Methow Home 2022

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Prices up, inventory down


Distinctive valley homes


Being Firewise and friendly


A supplement Methow Home 2022to the Methow Valley News



Methow Valley News


Still the place to be



or those hoping to have a residential presence in the Methow Valley, either fullor part-time, the “buy or build” question has become an entirely different challenge the past couple of years. Marketplace shifts set in motion by the COVID pandemic resulted in the “Zoom town land rush” we wrote about in the 2021 Methow Home magazine, as valley properties became hot commodities for those seeking refuge from the cities. As for the “buy” option, the inventory of homes and available, buildable properties has shrunk dramatically, as contributor Ann McCreary reports in a detailed article on page 27. Choices are limited by demand, and competition remains fierce for highly desirable properties that do come on the market. Meanwhile, the valley’s local contractors, subcontractors and other businesses involved in providing home-related goods and services are often booked solid, sometimes years in advance for major projects. But patience and persistence still pay off for those determined to make their Methow dream a reality. While the second-home market remains a vital component of the local economy, much attention is now focused on providing affordable housing for the valley’s hard-working residents, who provide the goods and services that all of us rely on. That said, the Methow Valley

Methow Home 2022

remains a highly desirable location for the same reasons that have always drawn people here — the setting, the recreational opportunities, and the strong sense of community. We tackle all those topics and more in Methow Home 2022. You’ll find “profiles” of several Methow Valley homes that reflect the dreams of their owners, the creativity of their architects and designers, and the craftsmanship of their builders. You’ll also find articles about how to put Firewise principles into practice, how to be a “good neighbor” in the valley, and how to make sure your driveway provides safe access to your home. And you’ll learn how to get an up-close experience in some of the valley’s most intriguing homes on The Confluence’s annual Home Tour. Please note our loyal advertisers. They include locally owned businesses that provide jobs and support the local economy, and businesses that have developed a substantial presence in the valley by providing quality products or services. Methow Home 2022 is a handy, year-round guide to the businesses that are here to assist you. Don Nelson Publisher/Editor









6 Meet the ‘Casita’

Could scaled-down living areas help ease housing crisis?


14 Meant to be


20 Shadow and light


Site-perfect Edelweiss house evolved along natural lines

Pine Forest cabin combines comfort and practicality

Methow Valley Home 2022 A publication of the Methow Valley News P.O. Box 97, 502 S. Glover St., Twisp, WA 98856 509.997.7011 • fax 509.997.3277 •


DON NELSON | Publisher/Editor SHEILA WARD | Ad Sales TERA EVANS | Office Manager JOE NOVOTNY | Design

Natalie Johnson

is the former managing editor of the Methow Valley News.

Methow Valley News



On the cover Ellemae relaxes in the kitchen of the Watson-Whipple house but perks up as photographer Stefan Hampden makes this image for the cover of this year’s Methow Home magazine. More on the home begins on page 14.

26 Artful living

36 Not chicken feed

28 End of inventory

40 Preparing for wildfires

the 33 Making Methow ‘home’

and outs 44 Ins of driveways

r manof the ley News.

Home tour back on again this year

Well-designed outbuilding does more than keep hens cooped up

Buying boom drives up prices, competition for homes

Make your home ready for when flames threaten

Being a good neighbor is the key to connecting

Focus on safe access and environmental impacts


Ann McCreary

is a freelance writer for the Methow Valley News .

Methow Home 2022

Ashley Lodato

is a Methow Valley News columnist.

Sandra Strieby

is a freelance writer for the Methow Valley News.

Marcy Stamper is a Methow Valley News reporter.



Methow Valley News


Johnston Architects debut ‘Casita’ customizable accessory dwelling unit Could scaled-down living areas help ease housing crisis?



s with many people, down time spent at home during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic got architects Ray and Mary Johnston thinking about home improvements.

Photo by Benjamin Drummond

Methow Home 2022

It also found the Seattle-based architects spending more time than ever in their Methow Valley vacation home, which they built about 20 years ago. “The pandemic kind of freed us up to shift our living,” Ray Johnston said. “Instead of being here 30% of the time, we reversed that and we’re here most of the time in the valley. It’s really our home now.” An open floor plan is comfortable for two people, but the Johnstons realized they needed more space, and started looking for options. Being architects, they took the opportunity to be creative and build

something totally new — a concept they call the “Casita.” Literally a little house, the Casita is a combined guest house, extra work space and relaxing post-ski sauna for the Johnstons. Far in the future, it could be housing for a caregiver. The Johnstons also suggested accessory dwelling units (ADUs) like the Casita could help address housing shortages in the Methow Valley and beyond. “I think it’s a totally valid response and we have clients now who are actually thinking ahead to that,” Mary Johnston said. 7


Johnston Architects sells readymade plans for three accessory dwelling units. The Gable looks like its sounds, with two stories topped with a gable roof. That detached ADU is 1,000 square feet and has two beds and one-and-ahalf bathrooms. A second, The Origami, is about half that size, at 516 square feet, with two stories, one bedroom and one bathroom. That ADU also comes in an optional 750-squarefoot version with an attached garage. The firm also sells plans to its 1,296-square-foot Twisp Cabin, which could qualify as an ADU in zones that allow ADUs of that size. However, all three of those units are set designs. Not so for the Casita. “We did what’s called a parametric design for it,” Ray Johnston said. The Casita can be as big or as little, as sparse or as equipped as you’d like. You can have a full kitchen or a kitchenette, a sauna (or two) or just a small, bare


Photo courtesy of Johnston Architects

essentials bathroom. It’s as easy as clicking a few options on an interactive website. “You can go on our website and assemble your own version of it, so you can add and subtract rooms,”

he said. “It’s really just a series of frames that you can add on to.” According to the Johnston Architects’ website, https://jadudadu. com, one of the smallest configurations — a combined living and

bedroom, kitchenette and small bathroom (which includes space for a stacked washer and dryer) — is under 400 square feet and would cost just under $135,000. While a combination like that is small,

Methow Valley News


Photo by Benjamin Drummond

Mary Johnston said she doesn’t think of the Casita as a “tiny house.” “This is probably an unfair characterization but in my head I think of them as less permanent somehow,” she said. “Theoretically someone could just use [the Casita] as their house. It’s got everything a house needs.” A more-deluxe combination — a

900-square-foot building with large living room, full kitchen, bathroom, large bedroom and 225-square-foot sauna — runs just over $308,000. You don’t have to stop there. You can add extra bedrooms, a dining room or a second bathroom if you’d really like. “The bedroom, closet, kitchenette, bathroom that we have here now, that enclosed area is about

420 square feet, the roof though is about 1,000 square feet and part of that extra area is the eaves, but another part is a patio and a sauna,” Ray Johnston said. The Casita could even be its own standalone home, they said. “There are a lot of studio apartments in Seattle that are less than 420 square feet,” Mary Johnston said.


The design of the Casita follows the aesthetic of many of the Johnstons’ Methow Valley homes, as well as their own cabin. They prioritize designs that are sustainable, practical in both searing summers and snowy winters, are Firewise, and above all, with

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Courtesy of Johnston Architects

The Casita can be as big or as little as you’d like. “You can go on our website and assemble your own version of it,” says Ray Johnston.

plans that connect the outside and inside. “Once in a while we bump up against a less-expensive idea of what that really means to fit in to the environment,” Mary Johnston said. “I guess that our thinking is the more we talk about that, the more we try to explain the way architecture looks should be based more on values than a prescription.” Ray Johnston described the view of many of Twisp’s mountains and

hills from the Casita’s living room window. “I don’t think that the space is small because the way it’s connected to the outdoors makes it feel much larger,” Ray Johnston said. When the Johnstons built the main house on their Methow Valley property, they challenged themselves to do something they’d never done before. The Casita came with similar goals. First, they wanted it to be simple, so they could do much of the building themselves. Design was also a

With over 30 years in the Methow our experience makes the difference


experiment. Other walls are consideration. covered with painted or stained “We really looked for materials plywood. and methods of installation that “The bathroom is whitewashed would be somewhat unique and plywood with white tile on the special,” Ray Johnston said. walls. It was kind of fun not to Some of the walls in their Casita have to use any drywall,” she said. are covered with larch flooring inThe whole Casita is comfortable, stalled in a shingle pattern. Cedar but not perfect, Mary Johnston shingles on the outside follow a ORTH ASCADES said, which makes it just right. similar pattern. “It’s almost like the texture of “I had a rule for myself and the AW ROUP house — no sheetrock,” Mary John- the walls is like a metaphor for the Tonasket • Oroville • Okanogan house,” she said. “It’s warm and ston said. “Not that I hate sheetlovely, but it’s not refined, it’s still rock but as sort of an experiment.” sort of comfortable and imperfect.” The larch shingles were one




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Accessory dwelling units or ADUs — sometimes known as mother-in-law apartments — are allowed by local and county zoning codes in a variety of areas within the Methow Valley, with some restrictions. Johnston Architects’ Casita is a DADU, or detached accessory dwelling unit. “An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a small, self-contained residential unit located on the same lot as an existing single-family home,” according to the Municipal Research and Service Center (MRSC). “An ADU has all the basic facilities needed for day-to-day living independent of the main home, such as a kitchen, sleeping area and a bathroom. As the term ‘accessory’ implies, ADUs are generally defined to be smaller in size and prominence than the main residence on the lot.” For example, the Town of Twisp allows ADUs as either a separate structure or incorporated into the main residence as long as the structures are approved by the town and the ADU and house meet requirements such as minimum lot sizes. “The provision of accessory dwelling units promotes an efficient use of housing and allows more flexible living environments for all residents,” Twisp’s zoning code reads. “The following


What is an ADU? regulations are designed to meet a need for an alternative form of housing without compromising the existing character or appearance of single-family residential neighborhoods.” Twisp’s zoning code also requires the ADU to meet the town’s requirement for water and sewer “concurrency,” meaning that the town must have adequate capacity to serve the additional need for the utilities. Winthrop also allows ADUs in certain zoning districts. While the two towns don’t restrict the size of the ADU as long as it and the main house continue to abide by lot size requirements, Okanogan County limits ADUs to 1,500 square feet in rural residential zones, and depending on the specific zone, must be within set distances from the main house. Municipalities around the state have different requirements for ADUs, and the customizable nature of the Casita makes it easy to design the structure around those regulations. “Whether attached or detached from the main residence, most codes require that the main residence and the ADU must be owned by the same person and may not be sold separately,” according to MRSC.

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Defining a sense of place Creating architecture that harmonizes with its surroundings



ow do you describe the Methow to folks who have never been here? You can start with climate — dry and hot in the summer, cold and snowy (we hope) in the winter, with a lot of variety in between. It is a major definer of our sense of place. Next may be the terrain — steep and dramatic in the mountains, gentle and flat on the valley floor with a lot of variety in between. Next might come the plants and animals that call this place home — pine, cottonwood, aspen, grasses, sage, bitterbrush, along with

birds, deer, bobcats, bear, salmon, steelhead and a whole community of other creatures. Don’t forget fire, wind, clouds and amazing sunsets and night skies. Next comes the community — our traditions, work lives, home

lives, challenges, joys, hopes and relationships. As the valley population grows and more and more buildings dot the landscape, we find ourselves thinking about how our work, as designers, can add to, and not detract from, the sense of place defined by the natural and human environment here in the Methow. How can we build to harmonize with the valley without being frozen in time?


There are two guiding ideas about building in our valley. One is embedded in the working experience of mountain communities. It is defensive and practical. When the storms come, humans need to hole up and stay warm. This tradition emphasizes defense against the elements using the materials at hand. Out of that,

plus some influences from European alpine architecture, grew the lodge. Whether it’s Sun Valley, Jackson Hole or Glacier National Park, this tradition includes stone, logs and cozy enclosures. The outside environment is viewed through windows, which are modest punctures in massive walls. Another tradition is one that embraces the wild side of our climate seeking to enclose and condition parts of the environment in order to minimize the barrier between outside and inside. Its roots in vernacular rural architecture are the ultimate in simplicity. Solid walls sheltered livestock, tack and tools, while the open sides allowed access to the work yard. This is a spectacular formula for great modern architecture and the results can be seen all over the Methow Valley. Today those same forms are

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super-insulated, and the work yard opening is glazed with high-performance insulated glass. Passive solar gain helps heat these structures in the winter and deep overhangs keep the hot sun away in the summer. Floors of polished concrete retain the heat or preserve the cool depending on season. These same floors have a double purpose, delivering radiant heat or cooling as the seasons dictate. The character of these buildings is not inconsistent with the stone and timber aesthetic of the lodge. It transforms this venerable tradition into a more varied and exciting one. Stone and timbers can still participate, but so too can the expansive glazed wall, so that while enjoying a great breakfast one can be engaged in the falling snow or the morning sun decorating the view or streaming in.


So where does that leave us in our search for a sense of place, at least where the built environment

is concerned, if the lines between architectural styles are blurred? A place to start is right up the hill at Sun Mountain. Roland Terry, a mid-century master of Northwest architecture, used massive logs to span expansive window walls at the bar and restaurant. The shingled exterior reflects the variegated scree slopes that surround the lodge. This “modern” start to what became Sun Mountain Lodge has been successfully expanded in the lodge style of the rest of the property. This is because the designer’s attitude towards place was consistent: reflect and respect the environment with materials and scale, and “style” becomes secondary. As more and more houses are built in the valley and we struggle to hang on to the good things we have, we as designers occasionally run into guidelines meant to preserve a sense of place, and mostly we find it easy to fit our work into acceptable parameters. But it is good to remember that the best

guidelines are not prescriptive, but interpretive. They allow some freedom of expression as long as they adhere to certain core values and desired results. In the valley those values can be: • Respect for the natural environment reflected in sustainable building practices, practical snow and sun control and Firewise native landscaping. • Engagement with the outdoors. • Fire-resistant construction. • A sense of scale and balance with surrounding structures. These values leave open opportunities for varied materials, roof forms, window arrangements, etc., and are flexible enough to last through changes in style, technologies and demographic shifts. What is fashionable today may not be tomorrow, but they can encourage a sense of place that is resilient — just like our beautiful valley. Mary and Ray Johnston are principals in Seattle-based Johnston Architects. Featuring


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Photo by Stefan Hampden, CAST Architecture


Photo by Stefan Hampden, CAST Architecture

Meant to be Site-perfect Edelweiss house evolved along natural lines BY SANDRA STRIEBY


odern architecture was not what Jeff Watson and Paula Whipple had in mind when they began to think of building a house in the Methow Valley several years ago.

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Drawn by the valley’s cross-country ski trails, they were leaning toward a classic timber frame house, but developed an appreciation for modern design as they toured the valley and learned the advantages of the style. The result is a house that epitomizes the easy relationships between indoors and out that characterize life in the Methow. Watson and Whipple knew they wanted to be close to the ski trails, and they appreciated the Mazama community and the upper-valley

landscape. With those criteria in mind, “it was a matter of finding a property that worked for us,” said Watson. He and Whipple took the process seriously, spending a couple of years looking at land, visiting houses on the Confluence Gallery and Art Center’s home tours, and learning about the modern architecture they were seeing. That patience paid off in 2018 when Windermere Real Estate’s Alexis Port showed Watson and

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Whipple a 2-plus-acre lot in Edelweiss — they knew right away that they’d found a good match. The upper end of the sloping lot is in the woods; to the west, a meadow opens to a striking view of Lucky Jim Bluff. That balance of prospect and refuge plays out in both house and site design, creating a sequence of spaces that provide for privacy while taking full advantage of views.


During one home tour, Watson and Whipple were drawn to “practical innovations” they observed in a house designed by CAST Architecture, and they included the firm on their short list when they interviewed architects. The couple was impressed by CAST’s design approach and also the firm’s proficiency with remote meetings. Watson and Whipple were living in Oregon at the time, and they knew that meeting virtually would streamline the design process. That decision allowed the collaboration to continue smoothly when COVID struck in 2020.

Stefan Hampden, a principal at CAST and one of the architects of Watson and Whipple’s house, suggested several builders, and the couple selected Bjornsen Construction, inspired in part by Tom Bjornsen’s work ethic, long experience in the valley, and ability to complete projects quickly. They also appreciated his interest in their project — “he asked some good questions,” said Watson. Bjornsen himself noted the importance of finding a good fit between owners and builder. “What is important is that people realize that an experience like building a home is … a relationship; [it needs to] bear the test of time [and] emotions,” Bjornsen said. So far, that relationship has weathered a pandemic and related sourcing delays that have postponed completion; the house is now almost but not quite complete.


Watson and Whipple brought several design parameters to the table. They wanted to be able to

Photo by Stefan Hampden, CAST Architecture

open their living space to the outside, and have a relationship with the outdoors throughout the year. Capitalizing on views was a priority; windows on the side of the house that faces Lucky Jim were particularly important to them. Efficient use of space, a single-level floor plan, and the needs of present and future dogs also

figured into the mix. Throughout the process, the owners were able to contribute ideas by uploading images to an IdeaBook on houzz (, where Hampden and Project Architect Sofia Soto could see what appealed to their clients. In response to Watson and Whipple’s priorities, Soto conceived the

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idea of wrapping the house around a courtyard — a protected space that would be shaded in summer and feel sheltered in winter. The design evolved to include a veranda on the west side of the house — an unequivocally sunny space to relax and enjoy the cross-valley view. The house’s main living area is a glass-walled great room centered between courtyard and veranda. NanaWall folding glass walls allow nearly unobstructed light and visual penetration, and can be tucked away entirely when weather permits, allowing the interior and exterior spaces to flow into one another, and breezes to move into and through the house. The rest of the house enjoys plenty of windows, too, and a panel of frosted glass brings light from the master bedroom to the adjoining bath. CAST’s design relies on several functional qualities of modern architecture — a low-slope roof, broad overhangs and concrete floors contribute to an energy-efficient structure that will stay cool in summer while holding heat in winter. Hampden pointed out that snow held on the roof provides insulation as well as preventing the hazards associated with snow that slides off and accumulates around the house — or forms ice dams that can lead to leaks. The wide overhangs admit light in the winter when the sun is low in the sky, and keep windows shaded during the hot season. Concrete floors provide thermal mass that will even out diurnal temperature swings in winter and keep the house cool in summer. Watson and Whipple spoke to

Photo by Stefan Hampden, CAST Architecture

their wish for an efficient layout, saying they “wanted to be sure all areas of the house were in use;” that criterion informed the design of both guest room and garage. The guest room features a Murphy bed that can be folded away to create an office and recreational space when guests are not in residence. In the garage, a workout space will accommodate both a weight rack and aerobic equipment, all of which can be folded away, allowing the couple to configure the area to meet current needs. Translucent panels in the garage door illuminate the space with filtered light. Among Watson and Whipple’s

practical considerations was planning for aging in place. Once they move in, they’ll be full-time residents, telecommuting until they retire. A single-level house where they can live gracefully for decades to come was a high priority. Accommodating their 10-year-old lab and, someday, a puppy was important, too, and resulted in an innovative suite of kennel, run and canine cave for the four-legged client. The kennel is built into the master-bedroom closet and opens directly to a covered run that’s aesthetically integrated with the rest of the house. Built into the foundation and accessible from the run

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Placement was crucial to the outcome of Watson and Whipple’s building project. As the architects and builder explored the site and became familiar with its features and topography, they elected to shift the angle of the house from the position they’d originally planned to “create a gracious entry while getting the house into a comfortable spot,” said Soto. That Art That Kicks Butt

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spot facilitates a satisfactory sense of arrival and makes the courtyard more intimate; it’s also enabled the house to be securely settled above the steepest part of the lot without compromising views. The shift in placement has enhanced the sense of privacy — “coming up from Goat Creek, you see the roofline and not much more,” said Whipple — while at the same time the house is accessible and opens itself to the larger landscape. The repositioning let the team bring the driveway across a ravine that separates the lot from the road, creating a shorter, more efficient entry route while sheltering the house’s living areas from the lights of arriving vehicles — and fulfilling an unexpressed dream. Whipple said that she and Watson had thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a little bridge;” the final design gave them “exactly what we wanted and had never told anyone.” Wildfire is always a consideration in the Methow, and affected both house design and site preparation. Nowhere has the wisdom of FireWise principles been more apparent — the 2021 Cedar Creek Fire swept past and sent embers sailing across the valley toward the building site while the house was under construction. CAST’s architects chose building materials carefully. “At ground level, we do try to stick with non-combustibles,” said Hampden; in this case, that meant using a limited palette — primarily steel and concrete. Wood appears in less vulnerable places — soffits, cabinetry, ceilings, window and door trims — where it can “introduce

Photo by Stefan Hampden, CAST Architecture

warmth to the project while keeping it as protected as possible from combustion.” Hampden and Soto chose Douglas fir, a material Hampden said he and his colleagues “love using because it’s our regional material.” The team also removed some trees in order the make the site fire safe. CAST’s design-build roots were an asset during both design and construction, said Hampden, explaining that as one-time contractors, CAST’s founders understand the challenges of bringing a design vision to fruition and “take the responsibility of figuring out how to build it very seriously.” The firm invests time and energy in construction administration and “working with the contractor to make it work.” That approach

contributed to the success of the project, said Bjornsen. “They valued our input; that makes it rewarding.” Teamwork, he said, “allowed us to meet the challenges of the design. [It was] not just them telling us how to do it; as a team we figured out how.” Bjornsen was quick to credit the contributions of local subcontractors to that team. Concrete and earthwork were particularly important in perfecting the complex fit between house and site. Bjornsen brought in Ben Evans (Evans Concrete Construction) and Isaac Buzzard (B&B Excavating) — both practitioners who are “always good to have on board,” according to Bjornsen. Of the entire endeavor, “it feels like it was meant to be,” said

Whipple; “we took our time, found the perfect lot that we liked; everything has just happened.” Though they’re not yet living in the house, Watson and Whipple spent a weekend there late in January and said the experience was “fantastic” — ”despite not having indoor plumbing [yet].” The heated floors kept their feet warm while the winter landscape warmed their hearts. Theirs is a house where thoughtful and meticulous design coupled with top-notch construction have created comfortable, functional spaces that foster ease at the same time they delight the eye. “We can hardly wait to have a snow day when we’re living there,” said Whipple. Watson concurred, saying he’s eager to get cozy and “watch it dump.”

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Methow Valley News Photo by DL Byron and Pam Massey



Shadow and light Pine Forest cabin combines comfort and practicality BY ASHLEY LODATO


s you approach the Shadow House, you’re drawn in five stages from the entrance porch, through the mudroom area and wide hallway, to the living space, and out onto the outdoor seating area — increasingly wider spaces leading you through the dwelling to the clearing encircling the house, bounded by the edge of the forest.

The vacation home of part-time Methow Valley residents DL Byron and Pam Massey, the Shadow House is nestled in the woods at the top of Pine Forest, with peekaboo views of the surrounding hills beyond the pines. For Byron, this five-step flow supports aesthetic he and Massey sought for the house. “You can see from the porch through the house to the lanai,” he said. “We are so drawn to the natural areas of the Methow Valley, and this house makes us feel like we’re surrounded by the outdoors.” For their Methow Valley home, Byron, a creative professional, and Massey, who is in business operations for a large Seattle


non-government organization, were looking for a “modern mountain retreat with a minimalist, Scandinavian-cozy feel,” Massey said. “We initially thought we’d buy a modest cabin here,” she said. “We did our homework, looking at all the areas of the valley. We wanted something small, with sun but not too much sun, close to recreation. We did the home tours with a Realtor.” But when the time came to make an offer, Massey said, there was nothing on the market that was quite right for their needs and budget. “So we did a reboot, and started thinking about building,” she said.



To envision a future in the Methow Valley, Bryon and Massey had to first backtrack to what motivated them to create a home here in the first place. Passionate road cyclists, the couple “started coming here years ago to ride the roads in a different climate,” said Massey. “We really resonated with the culture here, we met people, we loved the Methow vibe. But we got busy with kids and life,” she said. Later, though, Massey said, “we had a few incidents in life that made us realize that we don’t want to wait forever. We started looking at what we wanted to do in our next phase of life.” Once they committed to establishing a home in the valley, Byron and Massey sought a builder who “knew this climate and who would embrace our aesthetic, our goals and our budget,” Massey said. “We clicked with Jeremy [Newman, Intrinsic Designs] and Jim [Salter, Blackcap Builders Collective] because they had a like-minded approach. We had written up a creative brief of what we had in mind — an affordable, Scandinavian-cozy minimalist house — and both Jeremy and Jim were realistic about the goals, budget and timeline.” “We wanted it cozy with a lot of light,” Massey said. “We wanted it

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A study of the valley’s micro-climates and the Multiple Listing Service database led Byron and Massey to a lot in Pine Forest that was “massively overgrown,” she said. “But we really liked Pine Forest, with its community aspect, neighbors dispersed throughout the development, and services like water and garbage. The ski and bike trails would be right out our door. The problem was we just couldn’t envision ourselves on this densely wooded lot.” The owner of a neighboring piece of property, however, suggested that the couple view the lot from his land, giving them an elevated overview of the parcel. “We immediately saw the potential,” Massey said. “We saw what forest management could do. We hung out on that lot for a while and it felt awesome. We embraced the idea of being in the trees and not looking into anyone else’s windows.” Bryon and Massey bought the lot in 2018 and began camping on it as they thought through their next steps. “We knew we would do something small and modest, on a tight budget,” Massey said. “We will eventually age out of our activities — and we might age out of this Pine Forest location — but for now and the foreseeable future it really suits us. When we come to the Methow we drive for four hours. We want that drive to pay off in an opportunity to retreat, to be a bit

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efficient for the climate, we wanted enough storage that we could keep recreational gear here, and while we didn’t want to replicate our west side home, we knew certain things that we loved, like cork floors.” Several iterations of the design were required to reach mutual agreement, Massey said, but ultimately the couple is thrilled that they prioritized the features they knew they wanted to retain, and that they kept open minds about others. For example, Massey said, “We didn’t agree on the woodstove. Bryon liked the smell of a woodstove, but I wanted to keep it simple with propane. We ultimately did a ductless system, and put in a highly efficient Canadian Pacific Energy stove with a blackened steel hearth. It really adds to the Scandinavian-cozy feel, and we’re able to burn wood from trees trimmed from the lot.” “I like splitting wood when I’m here,” added Byron, who created a firewood management location to the side of a small freestanding gear storage building. “We thought

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the wood stove might just provide supplemental heat, but it turns out we both like having a fire going while we’re here.” Other concessions the couple has been happy about include bedroom size. “Initially the rooms looked so tiny,” said Massey of the 90-square-foot bedrooms. “I was really skeptical, but we trusted Jeremy. He told us ‘You only sleep in your bedrooms. You come here to play. Sometimes you read a book on the bed. The bedrooms are big enough.’” And indeed they are. With space for queen-size beds and closets, the rooms are adequate but not overly spacious. Newman said he put emphasis on the living space of the house, saving square footage on bedrooms and dedicating it to creating an expansive atmosphere in the relatively small kitchen/living room. Newman addressed the benefits of having the majority of the home’s square footage dedicated to a kitchen and living space that are integrated into one contiguous area that interfaces with the outdoors. “There are a lot of doors and window that face into the forest,” he said. “The living space looks into the gorgeous forest that falls away from the hillside.” “It was just serendipitous,” Massey said, “but we trusted Jeremy on some of these decisions and we’re so happy about that.


Newman, too, is happy about connecting with Byron and Massey and tailoring the cabin to meet their needs. “The Shadow House is a retreat meant to immerse them in the beauty of the surrounding forest and provide comfort in all seasons,” he said. Newman conceived the Shadow House “with a dark exterior and a compact form to blend into the surrounding forest. The approach of the house gives the impression of complexity as the form steps away from you in several broken planes, but the majority of the house is an easy-to-build rectangle meant for efficiency.” “It’s an 1,100-square-foot, energy-efficient, two-bedroom, fire-resistant cabin that was built on a realistic budget,” added

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Photo by DL Byron and Pam Massey

Newman, who is also designing the new Methow Trails campus on Horizon Flats and Room One’s new building in Twisp. The Shadow House incorporates design features that accommodate Bryon and Massey’s active lifestyle, Newman said. “It’s easy for them to come home dirty from cycling activities, take off muddy shoes and clothes, and either rinse off in the outdoor shower or come into the entry space that leads directly into a mudroom/half bath with a utility sink and laundry facilities on one side and the full bathroom directly opposite,” he said. “The entry has a heated tile floor, so wet shoes and gear dry quickly and the area is easy to keep clean.”

Salter, too, finds the practicality of the Shadow House satisfying. “The house is a great mix of efficiency and cost with very little wasted space, which I love,” he said. “It really helps to have a designer that spent so many years building houses when it comes to flow and efficiency of the process. We were able to do some innovative systems to come up with an efficient building that suits the needs of the clients and without additional cost.” And echoing Newman’s sentiments about the collaboration among designer, builder, and homeowner, Salter added, “Pam and Byron [were] fantastic folks to work with.”

Since Bryon and Massey have been largely working from home throughout the pandemic, they find themselves seeking opportunities to find moments of solitude at the Shadow House, frequently visiting for weekend retreats one at a time, while the other remains on the west side. Although the Shadow House doesn’t feature a dedicated home office, the farmhouse table in the middle of the kitchen serves as an ad hoc work space. To some extent the couple designed the kitchen around the concept of the farm table instead of an island. “It brings people into the cooking area,” Massey said. “It’s a gathering place, a work space when we need it, a food prep counter. It functions quite well for us.” Appliances and furnishings throughout the house were selected based on the limited selection afforded by COVID-era supply chain issues. “For things like a stove and refrigerator, we didn’t have a lot of choices,” Bryon said. “We wanted quality items, but not over-the-top. We prioritized appliances that are a hassle to replace — like dishwashers — and were more selective making those decisions. So far we’re happy with everything we chose.” Byron and Massey entertain at the Shadow House, although the home hasn’t had its full social capacity tested yet due to COVID. “We’re looking forward to doing that more,” Massey said. But their young adult son and daughter visit, sometimes bringing friends, giving Byron and Massey a hint of what their home might host in the future.

BLENDING ART, SCIENCE Newman addressed the five-step aesthetic that guides one through the house. “Architecture is a blending of art and science that is used to define space for people to use,” he said. “The way a building receives you, the way you enter, the feel you get as you move into a main living space, the views that are offered to the outside, and the spaces you use to find comfort and retreat all have the ability to be shaped to nurture that 23

experience.” The five-step approach is “just the way the Shadow House took form and a way of thinking about how people use space and how people move through it,” Newman said. Newman juxtaposes his years as a nationally-recognized glassblower and sculptor with his architectural design concepts. “I spent years creating glass and mixed-media sculpture that had to capture the viewer’s eye, hold that gaze, convey a story and evoke

emotion. Houses like the Shadow House are an opportunity for me to use my years as a fine art sculptor to create a form that has more life than a conventional home design. It’s an opportunity to use a house to create an evolving experience.” The Shadow House’s name is derived from its exterior aesthetic — the fiber cement siding boards from James Hardie’s Aspyre Collection are a dark charcoal — as well as from the way the sunlight moves across the home throughout the day.


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Newman spent an entire day on the lot before beginning the initial design of the home and said “there’s this neat procession of how the sun moves shadows across the north slope of the property, with these long drawn shadows all day. In conjunction with FireWise considerations, watching the sun helped us decide which trees to take out and which ones to leave; which trees would interact with the house and provide shading and shadow after the house was built. We left the big trees off the southwest corner of the house, to block the mid-day heat of summer; they drop this huge shadow across the building.”


Byron and Massey said that many of the FireWise efforts on their property were accomplished with the help of Department of Natural Resources funding, which provides support for homeowners to create defensible space around their structures. For Byron and Massey, that included limbing, tree removal and chipping. Other FireWise measures are the home’s non-flammable siding, the metal roof and metal on the back wall facing the forest, and the metal soffit. An adjacent gear storage shed is similarly FireWise-conscious. Only the entry porch and the steps on the outdoor seating area out back are wood, as a moderating influence on the dark exterior. “The entry is Port Orford cedar,” Newman said. “It’s this beautiful gold wood. The warm wood tones of the front entry porch guide you to the door with a welcoming

embrace. It then guides you into the light and spacious interior of the home.”


Byron and Massey selected Newman as their designer in early 2019; by the fall plans were drawn up and Salter broke ground on the property. The couple’s Shadow House retreat was well underway in the spring of 2020 when COVID swept the globe, temporarily halting construction and dashing plans for Byron and Massey to occupy the house by June. Needing a refuge more than ever, however, Bryon and Massey purchased a canvas wall tent and spent the summer on the job site. “We called it our ‘glamping zone,’” Massey said. “It really connected us to the land. We’d wake up and hear the animals in the night, the birds in the morning. We got to know the sounds of our home site.” In fact, Bryon and Massey enjoyed the glamping experience so much that they put up the tent the following summer as well, occasionally sleeping in it or hosting overnight guests. But for the most part, the couple has been relishing the quiet space the Shadow House offers: the convenient access to the recreation they love, the blurred lines of the indoor and outdoor areas, the tacit permission the house gives them to watch the play of light and shade. For Byron and Massey, their time at the Shadow House is not so much a retreat from the labor and noise of everyday life as it is an advancement toward intentional periods of solitude, reflection and serenity.

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‘ARTful Living in Twisp’ highlights 2022 Methow Valley Home Tour

fter an initial delay because of the pandemic, then a second postponement due to 2021’s unsafe fire conditions, The Confluence: Art in Twisp will present its 19th annual Methow Valley Home Tour on July 9, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year’s theme is “ARTful Living in Twisp.” The 2022 Home 26

Tour features eight homes in and around the robust art community

of Twisp. “Whether you are crossing town limits or entering someone’s home, the presence of art is an unrivaled method of greeting and engagement,” said local artists Perri Howard. “It immediately sends the message that this place is unique, you are welcome here, and we care.” More than 100 visual artists,

including painters, sculptors, potters and jewelers, make Twisp a vibrant expression of artful living. The artistry and craftmanship of local architects and builders are evident in the houses featured this year. From a cabin overlooking the Twisp River Valley to a sustainably built home perched on the Methow River in Twisp, you will be immersed in examples of the

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g t V e a l a T t

s d b t s a s

Photo courtesy of The Confluence

creativity that flows through the Methow Valley. “A wander through Twisp will give you a taste of the incredibly talented artists calling the Methow Valley home. We are excited to emphasize the connection between art and ‘home’ by highlighting local artists alongside builders and architects in this year’s Home Tour,” said Kaileah Akker, executive director of The Confluence. The 2022 Home Tour will also showcase one of the nine homes designed, built and made possible by the Methow Housing Trust over the last two years. These well-designed, highly efficient homes are the first to address the severe shortage of affordable housing

in the Methow Valley. The home was Designed by CAST Architecture and built by Methow Valley Builders. Tour tickets will be available through Brown Paper Tickets, or at The Confluence beginning June 1. All attendees must pick up their wristband at The Confluence prior to the tour. Proof of vaccination will be requested in advance and masks will be required inside all homes. Participants should be 12 years of age or older. Tickets are $30 per person; or $25 per person for carpool of four or more; or $25 per bicycle. Tickets and wristbands will also be available for purchase on July 9 from 9 a.m.-noon at the Mazama Store.

Photo courtesy of The Confluence

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The end of inventory Buying boom drives up prices, competition for homes


Sales volume 2019 to 2021


f you were looking to buy a home in the Methow Valley at the beginning of 2022, you could count your choices of available properties on two hands. Or only one hand if you didn’t have at least $500,000 to spend … or likely no hands if you didn’t have it in cash. The real estate market in the Methow Valley over the past year has continued a buying frenzy fueled by the migration of people seeking a home or vacation getaway in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and related societal changes. Pressures on the valley’s real estate market and housing availability and affordability are likely to continue in 2022, say local real estate professionals. “We were already trending towards telecommuting and second primary homes versus vacation homes in the Methow Valley, even before the pandemic,” said Heather Marrone, designated broker/owner of Blue Sky Real Estate in Winthrop. “COVID just put that trend on super steroids. Then excess inventory got

snatched up in 2020, then prices rose. They have continued to rise.” “The influx of people moving here full-time during the pandemic feels large,” said Ina Clark, broker/ owner of Mountain to River Realty in Winthrop and Mazama. “Now that more jobs are remote and families want good schools and community, it seems like our valley is being inundated with buyers.” The competition among well-financed newcomers for scarce Methow Valley properties over the past two years has shattered price and sales records, and heightened community concerns about the ability of “locals” to continue living and working here. “This boom has made it incredibly difficult for local buyers to

Courtesy of Windermere Real Estate

purchase homes when they are in competition with buyers who have much higher incomes and often do not need any financing,” Clark said. “It is a scale of two different economies competing for the same homes. This is a huge


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disadvantage to our local buyers.” “The working class – people that service our community – are being pushed out,” said Delene Monetta, managing broker/owner of Windermere Real Estate in Twisp and Mazama. “It’s something we’ve been


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watching for years … it’s just that now we’re down to zero inventory. There literally isn’t anything left. Recreational communities all have this problem.” The Methow Valley is undergoing a “rural restructuring common to recreation areas,” according to a recent economic study by TwispWorks. Growth in the Methow Valley has been fueled by “amenity migration” – the movement of people in search of community and lifestyle, particularly since the onset of COVID-19, the report said. Many amenity migrants fleeing urban areas across the country have brought their work with them when they move to more remote, tranquil places that were previously seen as vacation getaways. As the pandemic unfolded in 2020 and office workers turned into telecommuters almost overnight, communities that became meccas like the Methow Valley were dubbed “zoom towns.” The TwispWorks economic study found that almost one-third of valley residents (31%) are either fully remote workers or are supported by a spouse or partner who derives

at least part of their income from outside the valley. And the annual income reported by remote workers was almost four times the median yearly income ($57,779) of families that live and work in the Methow Valley. “You are hugely priced out of housing in this valley unless you make substantially higher than the median income. Like, three times the Okanogan County median income as a starting point,” Marrone said.


A 2021 year-end market report by Windermere Real Estate, based on Northwest Multiple Listing Service and off-market data, found the number of sales of single family homes in 2021 was 16% lower than in 2020, although the dollar volume of sales was 18% higher. “With limited inventory it is not surprising that the average sales price increased. This year concluded with a notable 40% increase in the average sales price ($649,848) and 16% decrease in the number of homes sold. The majority of home sales occurred in the $400K-$600K

segment and 23% of home sales were above $800K, increasing the median price to $525,000,” the Windermere report said. “The luxury home market has really boomed (in 2021) and in the last couple of years,” said Monetta. The “luxury” segment of the residential market includes homes priced over $800,000, and rising home prices are pushing more homes into that category, she said. The average luxury home sale price in 2021 was $1.25 million, Windermere reported. “It used to take years to find the right buyer and now these homes over $1 million sell pretty quickly. And there are a lot more selling. In the last two years roughly 20 homes sold over $1 million,” Monetta said. Instead of years on the market, those high-end properties were only on the market for an average of 71 days last year, she said. The jump in home prices is also illustrated by the median price per square foot, said Adam Rynd, broker/owner of Coldwell Banker Winthrop Realty. “Our median in January 2019 was $235 per square foot and it climbed

to $286 per square foot by January 2021. In the past year that has rocketed up to $357 per square foot. That’s nearly 52% over three years, with about half of that increase over just the past year,” Rynd said.


Lack of inventory is a driving force behind soaring prices and bidding wars among buyers for homes in the Methow Valley in the past two years. Homes have sold well over listing price in many instances, and often buyers with cash have won the wars – a trend that is expected to continue in 2022, brokers said. “There were times in the recent past where a buyer could tour six or eight possible home matches, more land choices than you could realistically see in a weekend visit,” Marrone said. “Now buyers don’t have those choices. ‘Here is the one home in your price range. Do you want it or not?’ We burned through our excess inventory by the end of 2020.” A snapshot of the inventory in early February this year showed only six homes in the Methow Valley

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available for sale, said Rynd. “One of those is priced at $499,000 and the other five are priced between $750,000 and $925,000,” he said. The low inventory of properties and strong interest among amenity migrants in relocating to Methow Valley has resulted in an extremely competitive seller’s market that brokers describe as brutal and stressful for buyers and realtors. “Almost every transaction is a multiple offer,” said Marrone. “In 2019, the list (price)-to-sale ratio for homes was around 98%. In 2020 that rose to 99%, 2021 was around 106%. But there have been sales below list and as high as 40% over. Very sexy properties are more like 15% to 40% above list. Unless we have a major stock market crash, I do not foresee a substantial change in 2022 pricing or competition.” Bob Monetta, designated broker/ owner of Windermere Realty, estimated that about 90% of successful home buyers involved in bidding wars last year paid in cash. People who needed to finance a purchase simply couldn’t compete in the bidding wars. “Cash is king,” he said.

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Total sales by area

Courtesy Windermere Real Estate

With a dearth of single family homes for sale, some buyers turned to buying land with the goal of building a home, brokers said. That pushed inventory of land down 37% at the end of 2021 compared to 2020, and drove average

prices up by 49%, according to Windermere’s year-end report. At the end of 2021 there were only 18 land parcels available. “More people were trying to grab some land and figure out a way to get something built. Many

were looking for a long time and finally decided to get on with it. A lot of buyers lost their selectivity,” Delene Monetta said. Land sales have been complicated by a moratorium on building permits put in place by the Okanogan County Commission in early 2021 to give the county time to resolve issues related to water availability for development on existing lots. The building permit moratorium affected about 230 parcels in the Methow Valley that would have drawn water from the Methow River. “Most brokers discouraged sellers with impacted parcels against listing,” Marrone said. The moratorium was repealed by commissioners in January 2022, and a separate moratorium that stopped subdivisions was allowed to expire that month. That could open up more options for land buyers, brokers said. “We expect to see more land parcels come on market once the snow melts that sellers have been holding back on listing,” Marrone said. “I do not expect to see them listed at any discounted rate though. Still, more inventory will

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come of it.”


The Methow Valley has long been attractive as a location for second homes, especially among Puget Sound residents. But some brokers say they are seeing an increase in people looking for primary homes here. “I would say more of my buyers are seeking primary homes versus secondary homes,” said Clark. She estimated that 70% of her buyers last year were looking for a primary home, compared to 30% seeking a part-time residence. “For me it used to be closer to 50/50 or even 60% part-time to 40% full-time,” Clark said. People buying vacant land appear more likely to be planning for a part-time residence, she said. In keeping with the zoom town phenomenon, many buyers in the past couple of years say they plan to work remotely from the Methow Valley. “Most buyers, at least of the higher-end properties, are bringing their jobs with them,” said Clark. “Most buyers I work with are planning on working at least

partially remotely, but do plan on keeping a western Washington presence as well,” said Marrone. “It’s not all ‘high tech’ buyers. Sales, academics, research, consulting, doctors, therapists, all manner of corporate positions, engineers, mediation, writers, insurance, mortgage brokers. There are a huge amount of jobs that can be done remotely.” The TwispWorks economic study found that 87% of remote workers in the Methow Valley owned a home here (rather than renting), and of those homeowners 30% said they had moved since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Because of the reliance on remote work, it’s no surprise that access to high-speed internet is a top priority for people seeking property in the Methow Valley. That can be problematic, given gaps in broadband availability throughout the valley. “I usually lead with that question,” Marrone said. “Do you have a specific critical internet speed required for your work. That definitely rules out some areas for buyers.”


With no indications of slowing in demand for property or rising prices, the valley is facing changes that will shape its future. Recreational communities like the Methow Valley are experiencing accelerated growth that challenges their “small town” identities. “I’m not sure I’d even call it a small community anymore,” said Bob Monetta. “It’s a very different valley than it was 10 years ago.” Even before the COVID land rush, lack of affordable housing for middle-income and lower-income residents was a significant concern for residents and community leaders, leading to creation of the nonprofit Methow Housing Trust five years ago to develop homes affordable to working class families. The influx of wealthy buyers adds further stress to the housing market, prompting the Winthrop Town Council to declare a “housing crisis” last November. “The impact of remote workers on the housing market … cannot be overstated,” the TwispWorks economic study of the Methow Valley said.

Local brokers see the impact on the ability of people who live and work in the Methow Valley to compete for housing. “If a local seller has six offers on their home, they are often forced to choose between local buyers and out-of-area buyers that can pay a lot more,” Marrone said. “So the seller has to feel crappy about not selling local or leave $50K or $100K on the table. It is not an easy choice when you are in those shoes.” “Twisp used to be our entry-level market. Now values have gone up. To get into a house in Twisp I’m guessing you need at least $300,000,” said Bob Monetta. “It’s a terrible thing for entry-level buyers.” A “little bitty” 900-squarefoot house in Twisp was recently listed at $339,000, he said. Many longtime homeowners in the Methow Valley couldn’t afford to buy their property today, he added. “We live on a beautiful piece of property that we couldn’t afford to own right now.” “Carlton and Methow are going to grow out of necessity for anything more affordable,” Marrone said.

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“More people will have to commute [to work in the Methow] from Okanogan. I think we are going to start seeing a lot of tiny home workarounds, just under 200-squarefeet building permit requirements. It is not a look that a lot of property owners are going to love. But people need to live someplace.” Solutions will need to include creating more affordable housing, Rynd said. “We need to continue to allocate suitable land – near our exiting towns – for more housing,” he said. “Realistically, we need to increase housing density in places that that can support it. Building more housing also creates more living-wage jobs.” Methow Valley business owners are finding it increasingly difficult to hire and retain employees, because wage earners can’t find affordable housing, the TwispWorks economic study reported. As housing prices have risen, rental prices have also risen and rental units have become increasingly scarce.

“The lack of available housing for sale or rent is directly correlated to amenity migration,” according to the economic report. “The rental market is the only thing worse than buying a house,” observed Bob Monetta. New residents can play a part in addressing housing and other issues arising from rapid growth in the valley, Marrone said. That’s part of understanding what it means “to live in such a small community with so few services,” she said. Newcomers often “romanticize” about life in the valley at first, and ultimately learn to cope “with the fact that changing your oil could take you all day or that dry cleaning is akin to a kidney transplant,” Marrone said. “It takes longer still for people moving here to realize that they have the ability to personally make the community more robust through their own efforts. But I have faith in people, that they can eventually wrap their brain around what a small community actually looks like and needs.”

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Making the Methow Valley ‘home’ Being a good neighbor is the key to connecting



s you consider making the Methow Valley your home, it is important to remember and celebrate that this valley is also home to many others.

Methow Valley News file photo

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Being a good neighbor here means more than keeping your late-night noise to a low roar and checking in on the people next door during a cold spell (although those are good things to do!). It means taking the time to understand who else calls the Methow Valley home and how the choices you make can ensure it sustains us all. The Methow Valley is the ancestral homeland of the Methow People who have cared for and lived here since time immemorial. Forced from their homeland, the Methow Tribe is now one of 12 Tribes of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (www.colvilletribes. com). Their history is rich, and their cultural values and traditions continue, despite most being forced to move to a reservation on the other side of Loup Loup Pass. The Methow Valley Interpretive Center in Twisp is a wonderful resource and introduction to Methow People history and ecological knowledge ( HomeStream Park in Winthrop celebrates not only the salmon so central to the Methow People, but also provides visitors with an opportunity to learn more about the Methow People and how they have lived with the land here (

The Methow Conservancy recently raised funds within the community to buy more than 300 acres of thriving wildlife habitat and return it to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in honor of the Methow People ( There is still much to be done to ensure Methow Descendants feel welcomed on their homeland and by learning more about their history and presence today you can help honor this valley as their home.


For thousands of years, the Methow Valley has also been home to an incredible array of flora and fauna. Today it is one of the few remaining places in the lower 48 with almost all of its original predators and prey present. From three species of endangered salmon that spawn in the Methow’s rivers to elusive lynx and wolverines, to the magical arrowleaf balsamroot which brighten hillsides in the spring, this valley is evidence that nature thrives and endures. As people who call this valley home today, the choices we make impact the homes for these plants and animals. Take the time to get to know the specific habitat you are hoping to call home – from land near water to the bitterbrush 33

hills and the forests that surround us, each area of the Methow Valley is unique, fragile and resilient in its own ways. The Methow Conservancy’s new Good Neighbor Handbook (www. is a great place to start to learn more about living thoughtfully with wildlife. See the accompanying article to learn more.

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Unlike many mountain towns in the West that have been “discovered,” the Methow Valley has had a long tradition of being a place people of wide-ranging socio-economic backgrounds could all call home. That is changing, and changing so fast that we risk losing the ability for people who work in the Methow Valley to call it home. The last two years have seen unprecedented growth in housing costs — up more than 56% in the past 4 years — and many local workers simply can’t find affordable places to live. The truth is, the Methow Valley is not a fairytale. There is real economic struggle here.

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You can help. Read more about the Methow Valley’s economy in the recently released TwispWorks Economic Study (www. Get to know the Methow Housing Trust, working to provide affordable home ownership options for locals (www. Learn about all of the Methow Valley’s nonprofits ( and find one (or more) that inspire you. Consider building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to rent to a local resident or perhaps your home could be structured to provide a long-term rental space to others. We need you to get involved and hope you will want to be a part of the long history here of coming together in innovative and sincere ways to overcome tough problems. The Methow Valley is a place where people engage, learn, think deeply, collaborate, and know that loving a place means taking action to care for it and each other. Hopefully, you will enjoy digging in and learning more about the plants, animals, and people who also call this valley home. Welcome!

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Tips for being a good Methow neighbor Conservancy’s updated handbook is a handy guide to valley living BY MARCY STAMPER

People looking for thoughtful, timely tips about how to live in harmony with our surroundings and our human and animal neighbors will find a wealth of information in the updated edition of the Methow Conservancy’s Good Neighbor Handbook. The new edition, released in early February 2022, is a compendium of practical information for everyone in the valley, whether they’re newcomers or long-time valley residents. “The tone is welcoming and non-judgmental,” conservancy Associate Director Sarah Brooks said. The handbook builds on the conservancy’s commitments to protect healthy land, clean water, fresh air, critical habitat and open spaces; and to connect people to the land and support local agriculture. There are sections devoted to living near water, forest and shrub-steppe. The book educates people about what it means to share the land with mammals large and small, and with birds, fish and reptiles. And the new edition includes more pointers about building good relations with our human neighbors – next door, in the community at large, and on trails and rivers. Illustrated with beautiful photos by local photographers, the handbook provides just a quick snapshot of key recommendations. To keep the printed book from becoming too unwieldy, the conservancy put detailed information online, where people can research the subjects most important to them.

“People kept suggesting topics, and we were afraid it would be 900 pages long,” Brooks said. The links highlight tips from the conservancy and other organizations on everything from bees to weeds to climate change. There are also resources about the history of the valley and its inhabitants, affordable building, and wildlife. Sections on living with fire and increasingly scarce water supplies have been expanded, including resources on drought-tolerant landscaping and maintaining healthy forests.


The handbook will help people become aware of things that may not have been on


their radar. It includes suggestions for preserving dark night skies, such as taking stock of outdoor lighting to determine which lights you really need, and then shielding the lights you have. It urges people to consider a building site and colors that allow a house to blend into the environment rather than stick out above a ridgeline. Practical sections cover what to do with recycling, how to enjoy the bounty of local agriculture, and where to volunteer. The handbook counsels tolerance all around. Packrats may nest under the hood of your car and rattlesnakes may curl up under your woodpile. “Remember that these small nuisances are part of the adventure, and that you can find creative ways to peacefully coexist with both the charismatic and the bothersome wildlife,” it says. The new edition also looks at contemporary issues that spread our impact beyond the Methow. For example, it reminds people that sharing detailed information on social media can negatively affect wildlife that need seclusion to thrive. It reminds us that the areas we cherish for recreation are susceptible to being loved to death. “It’s a series of thoughts on things you might want to know, not a book of regulations,” Brooks said. For a digital copy of the handbook and detailed links to more information, go to https:// People can also get a copy of the free handbook by stopping by the Methow Conservancy office in Winthrop, or by calling (509) 9962870. Copies will also be available around the valley, at real estate offices, visitors centers and libraries.

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Not just chicken feed Well-designed outbuilding does more than keep hens cooped up BY ASHLEY LODATO


n late 2021, Jeff and Molly Patterson purchased the original homestead of Jewett Davis, a Methow Valley pioneer who arrived in a wagon train in 1888. Nestled at the base of Balky Hill and known over the years as “the Davis place, “the LaMotte place,” “the Del Prewitt place” and, now, “Davis Creek Ranch,” the farmstead itself is 200 acres of terraced

fields through which the ranch’s eponymous creek flows. Many of the ranch’s buildings require a significant amount of restoration to keep them from deteriorating and, with help from

a Heritage Barn Grant, the Pattersons have begun renovation work on the iconic red gable roof barn that was once the tallest building in the valley. The to-do list is daunting. But even though some of these centuries-old outbuildings need immediate attention, the Pattersons realized that they could not relocate from their home in the Twin Lakes area to their new ranch until they had one critical piece of infrastructure in place: a coop for their 100 Buff Orpington and Silkie chickens. “We had to get the chickens and the horses situated before we could make the final move,” Molly Patterson said. And thus the plan for the Freebird Coop was born.





Two parallel buildings separated by a wide covered walkway and topped by a steep gable roof with gently sloping wings, the Freebird Coop is a chicken-lover’s dream henhouse. For starters, it’s adorable. Were the chickens not already in residence, the Pattersons could probably rent the space out for lodging on Glamping Hub. But when Patterson discusses the design, it is with practicality in mind. “When you think of all the time we spend taking care of animals, it makes sense to make some things easier,” she said. “At our old place Jeff would have to carry water every day all the way out to the coop.


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So we put a frost-free right next to this new coop. When we scoop the chicken poop, we can put it in the compost right behind the coop. The entrance is covered, so we don’t have to shovel right up to the door. And we can store hay right beside the coop instead of having to haul it over from the barn.” Other practical aspects were taken from their previous coop’s design. The Freebird Coop is elevated, which gives the chickens an outdoor covered space to go dig in the dirt, or to hide when a raptor flies over. It’s also insulated, including the floor, and the base is wrapped in metal so the mice can’t nibble the rigid foam. A heat lamp warms the entire coop — about 95 square feet

Photo by Eli Smith

— in the winter, and the insulation will help it stay cool in the summer. An automatic door set on a timer gives chickens access to a fenced area on the south side of the coop.


Across the covered walkway from the coop are a small (65 square feet) storage building for chicken feed and hay bales, as well as a nursery for baby chicks (30 square feet). Slab-on-grade construction ensures that the nursey can have a heated floor, which, Patterson said “means no more baby chicks in the living room with a heat lamp.” The baby chicks will also have access to their own fenced yard.

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The covered walkway bisecting the two buildings is more than utilitarian, it’s aesthetic. It draws visitors through the chicken space and out into the garden and eventual orchard beyond. Providing visual interest as well as a physical barrier is a custom metal gate created by Jerry Merz of Methow Metalworks, which Patterson has been holding onto for five

Methow Home 2022

years, waiting for the perfect place to install it. “I always wanted an entrance like that, through this beautiful gate,” Patterson said. “I’ve been dreaming about this chicken coop forever,” she added. “Designing and building it has really given me the opportunity to do something different and cool.”

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Preparedness is all in resisting wildfires Make your home ready for when flames threaten



ildfires are a naturally occurring event in wildlands. They cleanse the forest and allow new growth. They also threaten private homes. So, what do you do to protect your family and property when you live in fire country like ours? “Prepare,” says Craig Nelson, executive director of the Okanogan Conservation District, which provides free wildfire risk assessments for property owners living within the district boundaries. Wildfire preparedness is a homeowner’s best strategy for saving private property during a wildfire. “What you do ahead of a wildfire can change how the fire responds and help firefighters do their job,” says Nelson. Okanogan County is considered “high risk” for wildfires, which will get bigger and hotter in the future due to high temperatures, drought and the accumulation of ground fuel in forested lands. But, “Wildfire doesn’t have to burn everything in its path,” says Nelson. “Property owners can reduce their risk by planning and creating space that can be defended.”


Teri Pieper and Ken Bevis learned firsthand the value of being prepared for wildfire when, in August 2014, sparks from a trailer’s flat 40

tire ignited brush on the highway shoulder near Winthrop. The fire spread quickly toward homes on the Rising Eagle Road and Hootin’ Holler neighborhoods. When the fire cleared, 10 homes had burned to the ground. “The firefighters saved our house,” says Twisp resident Ken Bevis. “My wife, Teri, and I had worked on our defensible space after the inspection by the Okanogan Conservation District. We trimmed brush, pulled flammable materials away from the house and kept the lawn green. We worked hardest in the area closest to the buildings.” That work paid off. When the fire neared the area, a county sheriff’s deputy ordered area residents to evacuate. Despite all the wildfire preparation, Bevis said they were in shock at how quickly the fire engulfed their property. Flames came right up to the perimeter of the home site, where firefighters extinguished embers that ignited brush, a woodpile, dead grasses and a hollow log that was “burning like a roman candle,” according to one of the firefighters.

Photo courtesy of the Okanogan County Conservation District

Ken Bevis and Teri Pieper with axe and shovel in hand, dazed after the Rising Eagle fire.

Methow Valley News

Advance preparation helped save the Pieper/Bevis home from wildfire that destroyed 10 neighboring homes.

Photo by Ken Bevis

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Preparing for direct flame protection is easier than guarding against ember showers. “Even though we thought we’d removed fuel from around the house, we missed a few things like that hollow log,” says Bevis. “It was a close call.” Bevis credits firefighters for saving their home and the fact that they had created defensible spaces to give firefighters an advantage and access. He says, “Without this wide driveway that gives room for trucks to turn around, they would not have come up to our house.” Bevis says living through wildfire is “a strange feeling that I never wish to repeat.” He warns others, “If you live in fire country, take steps to prepare now. It’s not if fire will burn near you, but when.”


Communities located in wildfire-prone areas like the Methow need to take extra measures to live safely. Whether building a new home, or caring for an existing one, here are some action steps to help with home hardening against

If you live in fire country, take steps to prepare now. It’s not if fire will burn near you, but when.

–Ken Bevis wildfires: • Create defensible spaces — 0 to 5 feet from your home, create a zone of ember-resistant materials. Use gravel for landscaping including under and around decking. Keep woodpiles, mulch, flammable vegetation and propane tanks away from the house. — 5 to 30 feet from your home, group vegetation in discontinuous islands with treetops a minimum of 18 feet apart. Remove all dead vegetative materials and ladder fuels. Keep landscape green and irrigated if possible or mow vegetation to reduce fuel loads. — 30 to 60 feet from your home, make sure trees are thinned so

Firewise communities in the Methow Buttermilk (Twisp) Chechaquo Ranch (Mazama) Edelweiss (Mazama) Foster Guest Ranch PD (Mazama) Liberty Woodlands Homeowners Association (Mazama) Pine Forest Homeowners Association (Winthrop) Sun Mountain Ranch Club (Winthrop) Wilson Ranch Association (Mazama) Wolf Ridge HOA (Winthrop)

that there is a minimum of 12 feet between treetops. — 60 to 100 feet from your home, trim tree branches up to 15 feet from the ground and other ladder fuels like shrubs and small trees to restrict fire movement. Treetops should be 6 feet or more apart. Locate outbuildings at least 30 feet or more from the house and create ember-resistant zones around all outbuildings and propane tanks.

• Roofs — Keep roofs clear of debris and install metal flashing at roof-to-wall intersections. Replace or repair loose or missing tiles to prevent ember penetration. Consider replacing wood shake or shingle roofs with fire-resistant roofing materials like metal, clay tiles or asphalt fiberglass composite shingles. • Gutters and eaves — Wood under the eaves and debris in gutters provide a point of entry for embers and flames. Routinely clean gutters and caulk gaps under the eaves where embers could pass through. Screen all vents with a minimum 1/8-inch noncombustible corrosion-resistant metal mesh screening. • Siding, skylights, windows and doors — All can be a point of vulnerability to flames and embers. Siding is often made of combustible materials so creating an ember-resistant zone around siding is important, or choose fire-resistant building materials like stucco, steel or fiber cement for siding. Clean debris from skylights. Tempered glass is three

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to four times more resistant to heat and a better choice for windows in homes near wild areas, as are metal doors. • Decks — Most decking materials are combustible, although some materials like plastic composite decks are less vulnerable to flames and embers. Installing metal flashing between the ledger board and joists can minimize fire growth when a deck is ignited. Whatever is stored underneath or on top of a deck can be an ignition source and should be removed. • Garages — It’s normal to store combustible materials in a garage, so steps should be taken to reduce ignitability. Create defensible space around your garage by removing debris and other ground fuels. Make sure spaces between door frames are well-sealed from embers. Close garage doors when a wildfire is threatening. • Chimneys — Clean debris that accumulates on the roof adjacent to the chimney base. Use metal step flashing at roof-to-siding intersections. Cover chimney and stovepipe outlets with noncombustible

Wildfire preparedness resources Okanogan Conservation District: DNR Service Forester: Wildfire Ready Neighbors: Fire Adapted Methow Valley: Methow Ready: Okanogan County Emergency Management: www.okanogandem. org Okanogan County Fire District 6: Winthrop Firefighters Association: www.fireadaptedwashington. org Washington Fire Adapted Communities:

screens with openings no smaller than 3/8 inch and no larger than ½ inch to minimize embers leaving the chimney. Close the fireplace flue during fire season when the chimney is not in use. • Fencing — Fences provide a direct path for fire to your home. Either separate the fence from your home or replace the last 5 feet of fencing to your house with a non-combustible material. Remove vegetative debris that can accumulate at the base of the fence and

avoid trellises. • Emergency response access — Clearly mark street names and numbers with reflective signage and mark each junction in the road leading to your home for emergency crews. You can order signs from the Winthrop Firefighters Association. Driveways 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet allow emergency vehicle access. • Emergency evacuation — Create an emergency action plan with everyone in your household.

Include how to handle pets and livestock. Identify two ways out of your neighborhood in case one is blocked by fire or smoke. Sign up for emergency alerts from the Okanogan County Department of Emergency Management. Fast-moving fire could mean you get little to no warning. If you feel unsafe, evacuate. About 60-90% of homes lost in wildfire events are due to flying embers. Neighborhoods that prepare for wildfires together are more likely to survive. Firewise USA is a nationally recognized program that provides a collaborative framework to helps neighbors get organized and take action to reduce wildfire risks. The Okanogan Conservation District offers free-of-charge wildfire home risk assessments and supports qualifying communities through the Firewise certification process. For more information, visit Rena Shawver is the Marketing/ Communications Specialist for the Okanogan Conservation District.


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The ins and outs of good driveways Focus on safe access and environmental impacts



he driveway that looks so enticing in spring, as it winds uphill through flowerstudded meadows or a shady forest, could be a headache – or worse – at the height of winter or fire season. When you’re shopping for a house or property for your dream home, access roads usually aren’t on the top of anyone’s list, since they don’t conjure up the romantic vision of life in your new home. But doing your homework

on driveways is crucial for your safety, the safety of firefighters and other first responders, and to prevent harm to the environment. Emergency crews need visibility so they know what they’re getting into. “When driveways wind

among trees, it’s picturesque, but when you’re taking an 8-foot [wide] truck through, you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I going to make that curve?’” said John Owen, captain of Okanogan County Fire District 6’s Winthrop station. Fire crews always look for adequate clearance – at a minimum, a unblocked, drivable surface that’s 12 feet wide, even in winter, Owen said. For driveways that serve multiple homes, there should be 20 feet. In addition, there should be at least 12 feet of overhead clearance, which could require cutting low-hanging tree branches. Many homes don’t have an adequate area for a fire truck to back up. The large engines that responded to a structure fire are 30 to 35 feet long, Owen said. Ideally, fire engines can pull in

Photo by Marcy Stamper


and out without backing up. If it’s not practical to create a circular driveway, having a T at the end is helpful because it reduces the need for maneuvering.


The fire district is happy to visit a home or property and do an assessment, which can include suggestions about trees that need to be removed or trimmed, and about ways to reconfigure an existing driveway to create a better turning ratio, Owen said. They’ll even bring an engine to see if any changes are needed. “It’s well worth it, for the homeowner and for us,” he said. Emergency crews recommend marking hazards, like a deep ditch on one side, with a reflector on a pole. If you need to cross a private bridge to access your property, keep in mind the weight it must support and the maintenance required to keep it structurally sound. The typical fire engine ways 40,000 to 50,000 pounds, Owen said. People who are away all winter should still think about getting their driveway plowed, because emergencies such as electrical fires or a collapsed roof could necessitate access by fire crews. People should also keep walkways shoveled so emergency crews can reach the door. In fact, some homeowners’ insurance companies require people to maintain year-round access, Owen said. “If the driveway is not accessible, we’re stuck – we go in on foot and do what we can, and carry in equipment,” he said. Firefighters – particularly wildland fire crews – are trained to

Methow Valley News

evaluate the risk before they drive up a road, making sure there are escape routes and adequate space to turn around before sending crews into an unsafe situation, Owen said.


A driveway becomes a part of the larger environment. A road that’s too steep is prone to erosion, which can send sediment into nearby streams and upend healthy shrubs and trees. Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid having a negative impact. A guide about constructing rural roads from the University of California contains helpful tips. “Poorly located, designed, or maintained roads are the primary cause of water quality degradation in rural watersheds,” the guide says. While it may not be as rewarding as tending your flower bed or vegetable garden, keeping your road in good shape is critical. “Road maintenance should be considered an unavoidable necessity of living in a rural area,” according to the guide.

Good design and maintenance will keep your costs down and reduce impacts on the environment. Unpaved rural roads are a major source of sediment that pollutes streams. Without proper drainage, a road can become impassable in wet weather. A driveway that goes uphill should be designed so that it doesn’t deposit sediment on the state or county road. Ditches alongside the driveway provide a place for water to drain away from the road surface. It’s best to construct driveways in the dry season, according to the

guide. Minimize grading and soil disturbance and haul away excess sediment, rather than dispersing it on adjacent land.


Okanogan County is responsible for permitting some aspects of driveway construction, including the connection to a county road. The Planning Department looks at driveways as part of the overall site analysis. Waterfront properties also require a special shorelines review. Okanogan County Public Works


has jurisdiction only over the part of a driveway that connects to a county road, to ensure compliance with approach angles, sight distance and grade. Public Works recommends that people check with Fire District 6 to be sure the driveway meets standards for emergency and EMS response, County Engineer Josh Thomson said. Homes with driveways accessed from state highways must comply with standards set by the Washington State Department of Transportation.


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Methow Valley News


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