Monday, August 31, 2015


Mike and I went to the farm at Gilbert today in order to survey the wind and fire damage sustained there on Saturday. Before I begin, let me say that scores of families are homeless due to this season’s wildfires, and our hearts go out to them. What I’m reporting here amounts to some excitement in a quiet community which resulted in the loss of a few trees. We’re nostalgic over them but we'll recover.
The fire may have started at that power pole.

Actually, Mike and I missed the excitement. We had planned to stay at the farm all day Saturday and stop for dinner at the Mexican restaurant in Orofino on our way back to Clarkston. If we had done that, we would not have missed the excitement. However, the smoke at the farm increased overnight and we decided to return to town Saturday morning.

Looking west to the north field from the road
At the culvert in the lane looking west into the draw
Here’s the story: About 3:30, the wind blew a power line down, and a spark ignited a fire in or around the north field, perhaps in the stubble. All vegetation is so very dry. Alert neighbors, Pete Curfman and John Richardson, both retired farmers, spotted the smoke and came with equipment. John disked a wide fire break in the north field to keep the fire from spreading and protect the house. Someone called authorities because before long, a busload of firefighters was brought in. They must have been nearby because by 5:30 the fire was controlled.  

I don't know if these apple trees will survive.
From what we could see, the fire appeared to move in a northerly direction away from the house. The fire fighters moved into the draw below the north field in order to build a break and keep the fire from sweeping toward Little Canyon. You can see from the pictures here where it burned. Really that whole area where the road curves into our lane is badly charred. Also affected are the trees midway the lane, including the apple trees. This could be where the fire started.

Pine limbs cover the cherry tree
We also experienced wind damage. High gusts broke the top out of a large Ponderosa pine in the grove. And I hate to tell our daughter but a big pine limb fell on the little Lapins sweet cherry tree we planted last May. It was doing so well. It has just one limb intact. This is at least a setback. Well, it can be replaced.

A small crew of fire fighters from Boise were on site this morning.

So, we have some decisions to make regarding the disposal of burned and broken trees and perhaps replanting. Otherwise, it wasn’t so bad. Evidently our power was never off, so I didn’t have to deal with food issues.

Sometimes a fire brings renewal. We’ll see what happens. KW

[This farm was homesteaded by my paternal grandparents, Julian and Ina Dobson in 1896. My dad, Vance, was born here in 1904.]

Sunday, August 30, 2015


…so with a west wind I don’t think we could have saved the house after this grove got afire. Ina Dobson, 1934

Harvest in N. field 2015
People have asked us if our farm property south of the Clearwater River near Orofino has been threatened during this fire season. We answer no, although fire danger is high everywhere with hot, dry conditions.

Harvest 2015
Harvest on our places was completed on August 18. Mike and I watched as the last field, the north 40, was harvested in an hour by two big combines. And that left the house sitting in the middle of dry stubble fields. (Hold that thought.)

Thursday afternoon (Aug. 27), we decided to travel back to the farm. Tired of packing and unpacking, I simply put a few perishables in a small cooler and a little produce in a box. I topped off the red crate, our perpetual farm tote, with bread and the camera.  

“The trouble is,” I said to Mike, “that in doing this so quickly, we’re bound to leave behind something we truly need.” He agreed. (We know ourselves very well.)

Yeah – we left behind the red crate with the bread and the camera. We coped with the lack of bread with biscuits and crackers, but I dearly missed the camera, which makes life so much more interesting.

The air was fairly clear as we arrived at the farm, but Friday morning the stinky, acrid stuff crept in again. Nevertheless, Mike made a day trip to Freeman Creek on the Dworshak Reservoir, his last motocaching trip of the year, he says. The good news is that he found all the caches. The bad news is that while he was hiking, his helmet and goggles (both brand new) were stolen at the nearly deserted campground where he parked his Yamaha XT.

A pre-harvest view of the N. field
Saturday morning (Aug. 29), we returned to town due to dense smoke, arriving just as a predicted windstorm came up. It blew through, taking the smoke with it, but leaving downed trees and power lines in its wake.

We didn’t learn about the fire at the farm until about 5:30. Farmer Kyle called to say a fire in the north field had burned about ten acres and was under control. A fire break was now in place between the house and the field, he said. We learned more when neighbor Karen called to say that her husband, John, had seen the fire early on and investigated. The wind blew the power line down which ignited a fire in the stubble. John, a retired farmer, brought a disc to make the initial fire break. As many as seventy-five fire fighters then arrived to help with the effort.

So, we missed the excitement, and no, we didn’t run right back to the farm. I felt tempted, but we were assured that all was under control and any threat to the house and barn averted. And what would we do anyway? We’re grateful to our alert neighbors who knew just what to do. 

I understand that no pictures were taken. Those who were there were busy. KW

Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 Colorado Caching – Final

There was a cache at a cemetery near the inn that we thought we could get first off and have Kiowa County but we couldn’t find it.  So we headed east on Highway 96 for about nine miles and then turned north on a gravel road.  We found one out in the sage aptly named “Sage and Yucca” that hadn’t been logged in six months.  We turned around and went back crossing Highway 96 and continuing south on County Road 49 where we found one at a place where a multitude of very old cars had been seemingly dumped in a ditch.  County Road 49 turned into County Road 8 when we left Kiowa County and were back in Prowers County.  At Lamar it changed to US 287 where we traveled south all the way to just past Springfield then turning west on Highway 160.  As it turned out we made a big mistake in not getting gas in Springfield but there were a couple of towns ahead well within our range so we didn’t stop.  

We stopped at a fairly good sized cemetery outside of Pritchett for our Baca County cache.  Pritchett would be a good place to gas up but there was no station there.  The next town was Kim which would be our last chance.  I have an app called “Gas Buddy” that gives the price and location of the nearest gas stations and I was relieved to see that there was one in Kim.  We picked up another cache a short ways down the road also in Baca County.

Just a few miles before reaching Kim we crossed the line into Las Animas County and found a cache at the Highway 109 intersection.  We also noticed a sign that said Highway 160 that we had planned on taking all the way to Trinidad was closed.  If we hadn’t picked up that cache at the intersection we would have been out of luck for Las Animas County.  However, as we did have the cache we saw we could now take Hwy 109 up to La Junta and actually shorten our journey a bit. 

Lee Ray - the good Samaritan
But first things first.  We did not have enough gas to make it to any town except Kim.  We zipped into the tiny town of Kim and did indeed find one single gas pump.  However, it was closed on the weekend.  Guess what day it was?  That’s right – Saturday.  There appeared to be only two or three businesses in town and the only one open was a kind of tire shop/garage.  We met the owner, Lee Ray Jackson, who had just depleted his spare gas.  Without even asking he immediately offered to siphon gas from one of his vehicles, which he did.  What a guy!

With gas to go we headed back to the intersection and turned north toward La Junta.  As this was an unplanned route we had no caches lined up.  Nevertheless, it was a good motorcycling road with little traffic.  At La Junta we were back on the route we had traveled the day before for about ten or twelve miles.  When we got to Rocky Ford we picked up another cache for Otero County called “Yippee ki yay!”.  It was a micro on the support of a big metal cowboy attached to the side of a building.  I  was looking up telling Yancey I didn’t see anything and it was because he had it in his hand.

We were back on an unplanned route heading northwest on Highway 50 which follows the Arkansas River.  As mentioned, this new route was going to shorten our journey a bit.  The only problem was that it was going to bypass all but one of the caches I had lined up for El Paso County.  We hit Interstate 25 just north of Pueblo about where that one cache was supposed to be – only it wasn’t there.  iPhones to the rescue.  We both have a Geocaching app on our phones and we located a cache just across the Interstate less than a quarter mile away.

Mission accomplished (except for logging the final).  Unfortunately, we got into terrible traffic as far south of Denver as Colorado Springs.  Finally Yancey had had it and got on a toll road.  It added about ten miles to our journey but was much faster.  We got into Yancey’s well before supper and now all I had left was to find and log the final cache in order to get credit for the “64 County Challenge” cache.  It was located about 40 miles west and I decided I would try it the next morning and take Kathy and the dogs with me in the truck.

Climbing to the Final
There she is
Kathy and I got an early start the next morning and the traffic wasn’t too bad.  Most of these state county final caches are pretty straight forward and easy.  Arizona was an exception and so was this one.  We eventually ended up at a golf course at Evergreen.  The coordinates put the cache on the other side of the golf course.  It was too early for golfers and there were some rough dirt roads winding through the course.  We took one of these and winded our way to the other side.  I climbed up a fairly steep hill and eventually found the cache amongst some big boulders.
Victory at last
Kathy heading down from Final
Just before we got back down I heard a horn honking down at my truck.  Soon I was there to find a very irate grounds keeper telling me I was trespassing on private property and that my truck could not be taken out till that night.  I told him that wasn’t going to happen and he eventually calmed down enough to allow me to leave.  He had never heard of Geocaching and knew nothing about the cache up the hill.  There may have been trails to access it from the other side of the mountain but we had no knowledge of that.  Naturally Kathy was super upset and I wasn’t exactly sitting on cloud 9 myself.  In our defense, there were no signs or anything to tell us we couldn’t drive on those roads.  The incident did manage to ruin what should have been a very triumphant moment.

Yancey’s Uncle Bob Sharp was arriving at noon so we stayed to see him before leaving a little after lunch.  We drove to Rock Springs arriving in the late afternoon.  We had dinner at Dickie’s BBQ, one of my favorite places to eat.  Our motel was very old and kind of a dump.  There was a good place to exercise the dogs nearby so it wasn’t all bad.  We had breakfast at a Subway the next morning and drove all the way home which was about 760 miles.  It was a long day but not too bad, probably because we stopped a few times to walk around.  The motorcycle part of the trip covered 2,200 miles with a couple of days over 400.  They were all long days (over 12 hours) because of stopping to get the required caches.  Another state crossed off the list and a lot of good memories doing it.  M/W

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Photo 1 -- Before
*Photo 2

Daughter Hallie and her husband Nick recently finished refurbishing a light fixture for their bedroom. Hallie writes:
"Tired of not having a nice light fixture in our nice, new bedroom, I woke up one morning with inspiration to refurbish this stamped aluminum fixture that is likely original to the house. I began boiling the small pieces in an old pot that we do not use for cooking in order to peel the old paint off. I believe I would have lost interest in this project that required much time, attention, patience and precision, but these requirements appeal to Nick who basically took over without my needing to give up or ask for help. He proceeded to strip the larger piece while I found replacement parts for the sockets and wiring online. After the light was painted, Nick decided it needed some painting detail to really "pop", so he bought acrylic paint and carefully painted the gold detail before spray coating a protective finish on the whole thing. It's lovely!"
*Photo 2: Paint stripped--it's actually silver in color. The finial piece turned out to be copper.

Photo 3 -- finished

Photo 4 -- to show finial

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Mike and I loaded up the Dakota and headed to the farm yesterday (Tuesday, Aug.26) intending to stay a few days, but the smoke from regional wildfires was so dense that we immediately realized we should return to town. We agreed that calling a neighbor for a smoke report could have saved us some effort, but on the other hand, we had to see it for ourselves.
Westerly from the grove over N. field

From grove toward Plank's
Meanwhile, since we were there, we watered, and the opportunity to do that was worth the trip to me. The pond is low but Mike ascertained that the cistern still holds plenty of water. The little apple tree, bare root stock planted in May, is stressed. I'm not sure it will make it. The sweet cherry tree is still doing well. The pear tree is old and struggling, but I picked a few pears which are now cooling in the fridge.

A few small tomatoes were ripe for picking. They’re quite small and the skins are tough but they taste good. The summer squash had no ready fruit but are blooming and setting on. Surprisingly, the ever-bearing strawberries are flourishing. I picked a cup of ripe berries and there will be more. We had strawberry shortcake for supper last night. (I know this is all sorta boring, but you just can't imagine how pleased I am that the garden survived my 2 1/2 week absence during the heat.)
Toward Little Canyon

Mike wanted to practice with his Remington 12-gauge pump, so I pulled clay pigeons for him from the second story of the barn out over June’s field. Then we jumped back in the pick-up and drove home through dense smoke on Russell Ridge.
Back in town, the smoke has cleared in Critchfield gulch, though haziness lingers. KW