Author Archives: Sandi Friel

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Community, Nature

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!

 

 

Comments Off

Filed under Nature

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nature

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Community

Stayin’ Alive on Orcas Island with Top Emergency Medical Care

Sandi Friel

Posted by Sandi

Recently I took a community CPR Class offered by Orcas Fire and Rescue. It wasn’t at all what I expected – there was no mouth-to-mouth! We were taught the new hands-only technique of chest compressions to the tune of the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive.” Apparently not only the theme of the song is appropriate, but the beat is just the right speed for compressions and easy to conjure up in the throes of an emergency.

CPR class on Orcas Island

Free CPR class held recently at the Deer Harbor Community Club.

The presentation revealed that cardiac arrest is most likely to happen at home and the first moments of response are critical. Chances of survival decrease 5 -10 percent every minute without CPR. Ideally CPR should be administered within 4 minutes.

Northwest on Orcas Island

Airlift Northwest, a cost effective provider of medical airlift service, visits a recent Saturday Farmers Market on Orcas.

What really got my attention is how our area ranks in emergency medical care. I was pleasantly surprised to learn San Juan County is one of the highest ranking rural counties for out-of-hospital cardiac survivability, i.e. able to leave the hospital with normal function. According to the CDC, nationally only seven percent of people who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) survive. But in San Juan County, the survival rate is closer to 50%. And in 2012, 80% of patients with OHCA were stabilized and delivered to the hospital with their hearts pumping on their own.

This is impressive, especially considering we’re an isolated island community. So how do we do it?

I spoke with OIFR Assistant Chief Mik Preysz, and he gives much of the credit to San Juan County Medical Program Director Dr. Michael Sullivan for keeping our first responders equipped with cutting edge equipment, extensive training and community outreach programs, such as CPR classes. Dr. Sullivan’s resume is a dream sheet of emergency medicine experience; we are lucky to have him in our community heading our medical program.

Another positive statistic is emergency response times. In 2012 there were 783 alarm calls on Orcas Island with an overall average response time of 8 minutes, 17 seconds. The average response time for Eastsound Station 21 was 6 minutes, 14 seconds. This compares favorably to Seattle, with a model EMS response time of 8 minutes or less for 90% of calls. Seattle is tops among cities worldwide for response times and emergency medical care, and Orcas and San Juan County are working to deliver a similar standard of care for our island residents.

With budget constraints and a paid OIFR staff of twelve (including eight emergency responders), this level of care in our rural environment is only possible through an amazing network of 85 volunteers (including 62 first responders).  Still, we should all do our part and learn CPR. Let’s keep Orcas Stayin’ Alive!

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

2 Comments

Filed under Community

Awesome Spring Chicken Soup

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi

Trees are budding, birds are singing and one by one, my friends and family have succumbed to end-of-season coughs and sniffles.  Determined to remain healthy, I’ve been vigilantly washing my hands, getting my rest, taking Vitamin C – the usual defenses. Still, this week I was invaded by the dreaded Spring Cold.  Even on beautiful Orcas Island, the Spring Cold ain’t pretty!

I instinctively felt the urge for a healing pot chicken soup. Cooking is not my “thing” and in the past my homemade chicken soup has been blah at best.  So I scoured the internet for recipe ideas and picked elements of each that I combined into one Awesome Chicken Soup! This soup has a delicate but complex blend of flavors with enough punch to break through those gunky taste buds when you’re sick, and would also be a tasty treat for a healthy palate. I’m happy to report that after three courses  (along with other homeopathic goodies) I’m on the mend. :)

Awesome Chicken Soup

Awesome Chicken Soup

2 bone-in chicken breasts
1 large onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 stalks Celery, chopped
Carrots – I used baby carrots but you could chop whole carrots
Sea Salt
Pepper
Curry powder
Nutmeg
1 Lemon
Rosemary – fresh

Optional – bay leaf, fresh parsley. I didn’t have these on hand.

Put chicken breasts in pot, cover with water
Add whole quartered onion, 4 crushed garlic cloves, sea salt, curry, nutmeg, pepper. Note: I didn’t measure the spices but used generous amounts!

Bring to boil, cook approx 30-45 minutes uncovered till chicken done

Remove chicken, onions and garlic from stock pot. Save the chicken and  throw out onions and garlic.

While shredding meat off the breasts, bring stock to boil, add chopped celery

After 5 min, add carrots

After 10 minutes, add pasta (I used ½ box of Barilla Plus rotini), Bring to boil, cook for 10 min and reduce to simmer

Stir in shredded chicken, squeeze of whole lemon and fresh rosemary

Serve with fresh grated parmesan on top

Serves 6-8

There are endless ways to vary this, and if  you have an Awesome Chicken Soup recipe to share, I’d love to hear it!


Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?

Contact T Williams Realty – we’ll help you find your way home.

2 Comments

Filed under Recipes

The Many Moods of “White Rock”


SandiGravatarSM CROPPEDPosted by Sandi

You’ve read our posts about Indian Island, the curious tiny island in Fishing Bay, Eastsound. Well there’s another tiny island off the west coast of Orcas Island that I’m curious about: White Rock.

Located halfway between Flattop Island and Waldron Island, White Rock is just one of 172 islands in the San Juan archipelago. But I happen to look out upon it every day. And therein lies its magic: Depending on time and type of day and season, it takes on a completely different mood. Take a look:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When we first got a boat a few years ago, one of my first requests was a closer investigation of this magical rock, actually the tip of an ancient submerged mountain.

Nautical chart of White Rock, Orcas Island

The red arrow is pointing to White Rock, southwest of Disney Point on Waldron Island. Part of the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge, boaters need to stay 200 yards away – no landing ashore.

White Rock, Orcas Island

The Rock is more interesting than I thought — some vegetation and lots of orange stuff — a lichen perhaps?

White Rock, Orcas Island

To give you an idea of scale, note the harbor seal hauled out on rock

Soon we’ll be moving higher up the hill when our house is finished. While I won’t miss our current cramped quarters, I’ll miss gazing upon an ever changing face of White Rock, my trusty friend and focal point through all seasons.

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

5 Comments

Filed under Boating, Nature

Feathered Friends have Flocks of Fans on Orcas Island

Posted by Sandi

And I’m not talking about Seahawks fans – although there are plenty of those too.

Orcas Island – and the rest of the San Juan Islands – is home to many bird enthusiasts. There are guided bird walks, Frank Richardson Wildfowl Preserve, and of course we’re a migratory stop on the Pacific Flyway. But I recently found another bird-loving contingent here.

Charlie the African Grey Parrot on Orcas Island

Charlie

About 10 days before Christmas, my neighbor passed away leaving behind ‘Charlie,’ her beloved thirty-something Congo African Grey Parrot. I volunteered to find Charlie a new forever home.

First stop was the Orcas Animal Protection Society  where I was given names of several local parrot owners/experts to contact. All of these ladies gave me excellent info on what criteria to look for in Charlie’s new home. One offered to be foster mom until we found the perfect landing place.

Next I joined the Orcas Island Pets group on Facebook. This interactive page is where you can ask for advice, trade pet supplies, post lost and found pets, and rehome  or adopt a pet.

Charlie the Parrot in his new home on Orcas Island

Charlie gets a new home for Christmas

The grand slam, though, came when I posted on two online Yahoo groups: “Deer Harbor Community Bulletin Board”  and “Westsound Neighbor-to-Neighbor”. I was flooded with emails, phone calls and offers to help. That’s when I found the perfect home for Charlie: Ed and Amy Masters.

Ed and Amy and their two teenage sons live on a 10-acre farm near Westsound. They own Orcas Island Shuttle (our local rental car company) and work from home, so Charlie will have constant attention and activity. Amy has experience with parrots and a close friend that raises parrots. She always wanted an African Grey. They’re prepared to provide a loving home to Charlie for the next 30+ years.

Charlie the Parrot on Orcas Island

Charlie flies to his new mom during Christmas dinner

We delivered Charlie a few days before Christmas to their beautiful 3-story A-frame home, overlooking a large pond with their pet ducks and geese. They also have horses and chickens.

Charlie has now integrated well into the family and they all LOVE him! Each day he responds with revealing more of his intuitive personality and extensive vocabulary. On Christmas Eve, they allowed him to perch outside his cage for the first time, and during dinner he flew to Amy and perched on her arm for the duration of the family meal.

I’m so thrilled at the happy ending to this story. And it was made possible through the amazing community network of caring people we have here on Orcas Island. Thanks Orcas!

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

3 Comments

Filed under Community, Nature

What’s Up, SeaDoc?

Posted by Sandi

We’re fortunate to have many conservation-oriented organizations in the San Juan Islands dedicated to understanding, preserving and restoring our ecosystems. One of the most important is the SeaDoc Society, based on Orcas Island.

The SeaDoc Society, Orcas IslandSeaDoc sponsors a very cool Marine Science Lecture Series on Orcas in the fall/winter. I’ve been to many of these and highly recommend them. Get there early as they’re usually packed! It starts with cookies and refreshments, followed by a slide presentation with a scientist, then Q&A. It’s a fun educational event for all ages. Click here for the schedule. The next one is December 11th and focuses on potential local impacts of Climate Change.

SeaDoc is now posting videos of these informative presentations on their website. The October lecture was fascinating and one well worth watching: Indirect Effects of Humans on Native Species and Ecosystems.

Black-Tailed Deer on Orcas Island

Foxglove and Daisies, both non-natives, thrive here because they’re not on the deer diet.

The biggest takeaway for me was that our deer population, which is 10 times larger than it was when we had apex predators on the island, is responsible for large declines in native plant variety and therefore songbirds — two of my loves. Professor Peter Arcese, the lecturer from University of British Columbia, says responsible stewardship is the only way to reduce the deer population so that the ecosystem can begin to recover.

Stewardship is a nice word for hunting, which I’ve been adamantly opposed to. However, this lecture really opened my eyes as to the impact of letting the deer population run wild. Our current hunting law, though, permits up to two deer to be “taken” per hunter per year. Venison anyone?

3 Comments

Filed under Community, Nature

The Edgy Art Scene on Orcas Island

Posted by Sandi

Opening night of the Edge art show at Orcas Center, Orcas Island WA

Opening night of the Edge art show at Orcas Center’s Madrona Room. There were so many participants the displays spilled out into the reception area and hall.

This weekend marked the opening of the Edge Art show at Orcas Center, featuring alternative art from artists in our community. The techniques and mediums varied wildly and included felted puppets, indian headdresses, venetian plaster/gold leaf abstracts, collage of homeless persons’ signs and stunning “gun powder” art from Clyde Duke, a local contractor and fire commissioner.

Writers composing poetry at the Orcas Center Edge art show 2012

Writers composing poetry “while you wait” on old fashioned typewriters.

Most unusual was a group of poets typing poems on ticker tape using old-fashioned typewriters. Give a keyword to one of them, and they’d compose a poem around it. My word was “autumn” and I was surprised when a gal named Kat tracked me down to recite it and give me the carbon copy as a memento. What a creative bunch! This group also published a Zine which was a new concept to me.

Soul Flour Bakery wood-fired pizza on Orcas Island

While waiting for my pizza, I munched on one of their delicious organic cookies — a chewy concoction of oatmeal, berries and chocolate.

The Friday night opening event included yummy wood-fired pizza from Soul Flour Bakery as well as beer from our new Island Hoppin’ Brewery. Many of the artists were present, and it was fun to see familiar faces in a different context from their day jobs. The show will continue at Orcas Center throughout October. And although there won’t be food or “poems while you wait,” I recommend you attend to see the alternative art side of Orcas Island!


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

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Community