Home Island Life Summer Days on Vashon Island

Summer Days on Vashon Island

Summer Days on Vashon Island
Mount Rainier as seen from Point Robinson Lighthouse beach

My favorite season (I say that about the other three, too) is now greeting me with darkness when I roll out of bed around 5 am. The light of summer’s pendulum is stealing away minutes each day, and I am resigned to sip coffee on the porch in the dark or in my captain’s chair at the kitchen table, and respond to my rooster’s bracing crow with a more gentlemanly rejoinder of “Good morning Clive, I trust you slept well?” (Yes, my rooster’s name is Clive; he’s British.)

View from the hammock, mossy-top roof and all…

I wish not to dance through a laundry list of how busy I’ve been this summer (everyone’s busy), but rather just share some of the surprises and delights of these balmy days—the picture postcards of what makes summer special to me from harvesting fruit (from trees I’ve babied all year), to taking a break on the hammock with my favorite wingman Buddy, to surprising a friend with a slice of pie. It’s been a summer of out-of-town visitors and casual dropins, quick cooling dips in the Puget Sound, and dry conditions of which I’ve never seen the likes. As Mother Nature ushers away the remaining days of satisfying warmth and gilded light, I thank her for the memories I’ll tuck away, and the images I’ll revisit on my chilly mornings and drizzly days of winter.

Checking in With My Master and Commander

Buddy’s Regal Repose (photo: Sam Spencer)

Buddy follows the sun. Lucky for him (and me), my old farmhouse boasts four porches, each perfectly position to offer sun, shade or a dapple of each. He starts on the east porch, warms up with direct rays on the fir floorboards, then retires to the bathroom’s cold tile when his breathing reaches the decibel level of a cement mixer. Once cool, he relocates to the nearest, most promising sunny patch and goes in for the Buddy splay, a canine contortionist’s way of finding comfort in the resting form of a spatchedcocked chicken. In the photo above, Buddy is blocking the back porch doorway, extorting butt rubs and ear scratches for passage, and below, he’s relishing the cool concrete of Snapdragon Cafe’s floor.

The Buddy Splay…

In the Orchard

Nanaimo peaches, right off the tree

My orchard trees seem to grow at a glacial pace, perhaps because the trees are planted in glacial silt deposited an ice age ago or perhaps because their roots are the preferred snack of an epic vole population. Add to that my need to hand water, and I’m happy to get any fruit at all. The good news is each year the harvests do get better and better.

A nice little haul of Peregrine peaches for fresh eating.

I’ve planted new peach trees (Snow Queen, Polly, Peregrine) in the greenhouse for a kinder, gentler weather experience, and it seems to be paying off. Nanaimo peach, a reliable producer, is the only curl-leaf-resistant variety tough enough to withstand eight months of rain. The peaches are sweet as can be, more so than another popular variety around here: Frost peach.

Green gage plums: not the prettiest, but the sweetest plums around…

This year my plums— plump, juicy and abundant— are making me proud. Standout varieties include, Mirabelle, Green Gage, Yellow Egg, Castleton and Flavor Grenade. Apples are a month out from harvesting, but so far it looks like Belle de Boskoop, Jonagold, Liberty, Macoun and Beni Shogun Fuji are the stars performers this year. My top raspberries go to Tulameen and Tulamagic.

Dahlias Under Cover

I grow dahlias under the protection of a high tunnel hoop house, basically a quonset-hut-shaped structure covered in plastic to protect the tender tubers and showstopper flowers. I am horrible with their names, but good with taking snapshots of these beauties.

A weed among the flowers.

Taking a Dip!

I overheat pretty easily, so most warm days I schedule a high-tide visit to a local beach. Dockton Park is my first choice as the long narrow harbor warms up quite nicely (a toasty 65° F) with each incoming tide. Point Heyer (sandy KVI Beach) is another lovely choice, but the water temps remain a bracing 56° because of currents and water depth.

High tide, happy dips in Quartermaster Harbor at Dockton Park

Summertime Pie

I make a lot of pies in the summer, and peach pie is my penultimate pastry prize. It is unequivocally my favorite pie.  I’ll let the photos do the talking, or lip smacking as the case may be.

A peach pie is born.

Thanks for dropping by, and I hope your summer was one of fond memories and a little down time to read a good book, or enjoy a stroll on the beach.


  1. glad to hear you had a wonderful summer. the pie looks wonderful. it has been so hot and humid and dry here that we have hardly been able to be outside for months. buddy is looking great!

    • I hear you Jaz, we had a couple weeks of the worst air quality in the nation due to wildfire smoke from Canada, California, Oregon and Washington. And Buddy thanks you for the kind words. My friend Sam got his best side. 😉

  2. Tom, your dahlias are GORGEOUS and made me smile! Coveting your pies! Weather so weird all over – here in Illinois, the heat and humidity have been relentless, and most of us are dying for Fall. Buddy is a handsome boy – Bulldogs are so darned photogenic! Thanks for the update – it’s a delight to see pictures and read about others’ lives in far away (from me!) places!!!

    • Howdy Karla, so glad you liked the dahlias. Yes, they are such a dramatic flower, and relatively easy to grow. While it’s still dark outside here, I can still hear them calling me from the greenhouse, “Water me!, Water me! Water me!” Yes, first crack of daylight and the spigot comes on. I went to college in the midwest and I remember heading back in September and thinking, so this is why the cornfields are so happy and tall: humidity! It’s so nice to hear from you and thanks for the kind words. PS-Buddy graciously accepts your compliment and adds, he thinks you are one astute and insightful woman. I concur.

  3. What a lovely blog post! This is my first one from you and I think I’ll stick with you. 😉 P.S. Buddy and you are leading a tough life…

    • Liz, WELCOME!
      Yep, Buddy and I have it pretty good. Long days of doing what I like and trying to make it all work. No complaints here. I feel very fortunate to have landed where I did and be a part of a community I love to pieces. Cheers!

  4. Yes, Liz. Tom’s a winner, so you’re wise to become part of his “family.” Here in Montreal we’ve had a two and a half month long heat wave, so not much action, and I’m having to rethink some of the plantings in my garden that don’t do well with such intense hear. On the other hand the tomatoes and eggplant have produced like crazy! Loved the video of the gentle surf, Tom, as well as the pic of “spatchedcocked” Buddy – that was a great description. Enjoy a cooler September, the one month that almost everybody in the world loves!

    • Sandra, it’s been quite a summer all over the continent, hasn’t it. You beat me in the nightshade department. No tomatoes or eggplants this year, thanks to deer diners, drought and my stinginess with watering. September has ushered in those halcyon days we’ve been longing for, heat wimps that we are here in the Pacific NW. I’m not sure how I grew up in the South and survived the heat and humidity. Thanks for the kind and generous words; I like the term you used “family.” That warms my heart. Cheers!

  5. Hi Tom, it has been awhile. I am sorry the smoke from California has effected your beautiful Island. We have had such a hard time here. The fire devestation is all that is on our minds. I lost my home and am staying with my sister until I can get things sorted out as to where I will spend my finial years. It is funny how when you can make choices you tend to gravitate to the familiar. I would love to take the adventure outside the box but being close to family and old friends is important at this stage. I guess I am wishing someone could make the decisions for me.
    On the good side of all of this is the way our community & others have come together to help each other. Our lives will recover and go on with peace. We will stand proud of our accomplishments in the years to come. We are all one under this great sky no matter our heritage.

    • Oh no Betty. My lament over smoke is an embarrassment to me, after reading what you’ve been through. I can’t even imagine. Losing your beloved house just breaks my heart. I’m glad you are close to your sister and staying with family. I’m sure you have a hundred decisions to make and directions to take, but it sounds like healing near those you love is a very sound decision. We can travel the world, sure, but having a place to call home and being around those we love is the most gifted destination in itself. Your words of strength and encouragement and caring are gentle reminders that your heart is still big and your soul resilient and your gratitude intact. Quite amazing Betty, quite amazing. Sending my love, Tom

  6. great to see your post. unfortunately we did not make it to Vashon and PT due to illnesses and surgeries for both of us. I think we are on the mend. I did make it to Montana to due my annual fish count while Susan stayed back in Goodyear lets hope for next year.

    • Dale, So sorry to hear about you and Susan’s recent illnesses and surgeries. I have no plans to leave the farm any time soon, so I hope to see you all next year. Buddy is keeping an eye out on the porch. Plus I’ll need to hear about and live vicariously through some Montana fish stories. Well wishes to you and Susan.

  7. Hi Tom- thanks for the lovely post! Are you, by chance, part of the Fruit Club’s Orchard Mason Bee project? Our fruit production has increased a lot since we joined! I highly recommend keeping Orchard Mason Bees in the Spring.

    • Hi Katie, thanks for the tip. I’m delighted to say, a friend was painting her house and she gave me all of her mason orchard bee block hives once attached to her back porch. It’s a good start, and I’ll be making some more bee homes, and checking out the Fruit Club, too. Thank you!

  8. I teared up reading that you grow Macouns… my father’s favorite Apple. He’s gone, now, yet I can still remember his delight in them. 💜

  9. beautifully said, as always. It’s been a lovely summer, walks on the beach with my faithful dog, harvesting the gravensteins from our 60 year old tree. There is simply nothing like island summers! From your neighbor over on Anderson.

    • Thank you Sandi. I spent a couple summer days on Anderson Island years ago, visiting an old friend who had a old family homestead there. Quite the paradise island indeed. Enjoy the rest of summer and those Gravenstein apples–choice apples for eating, baking and pie-making!

  10. Hi Tom, We here in Portland, love everything about your life. Of course buddy is my favorite but your peach pie recipe is a close second. Your home, fruit trees and garden life help us remember that a simple, hard working life shared with friends and pie is the greatest gift of all. If you ever make it to PDX, you and Buddy should stay with us , we will provide great entertainment with 275 lbs of dogs, great bourbon and of course… Pie! Enjoy the cool days of fall.

    • Sarah, writing a blog has some major benefits when I receive an invitation like yours: dogs, pies and bourbon, dang! Quite the wonderful trifecta. I worry I’d come to stay and not want to leave. Thank you for your generous words. I’m most grateful for living here and being able to do what I do. And an added benefit is connecting with great people like you. Again, thank you, and should I be heading toward the Columbia River, Buddy and I may just take the exit to Portland and overstay our welcome. 😉

  11. Tom,

    Looks like you had a nicer summer than us here in Cary, NC.

    We had a good crop of tomatoes but the birds got our figs and peppers.

    Enjoy your bountiful harvest, Please say hello to Buddy for us


    • Tad, sorry to hear about your varmint invasion. If I’m being candid, I too had some not-so-stellar moments in the garden. Voles continue to terrorize my fruit trees, gnawing away at roots and killing young trees on occasion. Deer broke into my veggie garden and devoured my tomatoes down to stubbins. Raccoons are confiscating my ripening grapes, and drought has taken its toll on most of my young plantings. Buddy though, remains my steadfast pal, and is in good health, which makes me happiest. Here’s to next summer Tad; we’ll be rolling in fruits and veggies, I tell you!

  12. I have been thinking about your Mom, recalling the lovely posts you have written featuring her. Hopefully she is doing well. Did she visit you this summer?

    • Pam, how kind of you to ask. My Mom is a trooper, but has had a difficult summer after sustaining a fall. I marvel at her work ethic and dedication in her rehabilitation and healing. As she says “Old age is not for sissies” but she never fails to amaze me. Again, thank you for your kind concern.

  13. It is lovely to see that you enjoyed yourself this Summer! What a harvest! Your dahlias are looking so lovely & your pies too! You have a funny dog!

    It was a fun post, dear Tom! I really enjoyed it!

    • Thank you Linda! So nice to meet a fellow islander, and a Vashon High School graduate to boot! I can’t believe I’ve lived here close to 16 years now. Wow, best move I ever made. Take care, and not sure if you still live here, but maybe our paths will cross sooner than later. Take care, Tom and Buddy

  14. Hi Tom and Buddy,
    I was delighted to hear back from you. I’m sorry to take so long to reply. I’m not always around my computer.
    Anyway, yes, Vashon is a special place for sure. I was so lucky to grow up there, in the best decades of all: the 50s and 60s.
    My mother owned “The Suds Parlor,” a laundromat uptown. When I was on the island last year, I saw that there’s another laundromat, about a block from the original, that has the name “Suds” in it. I’m happy her Suds name lives on 🙂
    Anyway, I love how you’ve turned the old farmhouse into such a lovely place to live for you and Buddy. And I love seeing photos of all the flowers you’re planting and wonderful pies you bake!!! (I used to bake pies but can no longer afford the calories!)
    Keep up the good work –and posting lots of photos of your lovely homestead!
    Lastly, you might enjoy the Facebook page, “Old Photos of Vashon.” Lots of good pix there!
    Warm regards,
    Linda 🙂


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