Home Island Life It’s Been Awhile…

It’s Been Awhile…

It’s Been Awhile…
Nothing says love like a hand-pie.

Quiet Days on the Farm

I started writing my blog about ten years ago at the prodding of my former boss and current friend, Nicholas. He would chide me regularly, “When are you going to start writing your blog?” One cold March day in 2008, I sat at my kitchen table, dispensed a shrug and answered to myself, “Perhaps, now.”

The nature and purpose of a blog can certainly reveal itself as a sticky wicket. Do I want to promulgate a fairy tale, an over-the-top perfect life, or do I wish to connect and share some honest moments, a couple laughs, and a few snapshots of beauty in the everyday (which would include multiple images of beefy bulldogs, pies and flowers, no doubt). Hopefully, it’s evident that the latter option was my obvious choice.

Buddy warms the front porch while I work the front field.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize and avoid blogs that seem to make me feel bad about myself, where each entry is an amalgamation of accomplishments shy of curing cancer, building a suspension bridge, and hosting a UN delegation for brunch. Some days I just want to get one thing done—just one thing.  I want to look back on the last 24 hours and say, “I put in a good day.”  That has been my goal with Tall Clover Farm both online and off. Some days there are road blocks and roundabouts, but never rumble strips of doubt that I made the right decision about leaving the city and relocating on Vashon.

The Egg and I…

Though in the last year, I’ve slowed down a bit. My get-up-and-go, kind of got-up-and-went. And managing and working a rural property weighs heavily on shoulders as they age. For the first time in my life, I’ve felt a little geezerly. Granted, my mind is that of an anxious 28-year-old, but my body is quick to chime in, “not so fast.” My voluntarily long day is fueled by a brief nap, or a coffee break or checking in with a friend who undoubtedly rues the day I finally acquired a cellphone.

In essence, I have gone from hare to tortoise, but if the parable proves anything, slow-and-steady is the way to win the race, which in my case includes just finishing the race without regard to how I placed.

Saying goodbye to winter days with a few bright blooms.

Things do take longer now, as much in execution as in actually getting started. Pondering plays a big part of my new reality. For instance, it’s taken me about six months to consider repairing a plumbing problem in my old farmhouse. I quit using my upstairs bathroom and opted to trundle down stairs nightly to use the guest bathroom rather than to address the issue before me, under me and around me: leaky pipes.

I am now in the middle of opening up walls and ceilings, and repairing that plumbing problem, one brought on by a rodent that chewed rigid drain pipes with the ease of shaving milk chocolate.  And now that the pipes have been replaced, the reattached vintage toilet has decided it’s not happy with the new arrangement. Time for a new flusher!

Pacific Northwest Moss: very at home on shaded roofs and occasionally on the heads, brows and shoulders of Vashon Islanders.

So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m still here, happy, and plugging away (toilets notwithstanding), and I’m still loving my life at Tall Clover Farm. And while my blog posts may be less frequent, I have confidence that I will get back to my regularly scheduled writing, eventually. And besides, I’ll try to spare you from the minutia or regularity of my day: i.e., Buddy farted at 8, 10, 2 and 4; I weeded for 6 minutes; cursed a nettle patch; picked out a paint chip; and had a tuna melt for lunch (riveting stuff).

When the day seems worth sharing, I will do my best to put pen to paper, or in this case, finger to keypad. So for now, time marches on with me bringing up the rear, and I do my best to put in a good day. And please know that the connections I’ve made here are indeed one of the best parts of that good day.

Later my friends…

PS- I do tape a weekly radio show on Vashon Island’s station KVSH. Anyone, anywhere can listen online: http://www.voiceofvashon.org/ondemand/tall-clover (updated each week).

When the sun comes out and the daffodils spring up, all is right with the world.


  1. For you to say, at evening time ” I’ve put in a good day.” is, to me, in itself the best self-reward anyone could hope for, without taking it to the it-could-have-been-better stage.
    Glad to hear your pondering has resolved itself and your newly redone bathroom is nearly ready for summer 2018. (I have an issue myself when it comes to the definitions of pondering and procrastinating… I seem to do both awfully well.)
    Keep on keeping on; hopefully, your get-up-and-go’s simply been hibernating thru this long winter. Lovely photo of light shining thru your orchids !

    • Thank you so much Susan, your words will inspire for my get-up-go against a detour when it begins dallying about and looking for shiny distractions.

  2. Tom, anything you write, (even if it is about Buddy’s digestive issues) is always welcome. You seem to have a way with words that are quite enjoyable to the ear.
    So keep writing and we will keep reading and please know that your readers are always eagerly waiting for the next installment from Vashon Island!

  3. Thanks, Tom. I laughed to myself reading about your “slowing down,” but also smiled and appreciated that I am not only in the same place, but share your feelings about the importance of “putting in a good day.” And I enjoy your missives, whenever and however they appear. Take care, and as John Ciardi used to say, “goodbye and good words to you.”

    • Thank you Michael, most appreciated, and thanks for bringing John Ciardi to my attention. (A cheeky albeit beloved elder friend of mine once asked me, “We’re you not properly educated?” when I failed to recognize a favorite writer of hers.) I’m off down a rabbit hole to discover more about this poet who “propelled poetry into a popular, lively art,” according to Peter Comer of the Chicago Tribune.

  4. i agree with laura…i will read anything you write! i’m glad things are going well. i’ve been busy with the new pup! an it’s still winter here. today the temps dropped 30 degrees within a few hours and the rain changed to snow!

    • Joyce, congratulations–a new puppy! May the sweet little furball keep you warm until the sun decides to appear and stay put. And thank you for your kind words and support.

  5. Dear Tom, There’s not one of us who does not empathize with you! it’s part age, part season. Here in Montreal, we’re just coming out of the winter doldrums, which are of another sort than yours – we’re recovering from -20c temps, snow and ice, and you from rain, and rain and rain. At least we have bright sunshine through it all! Once all the new growth is up and it’s time to start planting, you’ll feel like a new man. albeit a man who perhaps walks a little slower and accomplishes just a little bit less each day. Embrace every minute of every day and avoid the “I could have done more or better” mind set. Maybe you could have, but would you have enjoyed your day any more if you had? Buddy needs his belly rubs and you need your moments of quiet contemplation of the many beautiful things you have created in and around your farm. That lovely fountain is way up on the list! I got very nostalgaic hearing and seeing the ferry. Reminds me of my childhood and young adulthood when trips to Vancouver Island were frequent, and the trip through the Gulf Islands breathtakingly beautiful. The sun shining through that beautiful window on your carefully-tended orchids is another reminder of how successfully you’ve transplanted yourself and how successfully you are living.

    • Sandra, I could not have ask for a kinder more thoughtful comment, even if I had written it myself. Thank you so much. After living in Alaska for a few years, I applaud and respect anyone living above the 49th parallel–a tough lot indeed! Here’s to an early thaw and to your many fond memories of Vancouver and the Gulf Islands. I have a couple myself of Salt Spring Island, B.C.

  6. I, too, am getting creaky. The rocks are heavier, the weeds more tenacious, the energy levels are getting lower, and sitting in the sunshine (what the heck is that?) on the deck with a glass of wine after throwing mulch around the flower beds is really, really nice.

    That we need is some more sun, chirping birds, flowers on the akebia, and NO raccoons for the dog to bark at at 2AM!

  7. Ah Margaret, you are wise beyond your years. Maybe I need to saunter over to your place and watch you weed, while I drink wine and shoo raccoons.

  8. tom, you are an eloquent writer. and you are (as ever) quite right. it is not about what has happened but on how you tell the tale. compare the writing of alice hoffman to its sad film translations. writing about what has happened is a single point of view, while writing about the same thing in a way that others see themselves in the picture, creates a universal perspective. carry on

  9. Hi Tom,
    Have not worked out where you live yet but will have a talk with Mr Google. We are around the 41 Deg. south – top of the South Island of NZ.
    We are heading into our winter, hopefully not as cold as yours. We are still in the low 20’s most days but next week sounds like it might change. I enjoyed reading your newsy letter and the comments of your friends. I smiled at the lady with the raccoons. We don’t have them here but around 2.25 am Wednesday morning we had the Rescue Helicopter cruising up and down our High Street looking for somewhere to land. He certainly woke a few in town.
    Hope you are all well.

    • Hi Kaye, all the way from New Zealand–wonderful! My father traveled the world, but rarely talked about the places he discovered, with the exception of New Zealand. This man of few words was truly moved by the beauty and hospitality of your island nation. As for where do I live? Well, Vashon Island is just a short ferry ride on the Puget Sound from Seattle–three hours driving time south from Vancouver, B.C. and three hours north of Portland, Oregon. Here’s to fewer copters and raccoons, sleep tight!

  10. Yes, Tom, I am one of those who are missing your posts. I too have a mind that is eons younger than the body it is housed in. Slowing down is not all bad; it gives you more time to smell the flowers and scratch Buddy.

  11. Hello friend, good to hear from you again, with or without the ability to flush I might add. Life is never forgiving as she steals one more hour of our sunlight; one more night without sleep. She can be so flighty as to suggest to you, that you’ll be back in the saddle, riding the purple sage, when in reality, a good cuppa, the pup and clear sight to the garden in the sunset is your true passion. No apologies necessary. No promises either. I’m just pleased when you do sit pen to hand now and then, and share those glowing moments with us here, time to time. It reassures me, that all is right in the heavens, and life continues blithely down that green well-trod path .. round yet another corner.. hope all goes well with the house. with you, the pups, and the sunsets

    • Thank you so much Blue, I’ll tuck away your generous and beautiful words for a cloudy day, one that may need a bit more sunshine it.

  12. Keep going at your slow and steady pace, it is that which drew me to your blog, charming lifestyle and made me dream of a slower pace for myself.

    Savour every minute and just enjoy 🙂

  13. Welcome to the COF (Creaky Old Fart) Club – the place where optimism and realism collide. Ditto on Laura’s comment and please, give Buddy a hug for me.

    • Oh June, COF is gonna stick I fear. I may even have to call a meeting to order with my friends and hand out printed COF T-Shirts. Buddy thanks you for the hug, but next time wants you to include a butt rub. 😉

  14. I know one thing, Tom, I’ve enjoyed your words and photos since 2008. I stumbled upon your blog during a dark time in my life. You, Boz and Miss Gracie brought sunshine into my day. I looked forward to getting home after work to see what you were sharing that day. Would it be a story about Boz and Miss Gracie or a photo of a pie. Thank you for sharing your life, the good, the bad, the silly with us. Here’s to another ten years of words and photos.

    • Thank you so much Terrie, I’m really touched by your words. And just knowing how you felt about Boz and Gracie tells me you are a woman of deep insight with a big heart. Not everyone saw their beauty and specialness, but those who did were dubbed downright geniuses by me. Take care and thank you for sharing such generous words.

  15. I am so happy to read that you will be sharing more of your life with us all. To be a writer is a gift. To write and pull in the readers until they want much more is priceless. You have a touch of Patrick McManus in you, which is a good thing. To make people smile and laugh…the best medicine in the world. Hoping to connect with you and Buddy again in August. We will be in Chimicum. My great grandmother is her 80’s would always say that if she could knit only one inch a day, it was an accomplishment. And so it goes. Small steps executed with accuracy and humor.

    • Susan, Thank you for your generous words; how wonderful to hear you may be in area this summer. Buddy and I would love a visit if your schedule allows. I love Chimacum. I think the Chimacum Farm Stand is one of the best little groceries in the state, and check out Farms Reach Cafe in Chimacum, too. Oh and Chimacum Cafe is a fun “old school” spot with good food. I seem to always travel with a companion: my stomach. Take care, say hi to “The Trout.”

  16. Me too, all of the above, etc. Especially to June’s welcome to the COF Club, where optimism and realism collide. I imagine that collision is most acute in aging gardeners, as it strikes for us both body and soul (as opposed to aging sports heroes, for whom it strikes both body and pocketbook). The seed lists and garden charts are as long as ever, yet somehow the hours spent on knees have morphed into minutes spent squatting interspersed with time spent in the deck chair contemplating sunshine, birdsong and peskily complaining back. What’s with that, anyway? Please write when you please and know that we’re all in the same boat. In fact, I am literally prevented from writing in my own blog by having been barred access due to some apparently stupid innocent click of the keys a couple of years past. Like you, I say ‘I’ll get to it eventually’ and in the meantime, I will enjoy hearing about your gardening, cooking and canine companion adventures while looking out on my dry desert garden. Thanks!

    • I think my COF club has an official motto: COF Club, where optimism and realism collide. Brilliant. Thank you. And also, thank you for you august words of wisdom and insight. I think we may even have a second motto: COF Club, where clarity reigns supreme.

  17. I love this Tom. We moved here to intentionally become more tortoise like, without age as a prerequisite. Good luck with the house challenges. Living in a construction zone is draining, and the new paint will feel so good 🙂

    • Thank you Lauren, and thank you for sharing your wonderful projects, life and joyful family. You guys figured out the good life early on!

  18. I love your writings, sharing, musings of your life and all the things you love that fill you with joy and sometimes sadness, Tom. You are a great storyteller and your words often fill me with visual wonderment! I am still hoping to get to Vashon…maybe a small piece of land and build a home might be my only resource at this point! Time, choices, life changes and I am just along for the ride!

    • Thank you Toni, that means a lot to me. As for finding a spot on Vashon, yes, let me know what I can do to help you find your little patch of green goodness. In the meantime, you’re always welcome to my hammock.

  19. Tom,
    I feel your pain. I think the weather has a lot to do with my get-up and go. I know when the sun shines, I can’t wait to get going on my day. I give myself gold stars for my productive days. There haven’t been many lately. A couple more weeks and we’ll have more sunshine hopefully!🙏🏻

  20. Tom, I am never EVER bored with what you have to say. Your best work often involves a simple topic. You know we can’t get enough of Buddy news, farting included. Your hammock usage is always compelling. How about you give us your recipe for the perfect tuna melt? Don’t sell yourself short. It’s not the energizer bunny Tom we crave. It’s just the cool guy at Tall Clover Farm going about his day and sharing his observations that I find the most entertaining. Though provoking. Sigh inducing. Smile creating. Thanks for sharing and please keep it up!!

  21. Take heart in realizing that all of your friends responding here seem to share your lack-of-energy dilemma!
    I’m happy you took this rainy day to check in with us.
    And thank you, Sandra. “Embrace every minute of every day and avoid the “I could have done more or better” mind set. Maybe you could have, but would you have enjoyed your day any more if you had?”
    That one is going up on my bathroom mirror.

  22. Dear Tom,
    I’ve been reading your many words for a few years. I stumbled upon them when I was looking for a short cut to ripening peaches, “THANK GOODNESS”. Thanks to you, I’ve been using my grandmother’s dish towels to ripen them! I’ve found myself looking forward to your writings and that of your four legged family members. I miss Gracie and Boz, as well as my Gracie, Winnie and Annie. Their passings were …hard. I’m loving your Buddy and our Annabelle, all of which teach us now tricks and how to keep moving. I’m looking for more inspiration from you now that spring is here and there’s a crap-load of yard work to be “eager” about. How are the chickens? Please keep writing, it keeps many of us (me) going!
    The “Vicarious” reader.

    • Alison your kind words are a shot in the arm for my keep-on-keeping-on. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. And as for the chickens, they’re doing great and I’ll offer up a new progress-report shortly.

  23. Being in basically the same metaphorical boat (I envision a cedar strip canoe on calm waters…) where it seems to take me more time to ponder and then embark upon a project than many would consider reasonable, I have come to my own personal understanding that I am here for the journey and will focus much on the enjoyment of that journey. That means some days my endless chore list does not manage to reduce its bulk, but if instead I left footprints along the shore or made a grand daughter laugh, I can live with that.
    Thank you for taking the time to share glimpses into the humor and frustration we all find in daily activities as well as some of the joys you find in Island Life.

  24. I’m so glad you posted this. I too, have had a slow winter, my back has finally said enough, so no more large vegetable garden, much less big projects. I’m instead focusing on pots of flowers on my decks etc, it’s hard to adjust to slowing down, but we all get there.

  25. Hi Tom,
    “Keep on keeping on ” reminds me of a poster I had hanging in my dining room in the sixties!
    That was the time of energy!!!
    I know how you feel about some of the blogs telling how much they accomplish in an hour.
    For me sometimes just making a tuna melt sounds exhausting.
    That is why I started reading blogs from gardeners. They seem more relaxed and “whatever happens, happens”.
    In fact that is how I found your blog, Tom, and have enjoyed reading it ever since, especially about your love for your dog as I have four little fur balls who own and love me.
    I broke my femur bone last winter so my garden took a bad hit last summer and although I am excited about starting up again this spring, I look out at this huge garden and I think “can I?”. I just try to tell myself that everyday will be different. I’ll wake up one day and feel energetic and lazy the next. It’s all good.

  26. I love reading everything that you have to write. It always brightens my day. Even if it is about Buddy farting! I am also one that is slowing down lately. It happens! As long as we keep ourselves going we will get there.

    • Neroli, thank you. Now as for reading about Buddy farting, well you’re in luck. My next post is about the king of the castle, yep, Sir Buddy.

  27. As the person most responsible for nagging you into beginning your blogging journey, I am very proud of your bravery in putting yourself out there and even more of your persistence. Small steps, over time lead to amazing places. Your talent was obvious, and obviously wasted, back when you worked for me. Sometimes a plant just needs the right conditions to allow it to grow as intended. It’s time to be brave again because you’re ready for another big step. Will you take it?

    • Dang Nicholas, can’t I just settle in and further explore being a slouch? 😉
      Okay, I’m listening. What did you have in mind?
      Grasshopper standing by…

  28. … tuck away, aren’t they divine words, when inclement weather sneers at you from the other side on your windows.. it’s incessant tap tap tapping rain, like sirens beaconing an ill-conceived idea, “more bread is necessary” thoughts. Who listens to that song tonight? Not you, their conquests are vanquished in your happy contentedness~ But tuck away indeed.. the best of companies in a pup or two, a good book.. a few lovelies of treats for both canine and caretaker.. and tucked away is a magic carpet ride of wonder, adventure and gurgles of wow, “you said that”, outloud.. the pups lift their drosey eyes.. and quickly assess, all is right in the world, you’ve never left. ..tucked away.. cosy blankets. Fluffy pillows and a rest that with fill your head with lovely dreams.. and soon enough.. the weather will sparkle with sunshine again.. green will call you to come a-walkin down a path, birds busy building nests, and you’ll tuck away these moments, like your favorite book, back in the cupboard. . You’ll have places to go to, people to see.. life will be bursting everywhere, dragging the chores closely behind it. But tucked away.. will be your special happy peaceful contented moments whereupon another day.. you may go a-callin.. someday..

  29. Blue, your words are as warm and wonderful a wrap as my big old Hudson Bay Blanket on this chilly, rainy spring day. Thank you for such lyrical prose that melts into pure poetry.


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