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Coatsville Update

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As night merged with day, waning light woke the Fey.

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Light mixed with shadow as language of They.

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Meaning took form in the hieroglyph light.

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Anew was the Word writ large on the ground.

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It dazzled and darkened and things came unbound.

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As th e w or ld co ales ced from the place of undone, a Word remained beconing kindness and love.

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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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Ranch house and fence back in the 19th century with my great grandparents.

Kaye and Walt flew back to Kansas City (once the Great Falls airport had held them nearly overnight) and E & I got on to a day-long Feller project of replacing 80 feet of wooden rail fence around the front of the house. Fence that is essential to keeping livestock out of the yard during cattle drives as well as bovine fence crawlers ambling up and down the road all season long.

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1998 painted fence with Alpine Meadows Angus sign I created in 1996. (I also trimmed the lilacs and hedge throughout the 1990’s, so they still looked spiffy and bloomed amazingly.)

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June 2012.

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2014 Walt and I put in new gate.

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Gate is finished and matches L side built out in 2008 by my father and sister & I. The R side will get long split rail to match in anther year or so. Then split rail becomes a rarity.

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Literally held together with string and wire, these old runs of hand-hewn timber were pulled from our forest nearly a century ago.

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Panel fence is the quick solution to keeping livestock on the road and out of the yard- it all goes.

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E & I salvaged 16′ runs of our old corral fence when the local supplier of split rail was out for the third year running.

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This post leaned far out, so I dug out behind it, soaked it, and levered it back with a rock bar- still leaning out.

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Webbing and a come-along fixed to the truck pull it into place.

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Sawzall takes off a split end and fits to the run of posts.

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Squeeze clamp puts hundreds of pounds of third-hand pressure while I set the board with heavy lag.

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Staggering the top boards for the uphill climb.

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Top rail is set all the way around, so on to the mid rail.

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The yard’s Mountain Bluebird keeps an eye on my work. 

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 Bluebird again.

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New salvage fence wraps around the lilacs I’ve saved for the Cedar Waxwings.

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5 new 16′ sections of salvage fence, with the last two sections retaining lower runs of hand-hewn lodgepole pine.

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2008 Split rail; to 2014 gate of split rail; to 2015 section of split rail following the gate; to 2017 new salvage. The dorky bit by the gate is a No Hunting sign on a wood panel- should reconsider that placement now…

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Meanwhile, back on the Montana ranch…

Kaye and Walt joined us in SLC, and we all drove up to the Montana spread. Elizabeth and I have done enough years of work on the homestead house that it can be mistaken for a rugged B&B.

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The lower end at sunset.

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Elizabeth leads Kaye & Walt to the secret rhubarb patch in the woods.

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Kaye’s Ohio farm-girl self takes the lead.

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A cool yard with a stream and big trees makes for birdwatching and long reads.

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The backyard shade tree needs triage- about two day’s worth.

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If out of new cuts, there are sloppy old cuts to clean up. 

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Walt sends the branches over the corral fence.

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Upper cable work begins, tying the tree together up high.

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Finding leverage and wishing I had a prehensile tail.

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Hummingbirds swept by with encouragements.

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Walt checks the ladder position he recommended. Tight.

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Threading the bolt by feel.

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Cable stranded with tension. (It will let go overnight and the fix will take some doing.)

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The split from the crook to the ground is why the upper cable, and now: cross-rods.

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The long bit is sunk 16″, now the extender is added and I plug along ’til entirely through.

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Language supervisor.

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Rod #2 of 3; Walt checks the tree’s vitals.

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Three rods at cross-directions stabilize the trunk.

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After the cable lets go overnight I redo the big cable with more tension and a better turnbuckle, tie in a sagging branch, and add a bat-house while I’m up.

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She already seemed happier in an evening wind.

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A drive across the top to check blue bird houses and set a few of the new tube-houses.

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On the other side of the valley things are drier.

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10am and already a bit too hot. “Flash Drought” is a new category for what Global Warming is offering up this summer.

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Back at the house I remove an ancient fluorescent ceiling fixture and replace it with a nice ceiling fan. Walt gets the old chime clock on the wall to have it’s chime match its time.  

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Laundry day. I stretch a tight line from the tree to the old laundry pins on the house and everyone chips in on running the laundry machine.

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This is the laundry machine.

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Massive fires in British Columbia smothers the landscape with smoke, and the moon turns orange.

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Our house Robins fledge in the smoke-silvered sky.

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Every morning I trim out snow-bent old-growth from the lilacs. 7 bushes total; stopping when a Cedar Waxwing flew out onto the brush pile and told me to quit before I reached his nest. The chicks all fledged a few days later. 

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Initial trim. Kaye wonders why I didn’t start out with the skirt of suckers. It seemed easier?

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Could call it done, they all are about trimmed and still look like themselves. A hard cut is better in the long run, and sucker skirts will go wild next year- so…

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Leaving the solid lilac bushes along the L side (about as long a run as what I trimmed) gives habitat for birds next spring. This will take a few seasons to stage through.

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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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Water line through drilled holes.

The deck plants have migrated back out of the sunroom and needed a better waterline solution. For the past forever I ran little waterlines between the deck slats back to the plants, the water pressure drops significantly at that length of a run. The solution is to bring a larger line under the deck to the rear wall, emerging in the open space of the window well (wired off last year from Raccoon’s using it as an outhouse), then splitting the line with a T to extend to all plant scenarios.

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Water line elbow access.

It could be prettier, but that would have meant a trip to the hardware store. I shortened a line elsewhere in the yard to get the run under the deck, and used extras for the rest.

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Back together.

The Lantana is acclimating under the deck, as it snowed yesterday and nighttime temps are still falling into the 30’s. Soon it will anchor the L corner of the pond at the deck “L”.

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Tree, Rubber Plant, Lemon Pine: set.

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The rose liked the snow.

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The flat tan stones underwater at the foot of the Iris emerge to dry stone for bird drinks /baths. 

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The 3-levels of pond, from last May. The top two pools are shallow and small, which is a liability in the desert summer heat. Back in 2010 I dug the lowest pool down and put in a new liner; that was a practice run on what comes next.

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Here the top two ponds are stripped down to their liners, with all their stone stacked on the bench to the top/left. The waterline snakes up from the bottom pool to the right and into the partially buried garbage can (home of the filter system), then continues through the wooden platform-box to spill into the top pool. 

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All the new pond hardware is ordered and en-route, so a full day on prep of removing flagstone,  and river stone.

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This is the algae soup bowl; 4’x8’x20inches deep. The two plastic buckets at the top of the frame guard a tasty pair of plants from the brood of Quail that live in the yard.

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I have put a bubbler in the lower pool to keep it oxygenated while the pump / waterfalls are off.

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The footprint of the new pond is laid out, tamped and leveled, with precast retaining wall bricks put in place as a guide.

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Time for a good old-fashioned hole-diggin’. Dig out the hole onto a pile next to the hole, then dig that pile into the wheel barrow, then cart the dirt as backfill to the covered watercourse behind the green shed.

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This whole section will get filled, then I’ll fill in under some of the old trees with the rest. This follows the old watercourse that I set into pipe and buried a few years back to reclaim this section of our yard from the neighbors.

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The pond will have a deep level (3′ or greater) and a sloping shelf for plants. The alluvial soil is sandy and tends toward clay, but no rocks. It is wet and sticks to the shovel like heavy tar. 

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All dug out with a shadow of the quail weather vane. The layer of sand cushions the pond liner.

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It took a 15 x 25′ liner to cover the 8 x 8′ footprint. 

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The retaining wall is built and includes a new waterfall mouth that regulates the flow into a 16″ wide cascade.

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So much plumbing. The blue tape shows roughly where the new piping will connect to the filter lines. Last fall I built a bypass for the filter for winter, housed with the filter inside the can; it is still running in winter mode. The looped tubing connects to the filter’s cleaning valve, and needs to be hidden. Everything needs to connect up to the black box under the flagstone- that is the back end of the waterfall regulator.

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After filling the pond the water needed to sit for 24 hours so we didn’t shock the fish with chlorine. The wait time allowed runs to the hardware store to fit out the waterlines. It lives!

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The cascade rolls out well clear of the wall and has a big voice.

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I rebuilt the plumbing for the lower pond as well, with this goose-neck connection and a hard line down to the pump.

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Kaye’s big yard frog nestled in and mostly submerged with the pond lilies.

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The aluminum figures all find new places.

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I put in another few days; re-fitting the metal mesh to guard the fish from raccoons, building out the back-end to hide the plumbing, and resolving the giant dirt piles. So many tweaks that needed pre-tweaking, yet tweaked out in the end.