Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Faces from Central Whidbey's past

What can we learn by looking into the eyes of the past? Is it how, over time, people haven't really changed?
With the joy, sorrow, optimism and perseverance of humanity?
Or is it how quickly an entire life can be forgotten? How much is left unknown.
How quickly the young grow old, when looking back.
How easily a life is extinguished.
Who were they? What were they like?

What, today, can we learn from them?

Thanks to the National Park Service archives for digital copies of these glass plate negatives, shot in a studio at Fort Casey, Central Whidbey Island - exact year unknown.

Beets 101

Awe…Ebey’s Prairie - a quilt landscape of crop farming on Central Whidbey Island.

Ever wonder about the vegetable we call a Beet? Do you know where it originated? How about the age of the Beet?

When I began working for the Reserve as a seasonal Ranger I found out there are more colors to beets than just the reddish/purple kind. Prairie farmers are harvesting beets that are also white, golden, and some that are even red and white stripped when cut open to expose the inside flesh.

I did not care for beets as a kid but now love them and wanted to find out where these sweet, edible root vegetables came from. After doing some digging and becoming more inspired as my search continued, here is what I found out. This is pretty awesome.

The Beet is an interesting, healthy vegetable that originated as a wild beet on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea during pre-historic times and was called the “Sea Beet”!

During the 8th century B.C. the beet was part of the Hanging Gardens on Babylon in the Mesopotamia area known as the Cradle of Civilization. Beets are really old!

The ancient Greeks used the beet green (the leaves) for medicinal purposes and as a culinary herb. They even offered their glorious beet to the Sun God Apollo. The Romans, on the other hand, were the first to actually eat the root as part of their diet. The beet root back then was either white or black, no other color.

Now we all remember the Roman Empire and during this time of expansion was when the beet was introduced to many European cultures. Eventually, the beet seed hit the United States in 1830 (about 20 years before Isaac Ebey settled on Whidbey Island).

Today there are a variety of beets available and people use beet juice (especially the reddish/purple beets) to dye material with and for hair dye and this practice has been going on since the 1500’s.

If you are health conscious, the beet is a bonus for you! It is an excellent source of fiber, potassium, calcium and other minerals and is classified as a Super Food! Power-packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants it also lowers blood pressure, contains Vitamins A and C, is low in fat and rich in nutrients. Wow! All that from a beet!

Try this juice recipe to get your jump-start for the day:

Carrot and Beet Juice
6 – 8 Carrots
¼ medium Beet
1 stalk of Celery
Press all ingredients through a juice machine and, Voila! Instant energy.

Come to Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve and see what nature has to offer.

By Sally Straathof

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Five Phesants

Tucked along the hedgerow
A brilliant white band
Wrapped like hockey tape
On a stick.
You could skate
The side roads here
Like I used to do in
MN. The furrows filled
With snow, the lines so
Familiar, like an old
Book dog eared.

The great humps of
The Olympics to the
West -- a view that
Ebey knew well as
He recollected his
Own upbringing
Back East somewhere.
Planting this new ground
Never comprehending
What would really
Grow up from these
Fields, a singular
Place -- set aside
For all to experience
Our collective rural roots
And the stories
They evoke and sustain.

By Mark Preiss, Reserve Manager

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What fun we had - Ebey's Forever 2010!

Field trip participants visit the Reuble Farmstead. (Denis Hill)

Lauren Hubbard and Shelby Gansemer sport their new Ebey's Reserve (temporary) tattoos. (Lauren Gansemer)

Roger Sherman shares stories of prairie farming with Prairie Home Production's "Squash & Wheat." (Denis Hill)

David Engle shares stories from his family at the Harmon/Engle Farmstead. (Denis Hill)

Keynote Anthea Hartig of the National Trust for Historic Preservation greets us at Camp Casey. (Denis Hill)

Farmer, Valerie Reuther high-fives Trust Board Member, Molly Hughes at the mini-farmers market.
It was a full house at the Celebrating Rural Character(s) Potluck at the Crockett Barn. (Denis Hill)

The days to celebrate!

One hundred ninty-nine plus or minus
the official line
but we know better
that numbers can't
explain the spirit
of community in that
barn that has held
community gatherings for
a hundred years and more.
Enough food and wine
to be mistaken for a scriptural
event. This Crockett barn
a place to come into out
of the rain and wind
A plate for everyone
a warm greeting
meeting you at the door weather
pioneer or visitor.

And Ebey's Landing
tattooed in temporary
places like arms and cheeks,
but more perminently fixed
in people's hearts and minds
through the shared stories
exploration and investigation
of a destination called Ebey's Forever.
- By Reserve Manager, Mark Preiss

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween on the Reserve

All around the Reserve, frightening & welcoming sights of the season can be seen.
Up and down mainstreen, this year's scarecrow entries stand sentinel along the sidewalks, frightening and amusing those who dare to pass by on a chilly evening. The Sherman Pioneer Farm has been doing a brisk business in pumpkins, with families regularly arriving to choose the best pumpkin to carve their ghoulish jack-o-lantern face. Children have spent the last few weeks dreaming up elaborate costumes, and parents have been working to make those costumes a reality or to find more appropriate/ economical alternatives to suit their children's taste.

Everything has been in preparation for tonight's Halloween festivities. Whatever your choices tonight, have fun, be respectful of other people's time and property (go easy on the tricks), and stay safe. Happy haunting!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oh my, PIE!

When I was a child 'pie' was a four letter word (OK, not really... it was still a three letter word) describing some mysterious dessert filled with some sort of fruit, or vegetable, or meat that adults seemed to love. Grandparents and friends would offer me a slice promising that I would love it if I'd just take a bite. Me? Take a bite? No way!!!

Later on in my school career I learned of a two letter pi (or one letter using a different alphabet). I wasn't any more fond of this pi, than I was of the other pie... though it did help me earn good grades in math. Pi or pie, I didn't want part of either. http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/03/weekend_diversion_happy_pi_day.php

Times have changed...

Some time after I finished college and got married I finally gave in to an offer of pie. I remember the occasion. It was an early Christmas dinner at an aunt's house and it was hot apple pie served with vanilla ice cream on top. Actually, when the offer was made, I think I turned the pie down. I don't know if my host was offended or didn't hear me, but a few minutes later there was a huge piece of pie on the plate right in front of me. I looked at the pie as it looked at me. I glanced left and right, looking for support, an extra hungry relative or the family dog to discreetly slide the plate over and let them enjoy. No luck. The dog must have been out and everybody at the table was working their way through their own equally large pieces of pie. I was on my own. I didn't want to make a scene so reluctantly I took the teeniest forkfull of apple pie, along with slightly more vanilla ice cream. I took a deep breath and then slowly put the bite in my mouth...and fell in love with Aunt Mary's apple pie!


For weeks after I HAD to have apple pie... every...single... day! I'd buy it at the store, take some home from restaurants or coax Aunt Mary to make some, and finally learned how to bake it myself. After a few months of apple pie, my husband was ready to stage an intervention. He has nothing against apple pie... his objection was to apple pie every day. He suggested branching out a bit... pumpkin pie, cherry pie, or blackberry pie for starters. At first I balked, what if the others weren't as good as apple pie? What if I hated them? However, I did finally agree to try other pies... pecan, blueberry, sweet potato, chocolate peanut butter, cranapple. Some I liked better than others, but all of them have been great.

Moving to Whidbey Island has been a treat for my pie palate. I got to try marionberry pie and loganberry pie for the first time. My current favorite is strawberry rhubarb (I still don't say no to apple pie). The island is full of wonderful places to buy ready locally made pies or the ingredients to do it yourself. No longer do I turn up my nose to pie, and I do acknowledge that my grandmother was on to something when she said I'd like it if I just gave pie a chance. (As usual, I should have listened to you the first time grammy!)

And on Saturday, November 6th, between 4 and 5pm if you've read the rest of this post I bet you'll know where to find me... The Ebey's Forever Conference Pie Social nodding my head in agreement with whatever my supervisor is saying since I'll have a bite of that heavenly prairie-made strawberry rhubarb... or apple... or berry... or some other delicious pie on my tongue. See you there!

Lauren Gansemer
NPS Ranger

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rebecca - A Pioneering Woman

Rebecca Davis Ebey must have been an amazing woman to strike out alone, without her husband, on the Overland Trail heading west from Plum Grove, Missouri, to the Washington Territory. In 1851 her journey begins with her two young sons (Ellison and Eason) ages 5 and 7 as part of a Wagon Train. She met up with her brother Thomas Davis and the Walter Crockett family from Missouri and they all continued west to the Oregon Trail and then to Whidbey Island, Washington, to meet up with her husband Isaac Ebey.

Rebecca and Isaac married when Rebecca was 21 and living in Missouri. After their marriage in 1843 they resided at Plum Grove Place Farm. Five years later, in 1848, Isaac reluctantly left Rebecca and the boys on the farm in Missouri and he headed for the Oregon Territory and then the California Gold Rush. After returning to the Oregon Territory Isaac took the opportunity to look for farming land for his family to live on. Later, Isaac staked his claim for 640 acres on Whidbey Island in Washington Territory. When he sent for Rebecca and the boys, in early 1851, the excited family loaded up what they could take with them and started their pioneering journey west, in April of 1851, arriving on Whidbey Island in October of the same year.

How difficult and heart-wrenching it must have been for such a young woman and her two small children to leave their familiar surroundings of Plum Grove and her childhood family behind, not knowing if she would ever see her parents again. Life on the trail could be rough and brutal and exhausting, but Rebecca pushed forward knowing she would soon see her husband Isaac again (after a three year absence) and bring joy back into their lives with her family together again. She and Isaac had only been married 8 years by the time she reached their new farm on Whidbey Island.

Shortly after her arrival on the Island Rebecca came down with Tuberculosis, which was common during this time period, and after the birth of her 3rd child Hettie she became very ill with her sickness and never recovered, dying 4 months after her daughter was born, in 1853. Rebecca and Isaac had only been married 10 years when she passed away and she left behind a devastated husband and 3 small children for him to raise and care for alone.

After the arrival of Isaac’s parents in October of 1854, Isaac’s father Jacob staked his claim of 320 acres right next to Isaac’s claim. Jacob and his wife Sarah named their new farm “Sunnyside” after the original family farm in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania. Sarah cared for her son’s disabled young daughter at their new log cabin home on the ridge above the Prairie, until she died a very young 7 year old.

Rebecca’s parents headed west from Missouri as well, to join their children in the new Washington Territory. As Rebecca feared, her mother died on their journey west and buried along the Overland Trail; she never saw her mother again.

Rebecca’s short life was packed with responsibility, adventure, the unknown, loneliness, hard work, and the love for her family. A woman of personal strength and determination set the platform for other American women to look up to and follow. Rebecca died in 1853 and is buried next to her husband Isaac in the Sunnyside Cemetery next to the Jacob Ebey homestead, which still stands today almost 160 years later.

More details of the life of Rebecca Ebey will be revealed by professional storyteller Jill Johnson at the Ebey’s Forever Conference November 6th. Sign up today!

Thanks to Sally Straathof for this post.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Historians at Work!

Local Historians, Roger Sherman and Judy Lynn comb through historic negatives in the Reserve Library (or kitchen!) for a special project. See Roger & Judy - and talk with them about the history of this place - November 5 & 6th at the Ebey's Forever Conference.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Geo-Caching with Reserve Rangers in November!

The Ebey's Reserve rangers have been busy preparing for this year's Ebey's Forever Conference. Rangers Sally & Lauren have plenty of fun activities planned for this years conference, including Old-Fashioned Geo-caching. What's that you say?

Geo-caching is a fun family activity using GPS to find hidden 'treasure' or cache. Geocachers have hidden their treasure boxes around the world in public places. After placing a cache, they usually post the cache and GPS coordinates on geocaching.com. Currently there are more than 1.2 million active caches listed on geocaching.com, some of them placed in easily accessed places... other in very difficult places requiring special equipment like scuba or mountaineering gear to get to them.

Anybody with a GPS, time and the desire to geocache can go on a hunt. The first step is to decide where you want to look for a cache. At geocaching.com you can search by zip code for your potential cache hunt. A quick search of zip code 98239 yielded 1692caches located within twenty five miles of Coupeville. Within the list are details including the difficulty of finding the cache on a scale of 1-5, special items called travel bugs (more on them later) that might be in the cache, the date the cache was placed, and the last time the cache was found. Select the cache that interests you from the list to see more details. (You'll have to register with the site to get the main GPS coordinates, but you should be able to read any background information written by the person that placed the cache. Some geocachers add interesting historical or regional information to their cache posts, such as the Mosquito Fleet #5 Rosalie cache which gives a history the steamer Rosalie and her service as a ferry around the Puget Sound and farther.

After you get the coordinates, you head out to the location given in the geocache listing and start your search. Be sure to bring a pen or pencil and a small, family friendly trinket to place in the cache when you get there. Once you find your cache, you'll want to sign the geocache log inside if there is one. You'll also want to select one of the items in the cache to swap with the trinket you brought with you. As a geocacher its important to follow the take one leave one rule in order to keep the fun going for other geocachers. When placing geocache items, its a good idea to avoid leaving food too, so animals aren't attracted to the cache.

After you head home, the next part of geocaching fun is to check back in with geocaching.com and log your discovery on the website. You'll be able to leave notes about your adventure. If you've found a travel bug, you'll be able to announce your find too. Travel bugs are special, registered trinkets that taken from geocache to geocache by players. Once you find a travel bug, to keep the game going you'll need to hide it in a different cache and log your move on the website for other people to look for.

There's your quick background on geocaching, now back to what the rangers have planned with their 'Old-Fashioned Geo-Caching'. We've been busy mapping out a game of our own for registered participants of Ebey's Forever Conference. We'll be starting out with an introduction to map, compass & GPS before sending groups off on their own adventures. Each group will start with a set of directions (similar to the Amazing Race show on TV though we'll keep it local and avoid dangerous and/or embarrassing stunts) leading them to an envelope containing more directions. They'll have several stops where the group will sign a log and get the next set of directions before ending up at the final cache.

We're looking forward to playing our game, having fun, and learning at the same time. What a great way to spend a fall Saturday morning with your family. Children are welcome to come too, you must bring a parent if you are under 10 years old. Register for Ebey's Forever Conference at http://www.ebeysforever.com.
Here's a list of family friendly options at this year's conference:
Old-Fashioned Geo-Caching
Junior Rangers to the Rescue
Adventures with Giant Trees

Don't forget about the Friday night potluck dinner at the Crockett Barn. Bring your family and a dish to share!

Special Thanks to Whidbey Island Bank; main sponsor of the Ebey's Forever Conference 2010

Janice Vaughan, Whidbey Island Bank presents Mark Preiss, Manager, Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve with the check for the main sponsorship of the Ebey's Forever Conference.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The military on Central Whidbey Island

View of Camp Casey barracks.
The military has been a part of Whidbey Island history for more than a century. Shortly after the first Donation Land Claim (1850) settlers arrived, they began sending letters to Olympia requesting a military presence on the Island to ease their concerns about the possibility of attack by native Americans. Local natives warned settlers of fierce northern tribes that sometimes came down to raid their villages. Pioneers also wanted to defend their claims from British and Spanish expansion into the region. With the US/Canada border not yet specified along the inland waterways of Washington and British Columbia, US pioneers wanted to make sure their newly claimed lands would be incorporated into the United States rather than subject to British rule or even Spanish influence. While the pioneers awaited the answer to their requests, they built blockhouses to protect themselves in an emergency.

The territorial government decided to focus their protection efforts around Port Townsend, Olympia, the San Juan Islands and near present day Bellingham, leaving Whidbey Island without soldiers assigned for protection. With the exception of Col. Isaac Ebey's murder in 1857, the islanders found that life with local native American neighbors was rather peaceful. In 1859 Pig War defined the final disputed boundary between the U.S. and Canada.
Eagle on the Camp Casey parade field.

The growing population and the importance of the Puget Sound region for world-wide commerce brought Whidbey Island to the attention of the national government in the latter nineteenth century. The U.S. Government had been closely watching events in Spanish Colonies for a while. In the late 1800s the possibility of war with Spain finally convinced the government that protecting Puget Sound was a priority. The government sent the U.S. Army to the West Coast to find land suitable for coastal forts to protect major ports. Situated at the gateway to Puget Sound, home of the Bremerton Naval Shipyards and the ports of Tacoma & Seattle, Admiralty Head on Whidbey Island was an ideal place to construct a coastal fortification. The campaign to build a fort at Admiralty Head went on for more than 25 years. The fort construction was finally approved to begin in 1897 after purchasing donation land claim holdings from Dr. Kellogg. The new architecture of military fortifications on the West Coast featured the Endicott style, named after the Secretary of War at that time. Endicott style forts featured a basically symmetrical arrangement of guns starting with three inch guns on the end. Gun size grew progressively larger until the middle of the line of guns, then grew smaller again ending in three inch guns on the other end. The entire line of guns was hidden behind a cement parapet and was built in a way so it couldn't be seen from the water.

In conjunction with two other coastal forts across Admiralty Inlet, Fort Casey was one side of the formidable Triangle of Fire protecting Puget Sound from foreign navies. Construction began on Fort Casey shortly after the 1897 final approval. Fort Casey was still being built when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898. The 10-week long war was fought in the Pacific and Caribbean, though not near the Washington coast.

Fort Casey created a new population cluster in Central Whidbey Island. The new base often hosted community events such as dances attended by Coupeville residents. The base played an active role in World War I, however the invention of airplanes and their role in modern warfare reduced Fort Casey’s usefulness as a source of protection for Puget Sound. The base was placed in caretaker status in 1926 until World War II.

The threat of aerial warfare in World War II forced the U.S. government to broaden their coastal defenses. No longer were large coastal artillery forts situated at the entrance to harbors effective protection. Better protection was offered by keeping hostile fleets and aircraft far from port entrances, preferably far out at sea. Fort Casey was reactivated during World War II, mostly as a training base. Anti-aircraft guns were places at Battery Kingsbury among other defenses. In 1942, to augment the Army defense of Puget Sound, the modern Fort Ebey was constructed along with the Oak Harbor’s Naval Seaplane Base to the north. Working together, these and other Washington bases successful deterred hostile forces from directly impacting Puget Sound.
After World War II Fort Casey and Fort Ebey were both placed in caretaker status and eventually sold. Washington State Parks and Seattle Pacific University purchased Fort Casey in 1956 and still own the properties today. Whidbey Island’s coastal forts no longer have protection as their main mission, now the mission is recreation.

Basketball game at Camp Casey.

Fort Casey State Park is home to the Admiralty Lighthouse, a beautiful waterfront campground, several hiking trails and the majority of the Fort Casey batteries. Camp Casey operates a conference center composed of most of the original Fort Casey barracks, mess halls, officers quarters and several other original buildings. This year, Camp Casey is hosting the Ebey’s Forever Conference, November 5 & 6. Come and explore Whidbey Island’s military history at Camp Casey and Fort Casey during this year’s conference. Register at http://www.ebeysforever.com/.

All photos provided by Seattle Pacific University's Camp Casey.

Special thanks to Sally Straathof for her expertise in Fort Casey history.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Snapshot of Autumn

...although the word on the street is we never really experienced summer. Regardless of what happened in the past few months, there is no doubt that fall has arrived. The slanted light across the prairie, clouds caught in treetops, brisk mornings, and constant desire for a cup of tea leave some (myself included) invigorated, and ready to cuddle up 'till spring. Included here are only a few of the many good moments of Fall.

It's time to enjoy a local favorite - the Hubbard Squash! Thanks to Dale Sherman and Sherman's Pioneer Farms, Hubbard Squash can be seen aplenty in the fields of Ebey's Prairie.. Simply bake these green giants open faced with butter and brown sugar for a delicious and nutritious dinner. Or get creative with pie, quick bread, stews and more! Sample Hubbard Squash prepared by Dale's wife, Liz - attend the Taste of Ebey's Workshop at the Ebey's Forever Conference November 6th.

The ferry house watches another season pass by.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The depths of Crockett Lake

Because my dad has an

adventurous, up-for-anything attitude, I took the opportunity of his recent visit as a chance to do something I've been dreaming of for awhile - kayak in Crockett Lake. This body of water, sitting consistently still yet amazingly close to the ocean had beckoned me with endless possibilities - hidden passages through the sedges, dozens of bird species, and who knows - maybe

the remains of a mammoth, buried for centuries in the mud.

Crockett Lake is situated on the western edge of the middle of Whidbey Island, separated from Puget Sound’s waters by the tenuously thin strip of land called Keystone Spit. Today Crockett Lake and Keystone Spit are home to numerous plant and wetland bird species overlooking the majestic Olympic Mountains southwest across the Admiralty Inlet, and the quiet field and forest patchwork that charmed explorers and pioneers from the mid 1700s on.

Sometimes brackish, sometimes fresh, Crockett Lake has undergone many changes since the Crockett families staked their Donation Land Claims in the 1850s. When Walter and Samuel Crockett arrived, the lake was over 500 acres. By the 1940s and 50s the lake had been drained to little more than 10 acres, making way for more farmland. Through the years, the lake levels had fluctuated depending on the status of the tidegate installed between the Lake and the Sound.

Today the lake is a shallow brackish body of water with salt and freshwater marshes and wetlands with a large rocky beach berm separating the lake from Admiralty Bay on Keystone Spit. Migratory waterfowl can land on loafing islands in the lake when the lake is low and feed on these critical feeding grounds after making their journey from the North. This special wintering and nesting area is a perfect habitat for 13 species of ducks. Nature is plentiful here with wildlife and an ecosystem that can survive the elements of a harsh windy landscape along Whidbey’s West side.

Knowing our kayaks could travel through 5 inches of water, we entered through a long, narrow channel on the Southwest side of the lake - hoping it would open up into manageable waters. Unfortunately it never did.

Instead, we had to constantly maneuver our boats to the deepest possible route, frequently digging our paddles through almost-black mud with an impossible smell. We debated turning around, but I was determined to kayak around the mysterious remains of a road, running through the center of the lake.

Progress often flirted with Crockett Lake and the Keystone Spit during the last century and a half. Anticipation of the Great Northern Railway passing through Whidbey Island on its way to Port Townsend sent speculators into a frenzy platting the towns of “Chicago” and “Brooklyn” on the Keystone Spit to take advantage of the new commerce promised by the impending railroad in the late 1880s. Within two years, it became apparent the railroad would not arrive and the newly minted town plats were abandoned. Little remains of the two towns platted for Keystone Spit, but the pilings of an old bridge crossing Crockett Lake are still visible. Around 1890, boats would arrive from Port Townsend and people would disembark carrying picnic baskets to walk across the bridge on the lake to Crockett’s Orchard for a day outing with their family. The Crockett’s allowed folks to picnic in their orchard next to the lake. The pilings are all that remain of the bridge today that once was the inspiration of big development on “the spit” that never came to be.

Although I did get stuck in the layer of thick scum that covered the water - especially around the pilings - it was pretty neat to see the multitudes of Great Blue Herons that used these upright beams as a resting place.

In the 1970s, progress again turned its eye to Crockett Lake and Keystone Spit. American affluence and recreational desires led to the next development speculation. As other coastal Whidbey Island regions developed and land prices drove higher, plans were again drawn to develop Keystone Spit, including a marina on Crockett Lake and 182 home development titled ‘Seabreeze’. The new proposals induced the local community to band together against the proposed development and fight for preservation. As the developer began constructing roads, service lines and model homes on the spit, activist group Save Whidbey Island For Tomorrow (SWIFT), the Washington Environmental Council, the Seattle Audubon Society and Dr. Cecil Riggall of Coupeville filed suit to stop the development. In time, the Army Corps of Engineers halted the proposed marina and the lawsuit against development succeeded in permanently halting the Keystone Spit development, though after roads and service lines were in place.

The push to conserve the Keystone Spit and Crockett Lake area took many turns and lots of money during the 1970s and played a large part in the creation of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve in 1978. The creation of the new Reserve didn’t preclude development on Keystone Spit entirely, but updated sewage disposal restrictions made development on the spit unlikely until technology could overcome the problem in the future. Crockett Lake and Keystone Spit conservations twists and turns continued well into the 1980s before all the pieces fell into place to conserve the area as it is today.

Crockett Lake and Keystone Spit’s brushes with ‘progress’ are barely noticeable to Whidbey Island visitors today as they arrive on the Coupeville/ Port Townsend ferry to visit the local fort, or watch birds through field glasses. Visitors on the shore will notice the pickleweed in the spring, near the lake’s edge, with strings of orange dodder wrapped around its small succulent branches, and the sweet smell of the wild rose in the summer. Thanks to luck and the foresight of Central Whidbey Island residents, visitors are still able to enjoy that majestic mountain view and park-like setting so enticing to the explorers and pioneers of the past.

When our boats, covered in mud, were safely strapped to the car at the end of our trip my dad remarked, "Well, I'm glad we came. I don't need to do that again, but it was pretty cool."

Special thanks to Reserve Rangers Lauren Gansemer and Sally Straathof for their great research on Crockett Lake!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15, 2010

Ebey’s Reserve offered a glimpse of the future this morning as several guests accompanied Reserve Ranger Lauren Gansemer on a short hike from the cemetery overlook to the Jacob Ebey House. The participants heard some rarely shared back history about Isaac Ebey’s travels before settling on Whidbey Island in 1850, including his trip to California during the gold rush and his purchase of the brig ‘Orbit’ as a business venture with three other partners to head to the new Puget Sound region. They heard how Ebey was credited with naming Olympia after the Olympic Mountains he’d passed while sailing on the ‘Orbit’ and how he explored many areas of Puget Sound in his search for the perfect place to stake a claim. On October 15, 1850 Isaac Ebey claimed the prairie that now bears his name and immediately set out to persuade the rest of his family to make the journey out west. Isaac sent practical information, counseling his family and friends making the journey to transfer all their wealth into oxen and cattle, to ride horses on the trail instead of staying in the wagons, and to carry only necessary items such as food. His wife, several of her family members, and the Crockett family made the trip west in 1851. A few years later the rest of Isaac’s family followed, arriving in 1854. Isaac’s father, Jacob Ebey claimed the ridge overlooking the western side of his son’s property, naming his new land ‘Sunnyside’. Isaac and Jacob built the house that still stands overlooking the Ebey Prairie, and the destination of this morning’s hike.
Upon arrival at the Jacob Ebey house, after coffee, fruit and scones, the guests gathered at the front steps and heard Ebey’s Reserve Operations Manager Craig Holmquist give details about the restoration work done on the Jacob Ebey house over the past four years. Craig told how the original windows were restored, how a new foundation was put down is a style similar to the original foundation, and how the chimneys were lifted with the rest of the house and re-pointed by the NPS restoration crew. He pointed out the new hand split cedar shake roof and talked about the changes on the interior of the building in preparation for the Jacob Ebey House debut as the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve Visitor Contact Station in spring 2011.
Reserve Manager Mark Preiss then welcomed the guests inside the house where the Long Range Interpretive Plan (LRIP) was presented. The plans are the work of many months and many people who care deeply about Ebey’s Reserve and are committed to sharing the messages central to the Reserve with visitors from around the world. With the LRIP distributed to the guests, Emi Gunn spent a bit of time reviewing the main interpretive themes, showcasing some of the Reserve’s recent achievements and talking about the next priorities on the horizon.
The Long Range Interpretive Plan, while quite a mouthful to say, is the cornerstone of all Reserve educational projects. The LRIP serves as a resource for businesses, non-profits, volunteers and other stakeholders within the Reserve to share Central Whidbey Island’s natural, cultural and historical heritage with visitors.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Boyer Barn project comes to a close

After four weeks hard at work on the restoration of the Boyer Barn, volunteers for the 2010 Preservation Field School will come together on Friday for a final work day and finish with a barbecue celebration of a job well done. I spoke with two members of the Coupeville Lions Club who worked on the project this year. Here is what they had to say about their experience volunteering at the Boyer Barn.

Fred Bronson shares,

"As a lions volunteer, I think it’s a great opportunity for a service org. to be involved in the preservation of the history of the area, of the island. It brings cohesiveness in the community—togetherness in the pride for what we have here.
As personal experience, I love to make things, and build things. It was new and different. There was a lot to learn. It was a great experience, and I look forward to working on any ongoing projects that will be out there. I really enjoy it just personally. Even if I wasn’t a lion, I would still do it.

It is an opportunity to see what we have today and what we do in relation to what those who originally built these structures. It just amazes me that we were able to do what they did do.

Jason [NPS preservationist and project leader] is quite good. He’s a very knowledgeable person and he works well with people. When you take a bunch of old guys who have all been bosses or in a position of direction, to handle a group of people like that is a very difficult situation. But he did excellent…the way he let people work and do what had to be done, and acceptance of ideas. I think he was an outstanding individual.

I look forward to next year’s project. it was a good crew, a good group of people. I could not describe a better experience."

And Dale Riddle adds,

"I love those kinds of projects. I like working with wood and I like the camaraderie. I like to see those little barns get preserved. We [Lions] do a lot of projects like that, building wheelchair ramps and such. It’s just something we enjoy doing. I’m retired so it’s better than sitting around getting gray."

I also had the opportunity to work a few shifts on the project. It was a lot of fun to learn what goes into the construction of a barn like that, or rather, what originally went into it 150 years ago. My favorite part was getting to work alongside the other volunteers and see the enthusiasm and dedication of everyone who came day after day to work together and make the project a success. My second-favorite part was learning to split shakes and getting to smell the sweet aroma of Western red cedar with each new shake that I peeled off the block.

Post by Sierra Young

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Penn Cove offers everything from fine dining on the shore, to beautiful vistas of mountains and prairies, to protected waters for incoming vessesl, to muddy butter clam habitat. Armed with a licesnse from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, a bucket, a shovel, and plenty of enthusiasm at 8 AM, Reserve rangers, Sally and Sierra, and Reserve intern, Emily, went to the head of Penn Cove to dig for clams. From our first squelching footstep in the mud to the crispy fried clam for lunch the next day, we had fun throughout the entire process.

Sally digs into the mud, knowing where to dig because she watches for where the clams squirt water as they retract their necks.
After rinsing the sand off the clams and putting them in the bucket, I count the clams to see if we are close to the catch limit of 40. These are some nice looking clams!

Filter feeders that live deep in the sand and mud, the clams were pretty dirty when we first dug them up. We certainly didn't want to eat them full of grit, so Sally had the obvious solution: "I put them in a bucket of salt water and let them spit all day."

I squealed with surprise to come back after a couple hours and find all of the clams with their necks sticking out. When I picked them up, they pulled their neck back into their shell, squirting me in the process.

Sally poses with the morning's catch.