Fernmire: The Birth of Fernmire

Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) new growth and Wood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana)

I’ve decided to call this homestead “Fernmire.” The quintessential Western Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) grows in abundance here and the old horse pasture is best described as a mire of mud and weeds. While standing in the middle of the field I can see what was, what is and what will be. There are many possibilities of “what will be.” Trying to grasp a thread of future time is like trying to hold a hagfish, slippery and unpredictable. This land was once a thicket of dogwood, salmonberries, Indian plums, alders and cottonwood trees. I dial in on what it was just before the thicket phase, when it was a wet meadow. That’s what I want to recreate. Before the alders and cottonwood trees could gain a perch there was fescues, sedges, camas and columbines to name a few. We moved here in 2013. It was barely within our range of affordability. There were several months of strict spending limits and modest meals.

Western Columbine (Aquilegia Formosa)

The Seller’s had two offers. They could choose the all-cash offer from a development company that would knock down the house and put in a couple of MacMansions, or they could choose the quiet couple with one child, and a dog who dreamed of restoring the habitat and maintaining the home as it is. Our offer also had a contingency clause because we couldn’t buy it until we had sold our existing home at the time. Some Sellers won’t consider offers with contingencies because it means they have to be patient and wait.

The Seller’s chose us. It just so happens they live five houses down the street! We’ve became great friends since we met. They’d bought this place as a rental property and considered building a dream house on it, but then decided they were happy where they were. As Grandparents, they decided they cared more about spending time with their children and grandchildren than navigating the construction of a new house.

Their house and all the others on the street are part of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) because all of their houses were built by the same develop back in 2006. Our house was built in 1967 and is not part of the HOA. We pay into the HOA voluntarily though as a gesture of good faith and to help supplement the cost of maintaining common areas like the front entrance of our neighborhood with plants and shrubs. There is one other property on the street as old as ours and with a bigger plot of land. Our next door neighbor whose three-and-a-half-acre field abuts ours. There is only a narrow tree line separating his field from ours. It makes the developers salivate.

Around the corner – Nine acres razed to build nine new McMansions
The Earth movers rumble from first light to late afternoon

Sometimes we get letters from developers wanting to buy us out, but not nearly as many as our neighbor Ray does. If they thought they could get his property, they would put a lot more pressure on us to sell at the same time. Flat land close to a main street and close to downtown is a hot commodity. Ray is 86 and about as healthy as one can be at that age. I remember his wife. I remember when she passed. I check on him after storms, when I haven’t seen him outside for more than a week or if his garbage can isn’t on the curb the night before garbage day. Some of the other neighbors consider him a curmudgeon, but I don’t see him that way.

We both love nature. We love sharing the land with our wild neighbors and we’re not interested in buying the latest knew thing. We greet the deer, bear, coyotes and bobcats. The hawks in the trees, the hummingbirds and the pileated woodpeckers. Development encroaches all around us and we can’t hold it off forever. We do what we can, but it’s not enough. How long have I lived here? To see nine generations of coyotes born. Nine seasons under the watchful eyes of the Red-tailed Hawk.

Western Starflowers (Trientalis borealis Raf.) re-emerges after years of dormancy and two years after the invasive Himalayan blackberry was cleared.


McMansion (American Slang) – Large houses made of low-quality materials because the price is based on square footage and lot size. Meets basic building codes. Built to a generic standard frequently replicated as if they came off of a conveyor belt. Only paint color makes one look different from the other.

I love this video for the imagery. Sung by Pete Seeger, but the original lyrics were written by Malvina Reynolds (no relation.)

9 thoughts on “Fernmire: The Birth of Fernmire

    1. I just don’t know how long we can hold out though, especially our older neighbor. We would not be able to afford buying his place and I’m sure that his adult son will likely sell it because he lives elsewhere and rarely visits. I think we have to try harder to change what people find to be acceptable and put social pressure on the companies that way. They will continue “business as usual” until they are forced by social pressure and/or government regulation to do otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Big houses and big cars…the only way people will downsize their expectations is to remake the culture entirely. But we’ve lost control of technology, so I have little hope. Their devices are telling them they need more, bigger, better, faster. That is not going away.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. How fortunate that your sellers/neighbours had the sense to sell to you! It must be wonderful – although hard work – to have such a big plot and be able to manage it for nature. I hope you can keep hold of it for a good long time (maybe Ray might bequeath some of his land to the community/local government under the condition that it is not to be developed etc when he dies?).

    Those starflowers are very pretty, and you know I love your ferns and Columbines!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, IDV! It’s a nice thought, but Ray’s a pragmatist. The City would not be a good steward of the land, he’d have to be willing to go through the process of putting it in a trust to be maintained however he desires, which I’m certain is more work than he’d be willing to do.


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