Coatsville Update


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.


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).



Roof w anchor pin unscrewed


Upper Ventilation holes , Front Door with toe-holds.


Floor & Door, with climbing grooves cut into sidewall.


Upside Down


Lashing Wire


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.


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.


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”.


Tree, Rubber Plant, Lemon Pine: set.


The rose liked the snow.


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


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.


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. 


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


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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. 


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


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


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


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.


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!


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


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


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


The aluminum figures all find new places.


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.


Easter Tree Prime with Peter Rabbit and his little ducky friend he met along the way to deliver Easter to the Coatsville Asylum for Ladies & Gents (with non-denominational spring holiday fun).


Blown Eggs hand decorated and other nicknacks from a lost age of lady-craft.


Ceramic and carved wood and decoupaged and candles; all hidden among the roots.


Egg Tree Beta of glass ornaments, hand made superblings, and a working mechanical wind-up hopping bird from E & A’s childhood.


He did a perfect wounded bird dance, but the cats couldn’t be bothered as he is a mite clanky.


E superblinged the duckies a few years back.


Just a little part of the mantle menagerie.

Version 2

Some color for a rain-gloom spring day.


Found this hand-made wraught-iron at our local salvage yard (George’s); too small for the window, but too nice to pass up. After a bit of head scratching and measuring, and looking through my dwindling metal scrap, I came up with a solution.


During the summer I leave the window open and mount a fan in the ceiling access panel to draw cool air in and push the heat out. This takes the worry out of having the window open out there. 


Sturdy enough for pull-ups!



My metal cutting blades are all dull, so cutting the steel was loud and took some grinding. Predrilling holes for bolts, then welding it all together. Then a fresh coat of paint. Then mounting it. An afternoon of man-craft.


The full moon three weeks ago blew in with a hot dry wind, evaporating winter overnight. Nighttime lows have been average daytime highs, with daytime highs 20-30 over, setting many dire records: like 8 days in a row over 70 (prior record was 2 days).


Our ancient twisty tree flowers early.


Tulips and hyacinths are in full colors.




Rain finally in the forecast, so I worked Lucky’s patch with new soil and seed.


The rain gauge after 24 hours.


5.5 inches is 1/3 of our annual rainfall in just 24 hours, and two days later 2 1/4 inches more, and two days after that 2 5/8 inches more. Utah’s annual rain average is 14 inches and SLC is 16 inches. 

These Infinity RS 6000 towers have been with me for 30 years; probably THE most important tool in my internal art kit.

The foam seals on the large cone drivers gave out and turned to powder, and the sound turned to a buzzy mess. I ordered new foam seals and took it all apart and replaced the seals- if you have nice older speakers with this issue it is an easy & cheap diy fix. If only my Carver Amp had survived as long…

I started the project by hunting through youtube demos on speaker repair; simplyspeakers posted a standout demo by an experienced professional who earned trust through clearly explaining his expertise- I ordered their repair kit. The kit arrived quickly and all four woofers are now in perfect working order; a straight-forward and satisfying d.y.i. project. Only when I had installed the kit did I realize how long the sound quality had been in decline. Listening is a nuanced pleasure again.