The Story Begins…
In August of 2009 Carl and I visited the small beach town of Manzanita on the North Coast of Oregon where Carl had shared a holiday home for many years. On a whim, we took a slightly different route, heading further south from there to a place where Carl bought flowers at a roadside stand many times in the years before. When we stopped at the pullout on Highway 101, the flower stand was leaning and overgrown with tall grass and blackberriy vines and a rusted chain stretched across the entrance to the property. There was a “for sale” sign next to the flower stand. Getting out of the car we were greeted by a warm misty summer drizzle. We stooped under the chain and our gaze took in a verdant tunnel of overhanging vegetation leading us up a weedy gravel drive. As we slowly wound our way to the top we passed drifts of daisies punctuated by tall purple globes of allium, orange lilies, and queen anne’s lace bobbing in the rain flattened fields. Old roses peeked out of tangled overgrown shrubs. Butterfly bushes dotted the landscape with drooping cylindrical flower heads as long as my hand. An old house was partially hidden by enormous dark camellias and ivy grew up its peeling shingled siding. Despite its obvious abandonment and recent neglect, the place felt whole and content in its seclusion. Six weeks later, instead of just a bouquet of flowers, we had purchased a derelict flower farm and house on four and a half acres overlooking Nehalem Bay, the spit and beyond, the Pacific Ocean.
The house, built in 1922 by Dr. E.R. Huckleberry, a Tillamook County physician in the 20’s and 30’s, was sound but had been uninhabited by humans for almost two years. The local bushy tailed wood rats had made good use of its dry all wood interior and the distinct and pervasive odor of their presence, along with their abundant scat greeted us when we entered the house for the first time. The water system, a pvc pipe affair that took water from the year round creek on the property was broken, the old in-floor oil furnace was dangerously outdated, the toilet leaned on a suspiciously stained floor of torn vinyl and wooden boards and the old clawfoot tub was rusted and filthy. Every room was cobwebbed and dirty, the closets too dark and scary to investigate, and most of the walls were covered with mottled and torn wallpaper or worse yet, contact paper. The varied electrical outlets suggested many eras of amateur wiring. The wood floors were layered with ancient linoleum, or grimed with carpet glue. A descent of dirt caked wooden steps led to the basement, an expansive, nine foot ceilinged 900 square foot space with two age-etched south facing windows and an east entrance at ground level. Unfinished, but obviously well used over the years, all the rafters and joists were exposed, wires and old plumbing dangling in curious ways, the floor a patchwork of dirt and rutted concrete, and the south foundation was crumbling, tipped out several inches. We both immediately saw a studio, with a remarkable view of the fields and forest and plenty of airy space. We forgot about the stained and gloomy details of the house , the wildly invasive weed infested acres, and began planning.
Since the day we took possession of the property, I’ve been keeping photo and journal records of our adventure. I’ll share some of those here, bringing you up to date and as the progress continues, I’ll tell the unfolding Story of Huckleberry Farm.