Mo Bloggin'

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Archive for the tag “Okanogan Highlands”

Seven swans a swimming

I was out driving this past Sunday, doing some drive-bys on homes listed I thought I might be interested in.  As part of the process I’ve learned that you can pull up the pictures – hopefully there’s  a nice balance of indoor and outdoor shots – and check out the aerial view (look for power transmission lines adjacent or on the property, other property features (wet? flood plain? flat? steep hillside?), and neighborhood features–what’s that down the street?  A junkyard?), and map it, and if all systems look good, it’s time for a drive.  I put the bird dog in the car and took off, feeling glum about my “maybe” house (short sale that’s been vacant…and unheated during our recent week long artic freeze; I was worried about the frozen pipes bursting and causing damage to the home), and thinking I needed to step things up. 

We drove to the first property, the one I was most hopeful about, and found that although the land was quite nice (six acres), the home was much too close to the rather busy road, and worse, the neighbors home was on the property line as stone’s throw from the front door.  Six acres and no privacy?  No thanks.  Next! 

We drove by three more I had targeted – a couple of maybes, but nothing that blew my hair back.  Farley was climbing back and forth from the front seat to the back and starting to irritate me.  He was excited, with no outlet (I’d promised a hike, but the drive-bys were first) and I scolded him to either stay in the front seat or get in the back.   Finally he laid down in the back, evidently giving up on any release.  (“Hike, my tail feathers.”)  Few dogs can do pathetic better than a Setter.  So now we were both glum.

I was feeling discouraged and wondering if I should put moving out of the area completely back on the front burner.  Oregon’s pinot noir wine country, or Bellingham by Mt. Baker (where there was what may have been a grizzly bear sighted in recent years – a huge plus for me), or to my beloved Okanogan Highlands.  As I drove through the Sunday snowflakes (it looked like dandruff, though was accumulating in some areas) and mulled these ideas, I saw them.  Trumpeters, a formation of six or…seven, flying low overhead.  I looked over and could see dozens more in a fallow corn field back from the busy road.  There were plenty of adults and youngsters mixed, the immature swans a sooty brown color in comparison to the adults’ pure white plumage.

I’ve been looking for them for a few weeks, ever since I saw about ten  flying low over the river by home when I was out with Farley over Thanksgiving weekend.  I’d heard them first, their trumpet-like call causing me to crane my neck looking for them.  They’re back!

Sunday’s group was a little farther from our usual haunts, and  I pulled off on the first side road I could find.  These farm roads are a series of els, and I zigzagged along, hoping I could find some swans to view a little closer.  I pulled down one road with an old dairy barn (no cows seen), and watched an immature Red tail hawk swoop on something in a plowed field.  It didn’t look like a killing dive, but he stood on the ground next to something.  I stopped the car across the road and watched him.  And he watched me.  Finally I pulled the car away a little.  That’s when he grabbed the meal; it looked like a mole, perhaps turned up by the plowing, and flew off to a nearby tree with it. 

I rounded another sharp turn and saw them then.  Dozens of swans a few dozen yards from the road in a cut corn field.  By now Farley was practically singing, whining with excitement at all the birds.  I rolled down my window and snapped a few photos, careful to keep him from leaping out the window or making enough noise to scare them.  After we’d been watching them for a few minutes they visibly relaxed, the sentry swan even foraging for leftover corn.  As we sat there – no more than five minutes total – dozens more flew in, mostly in small groups of four or five, or sometimes just one or two.  The noise was as thrilling as the sight; they called to one another constantly, sounding like an orchestra of trumpets tuning up before the concert.

Seeing them brightened my whole day, and my worries and woes disappeared.  And of course it  reinforced my emotional bond to this area, and my desire to find my peaceful little farm somewhere close.  Maybe all is not lost.  The promised hike with Farley was a treat for both of us.


Still looking

Duvall Deer 001It’s been two years  now.  I sold my home and moved out two years ago this month.  I’m in my second rental home (same landlord) and have been here for 16 months now.  The critters are all here with me (minus three hens – old age and attrition and I’m down to 10 from the 13 I started with) and we’re all a little older, but still looking for the perfect place.  The real estate market’s been opening up for me in recent months, with more places in my price range that are closer to civilization.  They aren’t perfect –  there’s a reason they’re in my price range, after all, but up until this summer I couldn’t find these kinds of places unless I drove for an hour first. 

I made an offer on a little place on six acres a couple of towns over.  I seem to be hopscotching around all these little farm towns, so it would only make sense I’d find a place in one of them.  It’s a short sale, and will be several months if it goes through.  I made the offer and it was accepted by the homeowner, it just needs to be accepted by the two lienholders…or something like that.  Of course I’ve been hearing all kinds of short sale stories about people who wait and wait only to have it refused at the last.  Or the bank accepts a higher offer from another buyer and they lose it.  I’m not putting a lot of worry into these possible scenarios.  And if the house doesn’t work out, well, I’m still looking.  That’s the good thing about a short sale – you can pretty much withdraw your offer at any time, so if something better comes along in the meantime, I can switch.

It’s a smallish house, with some nice features, some things that need to be changed.  First on the agenda will be a fence (surveyor and fence contractor) and of course the chicken coop.  I’ll craigslist that one for help.  There’s a little more road noise than I’d like, but the house is set well back from the road (hidden from street view) and will be a good place to sit and gain equity for a few years.

My eastern Washington dream, the Okanogan Highlands and Columbia Highlands, will still be there for me.  I’m going to take a trip back over this fall and winter, just to see what the weather is like during the cold months (and if I’m up to it).  For now, if this is it, it will work.  And my new neighbors are pretty cute, don’t you think?  (Mama deer and her half grown fawn.)

…on earth

Or should I say Eden?  (Part 2 of 3)

In the early 1970s my stepfather decided we would go on a family vacation.  We’d been living in Washington State for a year or so, transplanted from Southern California (one year of sunny bliss and beaches, before So. Cal became the “teeming masses” it is today), and before that, northern New Jersey, land of my birth and early years.  By this time my family was already growing apart–my older brothers were on their own, one stayed in So. Cal, where he lives to this day, and the other enlisted in the Army–and my older sister was a recent high school graduate. 

My stepfather had lived in Washington before, and knew the area somewhat.  We drove across the state (a drive I remember not at all) to a place called Sun Cove Resort on Lake Wannacut (Wannacut Lake).  I think it was my first encounter with cattle guards.  I have no idea how he knew of this remote location (he would be deceased no more than three years later), nor what possessed him to take us there.  It was an old fashioned cabin-style resort, with units that had small kitchens and there was even a miniature golf course for us kids.  We fished from the resort dock and with one of their motorboats, and went sightseeing–the old Molson Ghost Town was a high point.  It was my initial experience with the Okanogan Highlands.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s.  I was with my future (ex) husband by then, living in a little house in downtown Issaquah, growing a garden that was, and still is, unmatched in its bounty and ease of growing (creek bottom land).  His employer was a local contractor, Jim, who owned property in…the Okanogan Highlands.   We were both a little tripped out when we realized we’d both been to this remote lake.  We took a weekend trip to stay over there with Jim, just east of Chesaw, and I remember Jim singing the praises of the area, exclaiming how it was “glorious!”  That seemed a little over the top, and as we drove and drove, through the magnificent Teanaway valley and over Blewett Pass into the desert country of midstate I wondered at Jim’s exortations.  Just when I figured it was just hyperbole, we rounded a curve…turns out he was spot on.  Once again I visited the Molson Ghost Town, and soaked in the stunning beauty of the Okanogan Highlands.  We went to the Chesaw 4th of July Rodeo (my first rodeo) and spent several days on a ranch just east of town.  Glorious was an understatement.July 23-25 09 010

It was over 20 years before I made it back.  In 2008, on my statewide scouting trip for relocation properties, I was back.  My friend Karen and I were on a road trip of the north central and northeast parts of the state, and I made sure to stop at the Molson Ghost Town museum again on our day drive through the area.  The memory of the area’s stunning beauty was not tarnished with age, nor out of proportion due to fish story time-exaggeration.  It was just as magnificent as ever.  Could I live here?  In a minute.  By myself?  Um….

I recently went back to spend more time and to look at a couple of properties I’d seen for sale.  The realtor I’ve been in contact with was unavailable (and evidently had no associates to refer to me?) but it didn’t matter.  I had made my plans spur of the moment and was going regardless.

A big issue with going anywhere, any time, is what to do about pet care.  The cats are okay in the house for a few days–plenty of water, food and litter boxes and they’re good for at least three days, even four days isn’t a problem.  Same for the other critters–turtles, parakeets and the hens outside.  So I decided to bring the dogs with me and either camp or…?  I was perusing my brochures and tourist booklets from last year and came across an ad for Eden Valley Guest Ranch.  I picked up the phone and called, leaving a message and not expecting any availability for the coming weekend.  Robin, the proprietor, called me back and said they had openings and the three dogs were welcome, so I booked two nights  in one of their cabins.

Concluded in Part 3.


(Part 1 of 3)

There’s an old joke that goes around the Internet from time to time, usually modified to some degree depending on the sender.  In it a fellow is making a phone call to god using a special golden telephone.  He calls from various locations (states), and in each place the price is more exorbitant than the next, $10,000 being a figure I remember for one of the calls.  Then the PH01230Jperson comes to Washington State and wants to use the golden telephone.  The charge?  35 cents.  “Everywhere else charges thousands of dollars to phone god, why is this one so cheap?” (smelling a scam).  “Why, don’t you know, son?  You’re in Washington now.  It’s  a local call.” 

For someone who’s lived here most of her life, I’ve always loved that one.  CB033024And it is true.  The state is full of astounding beauty from the Pacific coast to the inland border with Idaho, from Canada to Oregon.  Alpine peaks and rain forests, high desert and lakes and rivers galore, all filled with a bounty of wildlife and natural resources.  Living in the Seattle area we have Puget Sound and Mount Rainier as our two most distinctive landmarks.  Every time I round a corner while driving and find Mount Rainier in my sights I am filled with awe and delight, even after over 35 years of seeing it regularly, often yelping or whooping with joy at the magnificent sight.

In recent years the area population has grown by leaps and bounds.  It seems everyone loves the northwest beauty.  Sure we get a lot of rain during the winter, but our summers are probably the driest in the country, short of living in a desert, and due to all the rain the rest of the year, stay green and lush while under (mostly) blue skies and sun for three or four glorious months.  The dark-at-4 pm nights in the winter give way to seemingly endless days, where the sun doesn’t set until well after 9 pm and twilight lasts until nearly 10:30 pm.  The beauty is staggering at times.  Thus, our roads are clogged and our open space is disappearing in lieu of housing and shopping.  While I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to live in such beauty, I also know that it’s stifling, especially when I can remember how it “used to be.”  (Am I really old enough to say something like that?)  So it’s little wonder that the topography I’ve loved so well for so long has begun to feel claustrophobic.  The greengreen woods and juicy jungle of vegetation has suddenly felt overbearing and oppressive.  The underbrush of vines and native shrubs so thick you need a machete to get through it feels confining and restrictive.  It’s probably no surprise, then, that my sights have turned east.  To traffic-free roads and wide open spaces of big sky and big landscapes.  If you’ve read my previous post, The Secret Yearning, you know where this is going. 

I recently spent two days on a ranch in the Okanogan Highlands with the dogs, and came away both satisfied and confused.  Just what am I thinking, to want to live in a place so desolate of people?  Or am I just scared?  Do I really desire this?

See Part 2 for the continuation.

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