When you move to Mazama without meaningful knowledge of its microclimate, you might be in for a surprise. It was with disbelief and dismissal that we looked at a wintry picture of our house taken in the past and shared by a former neighbor. The snow was up to the eaves. Impossible, we thought.
He was the kind of neighbor who was sometimes congenial, other times surly — perhaps his discontent with newcomers came through on occasion. One day he shows up out of nowhere and says, “You know about Barnaby, right?” Um, well, tell us more. “It’s this weed,” he said, pointing to an ugly, gangly thing. “It withstands any kind of weather, and its seeds can survive wildfire.” We looked around and saw Barnaby all over. Oh, no. We’re being overtaken by Barnaby aka knapweed.
Then there were the pine trees. With a vision of luscious pasture for our new horses, some of the trees had to go. Not a tree hugger by nature, but, still, there were many a tree that I wanted to save and carefully marked with bright pink tape. Not long after removal of 130 pine trees, stumps, and a bill to show for it, the thought occurred to us, “Wish we had taken out at least another dozen.” Pinecones, pine needles, beetle rot, windblown toppled — pine trees became another weed the likes of Barnaby.
With a mix of old lawn, weeds and dirt, the consensus was that we could use a riding lawn mower to keep Jumanji at bay. I was casually looking online for sale items as we drove a U-Haul with our limited worldly possessions over Snoqualmie Pass. Our big move was finally upon us. I exclaimed, “There’s a lightly used John Deere riding lawn mower for sale in Liberty Lake. It even has a snow thrower attachment. Should we go get it since we have room in the U-Haul?” We had not yet factored in the calculations of how far Mazama is from virtually anywhere.
Next thing we knew, we were driving to Liberty Lake to get our first of our John Deere necessities, not truly contemplating what a journey we were in for — Seattle, Liberty Lake, Wilbur, Mazama. Late night.
Little Johnnie was soon joined by Gus the Gator, and Big John, the tractor. Yet, we were still surrounded by dirt. Plans for landscaping swirled in our heads. I had a vision of islands of shrubs and flowers with pathways throughout. When Kathy from Windy Valley Landscaping came out to check things out, she must have had to suppress a chuckle. “You need the dirt guys first.” Implied: you are a long way from landscaping. And — “You are best served to plant grass. It’s the easiest to maintain,” she said. We have Johnnie now, so maybe something to think about.
At least two or three years later (after dirt work!), we had a lawn, a very big lawn. I’ve looked around Mazama and see that lawns aren’t the go-to landscaping, especially for part-timers.
But Johnnie has been happily circling around the big lawn in 45 minutes, proving true what Kathy said. (Note: Johnnie never rose to the occasion to tackle snow throwing with his wimpy powered attachment.)
Mazama is challenging; I’ve only scratched the surface here. However, the glory of fall is worth it all. How can you even describe the burst of golden color that appears overnight, the fresh smell of cooling night air, the flutter of leaves beginning to fall in the warm breeze of autumn, the slowing growth of that very big lawn?
Update: Lower Goat Creek Bridge is completed. It’s taller, longer, beefier and should well withstand the fury of spring runoff. Thank you Methow Trails, Okanogan County, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and private homeowners for every contribution to this project.