Sunday, September 25, 2011

201 Fish And A Bunny

    While construction has slowed down, there is still plenty going on. We had friends come up for a few days at the beginning of the week. Ed actually took a day off and we went exploring in Astoria.  Although it had rained the day before, Monday the weather was perfect and so was the company.
    Wednesday we were back to helping the crew with the creek restoration project. As part of the re-channeling  process, the fish fry that are in pools must be netted and moved to the new active creek area. As we walked the top of the creek edge we heard a splash but didn't think much of it. Moments later Ed, Michelle and Terza  were in the creek wrestling with the seine net while I was up top with the camera. A frantic movement caught our eye, and there, caught between the high bank and the deep water, was a very wet little bunny. It must have been startled by our walking and fallen in. After a few false starts the bunny wound up in the bucket and was escaping into the grass. I was so absorbed watching the rabbit rescuers, I forgot to take a picture!
    Once the girls got the hang of the seine net, they started scooping fish like crazy. In two days they were able to relocate 201 steelhead fry, a few sculpin, several lamprey, and a bunny. Personally I could do without the lamprey but I guess they're part of the package.
    Thursday we were expecting more rain, so we went into town for various supplies. While we were at Home Depot, I asked if our stair parts were in, and they had just arrived the previous day. The handrail, stiles and two newel posts went into the truck. It'll be my job to sand, stain, and seal them.
    Friday the crew from Sloan Excavating put the finishing touches on the creek restoration. This is just the heavy stuff. Later a different group will come in and plant trees (willows, spruce, etc) to stabilize the bank. Instead of a 10' sheer drop off, we have a 30* slope covered with jute and soon to be planted with willows. We're hoping for a mild couple of winters in a row to let things settle in and take root.
   Friday afternoon as I was walking along the creek looking at the project, an agitated splashing caught my eye downstream. "That silly bunny fell in again!" I thought. But as I looked closer I saw a beautiful steelhead swimming upstream to spawn. She had to be at least 28" long...maybe longer. No fish tale here, I had my camera this time!  Yes, there....just to the left of that log....that dark spot.

   Still can't see her?

Well about here?

   Later in the evening we spotted another one. They wait in the Columbia until the first good rain freshens the creeks, then they start the push toward the spawning grounds. We had had about an inch and a half of rain last Sunday and that was apparently enough to get these two going.  We're expecting another good rain in the next few days, so we anticipate seeing more fish later this week.
   We have a very low tech rain gauge, although it works very well. I just have to remember to dump it out at the end of each week and write down the totals. I wonder if we'll break 100" this year? For the sake of the creek, I hope not!
    Next week I need to start on those stair rail parts...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's All About The Fish

      While we've been working to put the house together, the Wahkiakum Conservation District has been working to keep the house where it is. The creek has made severe migrations in the past several winters during major rain storms. It has eroded deeply into the middle pasture and scoured the creek bed. Of deepest concern, it is starting to move precariously close to the base of the hill. Oh yeah....and it has seriously compromised the migration of spawning salmon. Those are the Magic Words for the various agencies who hold  and disperse the grant money for this project. 
    Before we built the house we had a soils engineer come out and look at the site. "This is great", he said. "as long as that creek stays away from the base of the hill. Then all bets are off." We've been watching with increasing dread as the creek has creeped slowly north winter after winter.
    We have been saved by the Conservation District's project and we are profoundly grateful for their help. We like the fish. We like watching them fight their way upstream in the spring. We like watching the fry swim and dart around in the summer and fall. And when they are mature, we like fish on the BBQ. It's all about the fish, and restoration of their habitat... and saving the house.
    Darin Houpt is directing the project. His midwest drawl, easy smile and sense of humor  mask a very sharp mind.
   Last week Darin, Ed and I were standing at the edge of the creek where the soil had been disturbed.
     Darin says "You think there may be gold in the creek? This part of the creekbed hasn't been disturbed for a long time and I thought I saw some color."
     Now, he doesn't push the thought. He lets it sit there and roam around for a while. Ed is peering into the sand. Finally Darin says, "You gonna go get a pan and try it?"
     Ed smiles and says "Not while you're looking. If I'm gonna make a fool of myself, you're not gonna watch."
    Part of the project calls for deeply embedded structures in the bank of the creek to deflect water at crucial locations. They dig a pit about 15' deep and 50' back, weave trees together, bolt them together, and cover them up. That's the short version.
    The real plan calls for the trees to be placed in a very specific and strategic way. Sloan Enterprises was handling the digging and tree handling, while Darin was directing.
   Ed was standing with Darin, looking at the huge hole, and  Ed says "You know, you could hide a body in there and they'd never find it."
    Darin looked pretty surprised.  Ed says "If you want to catch crooks, you have to think like a crook."
So much for being retired.
    After a bit I came down to watch. Darin was standing in the creek directing Don The Excavator Driver with hand signals. Log #2, in 2', now pick up the end and move it tight to the bank. #4 needs to cross #1 and #3. All with hand signals. He looked like a third base coach, only he was directing trees instead of runners. Once the first layer of trees was in place, they  took other logs, about 20' long, cut the end to a point and drove them into the earth. They used the bucket of the excavator like a pile driver and drove the point about 6' into the bottom of the hole. They literally weave the logs together like cloth.
     Once the logs are woven, Adam the Lumberjack, drilled holes and drove pieces of rebar though the logs, tying them together. After the structure is done, the hole is filled in. Later this week another crew will come in, put down jute cloth, plant willow shoots and seed for grass.
    This all puts a different light on the old country phrase "God willing and the creek don't rise". Truly we are very grateful to the Conservation District and Darin for all the help they've given us...and the fish.
    As a side benefit, they have had to remove a few alders and part of an old maple during this project. Because of the size of the pieces they aren't usable in the project but the will make very nice firewood for next winter.
    This winter's wood has been drying next to the barn. Ed moved it into the basement so we can use it. So far he has 2 1/2 rows about 14' long moved and stacked. Only two more rows to go!
    I helped him move a little of it yesterday afternoon. Apparently there are several techniques to moving wood. Ed scoops up a big armful and throws it into the gator for transport. I inspect each piece very carefully for spiders or other similarly creepy beasties. Ed moves the spiders out of the way. I smash them into a million pieces. Ed wore a long sleeved shirt because it was raining. I wore a long sleeved shirt and gloves because otherwise I'd be devoured alive by insects.
   Speaking of rain, the hydraulic window opened on September 15th. Who knew there was such a thing...besides Darin, that is? Yesterday we woke up to rain, right on schedule. It was so tempting to find one of our old flood pictures and attach it to an e-mail to Darin.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Surrounded By Bright Blessings

     We've been in the house for over a week and we still find ourselves having moments of disbelief. I can't believe I have been blessed in so many ways. I can't believe I live here in this place, in this time, with this person.
     Part of the frantic level last week was getting the last few things inside ready for company, and it's still not completely complete. The backsplashes aren't in the kitchen and bathrooms. The bathroom mirrors aren't done. The TV satellite isn't installed. But we can function without those things.
     I was, however, in such an exhausted hurry last week that I forgot to post pictures of several things. Not only did Ed install three glass shower enclosures, but he installed the panel to the dishwasher. We had been warned that this is often a tricky endeavor. It must open smoothly and the reveal around the edges needs to be equal. We no longer had the template for the door which added to the complexity. It went on like a dream. Once the toekick piece and the handle were on, it looked like a dream.
     He also installed the crown molding around the top of the entry on both sides. It's amazing how much the crown molding dresses up and finishes everything. It's the difference between a Tshirt and a tuxedo.
We hung pictures and picked up stuff, put away more stuff, made several trips to the cardboard recycle bin, hauled out ladders and boxes of nails and screws. We vacuumed and polished, dusted and wiped. It still needs a lot of work.

  Even so, I still look around, stunned that I live here. The entry is warm and welcoming. The living room couch is comfortable, and I'm not hesitant to pull my stocking feet up into it or rest them on the coffee table. The red chair isn't as cushy as I would like. It may go live in the upstairs guest bedroom at some point, after I find the perfect replacement. We're still unpacking things for the cabinets. It doesn't have to happen all at once.
   The guest rooms still need the drapes to be hung over the french doors. Rugs are on order for the downstairs room. I'm not very good at being patient.

     We now have a cabinet for the TV components but no TV yet. That's ok...I don't really miss it. I expect that during the winter months we'll settle in front of it a bit earlier than we do now. In the heart of winter the sun sets at 4:30. We'll mount the screen above the cabinet on a multi-directional bracket, making for easy viewing. When not in use it can be pushed flush to the wall.
     Adjacent to the family room is my much longed-for library. Nice cushy roomy chairs, meant for curling up with a enough for a toddler or two. There are several stacks of children's books and games on the lower shelves. Cats have their special bed up on the window shelf. Plenty of room for all the books I could ever wish for.

     An even more important project is occurring down in the creek. The Water Conservation District is working hard on the creek restoration. This stabilizes the creek, returns it to a more natural meander, diffuses the power of the water during a large weather event, and restores fish habitat for spawning coho and chinook salmon and other species. It also (yea!) keeps the creek from wandering to the base of our hill, washing it away and dumping our home into the pasture below. We are so very grateful for this project and their assistance.
     Ed Sr. and Elaine came up this week for a few days. It was the first time they've been up for two years. The last time they were here we were still in the doublewide.  I think Pop enjoyed seeing the creek project. It's quite an engineering marvel! The big trees are placed just so, interwoven and rebarred together in such a way as to deflect the power of winter rains. It's all much more complicated than that, but that's the short version.

     Last week, the mail brought an unexpected gift. Dan, Ellen and Elicia sent us a beautiful guest book.  Dan enhanced it with a personal touch. He found a matching type font and carved "Videan's Bluff" into the cover. It's perfect. We have friends coming up later this week, and are looking forward to many happy visits with family. Being able to share our home with friends and family is everything.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We're In!

   Hectic doesn't even begin to describe the last two weeks. There is no part of my body that doesn't have screaming muscles. This entry will be short and sweet... or maybe just short.
   Tuesday the wheels fell off the bus. The guy we signed a bid with to do the rock work on the front columns pulled his bid because he severely underbid the job. The propane guys showed up to install the propane tank but the trainee forgot to put fuel in the tank. We found out the stair parts we THOUGHT were ordered a week ago weren't.
   Wednesday we drove into town, ordered stair parts from Home Depot, bought wood to make the fireplace mantle pieces, and various other supplies we forgot.
   Thursday the CenturyLink technician came out to move some wiring around, a different stone mason came out to look at the columns, and wonder of wonders the rest of the furniture was the driveway. I helped Ed carry as much of it in as I could, but some of it had to wait for someone bigger and stronger than I am to help Ed get the rest into the house.
   Friday Ed hooked up the stove and that 90 year old stove fired up without a hitch. All six burners burned a beautiful blue. Meanwhile I had been moving everything from the apartment pantry, refrigerator, kitchen shelves, everything not nailed down...into the house. Next it was the clothes out of the closet and our toothbrushes. I was tired of messing around and waiting. I wanted in.
   Sunday afternoon, our neighbor Rick came over and helped Ed get the furniture upstairs.
   Monday we moved some stuff down from the barn. When the cat's away , the most of the things had to be wiped down with clorox then scoured.
   Tomorrow Ed Sr. and Elaine come for their first visit in two years. The last time they were here we were still in the doublewide and were just painting the apartment.  I've been trying to get everything done for the visit and have just this afternoon come to the realization that it's just good enough. I think I need to find an adult beverage and go take a breather.