Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Winter on the Farm

Spring is here and it's here in a big way. The sun is shining again, the grass is growing, humming birds are back in force, the trees are leafing out and the nightly chorus of frogs has gotten so loud you nearly have to shout to have a conversation if you are standing near a pond. Life is reawakening out here after a cold winter and it is wonderful to live in a place where I am surrounded by it at every turn. Just as important, or perhaps more important, is having a lifestyle that puts me in daily contact with all of it. I spend most of my day, just about every single day, outside. Much of our activities out here are dictated by the weather, the amount of daylight or what part of the growing season it currently is. Often this creates challenges, but at the end of the day I usually go to sleep with a sense of satisfaction I seldom experienced back when I lived in the city.

And here I am, playing major catch-up on my blog. It may be spring, but this post is going to cover way back in November and December. I'm going to be a bit shorter in my descriptions and reflections (maybe that's a good thing? I tend to get a little long winded, I know) so I can get up to date and show the exciting things that are happening up here now that spring is here. As such, if this is the first of my blog posts you are reading about my time living up here on Shaw Island, I'd highly recommend you check out my previous post first, Settling into Island Life to better understand what all is going on up here.

I'd been in Seattle for a few days visiting my parents and taking care of some business, but once that was taken care of I packed up my car and headed north, then onto the ferry boat home. I always feel good returning home to Shaw, and the boat ride makes for a wonderful transition between what I see as in a way very different worlds. On that particular night a few friends were up from the city and as I arrived home people were cooking a big hunk of deer on the BBQ. The next morning we wandered to the top of the hill on the property, the highest point on the island, and looked out over towards the water below and Canada in the distance. In t his particular shot we are looking north towards Westsound on Orcas Island, discussing the handful of trees we want to remove, and the placement (some day) of a huge tree platform that will overlook the meadows.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, I've been living in a tent up here for months (six months in total!) but it was time to get serious about building a house of sorts for me to live in. I was back in the city during the first stages, but here is what I found upon my return to the island, much as Jon and I had discussed. The house/cabin is a single room, 8 feet by 12 feet, with two skylights, and a huge window and glass door facing north overlooking the meadow below. The actual square footage of my new home is a whopping 83, or 7.7 square meters for my metric friends. Simple living, just the way I like it.

Lunch break at the cook trailer. If you look in the background above Jon (middle) you can see my place.

One of the most important pieces of equipment on a farm, or any big piece of property for that matter, is a tractor and we were on the hunt for one to buy. In search of one that wound fit the rather small budget, we hopped the ferry to a neighboring island, San Juan, to have a look. San Juan is much larger than Shaw and has a very different feel to it; it is much more open, more developed and far less secluded.

The tractor for sale was a Case 530 Construction King from the 1960s, it's a three cylinder diesel and came with a removable front loader as well as a big backhoe. Jon and I knowing very little about this kind of thing enlisted the help of another friend, Lincoln, to come check it out as well. It turned out we weren't able to get the thing started, but overall Jon was very interested in buying it, which he did a while later. It's a great tool, and you will be seeing much more of it in the coming posts.

My place coming along nicely.

At this same time the islands were hit by a period of unusually cold weather. Out here it seldom gets below freezing, but it sure was now and it made for a few cold nights inside my tent! Although it was getting to be the third week of November by now we still had crops in the garden, an experiment in over-wintering them. The cold took a serious toll, but a few things did hang on and are still alive this spring actually.

Ponds are starting to freeze.

Hanging around big burn-piles is one of our common social activities around here, haha. Call up our friends on the island, light up a big brush pile from some recent clearing project and kick back with a few beers.

Sunset from the ferry dock. We had an evening mission to Orcas island which gave a perfect excuse to watch the sun go down from the middle of the water.

A big American pickup truck full of crab traps, concrete and a freshly taken deer. We all need to eat, and we all need to build so this sums up life pretty well night now!

The garlic had been planted about two weeks prior, and it was time (well, maybe slightly past time) to put up the deer fence around the crop. We pounded in t-posts and installed 8 foot wire fencing around the whole field.

I've mentioned it before and I think the earlier picture of the crab traps and venison confirms it, but we eat very, very well up here. These are some delicious meat pies that Jon made for dinner one evening, as well as trying out some delicious garlic-jelly Ellen and Jenn made from our previous garlic crop.

Back on Halloween, as part of our display I ended up using my tree climbing gear to swing out at people from a tree above. This lead do a phone call from the Sisters of Mercy, one of the two groups of nuns on Shaw and they were looking for someone to do some work for them. The sisters are a pleasure to work for and were very pleased with what I was able to get done. Since then, I've been back a number of times to do more work pruning, felling and bucking trees, which usually ends in us sitting around sharing stories and them making me lunch!

Deer butchered, vacuum packed and ready to be frozen and eaten throughout the coming months.

At this point I still had some work to do back in Seattle, and plus Thanksgiving was coming up. I loaded my car, drove across Whidby Island as usual and returned to my parents, where my cats now live.

I vastly prefer the island scenery, but the city still has it's moments of beauty!

The day after Thanksgiving, all of our friends gather for a second Thanksgiving, which is usually quite an epic feast. Sure, a few of my good friends are living up in the islands now, but it still doesn't compare to how many long time friends are still in Seattle. As a result, it really is nice to return to the city for these kind of gatherings.

It was time to return home to Shaw and as usual I had a ton of things to bring up with me. I have a bit of a habit of loading my Bug like it's a pickup truck and this day was no exception. On the roof alone I had a patio table, four chairs, two bikes, a rake, pole pruner, pole saw and a peavy....

Just before reaching the ferry dock in Anacortes to catch the boat out to the San Juan islands there is a small park. Not only does it offer a stunning view of Mt Baker (behind the smoke belching oil refinery in the foreground) but it also has this cut of a massive doug fir tree. As the sign says, this was a 970 year old tree, it was 242 feet tall and remains a powerful reminder of the kind of wild land that used to exist out here.

Jenn organized a nice Hanukkah dinner at a friends house. A number of other families from the island were invited and we had a lovely dinner with some traditional Jewish food.

At the same time, we were hit with a long stretch of unusually cold weather. It doesn't get and stay below freezing very often in this part of the state and to be honest even though we had a day or two notice we were not fully prepared. Our outdoor shower froze. Our outdoor sink froze. Our toilet froze. The indoor sink in the trailer froze. At times it was as low as 16 degrees (about -9c) and keep in mind I was still living in a tent at this point!

Nick scored a free woodstove from someone on the island (“the island provides!”) and although it was a bit rusty, it was in great shape and would be a perfect fit in my little cabin. First things first, I had to take the power tools to the thing and clean it up.

It was getting colder and colder at this point and everyone was excited about the possibility of playing on our frozen ponds. Here Jay is checking out how strong the ice is.

Yep, strong enough!

It turned out the ice in our ponds was around 4 inches thick and was more than strong enough to play on. We made some calls, rounded up some ice skates and decided to have a play day in the cold weather. And when I saw this picture, I decided my beard was making me look even crazier than I realized and maybe I should shave it off, haha.

We had about six people on the lower pond when it made an awfully scary cracking noise and decided to evacuate to the upper pond. The upper pond is smaller, shallower and has a rock in the middle, all of which served to make it a somewhat safer ice platform to play on. Eventually that too cracked, but it was fun while it lasted!

Hurried by the cold weather, we were also working quickly to finish up my tiny cabin. All the insulation was in at this point and Nick showed up to do the wiring.

The structure is complete! It had a floor, walls, a door, windows, a roof, insulation and power. Nothing else at that point, but it was sealed up and about ready to allow me to get out of my tent and into an actual building!

You may remember a photo in a previous post about making mead, here is the bottled results, which were delicious by the way.

More tree work for another islander. It's a fun job and hey, you sure can't beat the view!

Cold weather means burning a lot of firewood and we found ourselves spending plenty of time and energy to stay warm. That said, I wouldn't heat any other way. It's an energy source from our own property, still works regardless of other systems going down and is just intrinsically satisfying.

The view over Southbeach, the longest stretch of sandy beach in the San Juans apparently.

The first night in my new home! It was still just a wooden box at this point, but I could put in my air mattress, table and a few other things, so it was a hell of a lot better than living in a tent!

I have to say I never really expected that I'd live in a dome-tent for a full six months, but other than the cold end it really wasn't bad. It was an upgrade from living out of a single backpack during my travels through Africa so it never felt all that restrictive actually. And you know, I suppose these kind of things build character as well, haha.

Looking the other way inside. There is still a ton of work to be done, but the foundation is here now. At this point my plan was to simply live in the space for a while and let that experience point me in the direction of how to build it up.

Yep, up a tree again.

Beards, beers, headlamps and the porch in front of the trailer, living the dream boys!

At the beginning of this post I talked about the tractor Jon was going to buy and it was time to return to the place to dig around for more treasures. This is the inside of one of their two huge barns and for some idea of scale, that boat frame on the left is something like 70 feet long! Jon and I spent a few solid hours digging around the place for cool and useful tools and materials to buy for the farm and came home with a decent truck load of stuff.

Nick spends a lot of time watching the weather and the tides, partly as a result of working at the ferry dock; so when there was a record low tide coming he proposed we all take a little outing to Southbeach to check it out. We piled in the trucks, drove down to the beach and spent the evening plodding around in the sand and muck under the stars.

Nick turning the compost.

Helping Nick put power out to one of their buildings, with Boomer the cat supervising.

Conduit laid, wire run, lights hung and success. Eventually this structure will turn into a wood-shop, but like many of the old buildings on the Copper property, it has a lot of work that still needs to be done. That said, power was an important step towards that and it always feels good to make progress on the endless project list.

Well, that brings me to the end of this post. I'm still way, way behind but I hope to get myself into gear and catch up quickly. Check back soon, the next post will cover the holidays, major progress on my cabin, buying the tractor, lots of time on the water, preparations for spring and a few little adventures along the way!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Settling into Island Life

So here it is, March of 2014 (it's been ages since my last post, I know). As I write this it's been a full 8 months to the day since I returned home from my trip across Africa and although what I did over those 18 months will forever be a part of me, the simple truth is that these days it barely crosses my mind. I don't know if “I've moved on” is the right way to put it, and such a simple statement could never encompass the nuances of such a drastic change in my lifestyle or mental state, but I suppose it all points in one direction; that the transition to my new reality is complete and remarkably satisfying.

In my last post I was only just moving to Shaw Island, the tiny place I now call home. Back then the sun was shining, my friends and I were out fishing and swimming, I was excited but a little unsure of the whole thing and I still lived in a tent. In contrast, recently it's been snowing, we've been ice skating on the ponds, I've lived here for months, feel totally settled and have a tiny cabin, 83 square feet (7.7 square meters), to live in. Just a few days back we put the first seeds in the ground for the farm and the upcoming growing season, we have a tractor, new dump truck and new boat on the property. Things are happening and happening fast. The last six months seem to have gone by so fast it all feels like a blur, and it's hard to imagine the next six months feeling any different. I've got a smile on my face and looking forward to the ride.

With all that said I've got a lot of catching up to do (this post covers September through November), so it's time to share what I've actually been up to over the past few months.

Although I could never say it about my time in Africa, currently most days follow a familiar pattern; the same as most peoples lives I suppose. I wake up in the morning, put on my work clothes that are usually already dirty, make breakfast and start on the endless list of projects that surround me and the friends I live with. On this particular morning my first task was to split wood since that is how we do all of our heating and will need plenty to make it through the winter comfortably. Before I could do that however, I had to stop by the bench grinder and put a new edge on my splitting maul, then it was time to get swinging.

I have to say, even though we recently got a hydraulic wood splitter and it is a huge time and energy saver, I do love hand splitting wood. And yes, I have a lot of fun with it.

Living on an island, especially one as small as Shaw (7.7 square miles / about 20 sq km) means boat travel is a necessity. Shaw is the smallest of the San Juan islands that is covered by the Washington State Ferry system, and the classic white and green boats are the lifeblood of the community. Even though I've been on the ferries countless times, I never get tired of the views they provide, even on grey days. On this particular day, I was heading to Orcas Island just to the north to visit a friend who lives in the town of Eastsound, and had to change out of my dirty work clothes into my clean 'city clothes', haha.

I'd rather go to a shop like this and ogle tractors and chainsaws than visit the mall to wander endless isles of big screen TVs and clothes.

Of course the biggest reason I came to the island was to help my good friends Nick, Jon, Ellen and Jenn get Ben Nevis Farm off the ground. We are still very much in the 'humble beginnings' phase, but walking through a garden full of delicious organic food sure is satisfying. Here is Nick with a bundle of carrots, just plucked from the soil.

Living out here one of the major lifestyle changes we are all dealing with is becoming more self sufficient. While I can't say we will ever be independent of the outside world, nor is that even a goal of ours, we are pushed both by curiosity and necessity to do so much more for ourselves than we ever would living on the mainland or an urban environment. On some days that means learning how to repair small engines or plant a certain crop, on other days it means reading about drainage ditches and forest management. On this particular day, it meant finally learning to change the brakes on my VW, and this kind of variety and opportunity for growth is one of the most intrinsically satisfying aspects of living here.

During the growing season we meet in the garden many mornings to harvest, and each time wind up with more tomatoes than we know what to do with!

Another beautiful day on Ben Nevis Farm. It may not be waterfront property, but I don't think I'd trade it for anything else.

Although the sun was still shining most days in September, on this day it actually got pretty cool out I had to put on warm clothes for the first time. This hat and jacket always bring me back to my travels in Asia, because during my six month trip in that part of the world I originally had NO warm clothes with me, as I simply didn't need them. By the time I got to the north of India and was about to do a ski trip in the Indian Himalayas I quickly realized I needed some more gear and bought the rabbit fur hat, then wound up with the down jacket in Kathmandu in preparation for my hike to the base camp of Mt Everest. Both lovely trips I might add.

One of the best parts about the property here is that part of it sits at the highest part of the island. While the views from the top are naturally fantastic, my favorite part about it is the moss. The entire top of the hill is completely blanketed by a thick layer of moss and while I know very little on the subject, up here you can pick a single square foot of ground and probably find 3-5 different species of moss residing there. I always walk with great care so as not to tear it up, and when I look close it always feels like a miniature forest.

Jon, Ellen and Jenn in the garden for our regular harvest.

As I mentioned earlier boating is a way of life and the water holds its own bounty. On this day a few of us went out into Blind Bay to drop crab pots for dinner.

Developing a piece of land takes a fair amount of equipment as well as plain old hard work. To help with the process Jon is constantly looking out for good deals on vehicles and gear, this time coming home with a 1969 Ford F600 dump truck! It's a bit old and temperamental, but it's a hell of a tool to have around for transporting compost, building roads and moving logs or other materials.

The sun doesn't shine every day, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, so good rain gear is a must.

As I said earlier we constantly had an abundance of tomatoes and to minimize waste, it is always a game finding new uses for them. On this particular rainy day Ellen and Jenn were turning some of them into roasted tomato sauce.

Nick and Jon running the farm stand in front of the General Store at the ferry dock. This is our primary source of farm income as well as the best way to interact with the community. This upcoming season we will have CSA boxes for the island as well as other expansions, so that is pretty exciting.

Towards the end of September my parents Don and Chris came out for a visit. Although the sun was out both before and after their visit but not during it, they still had a great time and it was fun to share a bit about my new life with them.

A serious haul of crab for dinner. Since we grow a good amount of our own food we discuss it quite often. One thing we all agree on is that when we put together the veggies we grow, the deer we take and the salmon and crab we catch, without a doubt we eat much better than any of us ever did back in the city.

Back in the garden.

Because all of us heat with firewood, felling trees, bucking up the wood and splitting it into burnable pieces is a critical task. Luckily I've worked climbing and cutting trees for years, have a good collection of chainsaws (four at the moment!) and enjoy the work.

I love being outdoors and it's rare for a day to go by that I don't spend the bulk the daylight hours outside. This puts me in contact with the natural world on a level I've seldom experienced before (at least for such an extended period) and it's great to watch the seasons change around you. This fall has been an excellent year for mushrooms and I really enjoy seeing the tremendous variety of fungus that appears across the property, often overnight.

Being the tree guy here, when something big needs to be taken care of that task falls to me. This particular fir was standing right next to one of our structures, and it's removal was necessary for safety reasons and to build more covered work space. Using spikes on my feet, a climbing harness and my one-handed chainsaw I remove all the branches on the way up and toss them down, then cut the wood and send that down next. In this photo you can see me standing on the stick at about 90 feet. As I took the wood down to the bend about half way to the ground, I discovered a crack in this tree that was right over the building, so yah, it was VERY good to remove it.

Like the Jimi Hendrix album, here are the First Rays of the New Rising Sun over the lower pond..

We enjoy hosting events on the property for our friends, and this is our annual 'Medieval Feast.' Essentially it's a medieval costume party where we play 'games of strength and skill' and cook up a tremendous amount of food. This is the log-toss, which if I remember correctly my friend Brendan won for the second year.

Another game, this one is all about trying to pull the other person off their log without falling off your own.

Let the feast begin!

Whenever we have a bunch of guests on the property it's hard not to see them as a source of free labor, haha. Or maybe that's just the price of entrance. Either way, the next morning after the feast we set people to work picking rocks out of the garlic field.

By early October the tomatoes were pretty much done, so it was time to pull them and prep the bed for the next crop.

Fall colors start to appear on the treeline. Speaking of being closer to nature, I love watching the upper pond from my place and besides the usual ducks and frogs, a while back I got to see a bald eagle standing on the rock and drinking out of the pond.

Speaking of watching birds, we call the bird feeders our TV. It's great fun to watch the numbers and types of birds change throughout the weeks and months.

Not all gardening has to happen in the spring, so it was time to plant some broccoli in the beds to over-winter.

Food still coming out of the garden.

Back on the other property where we have the greenhouse I do a lot of work with Nick and Ellen as well. This property is an old island homestead and as we were cleaning up and prepping the old garden we found a lot of snakes, shrews and other critters in the area.

Yep, I'm up in the trees again. This was at Copper, Nick and Ellen’s, and I've been going through all the trees around the house and other structures pruning for health and safety. I have to say, I started out doing tree care in Seattle and I never thought it would be such an applicable skill later in life!

I've mentioned it before but after spending so much time traveling the world, moving around and constantly meeting new people, by living on Shaw my world has gotten very small. I spend nearly all my time between my friends two 20-acre properties that sit 3 minutes apart, I seldom leave the island and I almost never go to the mainland. On an average day I only even SEE between two and five different people and on a big day I'll see maybe ten people, which almost always consists of our friend-group on island. Although that may sound very isolating to some people, for me it's rather enjoyable these days.

Maybe I'm just taking a break and recuperating my social energy but whatever the reason, the fact remains that on an island with around 160 year round residents and only a handful my age, without going off-island opportunities to socialize are very limited. That said, there actually are a few events that happen on Shaw, and on one particular evening there was a band called Birds of Chicago playing at the community center. They had a sort of indie/folk/rock/world music vibe and were quite enjoyable, but what actually struck me about the evening was the amount of people! I'm not exactly sure how many people the community center holds, but it was fairly full, maybe 100 people or so, and I could hardly remember the last time I'd even seen that many people in a day, much less in one place!

In other news, I will be giving my own talk on my time in Africa at the community center in a few days, so that should be fun!

After all this talk about how I rarely leave the island, a few days later.... I left the island, to see my family in Seattle. I drove my Bug onto the ferry, looked across the water at the Orcas Island landing and headed east towards Anacortes and the mainland for the first time in more than two months.

I'd returned to Seattle for a few reasons, but one was to see my sister Holly. She lives in Alaska and this was actually the first time since I'd left for Africa that I'd had a chance to see her, meaning it had been almost two years! She actually just finished ski racing in Russia at her second Olympic Games and as we talked about what was at that time an upcoming event, we had a lovely walk in Seattle’s Arboretum with my parents Don and Chris.

My visit to Seattle lasted nearly two weeks, but after all that I was ready to return home to Shaw. I packed my VW to the brim, drove up Whidby Island again and on yet another gorgeous day took the ferry boat from Anacortes back into the islands.

The ferry dock at Shaw.

As I pulled into the meadow I looked across to the far treeline, saw Jenn and Jon were out spreading compost on the garlic patch and drove over to say hello. Garlic is our biggest crop and seeing as we planted it way back in early November I suppose I may as well give an update here: It's looking fantastic. We have a few varieties in the ground, the soil is looking great and everything looks hearty and uniform. It will be quite some time before we pull it out of the ground, but it's pretty cool to watch it grow and we are all excited to see the results of our labor.

Being the end of October at this point it was time to get ready for Halloween and we had quite a show to put on. First things first, it was time to do wardrobe and makeup at our friends Jay (right) and Amy's place

Due to the layout and realities of life on Shaw, trick-or-treating takes a different form than it does in the city. Rather than wander around the island driving up long unmarked driveways only to find it's a summer home and no one is around, trick-or-treating takes the form of what we call 'Trunk-or-Treat' (named after doing it out of the trunk of a car instead of widely dispersed homes). The way it works is that groups take on one of the camp sites at South Beach, the public campground on the south side of the island, decorate it and pass out candy to the children as they come by. Our theme was 'sailors and sirens', which took the form of dragging an old, moss-covered boat to the campsite, having the girls dress up as sirens to entice the children in for candy and the guys to be the dead sailors who passed out the candy. Justin, Nick, Jay, Jon, Shaun and myself were the sailors and thanks to Jay's idea I put a rope into the tree, strapped into my climbing harness and would drop out of the tree and swing out at the kids as they came up to our site. Among the children at least, it was the talk of the island for a few days and we all had a lot of fun.

With the excitement of Halloween behind us it was time to get back to work, but before that I had plenty of new fungus growing around the property to admire!

As I mentioned earlier one of the things all of us have been working on is learning new skills and today's project was brewing our own mead for the first time. I'm happy to say it turned out delicious.

Having spread the last of the seasons compost a week or so prior, it was time to build rows and get the garlic in the ground. The sun was shining and thanks to Jon's homemade garlic planting and spacing tool the job was surprisingly easy.

Way back then I was still living in my tent (a situation which lasted a full six months!) and with a window of good weather it was time to remove the rain-fly and do a major clean. With the tarp I'd hung over the area earlier I was able to stay pretty clean and dry, but it was time to let it breathe, empty it, organize it and put it all back together. Looking back my life has certainly improved now that I actually have a roof over my head, but honestly, living in a tent was really not so bad!

Along with growing our own vegetables for eating, a new way to provide meat/protein for ourselves has become deer hunting. I know a lot of people still question the practice, but let me tell you, once you learn to hunt, clean and butcher your own animals you come away with a great deal more respect for animals than you do buying factory-meat at the supermarket. We lacked the knowledge to save and preserve the hides this season but next year we will fix that, all meat is eaten by us (which has lead to learning sausage-making) and all scraps are eaten by insects, ravens, eagles and whatever else happens to find the piles we set out. No waste.

Without intentionally doing so, the girls (Elle, Jenn and Sophie) were inside prepping dinner while us guys (Nick, Brendan and myself) were outside building a roof over the new compost station. That said, while I love running chainsaws and moving stones, I'm excellent at cleaning up and washing dishes!

Community is critical to good living, and we all love having friends both from the islands and from Seattle or beyond over for meals. This was a deer themed dinner, with smoked deer ribs and a lovely venison casserole.

Brendan, one of my good friends since I was about 13 and a regular visitor to Shaw is looking at moving up here and has recently been looking for housing on the island. There is a property on the same loop me and many of my friends live on that is a rental possibility, so one morning he was around we decided to take a walk and check it out. The house itself is OK, but more interesting is the 'fire station' near by that houses a fully loaded water truck to be used by the volunteer fire department in the event of a fire on the island. Small communities, I love it.

The next day I actually headed back to the mainland and Seattle again, a journey that took me across the Deception Pass bridge to Whidby Island and eventually back to 'town' (Seattle). These bridges over a small linkage in Puget Sound are both beautiful and dramatic, are well worth the stop to enjoy and are a feature I was lucky enough to travel under on a sailboat just a few days ago.

Along with another family visit and more work in Seattle, the main reason I returned to town was to go on a road-trip down to Oregon with another good friend, Dan. It had been a while since we've had some solid time to spend together and it was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect a bit.

Along with the relaxed nature of Eugene, Oregon and the surrounding area, we got a small glimpse of the fragility of all of our situations on this world. This part of Oregon we visited had experienced a series of forest fires a few months back which had come within about 20 feet (7 meters) of the house. I spoke earlier about living close to nature, and something like this is a pretty strong reminder than no matter how people try to isolate themselves from the realities of the environment we live in, in the end the earth's ecosystem is a larger and more powerful than anything humans will ever be able to create. Sure we can adapt and humanity always will, I have faith in that much, but to live either ignorant or arrogant of the world we live on is a mistake we ought to make more of an effort to avoid. Anyways, the journey to Oregon was a short but satisfying one, but it was time to return to Seattle and eventually back home to the island.

My return to Seattle was uneventful, but I did get a chance to help move some items into my grandmothers new apartment and check out her wonderful view over the city.

Even though I spent most of my life in Seattle and it will always feel it is my original home, at this point the city feels pretty overwhelming to me. I suppose this all comes back to what I wrote at the beginning of the post, about how I've fully transitioned to the island life. I don't want to make any absolute statements here, but I'm not sure I'll ever feel like I really belong in a city again. Life on the road during my travels has been one of almost total freedom, and while I have my share of responsibilities here on Shaw, a big reason I am here is because it provides a level of freedom I feel I could experience few other places in the world.

Although I expect my future holds many more adventures, for now Shaw Island feels like home and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.


So that's the update for the moment, I may not have a real internet connection where I live, or even running water at this point (!), but I do intend to be better about keeping up the blog in the coming months. The next post will give an overview of the progress we have made on both the Copper and Ben Nevis properties, the construction of my tiny cabin, winter on the island and much more. Looking farther into the future I don't have a great deal of plans, but the spring ought to be an exciting time here on Shaw and come May I'll will be doing a 4,000+ mile roadtrip in my 1970 VW with my friend Stephan, who I met while he was driving his 1974 VW across Africa! That ought to be an awesome trip, so stay tuned!