This stretch of warm weather has been good for the grass hayfields nearing harvest and for vegetation growing around the hayfields that the cattle have been grazing on. The water level in the river has also dropped which is an indicator that we need to get the fences shored up so the cows don’t go wandering away from the farm.
We reinstall barriers each year since the winter water levels wipe out the fencing. The trails of wire extend down stream where the current sucked it downstream. Each spring we wade out there and reconnect the wire to strong anchor posts on opposite banks of the river and shore up the fence enough to discourage the cows. Continue reading
It’s hard to imagine the river getting low enough at our downstream edge to need fencing while much of the Willamette Valley is under flood warning with many evacuations. The wet storm systems that have been coming in off the ocean are swirling in from the south and seem to peter out before they get twisted back to the coast range in the north, leaving us with much less rainfall.
We had to pile drive a couple of metal T-posts into the rocky shallows of the river and extend the wire fence that had washed out during the winter high water. If we did not replace the fencing, the cows could walk along the shallows and out into neighboring property.
Every year we have to reclaim the fences that inevitably get washed out along the river. The swift current drags debris onto the fence before it breaks from the weight. Once broken, the water carries it downstream and buries posts wire and all beneath soil, rocks and vegetation. Continue reading
Stories of old that told of the hardships that our fore-bearers had to endure came to mind when I watch the main herd of cows this day. Like having to walk to school in the bitter cold with holes in their shoes, thin cotton clothing made from flour sacks, and also the trek was uphill both to and from.
When the current is swift enough to move a 1000 lb cow downstream, it probably feels like it is swimming upstream both ways when crossing to and fro.
Cows are good swimmers and it does not seem to bother them when the water is this high, although they usually do not cross when the river is up. Most likely they crossed the night before after they had filled up with their evening meal and with the heavy rain during the night, the river rose significantly.
We did not have to call or push the cattle to re-cross the Nehalem. They saw us on the Gator loaded with their breakfast and they dove right in.
The last few years have shown an increase in the demise of the alder trees along the river. The trees are quickly coming to their natural lifespan.
This tree is the second one to fall in the last week after a series of storms. Any limbs that have not shattered completely will be used in our outdoor wood furnace to heat the house. The larger wood will be cut and stacked by the woodshed and used through the winter.
With the loss of each alder it is important that we replace with new seedlings, but the alders are about 50 to 70 years old and seedlings will not give the cooling shade and protection to the river/riparian area for several years. It is hard to keep up with the losses, each year we are filling in as many spots as possible while trying to keep the invasive species like Scotch Broom and blackberry briars from taking over the river bank.
Local news stations were calling it a rain event, it seems that term was appropriate as we received just shy of 3 inches of rain from 3pm to 7am.
The river that had been so low now has white caps on it and it is wider than the main span of the bridge. This is what we would expect the Nehalem to look like in the last half of December. The trees on the hill, the fields and the river all needed this heavy period of moisture.
Since we are so close to the headwaters of the Nehalem, the water level will settle quickly when the rain breaks for a few hours. The turbidity of the water will also clear and within 12 hours of such a gully washer. the bottom of the river will again show beneath clear water, unless we get another slug of rain.
The small culvert that finally started running last week was full blast this morning and even overflowing and running across our path over it. It too will drain fast and be back within its boundary soon.
(Just have a fun fact that I need to insert here) Wikipedia describes headwaters as:
The source or headwaters of a river or stream is the furthest place in that river or stream from its estuary
If I read this right, that means the farm is near the beginning of the end, or near the end of the beginning.
During this unprecedentedly dry November, the river is as low as what we usually see in September after a long summer.
We have been watching for the fall salmon that we can usually spot as they make their way to spawning sites, but when the river rose with the last rain it was too mucky to see anything. Then the rain stopped abruptly and the water level dropped dramatically. There had been reports that the salmon were showing up in good numbers at Fish Hawk Lake but farther upstream sightings have been few. We have not seen any of the spent carcasses of the spawned-out salmon this year, and consequently the bald eagles have not been a patrolling force on clean up duty (the sure sign that salmon are in abundance).
The forecast is for several days of rain that is expected to bring much needed moisture in a wide swath across the western states from southern California and well up into Washington. We are hoping it is not too late to add to the river for the ocean fish to get to their spawning grounds.