Wednesday, July 24, 2013



I have lived on the beach for the last 20 years. Someone recently asked me what the strangest thing was I'd ever found washed ashore. When I began telling them all the various things - from both nature and the flotsam of humankind - I realized it was worth sharing some that came to mind. 

In no particular order:

1960s credit card
dinghy (with a hole in the bottom)
coconuts (4)
messages in bottles (3)
bits and pieces of boats
dead things (grey whale, seals, sea lion, blue heron, gulls, fish, etc)
eagle feathers
porpoise skull
a beaver tooth
shoes (lots of shoes!)
garden hose
wooden signs
tide study cards
parts of crab pots
my own missing crab pot
car parts
duck decoys (3)
sunflower starfish
lots of seaweed
pottery shards
lots of trash & fireworks debris
a fork
tennis balls
beach glass
squirt gun
life vest

... and so much more!

Finding the messages in bottles were, at least initially, some of the more exciting finds. Sadly, two of them were unreadable as the paper had grown water-logged and pulpy, and the words blurred beyond recognition. I was tortured briefly wondering what the notes might have said. The third message I found was written by a girls' badminton team from an island north of me in Canada. It wasn't exactly as romantic or intriguing as you might hope a message in a bottle to be, but I wrote them back anyway, telling them where it had washed ashore and how long it had taken to reach me. 

Walking along the rocky beach here in the Pacific Northwest and looking down to find a coconut ranks pretty high in the unexpected realm. One time, we had been down wandering around in the tide pools looking for crab, and on our way back up to the house I found a perfectly intact coconut. It was covered on the outside with very fine red thread that had been woven into a sort of mesh netting; it was quite intricate and beautiful. We decided to crack it open to see if by chance it was edible, and indeed it was. You may think us crazy, but we ate this unexpected gift from the sea, wondering all the while where it might have come from, and who had picked it and wrapped it so delicately. It was delicious.

After all this time I note changes year to year. Some years I find sand dollars all summer long, others I see none. One summer, after having never seen them before, I found red sunflower starfish with their many legs, looking tropical amongst the grey rocks. 

Living by the seaside makes the world feel like a smaller place to me, makes me feel the connection we all share through the water that covers so much of our planet. 

What interesting things have you found at the beach?

p.s. If you're interested, check out this great book, The Highest Tide, about a young boy who shares my love of exploring the seashore.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

aflutter in the shop

A preview of some of the lovely color plates that will soon be in the shop

After wrestling with mixed emotions about disassembling a book, I finally went for it, and now these moths are free to fly off in different directions! I couldn't part with the amazing Sunset Moth, so have framed it in a nice old vintage frame. While photographing these I found myself oohing and aahing and finding new favorites again and again. Want to know another secret? I have the sister to this moth book, and it's filled with butterflies! 

Visit the paper & print section of the shop to see them all. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


A friend invited us to come pick raspberries at her abundant patch every few days as she has too many to keep up with. We are (of course) happy to oblige! Her berries are big and juicy and delicious. There's nothing better than eating them in the warm sunshine straight off the vine, fingers stained red. The ones that manage to make it into the bucket are bound for the freezer. We'll eat them all year long atop morning bowls of yogurt, and some will surely be made into jam. Yum!

p.s. With my nice homemade rose water on hand, I just might have to give this jam a try...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

shop update

An eclectic mix of items soon to be added to the shop. And yes, that is a real bear rug!


Sadly, the bear rug listing has been removed from my shop due to restrictions I was not aware of within the Etsy site. If you have interest in purchasing the rug, please contact me directly at: hellorefugium (at) hotmail (dot) com, or leave a comment here on the blog.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


We saw the Orcas today! I was told they swam through last week, but today was our first sighting of the season. I still get excited like a kid each time I see them; they are so awesome. As you can see from the photo below, trying to take pictures of whales from shore is not so awesome. (You'll just have to trust me on this one.)

Sometimes the sound of them blowing out their big whale breath gets my attention and I'll stop whatever I'm doing to run and look out over the water, scanning for signs of them surfacing. Other times, like today, it's the congregation of boats that tells me they are there. One night I was sleeping out on the deck and heard them passing by in the darkness. It was so interesting to listen to the rhythm of their breath as they passed without being able to see them. It was strangely more intimate.

The photo of the whale petroglyph was taken on a hike out to Cape Alava a few years back. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

garlic harvest

I harvested our crop of garlic today. We've been growing our own for the past six years, and haven't had to buy any in all that time. Generally we grow two varieties, a hardneck and a softneck. The softneck is longer lasting, so gets braided to be used after we have eaten our way through the hardneck.  A few years ago we were given some hardneck garlic that was brought over from Russia. It has grown really well for us, has nice big cloves and peels easily - we love it. That's today's haul of the Russian variety in the photo above, and below is some from last year, clean and dried: 

Last year's softneck, braided and ready to use or gift:

This year we also grew a second type of hardneck that we snuck brought back with us from a trip to Chiapas, Mexico last summer. It came out a bit smaller than I'd hoped, but I'll reserve judgement until it's dry and I can sample it. Here it is, freshly harvested today:

Garlic is the only thing we manage to grow enough of to sustain ourselves throughout the entire year. (Potatoes and onions are close, but not quite.) It's so satisfying to have at least one thing we can be completely self-reliant with. Anyone else have a favorite variety of garlic you like to grow?

More details if you're interested: 

We grow about 150 heads of garlic each year, which is enough for ourselves and some to share with friends. I set aside the biggest and most beautiful heads for next year's crop which I'll plant in the fall. 

Hard-necked varieties produce scapes, the curlicue flower stalks that can be cut and eaten a few weeks before harvesting the heads. They have a mild garlic flavor but are rich and tasty, we've sautéed them and thrown them on the grill, both of which are nice. I'm going to try making garlic scape pesto with the ones I have left from this year, and something tells me it's only a matter of time before I try pickling them.