In the footsteps of Betty MacDonald: New owners take on rural life with Egg and I Farm

CHIMACUM — If you had asked Phil Vogelzang a year ago if he’d ever heard of Betty MacDonald, he’d have said no.

Ma and Pa Kettle?

Rings a faint bell, he would have answered.

So when Vogelzang, 49, saw a listing for a 20-acre farm for sale on Egg and I Road, he had no clue where the name came from.

“I thought, ‘That’s a funny name for a road,” he said.

Vogelzang is now a lot more familiar with Betty MacDonald, having purchased, along with family members, the farm where the author of The Egg and I lived in the late 1920s.

The new owners have named their purchase the Egg and I Farm after the book, and in some ways, are following in the footsteps of its former owner.

Today (March 26) is the anniversary of the birth of MacDonald, author of The Egg and I and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books.

The daughter of a mining engineer, she was born Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard on March 26, 1908, in Boulder, Colo.

After graduating from Roosevelt High School in Seattle, she moved with her mother to the Chimacum Valley after her father died.

In 1927, she married Robert Heskett with whom she had two children. They divorced in 1935, and she married Donald C. MacDonald in 1942.

The couple moved to Vashon Island, and starting with The Egg and I, published in 1945, MacDonald wrote three other books based on her life, plus the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series for children.

She died of cancer in Seattle in 1958 at age of 49.

Flash forward 50 years to 2008 and the new owners of the homestead that inspired MacDonald to write The Egg and I.

“We’re rank beginners,” Vogelzang said of farming. “We have no experience.”

Located on a ridge between Beaver Valley and Center Road, the farm was a homestead with 40 acres when 19-year-old Betty Bard married Heskett.

Heskett’s dream — to become the egg czar of Puget Sound — crashed and burned along with the marriage, an experience his ex-wife turned to humorous account in a novel 20 years later.

The goal of the new owners — Vogelzang and spouse, Katy McCoy, her sister, Melinda McCoy and husband, Peter — is less grandiose.

They want to grow as much of their own food as possible.

They’re thinking vegetable gardens, fruit trees, maybe even a cow.

And of course, chickens.

“Certainly eggs and chickens will be in the mix,” Vogelzang said.

The house that Betty lived in is long gone, but Egg and I fans continued to knock on the door of Jess and Pat Bondurant, the farm’s former owners who lived there 32 years.

The book is especially popular in Europe — Germany has the largest Betty MacDonald fan club in the world — and Pat Bondurant has had phone calls from Heidelberg, inviting her and her husband to fly over and help celebrate the author’s birthday.

Last fall, BBC Radio 4 sent a program staff member from England to Chimacum to tape interviews with Pat Bondurant and longtime Chimacum residents, Aldena Bishop and George Huntingford.

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