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.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Life in the Surf

Staying grounded against the constant tug of waves and changing tides is no easy task, but the bull kelp is well adapted for this kind of marine life.

Kelp resembles a plant in many ways--it performs photosynthesis and has parts that look like roots, stems and leaves--but it is in fact a member of the brown algae kingdom because it does not have distinct organs like plants. The part that looks like roots at the bottom of the stipe (stem-like structure), as in these pictures is known as a holdfast and attaches the tall kelp to the rocks. Gas bladders, known as pneumatocysts, form at the base of the blades (leaves), allowing them to float near the surface of the water. Kelp is an annual plant, meaning its life-span is about one year, but can be as long as 18 months. It reproduces by dropping spores.

(Photo by Sierra Young)

(Photo by Sierra Young)
I often look out at Admiralty Inlet from the beach at Fort Ebey and at first think I see the tops of the heads of several harbor seals, but then realize they are only moving with the water. I am actually watching bull kelp, which, while not nearly as cute as harbor seals, is nonetheless interesting and delightfully slimey to the touch.

Post by Sierra Young

Friday, August 6, 2010

Deception Pass Bridge Anniversary

Saturday, July 31, 2010
Seventy-five years ago Whidbey finally got its connection to the rest of the world! Two bridges were built connecting two counties and three islands (Fidalgo, Pass and Whidbey). It took one year to build both spans (Deception Pass and Canoe Pass), making the Whidbey connection a complete success after many years of trying.

Construction began in August of 1934, with the Civilian Conservation Corps helping to blast for the bridge approaches. Puget Construction Company out of Everett was given the contract for building both bridges. Before the bridges were built, people coming and going from the island had to rely on a "man-made" ferry service between Cornet Bay on Northern Whidbey Island and Dewey Beach on Fidalgo Island.

Deception Pass State Park had a festive celebration for the bridge's 75 years of existence, honoring the grand old structure with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and vintage pre-1935 cars crossing the bridges as was the protocol on July 31, 1935, when the bridge connection was initially dedicated.

The bridge connection has increased population on the island, built the island economy, become home to a United States Naval Base in Oak Harbor, and established Whidbey Island as a popular vacation destination. Little did anyone realize at the time of its completion that the Deception Pass Bridge would become a "must-see" tourist attraction in Washington State and the most photographed site in the Pacific Northwest.

Post by Sally Straathof, Park Ranger, Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve