Turtleback Farm Inn Bed and Breakfast, Orcas Island, San Juan Islands, Washington

Pacific Epicure Review

Turtleback Farm Inn

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Notes From A Maritime West Coast Garden

Turtleback Farm Inn

TRAVELS IN MY GARDEN OF EARTHLY AND SPIRITUAL DELIGHTS:

STUDIES IN SACRED AND PROFANE HORTICULTURE

Turtleback Farm Inn
A perfect retreat:
Waking to apple blossoms;
Softly bleating lambs.

The photo above is a view of Crow Valley on Orcas Island as seen from Turtleback Farm Inn. The "blasted" maple is more than 350 years old, and was a stately tree long before the first European and Yankee explorers set foot on these hospitable shores.

I spent a couple of days this week on Orcas Island, the largest and most mountainous of the San Juans. Orcas is a beautiful Island. Its fir-clad mountains, deeply cut by fjord-like inlets, rise straight from the sea. Mt. Constitution, at 2407 feet the islands' tallest peak, has a rustic stone lookout tower, with great views over the Salish Sea, the islands, and the North Cascade peaks. The forest floor is covered with soft mosses. . . .

Orcas Island's rocky shores are lined with summer homes, but inland valleys are still devoted to farming. Sheep pastures break up the woods, and ancient apple orchards, surviving from a time when the San Juans were the Northwest's premier fruit growing region, dot the slopes. Century-old farmhouses, often surrounded by gardens and small orchards, cuddle into the hillsides. In spring and summer, flowers seem everywhere, and even the hedgerows are in bloom.

It was in one of these old farmhouses, lovingly restored, that I found the perfect country inn. I have stayed at many county inns over the years, and most were beautiful, but they lacked that ineffable je ne sais quois of true perfection. The Turtleback Farm Inn has it, but like all true perfection, it is difficult to define. A sense of peace and calmness enfolds me as soon as I walk through the door, and I sigh deeply, knowing I have finally found the right place.

While the old farmhouse looks timeless and unchanged from the outside, the inn's seven utterly comfortable rooms have been brought up to the most modern luxury standards. Four rooms in a new cedar-sided building south of the farmhouse are even more luxurious. But it isn't frills and gadgets that make the Turtleback Farm Inn such a comfortable place—it's the attention to detail: everything has its place and purpose; nothing is lacking, but no superfluous frills clog up the rooms.

The rooms overlook the woods, meadows, and ponds of Crow Valley from the lower slopes of Turtleback Mountain. Cotswold sheep graze in the meadows and black chickens roam along the wooded edge. Ducks, geese, and herons visit the ponds; ravens, bald, and golden eagles ride the thermals. And, of course, there are the crows that gave the valley its name. I fall asleep to the soughing of a night breeze and the distant murmur of frogs, and I wake to the song of robins and the gentle bleating of lambs. I linger over breakfast and smile, because I know I have found perfection. But how exactly do I define this quality? I shelf the question and take a walk through the spring woods, where bracken ferns are sending up fiddleheads, and I stop to listen to the birds and admire the daffodils blooming beneath the alders. Overhead, two ravens perform an acrobatic mating dance, accompanied by a symphony of croaks, gurgles, and caws.

Weather Vane

Returning to my garden, I am greeted by the delightful scent of orange blossoms. My [potted] orange tree is blooming for the second time this spring. It bloomed in the garage in February and March, and it is now blooming outside. Last year it kept its blossoms until June. The camas is also blooming, and my strawberries are getting their first flowers. Both are about a month early.

My apple trees are now in full bloom, but I'm worried, because I have seen few bees and bumble bees this spring. Hopefully they will come to fertilize the flowers, or I will have no fruit this autumn.

The garden is filled with bird song during the day; robins sing all night long. The house sparrows are nesting for the second time; two song sparrow families are hanging out near the brush piles, and chickadees have moved into two of the nest boxes. We have had no hawks for several weeks: the crows drive them away. Both crows and jays beg shamelessly for peanuts to feed themselves and their young at this stressful season.

While I was gone, the crows discovered that the patio table is the perfect place for hammering open peanuts. The rufous hummingbirds exhausted the nectar in two out of four feeders, but I came back in time to replenish the supply. They thank me by buzzing me and taking angry jabs at my head. They think it's their garden.

John Doerper
Bellingham, WA
27 April 2001

Chickens
These happy chickens live at Turtleback Farm Inn. They spend their days scratching up the fields, but at night they are locked up in the hen house to keep marauding raccoons at bay.

Note: All original text and photographs on this web page are © Copyright 2001 C.E. by John Doerper. Reprinted here by permission of the author.

Reservations: (800) 376-4914 (in the United States only)
or (360) 376-4914

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