Farewell, Examiner. You taught me a lot about the Rock

It’s always tough to say goodbye to an old friend, especially one…


Overstuffed and underfed: A holiday tale on the rock

As I think about all the great food and drink I consumed…


What was produced last 22 years should be treasured

I come not to bury the Examiner, but praise it. I had…

  • Jan 22nd, 2017


Letter: Hopes readers do their own fact-checking in 2017

Editor, Positive news you may have missed in 2016: From the BBC:…

  • Jan 4th, 2017

Letter: Soroptimist grateful for community support

Editor, During this season of being thankful for our blessings, Soroptimist International…

  • Dec 21st, 2016


‘Twas the night before Christmas and out on the wharf, I longed…

  • Dec 21st, 2016

Rockin’ A Hard Place: Enjoying the beauty of nature’s holiday decorations

I hear a lot of folks on our Rock saying that, this…

A few wishbones to pick before Thanksgiving arrives

It’s been a pretty rotten year. Terrorism, disasters, crime, wars, nasty politics.…

Commissioners failed to provide needed support | In Our Opinion

The Port of Coupeville seems to be right back where it was last summer with another surprise vote causing uproar at Greenbank Farm, which is run by the elected port commissioners.

  • Oct 12th, 2016

Healing power of a walk on the beach | Rockin’ a Hard Place

I took a walk along the beach one afternoon last week. I hadn’t done that for ages. I did it because I had a lot on my mind. Scientists says salt air by the shoreline contains negatively charged hydrogen ions that help us absorb oxygen and balance out serotonin levels, resulting in more energy and diminished depression. Whatever the reason, a walk on the beach always helps clear the clutter in my head.

Proud self-enforcer of the speed limit | Rockin’ a Hard Place

One of the things I like most about living on the Rock is our pride in manners and proper driving habits. Indeed, our town speed limit is 25 mph, and we have only one town marshal. So, therefore, we are proud to self-enforce our speed limit. In fact, if you pull up and hug our bumper, we may just go even slower than the limit. I have to admire the brave souls who do that, thereby suffering even worse slings and arrows of outraged people in a hurry.

Fame, banner year for Whidbey’s bean | Rockin’ a Hard Place

We had a lot of rain early this spring, then a lot of sun, then a lot of cooler temperatures, then a lot more sun. Those in the know about such things on Central Whidbey can add it up. After a couple thin years, 2016 should produce a great harvest of Rockwell beans.

The Scenic Isle Byway becomes a traffic jam | Rockin’ a Hard Place

Has anyone else noticed how much traffic seems to have increased on our Rock’s two-lane main artery with a split personality that morphs from Highway 525 into Highway 20? The Fourth of July weekend was cloudy and chilly, but that didn’t deter the bumper-to-bumper line-up inching through Bayview and Freeland, or creeping through Oak Harbor.

Getting the blues in Ocean Shores | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

In April, my husband and I took a jaunt down to Ocean Shores to do some razor clamming. If you’ve ever dug these surprisingly fast-tunneling, bivalve mollusks, you know you’re only allowed out clamming for a short window of time when tides are low.

Lettuce celebrate! School garden turns a year old | Rockin’ a Hard Place

Second graders at Coupeville Elementary School held their very first “salad celebration” in their classroom late last month. On a Thursday, they carefully arranged place settings for themselves with bowls, forks and napkins.

Make peace with weedy invaders | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

In winter I like to play outside in the snow just long enough to make a snow angel, build a snowman or throw a few snowballs, and then I’m done and ready for the ice and cold to go away. During the summer I can’t wait for the blistering heat to dissipate and the rain to return so I can stop fretting about my garden turning to ash right before my eyes. And in the fall, I’m counting the days until the monsoons end and the sun peeks once more through the clouds.

  • May 11th, 2016

Another weekend, another round of fundraisers to attend | Rockin’ a Hard Place

It’s been a beautiful spring weekend on the Rock. Sun was out, flowers were in bloom, farmers’ markets were bustling, sailboats and kayaks were out, lawns were mowed. And, of course, there were at least five non-profit fundraising events to attend up and down the island. Make that at least six. There was one wine-and-cheese affair I didn’t receive an invitation to. How did that happen?

Get up the nerve to serve, preserve Ebey’s Reserve | Rockin’ a Hard Place

When you live on the Rock, it is almost impossible not to volunteer. Hardly a day goes by without some opportunity to do something good for someone around here.

Big plans for a small orchard | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

Once I had the space ready and the deer fencing in place, the time came to tackle the task of choosing the perfect trees to plant. In this column I’ll share with you what choices I made and why.

Growing tree fruit can become a sweet adventure | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

I’ll admit I got a little spoiled this past fall. When you’re weeding beneath a tree practically dripping with ripe fruit and the homeowner tells you to help yourself, what does any sane person do? You know it. You reach up and avail yourself of succulent pears, juicy apples and peaches to die for.

Rain is something we can all agree on | Rockin’ a Hard Place

I hesitate to say that this winter’s rain has set a record here on the Rock. Somebody out there would surely arm-wrestle me over that. Until recently, weather gauges — even the good ones — were not always reliable. So I will politely avoid an argument over this being the wettest winter ever. It just feels like it.

Get an early start with vegetables | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

Even though the first day of spring is officially a long ways away, you don’t want to wait much longer to set this year’s vegetable garden plans in motion. That’s because our mild climate makes late February the perfect time to sow snow peas, fava bean and many varieties of carrots, radishes and onions directly in the ground.

Rock dweller’s guide to love and romance | Rockin’ a Hard Place

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Love is in the air, chocolate fills every store shelf and lovers put on public displays of affection at every opportunity. But, although we like romance as much as anybody and we take love seriously here on the Rock, talking about such things can make us squirm.

Beautyberry lives up to its name | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

There’s a shrub I think we ought to see more of around here, especially in the wintertime when a spot of cheerful color in the garden is just what some of us need to lift our spirits. It’s called beautyberry, or Callicarpa.

Time of year for unsolicited thanks and best wishes | Rockin’ a Hard Place

January’s a good month to be thankful and wishful. After all, there’s not much else to do; it gets dark too early, the tides are too high for beach walking, and it’s too cold outside.

Did Mother Nature fly south for winter? | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

Despite swaths of Washington recently getting pummeled by heavy snow, I’m convinced either Mother Nature has hopped on a freighter heading to parts unknown or is holed up somewhere gorging on brownies spiked with wacky weed and way too much sugar.

How oranges fit into Christmas | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child the one thing I could always count on finding on Christmas morning was an orange or tangerine in the toe of my Christmas stocking. I suppose this was a holdover from the days over a century ago when citrus fruits were considered exotic treasures during the cold depths of winter in these parts.

  • Dec 16th, 2015

Whidbey/AIR endeavor was a valiant effort by all | Rockin’ A Hard Place

Long, long ago – about 15 years, to be exact, BFB (before Facebook), BTW (before Twitter) and BSP (before smart phones) – a few passionate people on Whidbey Island were very upset that the Rock had no local public radio station to call its own.

Osmanthus: a fragrant bush for sun, partial shade | Opinion

If you like the look of holly but want something fragrant and non-invasive, consider giving Osmanthus heterophyllus a try. This member of the olive family has holly-like leaves with one to four spiny points on each side and small, white, four petalled flowers that bloom in the fall. You can easily distinguish between holly and O. heterophyllus by the arrangement of the leaves on the stems. Holly leaves occur alternately, while Osmanthus are opposite.

Put plant bullies in their place and not in your garden | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

I guess it’s time for “The Talk.” No, not that talk. Not unless you’re an adolescent who stumbled upon this gardening column by accident while searching your grandma’s kitchen counter for the missing jar of Nutella and you need the lowdown on the birds and the bees. No, this talk is about not planting invasive species in your garden or giving amnesty to noxious weeds and other big, bad plant bullies.

The rejuvenating effect of more kids | Rockin’ a Hard Place

I was happy to see that enrollment in Coupeville’s public schools is on the rise after steadily declining for the past decade. The town’s been feeling a bit arthritic and it needs a burst of youthful energy. We can use more kick-ball screaming and jump-rope rhyming; hopefully that will help drown out the clatter of so many canes and walkers.

Fall Euonymus is anything but anonymous | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

This is a great time of year for at least one type of Euonymus: the burning bush. Don’t confuse it with the smoke tree, or smoke bush. They’re different plants from entirely different plant families. Smoke tree is a Cotinus and related instead to the sumac. This is one instance where if there’s smoke there isn’t necessarily fire.

New blood needed to shake things up on hospital board | In Our Opinion

Georgia Gardner and Nancy Fey want to continue serving on the board of elected officials that sets policy for the hospital. They are being challenged by two very different candidates. Rob Born is a firebrand, an outspoken critic of the hospital. Erika Carnahan is a calm person who believes in a collaborative approach. Both challengers will provide second opinions — and fresh ideas — needed on the board.

  • Oct 21st, 2015

Management group is shirking its responsibility | In Our Opinion

It doesn’t appear there’s going to be anything graceful about the Greenbank Farm Management Group’s split with the Port of Coupeville. Despite claims by the nonprofit group that it is doing everything in its power to not fan the flames of community discord, the group’s actions say otherwise.

  • Oct 14th, 2015

Cedar flagging and other messy stuff | Sowin’ ‘n’ the trowel

A friend of mine recently revealed her husband was worried about their western red cedar trees. You see, he’d noticed areas of orange foliage dotted throughout the canopy and thought they were dying. I told her to tell him to relax. When sections of old cedar foliage lose their green color in the late summer through fall, it’s just a normal part of their growth cycle called flagging.

Viburnums aren’t always easy to identify | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

Viburnums have often confused me. This is where I should say I’m not easily confused, but that would be a lie. On the other hand, I’ll bet there’s at least one other person out there who thought for the longest time that a snowball bush was some kind of hydrangea.

Gardening tools: A few of my favorite things | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

The Scottish writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Man is a tool -using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.” There are a number of things I would disagree with Carlyle on, but this isn’t one of them, especially when it comes to gardening.

No one said owning a farm would be easy | Rockin’ a Hard Place

There are many qualities to admire about us Whidbey folk. One that I notice frequently is how fiercely we battle to keep things just the way they are. We fight tooth-and-nail against big development, environmental travesties or any sign of America creeping toward our pristine shores. We’d sooner jump off the Deception Pass Bridge than permit a billboard or neon sign, for instance.

Families don’t always look like they’re related | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

What pops into your mind’s eye when you think of honeysuckle? Is it a fragrant vine or is it an arching shrub that makes good hedges and borders?

A day of peace and love on the Rock | Rockin’ a Hard Place

With the dog days of summer upon us, it’s a perfect moment for a lazy, hazy, crazy memory of my days of Rock past.