Earl Ingebright soon will celebrate his 99th birthday.
In 1958, the Seattle native and his wife, Laurine, bought an old homestead between Granite Falls and Arlington. At first, the 75-acre property below Deer Mountain was a getaway for the couple and their three children. They spent weekends and vacations in the small cedar homesteader’s cabin.
On the property were old-growth tree stumps notched by lumberjacks 125 years ago. The Scandinavian immigrant loggers jammed planks into those notches and stood on them as they pushed and pulled two-man crosscut saws through cedars, hemlocks and firs.
Ingebright, a former U.S. Postal Service inspector, retired in 1975 and turned the homestead into the Valhalla Tree Farm, which he lovingly calls his rain forest. He was named Washington’s tree farmer of the year in 2010.
From sale proceeds and lumber from the tree farm’s first 20-acre harvest in 1986, Ingebright and his son David built two houses, barns and bridges on the property.
In 2012, Ingebright was forced by his insurance company to improve or tear down the 110-year-old homesteader’s cabin, which nearly broke his heart. He donated parts of the building to the Granite Falls Historical Society.
These days, Ingebright lives in a retirement home in Granite Falls, but he gets a ride to the tree farm each day. There, he does farm chores, pays bills, tends to his dahlias and listens to NPR.
When you were a young man, did you imagine you might make it to 100?
I never thought about getting to 100. I still don’t think about it. When you are young, you never think about those things and then all of a sudden you are the “old guy.”
What is your secret for longevity?
Enjoy life everyday. Live each day to its fullest.
Is it good to get out to the tree farm?
Yes, it’s something I look forward to. It is so peaceful and relaxing in the woods.
What will you be working on next week?
Probably the stave church we are building next to our Norsk hytte cabin back in the woods. It is an ancient Scandinavian building technique that I am interested in replicating. I manage the project, give my vision to my son David and an assistant.
Name a joyful moment in your life?
The best thing about the farm is the time my son and I have spent together. And I have enjoyed all three of my children into their 60s and 70s
What is the saddest?
The loss of my wife, Laurine, in 2013.
What was your biggest challenge in life?
Becoming a postal inspector. The competition and testing for the job was beyond belief.
The job took you to San Francisco and New York as well. Where was your favorite place to live?
Oh, the tree farm.
You have been retired for more than 40 years. Have those been some of the best years of your life?
Yes, definitely. It has given me the opportunity to travel extensively and I have just about everything I want.
What are your hopes for this country?
Peace and a good economy.
What is one of the most important reasons land owners should raise trees?
Trees contribute to a clean and vibrant climate. Forests are needed for lumber, a continuing renewable resource.
How many times have you logged the tree farm?
Three times: 1986, 1997 and 2008.
What do you think about when you go out into the Valhalla Tree Farm?
There’s a feeling of peace that comes over me. I don’t know if its a “magnetic anomaly” or what, but when we come around the final curve on the way there, I feel a feeling of expectation and peacefulness.
What is your favorite music?
Show tunes from the 1930s and 40s.
What is your favorite sport?
Fishing in one of our beaver ponds, leaning back and looking at the sky, the woods and the mountain, all while having local cutthroats strike the fly on every cast.
What food do you keep in the fridge at the house on the farm?
Leftovers from my family. Soup. Right now we have loads of fresh fruit and vegetables from our gardens here.
You’ve never smoked, never stayed a night in the hospital and never broke a bone. And you did not drink wine until you were 50. What is your favorite?
Ste. Michelle Riesling.
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