A Long And Winding Path: Return To The Native
My parents bought our nursery property in 1962 as a secondary place to farm, raise cattle and provide rental income from a large house on the property built in 1932.
The original six acres were once part of a larger piece that was a chicken farm. I have memories of rows of low, gable roofed houses running east to west throughout the front part of the property.
Being the youngest of four children, I always tagged along, or was forced to tag along, with my dad as he repaired fences, captured errant cattle, butchered, and moved livestock as he bought and sold animals.
From the time I was nine years old, this little farm was my second home and I always liked the feel of the place – tucked up against Mt. Solo – a rural Eden on the outskirts of town. I fantasized about making a living with nature, off the bounty of the land and was always drawn to jobs that involved plants and the soil.
Years later, after studying in the organic farming program at the Evergreen State College in the seventies, I attempted to make a living as a one man edible landscaping, market gardening enterprise, but often felt like I was speaking a different language than other people. The community, marketplace and universe for the most part didn’t seem to respond positively to my dream.
Gradually, I made peace with the fact that this might not work out, and that maybe, in my early thirties, I would have to get a regular job. I was fortunate enough to get a position in Kitsap County, Washington, working on salmon habitat restoration and non-point pollution control, and I dove into the work.
As it happened, Dixie also applied for that job. Instead, she got one in water quality and comprehensive planning, also for Kitsap County. After doing that for a while, she perceived a need for water quality education, and set about devising and securing funding for a new program, Water Watchers, based on the model of the Master Gardeners, with classes and volunteer work. She spent the next few years administering it full time, through Kitsap Public Utilities. By then, we had been introduced, or actually reintroduced. We had lived just down the road from one another as little kids, before Dixie's family bought a farm near Stella, Washington, in an area where her father's Croatian family had homesteaded. Her mother came from Finnish-German farmers in Winlock and Toledo. So she too grew up with people who moved close to the land, their lives set to its rhythms. As a child, around people who spent lots of time in the woods, she developed an interest in the the plants that filled it, and a desire to know them better.
We soon realized that all the projects our jobs were involving us in required native plants. Married by then, we formed the idea for the nursery while on a trip to the British Isles. With our energy doubled up, we began getting it established in 1989 on rented land in Kitsap County, before my parents offered us the present place. We saw that maybe this was the way back to our dual agricultural and ancestral roots in Cowlitz County.
It's become our mythic journey. We've been on this Clato series Silt-Clay loam urban farm for over twenty-one years now and raised our two daughters (Rose and Maya) on this fertile mini delta near the lower Columbia river. The farm now covers a little over seven acres.
To paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh – We have arrived! We are home!