Into the social whirl (with a tale of ‘Nudes and Prudes’)

Blooming daffodils paint the valley floor east of Best Road in the Skagit Valley. The golden blooms are peaking this week.


With just me and the cat and not a lot of neighbors around, I’m sharply aware of the necessity of scheduling off-island time in the off-season. Dear Barbara was happy to be a hermit. I’m more of a social animal. On a small island nobody’s heard of, it’s a challenge.

Due to a variety of circumstances, some recent plans got postponed (Galley Cat had a bad cold, then my daughter had a bad cold, etc.) Now, several social occasions and road trips have become stacked on top of one another. Not complaining, but I’m flapping as fast as I can.

Dave and Jill Kern on the dock at Joemma Beach State Park, on South Puget Sound’s Key Peninsula.

It started with me and Galley road tripping through daffodil fields of the Skagit Valley last Thursday on our way to the Kitsap Peninsula. We spent three days there at the end of last week with Dave and Jill Kern, old friends from my days at The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. From their home near Port Orchard, my hosts and I had a fun road trip exploring the nearby Key Peninsula, a remote backwater that is home to communities such as Home (yes, that’s the town name), a tiny burg on a shallow bay of South Puget Sound.

Today, Home is a quiet assemblage of pleasant waterfront domiciles, but it was founded in 1895 as a utopian community for free-thinkers, anarchists, nudists and adherents of free love. The community’s founders chose the remote location, hidden from the rest of the world, for a reason. But after a self-proclaimed anarchist assassinated President William McKinley in 1901, the Home anarchists drew the ire of self-styled patriots in nearby Tacoma who almost descended on the community with pitchforks and torches. (Home was spared only because a steamboat operator refused to transport the vigilantes). As years went by, fractures grew within the community, with Home residents staking out various moral grounds, leading to factions being labeled “Nudes and Prudes.” (Read the Wikipedia entry, it’s a hoot.)

Dave and Jill had no idea of the colorful history just down the road from them. I had fun sharing the story that I had learned from an earlier sailing adventure in the area.

Galley and I returned to the Nuthatch on Saturday evening, and I was up and about early the next morning to hop aboard WeLike for a trip to Lopez Island. I was invited to brunch with friends Lynn Thompson and David Foutch at their holiday home overlooking Outer Bay on the southern tip of Lopez. Besides gorging with my friends on tasty pastries and muffins from Holly B’s Bakery and Barn Owl Bakery, along with fruit salad, flagons of good coffee, and Lynn’s tasty quiche with goat cheese, I got to meet new friends Ande and Scott Finley, Lopezians who are active with Transition Lopez Island, a coalition of locals working toward a regenerative, resilient future. The conversation was lively. They told me about vacationing in their electric car. I told them about my Center Island neighbor who is building an electric-powered, carbon-fiber hydrofoil catamaran.

Lopez friends and Eddy the Springer Spaniel pause at Lopez Island’s Iceberg Point monument commemorating the Treaty of 1908, which finalized the boundary between the United States and Canada.

On a hike around nearby Iceberg Point we saw wood ducks, harbor seals and the season’s first wildflowers.

This coming Saturday Galley and I hit the road again for three nights in Vancouver/Portland to visit more friends and have a reunion with my brother Tom, whose 10-week cabin-sitting experience for me last summer helped convince him to return from Arizona to the Northwest. I’m having breakfast with him in his new Portland digs on Sunday. Dinner with friends that night. A day of walks and exploring with another friend on Monday.

Whew. This butterfly’s wings are getting a workout. After a quiet winter in my island cocoon, it’s a good thing.

A satin flower, Olysynium douglasii, was among the first blooming wildflowers on Iceberg Point on Sunday.

Febrrrr-uary ends frostily

Cottony clouds crowd the Cascades on a recent sunny but cold day. Looking east from Center Island across Decatur Island to Rosario Strait.

DECEMBER TOOK A JAB AT IT, but February has again tussled its way to the title as the San Juan Islands’ winter month with the most unpredictable and weirdest weather.

We’ve had hail (pelting down like a million icy little meteorites on my deck, more than once). We’ve had frigid Fraser Valley gales (combined with big tidal swings that make crossing Rosario Strait to Anacortes a rocking, sloshing, life-challenging adventure, more than once). We’ve had blowing snow, we’ve had frosty nights. And, yes, we’ve also had pristine sunny days, such as today, most of which have never warmed above freezing. And, oh my, the starry nights.

Galley has donned a cunning Argyle sweater against the February cold.

“I’m done with the cold,” the Mad Birder grumped on a recent visit. He moved here from California, which by rights might make him bitter about our February freezes, but today Los Angeles has blizzard warnings, so go figure.

Extreme cold tends to keep us otherwise hardy islanders indoors by blazing fires much of the time. By now, with the month of March parading our direction as if to a John Philip Sousa composition, our feet are decidedly itchy.

I have done a few things other than binge-watch all four seasons of “New Amsterdam” in recent weeks. On a day when the earth wasn’t frozen I finally dug a hole in which to plant the five-foot Charlie Brown fir tree that had been living in a root-bound pot on my deck for many months. Daughter Lillian brought the tree up a couple years ago. It was Nuthatch cabin’s Christmas tree in 2021. When much smaller, it had served as her Christmas tree on the sailboat in 2020, after being dug up on Auntie Sarah’s Camano Island property. So it’s a well-traveled little tree, finally properly planted and surrounded by deer fencing next to the porch of Wee Nooke, my Center Island writing hut.

Wee Nooke’s newly planted tree.

Wee Nooke needed a new tree. We originally erected the 36-square-foot cedar shed in the shade of a sizable shore pine that leaned artfully over its roof until the pine blew down a few winters ago. Had the tree fallen about 10 inches to the left my Nooke would have been transformed from man cave to matchsticks. If the Charlie Brown tree ever gets big and old enough to blow down, I am confident I won’t be around to be squished. Always look on the bright side of life, I say.

I bottled a gallon of beer this week, brewed on the Nuthatch’s stovetop a couple weeks ago with the help of Lillian and partner Chris when they were up for a quick visit. The beer fermented in a jug next to a miniature electric radiator beneath an upturned plastic storage tote behind my bed. I got to drift off to sleep to the comforting “boop-boop” of the jug’s venting gases that told me the yeast was happily working its magic.

Made with a popular strain of pungent, citrus-scented hops called Cashmere, this brew is dubbed Cashmere Blonde. Lillian educated me that cashmere wool comes from Cashmere goats, so I found an image of a wildly-horned, blonde Cashmere goat to go on the bottle label. The ale will be properly bottle-aged in time for me to quaff with Lil and Chris on their next visit, possibly while we brew another batch, in mid-March.

Meanwhile, if robins are harbingers of spring (a highly dubious assumption, I see them here in December) (but I digress)… If robins are harbingers of spring, we should be headed for warmer days. Yesterday I saw about a hundred of the red-breasted harbingers pecking for worms on the grassy field that is Center Island International. So I guess “seeing red” isn’t always a bad thing.

Until spring has sprung, Galley Cat and I send warm thoughts your way.

The latest label from Nuthatch Brewing.