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.


1988. Visiting from Colorado


Now. Visiting from Utah.


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


A flowered pathway to the footbridge.


Purple Columbine on the shady side of the path.


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


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…


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


The Willows are inundated with a blight of caterpillars.


Is that intentional, or is she stuck?


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


View from the sidewalk on Wilmington.

Installation day started off raining and chilly, just how the fish like it. With two handy fellows helping (Jed, who helped install the last group, and Mike) things got started at 8am and finished by 3pm with time off for lunch at one of the restaurants on the plaza. A solid day of digging and lifting heavy things, but all are in the ground and everyone is happy.


Swimming alongside the concrete current.


Follow their lead to the next fish.


Enter the plaza and these singles stairstep up the planter beds.


Lower single swimmer.


Upper single swimmer.


The pair take a bead on you as you leave the plaza.


The swim around the base of a tall tower.


The fish like their new digs.


Out on the big plaza, bridging the Hidden Hollow trail on Parley’s Creek.


Parley’s Creek is just past the sunny bit of lawn at the top of the image.


They swim just within the boundary of the plaza.


Heading toward the curved public bench.


Linking the curvy landscaping to the riparian trail.


The blue concrete connects the pair to the singles under the tower.


The plaza is so big, the fish become invisible from the far end; good thing there are fish at this end too.


Thursday. Pair One.

Chemlab for fishies. The fish enter the sandblast tent and are stripped of all contaminants and oxidation. With the surface sand-scoured, all imperfections show up and I put in some last fidgets with welding and chasing- then back in the tent for a follow up visit from Dr.Sanders. The surface glows a muted gold, but is as vulnerable to the air as a ginger to the high desert sun. Like a base-tan with sunscreen, they need a chemical etching that bites into the bronze then goes inert allowing a skin of protection. The fish go black with this initial etching layer, but it allows other chemicals to safely react to the surface and bring out other colors. The fish will go blue-green (Cupric Nitrate and Zinc Nitrate) with hints of dun yellow and yellow-green (a few drops of Ferric in the solution), while the hoops will turn a rich brown with white in all the recesses.


Sandblast. Weld / Chase. Sandblast.


Layer One: basecoat etching sprayed on.


Layer One: Rinse.


Layer One: dry / set with heat.


Two single fish, a welder, and a plastic enclosure hiding a sandblaster. Oh dear.


Layer One: scrub back to chocolate.


Etched and toned and ready for color.


Cupric / Zinc Nitrate brings on the color.


Friday’s fish is already done, this is Saturday’s fish.


Saturday: single fish #2


Hooking on for the next round of Cupric to green out the middle.


Single #2 has Ferric added in for surprise areas of y/g.

Patina builds up with chemicals and heat, layer after layer. Control of the process is partly knowing when you haven’t gotten there yet with knowing when to stop, all the while blending out areas that come on too fast and bringing up areas that seem to never get there. There is quite a bit of alchemy to it, as it is a mad science.


Sunday Duo: out of sandblast.


swimming around the driveway


Sandblast. Weld / Chase. Sandblast. is how the morning went


Expand into your golden hours…


… soon they live only in memory.


Etching layer squirt.


Blackened, rinsed and heated. too hot out for the next bit.

I cleared the only chem shop in the valley of their Cupric Nitrate, a trace of 100g- or about not enough for one fish. They ordered more, it should have been in last Thurs/Fri, it wasn’t. I’ve used my reserve stash for the first 4, and have just the 100g left for this last pair which will never make it. The fish will have to set overnight and see if the order arrives tomorrow- not a hardship on the human to wait as temps peaked out at 98 degrees.


Both pairs poled.

Ditto yesterday, in half the time; final fish poling.


Carriage for sand blast and patina.

200# of top-heavy trout need a way to travel safely. The wheeled frame is my DIY studio worktable sans top and low shelf, it pulls double duty as my sandblast and patina platform for big sculpture. I thought of this welded footing back in 2014 for the last group, but didn’t make it because I was too far down the production rabbit hole. Poling out the last pair didn’t even take the morning, so I scrounged through my steel scrap, planned the unit out and cut and ground the metal, and switched out the welders. E made me a quick lunch, and I was back out in the shop and it was welded out in no time. Two runs of channel iron make the platform, connected to a drop bar of rectangular “square” tubing. The platform floats just off the ground. I’ll build out my plastic tent for sandblast, and this can roll in and out. Key to the low footing is allowing transport out onto the parking pad for patina with good clearance for the garage door.


Welded footing inside of table frame.

With the footing welded in, clamps and steel tubing hold the sculpture in place. 60# of weights on the far side of the sledge keeps all the wheels on the ground.


Welded footing outside.


Sunday’s Poled Pair

One pair grew poles today, and the last pair will sprout poles tomorrow. It takes a few fish biscuits to get the pair to fly sideways and perfectly level to the ground, plus two hoists and the forgotten magics of the Masons for establishing level as vertical as horizontal as plumb. Once the last pair has legs, then everyone gets a last once-over for fine tuning; then the shop is flipped over for sandblast and patina.


Swim team.


Stanley brings E along for the inspection.


Last pair tacked to hoops.

All the fish are chased out, the singles are affixed to their poles, and the pairs are joined in their hoops awaiting their poles. It is nice to have some creative choices that need choosing; which fish be single, which will be paired, and who makes the best pairs. Once the relationships between the 4 pair-able fish are explored by hefting them amongst each other, I start writing on them in marker of who goes with who, then change my mind and zip off the marker and have a few more go arounds and marker notes of who is on what side, who is forward or back, or higher or lower. Then making the pairs of hoops farther(20″)/nearer (12″), which establishes a governing rule of how the fish can be welded, yet still staggered. This regularity helps unify each pair while giving each pair a unique aesthetic. The curvier pair goes with the shorter hoops measure, and the straighter pair has the longer hoops.


Singles with poles, and a pair.

One fish is set in first and tacked in place, then the next fish is placed and marked then removed. Then I beef up the welds on the first fish, unless I need to snap them and reposition- in this case they were fine. Then the second fish is put back in aligned with its marks, reassessed, then tacked and welded. Next the pair is hoisted aloft and rolled side to side in midair for better welding angles (sorry no picts of the flying fish this time around).


Today’s leading yesterday’s pair.


Curvy animation.


Swishing tails.


Ready for poles.


Fishy Bits

It was a rainy Sunday morning and nothing was biting on any of my flies. I waited out the storm anticipating a new hatch of midges, and the trout started hitting on skimming midges. This big beauty came in on a roll cast where I was flanked by dense willow scrub. -or- replace that with heavy industrial scenario.


Ground smooth with welds.

Pinholes filled. Cap on. Tail pockmarks filled.


All stitched up.

This one curves enough to need a brace to stand up alone.


everything where it should be. if anyone is counting this is #5 of 6


ready for metal chase

I left metal chase for tomorrow, as the neighbors were having a children’s birthday party in their back yard, with a big tent by our yard to hear our pond waterfall. Welding doesn’t make any noise, but chasing runs the big air compressor and nothing pierces kid fun like the sound of dentist drills tearing through metal.