Feller work shown is where E gets bored and grabs the camera. Not pictured is all the fun stuff, like; putting up the 12 new Bluebird houses, checking all the other bird houses and finding lots of chicks and getting pushed off of the last few houses by a bossy bull; switching out road bikes for mountain bikes (E’s birthday present) and cycling in the morning up over Kibbey Ridge to find a guy from SLC making breakfast from the back of his truck on his way to Glacier, then a twilight ride down the road a piece to spot Elk (singular this time) and seeing the Snipe fly from the marsh below the corral upon our return, as well as loading them onto the truck and heading up Belt Canyon past Neihart to ride a dirt road alongside a mountain stream (same that we had skied last year); enjoying a big hours long mountain thunderstorm from the front porch (while Nora chatters her teeth until slipping into a pill-induced bliss); Xander and Voices kill at minimum 14 mice (all-time record) plus they ate a few…; the house was swarmed by a sudden Gypsy’s curse of fat flies, hundreds roaring and driving against the doors and windows (while the kitchen door was in triage and before the storm door had been resealed)- followed by me with the big shop-vac removing the scores that forced their way in; dinner down at our cousin’s ranch outside of Belt; the whole time it felt like the 1970’s or 80’s- just cool nights, mild days, rainstorms- and finally a big fire in Helena sent the now-seasonal smoke billows on our last day, reminding us that the arctic is 30 degrees or more above normal and the collapsing jet stream is why our weather seemed “normal”; just as we near the foot of Malad pass in Idaho we watch from under the dark twilight of a churning storm ahead as the craziest verga down force of violent wind and rain hits from directly above in a hovering smoke that levitates with violent speed over the hillsides and mountains, and we are soon facing a wall of ripping waves that dwarf the truck, then we punch into the wall with a gale pushing hard from the side and down, as we pass through the whole truck lifts for a dizzying moment, then into the sideways car-wash zone with cleansing hail set to new-dent-level we motor up the steep pass with the highway transformed to a standing waterfall upheld by screaming wind. The most different weather I’ve ever been through, and I’ve been in some pretty different weather up on the 14er peaks.
Up at the Montana ranch for the last 10 days of July, spanning our 10th wedding anniversary, and E’s birthday. The hills and pastures were still green. The little front pictured here dropped our night temps to 38 degrees, with daytime highs in the 70’s with a few “hot” days in the 80’s (our overnight lows in SLC are about the same as the daytime highs at the ranch).
It seems that every two years I have to make a new bluebird house design. I hope these answer all the issues the prior designs haven’t addressed.
Two different designs of the past were my Zero Profile https://dangerhart.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/zero-profile-bluebird-houses/ which are only used by tree swallows, my redwood house designs began here https://dangerhart.wordpress.com/2015/06/ which led to https://dangerhart.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/mountain-bluebird-house-upgrade/ and then a series of 6 slot houses https://dangerhart.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/mountain-bluebird-condos/ that the bluebirds have used successfully.
Does this look like a free lawn mower? It looked and ran in the “free” category when I picked it up last weekend. No “before” picts (I thought it might just be a hopeful fail), and though it had belonged to an urban lady with a tiny yard, it looked like it had been used to cut fire breaks along stream beds, set low to the ground and run over rocks, winding the wettest tall grass, and binding it all on the deck with a spray of oil, then left in the Utah sun to bake it all in, with a bag full of whatever it ran over, turning the bag sickly pink and rust. And it ran rough and burned oil- but it ran.
I took the carburetor apart, cleaned and refitted it, snapping off a lead to the fuel petcock in the process and had to order one in. It arrived after a few days and I parted it out, changed the oil & spark plug and air filter, and put in non-ethanol gas. And I sharpened the blade and refitted it while the machine was empty of oil and gas. It fired right up, blew a last little cloud of smoke as it warmed up, then settled out and ran clean.
Now it just has to make the 530 mile jump to Montana.
Grant deadlines have kept E busy ’til now, and lucky for us, the weather up North has been cold and the spring has been slow. We saddled up the truck and jumped out of town in a hurry, as soon as E could break away. After a cool and blustery drive up, I unloaded the truck in a twilight rain squall.
The morning’s high grass needed to dry out from last evening’s rain before mowing, so I set about fixing the water heater, frizted during last fall’s hunting party, replacing both elements and the bottom thermostat. The elements were really stuck in there, and took some ranch-ineering to create smooth enough application of leverage to break loose without breaking. Got it all figured with a thick old bent nail and a section of pipe.
-from E’s letter home: Last fall, Dan had put down a used rubber pond liner to deter weeds there at the edge of the iris bed where the foot bridge ends over to the corral gate. He pulled back the liner and discovered where all the garter snakes were living and a larger snake that looked like a rattle snake without a rattle. Eghads what a greenhorn mistake! Nine or ten garter snakes (each 24 inches in length) slithered away, but the other snake stood its ground. We had both been walking all over the rubber surface and stepping on the snakes, so that added to the weirdness of the discovery. Dan was pretty freaked out and decided to off the larger snake to be on the safe side. Internet searches when we got home confirmed that we killed a bull snake. They are difficult to distinguish from rattle snakes and flatten their heads to resemble rattle snakes when threatened, which is just what the snake did. So, we feel pretty bad ….. but with treatment cost of rattle snake bites coming in at $100,000 – $120,000, we thought better safe than sorry.
Just after dark a funky short semi truck drove past, and a bit later E saw bright lights up the coulee. It was our bee keeper, dropping off hives while the bees are all home for the night. He headed down and placed hives at the neighbor’s as well.
I thought I’d make my own super-efficient Rocket Mass-Heater for the ranch, to replace the dangerous old cast iron wood stove. A Rocket Mass-Heater burns about 80% less wood than the old stove, can run on pellets as well, produces no smoke, few gasses, and will keep the house warm all night with no fire burning. It provides a radiant heat source via a stainless steel bell, as well as a large radiant mass that warms to a few hundred degrees which then radiates heat for 8 to 10 hours after the fire has burned. It can heat the house for 12 to 24 hours for one hour of burning- depending on how well my mass structure absorbs and retains heat. I will build that up at the ranch, using aircrete; concrete blended with super foamed soapy water. This reduces the weight of the concrete mass by 60-75 percent, and allows the heat to permeate the mass.
The interwebs are awash with bad Rocket Stove designs. Many cores are created with bare steel using old gas canisters. At 1500 to 2000 degrees in an oxygen depleted environment, steel undergoes a process called spalling. Essentially it rusts without oxygen, or more precisely it is the effect of reshuffling the iron molecules wherein they lose covalent bonds and layer like sheaves of paper. Refractory material is the only media that can survive the temperatures in the core and stack. I found the best understanding of the forces at work were from Masonry Stove builders, in particular Walker Design, who offers a J-Rocket core design to keep us diy dinks from burning down the ranch house. My design is a hybrid, as the stove will stand alone, as will the mass-heater. This is borrowed from another solid innovator, The Honey-Do Carpenter. I’ll be using his specs to create the concrete foaming gun, and modifying from his prototype of a light weight mass heater separate from the rocket stove.
Lots more to do: support the stainless drum; put on low legs; create gravity-assist wood feeder of wide square-stock tubing that is removable; resolve the stove piping; tile it; maybe make a pellet feeder. Then design up the mass heater for assembly in Montana.