Seasons Greetings 2015

 Famiy and Friends, Fun, Politics, Travel  Comments Off on Seasons Greetings 2015
Dec 172015

At a post-election party just after the November election Al was talking with Kelly Linville, the mayor of Bellingham. They were discussing the fate of our new jail after a funding plan to utilize sales tax was defeated by voters. At the end of the lively discussion the mayor said, “I don’t know you; what is your name?” Along with his name Al said he is married to Ruth Higgins. “I know about her,” said the mayor. This defines our 2015, a very political year.

Al, at 85, is slowing down; Ruth, only 77, is a dynamo. She is membership chair of the Whatcom County Democratic party who helped recruit precinct committee officers and organiz community teams to increase turnout. She made many phone calls (a computerized system makes possible as many as a hundred calls an hour). Al made a few phone calls, knocked on some doors and answered the phone for Ruth. Now she is part of a team organizing the presidential caucus for our area to early next March.

That post-electiSG '15 Winners' SignsSG'15 Mountain Cloudson party was at a “locker” in the Bellingham dock to celebrate the victory of Bobby Briscoe, a dark horse fishing boat captain who was elected port commissioner, an important office in coastal Whatcom County. Also at that party were two newly elected county council members. One is Todd Donovan, a political science teacher at Western Washington University who was quoted by Ruth Bader Ginsberg on voter district fairness in a recent Supreme County decision. The second is Satpal Sidu, the first Sikh to be elected to public office in the Washington State and he believes only the second in the U.S. We have known him since 2005 when we interviewed him for an article about Sikhs in Whatcom County. Then he was dean at Bellingham Technical College

When not politicking, we managed to escape twice this year. In the Spring we drove down the Oregon coast to California staying close to the water all the way. After a short stop in San Francisco we drove south to Big Sur and our beloved Deetjens. Then across the state to Reno where we stayed with Affordable Travel Club friends who we had yet to meet. In the Fall we made a shorter trip to the Olympic Peninsula, a remarkable place where we hiked through the mountains and river valleys. These trips refreshed us.
SG '15 Redheads on Feder

When we are at home we enjoy watching the wildlife that comes to our deck. And the tidal stream that flows past the deck is alive with migrating waterfowl. We continue to feel blessed to live in the Northwest, despite the fact that Birch Bay at this time of year is zinth. At the 49th parallel dark comes just after 4:00 p.m. Most of the neighboring houses are dark. A marvelous exception is the hoSG Neighbors Houseme across the road, where folks have beautiful lights. A lot of the residents go to Arizona and California for the winter. Those who usually come for weekends and summer vacations – mostly from Canada – stay home. But our cottage is warm and cozy – we very much enjoy being here all year.

Yes, we are making our annual pilgrimage to Ohio to be with Ruth’s son, Geord, and his wife Mary. They both have good jobs they like. She is a writer at Nationwide Insurance. He is the “Mac Man” on the computer help desk at Big Lots. Both companies are headquartered in Columbus. Mackenzie is at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington and just moved into a new apartment where she walks her dog past the neighbors at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Ryder is on an extended gap year from college in Chicago, working at Nordstrom, planning a return to higher education.

This has been more about our year than greeting you. We hope you have read this far and, like us, are looking forward to the New Year.

WOW! – it will be 2016.

With best wishes,



Birch Bay Discovery Days

 Birch Bay Issues, Food, Fun  Comments Off on Birch Bay Discovery Days
Aug 222015

Great new addition to the Birch Bay Discovery Days events–a Crab Derby and Fest. Challenge the crab you caught against others and eat a bunch, too. See for more details.

Holiday Greetings

 Birch Bay Issues, Fun, Travel  Comments Off on Holiday Greetings
Dec 162013

Birdhouse in Snow - Reduced sm

Last year we were celebrating the President’s re-election and the victory of our candidate, Suzan DelBene, in a new 1st Congressional district. This year we are celebrating the victory of four progressive candidates to take back control of the Whatcom County Council.

Last year most of our effort was with an OFA (Organizing for America) state campaign; this year our work was with Whatcom County Democrats, participating in Outreach Committee activities by marching in parades and staffing booths.

Our team on parade sm.

 We also worked for voter approval of a levy to support the Northwest Park & Rec that had failed in two previous elections. This was partly the result of a well organized campaign and, more importantly,  programs that involved many participants in Zumba, basketball, yoga, and pickleball.

Ruth, new as a precinct committee officer, worked to find and organize other PCOs and interested progressives with a series of  “Tipple & Talk” events in our community. But Birch Bay failed to provide the winning votes. Progressives won in Bellingham, the liberal center, while losing in the smaller cities and rural areas of the county.

In February we enjoyed a winter vacation to the Pacific Coast of Mexico starting with Puerto Vallarta, which we had visited before.

Mermaid on Sea Horse sm

 Beach Scene sm

After a week there we went to a small, less-developed town up the coast, Sayulita. 



We settled into our beach-front bungalow and explored the town, then Ruth went swimming. Al, standing on the beach, admired how much she enjoyed the water, alternating swimming breast-strokes and back-strokes, but wondered why she was drifting further out. Then he saw a life guard rushing into the water and pulling her out. She was tended for her near-drowning by a vacationing Friday Harbor EMT. She continues to experience some post-traumatic anxiety, unable to enjoy high waves in Birch Bay, but is otherwise well and thankful.

Other trips included a short visit to San Francisco to celebrate Ruth’s birthday in March and to Tofino, B.C. to celebrate Al’s in April. Ruth ferried to Vancouver Island to visit her sister and bro-in-law and flew off to Ohio for a few days in August to check in with her son Geord, his wife Mary, and son Ryder (experiencing a Gap Year after his freshman stint at Columbia College in Chicago). Daughter Mackenzie (currently managing at the Olney Theatre Center in Maryland), was unable to join us.

During the summer wKite Makers sme worked as cadre in Chamber of Commerce events that included Sandcastle & Sculpture Contest, the Discovery Days parade and Ducky Derby Race. This year Ruth proposed a new event, a kite flying festival that was combined with skim boarding.  Heidi Holmes of Park and Rec found a father and son who taught kite building to 40 young people who went out on the beach and flew their custom-built kites. Gail Walker of Paddle and Pedal organized paddle boarding and beach games for what became the 1st International Sea and Sky Festival of Birch Bay.

One of the benefits of the Pacific Northwest is the abundant seafood. When we lived in California and again after we moved to Washington, we invested in CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture that provide weekly baskets of vegetables in return for money provided a the start of the season. This year we invested in a Community Supported Aquaculture program, the Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm.

 Baby Oysters at CSA farm sm

 For $100 we get 13 oysters a week for 13 weeks ( While the oyster beds in Drayton Harbor have existed for 40 years, Steve Seymour, a retired state wildlife employee, is expanding operations with the help of instructors and students at the Bellingham Technical College.Living Room Scene with Kids sm

This year we were invited to a special Thanksgiving with two extended families — 16 adults, 8 kids and a 10-week old baby. Location, log  lodge located in mountains above the Methow Valley, east of Winthrop.

Tuna Canning, best sm

Tuna canning has become a tradition after Thanksgiving. A veteran fisherman, Jeremy Brown, obtains a large amount of tuna — this year some 2,300 pounds — that he cuts into rounds suitable for trimming and canning. Al is a trimmer, Ruth fills jars. This year we worked four-hour shifts which entitled us to buy a case each, 12 containers for $60. We ration during the year for the very best salads.


A big adBat House smdition to our home this year was a bat house, the gift of Sylvia Douglas. Bat houses need to be at least 15 feet off the ground, which  we achieved with a long piece of PVC pipe. Despite our lack of engineering skills we were able to mount the house. In sSquirrel at Bird Feeder smtrong winds it  waves back and forth, but has stayed up. We have yet to see any sign of bats, but a squirrel did raid our bird feeder. 


We wish you all the best for this Season and a GREAT 2014.

                         – Al & Ruth

Aug 192013
S&S Excitement on Beach

Skim boarding on Birch Bay beach during the festival.

Mike Button - redo

Don and Mike (shown) Buttons provided kite-building instructions for the 40 kits supplied by NW Park and Recreation District 2.

The 1st International Sea and Sky Festival registered 108 participants on August 17 and 18, 2013. Forty-one of the those registered were from Canada–mostly B.C., with the remainder from the U.S.–mostly Whatcom County.



A small, unscientific survey found that this inaugural event was very popular and should be repeated next year. The two favorite activities were kite building/flying and skim boarding. The only negative comments were the cost of participating, through rental fees, in the paddleboarding and kayaking events and the lack of planned activities while waiting for the tide to come in.




S&S Cherish Ayersof Vernon, BC Won a Skim Board

Grand prize winner Cherish Ayers from Vernon, B.C. with skim board maker and instructor Jeff Blotski of Blain 

Items donated by local businesses valued at nearly $800 were awarded to registered ticket-holders.


 Thanks to the donors of the prizes and for the committee members who donated time and energy to this event.