Bluebird houses continue to evolve (R to L), and get cheaper per unit; now down to about $5 per house as I stopped using new wood and pieced together an alternate design with leftovers.
Too many to line up on the bench!
The first three of the next gen were the same interior dimension as the blackened new originals, this dimension was a byproduct of the wood dimension of the new originals. This results in a nesting space that while adequate, doesn’t allow the parents to both fit easily in the box at the same time- which the bluebird society mentions as a concern. I made a triple set, then realized the size constraint was artificial and made the final three at a larger dimension.
The thin walls are house panel, with a build logic similar to making a crate where structural supports are external. The blackened wood is the structural aspect, from runs of rough-cut hardwood. These materials are from the previous homeowner, including a hardwood floor, and sub-roof made from old pantry shelves.
The door is switched to the opposite side of the house, so that it will open to the South. This makes the Northern windward side more secure. The door is store-bought pine. I could have ripped a wider plank down, but that seemed a waste of wide wood.
An extra inch on one side of the floor makes an exponentially larger dimension. An additional support for the house runs at the top, for structural attachment of the roof. I just realized I’ll need to add a similar kicker-board at the bottom so the house mounts flush to its post. All sorts of little cascading effects when Frankenstiening from the original.
The white paint is an oil based primer to seal the ends of the panel board. To really do these right they’ll “need” a topcoat of exterior gloss paint.
Lets hope this has birdy curb appeal. The new houses could fledge around 100 birds per year, if they have their usual two broods. The Bluebirds all flock together on the ranch in early fall, and it is remarkable enough that even the neighbors notice. I’ll be replacing some old houses that are too far gone, unused, as well as some of my “new” houses from a few years back that have become flimsy with deer/elk/bear damage and weathering- and the design had issues that choosy birds recognized and left them unoccupied.
These are for the ranch. Any guesses? Made from hardwood to live outdoors and provide a function. The function makes things easier for people to get around the property. No, not peg-legs.
It has this area smoothed down for easy hand grippage, like a baseball bat.
This welded bit is from an old MFA sculpture-mold, salvaged before I threw the mold out this winter. The eyelet will be anchored with wire to a post.
Each end has a metal knick-nack or geegaw for hooking over wire.
If you guessed “gate sqeezer” then I’d like you to guess the next powerball lottery on my behalf. An Aussie fencing you-tuber shared this “piece if kit” shown to him by a grizzled old outback rancher (his was made from a stick). It is a lever arm for opening those bruiser barbwire gates, and it leaves the gate super tight so livestock won’t pressure it.
These are in-process, the final roofing shows up down the blog; but this shows the series of six with all the basics covered. The dark color is a flame finish, an idea originated in Japan called Yakisugi (or Shou Sugi Ban). It takes about 20 minutes to “paint” the burn for each house with a little butane torch. This seals the wood making it waterproof, bugproof, fireproof, and UV tough. Bluebirds often nest in old woodpecker nest-holes carved in forests after big fires; so they should feel right at home in a flame charred house. This is a modified version of the “Carl Little” design from the National Bluebird Society, Cost per house is $14.00
Bottom floor is seated 1.25 inches up, with a cut-line 3/8 inches up- these both mitigate water. And the bottom tie-down eyehook.
The roof slopes at 20 degrees with its own underside cut-line to drop back-flow water. The lines on the bird box are grab lines for the birds, antithetical to the cliche’ perch. The smooth face keeps other birds from hassling them, and the slot entrance tucked under the angled roof deters other birds and predators as well.
The wall of the house drops open for clean out, and peeking in for brood checkups. The flat peak of the door is mirrored on the opposite wall, providing cross-ventilation in conjunction with the slot opening.
More airflow and water drainage is at the floor, with the points of the edges trimmed back. Another essential element is the climbing ladder, allowing the chicks to exit.
A secondary clean floor of cedar sits atop the house floor, with a thermal break between them of aluminum sandwich insulation.
Here the floor panels are stacked.
At top and centered in the wood slat is a threaded insert for the door lock.
This wingnut/thumbscrew bolts the door closed. Below and to the R is an eyehook, mirrored on the opposite side, (and the one already noted on the bottom) for anchoring wire that affixes the house to fenceposts.
Next is a thermal break of aluminum sandwich insulation (at L), then covered in cedar panel as weatherproof shingles (R).
The metal plates cover a little gap I added to the entrances, thinking I had made the entrances too narrow. Turns out they were fine, and the gaps needed covered. The covers are angle corners pounded flat.
Last Friday I built out this storage sled for/with an artist friend to hold seven 4×8 foot panels of a big mural. This will fit into the back of a moving truck and strap down, then the art goes in place for a 500 mile drive to Denver, where the art will then be unloaded from the sled by a specialty company for fine-art international air-freight to London, who will make the real crating.
The artist’s plan prior to this was stack them on the floor with blankets between them, I proposed that this would keep them safer: upright, separated, padded (pink gasket foam), and tied down via the frame rather than the artwork.

A Stouter Quip.

An empty zen mind may / STREW about for a STOUTER QUIP / A real BITER of a mental COUP / Casting a DRUID JINX to cut / A SWATH through unyielding conversation; / Yet FOAL up nothing, as all thought is TOO GRAINY / To conjure a MERRY WIN that cuts / With AXE edge into the visiting HE and his GUESTY buttress. / JADED jibes would BUT LAG, / Arising a NINTH behind, no GLUES to stick them, / NARY a thought to float within the AERO expanse / Where once anecdotes and retorts could demand a FEE.

His favorite carnival act had always been the Geek Throw,

watching the bodies hurl into the maw he felt a Queer dizzyness,

not felt since finding spoiled Lox deep int the chin whiskers of his Goatee,

And found by his own upper lip, thinking it had found a Cutie morsel of Interr sweetness.

Now the Horde of Lib-tards, in awkward Quad piles; he imagined the Farms that bred them;

a land without Sun, with fitness of enforced Jigs and dinners of squirming Bug Pie.

He felt they were unlikely Kin, and himself a Cad;

he began a Yern-clawing of his beard, as if it were on Loan

from an Oaf; a Lein against his entire summer crop of golden Oat.

(Quiddler Poem of ED 11/24/2022)

Crabapple skirt touches the ground.
Japanese Flowering Cherry
Service Berry tree at year four in the yard; the boldest color spanning many back yards.
Service Berry
Pampas grasses bound up for winter, so this week’s snow doesn’t lay them flat.
Pond is turned over for winter, with salt water softener added to keep the fish healthy.
Hunga Tonga- Hunga Ha-apai is mounted to the wall between the Bean Whole coffee roasters. Jed is planning on painting the black gas line behind the mask white. At night the backlighting will look great from outside through the front wall of windows.
View from the common area of the Neighborhood Hive in Sugarhouse.
The latest Aeromod to the truck is this “floating” bar of mudflaps running the length of the back of the truck, with a 6 inch gap to the ground (unloaded). The low pressure a truck drags behind it will push all the way to the front, proven in wind tunnel studies. This low line in the back is nearly as effective as a similarly (impossibly) low bumper in the front. The bar is a custom weld job from scrap metal I had around, fitting into the hitch mount (or in tandem with the ball hitch), and has two loose-fit stabilizing pins in the bumper; in this way, additional to the mudflap’s flexibility, some tip and give is allowed when backing up our steep drive. The truck also drops a lot of big ranch mudballs that explode onto the highway, so this keeps other drivers and their windshields safe.
Keeping Sting from running through these Fields Of Gold takes a full time intern. C’mon buddy, we got rattlesnakes here. No, snakes can’t tell you do Yoga; or if they can they’ll just bite harder.
The new water trough is protected yet accessible; the cows wend their way through the corral soon enough.
Up in a high pasture, Dave has added in the double sized water tank. The whole area needed grading and de-swamping, as the cattle had smashed the old tank creating a true watering hole.
The spring water rises here at the springbox, then flows via underground pipe to the trough.
Water flows in and out from within the trough. The inlet is the near pvc, and the outlet opposite and spills from underground down below (can be seen in the first image). The wet everywhere is partly things drying out still, and from a day of rain.
I guess I never took a finish shot, so here we are with one little tooth of tile missing yet.
The seamless inner surround of the window is pvc board and completely impervious to water. The upper window framing is waterproof injection formed poly resin for indoor/outdoor.
Dropping from the window to the bathtub as seamlessly as possible. This tub may find itself listed as an Elder Trap, aesthetic before safety I always say.
As we were leaving I last minute remembered to put the storm window back in place for winter. The bit of new windowsill is visible outside the window. It is juust thicker than than board it replaced, and I discovered that the storm window can no longer fit. Three corners of the window can fit, but never a fourth. This will take tools that are already packed deep in the truck, and we are on our way out the door…the house probably won’t notice.
Bucolic. Sure. Maybe. Let’s inspect the big willow trunks…
Are trees supposed to be see-through like that?
The split is visibly in the tree at right, heading toward the prone position of the one tented over the creek. This and another big willow lowering toward the power line and potentially crushing the tool shed are on my radar…
Concrete is patched.
The new refurbishment of the old system has seen its first big rain, and worked perfectly- directing water to the lower yard. Bonus, the lighter media in front of the door seems to glow in starlight- which helps when coming in from stargazing.
Last day is for cleaning/fixing Bluebird houses. This hawk flew along with us and perched on poles ahead, then flew and perched- E tried to get a picture of him perching, but no luck.
Remains of a Tree Swallow nest. They use the bird boxes as well, and are also a protected species.
The deer are in line with a bird house along the fence line.
Fall roundup for meds and sorting.
The neighbors move a portion of their herd up the road after we’re all corral’d up.
The day runs in reverse.
3 cowgirls on herd and a daddy-daughter up in the lead.
Tile is grouted and curing for a few days before sealing.
Next comes the window seal / trim, and final bit of tiling.
Meanwhile, concrete. The corner ate nearly all my bags. Another day of set before I pull the forms, and I’ll do the curve at far R and maybe a bit in front of the kitchen door.
Leveling it up with a scrim board.
The corral water trough hasn’t held water since spring. Time for a fix.
Dried out and rusted out.
Dave and I disconnect the drainage.
Bobcat slides the old trough out of position.
Time to level and build up a footing for the new tank.
The new tank is much bigger (800 gallon), rectangular, and made of heavy fiberglass. No more rusting out.
More dirt to level out both sides of the steep corral.
Slid into place, but will need posts driven around it and cross-beams added.
The water line is extended to reach the middle, next Dave puts in the drain. Then the water line is opened from its valve under the house (I surprised the packrat- she is huge! and reset her trap and blocked off her latest access), and water blasts in from the springbox far up the hill. The same water source as the sprinklers for the yard. The fiberglass tank was a chilly footbath when the springbox was empty, it will be full by morning. Dave will return to finish this out, and then head over the hill to install a much bigger (1200 gallon) fiberglasss round tank, replacing a steel tank he placed last year that the cattle promptly destroyed. The critters are putting pressure on all sources of water…
The yard lost water pressure back in July. I thought it was because the springbox splitter up the hill had been turned a bit too far to the cattle trough, but we were heading back to SLC so that was fine. Turns out, that wasn’t it.
Last fall we fixed both spring lines to the house/yard/corral, putting in 50′ of new pex line for each spring after pulling out old pin-holed metal line that had rusted out in the marsh below the house spring. We fit the pex to good metal line where the ground was dry. I discovered that 30 feet beyond the new pex was a pinhole section in the drainage near the road.
Last year’s pex line ends up here somewhere…
While I drove to Great Falls for new pex line, Dave and Ike dug out along the metal pipe looking for a solid section- we all hoped the line was still good as it headed under the county road. It was!
Always bring a section of pipe to the store. I told the hose guy I needed a 3/4 inch interior diameter(ID). He pulled it down and I said it looked small, and maybe it was a 3/4 outside diameter- he gave a little lecture on how all measurements are ID. Everything looked small, the pipe, the connectors- he assured me it was just an issue of a different manufacturer (Sharkbite v Pex). I told him it was another 80 mile drive if he was wrong- On the highway out of town I skidded into a turnaround, knowing I should have ignored the hose guy. Yarg! We’ll make it work…?
We made it work. All buried, and the helpers/bobcat went home. E and I 4-wheeered up to the springbox and I pulled off the filter I’d installed last year. At the connection to the underground tube a wad of tiny roots had formed a blockage. This was the final fix for full pressure. I headed back down and opened up the full pipe valve (added to let mice pass) and I let the entire sprinbox empty (lots of once thirsty dead mice had sunk to the bottom, as the world has dried up)- down at the yard a macabre splash-zone formed as I headed back up to refit things at the top and pick up E.
The old concrete at the kitchen needs some help. A clear old slab underlays the shattering top slab.
The top slab was poured with an inserted steel rain gutter (packed solid with dirt and long forgotten) that makes a 90 degree elbow to where another run of steel gutter (missing- a weed garden for as long as I can remember) would direct water down the hill in the back yard.
I need more concrete, and a long run of drainpipe. The record high pressure dome is baking the West and bad smoke arrives along with the heat. This can wait; I have a planned project inside where it’s cool and the d.i.y. electrostatic filter-fan keeps the air clear.
The kitchen table is filling up with tools again…the Feller must be onto another little improvement.
It took awhile to suss out the issue even with the power of Lasers. The tub is level end to end, but not side to side.
Once Nora explained things I got on to creating a first layer of tiles at level. This layer is then set and left to cure overnight, so the remaining tile can build upward.
The tiles are set, and will cure out. Next comes grout.
When I frame in the window I’ll resolve the missing top rail bits.
The yard baked for six weeks since our July trip. It was much too dry to mow when we arrived. I’ve been watering the entire yard since we restored the line, through the terrible heat & wind & 8% humidity. Now mowed short for winter.
The front yard was crispy. It recovered as best it could. The terrible megadrought late-season weeks-long high-pressure-dome is done, the smoke cleared out, it even rained a bit this afternoon, and will drop into the 30’s tonight. Fire danger is off the charts. The afternoon rain was hard enough to put up the mower for tomorrow.
In SLC it has been over 100 degrees for 10 days, hitting 107 yesterday (it was 90 here)- same record high temp there as our drive home in July. This sets a new record number of consecutive days over 100 for Salt Lake. Since records began in SLC, there have been 3 September days to reach 100. The megadrought is crushing it!