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DIRTY MAMA: To pastures new

Jul 2nd, 2011 | Category: Columns

by Shona Hilton

My internal compass has always been set North by Northwest. In fact I have always assumed we would end up in Alaska. So you can imagine my surprise when the Fates decided to pull a fast one and send us East over the Cascades to live in Okanogan County near Tonasket.

Yup, the Hiltons are on the move this summer. While we’re looking forward to learning a whole new way of living/farming in a really quite remote area with a four-season climate, the reality of upping and moving from this most wonderful part of the planet is sinking in, and with it feelings of sadness and tiredness about The Big Move are creeping in too.

Obviously first and foremost we have a real sense of loss at leaving good friends, family and the community we have settled into. But it goes deeper than that – we’ll miss sword ferns and hemlock trees, moss and rain – wait, did I just say rain? Scratch the last one.

Another of the big things we will miss are the mountains around here. We have spent so many hours trail running and mountain biking in them it’s like leaving more good friends – Goodbye Galbraith, Mount Baker Wilderness, the Chuckanuts and Blanchard (FYI if you are ever tempted to take the trail Max’s Shortcut on Blanchard do not be mislead – it does not live up to its name, you will be gone for hours, possibly days, it is the Bermuda Triangle of shortcuts), and we will especially miss the hills up behind our house which feel just like an extension to our property.

Ah, and then there is our property. We bought our little place off Craigslist six weeks after arriving here. The cabin was a shack with a hand dug well in the basement into which mice regularly fell – I’m pretty sure we are immune to most disease as a result of drinking the water. It had no doors, windows, safe electricity, heating – you name it, it didn’t have it. Over the past few years we have literally put our blood, sweat, tears and cash into restoring and extending the cabin, clearing and fencing the pastures and developing the veggie patch. And in the past year we have really started to work in a rhythm with the seasons and cycle of life that comes along with raising your own meat and vegetables, and we have almost come to the point of just fine tuning things rather than starting big projects.

Walking away from it all is one of the hardest things I have had to do. There is also the sense of anxiety about not providing our own food this year, although we may just be able to squeeze in a batch of meat birds at our new place (20 acres, a barn and even a house for us people), it will be unlikely we will grow any veg there this year and I’m glad we can buy a cut and wrapped pig from friends who treat their animals well.

No doubt good things are just over the mountains too – sunshine and snow, ponderosa pines, sage brush and ten billion ground squirrels (my count from the last time we were there) await us and we will learn new skills and take delight in discovering this part of the world. Life’s suppose to be an adventure, isn’t it?

This will be my last column for Grow Northwest and I wish Brent, Becca and the kids all the very best – to them personally and for the future of the magazine, which as you know, rocks.

So goodbye local folks. May your gardens grow, your goats not jump their fences and your chickens always lay their eggs where you can find them.

Shona Hilton contends with mud, rain, dogs, small children, pigs and poultry and all the other things which make country life worth living. She can be contacted at

One Comment to “DIRTY MAMA: To pastures new”

  1. Marnie says:

    We’ll miss you too!

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