A year has passed since we were introduced to a beautiful 5 acre parcel of land on Bainbridge Island, WA. It was not for sale at the time. The then-owner was looking to sell a portion of it. He graciously allowed us to familiarize ourselves with the land by visiting as often as we wanted. During the six months that followed we came and went frequently, observing the light at different times of day, getting to know the terrain, and meeting the animal residents (frogs, snails, several active grey squirrels, barred owls, raccoons, chipmunks, pileated woodpeckers, the list goes on…). Months passed, we continued to visit, finding ourselves there often to experience the quiet and listen to the birds. In September 2016, we made an offer to purchase the entire 5 acres. Our offer was accepted!
In the month that followed, during a particularly enthusiastic attempt to pull up a patch of invasive English ivy, the boys discovered a large silver granite rock hidden under a century’s worth of accumulated top soil. They stood proudly on the rock and called it their “treasure.”
This massive silver rock became the inspiration for the name of the house that would be built there one day. It reminds us to maintain perspective, to be ever-mindful of the passage of time (after all it was deposited on the land by a receding glacier some 10,000 years ago…quietly sitting there all this time). It also reminds us of just how short a time we have to inhabit planet Earth. It inspires us to pursue our “development” with a mind toward the future.
During the winter of 2016, we gathered with new neighbors to celebrate the holidays. At this gathering we learned a bit more about the history of the neighborhood from our 86 year old neighbor who has lived on an adjacent property since the 1950’s. He shared that much of island was logged in the late 1800’s, with trees sent downhill to the mill located in nearby Port Madison. After world war two, many acres on the hilltop had hosted strawberry farms. Bainbridge Island is known for it’s strawberries, hence our annual strawberry festival. After the strawberry years, the neighborhood saw pastures for grazing horses and livestock. During the later 1900’s, trails were created surrounding 20 acres at the top of the hill. These trails exist today and run around and through our land and neighboring parcels. They make the woods, the neighborhood, and the hillside accessible by foot and invite one to go be in nature. We delight in the fact that people and animals use these trails daily.
While much of the neighborhood had been farmland in the 1900’s, our land (on it’s eastern most half) was used for only a short time for farming. It subsequently became rooted with Douglas firs, invasive Himalayan blackberries, and English ivy. These fir trees are not healthy, unfortunately, and they have been nearly killed by root rot. Beyond this area of diseased trees and invasive species, the land is covered with healthy second or third growth Cedar trees and Douglas fir stands. In addition, the land hosts numerous native species that define the pacific northwest: salmon berry, Oregon grape, salal, sword ferns, native huckleberry, fungi, slugs, bugs, birds galore, and native deciduous tress. Light filtering through the canopy makes the forest a dappled layering of greens and browns…it is a beauty that quiets the soul.
We knew that the house would be most appropriately sited on the area where the trees were diseased (and that these trees would need to come down to prevent spread of the root rot to remaining healthy firs). This was also the area where invasive species had compromised the native vegetation. Building a home there would allow us to preserve the healthy portions of this 5 acre ecosystem, restore balance and habitat in the portion to be developed, and prevent the spread of the invasive species.
Thus, we began our journey… Meeting Jason McLennan and beginning our work with McLennan Design made perfect sense. The process has unfolded over the last seven months (details to follow in subsequent posts) and brought opportunities for person growth and new perspectives. Come along for the ride…