Proof of Life

By Teri Williams

Orcas Island offers many surprises in the season of Winter. And yes, by the end of January you begin to wonder if Spring will ever get here. But … if you pay attention and look around you will see proof of the life that Spring will bring to us.

Here’s a peek at life on Orcas. Spring bulbs with the promise of  color. A new gate for the orchard. A surprise head of broccoli from last year’s plantings. New leaf buds on the blueberry bush. Blue sky reflected in a pond. Rhubarb nudging out of the soil. Hellebore in pink, yellow primroses. Greenhouse supply of last years Swiss chard. A trip to Driftwood Nursery. Last years onions and leeks still offer up taste. Green garlic. Brussels sprouts waiting to be plucked. Beds looking to be turned. Greenhouse storing of plants and seeds for this years garden. New garden gloves. Sprouting ginger. Lettuce growing in Mary Ann’s green house. Compost piles. Flowering trees in Island Market’s parking lot.

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I am always on high alert for life in the garden and in the landscaping around me. Something is growing and producing life always. Stay tuned for the first of the harvest season in May.


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From Ashes to Awesome: The New Orcas Island Exchange

Five years ago a devastating fire leveled the island’s beloved reuse center The Exchange. What followed is a shining example of islanders’ determination, collaboration and generosity.

Through a long fund-raising campaign and unique public-private partnership involving San Juan County, the non-profit Orcas Recycling Services (ORS) first took over managing the transfer station and then went to work rebuilding the Exchange.

Finally, the day after Thanksgiving 2017, on what ORS dubbed “Green Friday”, the new and wildly improved Exchange opened its doors.

Orcas Island Exchange

The new 5000+ sq.ft. Exchange building replaces what was once just a string of sheds and tents.


Bob and I made our first visit last weekend. While I was looking forward to being in the new warm and dry building with a more organized inventory, I hoped the Exchange hadn’t lost its quirky edge. Part of the fun of going to the old Exchange was its fun patched-together vibe.

So I was pleased when the first thing I noticed upon entering was a masked mannequin next to a vintage juke box belting out a funky mix of familiar tunes – ranging from blues to oldies to local artists like Bruce Harvey. It hit just the right note.

Looking around the new building, I could see the familiar categories of clothing, toys, books, household, art, tools and building supplies. I’m currently on a purging kick at home and managed to resist the temptation to refill my coffers, this time anyway. (There is a fish sculpture, though, I can’t stop thinking about and may need to go back to see if it’s still there.)

Orcas Island Exchange value bandsEvery item has a color tag on it indicating a price range. An old window cleverly displays the color key and suggests to “pay what you can afford” within each of the price ranges.

As I was leaving, I stopped to complement manager Jeff Ludwig on the fantastic job of rebuilding the Exchange. Jeff worked at the old Exchange for 16 years and is excited to be part of the new venture.

Jeff Ludwig Exchange manager

Jeff Ludwig, the new Exchange manager, beams proudly behind a tree bark-faced checkout counter.

With the mission of zero waste, the Exchange/ORS is expanding into other areas too. Having collected green yard waste materials for several years, they just completed their first “grind” and are now offering composted island mulch for sale. They’re also planning to refurbish a glass-crushing machine which will convert glass recyclables into a useful landscape and fill material.

Out of destruction sprouted something bigger and better. The spirit of the Exchange and the forward-thinking people behind it are just one reason I love calling Orcas Island home.


Sandi Friel and Picardy Shepherd Puppy, QuinnDreaming of the simple life on Orcas Island?
Contact me to help find your way home.

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The Slow Season on Orcas…

The Slow season on Orcas is anything but!

When you live in a tourist town, you get used to visitors, and sometimes relish in the breaks from them. The summer months are always jam packed, and you generally expect things to die down in October. The days will get short, and dark, and hibernation mode sets in. Not this year! We have had sunny days, snow, visitors, holidays, and raging waterfalls. Never a dull moment!


We were lucky enough to have nice, sunny weather last a bit longer than normal this year, and we definitely took advantage of it! We went to the beach, had a lovely dinner at Orcasong Farm, and played outside while we could (without puffy coats). Eleanor even learned how to play….I am not a fan of the name…corn hole. Ugh. Can’t it be called something else?!

In a matter of two weeks we filled our tiny cabin with visitors from Chicago, Texas, and of course Washington. We meandered the property, painted and carved pumpkins, explored, and enjoyed maybe too many Montucky Cold Snacks. We took them out to Camp Orkila (in the wind and the rain) and had a blast at their Fall Festival and Haunted Hay Ride. We totally forgot to wait for the hay ride, but the kids had enough fun, so we got away with it. Plus, it was cold!


Pictures from the Fall Festival (minus the Haunted Hay Ride)…

We were also lucky to house the Whiskey Shivers from Austin, Texas. The most fun, talented, child-tolerant guys on the planet. If you ever have a chance to see them perform, do it! You will not regret it!! While I (surprisingly) don’t have pictures of it, we BBQ’d around the fire pit, wandered bare foot through the field, and managed to NOT drive in to town for Karaoke 🙂

It was a wonderful reunion of some of our favorite people that we just do not see enough of. We are always happy to host, guys!

Then…Halloween! My husband and I have always LOVED Halloween. We have crates and crates of costumes, and it seems that our daughter has inherited the gene. This year we let her pick out our “theme” and she chose Trolls! She was Princess Poppy (of course), and we were Bergens. She even talked Nana and Grandpa in to playing along!

After all of the extended sunshine, visitors, and family dress-up came the SNOW! Yes. Snow. In November. On Orcas. It was awesome! Eleanor learned about snowballs (and got me right in the eye), and learned you can eat snow. Only white snow, of course. It did not last long, and we are still eagerly awaiting its return. For an island that “rarely gets snow,” two years in a row is pretty amazing!!

We then had a whirlwind with Thanksgiving off-island, Willy Wonka at the Orcas Center, a dance recital (the littles were Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), more off-island trips, more visitors….phew! Busy times.


In all honesty, I was never big on Christmas…then I had a kid. As soon as she was born, it was over. I love the decorations, I love the presents, decorating cookies! Everything is new to her and it is just too much fun to see her light up over it. She wrote letters to Santa, learned Christmas songs, and of course saw Santa.




And Again. (she REALLY likes that dress…)


We topped it off with Christmas with family at West Beach Resort. We ended up without a traditional Christmas Tree, but ended up with probably one of the coolest trees of all time. Eleanor decorated it, and placed the bulbs in very precise locations. I topped it off with a super sweet Barbie from 1989 that I received for my birthday. It was perfect.

So, that’s it. The “slow-season” on Orcas!

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Orcasong Farm

By Teri Williams

Now this is the way to welcome Fall – by celebrating with our community at Orcasong.

So honored to receive the invite and have a chance to check out this new and exciting farm I’ve been watching for many months. I live just around the corner and have been watching the transformation, the newest being the lavender fields.

You can feel the energy coming from the farmers tending the land. Fencing was erected, the ground was tilled, materials and farm hands showed up and then the planting. What could it be? Lavender … and the promise of color and sweet fragrance to come!

But lavender is not all this farm is producing.

Orcasong’s mission is to restore the land they steward on Orcas Island using ecologically regenerative practices. Guided by the wisdom of nature, they are committed to local resilience and social change and to advance through holistic education, arts and event programming, environmental advocacy and interwoven farm-based enterprises.

You can feel the mission statement when you arrive. On this day, farmers were working in the gardens and offer big smiles encouraging me to come help harvest fresh vegetables, wander and dream in the flower-filled overgrown garden laid out with purpose and standing proud in the soil. I love the mix, feeding the soul and the body.

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Walking around the grounds, you can see the love and intention given to every detail. These farmers really walk the talk, collaborating with a team that searches for solutions to keep them connected to the land, the people and this community.

Standing among them, I can’t help but feel how life can keep us spinning in our own worlds, keeping us from slowing down and taking in the gifts right in front of us.

Food, friends, song, sharing, dreaming – it just doesn’t get any closer to “island life” than this experience.

In Gratitude.

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Film Lovers Delight at the Orcas Island Film Fest

Sunny October view from the T Williams Realty office

Late October view from the T Williams Realty office

Fall has always been my favorite time of year and now there’s a reason to love it even more: the Orcas Island Film Festival.

This year’s cinematic lineup at the October 6th-9th event was top-notch, featuring films from all over the globe including many Oscar-contenders that hadn’t yet been released in theaters. I only saw a handful of the 30 films, and though I enjoyed them immensely, what really elevated the experience for me was the energetic buzz among attendees before and after the showings – a feeling of being part of a community that values art and creativity.

So it’s no surprise that the winning local short this year was about just that: two talented musicians growing up on Orcas Island, thriving with the support of mentors in the community. Click below to watch:

It Takes An Island will be shown at the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) – the largest and most highly attended film festival in the U.S.!

Orcas is full of feel-good stories like the Litch brothers featured in the film. Our own Sea View Theater is a prime example. A few years ago, the Sea View was in danger of closing its doors after the movie industry converted to digital. The theater’s owner didn’t have the funds required to upgrade the old projector, so in classic Orcas fashion, a fundraising campaign was launched to save the theater.

Today the Sea View provides not only first-run films, but also a stage for live entertainment and local talent. Complementing the world-class offerings at Orcas Center, the Sea View Theater brings the community together to celebrate art and culture, island-style.

See you at the 2018 Film Fest!

Sandi Friel, Orcas Island Realtor



Sandi Friel, Realtor®, movie-buff and lover of the simple life on Orcas Island.  Contact me to find your way home.


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Fall Festival Fun!

If you haven’t been to Mount Baker Farm yet, now is your chance!


This Saturday from 10-6, Mount Baker Farm will be hosting a Fall Festival! You won’t want to miss this. Come check out the farm, ride the train, play some games, eat some great local foods, participate in arts and crafts, and pet the farm animals! The weather is looking like it will be a perfect fall day to enjoy outdoors. Kids! Bring canned goods to donate to the food bank and receive 5 tickets to play games!

I’ll be there with a booth for my class at the public school called Farm to Classroom. We will be making bird feeders and leaf rubbings. I’ll be sharing the booth with Chef Zach, also of the public school, who will be selling cups of yummy soup to raise funds for our Farm to Cafeteria program which purchases local products for our school lunches.

Mount Baker Farm was a private estate until it changed hands last spring. The new owners decided to open it to the public and created spectacular camp sites in the back forest. Ruth, Cheryl and Barbara have been working hard since they took ownership to create a spectacular island getaway and local gathering place for our community.

Last spring my students were invited to have train rides and tours of the farm. The excitement was palpable. You see, the children had all heard the train whistle over the years. They could see the track from the county road. The property was surrounded by a fence and large red gates. It was the great island mystery. Our very own Willy Wonka Factory, if you will. When we walked up to the gates for the first time and were greeted by Miss Cheryl on her green cart the kids went wild! Chasing after the cart. Running through the tall grass in the fields. Stopping to stand or lay across the real train tracks! You would have thought we were at Disneyland!

I also had the opportunity to camp during the Farm’s “soft opening”. I was joined by some great friends. A group of four families with young children, we took over the large group area of the camp grounds. We had a fantastic time riding the train, petting the animals, exploring the meadow and the several interesting buildings. Later the mommas walked the entire train track winding through the property. We stopped in the back meadow to play some old carnival games and laughed like teenagers! An evening campfire with s’mores and lots of laughter had us ready for bed. We crawled into our tents and cuddled up under soft white covered comforters and laid our heads on scrumptious sleeping mats- all provided and set up by the Farm. At Mount Baker Farm you can bring all of your own camping gear, or you can rent theirs and they will even set it up for you!

If you haven’t been out to see Orcas Island’s newest community gathering place you must come to see it this weekend. While you are there you can eat good food, play some games and support these local vendors:

Puds guy (yorkshire pudding)

North Beach Mushrooms with grilled cheese

Village Stop with burgers and hot dogs

Harmony Chai with Holly Dennis

Barbara Griffin with donuts

Caramel apple booth

Teezers with hot chocolate, cider, coffee, pumpkin pie, and Mexican street corn

Montessori with mask making activity

James Most with Waldron Apples

Farm to Classroom with make and take bird feeders

Chef Zach with Souper soup to benefit Farm to Cafeteria

Erica Lyons with jewelry

Ashley Morrow with tie dye

Dawn Grace with Young Living Essential Oils

Marla Johns with Halloween treat bags

Rachel Harvey with Damsels in Distress booth

PTSA with cotton candy, popcorn

Cienna with Kids booth with kid made items

Teresa Lowry with houseplants

Stephanie Iverson face painting

MBF with cake walk

MBF with pumpkin decorating

MBF with free kids games (guess the weight, needle in a haystack, coloring)

MBF Petting farm

MBF Train ride

MBF Hay rides




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Summer on Orcas Island: Thank You

Summer on the islands goes too quickly. Though we have been incredibly lucky to have had such a long summer (it is now the end of September and it is still GORGEOUS outside), I am selfishly wanting it to continue. Summer is not my favorite season necessarily, but this summer was particularly wonderful. I’m not sure if it is because my daughter turned three in June and has morphed into this amazing person with plans and jokes and “deals” and true personality, or if it is because I can see that our home is actually being built. One possibility is because we spent more time on Orcas and were able to enjoy the island on a daily basis. Either way, summer is coming to a close, and it is with a smile that we say “see you later.” Before we do though, I would like to share some of the highlights with you!

The beginning of summer for our little family is Eleanor’s birthday, which is in early June. We have a huge party with tons of friends and family. This year we had so many family members come in that we ended up with three “cabins” at Smuggler’s Villa on North Beach. We had octopus cupcakes, buried treasure, swimming pools, pillow towns, and probably 60 or more lovely souls over that day. My husband BBQ’d for all. We spent the long weekend playing at the beach, visiting with friends who live at “the Ditch” and enjoying the fire by the beach. It was a wonderful way to kick off summer, and it reaffirmed our love for the friends we have made on this island.

One issue many people have on the island during the summer is adequate water supply. As we live on a family property that includes a large food-producing garden, we are counted in that number. The solution is hauling water. While it may not sound glamorous, it is actually a very fun family event! We gathered fairy dust and sprinkled it around, we built a fort beneath a grove of trees, and we enjoyed splashing around in the water! One man’s chore is another man’s adventure? Is that a saying??

We spent more time at Cascade Lake this summer than we have the entirety of our time back on Orcas. On Sunday afternoons, we would often pack up around 3:00pm or so after Cory had had his fill of digging around the foundation of our addition. We would bring with us buckets, blankets, babies, food, and drinks all packed in our little red wagon. We would BBQ, build sand castles, see old friends, and make new ones. Cascade Lake was good to us this summer. I hope we can continue to venture out there once the leaves fall. The hike around the lake is beautiful any time of year!

I learned this summer that my child is spoiled by living in such near proximity to the ocean. I cannot count how many times I tried to get her to go to the beach with me and she was not interested!!! Who doesn’t want to go to the beach at the drop of a hat at all times?! My kid. That’s who. I remember begging every day of summer as a child to go to the lake with my mom. I suppose I have to count all of us as fortunate if “too much beach time” is considered a problem! On our final days of summer, I was so happy to get in a last minute trip to Crescent Beach with Eleanor before dinner. On this day, she was very in to cleaning closed clams. Normally she likes to play in the ever-present driftwood structures, feed the birds by throwing dried seaweed in the air, or hunt for “crabbies.” This evening though, she stood in the water cleaning clams for extended periods of time. Maybe she knew it was one of the last times that her bare feet would be in the ocean for a while.

Thank you Orcas Island for a beautiful season. We welcome fall with smiles.


We’re ready for you, Fall!

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Orcas ROCKS! A Brief Geological History

1Mt-Baker--WEBLooking out from one of the stunning viewpoints atop Orcas Island’s Turtleback Mountain or Mount Constitution, it’s easy to imagine that the evergreen archipelago spread out below you has existed as-is since time immemorial. Indeed, the rock you’re standing on may be more than 500 million years old!

Far from being permanent, however, Orcas is part of a dynamic system that has changed in remarkable ways within the blink of an eye—geologically speaking.

Turtleback Mountain, Orcas Island

Ancient oceanic rock on Turtleback Mountain – from Mexico!

For one thing, back when dinosaurs stomped around the landscape, Turtleback Mountain was at the bottom of the sea. And it was in Mexico. Yes, Orcas was once south of the border where Baja lies today! In fact, all of the San Juan Islands are still slowly sailing through the cool waters of the Salish Sea, moving northeast at about an inch-and-a-half a year.

An elephant-sized Giant Ground Sloth roamed our turf just 12,000 or so years ago

During the last ice age you could skate across Orcas Island, which was buried beneath a mile of ice. It was the advance and retreat of glaciers that ultimately shaped the dramatic setting you see today, smoothing and scarring the rocky highlands while excavating the deep channels that eventually filled with seawater and turned hilltops into islands.

Not too long ago, our island wasn’t even an island. Orcas was part of a larger land mass upon which very large—but now extinct—animals such as giant ground sloths, short-faced bears, mammoths, and herds of nine-foot-tall buffalo roamed.

A fascinating archeological discovery was made on the east side of Orcas in 2003. Though a dozen Orcas sites have unearthed remains of the extinct giant bison, Bison antiquus, bison bones found at the Ayer Pond in Olga were the first to show evidence of human butchering. The significance of this discovery is that it puts humans in the Salish Sea by 14,000 years ago — a thousand years earlier than previously believed.

I find all of this quite mind-blowing, and a good reminder of what a tiny blip of time we have on this beautiful earth. One of my favorite poems, Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day, asks so elegantly:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

While I’m still trying to figure that out, I realize I’m actually already doing it: living a simple life on Orcas Island, with a genuine love for the world around me.

Sandi Friel at Sucia Island

Sandi Friel, Realtor and life-lover on Orcas Island

Dreaming of the simple life on Orcas Island? Contact me to help find your way home.

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Pizza Camp

Sharing life, love and lunch.

I love Pizza – Who Doesn’t!

By Teri Williams





Ok, so I don’t need to eat more carbs, and yes we have Hogstone Pizza in town. So why, you ask, do I crave to create the best ever pizza??? Last time I was in Darville’s Bookstore I found a book about pizza titled Pizza Camp by Joe Beddin. I love to read cookbooks, especially when they have humorous commentary and throw in common sense. After reading Joe’s recipe and constitution on how and what to use to make the best-ever pie I started planning and dreaming. So let the fun begin!

I have never had any luck with yeast. So the fact that Joe’s recipe for the dough does not include warm water and is put in the fridge for 24 hours gave me even more skepticism. However, I jumped in and made the first steps towards my crusty cheesy tomato dreams. Joe’s policy for making dough: “Turn your phone off and don’t speak, this is a time to listen, for new ideas, it’s not busy, be present. Making dough should be calming, meditative and a great time to think of new ideas about pizza and life.” I spent the time to enjoy the moment and think about what my garden would provide as toppings.

Book in hand, tools in place. This is the beginning, bring on the yeast.

Love it when your work looks like it does in the book!

After the dough was in a ball and had to rest for 30 minutes, I wandered through my garden and gave thanks for being here now on Orcas Island. Second round of kneading left the yeasty ball in the fridge for 24 hours. Until tomorrow …

Garlic drying in the sun. Going to learn to braid this summer!

Basil love

The sauce. I always thought you cooked up a batch of grandma’s secret tomato sauce and let it simmer for hours on the cooktop. No, Joe says they never cook the sauce in Naples. He recommends a nice fresh and bright tomato sauce, which comes with using the right tomatoes. So I read on. Joe uses Jersey Fresh crushed tomatoes in a can. A CAN!!! Ok, I can do this, FYI- I did go to Maple Rock Farm stand down the road and purchased fresh island grown tomatoes. Just in case. Continuing to read more from Pizza Camp, I learn the canned tomatoes, garlic and salt need to sit for a few hours in the fridge to meld flavors. I found canned tomatoes at Island Market from Italy – yes in a can.

Cheese will include fresh mozzarella and a hard cheese purchased at Roses Bakery. I think I will search for some local fresh goat cheese for the next time – Wendy Thomas, I’m headed out your way soon, girl.

Now what will I choose for toppings? Well I think a simple marguerita is a must. Just cheese and fresh basil – I can do this, and get a chance to go thank my garden once again for providing me with peace of mind and room for dreaming and creating good food. I wanted something a bit more for the second disc of saucy goodness, so I pulled some local pork out of the freezer. Pizza Camp shares many styles and types of toppings, one being Pizzeria Beddin’s Sausage – perfect!

Anticipation is a wonderful thing. I could not enjoy this pizza experience by myself so made a short last minute call to Cory, Monee and Eleanor to come to Gramma T’s back yard bbq pizza oven. I believe this can work with my cast-iron flat pan. Yes, why not. Too early in the game to order a wood fired pizza oven to be constructed in my patio (save these dreams for when I am making dough).

Ju DE VIE from tasting at Doe Bay Wine Company



This was the hardest part and I have to say, I cheated and used my Grandma’s rolling pin. Need to do some recon on what is the trick to pushing, pulling and stretching the dough.

After Notes:

You need a pizza peel. I’ll save you the details on this, just believe me. And, do not grease your pan with olive oil. Avocado oil will stand the heat much better.

The two days of planning was a tasty success. I still love pizza and am already dreaming up the next PIZZA CAMP!

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What To Do on Orcas if Your Grama Does Not Take You to the Fireworks

By Teri Williams

You start on the mainland, bags packed and ready to go have some fun with Grama T and Grampa J. at their Orcas Farm. Since there are so many dirt roads on Orcas, Grama’s car is filthy, so we need to run it through a car wash. Be sure to make time for that and fueling up. In July, a stop at the berry stand is a priority, even if you’re riding in a dirty car and running on fumes, you still stop for berries. The car is loaded and headed to Lane 3 (or whatever lane they are using today for reservation holders). Those of us who have had many ferry rides remember the days when Lane 3 was for Orcas only.

One of the best things about having a Grama who lives on Orcas is that she probably is into everything and this year was no disappointment. Grama T is on the Board of Lahari, a non-profit that supports aging in your home. Lucky for us, she and Grampa were entered into the 4th of July Parade in Gramps’ old Model A. This Model A has parade history with long-time Islanders Wilma and Buck Ray, and is one of many “island rides” Gramps has collected. Lahari’s new program is Orcas Door to Door, and is designed to pick up and deliver seniors to appointments and events. Car loaded down with bling, off we went down North Beach Road through Eastsound, horn a-tootin! Orcas Island’s 4th of July Parade always ends the Mayoral Race where we elect our new Mayor for the year. This is a fundraiser for Children’s House and gets all ages out and involved in our local pets and politics. Congrats to Hudson, our new Mayor.

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Back at Grama’s house, we spent the remainder of the day playing in last year’s 4th of July Parade First Place float, the playhouse. There is always something going on here!

We also had a chance to check out next year’s parade entry – an old fire truck that was used at a private residence years ago for fire protection. I wonder what Grama and Gramps will dream up for next year’s parade entry. Collecting island memorabilia and sharing history is a big part of this island family life.

And, lucky for us Grampa knows the nice people at Island Hardware and Supply and he has a truck (well a few he’s collected). Grampa just called those people up to check on swimming pools, then came home with one for us! It is always hot on the 4th!

The last weekend in June, the Garden Club showcases local gardens and raises funds for projects and grants to island non-profits, including the “Farm to Cafeteria” garden at the public school, a seed library at the library, rain gardens in Eastsound Village, and many other wonderful projects. The Garden Club meets monthly and members have a wealth of knowledge and local know-how for growing flowers, vegetables, fruit and native plants. Grama T showed us how to pick peas and raspberries in her garden. Although not on the tour, she has many remedies for growing and eating. This year she has a few choice words for the raccoons who enjoyed all the Rainier cherries before Grampa could get out and protect the tree trunks.

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There’s always a good meal in Grama’s back patio with BBQ of local beef brisket, greens from the garden, roasted baby potatoes-carrots-leeks-garlic-broccoli, peas right out of the pod, raspberries and Roses’ bread. Desert was Lopez Island Creamery ice cream smothered in strawberries. Family, food, friends. Does not get better than that!

When the summer days get too hot, Grama always knows where the best beaches are on Orcas. This time she took us to Westsound near the Orcas Island Yacht Club. There are two docks located there, the OI Yacht Club’s and a County public dock. Grama and Gramps sometimes take their sailboat, the Blue Pearl, to Westsound and hang out on these docks – easy walking to the Westsound Café. Also, deep into Westsound is Massacre Bay where you are sure to get some wind. Today we just collected shells and searched for sea creatures. This beach is usually empty and is quite sizable at low tide. Clam digging and crabbing are my favorites. Hope we get to do that next time. Today we made friends.

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If you are going to visit your Grama be sure to tell her all about the island fun, family, friends and food that is happening for kids on Orcas!







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