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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
Queen of Dragons
Red is her favorite
Reading under the Maple Tree
Hammock fun with Dad
I think her pirate name should be Curly!
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.
BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!
Stealing her presents
Paint sea stars!
Getting the buried treasure pool ready!
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??
Gathering Fairy Dust
Watering the garden
Snacks in the grass
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!
We love the shady playground!
“King Julien”cracks me up every time!!
Making new friends
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.
Deer Harbor Sand Castles
Crescent Beach in Autumn
Thank you Orcas Island for a beautiful season. We welcome fall with smiles.
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.
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.
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.
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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One of my favorite things about Summer on Orcas is the Farmer’s Market. We spend many of our Saturday’s at the Village Green socializing, eating, and playing. Some days we have beautiful blue skies, and other days we are convinced October came early, but regardless, it is always a good time.
Piggy backs, face paint, and ice cream. Typical Saturday!
Manning the booth in May before our tent was even ready! It was cloudy in the morning, then sunny and warm. Confusing!!
I set out last weekend to get pictures of my top five favorite booths, but then quickly realized that there was no way I could narrow down my choices. I ended up running around chatting with everyone as I helped to man the Children’s House Mayor’s Race booth, as I often do. The result was a dead phone and no where near photos of all of the amazing vendors. I may have to make this a series of posts about our glorious market, which would be just fine by me.
The “Talking Tree” I believe is what the local kids call this amazing tree at the entrance of the Village Green.
First things first. No trip to the Market would be complete without a trip to see Stephie. Our daughter LOVES Stephie. She is the local Face Paint Artist. She can make you a pirate, a panda, or as our daughter regularly requests, an Octopus.
My ferocious tiger 🙂
This kid loves octopuses!
Selfies with the Lum lambs!
The Giant Pacific Octopus – AKA Eleanor
All the cool kids are doing it!
So many options…
Another favorite is Tai Carson of Rogue Soul Designs. She is a midwife-turned-jeweler and all-around great gal. Her jewelry is beautiful and she has a knack for hunting down fantastic fabrics as well. Someone snag up that green jade bracelet before I do!
The beautiful indigo you see behind Tai’s work is by miss Natalie Menacho. She is a peach. She not only makes amazing indigo dyed works such as hand bags, kitchen towels, napkins, and the like, but she also does branding, fine art, illustration and so on. She is a creative gal, and someone worth chatting with. Stop by her booth and say hello!
Another fan favorite in our family is the Lum Farm owned by Eric and Amy Lum. This spring they saved three baby lambs that were more than the mother Ewe could care for, and brought them not only to the Farmer’s Market but to my daughter’s toddler center. They are a wonderful community family, and a delightful addition to the Farmer’s Market.
Feeding baby lambs is such a treat!
Beautiful sheep skins!
Babies love babies 🙂
The lambs love hay…and daisies 🙂
One of the smallest booths at the Market has the most amazing things inside of it. Carla’s Art is all about Orcas. I dare you to step inside and not find something to fall in love with. She has notebooks, maps, cards, mugs, and more! She is a fascinating woman, and I am glad that she is sharing her work with the world.
And last but not least (for this post) is Orcas Island Children’s House. They host the annual Honorary Mayor’s Race for our lovely island, where we shamelessly buy our candidate in to office! We elect local animals to govern the small town of Eastsound, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Children’s House is an island institution that offers a play-based learning center for waddlers, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. If you ever want to meet the sweetest, most generous, loving women in the world stop by the school or our booth this summer! If you would like to vote for Mayor, or support early education for our island kids in general, you can do so here!
Current Mayor Lewis imparting wisdom to current candidates
Spring has sprung on Orcas Island and so have the dandelions! When I look out across the lush green spring grass and see it polka-dotted with the yellow flowers of the dandelion, I smile. Others see this scene and they shudder, and then make plans for attack.
The dandelion is a flower! However, with its rapid growth and invasive nature, some people are hesitant to admit this and instead call them weeds.
I can understand why gardeners want to keep dandelions from growing in their sacred plots. The root grows strong and deep which makes it particularly difficult to remove. The seeds have the most amazing system for disbursement and can actually travel up to five miles!
But did you know that every part of the dandelion is edible? Yes! It is true! The root can be chopped and roasted and made into a delicious, earthy tasting tea. The leaves can eaten fresh in salads or served sautéed. Dandelion pesto is another delicious way to enjoy this yummy plant. The yellow flowers can be used to brighten up your meal or battered and fried and served as fritters!
Dandelions are good for you too!
Dandelions are fun!
How many of you picked your mother a bouquet straight from the yard as a young child?
Do you remember holding a dandelion under a friend’s chin to determine if they loved butter or not?
Have you watched a child decorate their skin with the yellow pollen from a dandelion?
Ever make a dandelion chain to wear in your hair?
Did you ever just lay in the sunny yellow spotted grass watching the bees happily move from flower to flower?
Can you recall the hopefulness you felt wishing on a dandelion gone to seed?
When you really stop to think about it, you will see that the dandelion is our friend, not a foe. So the next time you see a grassy patch full of yellow spots of sunshine, remember all the children and bees and how happy those flowers make them. And if you happen to be hungry… go ahead a have a snack!
4 year old Mandy holding a bouquet of dandelions!
If you are looking to buy some land on Orcas Island where you can enjoy the simple pleasures of growing your own dandelions, give me a call. I’d be happy to show you some great dandelion patches.
The sun rises over Eastsound Village on a snowy February morning.
Indian Island in the distance.
The “Village Green” all covered in white.
Sunrise over a snow covered Eastsound.
Visitors to Orcas are always asking me if it ever snows here. The answer is, YES! Orcas snow is FUN snow! It doesn’t usually stick around very long, melting long before it loses it’s beauty.
What I love most about a snowy Orcas Island day is how it brings our small community even closer together. We all share in the wonder, the excitement, the worry, and usually the FUN of a snow day. An undeniable shared experience does wonders to make you feel connected to those around you.
Maybe my opinion is skewed. You see, teaching is my other other career. I’m sure everyone remembers the excitement of the announcement that school is closed for a snow day! I am one of the lucky ones that never has to go to work on a snow day. Maybe that explains why I love them so much.
Mandy have a sled race with son Johnny and friends.
Mandy and family enjoying the snow.
The snow started early Friday morning. A snow day is fun, but a snow day at school with all of your friends is really fun! Shortly after lunch the snow started falling in flakes that were bigger than a child’s hand. We had to stop our lesson in Farm to Classroom and rush to the window to watch.
The weekend brought more snow on Sunday night. This time there was enough snow for the Orcas Island Public School to call an official snow day! With more snow falling on Monday night the students received a second snow day on Tuesday. You could hear the cheers across the island.
Orcas Island Public School buses parked for the day, covered in a blanket of snow.
The snow covered school yard and empty parking lot.
My youngest son Johnny enjoyed the snow with his friends on Monday. Toddlers and snow make for a fun combination. We have had mild winters with no real memorable snow since these kiddos were born, this was their first real Orcas snow day experience.
Johnny excited to catch a snowflake!
Frankie says the forecast calls for snow as far as she can see!
Ryan is gleeful after pelting the photographer with a snow ball!
The big kids also know how to enjoy the snow. On Tuesday afternoon the sun was shining bright and the steep hills at Buck Park were calling. My son Jordan and his girlfriend Bethany had fun sledding the hills above the play fields where they will begin playing softball and baseball in just about a month!
My son Jordan and his girlfriend sledding at Buck Park.
Enough about my family. You are probably reading this to learn more about living on Orcas Island. Remember how I said the snow brings the community together with the shared experience? I loved seeing the pictures my fellow islanders were posting on social media during the snow days. I’ll share some of my favorites here.
Tom Tillman posted these pictures from his farm in Doe Bay. I think this driver may have been caught in the storm of ’87.
The snow gives us clues as to what the local wildlife is up too. These bird prints were left outside my sliding glass door. It was fun to follow them and imagine the path of the little birdie that left them.
Deborah Jones posted this picture of the Raccoon tracks with this comment. “Raccoons circling the henhouse busted by the snow.”
Tuesday morning brought this beautiful sunrise on the East side of the island. Teacher Anne Ford McGrath shared this picture along with every teacher’s favorite winter morning announcement, “Snow Day, No School!”
Islander Camille Fleming was commuting off the island for work on Tuesday. Thankfully the Washington State Ferries still run on snow days. Her husband posted this comment, “Second snow day in a row. School cancelled. Flights cancelled. Roads are questionable. Glad the ocean isn’t frozen.”
Southern transplant Liz Guerry posted this picture Tuesday morning with this comment, “Sun bathing in the PNW!
Tuesday afternoon, islander and fellow teacher Nancy Walstrom captured this stunning snow scene from her deck at Buoy Bay. That is Mount Baker in the distance.
Vicki Bartram, my mother, posted this interesting shot of the sun rising in Olga, causing the trees to cast shadows over the snow covered yard.
My partner in real estate, Beth Holmes, shared this photo of the sun setting on the west side of Orcas Tuesday night. These chairs demonstrate nicely the optimism of most islanders, winter is short so why put away the outdoor furniture!
So there is the answer to the frequently asked question. Yes, Orcas Island gets snow and it is a WONDERFUL experience to have!
Mandy is an Associate Broker at T Williams Realty. She enjoys living with her family and friends on Orcas Island, Washington.
The sixth annual Festival of Trees is happening this month at Rosario Resort. Visitors can come to see the uniquely decorated trees in the main lobby of the resort’s mansion. The trees are decorated by local non profit organizations with ornaments that portray what each organization embodies. There is a pet themed tree from the Animal Protection Society, and tree of smiling children’s faces from The FunHouse, and a wild animal themed tree from Wolf Hollow. And of course the garden of wonders tree created by students in my class to represent the Orcas Island Farm to Cafeteria program. Each tree is a beautiful representation of the great things the non-profits in our community do to contribute to making this a wonderful place to live.
Every year for 6 years now my students in Farm to Classroom at Orcas Island Elementary School have created beautiful handmade ornaments to decorate our tree. This year is no exception! Our ornaments represent many of the topics that we have studied so far this year.
A magnified image of a frozen molecule of water serves as the star of our tree.
It is tradition for the kindergarten students to string the popcorn. A lesson involving proper use of needles, using caution for tender fingers, and methods for perfecting the long untangled strand. Some children approach the situation with caution and others with wild abandon. Even though the popcorn is days old (easier to string without breaking) the children still enjoy eating as much as they string.
Our third grade students used a photo paper called cyanotype that uses the sunlight to expose images. The children choose items from our garden and placed them on the paper in the sun. After 10 minutes they rinsed the paper in water and set the images.
We have an interactive element to our tree this year. You can use one of the many magnifying glasses hanging on our tree to look into the tiny bottles filled with seeds hanging from the branches. You will find papers with glued on seeds clothespinned to the tree also. We have been busy saving seeds this fall and thought this would be a fun way to share some of our seed knowledge and excitement.
After studying apples this fall and learning that every apple has a star in it, we just had to include some dried apple slices with stars proudly displayed on our tree.
Please come admire our hard work and place a vote for our tree if you feel compelled. You can buy tickets for $1 each and place them in the voting boxes of the trees of your choice. All of the proceeds go directly to the non-profits and you will be entered for prizes from Rosario Resort and Spa and Kenmore Air. Rosario will be hosting a special Open House this weekend December 9-11 daily between 12pm and 8pm. You can enjoy the trees as well as complimentary cookies and hot apple cider.
If you can’t make it this weekend, the trees will be up through the New Year.
The summer of 2016 is flying by!! Squeezing in some family fun is a must and Grama T found some on her SV Blue Pearl. 30′ filled to the rails with kids and grandkids (9 total) for an overnight in Roche Harbor, San Juan Island. When you have this many on a boat meant to sleep two, you head to a dock with amenities and space. Roche is a great place where you will find activity for all ages. But the fun is being on the boat together. Had great wind, plenty of sunshine and enjoyed a crab dinner coming home. Life does not get better than this.
Where do you find your bliss?
Deck hands taking a break
Beautiful day for kids to look for sea life
Reading books at bedtime
Gramps J having fun
Love these two!
Catching the wind, trimming the sails
Watching for whales
Girls getting too much wind
Life is good
Crabbing with Grampa J
All hands on deck
Hope to see you out on the water enjoying family and the Salish Sea that surrounds us here on Orcas Island.