Today marks the one year anniversary of when we signed the papers to become property owners here in Wenatchee, Washington. Since anniversaries are traditionally times to reflect on events and other notable things that occurred we thought it would be a good time to jot down some of our highlights. Before we get into it, be advised that this is a long text only blog entry. You’ve been warned.
Our local friend John Barta lead us to a couple of commercial videos that showcase Wenatchee. If you have 5-10 minutes to spare and want to see why we moved to Wenatchee you could watch one or both of these videos:
Now, the house. We signed the papers and were handed keys and told to wait until the papers had been recorded to enter the house. We went and had a bite and then sat at the base of the driveway until we got the official call. We’ve walked into a new house several times before so we weren’t entirely new to this. But this felt a bit different in that we are viewing this place as our “toe tag” house. We intend to stay here until something happens that says we can’t be here anymore. So we walked the house and yard that first day and kind of breathed in all the hopes and the reality of the work that awaited us once we actually moved in. A nice bottle of wine accompanied us on our explorations… the first of many to come.
In the last year we have completed two LARGE projects:
(1) Carpet was removed from the great room and hardwoods were put down to merge with the existing hardwoods. A great job by Artisan Flooring of Cashmere, by the way. We felt particularly good about finding a way to repurpose the carpet rather than have it go to the landfill. Our thanks to Rick Edwards, a good friend from my Forest Service days, for pulling the carpet and pad for reuse in his son’s house. I guess it makes sense but we were disappointed that Habitat for Humanity or Goodwill would not take the carpet. Rick not only took the carpet, he did all the heavy lifting … literally. Thanks Rick.
(2) We knew that the driveway would likely be an issue once it started snowing. The drive was STEEP. By that I mean over 40% at its steepest. And it had a curve that meant you could not back straight down from the garage. We thought we’d live with it and adjust as needed. Well, between our Accord high centering (slightly) at the top of hill in front of the garage and the snow (more about that in a minute) we realized that something had to happen to minimize the shortcomings. We took advantage of anyone who stopped by the house and all our neighbors to talk about options. After a couple of months I came up with a design that simply lowered the top of steep hill coming from the street where it flattened to enter the garage bays. We removed the curved eco-block stairs and replaced them with “poured in place” stairs with a handrail. The new drive now allows straight egress from the garage and there is no high center dragging of our cars or others. It looks like other drives in the area. It’s still steep but it isn’t “stupid steep”. Yes, we thought about this a lot before buying the house. Yes I tested the drive with our CR-V before we bought the house. No, we did not test the drive with the Accord…ooops. Yes we are happy to have the project done. It took a week of excavation and layout and pouring but the end result is vastly more useful and should not present too much re-sale liability when it comes time. Whew.
Those were the big projects. We have also painted the ceiling and walls of the great room and begun the design of the backyard bird/yoga sanctuary. Our goal is to create a space with a variety of native shrubs and trees to provide habitat for birds and that is consistent with the “fire-wise” emphasis of Wenatchee. We will incorporate a platform/pagoda area for Dianne to use for yoga and which will serve as a bird photo blind as well. All this with the criteria of maintaining our view of Castle Rock as we sit on the patio in the evenings. There is little doubt in my mind that the wonderful evenings we have spent sitting on the patio with Portland friends Jenn and Gerry has greatly influenced our thinking about what a treat it can be to have your own bird patch that brings constant entertainment and variety to your doorstep. We planted a chokecherry, 2 elderberry, a mock orange and dwarf almond (all natives) and are hoping they all make it through the heat of the first summer. We planted a dogwood tree as a centerpiece tree only to learn that the species does much better if it is under some other trees. We’ll monitor this tree closely and make any adjustments needed. Along with the planting we’ve been making good headway on removal of crabgrass and clover. The grass looks alive now rather than miserable. The irrigation system is working and we appreciate having a flat rate irrigation supply for outside use.
We shoveled a record amount of snow off the drive and sidewalks this last winter. Even the long time neighbors were talking about how the snow was unusual. Since we were raised in Colorado and lived in Bend, Oregon for 9 years, shoveling was not a new thing. I quickly realized that we have the longest stretch of sidewalk in the neighborhood. And the steepest driveway. The snow was all present during the time that the original steep drive was in place. My first shoveling experience had to provide the neighbors a good show. Slipping and sliding is not efficient when the goal is to remove snow. So, we invested in boot chains which allow us to walk safely on the drive when it is white with snow…no small thing. Believe me.
We spent a lot of time exploring the area and walking or hiking nearby and remote trails. We were frequent visitors to Walla Walla Point Park that runs along side the Columbia River about 3 miles from our house. The park has a paved path and the Chelan County PUD built and maintains the park. It’s a great place that is well cared for and offers a nice diversity of habitats for birds and venues for people to play. We were frequently the only ones walking during the winter and now share the park with visitors to town and lots of locals. Lots of activity in the area: speed boats, canoes, shells, kayaks, swimming, cycling, running, walking, sitting. It’s a nice place and we feel fortunate to have the easy access we do.
We have been wearing Garmin smart watches since last October to monitor our steps goals and sleeping. I see that I have walked over 1,140 miles since October 2015. That’s over 2.2 million steps. I’m guessing that about half of that qualifies as exercise. The other part is incidental steps around the house or town. There is a lot of room to do better but the statistics are still kind of impressive to me.
Birding takes us out to explore. Beside seeing 26 species in our yard since we moved in, we have seen 138 species in Washington State. We are learning to appreciate the quail waking us up in the morning even if it is a bit too early most days. I’ve picked up 11 new life birds in Washington since we moved. I still look forward to time out with our friend Steve Howes as we explore areas with the pretense of finding birds. Traveling backroads with Steve is always enjoyable and educational.
We have new friends in Wenatchee. We’ve met people who share interests in birds and photography. We have new friends who specialize in local flora and fauna. We took a bird ID class to meet people who enjoy birds and to find out about local bird hotspots. Dianne is now working part-time at Ila, the local yoga studio and is gathering a new set of yoga friends. I frequently share a Thursday morning breakfast with friends from my Forest Service days. All of these guys have been remarkably helpful to me/us as we learn our way around. Learning the history and culture of Wenatchee is a lot easier when you get to talk to people who have been here a long time. Local Facebook friends lead us to new local resources and provide everything from advice to plants that favor hummingbirds. Our network is growing virtually and literally.
Without doubt, our greatest pleasure has come from the times we’ve shared with visitors to our house. We’ve had 15 visitors in 11 months. They’ve come from as far away as Germany (Ricky and Klaus) and Medford, Oregon (Barb and Jon). We’ve been used as a place to meet and enjoy by friends coming from Montana and Portland to share a weekend here (Audrey and Vicke). We have had the pleasure of showing new birding areas to our dear friends Jenn and Gerry. Steve Howes has been here a couple of times. We enjoyed a musical visit from Ross and Carrie. Last year we photographed the wedding of Lynn and Lyle in Butte, MT and they came for a weekend now that they are living in the Seattle area. We’ve had family from Montana twice…always a treat. Friend Stacia stopped by for a night as she returned from Chelan. We are looking forward to a visit from long time friends Dave and Mary next month and from KT, coming from Kentucky, in September. We’ve tried to cajole visits from others from New York to Colorado and hope that they will be able to travel west sometime soon. All the visits have given us an excuse to explore new areas and we thank our guests for their patience and flexibility.
In review, we would give our first year in Wenatchee a solid A grade. We enjoy the slower, easier life of the smaller town. We miss our family and friends in Oregon and having access to things like good bread and a greater variety of groceries. But it’s fruit season now and we are enjoying fresh cherries, apricots, peaches and blueberries. Apples are on the horizon. What we could not find here we have found on Amazon or Wayfair. We feel mostly complete and the projects are lined up for our energy as we deem fit. Our visitors have all left with smiles and an appreciation for our town and what it offers. We are healthy and have all our doctors, lawyers and such in place. We’re here for the duration and welcome anyone who wants to stop by to visit. We’ll leave a light on for you.