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Bluebirding

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Southern highlands sunset phone signal sojourn.

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The heifers all line up to use the new phone; are bummed that we still can’t check messages.

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Looking North into the ranch.

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Smoke on 360 degrees of the horizon.

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Moon is back to white, from the blood-orange of a few nights ago.

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Up at the high meadows above the hayfield along the Blue Bird trek.

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This steep is a snowbank in winter, and stays green even in our Flash Drought year. 

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Surprise! Karen has jumped up from CA to visit for a few days at the ranch.

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One of the highland’s magical spots.

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Bluebird overlook from their front porch. Four hatchlings from a week ago are now fledged.

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A quiet evening and Karen joins E & I in putting up the new series of Bluebird houses.

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E watches a herd of deer watching us.

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Setting a whole new leg of Bluebird-House trekking.

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The deer are moving out as the sunset begins to move in.

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A last group of deer run the to the ridgeline.

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A fawn leaps to catch up with her group.

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Smoke down from Canada tinges the light.

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cool air rushes through the warm grasses and summer lifts from the earth

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Setting the last of the new houses.

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E can see the wooden bird house the bear opened like a lunchbox way over on the road. 

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More of a thermos than a lunchbox, E thinks the bear may just ignore the new models.

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the stillness of twilight sweeps beyond the mind’s eye

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infinite sky over unending undulations of coulees and mountain

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The moon is a dusky primrose from on top, but later rises again at the house… 

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Deep layers of atmospheric smoke tint the moonrise from the yard. Same night, different moon.

 

 

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Bluebird Houses: new design

June’s trip to the ranch revealed Tree Swallows taking over many Bluebird houses. They are lovely little birds, and will nest next to Bluebirds and vice-versa;  so I came up with a new design of birdhouse to place 25-50ft from the existing wooden houses. Some parameters: I want it to sleeve over the wooden fence poles of the barbed wire fence offering no incentive for cows to rub on them; easy to check for nesting birds via removable lid, with escape for mother out from entrance hole; easy to anchor to post and remove from post and clean out; insulates from heat & cold; waterproof and ventilated; can handle the harsh extremes of Montana highlands- all-weather / UV / extreme wind.

The far right is the first try; all black ABS in two sections connected by a snap-in drain insert (glued to the bottom/footing and pinned with a bolt to top/birdhouse, the lid is an insert bolted in place with a an inner screw-in lid as overkill for cleanout, the whole thing is spray-painted white and cost $17 per unit. Incredibly tough, but too pricey.

Next was an attempt to blend white pvc and fiberglass fitted inserts (ABS don’t fit and there are no similar PVC parts) – so no way to glue and join top to bottom. Plus, the inserts never quite snug-in or are too big. Too many issues and pricey; abandoned to the bin.

Finally I came up with a mix of irrigation tubing (multi-layered freeze-proof), black ABS tubing and black ABS drain insert, capped with a simple white pvc cap.

Materials:

4″dia x 10″ sections of insulated pvc irrigation tubing (10′ length @ $10.35)

4″dia x 4″ sections of ABS black  (2′ length @ $10 x 3ct = $30)

4″dia  ABS black Snap-In Drain Insert ($3.08)

4″dia Cap pvc ($2.48ea)

Total $102 per 12 houses, or $9.50 per house. Cost per unit just tops redwood/cedar, but these should easily outlast the wooden houses with no issues of warping & splitting, cleaning/viewing access, livestock damage; we’ll see what the Bluebirds think.

Notes: 1. With reciprocating saw or bandsaw, cut irrigation tubing to 10″ sections /  Cut black ABS tubing to 4″ sections (clean & level on sanding belt). 2. Put white cap on 10″ Irrigation tubing and measure down 1″, using 1.5″ hole saw, cut out entrance hole (angle upward slightly to deter water runoff), remove cap. 3. Put Cut-Off wheel on drill; scribe 3 lines below entrance as toe-holds, then move to inside wall and scribe midway at entrance down to bottom for fledging chick’s toe holds. 4. Place white cap as roof, drill hole for bolt undersize and bolt will self-tap, then drill 12 holes around back edge of cap & through pipe for ventilation (upward angle to deter water & small dia to deter insects). 5. Sanding Drum on drill bevels out base of irrigation tubing for seating ABS Snap-In Drain Insert (plus smooth entrance hole)- press insert into place with squeeze clamps or tap with dead blow hammer. 6. Brush out and wipe down interior. 7. ABS glue to bottom of Drain-Insert & 4″ section of black ABS, join and press for 30 seconds, set aside for curing. 8. Drill two holes near bottom of ABS tubing, run galvanized wire through ea. hole to drop well below rim of tubing, and use pliers to clip outside section leaving enough to twist into a loop/anchor. The wire runs down inside tubing and will wrap around woodscrews drilled into the fencepost, holding the house in place. 9. Drill holes into black ABS near joint as ventilation from the bottom (visible on far R prototype).

 

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Roof w anchor pin unscrewed

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Upper Ventilation holes , Front Door with toe-holds.

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Floor & Door, with climbing grooves cut into sidewall.

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Upside Down

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Lashing Wire

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The Oasis within the Wider Oasis

Crushed a 1200 mile drive into a long weekend for a jump up to the ranch. The yard should have been impassible without a machete, but it had been mowed: I’m guessing our good lessee brought up his riding mower on a visit up to his herd. And I must have Rodney to thank for coming up with a solution to shutting off the water in the springbox, way back on last fall’s hunting trip!

E has a broken thumb from taking a spill on her road bike going over a tight curve of RR tracks, so our candid-shot photographer was down: so the Bluebird house update has no images. Bluebirds are nesting in the garage and galvanized machine shed, leaving the only remaining yard birdhouse to Wrens. Out on our wider Bluebird House trek we shunted a few nests of unhatched Tree Swallow eggs, and the distressed birds pinwheeled around, taking turns looking into the empty house and coming to grips with their loss, then stoically set to building new nests. Bluebirds still hold the majority of houses, but the lovely little Tree Swallows are the competition; it makes it hard to dump the nests as they bravely hover overhead in dire concern- I could only do it a few times and only for eggs, leaving a few broods of hatchlings. (A bit of googling upon return to SLC and found that Tree Swallows are Federally protected and their takeover of Bbird houses should be allowed; so I’ve come up with a new design for houses using PVC & similar pipe media for quick-build houses to pair with the wooden houses as BBirds and Swallows will nest as neighbors).  I eventually caused the murder of a Bluebird by cleaning out a low old birdhouse of mice and placing it on a high post with a cross beam: this year a Bbird set up a nest and something ran across the cross beam and reached in leaving a pile of spent blue feathers on the ground. So I moved that house to a safe spot.

A grouse has moved into the yard and showed up here and there like a shy chicken. Goldfinches flitted about. An Oriel flew across the yard, which was a surprise. The Orange Flicker is still building her nest in the hole in the old Willow at the footbridge. One Robin made it his business to harass her. The high bee hive on the house is abandoned, and a Wren is nesting in one of the holes the bees bored out (so still have to wait to fix that corner). The golden eagles soared around and we saw them above us all about the ranch.  A Pronghorn Antelope was on Kibbey Ridge, and a cow Elk was in the verge on King’s Hill. Of course, the ubiquitous deer were all about, spikes and 4-prongs and Does. The yard bunnies and Garter snakes and bushy tailed squirrel were all present. So too the Faye.

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1988. Visiting from Colorado

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Now. Visiting from Utah.

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I split these three years ago and they have taken off!

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A flowered pathway to the footbridge.

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Purple Columbine on the shady side of the path.

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Purple Iris transplants from Utah, 3 seasons and well established.

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Part of last year’s Iris transplant after an evening of weeding an overburden of Wild Carrot and bindweed and every other sticker. A few blooms still going…

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By the weekend’s end the new line of white lilies began to bloom along the bottom near the stream.

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The Willows are inundated with a blight of caterpillars.

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Is that intentional, or is she stuck?

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Xander and Voices display their best night patrol efforts at my slippers: 3 of 5 over 4 nights.