Xmas Ranching

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View of the ranch coming in the high route, still passable with little snow.

Elizabeth and I took the pets (Nora, and her cat brothers) for a Xmas closer to Santa, up at the Montana ranch.

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Nora insists walkies be taken up on top.

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Snow is sparkling out of thin air.

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Cold air from the plains meets the warmer air over the mountains with cloudy drama.

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Snow-virga drops toward the pyramid shaped Iron Mountain.

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Some xmas loot under the little ranch tree. E e-bayed ranch themed ornaments.

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A leather saddle, fur covered chaps with matching boots,  cowboy with lasso, a Rudolf tree topper, and many more!

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Egg ornament with tiny stage coach.

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Nora shares her bed with Xander, awaiting Santa.

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The constant wind directly evaporates the blowing snow, lees and gullies collect what they can.

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The ladies.

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A patch of sun down on the Highwoods illuminates the mountainside near my cousin’s ranch. We went over for a visit, and looked out their picture window framing the other side of the peak.

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This black-faced wasp nest was sited to eat the caterpillars infesting the willows last summer. Friendly wasps, as long as everyone respected a bit of personal space.

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One of two contraptions made in SLC for a specific ranch issue: any guesses?

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Unit one in position.

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Unit two in position.  guesses?

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This is a view of mystery wiring in the root cellar that should never have worked, but did until it didn’t. The white unit at the bottom is a ceramic light fixture with an electrical plug. The electrical plug connected an extension cord into the kitchen, via a hole drilled in the floor, to power the refrigerator. The metal box holds the incoming electrical line, where it splits to go upstairs and to power the old defunct central heating system. The hot wires are the black wires bundled together with electrical tape, the neutral wires are the yellow and white. Note that the power to the light bulb and the fridge’s plug-in have no hot wire to power them. The ceramic fixture acts as the conduit for the neutral wires, and this somehow powered the fixture. Yikes.

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I connect the wires without the fixture to make a correct circuit, then use the wiring to the old heater to run through the floor to the fridge.

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I wire in this shiny new floor plug, and below it can be seen 4 of 21 holes to the basement I patched years back. At top is the extension cord we had run from a wall plug to power the fridge.

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With the fridge working, I add a pig of wiring to the light fixture and tie it in to the corrected wiring- and it works. I remember an upstairs light switch that has the switch removed and wires bound together with athletic tape, and find the hot and neutral wires wound together under the tape (rather than bound separately¬† and taped together). I end them correctly and many other upstairs lights that have never worked, work. And the fridge runs better, and the ceiling lights are all brighter. Since we’re looking at the water heater, it doesn’t work again as the elements were all burned out by a mistaken breaker throw on Rodney’s hunting trip in the fall. I couldn’t find my pull-tool for the elements, so this will be a summer fix.

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Our first two nights we heard a whomp on the roof as this packrat jumped from a big pine tree onto the roof. I found his interior access to the rooms and blocked it, and he headed through the walls and into the basement. Where I had baited the trap. E heard his squeal as the trap hit him at midnight, then he dragged the bucket around for hours keeping her awake. I slept through it all, then gave him a quick end in the morning with the axe. Usually if you think there is one in the house, well, a few summers back we trapped/killed 13.

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Packrats are poorly named, as they are more like a bunny-squirrel. I buried him in the corral, using the pickaxe to break the frozen ground.

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We decided to come home three days early, as a massive arctic front was moving in. We drove back ahead of the arctic air mass with hard effect for 400 miles (of 560 miles) of pre-storm storm: hitting us with 80mph winds that closed roads to semi traffic, past plows that had slid off the road, through long sections of unplowed mountain roads with road edges defined by locals missing the edge and somehow making it back on track, in Idaho we hit freezing drizzle shifting to black ice on the highway and glazed the windshield, and a final 100 mile run of headwind that dropped the truck to 10mpg. Still, better than driving back in or after the actual storm.

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-15 up north on our route is +15 here, 30 degrees warmer is still plenty freezy. The Utah yard pond waterfall emerges from under an icebrella.

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Overnight drops to 7 degrees F and waterfall is nearly ice-encapsulated by morning.

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Another single digit night and waterfall encapsulation is complete. Inversion is at a dangerous 159ppm, bright yellow air is hazy across the back yard and the surrounding mountains are smeared out.

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Utah cold sometimes requires a jacket. (Mystery Fix Answer: nesting deterrent for Robins and Wrens at power lines to the house and tool shed.)

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