Whenever possible, I like to include Skyla and Weston in some of the work I’m doing. It’s a way for us to share some cool experiences and give the kids a little bigger view of the world. Fortunately, the people I was working with on Lummi Island share that point of view. Birgit, who runs Patagonia Provisions, brought her family along, as did James, who’s the product manager. The kids wasted no time in becoming fast friends, and they quickly descended on the tide pools in front of the house we stayed in.
I also wanted the kids to learn more about commercial salmon fishing, so we went out to the reef-net “gears,” and spent an afternoon doing what we could to be helpful. That’s Josh, the reef-netter, teaching Weston how to catch and bleed fish from the live tank. Huge thanks to the kind and exceptionally kid-friendly crews aboard the reef-net boats.
Later that day, I borrowed the Wild Fish Conservancy skiff to take the kids sport fishing. But the sudden appearance of harbor porpoises changed the objective. We followed them all the way across the channel, and ended up at a seal rookery, where dozens of mother and baby seals were hauled out on the rocks.
On another day, Keith and Riley, from the Lummi Island Wild salmon co-op, took us on their new tender to pick up fish from the outlying reef nets. The trip also doubled as an awesome tour of all the San Juan Islands, and included a stop for ice cream at Roche Harbor. (The looks on all the yachtie’s faces when a huge work boat pulled in amongst the fancy pleasure craft and released a pack of barefoot kids into their midst was priceless.) That’s Weston, Skyla, Claire and Gracie holding down the fish bins aboard the Galactic Ice.
But every time we came back to shore, the kids went immediately back to the tide pools. They built elaborate “habitats” in salad bowls and buckets to temporarily house the critters they found. While Birgit and James (from Provisions), Kurt and Nick (from Wild Fish Conservancy) and Riley and Keith (from Lummi Island Wild) and I discussed how this union of a commercial interest, a fish conservation NGO and fishermen can help save salmon, and Darcy (filmmaker) shot b-roll for her video of the reef netters, the kids absorbed themselves in sea life. When I went to check on them, I heard Skyla and Gracie shouting, “We have to improve the habitat! We have to improve the habitat!” A fitting sentiment, I thought, for the meeting going on inside.
Wow. Just home from a fantastic two-day book event at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Stacy, Skyla, Weston and I all had a wonderful time, and I can’t imagine a better place for food, books and sheer beauty. We arrived, checked into a beautiful house on Legoe Bay and had to fight off the urge to run down to the beach and fish. We were due shortly at the reading, which was hosted by author Julie Trimingham (her novel, Mockingbird, will be out in July) at her lovely waterfront farm, Loganita.
We gathered in the airy, glass-fronted meeting place with sunshine streaming in and breathtaking views of the Strait of Georgia and San Juan Islands. To be honest, it was a bit difficult to start talking about the book and reading with a backdrop like that. But the guests were enthusiastic, engaged and kind, and I think it went pretty well. And the snacks provided by the Willows Inn kitchen! Huge, sweet radishes fresh from the raised beds out back, with a creamy dipping sauce; local goat and sheep cheeses; handmade herb crackers; and some spectacular, chewy, salt-dried whole smelt (kind of like portable, jerky versions of Spanish bacalao) that I couldn’t stop eating.
Dinner was even better. The whole group dined together on all the best locally grown, caught and foraged ingredients, lovingly (and skillfully) prepared. Highlights for me were the steamer clams in herb broth, the pan-roasted local asparagus and a halibut dish that literally melted in the mouth. Oh, and the house-made bread, crusty and slathered with fresh-churned Island herb butter, that we ate with everything. Awesome. If there’s a unifying theme to the cooking here, to me it’s that they feature the fresh, intense flavors of the raw products with a light (and perfect) cooking and seasoning touch. It’s a philosophy that requires an enormous amount of skill to pull off, and they do it here at the highest level.
Next day started with eggs “benedict” made with locally reef-net caught sockeye lox, and blueberry-buckwheat pancakes, followed by a tour of the restaurant garden with culinary gardener Mary. Stacy put on her boots and did a little garden work (you can take a farmer off the farm, but…) while I stood around and talked books with the guests. Finally, the kids and I hit the beach for a little fishing. Actually, Skyla led the charge and took off with the six-weight while I was still eating lunch. I snapped this picture from the balcony, as Skyla worked a Miyawaki popper off the rocks.
Then it was off to the ferry and the drive home. We were all a little sad to leave beautiful Lummi and all the wonderful people we met there, but inspired as well. Many thanks to Julie and everyone at the Willows Inn and Village Books for their generous, thoughtful hosting, and to the guests who came to share the experience. Our family definitely felt the love. As Paul from Village Books said at dinner, “We come together here as strangers and leave as friends.” True, that.