It has been quite the extended winter here in Bellingham, complete with some record cold, snowfall, lots of rain and generous amounts of gusty winds. Nearby, Mt. Baker is nearly groaning under the snow loads and the ground has imbibed its share of water. The cold, of course, is necessary for many plants and animals in our area and will help reduce garden pest populations over the rest of the year. The groundwater will well serve what is likely to be a fantastic growing season. Spring flowers and bulbs are perhaps a bit behind but they already show signs of catching up quickly. Now, the wintry weather mix is nearly past. Soon, the Tree Frog Night Inn grounds will return to their full spring and summer glory, giving respite in the warm, summer evenings sure to come.
Our little inn received two prestigious awards this year. One, from Corp America as a selection in their North American Excellence Awards, is for the Best Boutique Inn, 2017 – Washington. On their website they state that their Excellence Awards, based solely on merit, honor those, “whose consistency to provide exceptional service has been the driving force behind their innovation and commitment to thrive within the sector.”
A second award, received in 2016, was from Lux Magazine as “Best B&B Accomodation.” We were one of only 3 in Washington to receive this recognition which was based on “nominations and reviews made by clients, peers and industry professionals.”
It is certainly great to be recognized in this manner. However, the recognition that most matters to us is that which we receive directly from our guests. It may come in the form of a thankful entry into the guest book, a relaxed look of a guest who leaves here refreshed, or a contented sigh from a breakfast guest pushing back from the table after one of our homegrown and homemade meals. Thanks to those of you who feed us in this way.
Gracing the lawn, just outside the suites of the Tree Frog Night Inn, is this lovely pink-tinged dogwood. Typically, it blooms in late spring and its blossoms linger for weeks. This year, with our warm fall, we were blessed with a second bloom which contrasts with and complements the vibrant fall colors of the foliage. In general, the Bellingham area and our little part of it have offered up excellent fall color this year, as is often the case. It is an excellent time for photography and watching the exploits of the squirrels and birds as they ready themselves for the impending winter.
From the beginning, it was important to us at the Tree Frog Night Inn to build something unique and beautiful in an eco-friendly way. Sometimes, this involved employing old-fashioned, natural methods as opposed to brand new technology. Our interior walls are one such instance. In the Mediterranean Suite, most of the walls are earth plaster covered with naturally pigmented lime wash. The burnishing technique employed in the multiple coats in the Mediterranean bedroom might elicit a feeling of sleeping under a brilliant blue sky dappled with puffy white clouds. The Coast Salish walls are clay with natural pigments, furthering the warm, cozy feeling of the Suite. When the light reflects off some of the naturally-occurring minerals, the walls may glitter, as if suffused with gold or gems.
Here at Tree Frog Night Inn, spring and early summer have been kind to us. We’ve had a good dose of nice hot weather interspersed with some light showers and cooler days. It’s been perfect for growing berries. For quite a while now our guests have been offered some of our organic, fresh-picked berries as part of their breakfast, including several varieties of strawberries (some ever-bearing), both red and golden raspberries, and a variety of blueberries as well. We are just now starting to pick some orange carpet raspberries, growing low to the ground down in the permaculture orchard. Soon peaches, figs, pears and apples will be ripening. In years to come, many more varieties of home-grown fruit will be available for your dining pleasure: plums, marionberries, kiwi, goji berries, and nectarines to name a few –a veritable cornucopia.
Down the trail from the suites, next to the fire pit, is a little, open sitting area we call the Focus Garden. There, our guests can relax under a weeping willow, surrounded by colorful rhodies, and large firs, maples and cedars and enjoy the day or the antics of the chickens. The botanically inclined can find a large variety of plants to enjoy. One of them is this tall Oregon Grape. Indigenous groups who overlapped this striking plant found a variety of uses for it. The berries were sometimes eaten, often mixed with salal or other fruits. The shredded bark and roots yielded a potent yellow dye. Additionally, at least one group, the Saanich, reputedly used the berries as an antidote to shellfish poisoning. Today it is not uncommon to find Oregon Grape jelly or even wine.
Many people have heard of the collapse of honey bee populations. This is a serious issue. One of many pollinator alternatives is the Mason Bee, of which there are perhaps 130 species in North America. Here at Tree Frog Night Inn, we have been raising mason bees for years.
The females will lay eggs in naturally occurring holes in wood or other materials, including straws provided by the beekeeper in blocks of wood or specially made “houses”. Female eggs are laid toward the rear of the hole for protection and male eggs at the front. Mason bees are solitary, but will provision nests near other females. The males emerge first in early spring followed by the females whose timing works out well with early blooming fruit trees such as those in my food forest. The female lays eggs in the nests and provisions them with food and the larvae spend their summers growing and eventually making cocoons as fall approaches.
As they become inactive over the winter, the cocoons can be taken out of the nests, cleaned and stored in the refrigerator over winter until they are ready to emerge as adults in the spring. In this picture you can see the relative sizes of the male (on the left) and female cocoons. This year, I was delighted by a big “crop” of larvae and by the appearance of a second species of mason bee, which should increase the resiliency of my pollinating populations.