Alan and Mary Shank | Unselfed Joy

What's your connection to the land? 

The place in Mukilteo where we had two horses had been in Mary's family for over 100 years. It had a long history that we were part of. It was very connected to the Puget Sound since it was on the Puget Sound. Fish, wildlife, and scenic beauty were all very immediate to our experience.

The current horse property that we just acquired had been owned by a horse friend, Lynn Elston, for the past 20 years. It had hosted many horse clinics that we attended. It's where we made many friends who also owned horses and shared similar equestrian values and attitudes. We are very connected to the history of this place as are many of our friends. Lynn had a special talent in both landscaping and interior design. It has lots of natural beauty and additional forms of wildlife from Mukilteo that we hadn't experienced like a bear that passes through it. Personally, I take lots of joy in improving soils and having good pastures. This place presents a challenge since most of the topsoil was removed prior to Lynn's ownership.

What actions have you taken as a steward that you're most proud of and/or that you feel have made the biggest difference?

My greatest joy as I said is growing good pastures. Second to that would be horse husbandry. Grass builds soil, keeps soil in place, recycles horse waste, allows permeation of rain water and its slow release to streams, keeps waste nutrients and bacteria out of streams, provides open space for wildlife and for the neighbors' view, prevents noxious weeds, etc. Prevention of mud and good manure management provides for the comfort and health of our horses. Best management practices are good for the physical and social environment.

What’s your hope for the next 75 years? And/or what advice do you have for those next 75 years?

My hope is that Snohomish County and other western Washington counties do not become completely developed; that there will be a good mix of open space, horse properties, and agriculture for future generations; that keeping water clean for fish, wildlife and people becomes a priority for every resident.

Anything else you want to share or feel is important?

Land and home owners have a responsibility to their neighbors and the public at large. What we do on the land we own affects those around us. Horse owners need to build "social capital." If we want the non-horse owning public to welcome our presence and provide trails on public lands, we need to be good stewards of the land, making the presence of horses a pleasure for all whether they are equestrians or not.