Monthly Archives: January 2018

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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