Author Archives: Sandi Friel

A Dog’s Life on Orcas Island – Part 2

Sandi Friel and Picardy Shepherd Puppy, QuinnPosted by Sandi Friel

Named one of Sunset Magazine’s Top 10 Dog Friendly Escapes, Orcas Island is truly a pup’s paradise for those lucky enough to live here. My previous post focused on the multitude of outdoor adventures available to dogs. Now let’s look at some of the community resources supporting our four-legged friends.

Pawki's for pets

Who needs Petsmart when you have homegrown Pawki’s

Pawki’s for Pets   
The first retail shop you see when you come into Eastsound isn’t an art gallery or clothing boutique…it’s Pawki’s! Here’s you’ll find a full line of healthy natural pet foods and treats, a huge variety of toys big and small, grooming items and all sorts of accessories.

Eastsound dog park

Misty morning at the dog park

Orcas Off Leash Area (OOLA)
With the help of many donors including local contractors and architects, OOLA volunteers created a much-needed Dog Park near the Eastsound airport on land loaned by the Port of Orcas. They’re now working with county officials to secure a permanent location nearby for an even bigger and better dog park. See the concept sketches here. Very exciting!

Pet Parade
A fundraising event for the past 25 years, animals of all types march in the annual Pet Parade and compete for a chance to win quirky awards – including Best Smile (sponsored by a dentist), Best Built (sponsored by the builder’s association) and Best Fed (sponsored by the grocery store). The event supports Kaleidoscope, a provider of childcare and preschool.

2014 mayor of Eastsound

“Jack” 2014 Mayor of Eastsound

Honorary Mayor of Eastsound
Maybe you don’t have political aspirations but perhaps your dog does? Another creative annual fundraising event (this one for Children’s House, a childhood early-learning center), the Eastsound Mayoral Race frequently features canine candidates. It’s a chance to give your pooch some notoriety while raising money for a good cause. One year our mayor was a cow.

Kelly Puccio of All The Happy Dogs

Kelly Puccio of All The Happy Dogs, a dog-walking, sitting, adventuring and training service

Pet Care – Boarding – Grooming
In addition to a vet clinic practicing both eastern and western medicine, Orcas has a variety of options for boarding and grooming (see partial list here.) Be sure to check the menu of services offered by Eastsound Kennels and All The Happy Dogs.

Orcas Animal Protection Society
No pet-friendly list would be complete without mentioning the Orcas Animal Protection Society (OAPS). Run by a dedicated group of volunteers and supported by donations, the shelter helps re-home animals, find lost owners, provides spay-neuter assistance, education, and offers classes: puppy socialization, basic obedience and agility classes.

 

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerAre you thinking of moving to Orcas and want to know more about resources for your dog-friendly lifestyle? Contact me — I can help!

 

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A Dog’s Life on Orcas Island – Part 1

Sandi Friel with Leonberger MurphyPosted by Sandi Friel

When Bob and I relocated from Florida to Orcas Island, our dog Murphy was 5-1/2 years old. That might be considered young for many dogs, but for Leonbergers who have an average lifespan of seven years, Murphy’s best days had passed. Or so we thought.

Murph turned out to be like Robert Moran of Rosario Resort and Moran State Park fame. Moran arrived on Orcas at 47 years old in such poor health that his doctors didn’t expect him to live to see 50. Of course Moran outlived all his docs. Orcas Island’s low-stress, fresh-air, outdoorsy lifestyle inspired the retired shipbuilder to live another 39 years!

Likewise our Murphy lived almost another full Leonberger lifespan after we moved to Orcas. Hiking Turtleback Mountain and Moran Park, paddling in the cool water off North Beach, patrolling the property for deer, driving around the island in his papa’s pickup to visit friends and collect hugs and biscuits, enjoying the temperate Northwest climate: Murphy had a lot to live for here on Orcas. The healthy, adventure-filled and extremely dog-friendly island kept him going well past what would be, in human years, his 100th birthday.

Murphy trotted off to Fiddler’s Green this past August at age 13. The following are a few of the many wonderful island moments Murphy and dogs like him have available here on Orcas. There’s also a shot of our new puppy Quinn, as he eases into the island lifestyle with his first boat ride.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we take a closer look at some of the island’s pet-friendly perks!

 

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An Adventure-Filled Vacation Without Leaving Home

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi

One of the great aspects of living in an outdoor destination like Orcas Island is that people of all ages love to visit. There are so many fun things to do here that even teens who are normally glued to the virtual world of their smartphones and other gadgets find enough real life adventure to stay entertained.

In mid August my father-in-law and 16-year-old niece trekked out from back east to see us. Bob and I took the opportunity to unplug and enjoy a vacation in our own backyard. We packed a month’s worth of activities into a week, ate fresh-caught seafood almost every night and were reminded all over again why we chose to live in this far out northwest paradise. Our family photo album tells the story – click a photo to start the slideshow:

 

If this type of adventurous lifestyle appeals to you, I’d love to help you make it a reality. I specialize in helping people in all phases of life move to Orcas Island. Contact me and let’s begin!

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Beauty from the Trash Bin: the Refined Art of Recycling

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerPosted by Sandi Friel The Exchange Recycled Art Show on Orcas Island

Orcas Island draws many gifted, resourceful, environmentally conscious people to our little community. So events like the yearly display of art made entirely of recycled items, naturally fit the creative island vibe. The 15th annual A.R.T. (Appropriate Recycling Technology) Show kicked off last Friday at Enzo’s Café in downtown Eastsound. Aficionados gathered in the gallery/eatery raved about both the quality of the artwork and fresh pizza spread.

The 2015 Recycled Art Show on Orcas Island

Opening night at the 2015 Recycled Art Show at Enzo’s Cafe

The show’s serious side is that it’s also serving as a fundraiser to help re-build The Exchange, our sorely missed local reuse center, which we lost to an accidental fire in 2013. According to the Orcas Recycling Services team, construction plans and permits are progressing nicely, and the new Exchange is slated to reopen later this year.

Recycled Art - white wolf by Alise Antonio

A white wolf created by recycled-materials artist Elise Antonio

Past A.R.T. shows have included lots of items found at the Exchange itself. But with the Exchange temporarily out of commission, folks were encouraged to make use of what they have lying around the house. A majority of this year’s best pieces were created by recycled-materials artist Elise Antonio, from Seattle. Over the past year she’s experimented with cardboard, paper grocery bags and recycled wood. Elise uses nature as her inspiration, and I loved her white wolf!

Undersea scene - by recycled-materials artist Alise Antonio

An undersea scene, also by Elise Antonio

Other pieces were created using discarded toys and bits of what most people would consider trash. While I can’t draw, paint or carve, I have plenty of raw materials like this around the property just waiting to be recycled into something… Maybe attacking my junk drawer with a glue gun and some inspiration could create art!

Have you created anything artistic out of ordinary trash? Plan to enter it in next year’s Recycled Art Show!

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Five Things I Love About Shaw Island

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerPosted by Sandi Friel

I admit: I lived in the San Juans for years before ever having set foot on 7.7-square-mile Shaw Island, the smallest of our ferried islands. My first introductory trip was back in 2011 when I posted a blog about missing the ferry back to Orcas. It was a whirlwind visit that showed me a few Shaw “scenes” but didn’t really give me its flavor.

That changed recently when I was invited to list a property for sale on Shaw. In getting to know the property owners and speaking to a few other residents, I’ve since become more familiar (and enamored) with this quirky island that 240 people call home. Here are a few aspects that now come to mind when I think of Shaw:

  1. Shaw Island General Store

    The tiny General Store at the ferry landing, open May through through September

    It’s quiet. Really quiet. If you really want to get away from it all, Shaw is the place for you. The fact that there are no restaurants, hotels or even a grocery store (except in the summer) keeps residents down to a minimum and tourism almost non-existent. It’s a minimalist lifestyle focused on the necessities and simple pleasures of life.

  2. 303 Copper Hill Lane, Shaw Island

    The quiet life of Shaw Island within reach: This cedar cabin on 5 acres is listed at just $299k. MLS 765069

    Remote yet connected. I’m told that the seclusion is what privacy-craving residents love most about Shaw, yet the close sense of community is also tops on their list. To get an idea of how cohesive and active this island is, visit their community website: http://shawislanders.org/

  3. Fiercely independent Shaw Islanders do their own thing. When the state wanted uniform green metal street signs posted, Shaw said ‘no thank you.’ Instead, Shaw roads are discreetly marked with rustic hand-carved wooden signs.

    Shaw Island School

    The historic Shaw Island school uses a personalized and modern approach to teaching, outfitting its students with laptops and ipads and treating them to hands-on learning and fun field trips. Learn more at http://www.shawislandschool.org/

  4. Over the years, devoted residents have created — and continue to create — unique community hubs to serve the island, Shaw style. From the all-volunteer library and log-cabin museum, to the historic little red school (longest continuing operating school in the state) and the active Community Center, energetic islanders have crafted a robust social fabric on this tiny island.
  5. This gorgeous sandy beach is part of 60-acre Shaw Island County Park, one of the nicest in the San Juans.

    This gorgeous sandy beach is part of 60-acre Shaw Island County Park, one of the nicest in the San Juans.

    The pristine south-facing County beach is a gem. Located on protected Indian Cove, the wide sandy beach leads to shallow waters that warm up enough in the summer for a brisk swim. Last time I visited, a pacific white-sided dolphin was breaching! There are also rustic campsites, so you can enjoy the beach in the moonlight.

If Shaw sounds like the type of getaway lifestyle you’re looking for, contact me! I’d love an excuse to go back over to this special island and show you around.

 

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Baby Boom for the San Juan Islands

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi Friel

Orca babies, that is! This winter we’ve had three calves born to our resident pods of killer whales. Two of the calves were born to J-Pod, the group that spends the most time around the San Juan Islands. The third baby belongs to L-Pod, the largest of our three pods of Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW).

Every new addition to our local pods is awesome news, because this population has been in trouble. The Southern Residents were listed under the Endangered Species Act back in 2005, but the population has continued to decline and there haven’t been any surviving calves born since 2012. So these three blushing babies (whale calves are born with a pink hue on their white parts) are most welcome.

Christmas orca calf J50

Newborn J50 with her mom, J16, and big brother, J26. Photo courtesy of Center for Whale Research.

The first calf to show up, J50, was just the Christmas present all our local orca fans were wishing for. This little one was born right around December 25th in the protected waters of East Sound. (You might remember Teri’s post reporting a sighting of the new calf during her Christmas cruise.) Making the present even better for JPod is that J50 (it’s a tough ocean out there, so baby orcas aren’t given their human nicknames until they survive a full winter) is a little girl, and this population needs all the future mommies it can get. J50’s mom is Slick (J16), who is over 40 years old!

There’s definite girl power in orca pods, as our residents live in matriarchal societies. Each pod is made up of smaller matrilineal lines led by a mother, grandmother or, as is the case with Jpod, by a great-grandmother. In J-pod, that’s J2, Granny, the best-known wild whale in the world, who researchers believe is around 104 years old!

killer whale baby J51 and mom J19

Baby J51 alongside mom. Photo courtesy of Center for Whale Research.

The next baby in this recent boom is J51, born early February somewhere in the Straight of Juan de Fuca to 36-year-old Shachi, aka J19. As of this writing, J51 hasn’t rolled over yet to give researchers a look at its belly to be able to tell if it’s a boy or girl.

And just this week, on February 23, a new L-pod calf, L121, was seen off the Oregon coast happily swimming alongside its mom, 20-year-old Calypso (L94).

L121 with mom L94

L121 spotted by NOAA Fisheries this week off of the Columbia River. NOAA’s research ship is in the background.

Three babies within just a few months is a huge deal here. The whales only give birth about once every five years, and out of our current population of 80 (a near record low), there are only a few reproductive-age males, and several of our reproductive-age females had not been having calves. Late in 2014, disaster struck the Southern Residents when Rhapsody, J32, a 20-year-old female just coming into her prime breeding years, died from a problem pregnancy.

In addition to the new calves for the Southern Residents, there has also been a baby spotted with one of the Transient pods of orcas that frequents our local waters. Though it’s tough for casual observers to tell the Residents and Transients apart—they’re all huge black-and-white members of the dolphin family—there are actually marked differences between the two types of orcas.

Orca whale spy hopping off Henry Island

My husband took this lucky “spy hop” shot from our boat last year when we were drifting off Henry Island and the orcas swam up to check us out.

Resident orcas live in much larger groups than Transients—if you’re out on the water and see more than four or five orcas together, you’re almost certainly seeing Residents, who sometimes even form Superpods when J, K and L all get together to socialize. A small group of whales seen around the San Juans could also just be one family of Residents swimming together away from the rest of the pod, but if you see them acting very stealthy then it’s more likely you’re seeing Transients.

The reason the two types of killer whales act and group differently is because they’ve evolved remarkably different cultures. Transients travel in small, stealthy groups because they’re always trying to sneak up on marine mammals like seals. Usually the only time you’ll ever see Transients leaping out of the water and doing celebratory fin slaps and tail lobs is after they’ve had a successful hunt. Fortunately for them, if there’s one animal we have plenty of in the Salish Sea it’s harbor seals, so the Transients have pretty easy hunting.

Chinook salmon

Endangered Chinook salmon, favored fish of our Resident Orcas. Photo NOAA

Our Residents are not so lucky. They’ve evolved to eat fish, and in particular, to specialize in hunting big, fat Chinook salmon. The salmon aren’t as smart as seals, so the Residents are able to talk to each other a lot more (each pod even has its own dialect of orca language). They can also splash around more at the surface because they don’t have to worry about the fish jumping out of the water and climbing up on rocks like seals can. So salmon are easier to hunt, but that’s just the good news. The bad news is that Chinook populations have their own troubles—so much so that they’re also listed as endangered. Each one of our Resident orcas needs to catch between 100-300 pounds of sushi a day just to stay healthy, and every year there are less fish around.

Challenges in finding food is likely the main reason our Southern Resident Killer Whale population hasn’t bounced back. Scientists believe there used to be around 200 Resident orcas frequenting the Salish Sea, but that was before a bunch of them were kidnapped for aquariums. And before that, they were even hunted and considered nuisances known as Devil Fish.

So for our iconic and well-loved group of Resident orcas to suddenly jump in number from 77 to 80 is big news. Seeing wild orcas is one of the many reasons why living in the San Juan Islands is such a special privilege. We’ll all be pulling for these new babies to thrive, since they’re carrying the hope that we’ll continue to have the honor of sharing the Salish Sea with these beautiful and complex creatures for many years to come.

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The Shocking Truth: We Get Sun In Winter

Sandi FrielPosted by Sandi Friel

On Friday I had the pleasure of showing property all day to a couple who are thinking about retiring here. They scheduled their trip for January so they could experience the worst of our weather, fully expecting rain and gray clouds. Well, take a look at the photos I snapped throughout the day:

Deer Harbor Estuary January 2015

Taken at 9:00 am from the Deer Harbor bridge overlooking the estuary. Pair of Hooded Mergansers gliding by, with Turtlehead peeking up behind the treeline, catching morning rays.

Crescent Beach Orcas Island January 2015

View from Crescent Beach, taken midday on the way to lunch in Eastsound. Temp was a balmy 44 degrees.

Sunset at Cormorant Bay on Orcas Island January 2015

The day ends with an exquisite sunset over President Channel on the west coast of Orcas. Who could resist?

I’m not claiming that we get sun all winter long, but more than you might think. It’s part of the rain shadow effect created by the Olympic Mountains, which keeps the San Juan Islands drier than other parts of the pacific northwest. So if you’re thinking of an Orcas getaway or property scouting hunt, make sure to pack your sunglasses – even in January!

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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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.

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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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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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