Me and Sacagawea

Like Lewis and Clark before us, we recently journeyed to the northernmost reaches of the Pacific Northwest on a quest of exploration. While John and I reached our destination much faster than Meriwether Lewis and William Clark did, I’m not certain our trek was all that more comfortable. I’d like to see either of those men stuck in the middle seat of a packed 737 for four hours. Judging from the illustrations on Wikipedia, these guys looked more like First Class passengers to me. And I’m not talking free First Class tickets redeemed with frequent flyer miles. No, no. These fellas appear to have been the real deal.


I mean, look. Isn’t that an ascot around William’s neck? Neither John nor I even own an ascot.

Though the method in which we traveled to Washington differed slightly from that of Meriwether and William, our reasons for checking out the area were similar. We all desired a closer look at the region. In our case, however, the ultimate goal is to move out there permanently. Lewis and Clark merely visited.

As it happened with our predecessors, we learned a great deal on our expedition. For one thing, we’d been fairly certain our future homestead would be on Orcas Island. But as we scoped out several areas along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we began changing our minds. Orcas Island is indeed spectacular — in our humble opinions, nowhere else we’ve been in Washington trumps the sheer beauty of it — yet the island is a tad more remote than we’re comfortable with. To get anywhere else, you must take the ferry. In the summer months that means at least a two-hour wait in line; in the winter months, there’s the risk of ferry cancellation due to bad weather (they can get some crazy winds up there).

Still, Orcas Island was the only place we met with a real estate agent. It was pre-planned, and although we’d already pretty much decided we’re more interested in Port Townsend, say, or one of the more accessible islands, we chose to go ahead and look at properties. If the perfect place was awaiting us on Orcas, we didn’t want to miss out.

And the first place the agent showed us nailed it.

Orcas house

The main house was slightly smaller than our home here (perfect); there was another structure being built that could have been turned into a guesthouse (perfect); it was on five beautiful acres (perfect); and oh my, the view.

Orcas view

Once inside the house I turned to John and said, “Write a check.”

Which brings up the one problem with the place: the price. This property costs almost as much as we’re asking for our farm, and that’s not part of our game plan. We need to walk away with cash in our pockets when all is said and done. The purpose of this whole exercise is not only to move to the Northwest, but also to retire. From what I understand, you need to set aside enough money in order to do that.

Details can be so annoying.

So after bidding a reluctant adieu to my dream home, the agent took us to two other properties that, while meeting the criteria of costing less, simply didn’t do it for us. Our last and final stop then was to see a property the agent referred to as “the farm.” It was only two acres, which is fine with us, and years ago was indeed a small working farm. The agent cautioned us, however, that the current owner had let it get rather run down and that we needed to recognize it as a diamond in the rough.

“Squint when you look it,” she warned me, in particular.


I can’t squint that hard.

pile of wood

Turns out, neither can John.


Finally, after traipsing around two acres of what looked to us like a toxic waste dump (all the while listening to the agent wax nostalgic about the lovely little farm that used to be there 20 years ago) John finally said, “This might be fine for a younger man to tackle, but not for me.”

The neighbors looked a little disappointed,


yet we were actually kind of relieved. The day’s outing had served us well in cementing our prior decision that Orcas Island isn’t going to be our final destination after all.

We’ll Lewis and Clark up to the Pacific Northwest again in a few months or so. Maybe to Oregon this time, or if we find a serious buyer for our farm, it might mean another sojourn in Washington to real estate shop around Port Townsend. I’m telling the agent up front, though, that I have no intention of squinting.


28 thoughts on “Me and Sacagawea

  1. Reading what you write seems to ALWAYS be deligtful. Talent and skill and humor. Thanks. chuck



  2. Out of curiosity, have you had any serious inquiries on the farm? A friend sent me your blog when she read you were wishing to sell it and preferably hand it over to someone who would continue to farm it, as she knows it is something that my fiance & I have always dreamed of doing…however, we have little in the way of any experience in farming and especially in one that already seems to be hopping, as yours is! I’ll admit, at first, the idea absolutely thrilled me when I first read the blog…but then I became intimidated by all the variants involved in such an investment! Just throwing a line out there…who knows, maybe we could visit the farm sometime just to get the feel for it and check it all out? I’ve very curious!

    I enjoy reading your blogs and the sense of humor you imbue them with!

    Thank you! 🙂

    • We have one couple who seem pretty interested, but this is so early on we’re not counting on anything. As for farming, keep in mind that the infrastructure that comes with our farm is actually quite an advantage to any prospective new farmer. Fences, greenhouses, etc., take a whole lot of time to construct. And as for how hopping our farm once was, already John and I have scaled the farm way back to where it was when we first began 14 years ago. It doesn’t have to be as intensive as it had gotten before we shut down the stands. You want to start as small as possible, and the nice thing here is that you can do just that and still have room to expand it if you wish. If you have any interest, just shoot me an email ( Oh, and thanks for the nice compliment, too. I appreciate that.

    • Thank you Reese — we miss seeing you too. You’re absolutely right about questing though. Love the quests.

  3. Oh my! That last placed looked it could show up on the news as a secret meth lab. The first place does look beautiful. Sure you couldn’t rent out the little guest house?

    • Meth lab is exactly what I was thinking as we slogged around that property. I didn’t get a photo of the actual house because I think I was too busy trying not to touch anything when we were inside it. That first place, though…whoa. Maybe we should ask if they’d sell that separately, hm?

    • You’re absolutely right, Sandra. And thanks for the tip about Lummi Island — there are soooo many islands up there, I hadn’t even heard of that one. I’ll be doing some Googling, for sure, and we’ll check it out next time we venture up there.

  4. Loved this, Jo. When my husband heard me laugh (at the Airstream) from another room, he came to read over my shoulder, too. We look forward to following your new adventures — we’re about five years behind you on the retirement front, so take good notes for us!

    • Wasn’t that Airstream something? I do believe the agent is so wrapped up in what that place used to be (so long ago) that she’s now trying to find someone to turn it into that again. Sorry, but we’re not those people. We’ll keep practicing this retirement thing, though, and hope to see you heading the same direction soon. We’ll forge a path.

  5. Hi Jo! Glad I found your new blog. I’ve always enjoyed your writing, and am glad you’re keeping that up. I’m still waiting for the BOOK that I know you’ll write someday. 🙂 I will say that finding some place that you can pay cash for with some leftover is a dandy way to start retirement. And you might want to rethink the size of your house. Our “new” 1930s house is 1550 SF, and that’s plenty for us and the cats. I actually wish it was a bit smaller. Anyway, good luck with your hunt! Hugs from Taylor, bobbi c.

    • Thank you Bobbi — it’s so good to hear from you. I wholeheartedly agree with you about finding a smaller house. That’s one of the (many) reasons we loved the first place we looked at, because it was indeed a good deal smaller than our house here. And we could go littler still. Thanks for following along on our journey. It’s great to have you, and I’ll look forward to hearing what’s going on with you guys as well.

    • Ma and Pa Kettle’s old meth lab is more like it. Thanks for the bookmark Lisa! I feel intense pressure now, but I’ll do my best.

  6. Patience is a virtue, you will find the right place in time! We will be so sorry to see you go, although I have been traveling soo much I didn’t get to see much of you anyway, but am glad for you and know you will really enjoy retirement, I am a bit jealous really, no chance of that for me anytime soon. Best wishes from us all …. PC

    • Thanks PC. Patience can be difficult to come by sometimes..but we’ll hang in there. It’s great to hear from you!

    • Thank you Linda. It’s wonderful to have you along. And you know I’ll continue tagging along with your beautiful garden blog too, no matter where we end up!

  7. The northwest is absolutely beautiful and a wonderful place to retire. But you gotta love lots of rain and very shallow to no soils, just gravel if you do a bit of digging. We lived there in the Tacoma area for a while. So green and lovely, but it had to rain everyday to keep green because there wasn’t any soil where we lived.

    • It’s definitely cloudy and drizzly in the wintertime. We’re looking in a different area — Port Townsend. It’s in the “rain shadow” so it only receives around 19-20″ rain per year. The soil is definitely there, however. There are farms all over the place, especially around Chimacum just south (I think!) of Port Townsend. As for the weather, we’re looking at it as a trade-off. The summers up there are sublime, while we’re sweating to death down here.

  8. I’m excited for you guys. Many years ago I planned to move to the Pacific NW too – looked at every town with a community college, within 100 or so miles of the coast, from Ukia, CA to Eugene,OR. Also looked out in the San Juans, and at Port Angeles/Sequim and Port Townsend. Ended up in Austin (all my new wife’s daughters and the grandchildren were here). However, my sister lives in Portland, so I’ve seen a lot of Oregon over the years. You could take a look at Oregon’s south coast – Coos Bay/Bandon area, or our current favorite – the Tillamook/Oceanside area almost due west of Portland:,+OR&daddr=Oceanside,+OR&hl=en&ll=45.444115,-123.905869&spn=0.093821,0.208912&sll=45.456216,-123.844014&sspn=0.093801,0.208912&geocode=FVibtQIdUkqe-Cll_aCgBdWUVDHTT02YSzQoNA%3BFcittQIdXGac-Cn1b-Ey3S7rVDFIMtfLvbGC0A&oq=ocea&t=h&mra=ls&z=13

    This will be quite a project for you, but there’s a great lot of beauty out there, and gardening on retirement scale will be a delight!

    • Thanks Gaines! We’ve thought about Oregon too — our first inclination was to look in the Eugene/Corvallis area, until we found out they get 50″ rain per year, all in the winter months. Someone we know told us it’s a mud pit all season long. Even though the Port Townsend area is gray and drizzly in the winter, they only get around 20″ which seems much more reasonable. I’ll definitely look at this part of Oregon you’re talking about though — I really appreciate you sending the link. And you’re absolutely right about retirement gardening. It should be heavenly.

      • Yes there sure are. From what we saw, they’re mostly around Sequim, just west of Port Townsend. Apparently the climate and soil there are perfect for lavender. It was really pretty.

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