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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 and to cook on.
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.
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.