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.
A couple of years ago, we here at the Tree Frog Night Inn switched to providing a deluxe continental breakfast during the week and serving full breakfasts only on weekends. We knew, however, that we would miss out on some of the social times we so often treasure with our guests. This lead to a decision to offer the possibility of a social hour to be enjoyed with one or both of us as our schedules permit. This picture shows a couple of our delightful repeat guests, locals Tony and Val, enjoying the delicious snacks and drinks Kara has offered in our house. Depending upon what’s on hand, guests might partake of local cheeses and chocolates, a glass of Whatcom County wine, locally smoked salmon or fresh bread with a selection of vinegars and olive oil from one of our local favorite stores, Drizzle. Poco, our dog, also enjoys these little opportunities and provides clean-up duty gratis. He only does floors.
Of the many artists who contributed to the Tree Frog Night Inn, Debbie Dickinson (aka: Tile Girl) has contributed some of the work eliciting the most comments. Her tile version of a Turkish rug in the Mediterranean Suite never fails to draw compliments as does her work in the Salish Suite shower. We were so taken with her craft that we commissioned her to design and install a large piece in our living room behind the fireplace mantle. Debbie has gone on to make quite a name for herself around town and, recently, has begun to do some large installations in public spaces out of state as well, including some collaborative designs with high school students in Alaska. You can see some of her work at http://www.gridcraft.net.
Right next door to the Tree Frog Night Inn, on the Cedar Tree House grounds, Kurt is developing a permaculture-based food forest. This endeavor will drastically increase the food production capabilities of the land, enhance the soil and be beautiful as well. Guests at the Inn are already benefiting from the harvests of fresh berries, herbs, peaches, pears and plums. Soon to come will be cherries, nectarines, figs, Goji and goumi berries, nuts, and apricots, as well as some rarer and slightly more exotic fruits such as Medlar, kiwi, and Shipova, a cross between a pear and a mountain ash. Kurt is happy to give tours of his work to interested guests, and guests are encouraged to stop and sample some of the fruits of his labor.
A spring evening at the Tree Frog Night Inn often treats the quiet listener to a gentle chorus of frog sounds. We are blessed with a variety of frogs here thanks to the varied habitats available, including large ponds on adjacent properties, wetland areas, seasonal and ever-flowing streams. Though most frogs vocalize, some do not, particular ones living near noisy streams. The calls of some frogs can be heard for up to a mile away due to amplification in vocal sacs or chambers. A stroll down the path from the suites, leads to a bridge over an intermittent stream. The evening, with the sun filtering through the trees, is my favorite time to meander the property and appreciate the lush habitat near the bridge, with its resplendent skunk cabbage, tall iris, river birch, and sheltering alders and firs.
The goldfish in our little pond at the Tree Frog Night Inn barely stir through the colder winter months, feeding only rarely and living off the stored energy from the previous year. Spouting Frog holds watch over them, keeping would-be predators at bay. Come spring, they begin to stir from their lethargy, perhaps enervated by the frogs leaping into the pond at our approach as well as the rising water temperatures. Flashes of orange in the depths serve as notice to increase their feed. Spring is a time of great activity both below and above the water. Just yesterday, I heard the first call of the Varied Thrush in its return to grace our woodlands.