November ~ 2020
President's Message
Welcome to the November newsletter!

We’re moving into the cooler and wetter months now. We’ve harvested our crops and readied our plants for winter. The season of reflection and snuggling into our nests has begun. 

In this month’s newsletter, we’re suggesting books to read, recipes to try, classes to sign up for, a webinar taking us to Argentina, tips on tool and garden maintenance, and fun ideas for caring for our winter bird populations. We hope each of you will find something that sparks your interest.

We continue to welcome new and renewing members and donors. Thank you. Check below to see if you’ve won this month’s raffle!!! If you haven’t yet renewed your membership, it’s not too late to do so and have your name added to next month’s drawing.

We’re also asking for YOUR help as we gather information and photos for an upcoming issue on the history of the Orcas Island Garden Club. Another request is for photos of your favorite garden tool. Read the articles below and then join in the fun by sending us your photos and stories.

Until we meet again!
Nita Couchman, President
Board Members
Nita Couchman
Lene Symes
Perri Gibbons
Karen Hiller
Sally Hodson
Laura Walker 
Jan Jacobson
Tony Suruda
Helen Huber
Linda Armstrong
This Month's Featured Webinar
Polylepis australis
Escape to and from Argentina --
Botanical Adventures in a Pandemic
Submitted by Lene Symes

Sue Milliken and Kelly Dodson are plant collectors. You may know of them through Far Reaches Farm, a rare plant specialty nursery in Port Townsend, or through their non-profit organization, Far Reaches Botanical Conservancy. In March they traveled to Argentina on a plant and seed collecting expedition. They planned for a 10-day trip but the spread of Covid-19 led to the trip being terminated after three days. They, and their fellow travelers, accomplished a great deal in those 3 days, including a safe return to the United States.

In this presentation there are wonderful photos, stories of helpful people, some about how a fellow traveler collected plant specimens for herbarium in Argentina and the US, and a little about collecting seeds.

The presentation ends with a brief mention of plants they saw during subsequent hiking trips in the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Their responses to questions at the end of the presentation are worth listening to. Thank you to the Washington State Native Plant Society, Olympic Peninsula Chapter, for making this beautiful and interesting presentation freely available.

If this presentation interested you, visit the
Washington Native Plant Society website
to find a list of their recorded webinars:

We'd love to hear what you thought.
Please send your comments and ideas for future webinars to:

Curtis Walker
Elyse Woodruff
THANK YOU to Renewing Members & Donors
David Hagerla & Stephen Bostic
Lisa Poitras
For those of you who would like to support the Garden Club by paying a voluntary membership renewal of $20.00 (mandatory renewals have been waived for this year), by becoming a new member, or by giving a donation, your name will be entered in a raffle. 

We are raffling off some lovely sea salts that would have been used in an August fermentation workshop which had to be cancelled. Drawings will take place in November and December for one item each month.

C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S !!!



Next month's
raffle prize:

Kosher Sea Salt
from the Dead Sea
39 oz. 
(from Israel)
To renew your membership, become a member, or make a donation, please print the membership form from the link below and mail it in with your check. YOU could be the next lucky winner of some fabulous sea salt.
On Saturday, January 30, 2021, you can join the virtual Victoria Master Gardener biennial conference for new and seasoned gardeners. This year phenomenal speakers will present on the 2021 theme: Roots, Shoots & Leaves, and we will be connecting with Vendors, a gardeners’ chat room, a Silent Auction, and much more throughout the day. Speakers include Richie Steffen, Dr. Linda Gilkeson, Ron Carter, Bianca Bodley, and Dr. Drew Zwart. For more information and to register, click here.

Date and Time: Saturday, January 30, 2021.
Main presentations from 9:00 am–4:00 pm. Zoom open from 8:00 am–4:30-ish
Location: Online with Zoom platform. All from the comfort of your home.
  • Zoom training will be available leading up to the conference - if you are interested please let us know on your registration form.
Price: Event Registration Fee $55 (CANADIAN) 
For registration questions, please contact us.
Zoom Platform - Links will be sent to registrants a week prior to the conference.
Learn to be a better home gardener and steward of the environment this winter with Washington State University – San Juan County Extension’s new online Home Horticulture Training program.

Training focuses on a wide range of horticulture topics taught online by WSU faculty, staff, Master Gardeners, and other regional experts on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon starting Jan. 9 and continuing weekly through Apr. 24. Training also includes access to WSU Extension’s online Master Gardener Training Modules and the extensive Master Gardener Manual.

Those wishing to earn a Certificate of Completion will need to participate in weekly online quizzes, a final, and attend most classes. Homework is expected to average 3-5 hours a week. All training is open book and no memorization is expected.

Tuition for this extensive training program is $300 and requires a computer with internet access, an e-mail account, and a Zoom account. Registration opens Nov. 14.

For more information and to register, please visit, email , or call 360 370-7663.
THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS: Fiction vs. Nonfiction
Submitted by Perri Gibbons

I'm grateful for books which take me out of myself and show me new places, people and experiences. Both of these books are available at our library,, a place for which I'm also very grateful.

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is about a flawed young girl, Victoria, released from foster care after a series of unsuccessful placements. Now, isolated and mistrustful, she finds she best communicates through flower arrangements, drawing from her knowledge of their meaning. There's a glossary of flowers at the back of the book, and I had fun checking the meaning of her different arrangements. I found out tansy (like the noxious weed of SJ County?) means "I declare war against you" -- how true! The reader gets insights into Victoria's detached personality through a series of flashbacks which are distressing, but ultimately show hope.

If you prefer nonfiction and like poetry, check out THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, edited by Jane Holloway. This collection is drawn from ancient to contemporary poets from all over the globe and is loosely arranged by the seasons.

In Autumn we read:

Bring me the sunflower here and let me set it
in the parched briny soil of my own place
to turn all day to the heavens that reflect it
the broad gaze of its yellow yearning face.

~ Eugenio Montale (1896-1981)
Orange You Glad:
Autumn Goodness from my Orcas Garden
by Helen Huber
The recipes below are some of my autumn favorites with an orange-colored theme. We’re eating more squash, soups and stews these days; comfort foods that are healthy and potentially vegetarian.
Autumn-in-the-Air Soup

This soup can be made in the oven, in a slow cooker, or on the stove—whatever is most convenient for you. 

  • Bowl
  • Measuring spoon
  • Measuring cup
  • Baking sheet(s)
  • Blender, immersion blender, or food processor

  • 1 butternut squash--peeled, seeded, cut into 2” chunks
  • 1 large head garlic--excess paper removed, top ⅓ cut off
  • 1-2 sweet/tart apples--peeled, cored, cut into 2” chunks
  • 1 onion--peeled, root end removed, cut into quarters, then halves again for large chunks
  • 4-6 cups liquid (chicken or vegetable stock) -- or just water, combination of stock and cider, can of coconut milk (lowfat or full fat) plus enough water to make 4-6 cups total
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil such as avocado or olive oil , plus a tiny bit for the garlic 
  • You can salt or pepper as you like. I usually don’t as folks can add their own

  1. Preheat oven to 350 º
  2. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper, a silpat mat or tin foil.
  3. Put the squash, apples, onion in a large bowl. 
  4. Toss the veggies in the bowl with oil so they are evenly coated. 
  5. Arrange the veggies onto a baking sheet and arrange so the pieces do not overlap. If you need to distribute between two smaller baking sheets, that’s fine.  
  6. Rub a bit of oil over the top of the garlic and place it on the baking sheet.
  7. Roast the veggies for 35-45 minutes until the squash, onions, garlic and apples are soft and easily pierced by a fork.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. The garlic will take longer to cool.
  9. When the garlic is cool enough, squish out the roasted garlic and add the soft, fragrant cloves to the blender. 
  10. Put about 2 cups of veggies in a blender or food processor. Add your preferred liquid. Depending on the size of your squash, and how thick you want your soup, you’ll need between 4 and 6 cups in total.
  11. Blend the veggies adding more stock to make a soup consistency. You can always add more liquid at the end. The soup will thicken once it sits in the refrigerator.
  12. Repeat until all of the veggies have been blended. 
  13. Serve immediately or store, freeze and reheat. Add more liquid if soup is too thick once heated.

Slow cooker/stovetop variation. Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker or in a large pot on the stove. Use 1 whole head of garlic with cloves removed from the head. Don’t cut or slice the garlic once removed. SLOW COOKER: Cook for 4-5 hours starting with enough liquid to cover by 3”.  STOVETOP: Cook for 1 hour. Let cool, then blend.

Notes: This soup freezes well. I like to garnish the soup with pomegranate seeds -- small garnet jewels floating in a golden sea of butternut goodness. Autumn on your spoon…
Click the links below for MORE YUMMY RECIPES
OIGC through the Years -- can you help us?
We need YOUR help.

We would like to focus on the Orcas Island Garden Club history in an upcoming newsletter. We're looking for photos, stories, any remembrances that will help us paint our picture -- important events, people, and projects.

This is where YOU come in. We need your photos and stories. With our collective memories, we can celebrate our Club's history and
honor the many wonderful Garden Club members who've nurtured this club through the years.

Please send your treasures to

We'd love to receive them by December 15th.
"Most people, early in November, take last looks at their gardens, and are then prepared to ignore them until the spring. I am quite sure that a garden doesn't like to be ignored like this. It doesn't like to be covered in dust sheets, as though it were an old room which you had shut up during the winter. Especially since a garden knows how gay and delightful it can be, even in the very frozen heart of the winter, if you only give it a chance."

~ Beverley Nichols (1898-1985) has been described as "the most amusing garden writer of all times ... who specialized in winter flowers." To read more of his garden thoughts, check out his book, "Down the Garden Path."
Hazel O'Brien
June 23, 1934 - Sept. 2, 2019
The Orcas Island Garden Club is pleased to
announce that we have partnered with the Orcas Island Public Library in the planting of a witch hazel tree at the Library in honor of Hazel O'Brien. Hazel was an active and knowledgeable member of the Garden Club, serving as Club President in 1988 and 1989, as well as being a dedicated volunteer at the Library for many years.
Next time you go to the Library, please take a moment to think of Hazel as you read the lovely plaque mounted on the building beside the witch hazel tree. It's located just to the left as you approach the main entrance doors.
Submitted by Tony Suruda
In October, several master gardeners harvested bee cocoons from nesting reeds at the Orcas School. The cocoons will be stored in net bags until Spring. There are several wild bee species here that nest in cavities, unlike bumble bees which nest in the ground. 
Shown in the photo is a reed filled with leaf cutter bee cocoons separated by plugs made of leaves.

Leaf cutter bees are important pollinators of fruit trees. You can tell when leaf cutter bees are around by the circular cuts they make.
November - Maintain, Repair & Organize
Spring bulbs have been planted. Compost has been added to amend garden space. Beds have been cleared of weeds and we’ve prepared our plants for winter weather. During this pandemic, we’ve spent a lot of time cleaning the interior of our homes, now it’s time to take care of our outside space. You'll be happy you did come spring!
  • Take inventory of your tools. Sort and keep the ones you use and give the rest to a community or school garden.

  • Remove rust on metal blades using steel wool. After cleaning, oil surfaces to reduce future rust.

  • Sharpen tools with a whetstone or sharpening gadget to refresh cutting edges on pruners and loppers. Use a file to sharpen spades, trowels, and shovels.

  • Sand wooden tool handles and rub with a coat of linseed oil to preserve the wood for water resistance.

  • Clean garden gloves. Keep the good ones and recycle the rest.

  • Winterize your lawn mower by running it out of gas and removing debris from underneath the mover. Sharpen the blade.
  • Build or repair existing garden structures like fences, arbors and trellises.

  • Clear out and thoroughly wash the greenhouse or hoop house. Your overwintering plants will have fewer pests, fungi, mold, and pathogens to contend with over the winter.

  • Clean the bottom muck from rain barrels.

  • Place a net over garden ponds to reduce leaf debris.

  • Turn off water and empty lines to avoid the potential of freezing pipes.

  • Store items undercover that will suffer from the winter elements such as hoses, garden furniture, wheelbarrows, lawn mowers, plant supports and garden tools.
Made You Smile!
Meet my little Purple Peruvian fingerling potato friends! Small and slender with unique little bubbly features, they were a joy to dig up this fall. This variety is dry, starchy, earthy, nutty in flavor and just darling!
Caring for our Winter Birds
SEED – Keep your feeders filled. To protect from the cold, birds need a high calorie, high fat birdseed mix. Black oil sunflower seed or blends with black oil sunflower seeds are excellent choices. Ground feeding species, like doves, juncos, sparrows, and towhees, need a space free from cats that might prey so they can eat safely.
SUET – These little cages of joy can be hung from just about any sturdy branch and will delight chickadees, woodpeckers, warblers and wrens. In the fall, birds eat suet to increase their body weight to prepare for migration to their wintering areas and those that stick around will also store body fat in preparation for winter.
WATER – Birds need water to survive just as we do, but unfortunately, water is often forgotten. Provide fresh water and in freezing temperatures change the water when necessary.
NECTAR – Hummingbirds feed 5 to 8 times every hour and consume half their weight in sugar daily. Please feed your hummers year-round! Heaters work well too to keep the liquid food from freezing.
SHELTER – Birds may not be nesting at this time, but they will be taking shelter during freezing nights. Add dry grass, wood shaving or even dryer lint to your bird houses to help your birds stay warm. Locate your birdhouses in safe and interesting places.
LANDSCAPE – When you design your landscape, keep in mind your local birds. Help preserve natural habitats like decaying logs. Evergreens and dense shrubs give shelter for your birds in the winter time. Trees and plants with berries supply nutrition for them to enjoy. 
HOMEMADE CRAFT – Try making your own homemade seed ornament to show your appreciation for these feathered friends and give them a little love back.
4 C. Wild Birdseed
3/4 C. Flour
1/2 C. Water
1 Envelope Unflavored Gelatin
3 T. Corn Syrup
Cookie Cutters, Parchment, a skewer stick, twine and a little love
In a large bowl mix flour, water, gelatin & corn syrup to form a smooth paste. Slowly add birdseed until fully coated. Place well oiled cookie cutter molds on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Press mixture firmly into molds. Using a skewer stick, create a good sized hole about 1/4 inch at the top of the ornament. Let dry for 3-4 hours. Carefully remove from molds and allow them to dry overnight. Use twine to make hangers and place them outside and watch the magic happen!
Make the effort to create a bird friendly yard and reap the rewards of their presence. Good food, shelter, and other necessities will keep winter birds flocking to your backyard.
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?
Orcas Island Garden Club
P. O. Box 452
Eastsound, WA 98245

Newsletter Editors: Laura Walker & Nita Couchman