Homestead Apprenticeship Opportunity!

Artwork by Azul

Have you or has someone you know said

“I wish I could grow more of my own food, but I don’t know how.”


“I wish I could live closer to the land, but I don’t have the land.”


“I wish I could take a break from the city.”

or something similar?

Well, here at Two Bucks Ranch, we can help make one or more of those wishes come true for the rest of 2022.

The opportunity is for one or two people to live in the cabin on the ranch to engage in all or some of the daily work and activities here, starting in July and going through December or early 2023.

We’ve often thought about having another kindred spirit or two live in the cabin on the ranch to experience and learn more about this way of living. It would be a great help to us and an awesome opportunity for one or two people with energy, hopes and dreams. The time has come for us to stop thinking about this and to offer it up now since Two Bucks Ranch is a 2+ person operation and one of us (me) is going down for shoulder surgery in less than a month.

Please reach out to us if you or someone you know is interested or would like to know more.

Water Flows for the 170th Year

Yesterday, we opened the Berry Creek Ditch!

The ditch was engineered and built in the 1850s (by the Express Water Company). The company claimed water from Berry Creek in 1852. Ever since then, water from Berry Creek has been annually redirected through a series of flumes and ditches into Canyon Creek, and then along lower flumes and ditches to adjoining farms and ranchlands.

The water was first used for gold mining, a sawmill, farming and ranching. Incidentally, the water also turned Canyon Creek into a vibrant, diverse, year-round riparian ecosystem. The ditch and its watershed were significantly damaged by the 2020 Bear fire. The ditch will continue to be impacted by the fire damage for years to come, especially falling trees, invasive species of grasses and berries, excessive runoff from extreme rain events, and the increased risk of repeat fire.

Reopening the ditch each year first starts with repairs, as well as brush and weed clearing. This can take several weeks and hundreds of hours of labor.

Then, to open the ditch, water ditch members and relatives, armed with pitchforks and shovels, briskly advance with the water’s leading edge, over 1.6 miles of ditch and flume, removing debris accumulated in winter while the ditch is shut down.

Cleaning debris at the water’s leading edge

For the first few hours, the water is murky. But it usually settles out within 24 hours. It takes about twelve hours for the water to reach our ranch from the initial point of diversion.

Canyon Creek flowing here at the ranch

Ayi Growing Up: Braces and Swimming Lessons

Ayi’s lower canines were trapped in and just behind the upper ones, digging into her palate. It’s called malocclusion. Options include total extraction, cut and cap, or braces (actually a retainer of sorts) to coax the lower canines to sneak out past the upper ones. We need about 3 mm on each canine. One vet said he thought Ayi was already too old for this to be successful. Another vet seemed pretty confident it could work. Worst case, we wind up doing all three options if a lesser invasive one fails. Like all parents, we of course want to save the kid’s teeth if we can … and as a guardian, she needs them.

This ‘puppy’ is not supposed to chew on anything other than soft food for two weeks. If the retainer comes out, she has to go back again for more anesthesia and another fitting. She is now confined to kennel with no toys, off goat duty, can’t play and run with the big dog, and has to wear a cone.

Oh, did I mention Anatolians love to create mounds of chew toy collections … logs, rocks, sticks, etc. She especially loves round, flat rocks from the creek. Wish us LOTS of luck keeping her from chewing something.

I asked the vet if Ayi could swim because she is the first Anatolian we’ve had that has actually gone into water deeper than she can stand to paddle around a little. She loves water. Vet said swimming is probably fine … just getting her back into cone and on leash after freedom might be dicey.

Anyway, here are pictures of both — the new retainer molded onto her upper teeth and pallet and yesterday swimming in the pond.

Ayi’s ortho retainer — an attempt to move lower canines out 3 mm or so (2-3 weeks is the hope)
Ayi loves to swim!

What Home Smells Like Tonight

… freshly baked meatloaf, fried okra, and hint of wood smoke from the fireplace

Twighlight, by Maxfield Parrish

Imagine walking into a country home, about Twighlight … you are greeted by warmth on a cool evening, accompanied by fragrances of wood smoke from the fireplace, meatloaf baked in the oven and fried okra …


An Expert Helps

Y’all know we are all for self-reliance and personal resourcefulness …

HOWEVER, sometimes it helps to have an expert.

Watch Blake maneuver the excavator in the video below. Pay close attention to the tracks on the excavator as it goes by the tree, and after. I would not try this. Blake E. is the operator … he can do anything with machines big and small — he prefers Caterpillar, but in this situation, that was too much machine.

Update: Cow, Dog, Calf, Ditch

These days, we think of the fire as the “gift” that keeps giving. The scope and magnitude of the unexpected and unplanned-for work is formidable.

Anyway, things move along and here are some quick updates:

  • Lucy: we think she is 1 month pregnant. If so, due date is January 2023
  • Ayi now weighs 100 lbs. She has dental issues and will need her lower canines cut down and capped.
  • I call the new bottle-calf “Junior”. He’s doing very well.
  • The 170-year-old water ditch, the all-important conveyance of water with senior water rights, has been aged another 100 years by the fire. Our current focus is related to getting that working again for another year.
Milk cow Lucy grazing away, we think eating for two now!

Ditch cleaning

Burn-scar run-off, debris, invasive species and silt have forced us to deal aggressively with about 1/4 mile of ditch (it’s about 1.6 miles long, overall). We are literally digging it out, by-hand and with machine. Yeah, that old guy with poor posture in the above picture is me. We’ve been doing this for a number of days now. David is following-up with a shovel to get what the machine can’t. We are deeply indebted to the ingenuity and availability of machinery and diesel fuel!

In the above photo, David estimates that we removed three dump-trucks worth of debris and sediment from this 300 ft of ditch alone.

While we are doing this, two other ditch members are raking out grass and vines trimmed by the CCC crew. Two members have weed trimmed some areas of the ditch the CCC crew didn’t get to. Another member is helping with machine transport and refueling. And today we have more help: 1) one of the guys that excavated last year for us will help us today with the machine in some dicey areas, and 2) a couple other members will help out with the digging today.

We have some other repairs to complete but hope to have water flowing by next week sometime.

Tiny Excavator Operator

Even in retirement, I keep adding to my resume …

This time, it’s as an excavator operator. Granted, it’s a tiny one, only 4,000 lbs (not the 20,000 lb one we had last year for the water ditch pipeline project).

Since the fire, we have invasive grasses and blackberries filling our community’s water irrigation ditch. In order to conserve water and the proper operation of the ditch, we are removing these invasive things. The grasses are really bad because they slow the water, catch sediment, and fill the ditch so that it can’t carry water properly.

I’ve never operated an excavator until today, but so far, so good. I moved tons of silt and invasive grass roots this afternoon. Much more to do. We don’t want to use chemical pesticides or herbicides on this system. Last year we tried to dig some by-hand and it just wasn’t doable.

Cleaning sediment and invasive grasses out of the ditch
After I’m finished, the ditch is about 4′ wider and 1′ deeper.
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