Monday, March 03, 2008

Pat Cosgrove
43017 234th Pl SE
Enumclaw WA

Newauken Creek's Chinook, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon as well as winter steelhead have been observed spawning through it.

The Enumclaw plateau stretches below Mount Rainier's belly, a sprawling mass of rural homes on farms, and dense housing in Enumclaw and Auburn. And salmon find there way home here every year.

Long before white settlers invaded Indian land, the Newauken Creek and its main tributaries that empty into the Green and Duwamish Rivers carried salmon. Newauken means "gently flowing waters" according to one translation.

Before logging, salmon ran up hill, through deep forest, to the headwaters in the Cascades where they spawned and created one of the richest salmon habitats in mid Puget Sound.

The Newauken Creek still carries some salmon, but the trees are all gone. Once the logging companies had clearcut the plateau, farmers moved in and started settlements. Dairies grew and prospered. The milk flowed, the buttern churned, cheese made. Manure flowed, too. And the creek life suffered.

Salmon are running strong still-- in large part thanks to public salmon restoration projects. Education campaigns to clean water in rural areas has helped as well.

One of the Newauken Creek's best neighbors is Pat Cosgrove, horse owner and nature lover. She has improved her small piece of land for salmon's benefit, through proper drains around her horse barn, native plantings, and encouraging wildlife to prosper.

Pat Cosgrove has bought 5 acres from a farmer in Enumclaw fourteen years ago. She moved from a neighborhood in north Seattle to get some fresh air and raise horses. The land is filling in with houses after all that time, but Enumclaw still has a rural feeling where Cosgrove lives.

Her family includes a Lusitano horse named Rosa, a little pony to keep her horse company, and her ever present fetching border collie "Name"

Pat's small barn would whistle it is so clean. She has big French drains that collect rainwater around the barn and keep the area dry.

Her 30' x 60' big fenced area has a bed of gravel. "Sand pulverizes under the horse's foot and begins to hold water-- which is the biggest problem here on my land. A good part of the back is a winter wetland. "

For some people this winter wetland would be a pain to work woith, or better fill in so that she could use it all year. But Pat has always had two goals for this land.

I've wanted horses, and to promote wildlife. We planted dogwood, spruce, other trees along the property line to encourage cover for birds and little animals. Bald eagles fly by daily. They are scavenging this big green space for food. And my next door neighbor has a pond in the wettest part of the year-- so I see lots of ducks, vultures, and hawks. " Cosgrove points out the big swales on the eastern edge of her land that serve as a buffer to filter water and keep it clean.

"My neighbor's got Neuwauken Creek running along the edge of my property . There are salmon coming up that creek still, and I like to think they'll keep coming if we take care of this land."

Middle of winter when Seattle is at her grayest and wettest, or so it seems after months of the same all winter, Cosgrove anticipates the return of frogs. "It is quiet now, -- but in the past in February is a big chorus. And you have to watch it coming out of my home-- I'll have frogs on every window, flowerpot and door. I even get them hanging out under the towel I keep by my back door to wipe the dog off with-- they hop up and hold on at night.

"This past year has been different. I've seen less than ten frogs all year." Cosgrove and many other people are concerned about what that means. " Is it a seasonal problem? Or did something happen to their habitat around here to diminish the number of frogs so quickly?"

In the mean time, Cosgrove says she has lots of other company. "I have possum, skunk, and as you can see from the little hills and holes in the gorund-- lots of voles. The voles bring coyotes, and the raptors overhead for lunch. I bought a hawk plattform in the back along the edge of my pasture, but so far have seen mostly crows roosting there. They hang out there and in the big cottonwood. One of my favorites is visits from violet green swallows that follow me on my walks with my horse. They love it when we are out in the pasture because it stirs up bugs."

Her big field is full of native plants and plenty of blue sky in summer. Of course there have been disruptions. Cosgrove and her husband split up years ago. I looked at this place -- the barn, the house, animals and felt overwhelmed. But staying here was the best decision I made. I just knew if I sold the farm, I would be living in a crappy slum in Auburn, suffocating from being back in city living. Out here I can breathe, and enjoy all that nature provides. It isn't fancy, but this is home. "

Looking through Cosgrove's bird list, it is easy to see her home is shared by many: American bitterns, Great Blue Heron, the requisite Canada goose, mallard, American widgeon, black turkey vultures, black shouldered kites, California quail, Anna's Hummingbird, common snipe, Downy woodpecker, northern flicker, common raven, lots of ring necked pheasant and northern bobwhite are a few of the diverse birds that call Cosgrove's five acres home. " I even have a merlin on my list" - Pat says with a hint of one who know the magic of being one with nature.

"I've seen two skunks fighting out here. That isn't pretty."

Today, she takes Rosa along with her friend's pack mules and goes on hikes into backcountry around Mount Rainier and a number of weekend hikes. "I love living here in the country-- and being so close to that big mountain. It is so peaceful -- and our horses love packing into the back country."

Life is a good mix right now. And Pat's grateful everything has worked out so well.

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