What Brought You To the Island
Arrival Stories, September 2023

What Brought You To the Island

By Pam (aka Gates) Johnson

I’d always dreamed of living on a farm, but resigned myself to a life in Portland, just like everyone else in my family. That all changed when I got married. I was 21 years and two weeks old, and had been married for one weekend when we packed up everything I owned and moved to Vashon, where my new husband owned a funky little house on one acre.

My new Vashon home came complete with a garden and a dog. We soon added chickens. I learned how to cook and garden and can vegetables. Since I didn’t know anyone on the Island except my husband, and I didn’t have a job, I really needed something to do. Our acre had a small orchard of Golden Delicious apple trees. It was fall, and the apples were plentiful. It would be a shame to let them go to waste, so I learned how to bake apple pie. For a solid month I would pick apples and have a fresh apple pie waiting for my new husband when he came home from work, every day. I’ve never been big on apple pie, so my husband ate them … every one of them. That fall, the apples didn’t go to waste, they went to waist. Husband gained quite a few pounds.

Our little family began to grow. First, we added a Siamese cat, Big Kitty. Then a baby goat, Tinkerbelle. Then a Red Angus cow, Earnestine. Then a black calf, who became our milk cow, Moonbeam. When we found out I was pregnant, we got a pony for my daughter before she was born.

We were rapidly outgrowing our little house and mini-farm. A few months of hunting, from Tahlequah to Maury Island to the Westside, and we found a house and five acres. We fenced and farmed. I learned how to bake bigger and better pies, how to churn butter, how to can most everything from vegetables to chickens; I baled hay, drove a tractor and a one-ton flat-bed truck loaded with hay. It was certainly not the life I had lived in Portland. 

After another kid, more land, more horses and cows, an unexpected career for me with the Vashon School District, and a divorce, I realized that I had found my home and that my dream of living on a farm had become my reality. 

September 7, 2023

About Author

pam aka gates