each month. This past year we were required to do a vessel survey and the boat was in need of many upgrades and fixes. No problem if your first mate is McGuiver! Just need TIME.

teri williams on the blue pearl

Awaiting guests on the Blue Pearl.

Jay re-wired, re-plumbed and re-worked everything in getting ready for the survey. Our sailboat passed with only a few things put on the to-do list. The survey did more than get us outfitted – it required the boat to have a name. On April 20, as Jay and I were soaking in the hot tub, contemplating life, the boat came up. I am a huge fan of Johnny Depp and the Black Pearl adventures. Hmmm…female pirate…blue hull. Suddenly the name “Blue Pearl” came up and was adopted. This meant a christening was to take place.

A Few Mates

all-aboard

All aboard for the christening!

My plan was to stay on the boat at the dock in Bay Head Marina on Friday night. This gave us a chance to invite a few mates aboard. Beth Baker (Sew Like the Wind) came to admire her work with the installation of my new upholstery – all new pads and covers throughout the boat. Mike Powell (Cruising Concepts) came aboard to review cupboards. Permit Resources and Cruising Concepts have done some horse-trading and the Blue Pearl needed some teak work to accommodate the needs of the galley cook.

You will read my comment “we could be anywhere, and not far from home” many times through out my musings about life on the water. After champagne and discussions about changes to be made on the boat, we headed to Octavia’s Bistro in the Orcas Hotel. Friday night is Pub Night, includes tasty specials, local live music, a fine Makers Mark Manhattan cocktail, and toe tapping Orcas fun! Octavia’s tequila clams are the best in the County.

octavias

Ready to walk back to the marina from Octavia’s on a summer eve.

It was a fine early summer evening to walk back to the boat and nestle in for the night. With bags everywhere and plenty of plans for the next day of organizing, we found the coffee pot and propane for the morning and settled down into our new bed. Awwwww the life of a pirate…

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Tiny Wildflowers on Orcas Island – Three Lesser Known Beauties

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerBy Sandi Friel
It’s easy to get excited about the riot of color on Yellow Island, or the many cultivated flowers beckoning bees right now. But if you slow down, look down, and take notice, there’s a miniature world in bloom too. Here are three often overlooked native beauties I found growing on our mossy knolls – all with very different growth habits.

Littleleaf Montia on Orcas IslandLittleleaf Montia | Montia parvifolia
This adorable mini succulent grows from a base of spreading rosettes, sprouting up tall thin stems which support delicate pale pink flowers May through July. The fleshy egg-shaped leaves are evergreen, sometimes with a reddish hue. Also known as Little Leaf Miner’s Lettuce (although I’m not sure why — it doesn’t resemble the Miner’s Lettuce plant at all), it was named for the eighteenth century Italian botanist Giuseppe Monti. It likes moist areas and flourishes amidst mosses in rocky outcrops. One of my favorites!

Chickweed Monkeyflower on Orcas IslandChickweed Monkeyflower | Mimulus alsinoides
Get out your magnifier to appreciate this tiny annual.  The small striking flowers are intense yellow with a prominent reddish landing spot to guide pollinators. They are prettier and daintier than their name suggests; monkey flowers are named after the grinning ape-like faces of the flowers. Also known as Wingstem Monkeyflower, it grows to a max height of 6 inches and likes moist rocky ledges.

Naked Broomrape on Orcas IslandNaked Broomrape | Orobanche uniflora
Another harsh-sounding name for a delicate beauty! I discovered this intriguing deep purple flower growing in a limited area amidst stonecrops, which it parasitizes in our area. A single yellow-throated flower blooms on a “naked” stem without leaves. The genus name Orobanch, from orobos (‘a clinging plant’) and ancho (‘to strangle’) alludes to its parasitic nature. There’s a British species that’s parasitic on Scotch Broom.  Appearing briefly in April and May, it seldom grows over four inches tall.

These are just a few samples of our miniature native wildflowers worth appreciating. So slow down, and take notice!

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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Community Spirit an Eternal Spring on Orcas Island

Sandi FrielBy Sandi Friel

Although today is the official start of Spring, on Orcas Island we’ve been basking in the new season for a few weeks now. Locals are downright giddy with the longer sunny days, birdsongs fill the air and trees are bursting with buds and new life. I’m reminded how no matter what the season, the spirit of Orcas feels like it’s in a state of Eternal Spring — birthing new ideas and ventures, growing a vibrant and healthy community, evolving and inspiring, especially in the face of tragedy or setbacks. Here are a few recent examples that come to mind.

Orcas Island Food Co-opOrcas Island Food Co-op
This is one of the most exciting changes on Orcas, and it’s coming to fruition in a few weeks. Sprouting up at the location of the former Homegrown Market which closed its doors in 2013, the Orcas Island Food Co-op is a member-owned entity focused on providing local and organically grown food to islanders. It will also foster education about local agriculture and provide a strong link between farmers and the community. Already 500 members strong, the Co-op has assembled a great team at the helm, and with the help of numerous volunteers, doors will be opening soon. Kudos to all those making this a reality!

Craic'rs playing at Random Howse

Local Irish band the Craic’rs playing at Random Howse earlier this week for St. Paddy’s Day

Random Howse
Random Howse was conceived last fall by Clyde and April Duke after they purchased an underutilized building in Eastsound. The building, complete with a stage and interior balcony, had been home to a series of restaurant ventures. Now, thanks to the Dukes, Random Howse is filling the stage with local talent — from musicians to comedy acts — and serving it up with top-notch food. It’s a fun casual gathering spot that’s enhanced life on Orcas. 

Score! Nifty Thrifty
In early 2013, we lost the island’s popular re-use center — the Exchange — in an accidental fire. Plans are underway to rebuild it, but in the meantime two islanders sprung into action and opened Score! Nifty Thrifty in June. Filling a much needed void, owners Susan Malins and Tina Roye say that once they start turning a profit, they’ll donate 25 percent of proceeds towards local nonprofits. Their mission is “community sharing” and they plan to keep Score! available to islanders until the Exhange reopens. Thank you Susan and Tina for your community spirit and filling this need!

Breakfast at Cafe Olga

Hearty breakfast at Café Olga – just as delicious in Eastsound!

The Artworks and Café Olga
While we don’t want to be known as the island of fires, we had more than one last year. In July a suspicious fire ravaged the historic building in Olga which houses the Artworks (one of the oldest artist cooperatives in the U.S.), James Hardman Gallery and Café Olga. This happened at the height of tourist season, devastating the artists, café workers and owners. In nature, fire breeds new life, and it seems to have the same effect on the Orcas community. Less than a month after the fire and with a huge volunteer effort, the Artworks and James Hardman Gallery re-opened in a temporary location in Eastsound. Later in the fall, Café Olga reopened in a temporary Eastsound location. Public donations and support have poured in to help the Olga Strawberry Council renovate and reopen the historic building in Olga. It’s just not possible to dampen the Orcas spirit.

Poetry reading at The Garret in Eastsound

Poetry reading by Suzanne Heyd at “The Garret”, a pop-up gallery in Eastsound

Pop-Ups
Like spring bulbs that pop up to bring color to a small area, pop-up businesses and ventures bring an unused building to life for a short time. There were three pop-ups in Eastound last year, and I visited all of them. Locals Andrew and Emily Youngren opened Pop-up Print Shop for the summer summer – a very cool T-shirt store with unique local designs and ability to print while you wait.  The Garret was a pop-up gallery for one weekend during Art Walk, with poetry readings, live poetry compositions and art by Susan Slapin. Orcas Island Originals was a pop up gift shop for the holidays in the Shearwater Kayaks shop, during the non-kayak season. I think the pop-up is a neat synergistic concept and here to stay.

Finally, fittingly, March 20th is now also designated as the International Day of Happiness. I think this recent video captures the spirit of eternal spring on Orcas Island – playful and vibrant at all ages. Enjoy!

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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Life on Orcas is Going to the Birds

birds of orcas island

By Teri Williams

Life on Orcas is going to the birds!

Don’t believe me? Come see for yourself on April 10 – April 12.

teri williamsOn Thursday, April 10, Orcas kicks off the first annual Orcas Island Bird & Wildlife Festival with a dinner at Rosario Resort’s Beach House. Featured speaker will be Thor Hanson, conservation biologist and author of the book Feathers. Hanson  lives in the San Juans and will share his knowledge of all things wild on Orcas Island. There will be a Silent Auction to add to the fun, and help secure funding for future festivals.

The perfect place to stay while experiencing the festival is at Otters Pond Bed and Breakfast. Otters Pond, renowned as a prime birding spot, is home to hundreds of bird species and certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat. At the breakfast table, you will enjoy a front row seat to flurry and feathers and as a variety of birds dine in the feeders just outside. Innkeepers, Carl and Sue Silvernail, provide more than a ton of bird seed each year to attract some of the Northwest’s most colorful flying wildlife.

otters pond prime birding spot

Enjoy a front-row seat to flurry and feathers at Otters Pond Bed and Breakfast.

Sue reports that just this week, they are seeing Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, House and Purple Finches, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Spotted Towhees, Crossbills, American Robins, Sharp-shinned Hawks, American Bald Eagles, Anna Hummingbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds. On the pond they are seeing Hooded Mergansers, Ringed Neck Ducks, Pied Billed Grebes and Mallards.  She says they  are watching for Rufus Hummingbirds, White-crowned and Golden Sparrows and Pine Siskins.

Sponsored by the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce, BirdFest will offer activities sure to please all who enjoy the birds and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. The still-unfolding line-up of walks, talks, workshops and activities are ideal for all ages and experience levels. Stay tuned for more information and events to be announced! Meanwhile, here are some helpful links to help you plan for BirdFest.

Birds of Orcas Island

Make a reservation at Otters Pond Bed and Breakfast

And if you want to stay forever, find out more about Otters Pond B&B for sale.

Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce

Rosario Resort & Spa

San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

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Christmas on Orcas: A Full Heart

By Teri Williams

Here’s what this Orcas Island grandma and her grandson did on Christmas vacation:

coffelt farm collage

Coffelt Farm
Enjoy cookies from Sydney Coffelt and a peek at her pie shelf, nuts, and other porch memorabilia. See the two momma sows, and other pigs (all named pork chop). Learn about the balance of feed vs number of pigs. Learn about feeding baby cows with a bottle of momma’s milk. Check out the chicken pen. Learn about the farm stand and the importance of farms for future community (my grandson).

cascade lake

Moran State Park
Have lunch in the covered picnic area. Walk along the trails surrounded by huge cedars and cross the wooden bridge that spans over the creek and runs into Cascade Lake. See how far a cedar bow will float down the creek. Walk out onto the floating fishing dock hunkered below the fog, and spot the sun above it all. Fish with a switch found along the shoreline.

Eastsound
Hit Island Market for ice cream!! Walk to the post office and look at all the gardens in Eastsound.

driftwood ranch

Driftwood Ranch
Cruise the barnyard. Say howdy to Cowboy Bob, watch him tow a broken down tractor with a tractor that runs (Cowboy Bob has 3!!) Feed pancakes to the chickens. Feed green grass to Snowflake, the miniature pony. Find two bulls in the outdoor pen. Watch a round-up with cowboys and cowgirls saddled up and sporting Stetson hats.

cut christmas treeCrow Valley
Get Grandpa to ask Carol Clark for permission to hike in across her property and cut down a Christmas tree. Find her old barn and look for spider webs. Inspect the old growth stumps for bird nests. Wonder about the loggers who carved the spring-board notches along the sides. Learn about standing old growth trees with charred, thick, black bark are signs of a history.

This grandma’s heart is full after sharing my Orcas with grandson and his family.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

By Teri Williams

Teri Williams and signpostI’m off visiting with family this holiday, and just like you, we’re bound to have lots of leftover turkey. Here’s a recipe from my kitchen that’s sure to please:

LEFTOVER TURKEY ENCHILADAS

4 cups chopped turkey
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
1½ cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz. package cream cheese
1 16 oz. can green enchilada sauce
10-12 medium sized flour fajita tortillas

Combine all ingredients except tortillas; mix well. Place ½ cup of the mixture along one end of a tortilla; distribute evenly along the length. Roll up into a tube shape. Place in a 8×10 cake pan, seam side down. Repeat with other tortillas. Pour green sauce over the enchiladas; make sure they are all covered. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes. You can make enchildadas ahead or freeze prior to baking. Bake up to 60 minutes if frozen.

Top as desired with chopped black olives, grated cheese, chopped green onion and finish with a dollop of sour cream.

Enjoy your turkey time, and thank you, Orcas Island, for your support throughout the year.

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Teri’s Log: Shallow Bay

Whenever I leave the office and Jay is not on call for OPALCO, we welcome the opportunity to go sailing. Every trip offers new discoveries, and gives us a chance to relax and appreciate our beautiful surroundings. In this boating log, I share my adventures with you.

teri williamsBy Teri Williams

Shallow Bay- Sucia Island
48 45.79’N 122 55.47’W

According to the Cruising Guide to the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands, Shallow Bay offers the best sunset views of any anchorage on Sucia Island and has the warmest water for swimming.

Well, I cannot attest to the sunset due to thick heavy fog surrounding us the entire time we spent there. I can, however, state the bay supports swimming. There was a wide Catamaran anchored shoreward of us where we watched and listened to four kids play and romp atop her wide deck all afternoon. When the fog thickened in the early evening we could only hear the kids, who were counting “one, two, three, go,” then splashes and gulps of air rang through the thick air, evidence of jumping into the water. This went on for some time. Very nostalgic, only to hear the sounds of this frolicking!

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During the day, Jay and I rowed ashore and did a two-hour hike over to the beach at Echo Bay and Fossil Bay. The woods were thick, but trails were more populated than Matia Island. The hike back to Shallow Bay from Fossil Bay looked more in keeping with the forest at Matia. The trail along the Echo Bay side was less dense, fewer trees and salal instead of large ferns.

There are red and green markers at the entrance of Shallow Bay which can easily be seen from a distance. The depth changes quite fast when entering this area.

Shallow Bay has seven mooring buoys, with some anchorage room as well, but the basin is smaller than it appears on the chart. Know your tides and allow for plenty of swing room. The guide states southeasterly winds can come across the marsh on the southeast end of the bay, but there’s no problem with swells from boat traffic out in Boundary Bay. We bounced around some during the night with what felt like swells, but never really heard the wind. Next time I believe we will choose to anchor so we are not hammering the buoy all night!

All the shoreline around Shallow Bay is State Park land. The cluster of Sucia Islands was purchased in 1960 by the Puget Sound Interclub Association and then donated to the State for protection as a Washington State Marine Park.

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Teri’s Log: Fossil Bay

Whenever I leave the office and Jay is not on call for OPALCO, we welcome the opportunity to go sailing. Every trip offers new discoveries, and gives us a chance to relax and appreciate our beautiful surroundings. In this boating log, I share my adventures with you.

teri williamsBy Teri Williams

Fossil Bay, Sucia Island
48 44.68’ N, 122 53.65’ W

Fossil Bay gets its name from the fossils found in the surrounding bluffs and could easily be the most popular bay due to the number of individual buoys (15), can-line buoys (2), two floats (100’ in length) and plenty of room to anchor.

Little Herndon Island used to serve as the guest book for Sucia, but the practice of writing your boat’s name on the cliffs is now prohibited. You can still see remnants of names, some believe due to the State coming out to sandblast the writing, which in some places just memorialized it.

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Plenty of beach, campsites, fire pits, BBQ and an enclosed picnic area sit at the head of the bay. All of the shoreline and surrounding land is State Park land. Sucia was purchased by the Puget Sound Interclub Association and placed in trust of the State of Washington 4-29-60 – “For Yachtsman Forever.”

Head directly into Fossil Bay from the southwest, keeping in the middle and away from reefs off of the tip of Wiggins Head. Mud Bay behind Herndon Island dries at low tide.

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Teri’s Log: Matia Island

teri williamsWhenever I leave the office and Jay is not on call for OPALCO, we welcome the opportunity to go sailing. Every trip offers new discoveries, and gives us a chance to relax and appreciate our beautiful surroundings. In this boating log, I share my adventures with you.

By Teri Williams

Matia Island
48 45.03’N, 122 50.99’ W

Matia Island is less than two miles east of Sucia Islands, just north of Orcas Island. Although equally beautiful as Sucia, it attracts fewer people. Matia is jointly administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington State Department of Parks and Recreation, and is designated as a refuge for seabirds, eagles and seals. Along with Turn Island (located southeast of Friday Harbor, where I saw my first small pod of whales for my birthday sail adventure), this is the only National Wildlife Refuge in the San Juan Islands that is open to the public.

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On Matia, activity is limited to the five acres of State Park land, where there are a few campsites, picnic tables, a composting toilet facility, and a must-do mile trail where you hear nothing, literally, stand near many old growth who show signs of a fire long ago and notches from spring boards. The ferns are some of the largest I have ever seen.

You will find three beaches, two accessible. Sand, small gravel and large beach logs give welcome to getting your toes along the shoreline and explore. Sorry: no pets allowed on Matia Island.

The remaining 140 acres of Matia are the exclusive preserve of puffins, oystercatchers, seals and otters. We witnessed many blue herons close by, perching in the dead limbs of trees along the top of the sandstone/rock banks lining Rolf Cove.

In Rolf Cove, you will find a public small dock, which allows four tie-ups. We tied to the northwest end and shared the dock with three other 20-35’ boats. Rumor has it that there is an old settler’s ruins “Hermit of Matia,” who rowed weekly to Orcas to socialize. Jay and I did not spot anything that looked like ruins of a settler, just some ivy and fruit trees that suggest past inhabitants.

The current runs strong through Rolf Cove, and the south entrance is the better of its two entrances. Anchorage can be tricky, but we witnessed many come in for a short walk, to fish, or to just enjoy a relaxing float in a very quiet cove for the afternoon. Many of the overnighters left and went touring around the island in their skiffs with motors. Jay and I thought about it, but we row our skiff and did not want to spend the rest of this sunny relaxing day fighting a current that was taking us south. There are signs around the Island reminding you to stay 200 yards away. Puffin Island lies to the East and is surrounded by off-shore reefs and wildlife taking in the heat from the sun.

Getting ashore is limited to the State Park Float. The beach along this shoreline is sandy and gets afternoon sun, which heats up the sand and beach logs for sitting and taking in the scene, unbelievable September weather in the San Juan Islands.

Sunset featured deep colors that silhouetted the Sucia Islands group.

NOTE: My Cruising Guide to the Puget Sound mentions fire pits. We saw some homemade makeshift pits, but fires are not allowed on the island

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