Tag Archives: Orcas Island

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

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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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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Orcas ROCKS! A Brief Geological History

1Mt-Baker--WEBLooking out from one of the stunning viewpoints atop Orcas Island’s Turtleback Mountain or Mount Constitution, it’s easy to imagine that the evergreen archipelago spread out below you has existed as-is since time immemorial. Indeed, the rock you’re standing on may be more than 500 million years old!

Far from being permanent, however, Orcas is part of a dynamic system that has changed in remarkable ways within the blink of an eye—geologically speaking.

Turtleback Mountain, Orcas Island

Ancient oceanic rock on Turtleback Mountain – from Mexico!

For one thing, back when dinosaurs stomped around the landscape, Turtleback Mountain was at the bottom of the sea. And it was in Mexico. Yes, Orcas was once south of the border where Baja lies today! In fact, all of the San Juan Islands are still slowly sailing through the cool waters of the Salish Sea, moving northeast at about an inch-and-a-half a year.

An elephant-sized Giant Ground Sloth roamed our turf just 12,000 or so years ago

During the last ice age you could skate across Orcas Island, which was buried beneath a mile of ice. It was the advance and retreat of glaciers that ultimately shaped the dramatic setting you see today, smoothing and scarring the rocky highlands while excavating the deep channels that eventually filled with seawater and turned hilltops into islands.

Not too long ago, our island wasn’t even an island. Orcas was part of a larger land mass upon which very large—but now extinct—animals such as giant ground sloths, short-faced bears, mammoths, and herds of nine-foot-tall buffalo roamed.

A fascinating archeological discovery was made on the east side of Orcas in 2003. Though a dozen Orcas sites have unearthed remains of the extinct giant bison, Bison antiquus, bison bones found at the Ayer Pond in Olga were the first to show evidence of human butchering. The significance of this discovery is that it puts humans in the Salish Sea by 14,000 years ago — a thousand years earlier than previously believed.

I find all of this quite mind-blowing, and a good reminder of what a tiny blip of time we have on this beautiful earth. One of my favorite poems, Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day, asks so elegantly:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

While I’m still trying to figure that out, I realize I’m actually already doing it: living a simple life on Orcas Island, with a genuine love for the world around me.


Sandi Friel at Sucia Island

Sandi Friel, Realtor and life-lover on Orcas Island

Dreaming of the simple life on Orcas Island? Contact me to help find your way home.

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Pizza Camp

Sharing life, love and lunch.

I love Pizza – Who Doesn’t!

By Teri Williams

 

 

 

 

Ok, so I don’t need to eat more carbs, and yes we have Hogstone Pizza in town. So why, you ask, do I crave to create the best ever pizza??? Last time I was in Darville’s Bookstore I found a book about pizza titled Pizza Camp by Joe Beddin. I love to read cookbooks, especially when they have humorous commentary and throw in common sense. After reading Joe’s recipe and constitution on how and what to use to make the best-ever pie I started planning and dreaming. So let the fun begin!

I have never had any luck with yeast. So the fact that Joe’s recipe for the dough does not include warm water and is put in the fridge for 24 hours gave me even more skepticism. However, I jumped in and made the first steps towards my crusty cheesy tomato dreams. Joe’s policy for making dough: “Turn your phone off and don’t speak, this is a time to listen, for new ideas, it’s not busy, be present. Making dough should be calming, meditative and a great time to think of new ideas about pizza and life.” I spent the time to enjoy the moment and think about what my garden would provide as toppings.

Book in hand, tools in place. This is the beginning, bring on the yeast.

Love it when your work looks like it does in the book!

After the dough was in a ball and had to rest for 30 minutes, I wandered through my garden and gave thanks for being here now on Orcas Island. Second round of kneading left the yeasty ball in the fridge for 24 hours. Until tomorrow …

Garlic drying in the sun. Going to learn to braid this summer!

Basil love

The sauce. I always thought you cooked up a batch of grandma’s secret tomato sauce and let it simmer for hours on the cooktop. No, Joe says they never cook the sauce in Naples. He recommends a nice fresh and bright tomato sauce, which comes with using the right tomatoes. So I read on. Joe uses Jersey Fresh crushed tomatoes in a can. A CAN!!! Ok, I can do this, FYI- I did go to Maple Rock Farm stand down the road and purchased fresh island grown tomatoes. Just in case. Continuing to read more from Pizza Camp, I learn the canned tomatoes, garlic and salt need to sit for a few hours in the fridge to meld flavors. I found canned tomatoes at Island Market from Italy – yes in a can.

Cheese will include fresh mozzarella and a hard cheese purchased at Roses Bakery. I think I will search for some local fresh goat cheese for the next time – Wendy Thomas, I’m headed out your way soon, girl.

Now what will I choose for toppings? Well I think a simple marguerita is a must. Just cheese and fresh basil – I can do this, and get a chance to go thank my garden once again for providing me with peace of mind and room for dreaming and creating good food. I wanted something a bit more for the second disc of saucy goodness, so I pulled some local pork out of the freezer. Pizza Camp shares many styles and types of toppings, one being Pizzeria Beddin’s Sausage – perfect!

Anticipation is a wonderful thing. I could not enjoy this pizza experience by myself so made a short last minute call to Cory, Monee and Eleanor to come to Gramma T’s back yard bbq pizza oven. I believe this can work with my cast-iron flat pan. Yes, why not. Too early in the game to order a wood fired pizza oven to be constructed in my patio (save these dreams for when I am making dough).

Ju DE VIE from tasting at Doe Bay Wine Company

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This was the hardest part and I have to say, I cheated and used my Grandma’s rolling pin. Need to do some recon on what is the trick to pushing, pulling and stretching the dough.

After Notes:

You need a pizza peel. I’ll save you the details on this, just believe me. And, do not grease your pan with olive oil. Avocado oil will stand the heat much better.

The two days of planning was a tasty success. I still love pizza and am already dreaming up the next PIZZA CAMP!

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What To Do on Orcas if Your Grama Does Not Take You to the Fireworks

By Teri Williams

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Time for ‘Quick Three Beers’ — The Olive-Sided Flycatcher Is Here

Sandi Friel at Sucia Island

 

 

 

Posted by Sandi Friel

 

Last summer I listed and sold a property in Crow Valley on Quick Three Beers Lane. I was tickled by the creative address, and as a bird lover I knew right away the name had nothing to do with a cold brew. Quick Three Beers is a birder’s phrase for the three-beat song of the elusive Olive-Sided Flycatcher, my favorite feathered summer resident on the island (click here to hear the song at Cornell Lab of Ornithology).

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Photo: Garth McElroy/Vireo

These remarkable birds fly from as far as South America each summer to nest in northern places such as Orcas Island. As soon as they land, their mating calls begin. If you’ve spent any time here in May through August, you’ve certainly heard them. Actually spotting one, though, is a challenge. The Flycatcher perches high in the tree tops, and its camo colors make it all the more challenging to find.

It took a few summers of living here before I caught a glimpse of my first O-S Flycatcher. I followed the sound through the woods and waited for the bird to take flight, catch its snack and return back to its perch – a feeding routine it repeated again and again. The bird has a distinctive head shape, and I became successful at identifying it from a distance. But I wasn’t able to get a really satisfying look. Until recently.

olive-sided flycatcher on Orcas IslandSituated at the top of a ravine and nearly eye-level with the upper canopy of the trees below, our living room is an ideal bird watching spot. Last week an Olive-Side Flycatcher claimed a nearby bare madrone branch for an afternoon of hunting, and I was thrilled to finally get closer to the bird I cherish.

We’ve kept a wildlife log for the last 11 years, marking the arrival and departure of migrating birds on our property along with other events in nature. Though the Flycatcher’s numbers in the world are diminishing quickly due to loss of winter habitat, so far without fail, they arrive in May to nest on our property. Their mating calls signify the arrival of summer to me, and always make me smile.

Do you love birdwatching? The San Juan Islands are part of the Pacific Flyway and a great place to watch birds year round. Contact me to find your very own perch.

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Dandelion … Friend or Foe?

mandy-on-brick

 

 

 

 

 
By Mandy Randolph

Oh the wondrous dandelion!

Colleen dandelion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Dandy kid

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.

Dandy Garden

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!

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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!

health benefits

Dandelions are fun!

How many of you picked your mother a bouquet straight from the yard as a young child?

dandy Johnny

Do you remember holding a dandelion under a friend’s chin to determine if they loved butter or not?

do you like butter?

 

Have you watched a child decorate their skin with the yellow pollen from a dandelion?

Ada

Ever make a dandelion chain to wear in your hair?

dandy-chain

 

Did you ever just lay in the sunny yellow spotted grass watching the bees happily move from flower to flower?

Finn dandy

Can you recall the hopefulness you felt wishing on a dandelion gone to seed?

Johnny wish

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!

EPSON MFP image

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.

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Signs of Orcas

2 teri-sheet By Teri Williams

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