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LIVING

Island Home

Island’s top chefs show off their mussels

Page 7

Spotlighting Whidbey Island’s Cultural Delights A SUPPLEMENT TO THE WHIDBEY NEWS-TIMES AND SOUTH WHIDBEY RECORD


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Island Home Living | 3


The masterpiece of Lyle Ridge By Jessie Stensland

Home’s construction was serendipity and collaboration A combination of serendipity and collaboration led to the construction of what a designer referred to as “the masterpiece of Lyle Ridge.” Scott Hampton, a Whidbey Island home designer, explained that the house owned by Grant Fleming and Mary Jane Forbes was built after a fortunate meeting. The couple, he said, happened to stop by to look at the Lyle Ridge development — a gated North Whidbey community. The couple was having trouble finding a piece of water-view property on Whidbey to build a home. As Fleming spoke, Hampton realized that they were all standing on the perfect property — the last undeveloped lot in

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THERE IS SOMETHING COMFORTABLE ABOUT BELONGING TO A GOLF CLUB.

Set in the midst of a quiet, lake and tree lined glen of Oak Harbor WA, you’ll find the natural beauty and unique character of one of Whidbey Islands best kept secrets. Welcome, to Whidbey Golf Club, established over 52 years ago in 1961, Whidbey Golf Club is a semi private, family oriented club that boast of one of the northwest’s most exciting golf courses that accommodates all levels of play from champion to super senior . With its natural beauty, thrilling year round play, and first class dining facilities make WGC a natural choice for any occasion. Whether enjoying a round of golf, celebrating a wedding, or meeting for business, Whidbey Golf Club delivers an affordable quality that simply can’t be beat. Oak Harbor sits in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains resulting in an average annual rainfall of 19” which is at least 50% less rainfall than most of the Puget Sound area. The lower rainfall, combined with the soil conditions makes the golf course very playable in the winter.

Check out our beautiful facilities online at whidbeygolfclub.com, or contact Arik at 360-675-5490 for a tour.

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Grant Fleming and Mary Jane Forbes stand in the spacious kitchen of their Lyle Ridge home. The house features vaulted ceilings, a deck with a view of Penn Cove, a beautiful master bathroom and a unique fireplace that Fleming helped design.

Masterpiece of Lyle Ridge the development. The couple and Hampton decided to work together to create a dream house on the property. Hampton works with Waldron Construction, which built the house and many others in the development. Hampton said it was exciting to work with Fleming, who is an artist and had a good sense of what he was looking for. “Grant had a lot of specific details in mind,” Hampton said. “We got to spend a lot of quality time together.” Fleming, a painter in several mediums, put his artistic skills to work in making the house just right for the couple. He explained that they took one of Hampton’s designs, which they liked because it had most of the living space on one floor, and tweaked and enlarged it to display “a little more personality,” Fleming said. Some of the major changes Fleming included were a 10-foot walls with a vaulted ceiling, beams, a fireplace and columns in the front of the 3,700-squarefoot house. Fleming and Forbes, who are both retired attorneys, brought a little bit of Pennsylvania with them when they moved to the Pacific Northwest, but they

built a home that is undeniably a product of this area. The hardwood and carpeting, for example, comes from Great Floors in Oak Harbor. Island Tile in Seattle provided the tile for the unique fireplace. He found the perfect padauk and ebony wood for the mantle just across the water at Eden Saw in Port Townsend. Hampton said much of the house is in the craftsman style — popular in the Pacific Northwest — but it also includes other influences, notably Asian-inspired design. The house has an open floor plan, with a living room space that flows into the kitchen and a dining room. The space is large but cohesive, with the high ceiling and a wood floor throughout. The focal point is the fireplace, which springs to life and warms the room at the push of a button. The kitchen is simply giant. “I was thinking about getting roller-

blades,” Forbes joked. Forbes, a gourmet cook, worked with Troy Fite of Builders Alliance in Bellingham to design the perfect kitchen. Forbes said she finds the kitchen’s spaciousness as well as the overall design to be ideal for preparing culinary masterpieces. The countertops are all blackand-white granite and the appliances — including a double oven — are stainless steel. A unique feature is a special space behind cabinet doors for coffee machines and related supplies. A door in the living room leads to a large deck with a view of Penn Cove. Forbes said they enjoy sipping coffee or having a nice meal on the deck — and watching the eagles — when the weather cooperates. The master bedroom has a closet that’s packed with clothes and shoes but is also perfectly organized. Forbes said she went to Storables in Seattle for steel wire shelving that lines every nook and cranny of the closet. Fleming has his own spacious art studio. He said the space and the natural lighting in the room is perfect for painting. Downstairs is a large guest bedroom and an even larger entertainment room. Off to the side is a cheerful exercise room. The grandchildren’s favorite part of the

house is a special “hobbit room” under the stairs, which is an idea the couple got while renting a cottage from Debbie and Chris Skinner. The kids even love to sleep in the cozy room when they visit from Seattle, they said. “They are currently designing a bead system for doorway entry in the room,” Fleming explained.

Island Home Living | 5


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Penn Cove Mussels

By Patricia Guthrie

s

THE OYSTERCATCHER

s

Island’s top chefs share recipes for island’s tasty treasures

GORDON’S ON BLUEBERRY HILL

It’s simple. Just keep it simple. That’s the advice of Tyler Hansen when it comes to steaming up a plate of mussels. Co-owner and chef of The Oystercatcher in Coupeville, Hansen says he takes advantage of having the world renown Penn Cove mussels in his back yard. “They are so fresh. There’s no reason to complicate things.” Overcooking mussels and adding too much of one ingredient are other common mistakes, he says. “Don’t use too much wine. We just use a touch, not more than a tablespoon at a time.” The one exception? “It’s not a little bit of butter. Got to have a lot of butter,” he says, which he adds at the beginning and the end of his popular appetizer that’s flavored with roasted onion, garlic, parsley and crème fraîche. The broth is a mixture of various onions and leek tips sauteed in olive oil. After adding the mussels, he shakes the frying pan just a little because “for the most part, they’re going to sit in there and simmer.” He shuts off the heat, then pours the crème fraîce, made with buttermilk, over the streaming opened blue shells. “A little fresh parsley on top, some salt and pepper, and it’s ready.”

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FRASER’S GOURMET HIDEAWAY

Don’t smother your mussels! “They are a breathing, living thing,” chef Scott Fraser says as he takes out a metal bowl brimming with just-delivered blue bivalves known scientifically as mytilus edulis. “People always store mussels in a plastic bag, and that’s wrong. Put them in a metal bowl with a damp towel on top, making sure there’s no pooling of water on the bottom.” And, he suggests, get your cooking ingredients in order and in the right proportion before turning on the stove. “It makes your life a lot easier having everything in place,” says Fraser, owner and chef of Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway in Oak Harbor. He pulls out a red tray filled with garlic, fennel, red pepper, shallots, saffron and other flavors destined for his Spanish-style mussel dish. “I like to use a lot of flavors from all around for this,” he says, adding a splash of Pernod, an anise-flavored liquor, into the saucepan. “But you don’t have to use Pernod or the saffron if you don’t have them.” Even though the Spanish-inspired dish features chorizo, a spicy pork sausage, Fraser says it doesn’t muscle out the distinct sweet delicacy of fresh Penn Cove mussels. “Use good chorizo, that’s important.” He prefers using chicken broth because “it’s a very subtle flavor.” And what wine would be fine with this mussel dish? Fraser’s “wine guy” Jacob Giles suggests Albarino, a Spanish white wine. Mussels and clams in a curry broth are one of Gordon Stewart’s culinary claims to fame. “It’s a complex recipe because it has to carry the notes,” says Stewart, executive chef and co-owner of Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill in Freeland. “You want the mussels to dance. You don’t want a boring mussel, so I’m just adding a little zing to it.” Stewart’s popular appetizer features a broth combining green curry and coconut with butter and fresh herbs. Fennel is also a flavor he favors. About the proper preparation of mussels, Stewart advises: “Rinse them right before you use them. If you rinse them with fresh water before that, they’ll start dying right away.” And if they have any of that stringy stuff hanging off — called beards — “rip them off right before cooking.” If the mussels are slightly open before cooking there is a technique to pinch them to see if they’re still safe to eat. But that trick is best left to the professionals, Stewart suggests. Just like his finishing touches. With a flourish, he adds a curl of ginger to the mound of mussels. Then shakes and aims one of his many flavorful concoctions to the side of the plate. The dark swirls are not only shapely, but tasty. “And a little balsamic vinegar on the side.” Zing — definitely his thing.

Find these Penn Cove mussel recipes on pages 8-10 Island Home Living | 7


The Oystercatcher recipe Onion stock: 3 onions, shallots, leek tops, or a combination 1/2 cup olive oil 1 gallon water Sweat onions in olive oil until tender. Add water and simmer for 2 hours. Roasted onions: 1 onion Olive oil Salt Coat onion with skin on in olive oil and salt. Roast at 400 degrees for one hour or until very tender. Let cool, peel, dice. 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon garlic, minced 1 tablespoon shallots, minced 2 tablespoons of the roasted onions, chopped 1/2 cup onion stock 1/4 cup crème fraîche 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped Clean 3/4 pound mussels Touch of salt and fresh ground black pepper

Sauté garlic, shallot and 2 tablespoons roasted onions in butter until translucent. Add onion stock and mussels. Simmer until mussels open. Whisk in crème fraîce and season with salt, pepper and parsley.

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Fraser’s Spanish Style Penn Cove Mussels 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 3 ounces chorizo sausage ½ red bell pepper small diced 1 shallot minced 2 garlic cloves minced ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds 1 teaspoon smoked paprika Pinch of cayenne Pinch of saffron (optional) 1 pound mussels, cleaned 1 ounces Pernod (optional) 1 ounces white wine 4 ounces chicken stock 2 ounces cold cubed butter 1 green onion chopped Salt and pepper to taste Flat leaf parsley chopped

Sauté chorizo with oil and break into smaller pieces. Add peppers, shallots, garlic and fennel seeds, sauté. Add spices: cayenne, paprika and saffron (optional). Add mussels and sauté. Flambé with Pernod, add wine and reduce by half. Add chicken stock, cover and steam for one minute. Add butter cubes and green onions. Top with parsley and serve.

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Island Home Living | 9


Gordon’s Curry Broth Penn Cove Mussels

1/8 cup finely-chopped lemongrass 1/8 cup minced fresh ginger 1/8 cup minced shallots 1 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic 1/8 cup chopped cilantro 1/3 cup Mae Ploy (Slightly sweet Thai chili sauce) 1/8 cup hoisin sauce 1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice 1 1/2 tablespoon green curry paste 1 can coconut milk 1/2 cups orange juice 1 pound mussels, cleaned

Bring the curry broth to a boil and simmer for about 2 minutes and then strain. Add mussels and simmer for three minutes. Cover and steam until mussels open. Add fresh spinach or other greens on top if desired, steam a bit. Curls of fresh ginger on top for additional flavor and flare.

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Taking your garden to the next level By Evan Thompson There are literally thousands of ways to improve your garden and take it to the next level. From modifying the shape and orientation of a garden to adding fountains or other unique features, everyone has the ability to improve his or her garden. The first step could be buying or identifying plants that are suitable for the Pacific Northwest and specifically around Whidbey Island, according to Eric Studebaker, nursery manager at Clinton-based plant nursery Venture Out. Plants are sometimes vulnerable to disease, so picking and choosing the right plants that will thrive in the Pacific Northwest will save you from having to go the extra mile to ensure they do. Studebaker mentioned the Olympian fig and Desert King fig as being two particularly suitable plants for the area and resistant to disease. “Whether it’s an herb or a veggie or a fruit tree, they need to be varieties that perform in the Puget Sound,” Studebaker said. “…If they get diseased, they look horrible.” Venture Out provides a number of different ways to improve a garden, from designing landscapes to providing a wide variety of flowers. Studebaker said one quick landscaping tip would involve moving smaller plants to

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Setting sail Whidbey yachting culture is what you make of it The term “yachting” can mean class, brass or super fast — it all depends on who you talk to. Whether you’re dreaming of crossing oceans, sipping martinis in blue blazer on the hook or hitting double digit speeds around the harbor, boating has a flavor for everyone. That’s particularly true on Whidbey Island. Its moderate weather and reliable winds makes it fantastic for sailors, and its location makes it a gateway to some of the world’s most renowned cruising grounds. And being home to a myriad of mariners, from brazen explorers of the world’s oceans to longtime locals who know every gunkhole from Olympia to Desolation Sound, the inexperienced can learn from the best. The advice is free and there’s lots of it. Getting started is as simple as daydreaming. In fact, that’s where every eager boater starts, and likely ends — dreaming about hitting the water. The trick is narrowing down what you want and what you can afford. For those with a budget, “yachting” isn’t out of reach. Not by a long shot, said Shannon Buys, a West Beach Road resident. He got into sailing about 10 years ago, dropping a couple

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12 | Island Home Living

Story and photos by Justin Burnett


Whidbey yachting grand for a small sailboat and the cost of a “Sailing for Dummies,” book. What he found shattered some of

his earlier misconceptions about boating. “Instead of blue blazer, it was blue collar,” Buys said. Buys joined the A-Dock crew, picking up a used San Juan 24. The boats are small, fast and, perhaps most importantly, cheap, making it little wonder that they’re the chosen chariot of many Wednesday night racers. Buys fits right in, and though the early years were full of stumbles, he found challenge, friendship, deepening bonds of family and racing success. With his crew, which includes his wife Denise, 13-year-old son Thomas and friends Ryan Nowicki and Brett Vaght, they’ve claimed honors such as first place overall in the Bellingham Yacht Club’s esteemed PITCH Regatta, first overall in Race Round Whidbey and a handful of others. Buys recently built a 26-foot custom racer in his garage. Painted fire-engine red, he and the crew have had it up to 16 knots — a little over 18 mph. That’s practically light speed for most sailboats. While building a hotrod requires more investment, Buys emphasized that yachting doesn’t have to be expensive. “If people really knew how much fun it is and how accessible it is, everybody would be doing it,” he said. Of course, not all yachts are created equal. Some are built for speed, others for comfort and luxury. One of the nicest boats at Oak Harbor Marina is a Compass 55. Powered by twin Caterpillar diesels and complete with amenities such as a watermaker (it desalinates salt water for human consumption), a generator, a large galley and an 11-foot runabout, it’s a self-sustainable home away from home. “What I wanted was to be able to get on the hook (a

maritime vernacular for being at anchor) and stay as long as I wanted,” said Chris Skinner, owner of the Grey Goose. “I love the idea of being independent,” he added. It’s a boat for many occasions, from steaming up to the San Juan Islands or British Columbia’s famous marine parks to entertaining at dockside. The Grey Goose’s salon is a perfect sanctuary for friends to meet and chat; Skinner and a group of up to six people gather every Saturday to talk boating, politics or the weather. But its greatest value is as a catalyst for family time. The Grey Goose, and others before it, have served as the Skinner’s favored means for getting out of town and spending quality time together. For a guy who spends lots of time in the office, that’s priceless. “Without those trips, I would have been working,” he said. For others, their yachts are vehicles for adventure and distant horizons. These blue water cruisers, men like Jerry Tompsett aboard his Hans Christian 43, Calypso, have sailed to far-off destinations like Mexico and Hawaii. He’s also stayed closer to home, circumnavigating Vancouver Island. Calypso is home for Tompsett, a retired Navy man, and his wife, Suhwa Tompsett, and cruising is largely his passion. “My dream, she follows,” Jerry Tompsett said. Suhwa says she misses having a garden but likes many aspects of sailing to far off places. “Wherever you go, you meet new people, nice people,” she said. For Jerry Tompsett, his dreams of sailing the world’s oceans was initially about seeing new places. Today, it’s not about the destination — it’s about the trip. Cruising the Northwest brings chances to see wildlife like killer whales and grizzly bears. And the scenery? Breathtaking, he said. On one trip north, he decided to photograph every

Photo provided

Shannon Buys sails upwind in Vertigo, a custom made sailboat. waterfall they passed. “By the time we got halfway north, I had like 200 pictures of waterfalls,” he laughed. Jerry Tompsett offers the following advice for aspiring mariners, especially the young ones: “If you’ve always wanted to go cruising and are a young pup… do it.”

Island Home Living | 13


Whidbey Wineries

Island’s vintners growing in popularity, earning accolades By Kyle Jensen Whidbey Island’s wine scene often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves among Whidbey residents, but visitors from far and wide see a special location to wine and dine. That’s according to Virginia Bloom, co-owner of South Whidbey’s Blooms Winery, and she’s not alone in that sentiment. While Pacific Northwest wine destinations such as Woodinville, Walla Walla and Willamette Valley possess large reputations, the island’s wineries boast rising prestige and a wide and diverse array of varieties. For those seeking a wine tour to satisfy the palette and views of the Sound to complement, they don’t have to look beyond Whidbey Island. “The thing we want to stress is these wines are locally made, but they should never be thought of as inferior,” Bloom said. “It’s almost as if it’s perceived something made on the island won’t be as good as wine from Walla Walla. But the wineries on Whidbey are winning awards and making wine people should be proud of.” Whidbey has seven wineries, six of which make their own wine: Whidbey Island Winery, Spoiled Dog Winery, Blooms Winery, Comforts of Whidbey, Swede Hill Cellars and Holmes Harbor Cellars. Dancing Fish Winery also offers wine tastings, although they don’t craft their own wine. All seven are located on the South End of the island, stretching from Langley to Freeland. Whether one prefers to sample wines in a lively tasting room or in the cellars seated next to barrels of wine, Whidbey has it covered. All of the wineries have tasting rooms to accompany them, most on site, excluding Swede Hill Cellars and Blooms Winery. The two offer beverages and live music at Ott & Murphy Wines in Langley and Blooms Winery Tasting Room in Bayview, respectively. Visiting the wineries offers a variety of experiences — Holmes Harbor Cellars and Comforts of Whidbey are located on estates overlooking the water, while Whidbey Island Winery offers an intimate experience next door to the cellars. Lodging is offered at a few of the wineries for visitors looking to stay nearby. For wine connoisseurs in Central and North Whidbey, tasting rooms and wine bars such as bayleaf and Vail Wine Shop and Tasting Room in Coupeville and Rustica Cafe in Oak Harbor have popped up in the recent past. The wine tour covers four wineries: Holmes Harbor Cellars, Blooms Winery, Spoiled Dog Winery and Comforts of Whidbey. Whidbey Island Winery also has separate tours of the winery and

14 | Island Home Living

Above: Blooms Winery Tasting Room employee Steve Bailey pours a glass of Blooms’ rhubarb wine, Ambrosia. Right: Barrels of wine age in rows at Blooms Winery, where coowner Ken Bloom can be found monitoring the winery’s small amount of product. vineyards. Visitors can get an idea of how Whidbey’s wine scene operates on the tour — most wine producers grow their own grapes, but all source at least a portion of their grapes from the plentiful and reliable Eastern Washington vineyards. The cool and wet climate make it difficult to grow most varietals, although the cooler-climate German varietals thrive here, according to Whidbey Island Winery co-owner Greg Osenbach. The climate means white wines and lesserknown varietals thrive on Whidbey. “Since we grow grapes here and it’s a rather cool temperature to grow, we tend to grow some fairly little-known varietals,” Osenbach said. “At first people weren’t sure about trying these mysterious blends, but now wine has expanded where people are actually looking for something different. It gives Whidbey a certain amount of street credit.” Whidbey’s wineries embrace lesserknown varietals. The island’s microclimates have a large say in the array of varietals produced, and each winery

brings something different to the table. Osenbach said Whidbey Island Winery plants varieties from the cooler parts of France’s Loire Valley, Alsace, Germany and Eastern Europe. Blooms Winery offers oddities such as their Ambrosia, a rhubarb wine, while Comforts of Whidbey grows Madeleine Angevine, Madeline Sylvaner grapes and more. While it tends to be too chilly for red grapes, Spoiled Dog Winery has been growing pinot noir grapes, and others have followed.

The end product is a diverse collection of wines that can be hard to find offisland, bar the higher-producing Whidbey Island Winery, which sells wines across the state. For a wine connoisseur seeking something different, Whidbey may just be the place to be. “We’re all changing people’s minds that Whidbey Island can produce fine wines, and there are more culinary ventures here than one would think,” Bloom said. “It’s a fun and beautiful place to go, and we really have a lot to offer people.”


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Farm to Table

To experience Whidbey is to taste it By Ron Newberry Viewing Whidbey Island’s visual attractions is one way to experience the island. Tasting what the island provides is another. Whidbey Island farmers are proud of what they produce. And there is an increasing effort by restaurant chefs, caterers and farmers themselves to get these items on to more tables near and far. “The tierra (earth) on Whidbey is amazing,” said Jess Dowdell, owner and chef at the Roaming Radish catering business in Langley. “What we can put on the plate and glass is incredible.” Dowdell and her husband John Paul Dowdell expanded their business last summer into a restaurant that’s open three days a week. They tout the restaurant, located inside a former airplane hangar, as “Whidbey Island’s Premiere Farm to Table dining experience.” “We try really hard to put just Whidbey on menus,” said Dowdell, adding that 63 percent of the goods they purchased last year came from the island. “We tell everyone to try to get a taste of place.” Dowdell said she gives seed-list ideas to growers at the beginning of the season. She counts Willowood Farm in Coupeville and two farms in Clinton — Sky Root and Quail’s Run — among her biggest producers. Sky Root provides most of the company’s lettuce and leafy greens. Supporting local farmers is her way of helping keep Whidbey rural, Dowdell said. “We have a huge farming community,” she said. “I feel like we have a resurgence of young farmers coming to Whidbey. We have a farm school where they learn how to manage and own farms, and we have great fertile land. We’re so close to a cosmopolitan city, yet we’re still rural.”

16 | Island Home Living

Steve Boyd of Langley comes back every spring for Bell’s Farm strawberries off West Beach Road. “They’re the best I’ve eaten,” Boyd said. “They don’t keep, but taste the best. I don’t get them to keep.” The menus of many fine dining establishments on Whidbey also boast fresh home-grown produce. The Orchard Kitchen, located on a five-acre organic farm in Bayview, includes produce from its own farm and others. Christopher’s on Whidbey, the Oystercatcher and Caio, all in Coupeville, also source locally. “The island aspect really means that seafood is key too,” said Anza Muenchow, a Clinton farmer and Farm to School coordinator with Washington State University’s Island County Extension. Most notably, Whidbey is known

for its mussels farmed by Penn Cove Shellfish. Grass-fed beef and all-natural pork and lamb are the rage at 3 Sisters Family Farm, located near San de Fuca. Debbie Tasoff, owner of Coupevillebased Serendipity Catering, has been sourcing predominantly local food since opening in 2002. The largest sector of her business is weddings. “We get clients from all over the country, and the one thing they all have in common is that they want their guests to experience the bounty of the island,” Tasoff wrote in an email. “We feel truly blessed to be in such a plentiful corner of the world, where

we can source many of our ingredients from island artisans, farmers, chefs and purveyors.” Whidbey’s best-known produce is grown on the island’s heartland on Ebey’s Prairie in Coupeville. Dale and Liz Sherman continue a long Sherman family farming tradition of growing Hubbard squash there, while fourth-generation farmer Georgie Smith is known for her Rockwell beans, among a wide variety of other crops. The Shermans’ squash is found in grocery stores locally and abroad.

CONTINUED ON 17


Farm to Table Smith specialized in bringing her produce by delivery van directly to Seattle restaurants as well as to local establishments. A fire in February destroyed her historic barn and farm equipment, leading to several farmers and residents rallying to her aid. Another well-known Whidbey staple are Bell’s Farm strawberries. Rosehip Farm in Coupeville grows mesclun, lettuce mixes, garlic, onions, pea shoots and a variety of other

crops. Farm owners Linda Bartlett and Valerie Reuther deliver products to local restaurants and sell them directly to customers who sign up to partner in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). They’re also regulars at the Coupeville Farmers Market. “There really are a large spectrum of crops grown here,” said Bartlett. “Our cool summers allow us to keep going.

It’s not too hot. It’s not too cold. For better or for worse, it gives us a really long season. We sold all the way to Thanksgiving last year. “Sometimes, enough rain in the summer can be challenging because we’re in

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the rain shadow. You learn to mulch and try other techniques to retain some of the moisture.” Coupeville is one of four different island communities that hold farmers markets during the spring and summer. “The farmers markets are just great because you feel really confident about the growing practices here,” said Muenchow. “Not everybody is certified organic, but they’re sustainably grown, so they use the natural environment. They’re careful. I just really appreciate that.”

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Whidbey Woodworkers

Creating usable works of art that you can love to live with By Daniel Warn Whidbey Island has no shortage of woodworkers who work their craft using a variety of methods and techniques to produce cutting-edge customdesign furniture, but only one thing unites them fully. Local wood. No matter what skill-set each woodworker brings to the table, Whidbey Island residents have the opportunity to sport furniture made specifically from native materials.

have a rich reddish iridescence,” Schwager said. “We make panels and some large assemblies using a vacuum press. We built a kiln for drying our own lumber.” The Schwagers revel in aesthetics that capture the essence of the Pacific Northwest, she

BRUCE AND CHRISTY SCHWAGER, co-owners of

Schwager Design & Construction, are a husband-and-wife team dedicated to working with local wood to create custom works for all their clients. “My husband Bruce and I make custom furniture, unique to each client,” Christy Schwager said in an email. “We also make entry doors, again to suit the particular style of the client’s home and in keeping with ideas or themes that are special to them.” Schwager went on to say that Pacific madrona, western walnut, big leaf maple, Douglas fir, red cedar and Pacific yew were all popular woods used for the variety of projects she and her husband complete each year — projects that require a variety of methods and materials. “We sometimes saw veneers from madrona burls to make furniture and cabinet panels that

This relief-carving of a tree emerging from local wood is a sample of team Schwager’s artistic side.

18 | Island Home Living

Photos provided

Gary and Sandy Leake’s tables can often be found in regional galleries, like the above “Lion’s Paw.” said. “Most of our work is for Whidbey Island clients who have a great love of the Northwest and who request work that reflects and celebrates local natural themes,” Schwager said. “Live edge slab pieces are still quite popular, and we have included them in several installations.”

LIKE THE SCHWAGER’S, GARY AND SANDY LEAKE, co-owners of Gary A. Leake Woodworking, are also a husband-and-wife team. Gary does most of the woodworking, while Sandy does the bookkeeping and scheduling. Woodworking was in the family — Gary’s grandfather and great-grandfather were cabinet makers in Portland — and, consequentially, he began woodworking when he was five. Ultimately, he turned a hobby into a viable business, he said. “There’s three prongs to our business,” Gary said. “One’s the (antique) repair/restoration kind of stuff. The second one — the real passion — is making little hall tables that are $2,000 dollars that are just really special

Christy and Bruce Schwager are one of two husband-wife woodworking duos on Whidbey Island. The cherrywood dining set pictured above is an example of their craftsmanship. The Schwagers specialize in creating custom furniture, unique to the wishes of each of their clients.

The Leakes run the last outfit on Whidbey that restores antique furniture to its former quality. woods. And the third is custom.” In fact, the Leakes run the only woodworking company on the island that does antique restoration. “I think it’s a lost art for people to actually come in to be able to repair good antiques properly,” said Sandy, who is often the one to strip away the old finish on an antique, before a new one is applied. The Leakes’ other work, especially hall tables, can often be found at Penn Cove Gallery. The couple is not set up for cabinetry, but instead for one-ofa-kind, free-standing furniture. They also create natural-edge mantles, which Gary says is “hot right now.”

ROB HETLER, owner of Rob Hetler Furnituremaker, explains that high-level wood-

working is a skill-set being lost to the world. “The body of knowledge that is required to do woodworking is huge,” Hetler said. “Even after 30 years of being in the business, I’m still a novice in terms of what one could learn. Every time you look at a different aspect of woodworking, that requires a whole new set of tools, a whole new vocabulary.” Prospective clients meet with Hetler and work with him to create the concept for a piece of

Photo courtesy of Stadler Studio

This wardrobe, like all his creations, was hand-planed by Hetler.

Photo courtesy of Bill Ruth

Rob Hetler designed this chest of drawers after a Japanese step chest.

free-standing furniture, which he painstakingly creates within the aesthetic of his craftsmanship. Currently, he’s working on a $20,000 bookcase, complete with a library ladder. Hetler said that much of the art is being lost to companies with big-box stores that fabricate the furniture’s components with computer programs for mass distribution. He said that when a people go to a big-box furniture store, they purchase items based on how inexpensive the pieces are, but

CONTINUED ON 19


Woodworkers will typically throw it out after a short time. “People don’t want something that is going to fall apart or not be interesting after owning it for five years,” Hetler said. “I try and build things that are gonna last a lifetime, that you are going to be able to pass on to your children.”

THE SCHWAGERS, LEAKES AND HETLER ARE each associated with a larger group of Whidbey-

Island based artisans. “We are members of the Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild,” Christy Schwager said, “which includes some very talented furniture and cabinet makers, turners, carvers, boat builders, sculptors, sawyers, designers and

enthusiastic hobbyists.” The guild members come together once a year to show off their best work and to encourage islanders to buy various products from local craftsman. The event, Woodpalooza, features everything from furniture to artwork. Schwager even shows off her ocean-themed cravings for the show. “My large shell bowls are carved from blocks of wood we have collected and are shown at Woodpalooza, the guild’s annual Labor Day weekend show at (WICA),” she said. “We have learned a great deal from other guild members, and enjoy meeting and collaborating with each other.”

Rob Hetler’s wardrobe, right, offers a variety of shelves and storage places. Hetler works with his hands to produce high-quality furniture.

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Services & Contractors Business Directory COME VISIT OUR TASTING Antiques & Decor.....Good Cheer Thrift Store, Red Rooster, Upsy Daisy, Wish ROOM in Langley COME OUR TASTING ROOM OPEN VISIT THURSDAY THROUGH MONDAY Appliance Repair................................................................... Bayview Appliance & OPEN THURSDAY THROUGH MONDAY 5219 VIEW ROAD • LANGLEY, WAMattress Arts & Entertainment........................................................................... 5219 VIEW ROAD •Outcast LANGLEY,Productions WA COMFORTSOFWHIDBEY.COM COMFORTSOFWHIDBEY.COM 360.969.2961 Building Design....................................................................................................... Reedesign 360.969.2961 Contractors & Building...................... GB Drywall, LB Construction, Spatz of Washington Distilleries........................................................................................... Mutiny Bay Distillery Hay & Feed............................................................................................Metcalfe Hay & Feed Landscaping & Mulching.............................................. Bruce Bell, Three Men & A Mower Local Fare................................................................................ Whidbey Island Bagel Factory Party Supply.......................................................................................... Whidbey Party Store Plumbing..................................................................................................... Bryant Plumbing Roofing.................... Island Roofing & Remodel, Rob the Roofer, Whidbey Roof & Gutter Septic................................................................................................ Metcalfe Septic Services Upholstery............................................................................ Whidbey Canvas & Upholstery Wineries...... Blooms Winery, Comfort of Whidbey, Spoiled Dog, Whidbey Island Winery


New to the Island? Let us introduce ourselves

Live Well! Let the folks at Ace help you! Outdoor living furniture, grills and accessories

» Local authorized and

dealer

for sales and service. WH I

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THE

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A Disabled Veteran-Run Business Proudly Serving Our Veterans

» Local source for

Simplify your life with a gas stove or a fireplace

paints, as well as our high ranking

Auto - Home Boat - RV • Computerized Gate Entry • Full Security • Well Lighted • Online Web Access • Online Bill Pay • On Site Manager

paints.

» Local dealer of

and showroom,

sales & service » One of Whidbey’s best Office Hours: Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Gate Access: Daily 6 a.m. - 8 p.m.

1401 N Oak Harbor St • Oak Harbor, WA 98277 | 360-675-1516 www.walmarcstorage.com

Garden Centers » Finest Tackle Shop » Friendliest staff

Monday-Saturday 8AM-7PM & Sunday 9AM-6PM More than a hardware store 331-6799 1609 E. Main • Freeland

1820437

(Conveniently Located 1 mile from Saars Marketplace and 1 Mile from the NAS Whidbey Main Gate)

For weekend projects: plants to power tools, paint to plumbing! More than a hardware store

22 | Island Home Living


Style you can afford - Quality you can trust

Living Your Dream

gemkowconstruction.com

360-321-6414 Langley, WA

Island Home Living | 23


YOUR LOCAL HOME LOAN EXPERTS Purchase or refinance, we are here for you!

WH I

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Lyn Bankowski

DeRhonda Porter

Dawn Tennant

NMLS #304060 Assistant Vice President Sr. Mortgage Loan Originator

NMLS #94118 Sr. Mortgage Loan Originator

NMLS #305224 Sr. Mortgage Loan Originator

(360) 679-5633 direct (360) 969-5550 mobile (360) 279-1198 efax

L.Bankowski@alaskausamortgage.com lynbankowski.com

(360) 679-5652 direct (360) 929-2465 mobile (360) 679-5655 efax

d.porter@alaskausamortgage.com rhondaporter.net

People you know. A name you trust. | alaskausamortgage.com 650 NE Midway Blvd, Ste. 101, Oak Harbor, WA 98277 Washington Consumer Loan Company License #CL-157293

(360) 679-5632 direct (360) 679-5655 efax

D.Tennant@alaskausamortgage.com dawntennant.com

Home and Garden - Island Home Living 2017  

i20170328143915446.pdf

Home and Garden - Island Home Living 2017  

i20170328143915446.pdf