Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


This Land is My Land

Heart Rock

I’m almost afraid to talk about it because I can’t believe it’s really true. I’ve had a dream for many years to buy a piece of land on Orcas Island and the perfect opportunity finally came about. I know it may sound crazy when the economy is in such bad shape to use our nest egg to fulfill a fantasy of creating a place for family and friends to gather and experience nature. If I hadn’t lived there many years ago, I might not know what I’m missing by living so close to the freeway in Seattle that I hear the drone of cars all day and night. All I can say is that after only a few days, the entire family feels transformed and can’t wait to return.

Lily Running on the Knolls

The islanders take the care of their unique natural beauty very seriously in the San Juans. As a matter of fact, every real estate transaction is taxed 1% for the San Juan County Land Bank whose mandate is to preserve in perpetuity areas in the county that have environmental, agricultural, aesthetic, cultural, scientific, historic, scenic or low-intensity recreational value and to protect existing and future sources of potable water. The beautiful, publicly accessible perserve on Orcas island known as Turtleback Mountain was purchased in part by money from the Land Bank. Once we purchased our property there, we became stewards of the land with a mission to take care of the what we’ve acquired and leave that legacy for future generations.

Orcas Island

Our first step is getting to know the property. Deer, bunnies and eagles greeted us somewhat cautiously. They’ve already been living there happily and we need to respect their habitats and observe closely for the less obvious species. Since we won’t be living there full-time, I’ll do my vegetable gardening in Seattle and continue to buy at the farmers markets and the market stands along in the way to the ferry through the Skagit county farmland to keep our land free of fences.

Madrona Trees There are many majestic Madrona trees, Arbutus menziesii, to consider. Although they’re drought tolerant and often live in the most difficult environments, they’re in decline and need special protection. I was thrilled to find a grove of small healthy madronas growing close to our proposed cabin site. We’ll need to work carefully in their presence to avoid disturbing their sensitive roots.

Orcas Island View

Which brings up the whole issue of trees vs. the view. In the photo above, Mt. Baker (covered with clouds that day) is directly behind a huge Douglas Fir tree. Luckily, that particular tree isn’t on our property so I won’t be faced with that moral dilemma. We do have several other smaller trees that once removed, would give us a much better view of the water. I guess I’ll have to deal with that one once I know the land better. It’s the most difficult issue yet knowing that the choices we make will have a lasting impact.

Orcas Island Cabin Orcas Island Cabin

There’s a beautifully handcrafted one room cabin that was unfortunately built across the neighbor’s property line (oops!). We’ll be having it lifted and moved to become the basis for a place to eat and sleep. In the meantime, when the weather cooperates, spending many hours outdoors is fine as long as we have a fire for warmth andĀ  to cook on.

Building a Fire

Airstream Trailer

Krista & Chris are taking on the renovation of the ’64 Airstream trailer. The existing covered deck provides shelter and a good place to use the camp stove.

Lily in Nature

The whole thing is a huge on-going project but one that I feel completely ready to take on. It’s a good thing we’ll have Lily there to remind us to take the time to stop and observe all the beauty we have around us. When times get difficult, seeing her taking it all in with such a sense if wonder will make it worthwhile. I’ll be giving you lots of updates along the way.

On a more practical level, I never seem to escape thinking about what to cook for dinner even when my son-in-law has so graciously taken on most of the cooking. If you have a favorite recipe for camping, I’d love to hear about it.

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12 Responses »

  1. I am sitting here going over your pictures again and again. I am jealous beyond jealous! This is so so wonderful. Apparently I am so jealous I had to use repetition in every sentence… well worth the extra letters!

  2. Congratulations Poppy! You don’t know me, but I am a friend of Sally’s and have been enjoying your blog for quite some time now. How fabulous that you followed your gut without the fears that stop many folks from following their dreams…I applaud you!!
    And in a magical small-world way, I met Krista, Chris and Lily at the U-Dub Street Fair after I commented on a certain t-shirt and we started talking about food, crops, eating organic, etc…and the Mixed Greens blog came up and one thing led to another and now I’ve met your peeps! Send them my regards for extra energy and inspiration while they work on the Airstream! And best wishes for fulfilling, soothing times on the land. I know you’ll be great stewards….

  3. My grandparent’s wilderness cabin had a profound affect on my life, my point of view about so many things – in the best possible ways. All that and more on your plate, Poppy. Savor every morsel, as I know you will.

  4. The plot look AMAZING. Congratulations. I hope it become he basis for many of your children’s and grand-children’s fondest memories.

  5. Renai, sorry to make you jealous but hope to share lots on the blog to make up for it.
    Elaine, Krista & Chris mentioned your meeting right away to me. As a matter of fact, they’re up on Orcas now gutting the trailer so I’ll send along your good wishes.
    Sally, stories you’ve told me of your time with your grandparents have been a part of my inspiration to make this dream come true, not to mention our island studio.
    Matt, you’ve got it — that’s exactly what I’m hoping for.

  6. Congratulations, it looks like a fantastic place to gather with all your generations. I know you’ll have so many memorable meals and times. That’s what a nest egg is all about, no?

  7. Wow we had a huge few days up there working on the demo phase of our project. It is so beautiful and peaceful, we feel so fortunate to be included. Lily spent all day out in the sun building fairy houses, it reminded me so much of when I was a little girl there.

  8. Good for you two and your extended peeps, including us! I can feel that San Juans air in looking at the photos.

  9. Audrey, that’s what I’ve been telling myself, all the way to the bank.
    Krista, I can’t wait to get up there and see what you’ve done and maybe a fairy house or two.
    John, shall we include you on our list for a work party or two?

  10. It has a little or a lot of Lake George about it…those memories of the Adirondacks are the building blocks of life for all of us, as these will be for Krista, Chris and Lily. It is a wonderful place, and will occupy your days and nights for a long time to come…love from your family, BJ

  11. Hello neighbor! My husband and I purchased land on Orcas Island in 2009. We too never thought we would be able to afford it, but things fell in place to make our dream come true. We won’t be moving there for a few years yet, but it just feels like home. So far we have a shed and yurt on the property and try to spend as much time as possible on the island. Congratulations on your purchase! Enjoy Orcas Island’s magic!

  12. Hi Linda, you’ve reminded me that I need to do an update on our Orcas project. Hope we’ll get to meet sometime. It sounds like we’re on a similar path.