A Big Blooming Surprise

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I’m a big fan of native plants. Each spring, I comb the woods and fields for the first budding Calypso orchids, starflower, twinflower, white fawn lily and other favorites. But I’m not a flower snob: I find all plants fascinating. When I recently got an invitation to tour an Orcas Island iris garden at peak bloom, I jumped at the chance.

Charlie Carver's Iris Garden on Orcas Island

Charlie’s happy place: the iris garden he created on his 15-acres on Orcas Island

Like recalling the first blush of love, Charlie Carver vividly remembers when he first laid eyes on a wild iris while hiking in Colorado some 40 years ago. The graceful form, seductive petals and flirty colors stopped him in his tracks and changed his life.

He dedicated himself to begin seriously studying and collecting a wide range of iris cultivars, and quickly became an expert on their history and propagation. When Charlie moved to Orcas Island, he brought his beloved irises, cleared space for a large garden and began expanding his collection.

Parts of an iris flower

Parts of an iris flower

Charlie’s devotion to his plants is complete. He lives very simply so that he can pour his time and passion into his gardens. Nationally renowned among serious flower people as “Charlie the iris guy,” he’s currently Chair of the American Iris Society (AIS) National Collections Program where he’s on the leading edge of efforts to catalogue and preserve as many iris cultivars as possible.

Charlie’s personal Orcas Island collection has grown to more than 1,600 varieties of iris. Many are rare specimens and more than half are considered historic, meaning they were introduced more than 30 years ago. His special interest is in dwarf iris. He collects both standard dwarf bearded iris (SDB) which are 8-16” tall and miniature dwarf bearded iris (MDB) which are 2-8” tall.

What I expected to be a short tour of interesting plants turned into an entire afternoon immersed in the beautiful, exotic blooms, with Charlie providing an in-depth expert tour into the spectacular world of irises.

Below are photos of just some of my favorite flowers from his collection. Click on the photo to see the cultivar name. Even captured with just a cellphone camera, which doesn’t do them justice, I think you’ll understand why these remarkable flowers have now become some of the island’s most fascinating and beautiful imports. Enjoy!

 

Sandi Friel at Sucia IslandLooking to pursue your passion and live simply on Orcas Island? Contact me!

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Art and Wine – Finding the Artist Within

By Teri Williams

Finding the artist within myself is not an easy task. Oh sure, I buy all the gear. Every color of paint, all the shapes and sized of brushes, pens, pencils. Canvas and sketch pad ready for creating. I’m equipped and ready!

Now if I could just sit down and give myself time. Time to be silly and creative. Time to just do without over-thinking. Time to let perfection go. Time to serve myself and not the thoughts of others who want to critique my imagination. I have to find my imagination!! No…. I want and need to find my imagination and play with it.

I could get bogged down by the REAL artists who are living and thriving on Orcas Island. The talent we see every day is a gift. However, I also recognize that I am a REAL artist, too, if I just let it be and have fun. Creativity and fun is worth more to the soul than notoriety and money. So a few times a year I sign up for a class offered here on Orcas by local artists.

This year I have enjoyed two classes.

This beautiful watercolor of Caroline captures her light-filled smile.

The first was a drawing class with Caroline Buchanan. Caroline not only makes ink and pen come alive on a sketch pad, she is known for her watercolors. I have taken her watercolor classes in the past. If you get a chance, do not miss time with her in a class. She has a way of igniting inner creativity no matter how much you fight it.

I was lucky enough to catch the last two days of a week-long drawing class she offered in Olga. Olga is a welcoming hamlet where you feel you have stepped back in time to a place that has time for everything. A place for me to stop my mind from spinning, leave my “to-do” list behind and just be with my sketch pad and pens. Here I share her style and teachings.

Caroline is currently showing her work in the Orcas Island Library. Learn more about Caroline and the classes she offers through her website buchananwatercolors.com.

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The second class was a painting class with Rachel Orr at the Orcas Island Winery.

I have been hearing tales of a class being taught at the Orcas Island Winery … YES … wine and art. Now that’s my kind of class. I’m sure I can be creative with some vino encouragement!

Rachel Orr, Island Artflow, offers pop-up painting classes and will come to your home or event to put this colorful fun creative experience together for you. Or, you can sign up for one of her monthly wine and painting classes held at the Orcas Island Winery. My daughter-in-law, Monee Harrington, and I are in!

Each class has a different scene, animal or thing to paint, step by step. Easy! Fun! The small group setting was welcoming, and gave me a chance to see some islanders I had not seen in many years. We’ve all been too busy to stop and have fun. This class was short (2 hours), all the materials needed were provided along with your choice of the local wine. I enjoyed a glass of the Turtleback Red Blend. The subject was a fox lying in front of a forested island. There was much conversation, many giggles, a feeling of togetherness, encouragement and acceptance.

What started off as a big orange circle soon took shape and character with some paint strokes and purposefully placed shadows and outlines. The commitment for one of Rachel’s classes is minimal, so if you are on the fence about making time for creativity, check out her class!

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by | April 22, 2018 · 7:58 pm

Walking Slowly

One of my favorite things to do is walk around our little seaside village with my daughter. Our town is full of beauty. While we may be regulars on our familiar sidewalks, we rarely venture far from the beaten path. A few weeks ago we decided to walk from the UW Medical Center back to our office in town, and I was shocked at how much there was to see! There is trail and I am sure many people walk this route daily, but it was new to us and we were not disappointed by the abundance of art around every corner!

Our first stop was the Orcas Center where we were met with lovely Buddhas and a giant Orca. Even though we “see” them all of the time, this was the first time we actually walked up and observed. The pieces of work inside of the Orcas Center are constantly rotating. We are so thankful to be able to have access to such an amazing place of music, theatre, culture, and art.

 

We soon moved on to find even more statues at the St. Francis Catholic Church! I hate to say that I did not get a picture of their beautiful stained glass window on the other side of the building, but we were more focused on statues at this point in the walk. We both very much liked the little bare foot girl.

 

Once on North Beach Road we came to the Salmonberry School. Their fence is lined with years of student art and I just love it! I am particularly fond of their Imagine painting, as I may have a slight obsession with The Beatles.

 

Just past Salmonberry School is Orcas Island Children’s House. The wee babe is friends with most of the kids, as she attends their Preschool, and it was at this time that our leisurely pace took a turn because she immediately ran off to find friends. We were honestly surprised to find their playground full of happy children, as we thought it was Saturday! Nope. It was Friday. Such is island time.

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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.

Then…Christmas!

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.

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Again.

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And Again. (she REALLY likes that dress…)

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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.

www.orcasongfarm.org

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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!

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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.

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We’re ready for you, Fall!

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