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Clatskanie: Escaping the burbs

This is the final part of my series about relocating. Here’s Part 1, and here’s Part 2. I first posted this in July 2023, shortly after we moved here, but I will continue to update it to add photos. [Skip to the photo categories]

After several years of scheming and planning and almost building a home (twice!) on the Long Beach Peninsula, we finally escaped from the burbs. In the summer of 2023 we moved from the bustling Portland, Oregon suburb of Beaverton, population ~98.2K (the blue rectangle on the map), to the quiet little country town of Clatskanie (“clats′-kuhn-eye”), population ~1.7K (the pink rectangle on the map).

For those not from around here, that river you see on the map that runs from the ocean to the east is the Columbia, which goes along the state line between Oregon and Washington.

A big part of our decision was that this was at least closer to the Long Beach peninsula (north of Astoria) where my brother and nephew live, while still being conveniently located for visits from my son and his family, due to its proximity to the bridge from Longview.

I’ll keep returning to this post to add photos, placing everything in the following sections:

Moving in  |  The south acre  |  The deer  |  The fence  |  The elk  |  The trees  |  The snow

Moving in

Our new place sits on a two-acre lot that is half expansive lawn and half woods in a neighborhood made up of other such lots. There is so much lawn here that it looks a bit like a golf course or a country club. I’d rather not have so much lawn, but that’s a topic for another day.

The day after we moved in, we found outside our front door an invitation to a neighborhood brat-roast party the next day. I assumed that was “brat” as in bratwurst, not as in bratty kid. I seriously doubted that any children were scheduled to be roasted. No, this was not the neighbors exalting in their awesome new neighbors. Rather, it was an annual event of the neighborhood that, through total dumb luck, we had arrived just in time to attend.

What an amazing way to meet the neighbors! Seriously, this was an incredible experience: what a wonderful group of people we had accidentally landed into the middle of.

We are simply amazed by how beautiful it is here.

The south acre

The house sits on the north acre, and the south acre is mostly woods with a deep ravine with a small stream at the bottom. There’s no space on this acre to do any development, but it’s a lovely place for a quiet walk.

Here’s a nice shot of the south acre (well, the extreme north bit of the south acre) covered by deer.

The deer

There are plenty of deer around, as our land seems to be right in the path of their normal traffic pattern.

Here’s a visitor as seen from our dining table (and showing the damn fence, discussed later).

On most afternoons we can see a handful of deer nap under the trees at the edge of our property.

When we moved in it was shortly before the local herd expanded. One day we were walking in the area between our two acres and came upon this little guy hiding in the clover under a tree.

The fence

There was a large fence on two sides of the property, stained to an almost orange color.

When I mentioned to a new neighbor that I think it just blocks the view and I’d like to take it down, she suggested it might be there to keep the local elk herd from destroying the back yard. This slowed down my growing obsession to get rid of the fence, but didn’t completely shut it down. I mean, imagine how much nicer this photo would have been if it included a view of the hill instead of the fence.

Early in autumn we hired help to take many of the panels of the fence down.

This revealed a short barbed wire fence, but it also exposed a lovely view. We left the fence posts in place and have kept the panels. If after a year we don’t see any problems from having removed the fence, then we’ll take more of the panels and the fence posts down.

The only downside is that the people who own the 120-acre property behind us have left some junk here and there. This photo shows the lovely morning mist on the hill, and also perfectly captures the view of the junk. The bits that are rusting antique farm equipment are interesting, but most of the rest of it is unsightly. Dave calls this “The Museum.”

I don’t love seeing the junk, but it is better than the damn orange fence!

The elk

Many of the neighbors had told us about the elk, but it was a long time before we saw them. One morning, knowing I was anxious to see them, a neighbor texted me saying “There are elk in your back yard!” I ran into the yard, but didn’t see them anywhere — until I looked up to the hill behind our house, and there they were.

The new trees

The biggest change we have made was to plant more trees along the western edge along the road. We did this for several reasons.

First, with almost no trees on the western edge of the property, the sun beating down on the yard in the summer was relentless. In our first summer here, several of the ferns on the east side of the yard were killed in that heat. Some shade in the summer sure would be nice!

Next, the majority of our trees are mature Western Red Cedars, which have been suffering due to the heating of the climate. We have three huge dead Cedars on our property, and several more that are in the process of dying. The dead trees made me feel an urgency to plant new ones.

Finally, while I find the view from our front porch to be beautiful, still, it is a view of the road and of our neighbor’s house. Not seeing other people’s houses was high on our wish list when we were shopping for a home. Don’t get me wrong: We really like our neighbors and they have a lovely house on a lovely hill (and their garden is impressive!), but after living all those years in the ’burbs surrounded by close-by neighbors’ homes, it would just be so nice to just see trees.

So we planted ten trees — a combination of Douglas Fir and Giant Sequoia: eight along the road and two at the other side of the property nearer to the dead trees. They are very young, but not mere saplings: the tallest one is about 7 feet tall. It will be years before they create the shade for the yard and the privacy from the road that we’re looking for, but it will be nice to watch them grow.

I admit the sunsets above the sunsets above the neighbor’s house are lovely and when the new trees are fully mature that view will be obscured, but I think we made the right choice. My sister-in-law, Pat, says that when you plant new trees they sleep the first year, creep the next, then leap in the third year. So I don’t expect to see too much change in these guys until 2027.

The snow

We were delighted to get a few inches of snow for our first winter in our new home.

It was especially fun to see the tracks that the local dear and coyotes left behind.

That’s it for now. I will continue to add photos as I get them.