…the Farmer’s Market moves into the Oddfellow’s Hall, where the artisans and gardeners continue to offer local bounty and color. The Holiday Fair will soon fill these walls with bells and song.
…you admire showstopping sunrises and sunsets– what more can I say? They take your breath away!
Sunset over Waldron Island and beyond. Lance Evans photo, thanks for sharing!
Sunrise over Mt. Constitution
Sailboat in the sunset. I never get tired of sailing or sunsets!
…Fowler’s Pond turns into a golden reflection of wetland plants, surrounded by fall foliage on fire.
…Seahawk football fans come alive with blue and green. All throughout Eastsound, locals don their favorite 12th man T-shirts (and tutu!) and gather around the large screen at the Lower Tavern, where everyone knows your name.
Our very own Beth Holmes and her tutu — go Hawks!!
…Viking team spirit comes alive on the side of the barn each year as incoming seniors display their artwork. Give us a call at 376-8374 if you want to attend a sports event. The Booster Club did an amazing job of fundraising and gave out annual passes to all the donors.
The old, swaybacked barn.
The new hay barn painted by incoming seniors.
Fall is all about celebrating the end of a season and the beginning of a new one. And there is no better place than Orcas Island to spend time with friends and family and cozy up to the season. Happy Fall!
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Blue water, blue sky, bright sun and wind in my sails. Anchoring out, rocking to sleep with the gentle motion of the sea. Waking to a gray misty dawn, busy birds, seals swimming past. Is this a dream? Yes – a dream come true.
Several years ago, when I envisioned myself living on Orcas Island, sailing was an integral part of the picture. I longed for my own boat and the opportunity to cruise around and explore the intriguing coves, bays and islands of the San Juans and beyond.
When you combine a rusty sailor, a boat needing work, and countless obstacles, you’ll understand how difficult it’s been for me to actually leave the dock and begin my journey. Then dear friends stepped aboard.
Teri Williams and Jay Fowler were determined to take me sailing. They answered countless questions, made sure I had all my safety equipment on board, and helped me tend to practical issues. After the Labor Day crowds departed, we planned an overnight cruise to Blind Bay. The weather was perfect, and I sailed out of West Sound with the best crew ever.
Winging it toward the channel, we sailed my 22’ Catalina to Bay Head, where we picked up Teri and Jay’s sailboat, the Blue Pearl. Then we motored over to Blind Bay, dropped anchor and rafted together for the night. Jay set two crab traps and we rowed over to explore Blind Island, enjoyed a wonderful dinner and watched the sun go down.
I peeked out of the companionway as dawn broke with a soft, filtered light illuminating Harney Channel and Blind Bay. Clouds streaked the early morning sky. The inky water was flat, almost glassy save for tiny ripples stirred up by the light breeze. Two ferries changed places at the Shaw landing, barely visible in the morning mist. This delightful view can only be seen from the water, and I soaked it all in.
Filled with coffee, fruit and Teri’s Coffelt Farm bacon and egg sandwiches, and tending a bucket of crabs, we motored to Bay Head, where Jay docked the Blue Pearl. (I was getting plenty of important docking practice.) Skirting a ferry at the landing, we entered West Sound and had a glorious sail, tacking back and forth across the bay toward the marina, all the while adjusting sail trim and customizing the boat to suit my needs.
This is not my first dream realized on Orcas Island, and it won’t be the last.
What made this trip even more special is our deep friendship and Teri and Jay’s incredible generosity – they knew how much this maiden voyage would mean to me, understood how they could help in so many ways, and in their calm, collected and competent manner, helped me build knowledge, skills and confidence.
With so many places to see, and so much to do, we’re planning our next trip. Let’s go!
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:
The adventure begins by arriving on a seaplane painted like an orca whale.
Day 1 starts with a boat ride to see whales. This J-pod male was cruising with his mates off Stuart Island.
We saw the most whales we’d ever seen at one time – including three lively calves.
On our cruise home we stopped to fish for the night’s dinner: pink salmon.
The one that got away!
Mid August is blackberry season. Each afternoon we picked fresh berries to enjoy on our ice cream. Yum!
Throughout the week we caught delicious Dungeness Crab to enjoy fresh out of the pot, in crab cakes and crab salad wraps.
Plus we feasted on the “lobster of the northwest”: Spot Shrimp, locally called Prawns.
Lots of them!
Our terrestrial activities included a hike up Turtleback Mountain.
This scenic overlook on Turtleback Mountain made the perfect place for a picnic lunch.
The Saturday Farmer’s Market was an ideal place to pick up island-made souvenirs for the folks back home.
Meg piloted the dinghy to nearby Crane Island where we borrowed two kayaks.
Our kayaking adventures included scenic Mountain Lake. It was as peaceful as I’d always imagined.
After beaching the kayaks for snack time, we took a brisk dip in Mountain Lake. Brrr!
Every night we were treated to a spectacular summer sunset. This one took first place.
A last paddle on President Channel completes the perfect vacation.
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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Not a lot has changed since I was a teenager growing up on Orcas Island 20-25 years ago, and that’s not a bad thing. The Sea View Theatre still shows one movie a week and The Village Stop, (Con’s) still has soft serve ice cream. Being a teenager on an island is actually pretty great, especially Orcas Island. The days are long and the weather is generally perfect with average temps in the 70’s and clear, sunny skies. Our island is a major tourist destination during the summer which means that local businesses are in need of seasonal help. Orcas teens are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn new skills and make some money each summer. The jobs are plentiful and range from store clerks to firewood splitters and everything in between. Here are a few Orcas teens that I came across at work recently.
Off to Island Market I am helped by high school Junior Rowan Lister. It is humbling to ask him to reach things on the high shelf for me, after-all I have known him since he was a baby! After handing me the item I ask him what he is saving his money for. He tells me that he wants to buy a knight’s suit of armor for his younger brother! Shhh… it’s a surprise!
At the local clothing consignment store Sequel, I run into Junior Bethany Hansen. She is just as friendly as always even though she is on the tail end of a 52 hour work week. She works nights at a local restaurant, as well as her day job at Sequel. She says not all weeks are like this, but she wants to earn a lot of money so she can buy a car before school starts.
Walking past The Kitchen I see a familiar face, it’s Brother Murphy! Brother is a high school Junior and all around friendly guy so his job at The Kitchen is a good fit. The Kitchen serves fresh Asian food in a relaxed outdoor environment. Brother helps prep the food, serve, and does the dishes. All good life skills!
I decide to stop in and see my son Jordan Randolph at the recently opened and very popular Clever Cow Creamery. The line is out the door with people anxiously awaiting a taste of the locally produced handcrafted ice cream. I work my way in and find Jordan and co-worker Kyle happily scooping and serving ice cream. The line doesn’t let up in the time I am there and Jordan tells me later that they didn’t see a break in the line for three hours! As I watch, I see the boys working steady, having pleasant interactions with the customers, and even cracking a few jokes along the way. I am filled with overwhelming “mom pride” as I walk away. My son has grown into a capable and kind young man. I knew this already but seeing him at work somehow makes it more real. I appreciate the owners of the Clever Cow for giving my teenage son his first “real” job.
Out at Moran State Park the owners of Orcas Adventures rely heavily on Orcas teens to keep a safe and fun working environment. Owners Edward and Fiona Stone grew up on Orcas and were once teens looking for summer work themselves! There are currently six high school and college students working the Sugar Shack and the Boat Dock. Yes, Orcas graduates do consistently come back for summer work on Orcas. Why not? The work is readily available and the rent is usually free!
It’s not all work for Island teens, they know how to make the most of their free time. With no malls to hang out at, and only one movie showing per week, our kids have to get more creative. Orcas teens know they have it good. They take advantage of the beauty that surrounds them. You will find them swimming, hiking, fishing, biking, boating, beach-combing, and sunset watching. Here are a few pictures I found on facebook from some of my son’s friends (yes, they gave me permission to use them).
A morning run on Mt.Constitution!
Friends hanging out at the lake.
Sunset toss in the Salish Sea!
Sunset Yogi Charlie.
Stopping by to see mom at TWilliams Realty!
It’s a charmed life for sure! I am grateful to have been raised on this amazing island and so happy that I am providing the same opportunities for my children. If a move to Orcas Island is in your future please give me a call and I’d be happy to show you around… Island Style!
I have been dreaming all winter long of sailing off into the sunset down south in Bahamian waters. Good friends, clear-warm water and a life style to relax in and warm my soul. However, to my surprise, I found myself feeling empty. I could not put my finger on it until I was on the ferry returning to Orcas and rounded the corner at Shaw Island; the Orcas ferry landing came into sight. I missed my island life!
I’ve always had a “welcome home” feeling when getting back on island from a short trip to the mainland, but this trip took me away for three weeks. Returning, I found myself deep in amazement of life right here on this island. Life gets too busy. I had not taken the time to slow down, look around and be thankful. I had been taking my island life for granted, and in fact, had some angst about life not fulfilling my every desire. It was always right in front of me………. If I had just slowed down to look around and see how my life was filled with treasure. I did not have to sail so far away to find what was in my own back yard. Growing my own fresh food, the land around me filled with nature and family memories, work and friendships that challenge and fulfill my soul. I am so glad to be back home and will never again go looking outside my own backyard searching for my heart’s smile. Enjoy today, Teri
We are not afraid to get down in the dirt. It’s where we find our roots.
I am a pirate at heart. I have saltwater in my blood.
Outdoor fire pit, Hogstone Pizza, Island Hoppin Brew, family, laughs, good time!
Art and color identifies public beaches on Orcas Island.
Vacation right in my own backyard.
Music shared in this community.
The Orcas Hotel and Orcas Ferry Landing welcome you home.
Family and future farmers.
My office in Eastsound tucked in the flower garden.
The kids in my heart. My heart is in my garden.
The Blue Pearl watching the sunrise in Mail Bay, Waldron Island.
Spring is my favorite time of the year for so many reasons.
I’m back in my garden, seeds are sprouting, flowers are blooming, and birds are nesting and singing.
From hummingbirds zipping around my garden to eagles nesting across the valley, we have a huge variety of birds to appreciate.
Get your birding book out and enjoy learning about these little chirpers! This photo was found Googling birds in the San Juan Islands.
And Orcas celebrates our feathered friends with a little help from the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the annual Birdfest, a celebration of birds! This year, the Orcas Island Birdfest runs for four days: Thursday, April 30 through Sunday, May 2.
Sharp Shined Hawk
The schedule is packed with bird walks and nature tours, workshops, a fine art exhibition and scientific symposium, all focusing on the wonder of birds and grassroots solutions for maintaining healthy populations.
Even if you are not a “birder,” this is an unforgettable experience showcasing the natural splendor of the San Juan Islands.
Hooded Mergansers at Otter’s Pond, ready to have ducklings in a month.
Grab your binoculars, pack your Birding in the San Juan Islands by Mark G. Lewis, put your hiking boots on and get ready for some local color and sound.
Springtime on Orcas Island means nettle time! Some people only consider nettles to be those pesky weeds that cause an irritating sting when brushed up against. My students at Orcas Island Elementary School know otherwise… they know that nettles are nutritious, tasty, and free!
A fresh nettle patch growing on Orcas Island.
Nettles are low in calories, but pack in a whopping amount of iron, calcium, vitamin K, and fiber. It has long been believed that ingesting nettles can combat the symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergies. Try drinking two cups of nettle tea a day just prior to and during your allergy season and see for yourself! You do need to be careful when gathering your nettles. Wear long sleeves and pants. Use gloves and clippers to harvest. You can take the sting away from your nettles by drying them in the sun or simply by rinsing and soaking the nettles in water. The most certain way to take away all sting is to boil briefly.
A box full of freshly harvested stinging nettles.
After harvesting your nettles and before eating them, you could take some time to investigate them with a magnifying glass!
Farm to Classroom students investigating stinging nettles with magnifying glasses.
You can enjoy nettles in many ways, in soup, tea, sauces, and stir fry. We decided to make a nettle pasta dish in Farm to Classroom last week. Here is how we made our nettle pasta.
Stinging nettle pasta!
Start by mincing garlic and sautéing it in some olive oil.
Bring a pot of water to boil and add nettles to boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Remove the nettles with a slotted spoon and chop them. Add your pasta to the same water you boiled the nettles in.
Add the chopped nettles to your garlic and sauté. Add a few pinches of sea salt if you’d like.
Add the cooked pasta and mix thoroughly until combined.
Fresh stinging nettle pasta.
Enjoy warm or cold!
Here is an easy way to store your extra nettles for use later. Boil, chop, squeeze out excess water and form into a ball. Freeze the nettle balls on a baking sheet and transfer to a Ziploc bag once frozen. Then you can toss a nettle ball into soup, smoothies, sauces, scrambled eggs and omelets, you name it!
A batch of “nettle balls” before they went into the freezer.
Go ahead and try some stinging nettles. My students enjoyed them, and you may too!
Happy students enjoying stinging nettle pasta. Seconds please!
Sometimes I stray too far from the barn, but a day at Coffelt Farm Stand brings me right back to what really is important, family, farming and friendships.
Local berries make a sweet colorful gift and reminds me of kitchen time with grandma.
My grandparents had a dairy farm complete with chickens, horses and bottle fed calves. Grandma’s garden filled canning jars and the cellar was filled with pears, apples and plums from the orchard. These are fond memories deep in my soul. I spent many summers picking berries with grandma, never wanting to eat any so my bucket would be as full as hers. Jams and pies were yummy results. I still remember when grandma left the pie making to me for a family gathering. Her shared crust secrets and faith in me still show in my pies today.
Grandma T’s garden shares ready to eat sweet peas and the promise of greens for a meal.
Wanting to get out of the city, I moved to Orcas Island 27 years ago with 3 sons and a desire to find my roots again. The boys are grown and raising their own families now. It is my garden and orchard they will remember in their hearts and souls, as well as the many trips to local Orcas Island farms.
In my garden, each year I look forward to planting new things, talking to other farmers about their favorite seeds and sharing tricks to invite worms to feed the soil. I have starts from Sid Coffelt, plum trees from my great grandma’s orchard, tomatoes from John Cadden, garlic from Mary Ann Sircely, raspberry bushes from my mom, Arlene Carlson and blueberry shrubs from Faith Deeds garden. There is much heart and soul in my garden and I dance with joy thinking about the harvest with my grand kids!!!
Brand new lambs and a proud mom.
The Coffelt Farm, located in Crow Valley, Orcas Island, gives tours to school children in the spring time when new born run the barn yard. This spring the farm welcomed several new piglets, lambs and a couple of calves.
Orcas Island School children enjoy a day on the farm learning about all the animals and what it means to be a farmer.
This farm girl says get busy, visit a farm, offer some volunteer time in a garden, share an afternoon canning the harvest, spend time with your grandma, bring a friend and create a memory to nourish the soul.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
When I am not busy doing all things real estate at the T Williams Realty office, I enjoy my other career as an elementary school teacher. In my previous post I told you all about our great potato dig in the school garden. Well, just last week we finally enjoyed the fruits of our labor. All of the students at Orcas Island Elementary School helped to make and then eat some garden fresh roasted potatoes!
Our yummy garden fresh roasted potatoes- just look at all those colors!
The potatoes were stored just the way they like; cool, dark, and dirty. They spent the past three months stored in cardboard boxes and covered with shade cloth in a rodent free, unheated garage. When we opened the boxes they were just as firm and glorious as the day we picked them.
Kindergarten students digging up the potatoes in the school garden last fall.
In the classroom the children are divided into working groups: Potato cutters, onion dicers, garlic peelers and mincers, and the rosemary choppers. Yes, all of the groups will be using knives. Children and knives? At school? Yes! The students are taught safe knife handling skills starting in Kindergarten. The rules are followed closely because the children know that using the knives is a privilege that must be taken seriously or they will lose it. Kids LOVE to be helpful! Sometimes we adults forget to give them the opportunities. Not in Farm to Classroom– all students are taught to use tools and expected to do their part!
Elementary students safely using knives in Farm to Classroom.
Once the cutting commences there are ooohs and ahhhs as the purple majesty and cranberry red potatoes are sliced open to discover that they are also colored on the inside!
The stunning Purple Majesty potato!
The Cranberry Red potato- red through out!
The onion group starts to complain of watering eyes. The peeled garlic (harvested from our garden) starts to fill the room with its distinct scent. The rosemary group is focused on cutting tiny pieces so it doesn’t “feel like we are eating the Christmas tree”.
Carefully dicing the onion.
Peeling and mincing garlic grown in our school garden.
Focused on chopping the rosemary into teeny-tiny pieces.
With the chopping complete the potatoes, garlic, onion, and rosemary are tossed together with olive oil and some salt.
A very colorful bowl of potatoes.
Off into the oven set at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Our garden fresh roasted potatoes are so delicious! The children loved eating them and you will too!
Farm to Classroom Recipe: Garden Fresh Roasted Potatoes
5 medium potatoes
1/3 cup Olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic
½ small onion
Cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes, dice onions and garlic
Mix potatoes in large bowl with olive oil, garlic, onion, rosemary