Each spring during March and April we gather dead-fall from 100 or so cottonwood trees along the creek bottom. This year is far worse due to a deadly storm last July that brought hurricane-force winds and amazing destruction. We have been cleaning up since that storm, but the tall grasses that grow in summer inhibit a very concentrated approach. We decided to wait until winter and try again once the snow had subsided.
Many of the larger branches and stumps had to be cut with the chain saw to make them manageable. We concentrate on those first, and then gather up the smaller branches and twigs. It is tedious, scratchy work. We dump each load into a burn pile and dispose of them in that manner, keeping the larger chunks for the wood pile and the fireplace we burn in the cold months. Smaller branches are cut to a shorter length for our outdoor patio stove which we burn in late spring and early autumn when we can avoid the mosquitoes.
We attempt to mow these grassy meadows in summer and my ambitious plan for a private nine-hole golf course is still a dream in the distant future, however the cleanup has to occur first. Even the brush hog pulled behind the tractor cannot deal with this kind of mess. It is cut, bend and stoop, load on the trailer and haul away to be burned. Like it or not.
We have lots of helpers who want to get in on the fun. Maud attempts to grab onto the end of the limbs while we are carrying them, and Sir Winston gets tangled up in our feet while he tries to give us a friendly rub. We couldn’t do it without them.
The Not So Dry Creek has been running since mid-February. Flood stage had subsided and most of the snow had melted one week ago, but this week we have had another 8-10 inches of snowfall and bitter cold. Trying to get tractor, trailer and other equipment in to some areas is a challenge that will not go away soon. And when this latest snow melts, we will be back up to some level of flooding again. Ethel will be in heaven.
Ethel, our one remaining goose has been waiting in a dusty, dry poultry house all winter for a bath and a good meal of roots and mud. She is in her element and spends the entire day fishing and bathing in the water. The chickens like to pick along the creek bank although it is a mystery what they are after – still too cold for bugs and worms!
My fondest dream as a child was for Dry Creek to run again all year long. I spent the spring flood season splashing around in the water up and down the creek. My bum lambs would join me for a nibble of green grass. Alas, by July the water was gone and I was back to being a dry-lander. Underground springs are found for several miles along the creek bottom and we have a nice pond that is spring fed. In the early part of the last century, homesteaders built dug-outs in the creek banks and utilized water from seeps.
The water makes its way downstream to eventually join the North Fork of Powder River. Reservoirs that hinder its progress have been overflowing and the underground water still makes its way to join the river, which flows into the Middle Fork of the Powder. Who knows, perhaps climate change will bring my dream into reality and Dry Creek will run once more! I’m not buying a fishing pole any time soon.