Alpine Meadows Summer Expedition


A nice Charles Russel sunset looking North from the high meadows with Belt Mountain out on the Missouri plain.


The ranch is nestled a few thousand feet below the high meadows. Here you can just see the house and barn amid the pines and willows.


First up, moooving cows out of the yard & corral and back to pasture. They shattered the old/broken front gate, collapsed the wooden fence in two places, tore down the barb wire fence, and part of the corral. Way to go cows. After fixing most of that, it is time for yard chores: mowing, hedge trimming, tree pruning, brush cutting, etc.


When up last winter I measured for a new front gate frame, but lost the measurements. I usually set fence at hip, above the knee, and ankle- so I welded out the frame to fit that scheme back in Salt Lake. It lined up pretty well. Then it was off to Great Falls for 16′ lengths of split rail fit into my 6′ truck bed. Walt and I make the plan come together.


Dave dug two holes with his bobcat while we were in Glacier, and Walt & I set the two posts (one square and one round), drilled and set the gate supports, mounted the steel gate, and cut the split rail and bolted it in place. Here we are fitting the bottom rail.


Walt brings the final rail for its fitting.


“What do you think of that Walt?” “No good.” “Yeah, but other than that its fine right?”


The new multi-tool gets its chainsaw head added to top off the gate poles.


No more cows in the yard. Well, not through here… From the front it looks close to one continuous line of fence. If the truck was still with us I’d have brought in more split rail and continued the fence to the right- replacing the two log rails.


The ladies stay inside for a nice cup of coffee while us lads make the gate.


A bit of laundry is done by hand and let dry in our Solar-Powered Dryer. The old washing machine died when the house froze back in 2009.


The corral gate will soon be wrecked if I don’t fix it. It is kitty corner to the yard gate, and the cows had pressed through it as well.


The span-board had snapped long ago, and the old girl just gets muscled around. Here I have propped up the floating leg till the broken ends of the board met, and removed the lower portion of board for refitting.


A section of split-rail from the front gate will splint everything back together nicely.


Clamped in place, the split rail is ready for bolts and nails.


The traveling tool cache.


Bolts connect the rail to the upper portion of the shattered trans-board, and I nail the fence panels to the split rail.


Big lag-screws are ratcheted into the gate hinges, replacing old loose double-nailed triage.


Now she flys and hangs in the air as she should. Later I add an old cinder block at a slow angle that she slides up and can be lifted to a full stop, then chained in place. No more unintended rodeos.


The gate inspectors arrive for structural critique.


I pull the old front gate apart for these two long runs to add to the corral gate.


As dolled up as she can get. Later I’ll spray coat her with linseed oil to help protect the old dry wood.


While the cows were in the yard they slipped all over my newly built (last fall) hurricane door to the basement. It held up structurally, but they tore off the tar/sand roofing and stripped off screws holding the steel roofing down. Plus they left blowfish marks on the bedroom windows. We nearly had cows in the house it seems. Here Walt and I gather new rebuild media.


Metal roof sheeting is tucked away here and there, and we find pieces that will cut to fit. I make a water tight flap, and a new cap for both sides.


The top panel is later fit with hinges to open first and bar-bolt in place, then I bolt on a sturdy handle so it is easier/safer to open and close.


Walt and Kaye will fly back to Wichita, so they have their city duds on. Might be time for a nice group photo.


Stanley asks if we can shoot it again.


We had a nice Sunday brunch with my second cousin Holly and her husband Greg, and Holly’s mother Sereta who had lived at the ranch while a toddler. This pencil drawing of the ranch is in their living room, done by a talented nice of Sereta’s from a grainy old 35mm photo.


This feed grinder is at their place outside the town of Belt. It killed my great grandfather when he was in his 80s. The big polished steel spindle is a belt drive that connects to the tractor. The belt grabbed his sleeve and bashed his head against the steel while chewing up his arm. A piece of family history that I hadn’t known.


A bit of wrestling while napping for the mousers. We lost count at 10, they would display their kills for us and sometimes eat them and some would get away after a good batting around to die behind the furniture. The last few days there were no mice left, but still vigilant mouse patrol all night long.

This is the best method for scraping the house: a feller (my dad) a ladder and a tractor- back in the 1980’s. In the mid 1990’s it was me in the bucket, but without the ladder as my dad would place me on a high spot, then go tinker on the swather/bailer. That faithful old tractor is still in the machine shed, and would likely need some advanced tinkering to get running.


With the truck in repair limbo 300 miles away, we had a few extra unplanned days on our hands- so why not scrape and repaint the entire house?

sc0020f00cThis is the best method for scraping the house: a feller (my dad) a ladder and a tractor- back in the 1980’s. In the mid 1990’s it was me in the bucket, but without the ladder as my dad would place me on a high spot, then go tinker on the swather/bailer. That faithful old tractor is still in the machine shed, and would likely need some advanced tinkering to get running.


Its just that simple. Or is it?


That unfinished spot, way up there behind the tree: beehive.


House with new gate & paint. I had matched paint for the second floor windows and brought it out from SLC- but we ran out of time. We went to Belt to check business emails at their little bar and it didn’t work. We tried to check our phone messages, which is always out in MT, but the Indian tec support had no idea. So we drove home and there was a tall flat slab of stone in the middle of the lane on the highway, placed just so that it was impossible to go over or miss with a tire. It took out our right front tire and we pulled into a ranch driveway along with a big pickup pulling a large camper- he had tried going over it and it had flipped up into his engine and ripped off belts and who knows what else. Our spare was rusted in place. It was also flat. The camper had an air pump that plugs into a lighter. We limped home, and headed to Great Falls for a new tire. Make that 4 new tires, as it is an AWD sports car with past mid-life tires. It took 8 hours. They screwed up and had to fix their screw up. The didn’t do an alignment, though we told them to- and were grumpy about even looking at it on the rack. The manager gave them a lecture about how it was their fault the work was screwed up in the first place. Still 8 hours though, and no alignment. Great friggen Falls for you. But the truck’s parts were in, so the next day was 300 miles to pick up the truck and 300 miles back. (in repairing the fuel sender they cracked the fuel relay, which they would have known they did- says my go-to shop here in SLC after they found the problem) Then the next day was shut down the house and drive 600 miles home. We will have selective amnesia about this for years.


Comparison photo of the house from 2010. Not as bad as it looked this year, but getting ragged.


Dawn rainbow in our Global Warming forest.


Double rainbow. All the way.


Tiny yard bunnies are invisible if they hold really really still.


Bark beetle flies to screen.


Finch egg in bushes near creek in backyard.


Garter snake lives at footbridge.


It thought about raining tonight.


We had a John Carter moment of being on Mars.


The mini-aspens in their tiny grove where we scared up a pair of wood grouse.


20 minutes after sunset, twilight catches fire.

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