By Phil Vogelzang
Jefferson County is known for a lot of things. And one of them is trees. Lots of them. The County has a long history in the business of forestry. Some of the earliest European settlers here made their living harvesting the strong and reliable lumber from our towering douglas firs, hemlocks and cedars.
Unfortunately, like many things in our increasingly centralized and fossil fuel based economy, the forestry business had become more centralized and controlled by a few large national and international forestry product companies. As a result, many small local lumber mills have succumbed to these sprawling corporations. And, like the agricultural food producing industry, we are increasingly getting our lumbar products from far away places, rather than from our own back yard.
But come by Chimacum Corner Farmstand and you’ll see something different! Outside are several picnic tables, massive by any standards, made of solid planks of cedar. A large plant stand made of rough cut lumber offers a wide variety of native plants such as red osier dogwood, flowering currant, hemlock, western red cedar, strawberries and sword ferns. Several sturdy comfortable benches invite you to sit. Inside, above the deli tables, hang an assortment of beautifully constructed bird nesting boxes. All made from local lumber, these are the work of a local man, Doyle Yancey.
Born and raised in Maple Valley, Doyle now lives in Chimacum with his wife and three step-kids. He left the NW briefly, attending vocational school in Phoenix for two years before he moved to the Quimper Peninsula in 2003 and began his professional career as an auto mechanic. In 2007 he purchased his own little piece of paradise and he moved his family to a forested setting on Chimacum Ridge, between Beaver and Center Valleys. From this rural location, he frequently travels the back roads and trails of Jefferson County exploring the out of the way places of the many working forests we have. Although he won’t admit to it, Yancey is a perfect example of a forest steward. Someone who cares deeply about the woods and the wild things that live in them. A warning to anyone even thinking about illegally harvesting salal… Doyle is likely to find you and report you!
Although working on cars pays the bills, Doyle’s true love is growing things. His mom Linda has run a fuchsia nursery business in Maple Valley for years and Doyle grew up helping her in the greenhouses. After settling in the Chimacum area, Doyle decided to try his hand at raising fuchsias here, labeling his business – “Egg and I Fuchsias”. These “pay for themselves” but finding any profit in the endeavor has been elusive. He’s expanded his business (now called “Egg and I Gardens”) to include native plants – a natural extension of his forest explorations. Some of these can be found at the native plant stand at Chimacum Corner. He took me on a hike recently in an undisclosed Jefferson County location to show me a Pacific Yew tree. The Pacific Yew is a locally hard-to-find species from which the life saving drug Taxol was originally made. Although unremarkable to the untrained eye, Doyle explained this is a hard to find tree in the area, having only found a few others in his years of exploring the forests of the Quimper peninsula.
But this “tree hugger” doesn’t fit conventional stereotypes. In addition to being a good mechanic Doyle’s also pretty handy with the chainsaw. He sees the value in the large cedar, fir and hemlock conifers that tower around us and is willing to selectively harvest these, both on his own land and that of his neighbors whom he collaborates with. With the first picnic tables, Doyle milled the lumber himself, using a chain saw, but now he has his lumber milled either in Chimacum by Bob Richardson or in Quilcene by Ian Carter. In using local wood and our small local mills, Doyle not only keeps money in the community, but his wood has way more character and honesty when compared to the cookie cutter lumber available in most lumber yards. He makes good use of less desirable pieces including the outer rounded pieces with stubs of branches sticking out. There is art in figuring out how to incorporate each unique piece of lumber into the design of whatever he is making.
I digress here because there is also the bigger issue of how we can protect our local working forestland into perpetuity and prevent it from being subdivided and sold off for more short-term profitable development. The sort of work Doyle is doing may be part of the answer – using the forests for local economic development while at the same time cherishing and protecting them. The Jefferson Land Trust is all over this challenge now. They speak of a “renaissance” of working forests and find themselves suddenly presented with real opportunities to collaborate with private timber landholders, state and local governments, and other conservation partners to realize this vision. The Janis Bulis Forest Preserve (115 acres between Irondale and Port Townsend) is an example of such work where ~20% of the land will be “managed” with selective logging certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
But, back to Doyle and what he makes out of this lumber. We spoke of the massive picnic tables hewn out of massive solid cedar planks that resist rot and weather beautifully. Try one out at Chimacum Corner’s Garden or sit yourself either forwards or backwards on one of his Aldo Leopold designed benches. Sit forward and you have a backrest. Sit backwards you have an armrest on which to place your elbows while watching birds through binoculars.
My favorite however are the nesting bird boxes. Besides being aesthetically gorgeous and rugged with a more “natural feel” than most boxes, they are built for real habitat needs and the birds are guaranteed to love them. Starting with the recommended dimensions for each box, Doyle further improved their design by consulting with Paul Bannick, noted bird photographer and author of “The Owl and the Woodpecker”. Paul, after years of watching birds in the wild, yearned for certain features in nesting boxes such as for the flicker box, a deep entry hole and a more irregular front surface. Last winter we hung one of Doyle’s wood duck nesting boxes by our pond and we immediately had occupancy. As soon as the wood duck vacated the premised, mergansers moved in. This photo is of our wood duck eggs prior to hatching. We’re hanging more this fall.
Doyle’s definitely a busy guy between working as a mechanic at Circle and Square, relentlessly exploring the woods around him, growing things and making things. And there is more I haven’t mentioned like his u-pick operation. He just placed this ad on our website’s community bulletin board last week:
Egg and I gardens is offering U-pick. Everbearing strawberries, big fat raspberries, greenbeans, cut flowers and farm fresh eggs. It is self serve, pull up to the greenhouse and see the directions on the big wire spool. Quantities are limited, prices are country friendly. $5 per 1 gallon container, or big handful of flowers, and $4 per dozen on the eggs in the fridge in front of coop. We have containers but you might have to wash ‘em. Open ‘til the hard frost comes. Come see us at 2027 Egg and I rd. Approx. 1 mile up Egg and I Rd. from either Center or Beaver Valleys. Any and all welcome, Yancey family.
If you hurry, you can pay Egg and I Gardens a visit before the hard frost hits. Otherwise you can visit the Yanceys next spring when the fushcia greenhouse reopens. If you are interested in commissioning a picnic table, give him a call. If you are interested in his benches or nesting boxes, come on down to the corner where we have them for sale.
If you see this, you know Doyle made it! Thank you Doyle for all you do!
Egg and I Gardens
2027 Egg and I Road, Chimacum, WA