Birch Bay Discovery Days

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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 Season Summary

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Jan 192014
Thanksgiving - Flags at Lodge

Art installation at Thanksgiving Lodge


We had a new experience for Thanksgiving 2013, traveling to eastern Washington with our friends Roger and Naomi Murphy to join their group of extended family and friends. The Methow Valley log lodge and bunkhouse accommodated 16 adults and nine children (including a ten-week old baby) comfortably.




Ryder, Mackenzie and Geord mugging at the Brazilian steakhouse

 We spent Christmas in Ohio with Ruth’s son, Geord, his wife Mary, their son Ryder and daughter Mackenzie, and Mary’s father. We flew Allegiant Air from Bellingham to Las Vegas, as explained in the previous post.  Taking Southwest Airlines to Columbus got us in late on the 23rd. The tree was already up and glowing, thanks to Mackenzie’s pleas. The custom had been to get the tree and decorate it Christmas Eve, but she wanted to enjoy it for a few days prior; such a wise young woman.

After a fine, food-filled visit including another new experience at a Brazilian steakhouse, we made our Southwest-Allegiant Las Vegas connection smoothly and were home the same day we departed Ohio.


New Year’s Eve in Birch Bay is marked by the Ring of Hope and Fire when people place flares, lights, and added this year–Chinese Lanterns. We had thought the latter were a great idea after seeing them last July 4th. However, after finding the remnant of one, our concerns for marine life hazard dampened our enthusiasm.

New Year’s Day 2014 Broom Hockey players

New Year’s Day celebrated the 32nd Annual Polar Bear Plunge, followed byBroom Hockey Scoreboard scaled the 2nd Annual International Broom Hockey Tournament in the Birch Bay WaterSlides parking lot. A lot of hilarity, some skill, and a VERY lopsided victory for the Canadians!  

We wish everyone a happy, healthy, vigorous 2014!

Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm

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Apr 012013


Most Whatcom County residents know a CSA as a Community Supported Agriculture produce supplier. The Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm is a Community Supported Aquaculture oyster provider.

Started in 2001, the first manager we met in 2004 or so was Geoff Menzies. Steve Seymour, a recently retired Fish and Wildlife Department employee, has now taken on that responsibility.

Because of impaired water quality, Drayton Harbor is closed to shellfish harvest from November through February. Even during the spring harvest period, harvest will be temporarily suspended for six days following 24-hour rain events of 3/4 inch of rain or more.

The 2013 season is up and running now, and CSA members can receive 13 dozen oysters for $100 over the season; that can be one, two or more dozen at a time, ordered in response to the manager’s email announcement that oysters are available. Non-members can purchase oysters for $8.00 a dozen while supplies last.

Steve disperses the oysters from Gate 3 dock in the Blaine Marina, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Fridays and at the Bellingham Farmers’ Market on Saturday.

He has recently teamed up with the aquaculture program at the Bellingham Technical College, from which students will volunteer with the oyster farm and manage projects as part of their course work.

For more information, contact Steve at



Jarring Tuna

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Dec 042012
OK, so it’s really canning.
For some people the days right after Thanksgiving are for getting up early to rush out to shop for bargains.
A few others in the Bellingham area get up slowly to process fresh tuna. “Slowly” is something of a pun. On Saturday and Sunday, November 24th and 25th, members of the Fourth Corner Slow Food Movement and friends meet at the Rome Grange on Mt. Baker HIghway to trim and can tuna. This year we processed three thousand pounds of tuna.


Jeremy Brown is the organizer of this event. A native of a farm in England, Brown traveled to the U.S., where he met his wife on the East Coast and eventually found his way to Bellingham where he began fishing for salmon and tuna. He eventually bought and out-fitted his own boat.



Prior to the canning event, Brown and a friend sliced frozen tuna with a buzzsaw to sizes that were easily handled. Seven ounces of trimmed chunks were put in small jars with oil and some carrot, then pressure cooked. Grow Northwest Magazine‘s November 2012 issue has a feature article on Jeremy and a previous event.

Volunteers who worked in two-hour shifts were entitled to buy a case of 12 jars for $62.50 this year (the price varies with the market). We bought two cases and can’t exaggerate how much better this tuna tastes than Chicken of the Sea or any other commercially canned tuna we have tried.







The Slow Food Movement was started in the 1980s in protest when a fast food restaurant opened on the Steps of Rome. There are now a hundred thousand members world wide in 150 countries. There are 13 chapters in Washington. By-words are, “good, clean and fair–good for our palates, clean for humans and fair for producers.” Membership is a one-time, tax-deductible contribution of $25.




Google and other search sites provide details. Local contact is Maria Bronstein at

Fish and Chips at VIA Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro

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Oct 152012

VIA Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro, the only property on the water side of central Birch Bay Drive, recently opened for business under the experienced eye of Mr. Yoon Oh. This genial and optimistic restauranteur welcomes patrons with a warm handshake and cheerful smile. He offers us boat-side service if we ever paddle up in our kayak.

VIA Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro
 Mr. Oh tells us that, because of his shoreline location, multiple county and state restrictions limit what he could and could not do when renovating the space for his new restaurant.

View of Birch Bay from VIA

The main improvement was replacing the musty old carpeting with an appealing hardwood floor. And, of course, the exterior Ivory Palace paint that erased the former dull brown. The dining area, bar and espresso counter offer amazing views of the bay, ever changing with the weather and the tide level.

This is the second in our “Who has the best fish and chips in Birch Bay?” series. We order their cod and Al has chips and coleslaw, which come standard, with his; Ruth requests a substitute garden salad ($10.00 each – Mr. Oh does not fool around with .99 prices). We also spring for a shared appetizer of pick ‘n peel shrimp ($8.00).
Farren, our wait person, is a model customer-service person–as is Steve, the manager on duty.
       Water and wine (a couple of crisp Barefoot Pinot Grigios–$5.00 each) keep us occupied while we wait for the appetizer. In less than ten minutes, the succulent shrimp hit our table. They with the cocktail sauce are sensational.
Succulent shrimp

Many of the staff are familiar to Birch Bay patrons from their previous service at the former CJ’s Beachhouse.

Scrumptious fish with fries
Scrumptious fish with salad
When the entrees arrive, the fish batter is crisp and brown, cooked  throughout,  The cod is moist and scrumptious. The platter comes with a lemon wedge and we request malt vinegar.
The food is fine and upcoming events at VIA include Hallowe’en, New Years Eve and New Years Day Parties.  (Oh yes, see for an October 28 Conversation with Congressional Candidate Suzan
Our conclusion is that VIA is a positive addition to the food establishments of Birch Bay.

Sampling Fish and Chips at Shores

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Oct 092012

Shores, located in Birch Bay’s Sandcastle Resort, is a family restaurant/sports bar. That makes for a mixed dynamic: sporadically raucous team fans competeing with youngsters who have neglected to leave their “outside voices” at the door.
Here to test their claim as, “The Best Fish and Chips in Birch Bay,” we order their cod offering, leaving the halibut choice for another time. Al has chips and coleslaw that comes standard; Ruth requests a substitute garden salad ($11.99). Christine, our perky and cheerful waitperson, is attentive and knowledgeable.
Water and wine (a refreshing 14 Hands Pinot Grigio in a generous six ounce pour–$6.00 each) keep us occupied while we wait for the kitchen to catch up with the less-than-over-whelming demands. We scan the spacious room where bright green and blue wooden chairs contrast with the mahogany booths and chairs. At least eight television sets keep the home-town crowd entranced as the Seattle Seahawks best the Carolina Panthers.
Out bountiful platters arrive with two large portions of fish and healthy serving of chips and coleslaw and salad. The fish batter is crisp and browned on the outside, while slightly gummy on the inside. The cod is ideal, cooked not too much nor too little. The platter comes with a lemon wedge to complement the malt vinegar and ketchup available on the table.
Shores does not have a declared splitting policy, but Christine assured us we could order one serving and she would provide an extra plate and tartar sauce.
Because it is hard to check out the cleanliness of the kitchen, Ruth has always depended on the restroom as a measure of the overall sanitary practices. This one is clean and bright. As in many other places these days, the former hand-soap dispenser holes gape out of the counter; the soap is now dispensed by a motion-sensor wall device. Motion activated units also dispense paper towels. Al described the men’s room as adequately suppled and clean, although it would not make Achitectural Digest.
Patrons enjoy the panoramic bay view from the deck on this sunny October Sunday as well as from indoors.
We relished our take-home portions the next day. Now the dilemma will be whether we split an order in the future or anticipate a second serving.

Harvest Dinner

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Oct 062012

Take equal portions of fantastic food, great drinks, delightful company, glorious weather, hot blue-grass music and sensational location, stir slightly and serve. You’ll have a winning recipe for the 10th Annual Harvest Dinner.

The Fourth Corner Slow Food Chapter organized the event at Bellewood Acres with support from and proceeds going to four local organizations. The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, of which the Chums of Terrell Creek are a subset, received a share of those proceeds, along with the Exploration Academy, Sustainable Connections and the Common Threads Farm.  
Bellewood Acres has another connection with the Chums of Terrell Creek. The tree planting and give-away on Birch Bay Drive sprung from contact with Dorie Belisle, co-owner and marketing whiz of Bellewood, who was managing the Farmers Growing Trees for Salmon project when we called her about getting free trees for the Terrell Creek bank side of the lot we had just purchased. She regretfully reported that all the trees advertised were gone, but wondered if we would be interested in planting some more for future give-away. 
Not having a clue about tree-planting and wondering if this small lot could possibly accommodate sufficient trees to be worthwhile, we invited her to come out and assess the site. She came, she saw and she opined that we could plant 1000 plugs in this little space. We did that for two cycels (two years each), until the program ended.
The spread at the Bellewood Acres Harvest Dinner site was abundant and varied.  

As were the participants.
The Gallus Brothers backed the natural setting with blue-grass selections all evening.
And a great time was had by all.
Hope to see you at next year’s Harvest Dinner.

Action in the South End

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Aug 192012

 Week after week this summer the Birch Bay Market at the corner of Alderson and the Drive has been gaining vendors and customers Friday through Sunday. The Pats (Alesse) and Nancy Firsdell have made this happen.
The August 4th weekend was the ultimate: Saturday was SnipFest – nine hours of music – to benefit, the emergency clinic that neuters dogs and cats. The magic behind this comes from Tammy Pearce and Dave Bucknell of the Bay Cafe, located across the road from the Alesse’s C Shop.
That’s Tammy holding the microphone. Last year SnipFest raised $4,000; Tammy expected the total to be well over $5,000 this year. The woman to her left is Nancy Firsdell, who did much of the work to attract 50 vendors. The band on stage is Black Out Alliance that drew in many of the other performers and closed out the show.
Both of the sponsoring businesses flourished and brought the action to the South End of the Bay once again.

Nosin’ Around for News

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May 102012

The new Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro will open in about a month in the building we know and love as the “Blue Fish.” This according to Mr. Yoon, the proprietor, who I met Wednesday evening. He was working hard and sweating from cleaning the place up but smiling as he pointed to the liquor license application on the door.
But the picture is bleak at the Beach House that many are wistfully calling Stefanie’s again. I’m hearing that, if new management doesn’t appear soon, the season will be lost. A former employee explained that when Wynstra folded the leasing company pulled out all the equipment and that will take time to replace.
Down the drive, the CJ Wijns space was purchased by ‘Grand Bay’ condo owners who are advertising for an operator. There, too, nothing is left – including that nice furniture.
Word is the golf course is an impossible situation because the high cost of water to keep the grass alive could never be covered by green fees.
Turning to the beach, we understand Birch Bay and Blaine have been separated in a petition by ReSources to require participation in stormwater permit requirements. There was consideration that Blaine does not have enough population to be included but that, we understand, has been resolved. This is a WIN for the folks who run the Blaine city government – Dept. of Ecology pressure will enhance their stature of having the 97th worst polluted body of water in the state.