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Collage from circle die-cuts and scissors of bulls fighting in a corral; derived from a 1998 photo taken while on the Montana Angus Tour representing my father’s purebred outfit, Alpine Meadows Angus. The color transfer is a bit dull, and the focus soft- the weirding of digital images across platforms.

The sunroom is now cool enough during the day to allow painting to begin, so I thought I’d procrastinate on painting by finish out this collage. E was the engine behind getting this one started; she has wanted me to paint this image for years, as it has been up on my art’n wall forever. She suggested we collage it and pushed past my art-entropy malaise. We ducked out into the studio on weekends during the worst July heat, then brought it down to the basement to round out the Olympics. Collage is a great team art project where she sorts out all the color options then uses the die-cuts to amass shapes from the colors we select. We also tag-team on gluing; once I know where a piece will go, she paints the glue on the back of the piece and I lay it in. This keeps the meticulous pace moving at a rate that is actually bearable. Usually we work Non-Referentially, or what is commonly mislabeled as Abstraction. This image IS an Abstraction, where I drew out the image and laid in the shapes that referred to actual forms; a pair of bulls fighting I photographed 18 years ago. It is the first time we have gone Abstract with our collage efforts.

Obscure literary reference of title is of no consequence, of immediate consequence is global warming via human impact crushing the  ecsoystem at bottom of the post._DSC5557
Xander loves the ranch house because: KILLZ
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The Feller in a springbox.

A few days before heading out to Montana I thought I had a new solution for shutting off the water at the springbox. Further boosting my idea was a realization that I could drop a ladder into the tube to access the pipe, rather than cutting myself off at the waist to dangle upside down underwater. This new method only requires one rubber boot to slowly fill with icy water. It also allows me to think right side up, and so realize that none of my bright ideas are going to work. A cork in the pipe would be a better solution. Now I have an idea of how to shut off the water, as well as snorkel an air line in for draining the system of water all the way to the house, but that will take a whole different collection of things that may/may not work.

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The Feller’s water turnoff of a few years back failed, and the new solution is no-go. Dang.

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The old Mustang Paddock gets cleared with a last full pickup load of junk to the dump.

Another day for the full respirator and watching mice race for cover. 50 years of junk being piled onto junk, with three summers of removing huge steel artifacts down to a final pickup load and raking, shoveling, sweeping. Next I move all the storage from the log ice-house up to here, so no more smacking my head on the low door!

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The lawn was overrun with bindweed, so mowing was put on hold while weed spray took effect.

Dave came up with his weed spraying 4-wheeler all set to spray down the yard’s explosion of bindweed. The 4-wheeler had needed a jump-start, so it had to keep running; I thought about ducking back into the house for the respirator and gloves, but just jumped on and started spraying. That night I awoke in a fever-sweat feeling like I had food poisoning, but without the usual projectile problems. So, just straight poisoning then. Right. The yard. Stupid Feller.

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The yard is ready to host a picnic.

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Stanley helps E & I test out the Picnic zone, for a bigger fun picnic with relatives on Saturday. I’m guessing it is the first time the place has hosted a family party since the 1960’s.

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I brainstorm a solution to seal off the basement from critters.

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E helps with some cutting.

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This panel sleeves in at the drop-angle of the door. Eventually.

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Dense wire screening blocks scrabbling critters.

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A few more times of closing myself in there and thinking like Xander before critter-proof.

Our bedroom window is at the L side of the frame, so we were front row seating when the Packrat tried to get in and failed. She returned later in the night and failed again. I checked the next morning and saw that she had built a little nest of willow leaves right up next to the blockade; inside on the top step I saw where her trapped kits had tried to chew their way out. A family tragedy? Be more like Xander, sissy.

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Broad Valley fire greets us on our return to Utah.

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The fire is miles long and will burn for weeks.

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Stanley asks us if we realize we are driving into a fire?

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Deja vu of the day we left town with Antelope Island on fire, as well as our fire day at the ranch.

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Desertification and fires hot enough to sterilize the soil. Not like fires before the Sunbane.

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Xander and Stanley team power-nap for a recovery-day.

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Iris Bed. Step 1: scything. Step 2: pickaxe. Step 3: Pulling railroad ties from field-pile / fence repair. Three dawn-’til-coffee mornings of prep.

As the title suggests our Iris splitting project in SLC became a multi-state issue that required a massive addition of garden space in both locations. This slope below the corral drops straight into the creek at the footbridge we rebuilt in June. It is usually a wall of weeds and grasses and towering wild carrot.

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Corral is heading into the yard / Iris bed.

From inside the collapsing corral, prior to scything out the morass of weeds on the other side. Taking out the weeds turned out to be quite a bit bigger of a deal than I had planned…

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Truck pulls the fence back upright, and the framing hammer solves problems that are actual nails.

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Strapped back to standing with reject steps from the rebuilt footbridge.

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Pressure clamp makes everyone behave.

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Evening cool down, time to set the railroad ties. Pointing to where the ties need to go is all it takes. 

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Walt, this is your Brace & Bit setup: the drill I harangued you about.

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Shoulder pressure makes the Brace & Bit dive through the railroad tie.

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To drive the rebar I had to fix the old sledge handle and wedge the head tight. I brought wedges from SLC to do just that. It all held together, as long as I didn’t miss and shatter the old handle.

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I decide to expand the rr ties the next a.m.; some are rr ties, some are old cedar rail.

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Putting in the first rows of Iris.

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About 50 per row, so far. The hillside is made of dust this time of year.

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We returned from cycling the tandem up the canyon as a smoke-storm rolled in.

We took the tandem up the canyon of the Little Belt River to the remote mining/ski town of Neihart. Earlier in the week the sun and wind had turned us around 1.5 steep miles short of Neihart, but we caught a nice cloudburst on the way down going fast enough that our backs didn’t get wet. This time we had a boosting tail-wind and made Neihart, the day had been hazy with smoke from Washington, and as we made it back to the ranch a closer fire somewhere near Missoula sent a harbinger of things to come.

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The fire is about 300 miles to the west. The sun was a dull red orb.

Our forests have dried out with only skeletal remains on many southern facing slopes. Pine beetles have devastated many areas in the Little Belt range, and are beginning to eke their way into our forests.

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Around 300 Iris in this plot, and we planted 120 in the yard as a high border to the creek under the willows.

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7 varieties of Iris, originating from Wright Road, Ohio to Boulder, CO, to Overland Park, KS, to SLC,UT.

If the biggest and toughest dragon-toes of Iris can dig in, we may have a few blooms even next year; most likely it will be a year of recovery before blooming. Iris like well drained soil in full sun, but this spot is pretty tough.

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Respirator. Tyvek suit. Shovel. and the destination over my left shoulder.

Some ranch jobs are fit only for “The Feller”. “A feller could put on a mask and coveralls, take a flat shovel and clear out all that mess in the grain bin,” says mind-Dad. “It needs that broken door covered with panel, and no sense in that ’til she’s cleared out.” Mind-Dad is a taskmaster, and besides he has to ghost swathe and bail the hay, leaving jobs like this to “The Feller”.

Version 2

This is the kind of job that elicits a specific sort of face…aaand there it is.

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I should have worn the other tyvek with booties, as it was just dumb luck that kept the swirling floor of mice from going up my pantlegs. A trade off to the slippery mess just under the dry surface.

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Three feet thick in some parts; old feed bags, some still partly full; critter-hulled seed; critter stink piles; wet dank yuck; mice swarming for the hole in the floor that needs patching.

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The stink drives off the photographer as the pile grows and grows. Even the ever-curious Paint Horse is moving off.

The pile gets much bigger, and gets old naily boards added as well. Dave will remove it in the fall when he is up with his bobcat to rework the corral fence.

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The sunset came together quick and I shambled out into the yard with the camera still a bit funked by The Feller’s day.

Usually we try to keep an eye on the sunset potential and get ourselves up on a high ridge with the camera before the colors come on; sometimes the yard is the optimal spot.

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Looking down the valley.

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Up the hill over the corral.

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The road down the valley.

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The sun has set but the colors keep going.

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Ultraviolets begin to burn out of the night-blue clouds.

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The days mousecapades are melting from my mind.

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It is so much bigger than you would think…

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A Big Sky even from the deep valley.

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The roof needs some new tin and tightening up the old tin.

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This is the remains of the old broken down swing-gate from the previous panel.

This gate was original to the corral, so probably more than 100 years old. It was hand hewn from raw timber brought down from our forest, fitted by draw-knife and chisels, then pinned with nails. The main vertical pole sat in the steel footing and a long run of pole travelled the weight from the nose to the rear support pole (this broke off decades ago). The entire thing tied into the corner of the grain bin. It was muscled in and out of position for nearly a decade, and replaced with a steel swing gate last fall. I salvaged its pull pin last fall for a gate elsewhere in the corral. A few of the poles were intact enough to be repurposed on a side fence of the yard.

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Putting in new pine panel, and old cedar panel stored under the shed.

It has been a few days since emptying the grain bin, and the pure evil stink of the pile has calmed in pure evil stink- while the inside of the bin is nearly dry.

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Panel cut and screwed in place to cover the hole of the old destroyed door. I salvaged all the hardware off the old rolling door in case I ever need to build a working door again.

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Cutting dead panel and replacing with old still-viable cedar panel original to the building.

My helper-horse, the Paint, noses through my power tool bag and tries to lift the bag and make off with it; then he puts his nose into the back of the truck and nudges out the circular saw ’til it falls to the ground; he nibbles at cartons of screws while eyeing me just to get me to come over and take them away. He also likes to stand broadside to any area I’m about to need to get at. He gets an apple from E for being such a good helper.

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Runs of new and old replacement panel.

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I brought this door back to true and square with clamps and screws, then caulked all the topside runs.

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I bought new cedar board for edging the building. Most corners are missing the edge panel, or have fragments up toward the roofline.

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Pre-painting them white for easier installation, but they will be put in storage for next trip as the grain bin will take a few days to cure out its new paint.

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The next morning E and Stanley follow the electrical cords to find what Danger is up to. He got started early, as this will be a long slog of ladder work in grinding out and painting the entire structure in a day.

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Up to laddering the high back wall and grinding it all down.

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The friendly Paint offers his encouragement as the grinding grinds on.

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All sides are stripped of old paint and furred wood; time to blow it all off.

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4pm. Now on to painting the entire thing.

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The tall side faces the county road.

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The view from the horse pasture.

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The middle building is where the grain crib was heading without this upkeep. And my Helper-Horse.

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Alpine Meadows brewing storm at dusk.

We headed up to Montana for a stint of workationing at the ranch. On one of our first evenings up we drove over the ridge to check the 20 Bluebird houses along the county road, and old Kibbey Ridge road. A storm gathered and boomed, socking in the mountains.

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Finger of approaching storm over the ranch, with bluebird house in foreground.

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Anniversary Bluebird trek begins here.

Last summer I made 6 B-bird houses and we set them up along the high hayfield. This past June one was knocked off by itchy cows, this time up we found another knocked off and most of them had been well rubbed. This old gal in the corral is at optimal survival height, and is older than I am.

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E holds old nest of bbirds, and a hawk feather.

This is the last house of the anniversary trek. It was perfect, protected by a steep sidehill from the cows. We decided to move the entire group (save this one) up to the high inside run of fence of the hayfield- most too steep for the truck and so much too steep for cows.

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A portion of the upper hayfield; baled.

The new placement for the birdhouses is along the ridgeline, along the skyline of the steep alpine meadow that borders the hayfield & bails.

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Found scrap as rattlesnake; twisted rod, hoe, seed drill.

Walking back down to the house, we stopped off at the old rhubarb/raspberry patch. I brought a giant seed head of rhubarb back to the yard and placed it on the woodpile. A buzzing began at my feet, and as my brain reeled into snake mode and I two-stepped back- the rattlesnake at my feet had coiled up and ready to strike. It was happy with my quick retreat, but continued to coil and buzz its tail under a shelf of cedar post. So the rest of the day was spent mitigating snake habitat or snake-surprise areas.

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Dave helps move the woodpile / look for the rattler.

Dave stops in with heavy welding gloves and a flat snake-shovel and helps me move the woodpile into the woodshed. No snake.

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No snake, no woodpile.

The human brain is hard-wired to interpret any line or curve on the ground as a snake. Usually this lays dormant and unnoticed, but once primal survival instincts are primed they take precedence. So lots of downed Willow branches got double-takes, and our little group of yard-friendly Garter snakes elicited electrical flight response as they tumbled out from under bridges and swam across the stream or sunned on the foundation of the house.

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Kibbey Ridge with gathering blue twilight storm and old bluebird house (on the fence line, not the old building out in the field…).

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E spotted another downed b-bird house out in a meadow on Kibbey Ridge. It needs a roof and some tlc.

This fixer-upper joined the 6 new redwood houses up on the high hayfield, placed when we moved them all to the upper fence line- making 8 houses on the trek, starting with the mid-century unit at the corral.

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Glad to be back in Montana, standing within the ranch looking toward the storm-obscured Little Belt mountains.

Back in Utah it was over 100 degrees all week. We left town as Antelope Island, out on the Great Salt Lake, burned with wildfire and filled the valley with smoke. Our return trip will take us alongside another fire 90 miles north of Salt Lake City, the smoke spilling south and mixing with the massive fires out in CA. more to come…

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The ladies drop by for Montessori lessons from the humans.

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Today’s Lesson: insights into strangely retentive bipeds. These are two of three closet doors stored out in the woodshed for a few years; scrubbed with 000 Steel Wool to release grime and old paint and etc, then refinished with lemon oil. Finally rehung in the Bee Bedroom.

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E & I spend quite awhile pulling old metal scrap out of the lower river, then on to old or abandoned/new fence posts sequestered all about, and some old salt troughs made of car tires. Which led E to brainstorm; why not use those big tractor tires to guard the barn from the horses? So I rolled this one uphill to the barn, with E helping to steady it as the hill grew steeper and my enthusiasms waned.

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Why did rolling it up there seem like a fun idea? Tire #2 gets dragged behind the truck, with a few smaller bonus tires in the bed.

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 Mostly because I rolled the first tire through a sloppy mess of cow shit.

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Horse bumpers. The equine’s love the shade of the barn, and kick out the foundation and rub and rub. These tires guard the refurbishment of the barn, putting an endcap on two long troughs made of split tractor tires. 

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The inspectors arrive.

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All the tires, and old troughs, get holes drilled through to drain any standing water.

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Another round of holes are drilled and wire stitches/threads the tires together. The horses  wond when I’ll get around to filling the tires with grain or salt.

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Stanley told me I wouldn’t be able to cut wire that thick with those pliers, but I had to try anyway.

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We head out for sunset up onto the high ground on both sides of the valley, zooming about on a lender 4-wheeler.

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E spots a windfarm.

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I painted this landscape back in the 1990’s; no windfarm back then.

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We were just on the sunny spot on the far ridge a moment ago; the other side of the ranch.

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E stands in for scale.

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These deer run along with us for a bit.

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The Aspen save up that golden sunset light between them for the autumn.

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View to the North, and Belt mountain.

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This is where our place blends into our neighbor’s. 

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Belt mountain turns purple at sunset.

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Next morning; departure day. Yard is looking spiffy.

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Stone trails are all revealed. This one leads to the new footbridge.

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All tidied up for summer.

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We’ll miss the big bloom of Iris, but this white lady opened early.

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She awaits our return.

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E & I went up the valley a bit to salvage these two viable cedar planks remaining from the piled remains of a demolished bridge put in by a timber crew who set up a mill to thin our forest back in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s. I don’t think such big cedar timbers can be found anymore. They are the sturdy looking forms spanning the creek in front of the worn old footbridge.

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Bridge or Trap? Depends on how you walk across it.

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The support rails are a pair of Lodgepole Pine felled from the forest behind the house, seated on rocks/dirt, and severely compromised by rot. The planks are thin, probably from the timber crew’s mill. Affixed with drywall screws, many screws have rusted and sheared making for flip-boarding.

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The planks were the only thing holding the lodgepole rail on the left together, and it comes apart as I pull it out. The one on the right is so heavy with water that I use the truck to pull it out.

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I use a pickaxe to pull bricks from a grass-mound, where bricks were planted long ago and still sprout. E & I loaded them into the wagon and trailed them down to the bridge. A pair of extra pavers from re-footing the woodstove a few summers back provide an “L” structure that will hold a span of salvaged cedar 4×4.

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Bricks disappear into the hole faster than you expect; more trips to the brick mound.

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The big salvage planks are a few feet shorter than the Lodgepole, so I clear the area while I come up with a plan.

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The first layer is all brick set deep in the mud, then this layer raises out of the creek. 

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We jump through all the structural footing, as the camera battery needed a recharge. Here the big rails run inside the pavers, resting on the 4×4 rail and held in place by massive toe screws, and further supported with Redwood end-cuts from the new Pergola back in Salt Lake.

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Safer to walk across than the old bridge already. Measuring for planks.

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The planks are 2×6 cedar runners salvaged from broken corral panels and an old feed trough.

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A few of the planks just fell apart while being sectioned, so E & I scouted out a variety of possible alternatives, many of which also blew apart. Eventually we had enough planks to skin the rails.

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I cut a step into the rails at each end with the pole saw- E points out that Safety Comes When Man has suspended the power cord over the creek. I probably should have used the chainsaw for this, as it is easier to establish a level cut with- but I was running low on fuel after all the big willow clean up.

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Putting in the first step.

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Standing on the step and beginning to skin the bridge. I’m using all-weather deck screws; they won’t shear like the old drywall screws.

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I pre-drill all the holes for the skin boards, even though the screws are “self-boring”, to ensure that I don’t lose any to splits. It takes more screws than I have left after triaging the garage, and I have to go through my collections of salvaged deck screws from SLC projects.

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The hawks play on evening thermals over the forested hill beyond the corral.

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The last step is cut and outfitted.

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Before: A memory of a bridge.

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After: Actual Bridge.

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