Tag Archives: San Juan Islands

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nature

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nature

An Island Winter Wonderland

sandi-quinn-pupby Sandi Friel

Last week we got our first snow of the season on Orcas Island. It only snows here every few years, and when it does, our magic “Emerald Isle” becomes even more magical.

Our last “big” snowfall was in 2014. The amount of snow ranged widely on this 57-square mile island  — from a few inches that disappeared in days to nearly two feet that lingered for weeks. Why? Orcas’s horseshoe shape and varied topography create many micro-climates. The mountains, inlets and fjords that make this rock so dramatically beautiful also help drive its patchwork weather patterns.

Here are a few shots from my trip up Buck Mountain yesterday, plus scenes from winter’s past. Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slideshow. Enjoy!

 

If you’re thinking of visiting or relocating to Orcas Island, winter is a great time to experience a quiet wonderland – snow or not. Contact me if you’re looking for rentals or homes to purchase!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Adventure, Nature

Saucy Cranberries

teri-williams-summer-cropBy Teri Williams

I am always looking for a new spin on a traditional holiday meal. While reading through my new Rodale’s Organic Life magazine, I came across this Pickled Cranberries recipe and seasonal Kale Salad. Pickling is super easy, with very few ingredients and results in a big flavor with many uses. I sealed several jars of the pickled cranberries and will give out as hostess gifts throughout the holiday season. And if you come to my house over the holiday season, you most likely will be served a fresh cranberry cocktail and a side of healthy kale salad!

Pickled Cranberries (makes 2.5 cups)
Note: Always use fresh organic cranberries.
fullsizerender-2

In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1-1/2 cups of red wine vinegar. Tie 1/2 tsp. of coriander seeds and 1/2 tsp. peppercorns in a square of cheesecloth and add to the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Add 10-12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries and bring back to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until skins begin to split, 2-3 minutes. Let cool in saucepan, remove and discard spice sachet, and transfer cranberries and liquid to a jar. Refrigerate in sealed jar until ready to use. Pickled cranberries will keep for a few weeks; or process to seal according to canning practices.

2016-11-13-14-17-18The liquid can be strained to use in cocktails, and the pickled cranberries can be tossed into salads and stuffings.

My favorite easy hors d’oeuvre is as follows:

Slice baguette into 1/4-inch slices (may 2016-11-13-14-54-19toast or leave soft), top with your favorite ricotta cheese, place a dollop of pickled cranberries and finish with a drizzle of honey. A sweet, tart, smooth and tasty treat in minutes!

Kale and Wild Rice Salad

1/2 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. liquid from pickled cranberries (see above recipe)fullsizerender
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch kale, stemmed and shredded into thin ribbons
1 cup pickled cranberries, drained
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped (can use walnuts)

In small bowl stir together shallot, mustard, pinch of salt, pepper and pickling liquid. Whisk in oil. Pour half the liquid, adding more as needed, and use your hands to massage into kale for 5 minutes.

To serve, lightly toss with rice, cranberries, cheese and nuts. Serve as a side dish or add chicken or salmon to create a colorful and satisfying main dish.

Happy and Healthy Holiday Wishes sent from my family to yours ~

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

1 Comment

Filed under Family Life, Recipes, Uncategorized

Falling for Orange on Orcas Island

Sandi Friel, Orcas Island RealtorPosted by Sandi Friel

It’s gray and rainy outside today, but my house is anything but gloomy – thanks to the color orange. The glowing fire, wood ceilings, trim and amber lighting create a cozy lively space I want to be in. Orange makes me happy!

Upbeat and friendly, when orange is muted it’s warm and comforting. In vibrant hues, it’s downright exciting — a little goes a long way! Fall is traditionally when we think of orange (see my post Slideshow of Fall Color on Orcas Island), but I enjoy it throughout the year, inside and out. Take a look:

Sandi's madrone branch chandelier

When I couldn’t decide on a chandelier, Bob whipped up this Madrone branch with orange lights. The perfect glow over our table – I love it!

 

20161013_142718_resized

My best score from the local consignment shop – a gracefully shaped stained glass lampshade with colors of fall.

 

20161013_144540_resized

A copper octopus ornament sparkles on my fireplace year-round. If you love something, keep it out where you can enjoy it. 🙂

 

20161013_120231

Another cherished cephalopod: a whimsical print from Teri.

 

getmedia-ashx

Teri and Marlis used pops of orange effectively when they staged this home for sale. Orange is both unexpected and memorable, and harmonizes with most wood tones.

 

gafford-0002-edit

A bedroom in a listing of mine reminds me of orange sorbet…yummy! In larger areas like this, full-strength orange would’ve been be too intense.

 

tw4th-pix-0993

Check out the bold color Teri picked for the front door of our first-place-winning parade float this summer.

 

orange-ford

An orange Ford in an Orcas field. I snapped this picture years ago when I first thought of a post about orange.

 

img_0977

California poppies sunning themselves over Massacre Bay. Blue and orange are opposites on the color wheel, making a classic complementary color scheme.

 

p1000508

Wild Orange Honeysuckle in our yard attracts and feeds hummingbirds.

 

img_3655

Critters come in orange too! Here, a poisonous Red-Bellied Newt sports a fire orange underbelly as a warning to predators.

 

Orcas Island Scenes

The most prolific display of orange on our island is the bark of the beautiful Pacific Madrone tree.

 

beach-golden-hour-1

Orcas Island’s western shoreline lights up at golden hour.

 

sunset347-copy

The sunsets from the west side of Orcas are simply breathtaking. The tiny floating island is White Rock.

 

p1020935

What October post about orange would be complete without pumpkins?

After writing this post, I’ve decided to I’m going to bring more cheery orange into my life. How about you?

 

3 Comments

Filed under Community, Decor, Nature

Community Spotlight: Crane Island

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerPosted by Sandi Friel

If you take the simple life on Orcas Island and dial it down a few notches, you might end up on Crane, a 250-acre private island paradise dangling south of Deer Harbor on Orcas’s west side.

Crane aerial label

This quiet, pedestrian-friendly island is accessible only by private boat. I had the opportunity to get to know Crane when I sold a waterfront home there a few years ago. And on a beautiful day recently I got to visit again, this time bringing a contractor to look at a vacant lot I have listed for sale.

P1050362 adjusted

Approaching the Crane Island Community Dock

We landed at the community dock on the north end and took a 20-minute stroll to the property on the south side, seeing only deer and listening to bird songs along the way. We passed by the community beach, the airstrip and tiny community hall that also houses a fire truck.

Road on Crane

Typical country lane on Crane Island

Circling around the 50-acre nature preserve, we arrived at our destination – a pristine 2-acre waterfront lot purchased in the 1960s when Crane was first platted.

1ferry2048

View from the 2-acre Crane Island waterfront lot listed for only $199k  Click for details

Many Crane properties are held for generations as a summer getaway. There are only a few full time folks on the island, and residents are affectionately known as Craniacs. I asked one full-timer what’s the best part about living on Crane. Her answer was multi-faceted:

Five Reasons To Love Crane, as told by a Craniac:

  1. Surrounded by natural beauty
  2. Nature preserve
  3. Sense of community – we train for fires and first aid together. One of the most organized fire protection efforts on an outer island.
  4. Feels remote but it’s quite convenient to Deer Harbor and Orcas Landing groceries, restaurants and ferry.
  5. We have a community center with a new ping pong table!

 

If you feel tempted by the simple life on Crane Island, and think you have what it takes to be a Craniac, contact me!

1 Comment

Filed under Community, Nature, Uncategorized

Lost On Waldron

teri_cropBy Teri Williams

SV Blue Pearl left Bay Head Marina on Orcas Island at 12:45 p.m., headed to Mail Bay, Waldron Island on the west side of Presidents Channel. Drizzling, no wind (Jay says of course, we are taking our sailboat out!). No current book but the tide has a small change so off we go.

Arrived Mail Bay at 2:45. Rain stopped, flat water. Warm. Overcast.

IMG_7590Uncle Bill met me with a big hug and said, “Let’s go!” Off we went on his four-wheeler with duck tape and a jerry rigged gear shift. He was hell bent on showing me all of his property I was listing. What a ride! I heard the history of Bill Carlson’s Waldron at full throttle flying down old dirt roads. I could just see my cousins Mike and Howie back in the day flying down these roads on horseback to get to school. Bill purchased acreage for logging back in the sixties when he was a young buck (he is 79 today). A proud man, he told me of the wells dug, timber harvested and Mail Bay log dump, pointing out the relics of machinery over grown with berry briars, building the family A-frame cabin and clearing fields for cattle. He no longer logs or runs cattle on Waldron, but the memories are fresh in his mind. We jumped pot holes, swerved at the one tractor we passed and down shifted on the downhill run due to the fact the only good brake on the four-wheeler was on his bad side (body strength lost). I was hangin’ on!!

IMG_7592Back at the cabin, Bill says Jay should take me on a tour in the old rusty dodge 4×4, which says “Harvey go now” on the side panel. True to course, you had to coast-start the truck. Good thing it was parked pointing down hill. One brake works, the clutch had a bungee cord holding it together. Jay turned the key, the dash lit up, he popped the clutch and off we went. When asked if I knew where we were going, I said confidently, “Oh ya!.” After all, I just went road trippin’ with Uncle Bill!

To the untrained eye, all the dirt roads on Waldron look the same. They run like a maze through a dense lush forest with surprise openings of field and gardens. Eclectic homes tucked here and there, long driveways leading to privacy and a simple life. We were headed to find the post office and County dock. Not too far from the A-frame, no worries. Well, we soon found out that you could drive for hours and still not know which direction you were headed. We met two island girls walking down the dirt road, case of beer and a dog in hand. Looked like a “roll with it” way to spend a day on Waldron. I am grateful they did not take offense and “school” these two obvious trespassers too much. They pointed in the opposite direction the truck was pointing and said, “Head that way until you see the big road.” That is the County Road. Take a right and you will run right in to the Post Office. Duh! Of course, look for the big road.

Eventually, we found the dock and post office. It was getting dark and we still had to navigate back to the A-frame, so we spent just enough time there to know that we need to get back to this quiet island and get more history, starting first with the County dock and post office.

IMG_7589Sunday morning found us starting our SV Blue Pearl engine at 10:14 a.m., leaving uncle Bill’s dock. After tea, coffee and watermelon at the A-frame, we headed back to Orcas knowing we would need to return to explore more of Waldron Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Adventure, Boating, Community, Nature, Uncategorized

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!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Community

Pickle Camp 2015

teri-williams-summer-cropBy Teri Williams

I look forward to pickle camp each year. Friends and family gather to share stories and the thrill of scrubbing cucumbers and peeling garlic.

"pickle pals" for life, Elsa and Teri

“Pickle pals” for life, Elsa and Teri

There are also plenty of laughs and good food enjoyed by all as we sit back at the end of the day and get that warm feeling about what we accomplished, and begin to start counting down the calendar days until Thanksgiving, when the first jar is popped open and pickle camp comes back to life, one jar at a time.

IMG_1427

Fresh, ready-to-pack ingredients line the counter for packing jars.

Fresh, ready-to-pack ingredients line the counter for packing jars.

Elsa had the liquid measurements on her wrist likened to a quarterbacks play list. The assembly line behind her was moving fast.

Elsa had the liquid measurements on her wrist likened to a quarterbacks play list. The assembly line behind her was moving fast.

IMG_1450

 

ELSA’S PICKLES

Place the following in the bottom of a quart canning jar:
1 head of dill
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp mustard seed
1 red chili pod
¼ tsp turmeric
4 whole pepper corns

As jars are being filled, another garlic clove, red chili or a pinch more of dill can sneak into the jar, making the recipe really just a guide line.

For 7 jars, in a sauce pan heat:
6 cups vinegar
7-1/2 cups water
1 cup kosher salt
3/8 cup sugar

Place cucumbers in jar standing on end, pack tightly. Fill jar with vinegar liquid mix, place canning lid on top and screw lid on tight. Place into a water bath canner (water should cover top of the jar) and bring to a rolling boil. Process for 15 minutes. Do not open until Thanksgiving.

1 Comment

Filed under Family Life, Gardening, Recipes, Uncategorized

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.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Community