Favorite Place in the PNW

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Hi! I am rather new to this forum as we are looking to move to a place with cooler summers than we have here. That being said, I enjoy warmth, but not hot in the 90's for months. We have snow here and I will not miss driving in it, but I realize that some drivers will drive "crazy" no matter what weather.

Is there a place that you can grow tomatoes and have relatively cool summers...warm but not overly hot? Otherwise we will choose the coast or near it for a second choice...mild winters, cool summers...no tomatoes. (Unless we get a greenhouse, but not the same, really...) Any ideas? What do you like about where you live?


Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Evelyn-
I live just north of Seattle. It is perhaps just a bit cooler here in the summer than you want-tomatoes are 'iffy'. There are occasional summers where it is cool and grey all summer. Bleah. I would think the Portland area would be perfect-it gets a bit colder in winter than Seattle, and warmer in summer. You could have tomatoes. The coast in Washington is usually chilly and damp all summer-inland is warmer.
Now that I have said all this, there is one place in Washington that might possibly suit you. Sequim (pronounced Skwim) is a town in the rain shadow of the Olympics. Dryer than Seattle, it is a prairie. But it is far from any city, so although it is touted as a retirement mecca the health care is rural. Seattle is a really long way away if you need to go there when ill.
good luck!

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Thank you, mlm!

I think that I would be willing to trade off tomatoes (hot and sunny, cold in winter here) for blueberries and blue poppies. Possibly the coast, or just a ways away from it. Yes, we are retired and would need a medical facility. As it is we live in a rural area 25 "mountain miles" to the neaest town. Closer to town, but not a big city.

Poulsbo, WA

Poulsbo, WA, is what we picked, and we could have moved anywhere in the country.

We have luck with tomatoes some years, others...well, not so much, but peas, and lots of other crops, plus any ornamental plant you could want, grow very well here (the only problem, from my husband's perspective anyway, is that we can garden 12 months a year here).

Marvelous, mid-range climate, good fishing, crabbing and shrimping nearby, several wonderful nurseries and public gardens in the area, a growing number of nice restaurants and art galleries, decent shopping, Seattle is an easy day trip, good medical care close by, great medical care in Seattle, Seattle-Tacoma Airport is 1 hr 15 min away, Port Townsend is around 45 minutes away, Tacoma is about 50 minutes away. What more could you ask?

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Wow, Poulsbo sounds great.

I am about 100 miles south of Portland, and tomatoes are no problem. Usually there are only a few days in the high 80s, 90s. I go to Portland for some of my healthcare. I'm pretty sure you could grow almost anything you wanted in Portland. I would probably live there if I could.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

I live in a rural area in northern California at the moment. I am so used to not living in a large city, as I had years ago. I really like the hills, elevation and all. (3500') Isn't Portland a major city?

Of course the drawbacks are the long distance to town, for us 20 "mountain miles", which takes about 40 minutes. We are tired of the hot summers. I do realize that weather can be tricky and unpredictable.

fernfarmer ~ What is your elevation where you live? Do you live in a suburb or is it rural where you live?

Even though we are on 12 acres, we have 2 neighbors with many loud barking dogs, crowing roosters and noisy horses, which pound at their stalls while being penned up there all day. The neighbors work so they do not hear the sounds until they come home. Sometimes there is quiet. That is when I can be in the garden all day.

These days, I have to come inside during the heat of the day, and then go back outside later, if the mosquitoes are not too bad. It seems as though it has been getting hotter every summer, or I am just getting older and it is affecting me more (or both!). We both are ready for a change.

Poulsbo, WA

We are at about 50' since we actually are outside the city limits and on the Hood Canal. Poulsbo itself is at 30' according to Wikipedia (isn't the internet amazing?). I would say we are more suburban than country. In my neighborhood, the lots are all one or two acres, we have two barking dogs in the neighborhood (unfortunately), but the other noise is pretty minimal. I guess that is just the luck of the draw: some neighbors are responsible, some are not. Apparently, it doesn't matter how much property or money they have. One thing I have noticed is that sounds travel further when the noisy neighbors are uphill from you, so you might aim to be the highest house in the area, and try to find a wooded area, which also helps.

There are communities in our vicinity (especially to the North or Northeast of Poulsbo) that are more rural and have larger lots (perhaps more chickens, horses, etc. too, though). Our county allows chickens, the city does not.

You'd want to do your research before you made a commitment. One thing I would tell you is that the temperatures and rainfall levels vary SUBSTANTIALLY from neighborhood to neighborhood in this area because of the effects of the Olympic Mountains, which cast what they call a rain shadow (dry zones to the Northeast of the mountains), and the effects of all our waterways (more temperate and sometimes more rain when closer to water). We looked at several places in Seabeck, which is about 30 minutes south of here, until I realized that they get about 160% of the rain we do, and much more snow. There are neighborhoods northeast of ours that have much larger lots and no more rain (possibly less) than our area.

If you looked in Jefferson County, which is north/northwest of here (I'm in Kitsap County), you'd probably find larger properties and less rain (those in the rain shadow that runs between Sequim and Port Ludlow), but colder winter temps and longer distances to "civilization."

If you are thinking of moving, I highly recommend a trip through the area. We got a much better feel for the communities, weather and distances by spending a bit of time driving around than we ever did looking at maps. Plus, it's a great area to visit!

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I used to live in Poulsbo too. Most things about it I loved. One big downside for me was the traffic. Poulsbo was a big weekend tourist destination for people (even the King and Queen of Norway visited), and there was only one road through town, so things got really backed up. I eventually simply avoided town on the weekends, but it was very limiting. Also, if you travel often to Seattle or really anywhere, the ferries get totally backed up in summer and holidays, and rush hour on weekdays, with horrid waits of several hours. Driving around via Tacoma Narrows Bridge then got you into Seattle-Tacoma traffic jams, so rush hours had to be contended with.
This is not to say that Kitsap County is bad, it wasn't. But looking on the map and reading the ferry schedules will give you an unrealistic idea of how close you are to the city.
If you require a Norwegian Lutefisk Festival, Poulsbo is your only choice.
I have relatives in the Gig Harbor area. They live in a rural area just a mile or so from town, are quite close to a small hospital, and Tacoma is pretty easy for more big city stuff (still go over The Bridge though). I am not sure about the rainfall there.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Thank you so much mlm and fernfarmer for your detailed review of your areas in which you live. We do appreciate tour taking the time out of your busy schedules to share your experiences.

Poulsbo, WA

Mim is absolutely right about the summer ferry traffic if you are taking a car across.

I avoid, at all costs, taking a car onto the ferry from either Seattle or Edmonds to Kitsap on summer Fridays after noon, and from Kitsap to either Seattle or Edmonds anytime on a summer Sunday (or any holiday). Summer wait times for cars often run 2-3 hours on Fridays and Sundays. Saturdays can be bad too for Westbound traffic.

If you want to take a car onto the ferry from Kitsap to Seattle or Edmonds during the normal M-F morning rush, or from Seattle or Edmonds to Kitsap during the M-Th afternoon rush, you should plan to get there about 45-50 minutes in advance of the boat (an hour early on Friday afternoons). If you are coming as just a walk-on passenger, you should be at the terminal about 15 minutes before your ferry is scheduled to leave, whether its a holiday or a weekend or not.

Since they doubled the width of the main route through Poulsbo a few years ago, I personally don't think the "downtown" traffic is really an issue. But then, I don't think an area with our population (Poulsbo had about 9,500 people at last count) can generate anything that I would call serious traffic. Having come here from much larger places, my view would certainly be different than that of someone accustomed to rural living. Perhaps tourism has slowed, or weekday traffic has increased, since Mim lived here. I don't notice much difference on the weekends. It is somewhat congested, but not significantly so.

In any event, if you want truly rural, this isn't the place to come.

I agree that the Gig Harbor area is very nice (although also more suburban than rural). We looked at, and liked, several communities in that general area. Their weather is generally comparable to ours and there are several good restaurants in town. I don't know if you care, but the plant nursery selection is now limited to three that I know of: a small (but nice) one, a terrific native plant one and one that specializes in roses. In my experience, the toll bridge to Tacoma, is not generally backed up except during rush hours. Plus, NO ONE in that area would even IMAGINE encouraging you to eat lutefisk (ick)! I doubt they even have a Sons of Norway hall (;)). I understand that the hospital in Gig Harbor has a good emergency room. I don't think they have a cardiology department, however.

Anyway, the bottom line is that you need to think about what's most important to you, and then come and spend some time up here in both summer and winter to see what fits your needs and wishes.

If you want rural, you might consider Mount Vernon or Puyallup (both of which have some really good nurseries!).

Happy hunting.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

We are keeping our options open. We want to be able to get to doctors more easily than we can right now. Still we do not want to live in the city quite yet. I think we will look in several areas and then see what is available.
I think I would like to explore the areas.That is one reason we will be going in fall....we will know what to expect for fall weather... and ,of course it will be cooler at home as well. There might be someone looking after the property but I don't want them to have to do a lot of watering.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

It sounds like a fabulous trip, even if you weren't looking to move :)
One thing to add to your calculation-Although I think the Portland area is considered expensive, Oregon has no sales tax.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Yes, there are many factors to take into account. I have been looking online at properties as well. Nothing will be the same as visiting in person. What is available now, may not be when we go there. I just wanted to get some ideas. (Now I have a lot of ideas.) Heh, heh....

I am starting to clean out drawers. I have almost completed washing out all my nursery pots, so I can transport my garden.

The places in town, in Astoria have very small lots. I guess there is a trade-off. If I want to live in town, I will have to give up something. I might not be quite ready to live right in town, but I am hoping to live close to, but not IN town. They had some other places a but further back that were 5 acre parcels. That might be a start for me. Not as remote as we are here, but not with people living right on top of us. A select few had greenhouses. (I am sure hoping for one...) ^_^

Seattle, WA

Evelyn, there are so many former Californians in Sequim----they must like the vast amounts of lavender there. The ocean views are lovely, technically the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Reminds me a bit of the Central Coast as far as that goes: it's more Morro Bay than Malibu. If you truly love fierce rain and wind, Astoria is the place for you. The real high point is the nearby Costco......

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Astoria actually sounds awful. My husband is the one who suggested it. We will be looking in many places. I think he wants a river or ocean view and some of what we have here. We looked online and the ones in our price range were either condos with no yards at all or rural with no water views and everything in between. We have 12 acres and really that is too much for us. Maybe one or two...

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