We drove through wildfire smoke for 540 miles (I installed a near-Hepa rated carbon filter for the truck which kept our air in the cab much cleaner), and emerged to clear skies on the north slope of the Little Belts 20 miles from the ranch (we rolled down the windows!). The clear skies lasted a few days, then Canada’s firesmoke blew in. Just one more day of hot smoke, then clear skies and rain are in the forecast with daytime temps in the 40’s and overnight in the 30’s. On our last clear night the annual Nighthawk convergence moved up the valley to fly around the ranch house and surrounding forest from sunset to dusk. They pinwheel in groups of 15 or so, with around 50 birds in the flock, riding the thermals as the sunlight creeps up the east hillside pushing moths into the cooling twilight. The Cedar Waxwings that arrived as we left in July, have hatched chicks in their regular spot in the lilacs. The House Wren is tucked into her birdhouse, working on another brood. Goldfinches and Wilson’s Warblers flit through the hedges. The Snipe drops into the yard to stroll along the creek edge. The creek is still running through the yard with ducks in the little pond; a part of the magic green microclimate at the top of the valley.

In July I covered these windows and scraped the old paint, meaning to get on to painting. The painting didn’t happen so I pulled the covering off to keep the wind from pulling it while were gone. Now it goes back up, as this time I’ll get the painting knocked out first thing.
The border of the window frames are taped off, then the plastic is taped in place.
Upon setting the ladder high up the wall, I got about this far up and came back down in disbelief that in July I had climbed extended even higher and run a paint grinder up there. I made my usual declaration to finally buy a new ladder, stomped around the yard a bit, then got back on the ladder. My new bracing at the top makes working with windows much easier, and makes things 100x more stable, which is the reason this peak can finally get got.
A spray bottle with warm soapy water takes out the wasps.
A pokin-stick takes down the nests.
The bigger nest was tucked under the eve. The aluminum ladder is strapped to the deck posts, and this in turn braces the ladder on the pitch of the roof. I am directly over the friendly in-house beehive, they were active in July, but seem to have moved out (or colony collapse hit them…).
The small nest. Wasps that were out in the field when this calamity occurred buzzed and landed on the remaining tiny paper stalactite that had secured the nest to the house. These nests were just little hamlets of Castle Paper-Wasp that reigns from under the pitched roof centered above the porch.
All stripped down and ready for paint.
Painted with a new air-gun brought up from the SLC big-box store (my bday present from the Idiocracy); a great improvement to the old unit (deceased with honors) that had painted the barn, the garage, the grain bin, and the house.
Part of the fun of the AL ladder is the failing latches. I have to climb the yellow ladder and manually shift the latches to let the ladder telescope, then push them securely into place. Just another little facet to the endless fiddling. Oh, and the board crammed between the ladder feet keeps the somewhat crumpled L foot from collapsing inward. The bracing system anchored into the yard was invented when I used this ladder to paint the barn, it keeps the ladder from sliding down the building, and has additions to match a severe slope.
This silly angle was necessary, as there is a height gap between the Al ladder and the Yellow ladder. Tall ladder work takes a lot of time, as the ladder takes constant moving; and safety with this ladder makes every move a fussy endeavor. The wall is finally fully painted, and now will take a few days of drying for the linseed-based oil paint.
This is low-average for our smoke here. You can smell it, and sometimes taste it- 2.5ppm @ 160 to 200-ish. Morning and evening sunlight is pink and the moon is an orange wedge and Venus is Mars.
This is my $100 electrostatic air purification unit for the ranch house. 4 high-end air filters, a fan on top blowing upward, the fan’s box as a base, and our old friend duct tape (white). It works wonders.
Clue #1: It will be installed 530 hwy miles due north, then a short steep hike, then placed underground, and attached to a pipe. Clue #2: it is made mostly of salvaged pond pump shell.
Clue #3: It will be placed like this, in a pile of rocks, underwater.
Pond pump footing and cap joined with three screws. 2″ internal thread coupler and reducer to 1.5″, seated to 1.5″ steel reinforced clear tube with stainless steel clamp. Stainless clamp for opposite end of tubing. Curved clear plastic from peanut butter jar attached with 3 screws. Bicycle tube section as gasket to pvc tube with zip-tie (this bit sticks out the bottom- could be replaced with more peanut butter jar, but I overthought it and there it is.
Twelve years on and still holding hands. (“Dogs and cats living together: mass hysteria!” – Bill Murray, Ghostbusters)
We usually don’t go in for photo shoots to make ourselves feel “cute-coupley”, but after ongoing Coviding at home it just made sense as an anniversary present to ourselves.
Water Hyacinths have filled in the upper pond nicely, better than ever- I think it is because of water-blueing. This year I started using a water-bluing agent to cut sunlight penetration, and the water has stayed cooler and the fish are happier, and algae has cleared out.
In past years I have used a pricey UV light in the pond filtration unit, and this year (our hottest / driest year ever) has been fine without it.
The hyacinths are a living whole pond filter; I haven’t had to clear the pump or the filter in weeks!
A spot for morning coffee. From here we watched a male Broadtail hummingbird court a female; lots of ringing and diving as they both flew, then she settled into the big flowering Trumpet Vine and he began a series of side-to-side waggles / perch-breathers / waggles. She was impressed and they flew off together.
Sultry and hot, shaded in the ever-embiggening Purple Sage. She did some math in her head re: Delta transmission at R9, vs the original at R2 (R9-R2)/R2 x %100 = 350) The Delta variant is 350 times more transmissible than the original variant. (now a week later, updated to the same transmission rate as Chickenpox= R12. So 500% more transmissible than the original variant) It also has a replication factor of 1000 over the original, hitting full speed 3 days after infection while still fully asymptomatic (now, showing the same factor whether vaccinated or not). This is the kind of thing she ponders, because she’s aluminum and doesn’t have to worry.
A hummingbird favorite.
Drip irrigation keeps the landscape from powdering out.
The goldfish all rush to make the shot; Influencers, each and every one. Even Koi follow their feed.
WeeOne has left the Ms.Kims unmolested since the fixes, and it looks like they will survive.
I cut all the roses back before our last trip out to MT, and this one has come back nicely.
Out front this summer bloomer fills with bees every day. It dies back to the ground each winter, and this summer has seen its rowdiest growth and blooming. All the plants to the L of it were nuked last summer, even the ground cover reduced to powder this summer.
The little patch of front lawn is heat-stressed and yellowing out- it has been more than a month since it needed mowing and will likely stay dormant till late fall.

alotalotalot: aloft

A Lot, A Lot, A Lot, Aloft, / A Hex Storm of Piney firebrands, / Hiked over ridgelines branding into Quit Fur, / The river Bank, like a Queen In promotion, / A move from Pawn Jail to Nova, a trail of Dither-Goo transformed / to Boxing Day. / Sending the dry West Ute King into a Pouter, / his Twatty Lather the route to a Rebel Axis: burning.

The Greenest truck you know may be this Supercharged V-6 2003 Nissan Frontier with over 150,000 miles: with Danger-Mods.

Aeromods continue to deliver.

The manufacturer’s best highway mpg is 17mpg, which I could only rarely hit with tailwind in the past.

Return trip from Great Falls to Bozeman (271 miles / 11gal) saw 24.6mpg; this is 44.7% over the 17mpg best.

The trip out was a terrible headwind for 130 miles of 80mph; old mileage in similar headwind @ 80mph was 8.6mpg, this trip saw 13.8; a 60% increase.

The real number to consider is a comparison of the real actuals of mpg average improvement. Now 34 gallons for 685 miles @ 20.14mpg (Great Falls (plus 100 miles of xtra ranch trips) to SLC. Old was usually 45 gallons / 588 miles SLC to Great Falls @ 13 mpg.

The ratio of improvement from 13mpg to 20.14mpg is 55%. Two tanks of gas with an improvement of 55% proves out the third tank of gas no longer stopped for.

Dan’s Mantra: our daytime high today is 10 degrees lower than SLC’s overnight- please don’t make me go back there…

7am @ front porch java-birdwatch: Wilson’s Warbler pair, Goldfinches, Calliope Hummingbird pair, Bullock’s Oriole pair (nesting in Willows), Cedar Waxwing pair (building nest in liliacs), Tree Swallows (nesting in porch box), Wrens (nesting in shed box), Red-Naped Sap-Sucker pair and fledges, Orange Flickers (nesting in barn- sharing barn with 15 pigeons), Mountain Bluebirds (nesting in corn crib), Snipe, Catbird, Meadowlark, Bobolinks, Robins, Eastern Kingbirds, Redtail Hawk, Redwing Blackbirds, also deer in the yard at 6:45am;

dusk @ porch: Nighthawk, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl (hooting up in the forest), SawWhet Owl (radar beeping in the forest), Coyotes up and down the valley.

Last summer I rebuilt these bedroom storm windows and added swing hooks that they hang from. Prior to this they had been held in place by 4 bolts I’d outrigged, and had to be removed and stored during the summer (and prior to that they had been screwed in place and sealed with caulk, and the inner windows painted shut). Last summer I ordered antique/vintage stainless steel arms that open and close the windows from the inside, bracing them open as seen here: I just got around to installing them today.
The bedroom is breezy and fresh, with birdsong and the sound of the creek. I had to work the windows a bit more to get them to slide up far enough to fit the screens, prior to this the screens were a bit haphazardly placed with blue-tape holding them against the outside of the windows.
Here the window is help open by the stainless steel mechanism, one on each side of the window.
The long arm has a little groove that latches onto the beak at the sill, and out at the window the arm is swing-hinged.
The arms pull in and swing down, squeezing the window to shut tight.
The long arm provides easy leverage to squeeze the window closed, and is held in place with the little pin-head nail near the bottom.
Just push up the sliding window a bit to pop out the screen, swing the storm-window open / closed, then replace the screen and pull the sliding window down onto the screen frame.
If a storm blows up, the windows can be closed from inside in a jiffy.
Our last trip out in May saw a gusty day that blew the roof edging loose on the old garage. I’ve removed the panel and pounded it back into shape, and am now affixing it again. In the yard the air compressor is next to the spigot, as I need to blow out the line to bring down the water. The lawn was so dry it needed water before I mowed. The water project is on hold while I make the roofing fix.
The ladder is on a sidehill with a rock propping up one side; safe enough…
It is the week of the deadly heat dome, and is 121 up north in Canada and nearly 90 here (about 15 degrees hotter than normal for us). I wait til the sun is off the wall before heading up to grind, and will paint it eventually.
Our tree swallows are busy with their brood at the front porch. I moved the bird house from an area that got no action last year, they like this spot much better.
We sit on the porch and they fly in and out, not minding us at all.
We head up top to check the line of Bluebird houses. About 70 Bluebirds hatched out (some are still eggs), and a good number of Tree Swallows as well.
This is the second time houses in this section have been caddy whompus; bear? I’ve moved a few already, and will move this one as well if gets messed with again. For now, I set it back and we’ll see if it can house a late summer brood.
Alpine wildflowers are thick up on the highlands. It is a hard grass year, with a late freeze/snow in May and the first week of June in the 90’s (SLC had an all-time record high temp of 107 that week).
E and I have walked up the hill to the water twice now. Once to set the water from the cattle trough (broken out at the bottom <Dave plans to insert a smaller trough>) to the in-ground wooden gathering box for the yard. We’ve had the sprinklers working for the first time in years; the water can be a bit mysterious about how/why it does/doesn’t flow. The occasional bit of wood or plug of grass will clog the sprinkler head. In this case it was the yard valve that was plugged up: with a mouse. That is his tail. You can pull on it if you like, but it won’t help.
The old valve couldn’t handle the de-mousing and needs replaced. It is seized on the nipple that inserts into the yard pipe. Heat is the great convincer.
Of course the brass replacement valve with the red handle has a male set, while the defunct one was female. This means the insert won’t attach to the yard pipe, so I rememory the pvc blue handle valve and find it, and am amazed that they all fit together. One of the circle clamps failed and I found another that just fit, mostly by not allowing it not to fit.
Back to double water birds.
Up to now, the cows had been in the pastures around the house, bringing the flies and the randy bulls. Late this afternoon Dave moved some of his cattle across the road, but left a big group on the road on purpose for three days now and counting (road cows must be a fancy new strategem of a certain kind of modern shepherding) and stragglers from the round-up have also shown up; all converging around the house in the fields and up and down the road. He also trailered in a new group of bulls- which are on the road, crossing to pastures on both sides of road, and looking to rumble with no respect for fences. Here’s two bulls making aquaintance at the corner guarding the house water. I’m sure they will have a civil discussion and come to an amicable consensus.
It comes to fisticuffs! They have a big tussel and knock the fence apart.
The victor bugles his bonhomie, calling in the ladies.
The ladies all dropped their parasols, running in a dead heat to watch the duel. Now they feign indifference to the bull’s randy yodelling.
Sunset from the yard.
The house tints to periwinkle.
Odd job leftover from last summer: I rebuilt the screen at R. Now we can open both kitchen windows! The glass storm windows hang safely in the shed- switched out for the summer.
Last fall I noticed we had another porch beam with a rotten foot. This trip up E helped me remember the bottle jack.
I replaced the decking in 2008 with my dad, and the new wood has powdered away beneath the beam..
I cut to clear wood and insert this little plug of treated plank over the span-beam.
Three cuts up the foot of the support to find clear wood.
I have one little length of 4×4 in storage and find two bolts/nuts long enough to work. Feller Jerb continues.
New foot is bolted to the post and she is ready to stand and bear weight again.
Nora kept me on-task, and now is overseeing clean-up.
Road cows and pasture cows mix with ongoing feuding bulls, all brushing up at the spring to the house. I’ve chased them over the hill enough that they just run away at the sight of me. Time to fix fence. A few steel posts, a lot of stretching broken wire and making it whole again, and quite a bit of staple pounding.
This Z shape (lower leg turns at the bush line) has both 90 degree sections and all the connective runs standing tight again. Earlier in the summer, the gang all pushed into one of the hayfields and mowed it down to nubs. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were doing the same to the hayfield up on top on their new side, as I haven’t seen much of them for a spell- and I have zero confidence in the cattleman strategies deployed to date.