Alternative spring break – day 2

27 03 2013

We must not have worn out the Mizzou students Monday because they came back Tuesday! (All except one of the Sarahs – who came up sick – and Tori, who stayed with her. Sarah, feel better soon!)

With the H-braces set in place, the day’s plan was to take out the old wire and string new wire. Following wildlife-friendly strand spacing, the top wire is smooth twisted wire and 42 inches above the ground. The bottom wire is smooth twisted and 18 inches above the ground. The middle two strands are barbed wire. Deer and elk can jump over, fawns and calves can crawl under, and cattle hopefully will respect the barbed.

So we had to cut wire pieces off the existing fence strands and pull staples and roll barbed wire. Gloves and shades were must-have accessories. Once again, fence-building guru Tom Kelly showed the most jaded of us, who thought we knew a thing or three about fence building, a new technique to tighten the wire fence strands to T-posts (metal) and staves (between T-posts or wood posts).

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Tif watches Tom demonstrate the new-to-us tool to attach a wire fence strand to a metal T-post. She’s holding a stave on which she has marked the heights of the wire fence strands.

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MK took over this “wonder tool,” and I’m not sure she ever let it go! Instead of a traditional “clip,” this is a short piece of wire with loops on both ends. The hook goes through both ends, you swivel it, and voila! Your wire strand is tight to the post!

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But I’m getting excited and ahead of myself. First, we had to get rid of the old wire. Here, Emerald demonstrates careful barbed-wire-rolling technique.

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MK and a “barbed wire wreath”!

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More perfect rolls.

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BLM guy Tom with his, uh, not-so-perfect “roll.” Lesson: Don’t let BLM roll up your fences! Fortunately, he redeemed his agency’s good name later with his wire-strand tightening skills.

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Marissa carries wooden staves to drop off along the fence line. These help stabilize the wire and keep the spacing even. Note the colorful eyewear, courtesy of SJMA. This was to protect against the potential boinging – Kathe’s word! – of broken wire. (Note: As far as I’m aware, there was no boinging of wire or injury to students!) Right in front of Emerald’s shins, note the strand of wire. This is how it got there:

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Students Chalen and Marissa help volunteer Keith unroll smooth twisted wire. Note the wire strand in the bottom left corner of the pic. It started at the road, tied off at the H-brace there, and was unrolled up to the first H-brace, which is just beyond Tom Kelly (back left), where the trees start. Then another strand is tied off there and the roll walked back to the road and that brace. The process is repeated with the barbed wire in this section, and then with the smooth and barbed wire strands from the H-brace behind these guys up the hill to the next brace.

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Keith carries rolls of old wire to the trucks while Tom and Chalen carry good wire to the next H-brace to string it from there to the third brace. Note the very valuable set of fencing pliers sticking out of Keith’s pocket. Students were well-acquainted with these tools after two days in Spring Creek Basin!

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Here, the bottom and top strands are in place and have been stretched (tightened). In this pic, Sarah and Aaron are measuring and stapling the strands of fence wire for the rebuilt fence. Note the marks on the stave Sarah is holding. The marks are at 18 inches, 23 inches, 30 inches and 42 inches. Marking staves made it easy for students to work in pairs: measure and staple.

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Emerald and Ellen, foreground, and Corrie and MK measure and staple fence strands to posts. Ellen and Emerald are at the next H-brace, up the hill.

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Mizzou students are the epitome of seriousness after day 2 of fence work on Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern boundary line. In the background, our excellent new fence! I can’t believe I didn’t take a pic of the finished product; to come. (It looks excellent!)

Front row from left: volunteers Corrie and Tif, Mizzou site leader Chalen and volunteer Keith. Standing: MK (diving) and Kathe with SJMA, students Marshal, Sarah, Marissa, Kara, Ellen, Aaron and Emerald, Tom Kelly with the Forest Service, BLM’s Tom Rice and Dave with the Forest Service.

An important side note, Corrie, Tif and Keith all adopted Spring Creek Basin mustangs in 2011/2012.

After their work on the fence, we took the students into the basin to scout mustangs. We saw Chrome’s band, Duke and Kreacher, Hollywood’s and Comanche’s bands with Bounce, and bachelor boys Aspen, Hayden, Tenaz and Apollo. Those boys were very accommodating for students’ pix!

On our way out, we stopped to investigate the dugout, likely used during construction (way back when?!) of the defunct Custer dam.

Chalen takes a break in the old dugout in Spring Creek Basin.

Chalen taking a well-deserved break. Word Monday was that he would be awake at 4:30 a.m. (!) Tuesday to cook breakfast.

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Students gather for a group photo op in the dugout. Are those some happy faces or what?

Today – Wednesday – the students will work with Kathe and MK and my friend Sam on one of my favorite mountain bike trails in Southwest Colorado: Phil’s World, just east of Cortez. It’s a not-so-secret course anymore. Thursday, they’ll work at Sand Canyon, part of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, west of Cortez.

Once again, huge thanks to these fantastic university students! We so appreciate your willing and enthusiastic work to help protect our Spring Creek Basin mustangs. We hope you had fun to balance the work and that you’ll enjoy your next work projects as much as we enjoyed having you work with us! Come back soon to our corner of Colorado!


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