Goodbye Washington, Hello Idaho

Swan Valley, Idaho, Home Sweet Home

Recently we moved from the moist moss forests of the Pacific Northwest to the high dry deserts of Eastern Idaho. In Washington we were surrounded by towering Western Red Cedars that draped our view with green branches. Now we are surrounded by waving green fields in a mountain valley. We were at 500 ft above sea level, a lovely maritime climate which could grow an innumerable number of crops. Now it’s 5,000 ft. and and the plant choices are few and far between. We had an average of 37 inches of rainfall each year in the NW, now the average rainfall is a spare 17 inches. In the NW the sun felt warm and filled with life as we were so used to those cool, wet days. Now in Idaho the sun feels harsh, bright and so much closer. I squint to see the world around me as the moisture is sucked from my body. From the Evergreen State to the Gem State. From the Goldfinch and Coast Rhododendron to the Mountain Bluebird and Philadelphus lewisii. From the Western Hemlock to the Western White Pine. Who knew that the West could produce such diversity? Washington and Idaho are neighbors, but it feels like we are in worlds apart.

And yet, maybe there are some similarities. On my first hike I was so happy to see familiar friends. Here I was, a stranger in a strange land, but I saw Mahonia growing in the forest! My familiar companion Oregon Grape! What a joy to see a familiar face. I saw Snowberry and Strawberry ad Penstemon! I know you. A Fritillaria nodded softly to me, welcome to our land, you already know many of us. It was a quiet revelation to find these two neighboring states have many similar species.

Western Tanager in Idaho

So why move from an evergreen to a gem? We were ready to try something different. I think that the last two years of the pandemic have given many of us this need for change. Change to try something new. Change to be brave. Change to create something. Learn something. Even though I enjoyed my job and my home, I was still excited to start a new adventure in Idaho. We went from a small suburban lot to owning 7.5 acres. We are building a house and are currently living in a camping trailer on the land. I enjoy all the wildlife we have seen, like this Western Tanager on a fencepost. It was quite magical to see a flock of them with their exuberant colors, flitting and flying from post to fence to post.

Have plants, will travel

One of the most important parts of my move was taking my favorite plants with me. Of course I had to leave many behind, given to friends, family or just left in the ground. But I did collect many that I could not live without. With careful boxing and stacking I actually fit all these plants into my little Hyundai, along with a 15g Japanese Maple in the front seat. What a wonderful journey– one of the poppies actually bloomed along the way! I kept the tomato plants in my car at night for the first two weeks after I arrived. It was the end of May and still dipping in to the 30’s and the car functioned as a mini-greenhouse. I potted up many of the annuals but planted the perennials in a planter box as well as the ground. It’s my initial experiment to understand the growing conditions in this valley. The soil is sandy and water seems to drain right through. The water table is high, so I’m hoping that might help, but currently most daytime temperatures are in the 80’s (Fahrenheit) and daily watering is required. I’m hoping to prepare a small bed for veggies this month and try out a few crops for a Fall harvest. This is a new adventure for me and I hope you’ll follow me as I learn about the plants and growing conditions of Eastern Idaho. Happy trails!

Esto Perpetua

Idaho State Motto ‘Be Eternal’

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