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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The new placement for the birdhouses is along the ridgeline, along the skyline of the steep alpine meadow that borders the hayfield & bails.
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.
Dave stops in with heavy welding gloves and a flat snake-shovel and helps me move the woodpile into the woodshed. No snake.
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.
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.
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…