This is a satellite image of the property as it is now. It has a power line easement along the top edge which is filled with berry bushes and shrubs. The rest is pretty tightly packed with native trees, shrubs, ferns, plus generous helpings of both native salmonberry and various kinds of blackberry – the bulk of which seems to be the invasive Himalayan Blackberry, which we hope to control in at least some areas using goats.
There is an old, decrepit mobile home on the main road that will be taken out eventually, and a newer, rather large garage and workshop which will remain. The whole property has been vandalized by copper thieves since the previous owner went bankrupt and surrendered it back to the bank, so a lot of rewiring will have to be undertaken before the workshop and the well can be used. We are hoping that by living on the property full time we will discourage vandalism in the future. If not, we will put some security measures into place around the homestead area – we figure the vicious Himalayan Blackberry vines will keep unwelcome people out of the rest of it!
The property is about a half-mile on the longest sides, and about a quarter mile on the western edge. It slopes gently, for the most part, towards the south and east, going from an elevation of around 200 feet above sea level to a bit over 400 feet just before it hits the foothills behind it. It is high enough to not be in the floodplain of any of the three local rivers. There are a few rural properties nearby – mostly homes and pastures on 5-10 acre or larger lots (and at least one apple orchard just down the street!) but for the most part the area is not terribly developed. Miles and miles of tree farms and state park land are our northern and northeastern boundaries.
Our forest is located in the Puget Sound Lowlands, near Sultan, Washington. It is a mixed deciduous and evergreen woods that can best be described as a temperate rainforest. The area in general gets about half the annual rainfall that the true coastal rainforest does (for example, on the Olympic Peninsula the Hoh Rainforest racks up about 120″ annually) but it is more than enough to feed the small streams and cedars, ferns and moss growing within our forest. We even have “nurse logs” growing huge second growth trees in spots, which is a very typical thing for this area.
We have only seen the place in the winter at the time of this post, but we will be making several trips out there this spring and early summer to supervise clearing and construction on the new home-site, so we are looking forward to seeing the trees and shrubs leaf out and learning more about the plants and animals we will be living among. After we settle in a bit, we’ll be taking a formal plant and animal “census.” This is something that will probably take a few years to finish. Even in the depths of winter, however, the forest can be astonishingly beautiful. On our most recent trip the temperatures most of the day were hovering right around freezing, and a moderately thick fog blanketed the whole river valley. This resulted in a beautiful coating of “rime” frost on many of the trees.
Jim was fascinated by the crystals that covered everything and took a lot of pictures of the frosted trees. One of the nicest photos taken that way was the “Fractal Frosted Fir” photograph to the left. Because the temperatures were just perfect for frost formation and the fog so gently and slowly deposited its moisture on the growing ice, the frost was able to form in a much more intricate pattern than you usually see. It made the whole forest seem surreal – all mist and magic.
The climate in the forest is, as near as we can tell, USDA Zone 8a. It might even tip a bit into Zone 7b, but it is difficult to say for certain right now. We have been watching the weather on the weather sites, as well as “stalking” our new place using some of the web cams placed along Highway 2, but so far we haven’t seen it dip any lower than the upper teens. This means we should be able to grow a lot more there than we have been able to grow here – our fig tree, now in a large planter, will be able to grow outside, for example. And, we should be able to grow a garden outside year round with just a little protection from the colder nights and supply most of our own salad and stir fry greens even in the depths of winter. At least one greenhouse is also planned, because we will need the extra space for starting new plants and cuttings over the next few years to fill out our planned Food Forest.