Montana Covid Quarantine: Day 14

Bluebirding trek into the hills.
This was the only Bluebird house on this section that didn’t need help. Two others were boinked by our Elk herd ripping out the hayfield fence and snapping off posts, one needed cleaning out from a late nesting last summer, and two Tree Swallow boxes still needed cleaning from last summer where an agitated Angus bull pushed us away. Two pairs of Bluebirds were in and out of houses, and flying all about us.
This is our household deity of the Bluebird houses, he sings a lilting tone into “The Hum” when we need to get out and check the houses.
E and Nora watch a mated pair of Rough-Legged Hawks sweep across the valley and along the far ridges. They are arctic birds that can winter here. This is our first time seeing them!
Nora represents. #1 in the hood yo…
Happy ladies.
Dappled ground and sky.
The infinity field.
View from snowline looking down the valley to the Northern plain.
The moon is just captured at the top. At full dark the moon sat in the center of a vast glowing ring of silver, and the hoots of the Great Horned Owl echoed within it.

Montana Covid Quarantine: Day 11

Single digits last night, but the springtime sun shone all day. By 3pm it was 20, and time for E to take a telecommute break. Coyote tracks lead the way.
Frosty forest.
Shoulda brought the sled!
Wind sculpted pine at ridge-line.
Icicle-capades. Snow has been whomping and crashing up there all day.
One summer I unburied the old stone footpath from an overgrowth of lawn, it passes directly under these icicles, a scenario that inspired my dad’s infamous comment: “Your little improvements are gonna get someone killed.”

Montana Covid Quarantine: Day 10

6 inches overnight, temps in the low teens. The real cold comes tonight. Yesterday evening a 6.5 earthquake hit near Boise, Idaho; on an unknown fault line that may or may not be the same unknown fault line as our SLC 5.7- they are officially unrelated (until proven otherwise by another order of magnitude?).
We headed into the N wind on walkies, and didn’t get far.
Nora in her element.
E too far from the fire.
Waterfalls, snowed under
Footbridge to corral. Flooding curtailed.
Bird feeders have been discovered!
Pink Sided Junco (Black Eyed). Our bird books are grouping/separating them at odds.
Black Cap Chickadees.
Male and female Juncos, with a Chickadee for company.

MT Covid Quarantine: Day 8

E spent her telecommute lunch hour splitting the last of the fence posts runs, so I created a retaining wall for the stack. I also pulled the sectioned logs from last Thanksgiving from the bottom, and stacked them in the ice house with the new cord.
Windy and melting, with the ground still frozen.
Milky runoff.
Water can’t soak into the frozen ground, and the creek expands its shoreline.

MT Covid Quarantine: day 7

This is usually a bird warming house for Utah winter with the entrance hole at the bottom and perches inside. I inverted the hole board and removed the perches, and now it is a House Wren house (most likely).
Wrens and Robins used to nest on the power lines, so I added the bird hazer near the lines. The house is a peace offering.
On the main house the Robins nested on the wires to the R, also now with a bird hazer so no nesting last year. I built the Robins a nesting platform over the winter and put it up under the eave.
It is waaay up there.
Another Robin nesting platform on the little white shed, facing West.
Another Wren house/ converted warming house.
I moved this Bluebird house from a low pole in the yard up to this power pole just up the hill past the back yard. A pair of Bluebirds had checked it out earlier in the day, and let me know it was a nice house, but the location location location.
Last Thanksgiving E and I were up and went without hot water as a pex line had ruptured under the sink ahead of the shutoff valve. I bought the tools to fix it, but it was sub-zero temps and figured I’d do it next time we were up. We’ve been here a week, and I finally had time to fix it. I used the specialized tool to remove the pex collars, then another tool to squeeze the new collar/pipe in place. Easy. Now we have hot water. Meanwhile, the water outside is heating up to above freezing. This is where the creek enters the yard.
A bit further into the yard and the creek is widening out.
The first footbridge spans a rapid!
Two new birdhouses overlook the creek (plus the Bluebird house up the hill out of frame).
Past the footbridge, the creek tumbles into a series of “waterfalls”.
An ice dam sits at the lower footbridge near the corral, the stone stair at the far end is submerged.
Welcome to Montana!
I thought I could help with a few big feed buckets of rocks gathered from cuts along the road. It swallowed them in and squished up more mud as they submerged. In a few days it will be 10 degrees again, and all will be well.

MT Covid Quarantine: Day 6

Yesterday’s pile of firewood, and today’s. One cord: is 3 loads of my 6 foot bed.
A mix of split and whole log, as tall as E. See yesterday’s little pile back there? We sourced this firewood from the fellow who logged the ranch back in the late 1970’s / early ’80’s, and he also planed the big bent timber for our ranch sign in the early 1990’s, so I could plunge-route the lettering.
Three truckloads dumped out and ready for stacking in the old log ice house. E and I used couple-power to load up the truck over three runs then stack it all, in about 4 hours.
Offering the Pine Treatment, exclusively at the Ice House. Make reservations now! (no Covid).

Montana Covid Quarantine: days 1-4

The 5.7 earthquake in SLC on Wed March 18th was accompanied by aftershocks maxing out at 3 to 4. For weeks now. As long as there are aftershocks, the likelihood of another significant quake are statistically relevant. Most of the brick houses in our neighborhood were damaged, with second story walls falling away leaving dollhouse views of the interior, chimneys collapsing through roofs, and walls buckling in and out with lighting -bolt cracks. The aftershocks continued to dement the neighborhood, as everyone sheltered in place from Covid. An aftershock over 4.0 is highly likely, and could finish the job of the initial big quake (ours is a stick house built 1940s, and came through just fine).
An effect of ongoing aftershocks is being ramped into a state of constant physical / animal anxiety. A 3-point in the night and you awake without knowing why, with your heart pounding and adrenaline surging. Then you are awake for the next one, and on til morning. Sleep becomes problematic. In the day you suddenly feel dizzy, and notice the mantle clock, broken in the quake, is swinging its pendulum: a 1 or 2 aftershock. The shake complicated the City’s ability to respond, as the City building is an 1800’s masonry castle- retrofitted for earthquakes, but still it needed to be closed for safety. E was granted a work-from-home and we decided to rent a trailer for the truck, load all our Covid SIP (gathered since China put 700 million in lockdown) and lots of whatever elses, and head to Montana. A 9 hour drive became a 12 hour drive, as the little truck needed 4th gear (and third on the passes) to pull the big load. E drove her little Subaru, which needed gas in a 1 to 3 ratio to the truck under load.
Having an outdoor task that is essential to the household takes care of a lot of things.
E uses the big sledge to convince a longer post to split.
Getting the hang of swinging a maul, and letting it strike square.
The little 2.5lb sledge is all she needs most of the time.
Microsecond before “pow”.
The split timber is a blurr near the base of the support stump.
Nora and I head out to the big pile of old fenceposts to scrounge out some burnables and section them with the sawzall.
The next day, she is a kung-fu master.
I can hardly section the posts fast enough to keep up.
Two passes at splitting and E has us well stocked up for the rocket stove.