Kitchen cabinet redo, courtesy of the wife and daughters

Annmarie and the girls have been working on the kitchen cupboards. They are stripping and repainting them. We knew this was going to be a very labor intensive job and have been putting it off for a few years. We bought paint samples and even painting the cupboards in places to compare colors and get the right ones. We wanted to bring out the colors in the backsplash and countertop. They have been working on it for three weeks now. The cupboard doors are almost ready to prime and paint. We just have a little stubborn paint at the 90 degree on the door side that would stop the doors from fully closing so I need to get it out. I think I will have to take a razor blade knife to get it out easily.

Annmarie has been diligently working on it. The paint stripper is citrus based but it still gives me a headache when they use it. After a few coats of that and scraping it off they sand it down. Annmarie has been doing the inside and Monica has been concentrating on the doors outside. We have some sawhorses and an awning set up outside to work under. It is slow and methodical work and they are all doing a great job. We have all new hardware, hinges, magnetic latches, door knobs and pulls. I have been informed that I will be doing the hardware install. But honestly, I am getting the best deal possible when it comes to this job. Once the second set of cupboards are done then we will pull out the fridge and do the lower cabinets and the little cabinet over the fridge at the same time. This will mean no ice maker for the duration of that time! This is a painful prospect when it is 109F.

The amazing part is our back runoff creek is still running even though we have had record high temperatures all week. I don’t think it will last another week as it has really lowered this last week. The puppy, chance had to go to the vet because she started peeing every three minutes! Turns out she has some kind of fecal infection from something she ate out here. We tried to make a list but it was fairly disgusting so we just chalk it up to her being a puppy and her gut needs to toughen up. We are treating it with antibiotics and she is doing much better. Gizmo had to go to the vet also four days earlier for a bloody nose and unceasing sneezing. He had a piece of cheat grass up in his sinus cavity. They got it all out and after a few days on steriods he does not even snore any more! He is also doing great.

We love rain, it doesn’t love us

It’s Friday andI wanted to do some more fencing but from the beginning of the day it was not going to happen. The front creek was already on the rise and the only reason for it is because the back creek has been diverted and is flooding the upper fields.
As soon as Tex and I ate breakfast we went up to the upper field ready to clean out blockages in the upper creek. We found three places the water was running over the creek banks. Two of those places we could not fix, the water was just too high.
The third one was a hole in the dike only about 3 feet wide and a foot deep. We filled it with sticks and stuffed grass in amongst them and got the leak stopped. I didn’t get wet and 1/3 less water was leaking out. We headed down to the house to get some fencing done.
Unfortunately, it started to rain heavily! So plan B was to do something that did not entail being out in the rain. I try and avoid the rain whenever possible. I might melt.

Potential bathroom

Front Spring

Stewart creek upper 7 acre field

I decided it was time to work on the bathroom upstairs. We emptied the whole thing out and I went to town and purchased all the lumber I thought we would need to rough out the walls and frame in the duct work. We unloaded all the wood onto the front porch and set up the compound Miter saw on the front porch. Tex can use a tape measure and a saw so I fed him measurements and he cut the 2x4s and brought them up to the bathroom so we could frame up sections and install them. The longest boards were 13′ but we could not get that length board past the top of the stairs. They would not turn the corner. So we made two 6.5′ sections and attached them in the bathroom.
We were running out of time and I needed to get foreman input from Annmarie. She needed to help me decide how we were going to cover the chimney, exhaust vent and plumbing vents. I could have made three vertical stair step sections or one diagonal wall. She went for the diagonal wall.

Bathroom ducts framed in

I wish it was yesterday

It rained all night Saturday night. We could hear the back creek roaring while we were in bed. There was a small discussion on whether Tex would show up after it rained all night, but he had my number and had not called so we figured he was going to come regardless. He did show up but I had already decided that we were not going to work out in the mud. I considered working on the inside of the barn and putting up the wooden runners on the barn walls for our new round hay bales but I need the 2×6 boards to finish the outside fencing. In the end I figured he could wash the walls one last time in the spare room and we would hang the new closet kit in the spare room and put all the furniture back in the room. I set him up with water and rags and went outside to feed the animals. I can use my coveralls and stay clean while feeding.

I did notice that the back creek was very high. After feeding the sheep I was driving the tractor toward the cows when I noticed the orchard flooding.

I called Annmarie and asked her to send Tex outside. I wanted him to bring the pickup down into the orchard. I thought the issue was the culvert that is too high. My plan was to rip out the culvert and let the water run down the ditch. The problem with this plan was once I drove off the side of the ditch I was going to get the tractor stuck. So I dove off the edge, and Tex would hook onto the tractor box blade with the pickup and pull me out. Tex did not pay attention to how much mud he was getting on himself in his zeal to be helpful. I secretly think he thought if he was dirty enough I would not let him back in the house to wash walls.

Once we got the culvert out the water level started to drop. I then noticed a few high spots in the ditch. So we started digging them out. I would dive off the edge, get a scoop of mud and he would pull me out with the pickup. We had done this about 12 times when I noticed that the water level kept rising!

It finally dawned on me that the reason the water level was rising was that more water was in the front channel. I told Tex to gas up the tractor and I would go grab some hand tools. I snagged a metal dirt rake, two shovels, and two double bladed axes. As I came out of the woodshed I could see the front spring getting higher. I told Tex to leave the tractor as we would probably just get it stuck in the mud. We needed to hoof it quickly up the creek and find the blockage. As we started up the creek there was water in the lower field, way more than there was supposed to be. It just got worse the farther up we got.

The upper two planted grass fields looked like lakes not fields! It took me two weeks to plant those fields and I was afraid Mother Nature was going to ruin them in a matter of hours. I figured the problem was up in the seven acre field. There are Sumac bushes growing alongside the creek the entire length of the field. I have been ignoring them since we moved back 12 years ago. Two years before that my Father-in-law had to hire someone to come dig the blockages out of the creek during a storm and that person got their backhoe stuck then got their CAT stuck and spent 3 days fighting mud to get their vehicles unstuck.

The water was pouring over the dike wall into the field causing many problems. The main problem was we could not just go to the problem area. This section of creek has a concrete weir poured into the banks and its the narrowest spot. I was sure the water was damned up behind it. I was right. We climbed it onto the flotsam and started to pull branches and thistles out of it and toss them onto the bank. The water is definitely runoff from the snowmelt as it was very cold. We cleared the first jam and moved up the creek.

It looked pretty good when we finished.

The trouble we found as we moved up the creek was that there were more live trees in the actual creek bed and the fence had gotten involved in the act. I forgot to grab a se told fence pliers. It never even occurred to me that the fence would be an issue for us. This is the actual creek below, it started to get this massive pile of small debris that was forming this incredibly dense fibrous mat. At one point I cut the fence with an axe. Tex lost one of the axes into the creek. If someone finds an axe between here and Pendleton its mine!

Tex just hung in there and we kept at it until we had most of the water contained back in the stream bed. We went 6 hours with no food, no water and working nonstop. Tex just kept working without any complaints. He managed to not fall into the creek and I accidentally stepped off the edge, it was hidden under running water and dropped four feet into the ice cold water, luckily Tex was right there and was able to pull me out. I am not sure I could have crawled back out on my own.

We found a dead deer with its leg stuck in the fence and a cow elk dead alongside the road. You really don’t want to dig around in the deep weeds, you never know what will turn up. The entire fence alongside that stream for 1/4 mile will need to be moved and redone.

On the way back to the house the fields were already starting to look better. I need to dig some deeper ditches. We had to dig out the ditch in the upper prime field.

I was utterly exhausted and soaking wet. It’s hard to be cold when you are doing that much manual labor. Just as we got into the barn lot you could see that one fence was pushed over. I tried to clear branches from the culvert at the creek crossing and ended up falling on my back in the silt mud. I got the branches but I was ready to get home. Tex’s extra railroad tie next to the bridge had floated away. He will have to pt it back. Most of the creek crossings are filled with debris and will need to be cleaned out but at this time food and sleep are the most important things on my mind. I stripped on the back porch and got money to pay Tex. I told him there was a hazard pay bonus and sent him on his way. I washed my hands, ate a sandwich, took a shower, took medications and I was in bed by 1600. Annmarie woke me up at 1815, made me eat more dinner, drink more water and then I went back to bed with a large glass of water to drink through the night. I have not been that tired in a long time.

Elk damage

Well the elk did make it down to our orchard, luckily not very many of them came down onto the bottoms. This was a boon to us as they did dig in the snow and try to find the grass. We had one cow elk that stayed low and even spent the night in the machine shed with the alpaca one night. The weather has finally warmed up and the snow is slowly melting off. One of our greatest worries was that the elk would get down into our newly planted grass hay pastures and tear them up. I have been driving up to the upper end of the farm three times a week to look at the pastures and check for elk damage. I can go all winter without ever normally seeing the other end of the farm. I am unclear how me watching for damage will change anything but it did not stop me from looking. People ask why the elk are different than deer. The picture below is a great example. You can see above where the elk dug down and ate the grass. When you look at the picture below you can see the yellow spots on the ground. Those yellow spots are where the elk dug down and ate the grass. They will tear up the grass and eat the roots. In a couple of weeks we will know how much damage was done to the pasture but since it needed replanted we are not going to worry about it. The elk started moving up the hillsides as the snow started to melt off. They did not want to stay low and only came down because the weather forced them out of the mountains.

Our back creek is running a little muddy but it is doing great. We have a rock on the creek bank we use to measure the depth of the water. This rock has been buried but the creek has gone down again and it is visible. The water is starting to run clear also. All in all if this will continue for the next 6-8 weeks it is going to be a glorious Spring!

Water in the raw

Well the weather finally let me get into the upper fields. I drove the mistress up the road, stopped and talked to one of our neighbors on the way then made my way up to the far end of the property. I was able to get into the upper wheat field and drive along the bottom pasture. We do own a four wheel drive pickup but the problem with it is its heavy and it sinks down into the mud. The mistress has four wheel drive and is very light, she also has a bucket that can be used to drag or push you out of any place you get stuck. I have learned how to use the bucket to rescue myself. This does not work if you actually get stuck in a deep hole. You need a second vehicle at that point. I have only needed a second vehicle four times to extricate the mistress out of tight jams. The ground is truly soaked at this point. It is starting to give up water and is now running down the center of the field. I was hoping to get a single large pond that held the water but it does not look like that is going to happen. I also did not dig a channel down the middle of the field like I did in the lower field. It looks like the water is working on creating its own channel. When it dries out this summer I am going to have to deepen the channel that is made by the runoff. This will allow me to install a culvert so I can cross the ditch with the tractor and implements. I don’t want to bother with installing any buried tile network to drain off the moisture. My goal is to get the grass established and get a nice double cutting from the subterranean water soaked ground. If I have to give up some land due to too much moisture then so be it. Unfortunately, the ground is so sloped that there is no pond or reservoir like effect occurring. I am not so sure the ducks will like a mud pit. This is the bottom half of the upper pasture. I still need names for the two fields in the middle. Currently I have the Upper Prime Pasture which is the 4 acres just past the barn lot, two unnamed grass hay fields and the upper field which will forever be called the “7 acres”. I will have to consult the wife as to what the names should be. You can see that the lower channel has a tendency to widen and splits near the fence. The best part of this is that the elk have not gotten into the field and rooted up the grass seedlings!

Here is the lower of the two fields. This field has a channel dug into the center of it from five years ago. The water seems to be going directly to that channel. I would really like it to go to the already dug old original channel at the middle left of the screen. That is the original ditch from the 30s. I think I could easily direct it that way as you can see a low spot is already there. I would just need to encourage that water to make the jump to the front ditch instead of creating its own. This is the lower pasture. Last year I created a series of small connecting channels and they are working. This entire area in the picture used to be a mud fest area. I don’t dare go out in either field for at least two more months. The deer are living in the bottoms with the elk living on the hillside and up on top in the CRP. This is a good thing and I have high hopes for our grass hay crop this year.

We are going to work on our taxes this weekend. I need to do the farm categories and the chicken spreadsheets. Once that is done we are going to work on our loan application for the hay equipment.