Update from Patriarch Howie

[Copied from an e-mail, pronouns edited to make sense]

We need to decide where to build the outhouse.

After all day working on the sheds foundation posts, we tried the post hole digger at another location and it zipped right down because we were in the wet area vs the rocky dry area we were in.

Jake has a toilet at his house I got from my sister in law she used in her outbuilding where she lives – got for the price of shipping

I think we were looking at a 5 x 5 foot, might of been 4 x 4 ft platform to build; it would be a changing room also; probably engineer a shower, with the plastic bag holding water in the sun

I will order the exterior siding from the mill down the road; it will need to be picked up there and delivered and walked in; it might take a few trips; I would like for Jonathan and Jake to see what they could engineer to have that delivered. This is when they invite some friends to come along for the day!!!

I will give to Jonathan and Jake a list of what they can do next that they might be able to work on that next day saturday or another day – I am sure Jake might not get the day of either

Next phase after the joists and floor laydown will be to build the walls. I am planning that in June at Ian Childs parents house where there is ample electricity and a chance to get to home depot quickly.  I just noticed that week when Ian and family will be there is the week Gwen and I were going to see a favorite ballet company in NYC right in the middle of the week Weds. I will figure it out.

So in conclusion: I will leave Jonathan and Jake a list (will call) of some further work we can focus on. Major thing I think will be the outhouse foundation. we have 4 x 4′s for the posts and 2 x 6′s to wrap around the posts which need then to be cemented in place the holes are dug, just not sure on location digging only on the driest of the property has major challenges – I know for sure why they call it the rocky mountains, all we could find is one rock after another

In June too we will build the roof frames. We will haul it up there in a Ryder truck.

Howie Jake and Adam built stuff!

There are now 8 post holes dug below the frost line, one 5×5 and one 10×12. The 10×12 has posts and yesterday (10/24/2010) we poured the cement to secure them. It snowed overnight but we don’t know the conditions at the ranch. It was kind of cold and rainy yesterday, but if we hurry we might be able to build the floor next weekend and have something not-lumpy to put a tent on during the winter.

Also, I built a bridge over the newly identified river running east -> west, but it’s not finished.

Jake has the pictures.

Some site maintenance

The Miller Project (.org) has moved hosts and I am updating everything in sight.  Latest versions, new graphics, better functionality, all that jazz.  Right now there are no pictures, but rest assured! They are on my computer and will return once the gallery is resurrected.  Send feedback on the new theme, if you like.

9/27/2009 – Prep Work

Jake, Mark, Carter and I went out for the weekend to do some random stuff before it gets too cold.  Jake and the others focused on clearing a path for an excavator to work on the drainage ditches some more and we talked dimensions and such, hoping to decide on something that will handle the spring melt.

I worked on the irrigation ditch and was able to clear some bottlenecks.  Half of the thing is now flowing at full speed and not overflowing to the land around it.  The middle portion of the ditch dropped, literally, 6 inches when I dug a new channel around a tree that was letting very little water through.  It seems likely that we will dig a flood basin for the drainage ditch and the irrigation ditch to overflow into during the melt and during storms, otherwise we’ll just end up flooding the wrong places.

Jake has pictures, I unfortunately do not.  So at some point, maybe.

We have one more trip planned but I’m not sure what we’re going to try and accomplish.  Since the irrigation ditch is my pet project I’ll probably try to do that, but we got snow in the mountains yesterday and it may already be too late.

Quick August update

Since the July fun I’ve checked up on our work to see if it did anything, positive or negative.

The upper ditch has captured water and the lower one has not.  This means the upper was enough and that the lower should be enough in times of flash storms.  We’ll need to dig the trench taking this water to the lower section now so that we don’t end up with mosquito friendly ponds.

The irrigation channel was good in some areas but mostly it created extra flooding on the east side.  This is bad on the surface (get it?) but good because the topology is now very clear.  We’ll need to expand the channel around the bushes as they have been made into choke points by the widening we did.  I expanded the exit point (southwest) and built flood walls using the mud I dug out.  This added an extra 2 feet to the height.  Doing this along the entire channel should be enough to stop most of the flooding.  I’d like to get this done before winter since we’ll need to see how the entry/exit points behave during spring thaw as well as how the leakage from our westerly neighbors affects us.  We may need to put a wall of sorts on the property line.

Speaking of which!  Apparently the valley was surveyed in the 60′s with what has been proven to be incredibly inaccurate.  Some GIS maps from the county show property lines that bear little resemblance to the fences.  I don’t know if these are authoritative, but we need a survey!  A licensed surveyor would be best, but someone with a GPS and some experience would be a good starting point.  There are things we need to dig and build that are dependent on knowing where we are allowed to start and stop.  The upper ditches may already be wrong.

Fall is basically started and winter is soon.  Come ski!  I have guest rooms now.

July Addendum – Now with photography

I got frustrated trying to figure out how to embed a gallery when I did the July post (even computer nerds experience this!), and I’ve been busy moving and generally changing everything forever to revisit the issue.

But no more! I have unlocked the secrets, and without further delay here are our experiences in July when the family gathered with chainsaws and heavy machinery.


Friends and Family, the month of ranch style celebration approaches.  Every year in Pine Valley (the name of the ranch, remember?) there is at least one celebration that I know of for sure, possibly two.  July 4th is what you would expect it to be and July 24th is one only state residents and interested friends/family know about.  Pioneer Day, basically an aftershock of July 4th.

The big extended family get together on the 4th is one our part of the family has never participated in due to historical complications, but if you’re interested and will be in the area, need a place to stay or a ride, call Jonathan (801-949-1475) and he/I will make arrangements.

The 24th may indeed have ranch happenings, but we’re looking to go there for a more Miller-focused experience.  On the weekend of the 10th-12th we will be visited by brothers Howard and John for a first-hand survey of what Jake and I have been going on about, with a professional looky-loo by Juliet Johnson, Family Water Engineer, to see what can be done about the whole water thing.  There are some aspirations for getting excavator/chainsaw work done over the weekend, and if we have 2+ chainsaws we’ll be able to clear non-soaked camping areas for the 24th.

Rather unsurprisingly if you know Jake and I (more me) we cleared the part of the ranch that was sogiest without actually being submerged.  The hornet’s nest should have been a clear omen.

So to recap: July 4th is the valley-wide festivities; July 10-12 we work; July 24th we play.

More Ideas

What a difference a day makes… or about seven of them anyway.

Mark (who isn’t related to the Miller family but is always up for doing something if it’s outdoors) and I went up today to spend a few hours clearing more wood.  We wanted to spend most of the day up there but I had things in the morning and we had to get back in the evening to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins in game six of the playoffs against the Capitals (which they lost unfortunately).

We realized though, that it really is a great time to do work up there because despite the wet conditions the logs are all exposed and we were able to get at some that would have otherwise taken a while to get to because of all of the grass and other shrubs.  We were able to clear more area for camping as well as clear a better and drier trail from the Howell/Purpurra property.  We also discovered (or rediscovered if Jonathan already realized this) a clearly defined fence line on the north end of the property.  I think that fences surroud roughly 85% of the property which makes everything a lot easier to figure out.

We went along this fence line and tried to cut through some thick growth from the open pasture part of the land to the more wooded part.  It’s pretty swampy but we got a start.  We also laid some logs over the swampier parts that we needed to go back and forth over like little bridges.

The main difference though from a week ago to today is the water level is a little bit lower and it’s more defined exactly where the water is coming from.  There are actually two main paths the water is following from the high part to the low part of the land and two paths the water is following from North to South.

The water flowing from the high parts to the low parts can be taken care (I think) by digging a french drain (as suggested by Jonathan) along the Eastern edge (the higher edge) of the property and the Southern edge.  The two streams flowing North to South can be brought together shortly after they enter our property and the one remaing path dug deeper and wider to avoid creating the marsh we have now.

I still think it will be at least one more long weekend up there before we’re ready to rent a small tractor to get started on this but I think it’s very feasible.  The one other obstacle in the way right now is the power line running to the Howell/Purpurra cabin is down.  The transformer nearest their cabin is actually sitting on the ground and the power lines sag to about six feet off the ground.  I have no idea if the lines are still live and I’m sure not willing to find out and I don’t know what is going to be done about this but there is no way to safely get any large piece of equipment onto our land with the line down.

Here are some pics from today’s outing.


Despite what we found in the heat of last Summer the land does have a tendency to look a little marshy in the Spring.  So those in the family who believed the property to be a marshy wetland were not entirely wrong.

Wanting to do some camping next week Karleigh and I drove up to the property to scope it out and make sure the snow had all melted.  With the late storms we’ve had here in Utah and the elevation of the ranch I figured there might be a little bit of snow so better safe than sorry and we made the drive up there.  I was surprised and relieved to see that there was no snow on the ground in the valley, however, the mountain right above the property still has some snow and it seems to all be funneling right onto our plot of land.

The lower half of the land that is somewhat wet during the summer from unchanneled irrigation water is seriously a swamp complete with frogs.  The upper half that seemed dry last year is barely better than the lower half.  Our fire pit could be a small bathtub to wash off all of the mud that you get while walking around.

The one positive thing is that with all the vegetation still down for the count it is very easy to see all the logs that are strewn about that need to be chopped up.  I think camping is off for now unless someone has a small houseboat they would like to tow up there but we need a few day trips to begin clearing more wood while it’s all exposed.  I can also now see the definite need to get a little trackhoe of some sort to dig ditches along the upper part of the property to channel the melt water to the southern edge of the property as well as a deeper and more defined irrigation canal through the middle running north to south.  This will, of course, require some money so hopefully we can get the family organized and start working on this.

Meanwhile, take a look at what’s up there right now.

Winter Camping

On Saturday February 8th Jonathan, Carter, Mark, and I went up to try and make it to the property and do some winter camping.  We found that the final stretch of road leading to the property was not cleared of snow and had probably three to four feet of an icy snow mixture covering it.

By the time Mark and I made it up there Jonathan was already there and had parked a little ways up the road and hiked in to the camp site.  Despite Jonathan’s warnings being yelled from out of sight, Mark tried to put his truck in four wheel drive low and plow through the snow blocking the road to the property.  This was, in fact, a bad idea.  While Mark stared at his stuck truck I began hiking some stuff over to the camp site and was able to walk on top of the snow without breaking through too often.  When I did break through the snow it went up to my thighs.

Eventually Carter showed up and pulled Mark out of the snow with his truck and Mark promptly got his truck stuck again but much worse this time. So we left it for the night.

We were finally able to haul most of our gear in to the site and had a big fire going to try and stay warm since it was well below freezing.  In the interest of not hauling in too much weight we left some things behind in the trucks that perhaps we should have brought along.

After huddling around the fire for many hours and eating some tasty pot roast that Carter brought and chips that Jonathan brought we decided to try and go to sleep around 1 am.  This, however, did not work so well.  Our tents were set up on top of about three feet of snow and without our sleeping pads that were resting comfortably back in the trucks, it was cold and uncomfortable.  So after three hours of trying to sleep Carter and I got back up, built up the fire, and waited for the sun to rise.

The sun did of course eventually rise, as did Mark and Jonathan, then we made breakfast and then we had an exhausting time hauling our gear back out to the trucks and an hour and half of digging Mark’s truck out.  But of course, fun was had by all and Jonathan and I are ready, willing, and excited to take more people back up to the Miller Ranch.

One last note.  On the previous post, someone commented that they might be related to the Stewart’s and their comment was heartlessly deleted with all of the spam.  If that person should happen to stumble back this way, please post another comment.  Sorry.