January ~ 2021
Happy New Year! This is the time of year when our focus turns to new beginnings, and signs are encouraging that we will see some positive changes in 2021. We're hoping that sometime this year we will be able to safely resume our in-person meetings and social time together. So keep the faith, take good care of yourselves and stay safe until that time comes.

In the meantime, we continue planning programs that we hope you will enjoy. Today we will be hearing from Thor Hanson at our Zoom meeting -- hope to see you there -- and in February you're invited to join us for a virtual Tea Party (read more about this below).

This newsletter issue has information about a variety of upcoming online workshops and trainings, a webinar about how to help birds survive the winter, a terrific guide to seed companies to help plan your crops for the coming growing season, book recommendations to entertain you while awaiting spring, a poem by one of our Garden Club members, and soup recipes to keep you warm through these cooler days.

This month's newsletter is also filled with introductions to a variety of folks, and that is no accident. Since we're all missing those personal connections during quarantine time, we wanted to bring you some "people" news to warm your hearts.

We're thrilled to have so many new members joining us and to see membership renewals rolling in. As a THANK YOU for your continued commitment to the Garden Club we've added an extra raffle item this month as well as raffling off two of Thor Hanson's books.

So, grab your coffee or tea mug, sit back, and enjoy this month's newsletter.

As always, we welcome your suggestions and comments. We’d love to hear from you. 

Until we meet again!
Nita Couchman
TODAY (1/20/21)
@ 10:30am

Orcas Island Garden Club & Orcas Island Public Library

January 20, 2021 @ 10:30am

A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard
Bluebird, Photo © Doug Tallamy, used with permission.
In the fall 2020, there was a mass die-off of migratory song birds in the southwestern states. On December 4, 2020, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish released a report that the die-off was caused by starvation and unexpected weather. Analysis of the birds’ bodies was conducted at USGS National Wildlife Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Based on the findings, biologists at the New Mexico Department concluded that birds were experiencing poor nutrition before entering New Mexico and were starving ( This raised the question: What can gardeners do to help prevent starvation in birds? This month’s webinar helps answer that question.

Doug Tallamy is the TA Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. In 2013 Professor Tallamy was awarded the Garden Club of America’s Margaret Douglas Medal for proving “through research the synergy between life-sustaining native plants, insects, birds and other wildlife in our local environments” (

The webinar shares its title with his most recent book, Nature’s Best Hope, published in 2020. In the webinar Dr. Tallamy shares what happened over 20 years on his family property, and findings from his own research and the research of his students. He provides a guide for what we can do to lessen bird starvation and raises hope for the future.

This previously recorded webinar, A Presentation by Doug Tallamy – Nature’s Best Hope,
was hosted by the National Wildlife Federation and is available on YouTube:
Submitted by Lene Symes
Sustainable Vegetable Gardening: Plan, Plant and Get the Most out of Your Food Garden

SJ County Master Gardeners / Orcas Island Garden Club / Lopez Garden Club

January 26, 2021 @ 1:00-3:00 pm FREE WEBINAR
Cut Your Losses: Managing Pests & Diseases in Your Food Garden

SJ County Master Gardeners / Orcas Island Garden Club / Lopez Garden Club

February 2, 2021 @ 1:00-3:00 pm FREE WEBINAR
Deer-Resistant Design with Karen Chapman (online presentation)
Hosted by Lopez Island Garden Club

February 13, 2021 - 10:00 - 11:00 am -- SAVE-THE-DATE -- registration info will be emailed soon
Tea, Cookies, and an Arrangement: See below for more information.

February 17, 2021 - Orcas Island Garden Club ZOOM meeting at 10:00 am

For the Orcas Island Garden Club’s second virtual meeting, on February 17, 2021, bring your favorite cuppa to the screen and join Laura Walker as she guides us through the steps of making one of her favorite herbal teas. Make Love Your Life tea (click here) found in Sarah Farr's book, Healing Herbal Teas. It's bound to be an uplifting experience!
Then follow as Helen Huber demonstrates a simple recipe for delicious five ingredient shortbread (click here). Prepare it in advance so you have cookies with your tea!

Emmy Gran of Fabled Flora has accepted our challenge to demonstrate making a floral arrangement from local materials, in February! We hope that there will be early buds on Willows and Mahonia or ….? We eagerly anticipate seeing what she chooses and how she puts it into an arrangement.

We are looking forward to this time together with the three of them and you – only wishing it could be in person.
Laura Walker and Helen Huber are members of the OIGC board. Both contribute to the success of the club in multiple ways. Laura is one of the editors of the OIGC newsletter and is helping plan this summer’s safe garden tour. Helen manages communication, ensuring that members and the community are informed about our events.

You may know Emmy Gran from the flowers she sells,
both at Roses Bakery Cafe and at the Farmers Market.
Visit her website at: Fabled Flora.

This month we want to welcome NEW members Martha Gooding, Jane Jones, Kate Kimball, Donna & Carl Little, Ginger Moore, and Adrienne Walker, and thank renewing members and donors Carolyn Fiscus, Susan Hampel, Helen Huber, and Sarah T. Moore. Thank you all for your support. Names of new and renewing members and donors are included in our monthly drawings.


C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S !!!
We've Made it Easier for You to Become a Member

We are happy to announce that memberships and donations can now all be done directly from our website at . We have added an electronic membership form and a PayPal option. For those of you who prefer to pay by check, you may still print and fill out a form and mail it to us with your check.

To renew your membership, become a member, or make a donation, please select whichever method works best for you. YOU could be the next lucky winner!!!!


As a THANK YOU to new and renewing members and donors, we're having another special drawing this month for a $20 gift certificate to TERRITORIAL SEED COMPANY.


The Orcas Island Garden Club could not function without volunteers, and sometimes it's the non-members who are the hidden heroes. This month we’ve put the spotlight on Paul Huber, husband of Helen Huber, our Communications Chair.  We thought you all should meet Paul and learn about how he has contributed his time and talents to the Club.

Paul has lived and worked in St. Louis, Houston, Boston, San Francisco, and now on Orcas Island for almost five years. He met Helen in Houston. Over the course of his career, his clients have included Levi’s, British Airways, PBS, Fender, Matchbox, Bacardi, Adobe, and Saturn GM. Nowadays, Paul wears a variety of hats -- graphic designer, art/creative director, and writer -- depending on the task at hand.

A couple of years ago, Paul was recruited to update our Garden Club logo. He says: “While I was doing research for the OIGC logo, I stumbled across a photo of
an orca whale with her tail up and out of the water. I was struck by how much it looked like two leaves. That epiphany caused me to realize that the whale tail could also serve as leaves of a flower to represent both the Garden Club and Orcas Island. At times, graphic design is about taking two familiar (but dissimilar) elements and combining them to create something brand new.”

Paul also helped design programs and publicity for the 2019 Garden Tour and has run his professional graphic designer eyes over our newsletter and given our editors some great feedback to improve the look. The OIGC Board is currently investigating the possibility of using Paul’s logo design on merchandise from T-shirts to shopping bags to masks. Watch for more to come about this.

A huge THANK YOU to Paul, a hidden hero!!!
ADAPTIVE SEEDS - Sweet Home, Oregon
Open pollinated, organic, and adapted specifically to the Pacific Northwest & other short season northern sites, Adaptive Seeds steward rare, diverse and resilient seed varieties for ecologically-minded farmers, gardeners and seed savers. 
UPRISING SEEDS - Bellingham, Washington
Washington’s first 100% Certified Organic and open pollinated seed company, Uprising Seeds also offers a 'PAY IT FORWARD' program where customers can donate a small sum of money which goes toward packets of seeds for those in need. Those who are struggling financially may purchase a bundle of 5 seed packets for only $1. Their seeds are grown in Northwest Washington on isolation plots throughout Whatcom and Skagit Valley.
TERRITORIAL SEEDS - Cottage Grove, Oregon
Offering heirlooms and open-pollenated seeds, Territorial Seeds are available at our own local Island Hardware & Supply. The company is known for their beautiful seed packet watercolor artwork created by local artist Lavon Tarbox-Crone. Don't miss the raffle for a $20 gift card taking place this month! 
WEST COAST SEEDS - Vancouver, Canada
This regionally-focused company proudly manages a demonstration and research garden. Assisting Canadians to find food security in this difficult time, they pledge to donate 100% of sales of the Dr. Bonnie Henry Pollinator Blend of bright, inspiring cosmos flowers to Food Banks Canada. They offer over 1,000 varieties of untreated, non GMO, non GEO, open pollinated, and hybrid seeds. This is Kate Yturri’s ‘go to’ favorite company although she is a fan of the next two as well, adding how important it is to purchase locally if possible.
If you are looking for a huge selection of medicinal herbs, look no further. Restoration Seeds company leads with heart and offers "seeds alive with love and positive energy." They hope their product enriches your body, awakens your spirit and fills you with peace that radiates all around you.
DEEP HARVEST FARMS - Whidbey Island, Washington
This company offers 120 varieties of Certified Organic, Open-Pollinated, & Non-GMO seed and provides fresh vegetables to the community from June to December. They believe that a thriving local food system starts with regionally-adapted seed. The majority of their varieties are grown on Whidbey Island and all are well-adapted to the soils, climate and disease pressures of the PNW.  
SALT SPRINGS SEEDS- Salt Spring Island, Canada
Owner, Dan Jason is committed to empowering people to grow their own food and save their own seed. Salt Springs specializes in heritage and heirloom open-pollinated and non-GMO seeds. Involved in Seeds of Diversity Canada, Dan also founded and leads the Seed and Plant Sanctuary for Canada. Dan has written many books, including his most recent Awesome Ancient Grains and Seeds and Saving Seeds as if Our Lives Depended on it.
FLORET FAMILY FARM - Mount Vernon, Washington
Set in Washington’s beautiful Skagit Valley, their fields burst with flowers that reflect the season. Floret is a family run flower farm & seed company, specializing in unique, uncommon & heirloom flowers. And they are currently offering a winter mini course on seed starting!  
IRISH EYES SEEDS - Ellensburg, Washington
Specializing in potatoes, garlic and heirloom blueberries, Irish Eyes is a small scale, family owned organic farm that provides the highest quality, most affordable, and a diverse selection of organic seeds.
PLANT WORLD SEEDS - Devon, England
As their name eludes, this company offers a vast amount of over 3500 varieties of flower and vegetable seed - many of which are rare, unusual and exotic. This is a favorite annual seed source of Tony Suruda’s that offers reasonable shipping charges. Tony recently sowed a flat of amaryllis from Plant World and has a dozen seedlings about an inch tall. Pictured is a photo of the bloom from last year's seedlings.
TOMATOFEST - California
This is another of Tony's favorite seed companies offering 650 varieties. Among his favorite picks are their Cooler Coastal Tomato Seed Collection, as well from last year, Alaskan Fancy, Brown Berry, and Paul Robeson. They personally photograph all the tomatoes they grow, make sure all the fruit is true to the variety, and research each variety's history to provide the most complete information available about each tomato variety.
So happy to be a new member of the Orcas Island Garden Club. Orcas is my second home. I have owned a little house near Rosemarie Altberg. I have been a part time resident since 2002 and it is my favorite place to be. My husband Greg and I live fulltime in Puyallup. So, I have been an Urban gardener for a few years (and pretty new to gardening). We just completed a new home and I am planning on a bigger companion garden for 2021. I love to eat from our garden all summer long. Looking forward to attending meetings when I am on Orcas and the pandemic is behind us. In the meantime, looking forward to getting the newsletter and attending on Zoom. Thank you! 
I have enjoyed the outdoors my entire life. Most of my gardening time is spent supporting my wife's endless ideas around our home. This past year my focus has been mostly on hardscaping and building structures. Recently, I constructed a greenhouse we imported from England. We enjoy traveling abroad to view historic gardens and bring back many ideas to implement within our own garden. Many of the gardens we visit are found on the estates of ancient castles and have rich histories as well as interesting stories.  
After living along the front range in Colorado for 17 years, my husband and I have returned to the Pacific Northwest where my love for plants and gardening all began. It was 30 years ago when we purchased our first home in Portland, Oregon. The home was surrounded by Douglas firs, rhododendrons and azaleas, the typical northwest home landscape. Although I loved green, I needed to add color. So I learned about perennials, roses and bulbs and started digging in the dirt, or should I say clay. I was hooked! Since then I've joyfully labored over three garden landscapes; two of those along the front range in Colorado. I'm currently in the process of transforming a garden at our home on Orcas Island. It is yet another opportunity to garden in a new environment: different climate, different dirt and deer! I plan to take some cues from nature by introducing some native plants into the landscape to attract wildlife and I'm excited to finally plant a Stewartia pseudocamellia and a Styrax japonicus, again, after all these years.

I look forward to meeting the island's garden enthusiasts, hearing their stories and experiencing their gardens when the times allow. Thank you for welcoming me and cheers to all for the coming new year!

I am really looking forward to meeting you and other garden club members when times are safer for all of us. (I hope to find the time to write a brief introduction in the next month or two as it is a busy time of the year.) I'm new to gardening on the island and realize that I have much to learn.
Thank you OIGC for such a warm welcome. I'm so delighted that your club exists and am really looking forward to joining your community. I've been a vegetable gardener for decades. It was a fun and useful hobby while my daughters were growing up. I'd recommend it to anyone with children, teenagers especially. I guess a flower garden is next. I look forward to learning from you and to the day when I can meet you all in person. All best wishes.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

This lovely book is just, well ... enchanting. Written in 1922, it holds up well for modern readers. When does a girls' night out, errrr---a ladies' month abroad---ever really go out of style?!? Four very different women escape dreary London for a spring trip in Italy and find themselves changed in ways they hadn't expected.

For nature lovers, there is special delight in the luscious plant/flower descriptions. This is the perfect little gem to soothe your garden soul in the PNW dark of winter. Borrow this from Orcas Library Overdrive or treat yourself by ordering a copy from Darvill's.

Submitted by Perri Gibbons
Excerpt from The Enchanted April:

"All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet. The sun poured in on her. The sea lay asleep in it, hardly stirring. Across the bay the lovely mountains, exquisitely different in color, were asleep too in the light; and underneath her window, at the bottom of the flower-starred grass slope from which the wall of the castle rose up, was a great cypress, cutting through the delicate blues and violets and rose colors of the mountains and the sea like a great black sword."

"She stared. Such beauty; and she there to see it. Such beauty; and she alive to feel it. Her face was bathed in light."

"That evening was the evening of the full moon. The garden was an enchanted place where all the flowers seemed white. The lilies, the daphnes, the orange-blossom, the white stocks, the white pinks, the white roses - you could see these as plainly as in the daytime; but the coloured flowers existed only as fragrance."

Laura Walker is the newest member of the Orcas Island Garden Club Board. After a successful career in business, leading virtual teams with a focus on communication and engagement, Laura and her husband purchased property and moved to Orcas Island about three years ago to build their retirement home and to create a welcoming garden space to be shared with animals, birds, bees, and bugs.

Her love of plants was sparked by a high school elective course on Horticulture. Due to a busy career and rearing her blended family, she never had time for a hobby. Fortunately, she met two amazing gardener's on Lopez Island.
Doreen, a mentor who she worked with on a farm featuring herbal and medicinal plants and Nancy an avid gardener, shared was able to a wealth of experience on island gardening.

Currently, the courtyard entryway to her Mediterranean style house is filled with a hundred pots of unique perennials awaiting the proper time to be planted in the rocky outcropping surrounding her home. It will take years to develop the entire garden. She envisions a learning environment filled with varying elevations and micro culture ‘rooms’ including space for a cutting garden, medicinal garden, shady forest glen, pond for frogs, a properly fenced poisonous plants section, a fairy space, and an ancient Asian sanctuary. She believes that with vision, strategy and action she will achieve her goal.

Laura loves to travel. Some of her favorite gardens are Kew (a Royal Botanical Garden and UNESCO World Heritage site in England), Chelsea Physic Garden (the oldest botanical garden in London), Levens Hall Garden (home to the oldest topiary garden in the UK), and The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle located in Merano, Italy.

One of Laura’s favorite garden elements is SOIL. She is pictured above at an archeological dig at The Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Once we can meet in person again, we are eager for you to meet this talented new board member, now serving as Newsletter co-editor and Garden Tour co-chair.
On the first day of 2021

I will rake the decomposing
leaves from my garden paths,
dig them into the beds
where I'll grow kale, peas and squash,
irises, peonies, and columbine.

I want to walk on level soil,
a clear path for my feet
with no encumbrances to my work.

And the past year's detritus
added to the soil
will produce a good tilth,
an environment
ready for abundance.

Isn't it interesting that
what was once green and
breaks down into something seemingly dead and lifeless
and in doing so
becomes food for new growth
and beauty.

May I remember this
as falling leaves accumulate
in the coming years.

December 29, 2020
Nancy Reas, OIGC Member

I like having choices. And it seemed there were few available to me as a child—except when we’d go out to dinner at Long’s Chinese Restaurant. Long’s was the only Chinese restaurant in bustling downtown Hicksville, NY. There were columns filled with delicious choices. Everything about Long’s was enchanting. My dad would park the Pontiac just outside the back entrance. We’d walk through the kitchen where Chinese men clothed in white had flames surrounding giant woks. The menu allowed you to choose one item from different categories. It was exotic.

This month’s offerings are all the things I love in a recipe—ingredients that are readily available, healthy, simple in preparation, delicious, and satisfying. It’s also a testament to the glory of choice and ease of including variety in your meals. Preparation is a matter of choosing from the categories below and following simple steps to transform them into soup. Much like the Long’s menu, choose one from column A, one from column B, one from column C, and one from column D. Feel free to omit a column if it's too much. Something delicious will happen. Share a mug or a bowl with someone you love. Warm. Restore. Repeat. Freeze extras. It’s all good. 

-Helen Huber, OIGC Communication Chair and Soup Seeker
(Almost all my soups begin with this. I make a big batch then freeze it in silicon ice cube trays. They pop out and into the pan, ready to add flavor and texture.) The classic mirepoix is made of two parts onions (I like the milder yellow onion best for soups, but you can experiment), one part carrots, and one part celery, roughly chopped and slowly sauteed in some kind of fat, like butter or ghee. Or stock or broth for a fat-free version. You can just use onion or leave this column out for ease and simplicity.
Beans, beet, bell peppers (red and yellow are sweeter), broccoli, cabbage (white or red) chard, fennel, lentils (orange or brown are best for soups), mushrooms, onions (yellow, white, red, sweet like Vidalia or Walla Walla, leeks, shallots, chives, green onions, or garlic) parsnips, potatoes (small waxy potatoes like Yukon gold hold their shape better), squash, spinach, sweet peppers, tomatoes... (Forgive me if I’ve left out your favorite(s). 
Column C -
Butter, ghee, vegetable oils such as avocado or olive oil (or omit the fat and use stock which I usually do when making soup for my family)
Column D -
Stock or broth, milk or cream (dairy and nondairy like almond milk), canned coconut milk, juices (as additional flavoring like cider), water, wine, sherry…
A note on spices, herbs and acid...
These guys add flavor and depth. I use salt sparingly. When you’re sautéing the mirepoix, once it has softened and just before you add in your other veggie(s), stir in 2 teaspoons of curry powder, or 1 teaspoon of dried basil, oregano, and/or marjoram. At the end I usually stir in 1-2 teaspoons of some kind of acid to brighten the flavors; lemon juice or any flavor vinegar will do.

A note on garnishes...
Garnishes make your soup look more beautiful. They add texture and flavor. Garnishes include croutons, large diced grilled cheese sandwiches, chopped vegetables that are the same as the soup or different (fresh corn kernels on corn soup, fresh diced red bell pepper on tomato pepper soup, chopped herbs like basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, edible flowers like pansies, roses, chive, nasturtium), flavored drops of oil (garlic, basil, chili), swirls of white creaminess (yogurt, cream, cheese, (a small wheel of goat cheese melts into the soup when stirred), cashew cream), chopped nuts (toast for crunch and flavor), seeds (sesame, hemp, pumpkin/pepitas, sunflower etc.)
Inspiration...Take it. Leave it. Make it your own.
Choose from your columns. For ease of preparation, I usually use frozen mirepoix and stock to begin most soups. Here are some of my favorite combinations:
  • Butternut squash, apple, garlic, stock with 1/2 cup cider (or apple juice or 3 T. frozen apple juice concentrate). You can also cut the produce and roast at 375 degrees for 15-25 minutes, then puree.
  • Parsnip and cauliflower soup (looks pretty with any garnish, but especially edible flowers)
  • Greens and beans (any cooked bean, fresh diced or canned tomatoes, and 1 or more washed, stemmed if tough) greens such as kale, spinach, chard etc.) garlic and hot peppers add flavor. Leave whole or puree half. E-Z: 1 box frozen spinach or kale, 1 small can of drained beans and 1 can diced tomatoes. Combine. Enjoy.
  • Carrot, mirepoix made with leeks, orange lentils blend in well and add protein. 
  • Mushroom, leek, potato
  • Three sisters soup (corn, beans, squash). It sustained Indigenous farmers in North America for centuries. It’ll get you through this winter.
  • On low heat, melt butter, ghee (which has a higher burning point) or stock or water. Add the mirepoix (or just onion) ingredients and sauté until they soften, 5-20 minutes. Add more fat or stock to keep them from sticking.
  • Cut the column B veggie(s) into similar size pieces that will fit on a soup spoon, if left whole (not pureed). A large dice works well. If you’re going to puree the soup, slices are fine and easier. Wash, peel as you do for your veggies.
  • Add 6-8 cups liquid. The base liquid should be stock, broth or water. Other liquids such as wine, sherry, or juice are added after the soup has simmered for a while and add flavoring, not body.
  • If you’re adding lentils, add them so they have 15 minutes to simmer with the soup. They should be soft if you have used the brown or orange ones. The green or black hold their shape and are better for salads than for soups.
Finishing the Soup: Three choices. Don’t you love choices?
  • You can choose to leave your cut up Column B vegetables in the dice or roughly cut same size chunks (like for a vegetable soup or minestrone).
  • You can puree half of the finished soup for some texture (like for a black bean soup). 
  • You can puree all of the soup, once it has cooled slightly.
We're still looking for old Garden Club photos and stories: We'd love to include your old Garden Club stories and old photos in our upcoming issue on the Garden Club's past. You can send them by snail mail to P.O. Box 452, Eastsound, WA 98245 OR email them to us at

PayPal now available for membership dues and donations: We're pleased to announce that our website now gives the option of using an electronic membership/donation form with PayPal for receiving your payments. Snail mail is still accepted as well.

Non-Profit status: The Orcas Island Garden Club is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit with the IRS. This makes us a tax-exempt, charitable organization and donations to the Club can now be tax-deductible.

Mason Bees are Coming: There will be an article on Mason Bees in the February newsletter with a raffle of bee cocoons in March. If you've been wanting to try hosting some Mason Bees, this could be your opportunity.

December Nasturtiums ?!
Christina Orchid (Emily Reid's daughter) picked these lovely nasturtiums from her garden in the West Sound area on December 17th.

Can Spring be far behind???
And now it's YOUR turn.
Tell us what you think about the newsletter.
How can we make it better?
Your ideas? What would you like to read about?
Nita Couchman
Lene Symes
Perri Gibbons
Karen Hiller
Sally Hodson
Laura Walker 
Jan Jacobson
Tony Suruda
Helen Huber
Linda Armstrong
Email Nita
Email Lene
Email Perri
Email Karen
Email Sally
Email Laura
Email Jan
Email Tony
Email Helen
Email Linda
Orcas Island Garden Club
P. O. Box 452
Eastsound, WA 98245

Newsletter Editors: Laura Walker & Nita Couchman