DAY 23 - KENT & JOY
Day 23 - Husum, Washington - 1059 km
I’m staying with Kent & Joy, which are the parents of Tanja, whom I got to know in Portland. Since 42 years they’ve been living high uphill in the middle of their 120-acre forest, where they’ve built up there own little place from the ground up. From a spring they’ve created there own source of water and electricity. You have to walk a mile through the forest to get to their house. There is no internet and no phone connection. Only the last year their daughter insisted to get a cellphone for safety reasons. Before that they used their answering machine in the shop down in the village for communication with the outside world.
In Portland, Tanja helped me pin-point the exact spot in the forest, where to find her parents house. It’s close to Husum, Washington, 10 miles north from the Columbia River. About a year ago a logging company built a dirt road on the side of the hill to start logging the land next to Kents property, so it’s a little easier to reach the house with wheeled vehicles, nonetheless I needed to walk my bike up on the hill because the road was too steep.
“I’ve got an ice-cold pond down here you might want to jump in”. Kent welcomes me when I park my bike against their wooden little house. He is short and skinny, with big hands and a long bushy white beard giving him the appearance of someone from Middle-earth. It’s been a hot day and I’m exhausted from the climb so I take his invitation. Kent & Joy hardly ever welcome people on their property, and they hardly ever leave it themselves as well. When I step inside the house I’m amazed by beauty of the time and effort spend to make this place a home. It looks like time has been standing still. Kent sits in the corner, on a tiny bench with a pillow against the wall. He sits there, as a well composed painting, like a bird in it’s nest. Above him hangs a selection of string instruments he played through the years. The living room, kitchen and bedroom are one small space of only about 20 square meters. But it’s enough for them. Everything is made from wood, with detailed carvings. Nothing is painted. There is small vide with a bed, which seems impossible to fit two people. A ladder leans against the vide, but Kent shows me he is still able to enter the bed without the ladder. He takes off his shirt, jumps up, grabs the horizontal beam and swings himself on to the vide like a monkey. I’m blown away. This man is 78 years old.
They show me around their property. There are 4 buildings. First there is an open barn, housing a few old vehicles and tools. Then there is the cabin they live in, which faces two other cabins. One is Kent’s work shop and another one a place for storage. I follow them over narrow trails along the ridge of the hill, nothing is paved. Kent walks in a slow but steady pace, without moving his arms. First they show me the treehouse they built for their daughter Tanja to play in when she was young. When you sit inside you feel the swing of the trees. A little further is the pond they created as a water reservoir and a home of 20 big trouts, which are their pets.
Kent is a wood worker and has a degree in engineering. For building the cabins he was inspired by the old Norwegian style of log building. Not that he is ever been there - he read books about it. Around the property you find all kind of tools and vehicles. A saw mill, a few old pick trucks which are still running but don’t have a license. There is tractor which he saws the big logs with from the forest so he can drag them to the house. A man who works alone needs to be clever.
The toilet is a wooden cottage outside the house which is open on the front so you have great view relieving yourselves. There is no running water on the toilet. The cottage is built on a three by one meter deep hole without chemicals. Surprisingly it doesn’t smell bad at all. But after 10 years the hole gets too full and Kent needs to dig it out. A task less pleasant, I can imagine.
In the evening we sit inside. Joy has made some pasta and tells about her study of herbs. She makes herbal creams and salves, made from ingredients from the forest. Before that she was a fire fighter until she was 60, something which was very unusual for a woman back in the day. In the meantime Kent writes down the outside temperatures in his book. He does this every day since 1970. He has a few books full of data. On some pages there is a gap in the writings. This was when they are away, which rarely happens. Last year it was the first time they went to Europe with the family. The first time to leave the country. They were away for 3 weeks during winter time. When they got back they were not able to return to the house. Kent needed a week to fix all the problems created by the snow and freezing temperatures. The water pump got frozen and a few things collapsed. One of the cabins is slowly sinking away and they are trying hard to save it. But it’s difficult, because it’s a lot of work and as youthful as they both still are, they themselves also face the challenges and constraints of growing older.