Water catchment: phase 4.9

26 07 2021

Do you suppose we’ll get to phase 5 soon!? … I think so. πŸ™‚ Close. We’re SO close!

Those wily BLM’ers – Mike Jensen and new dad Daniel Chavez – hustled out to the basin without alert or fanfare last week and finished attaching the rest of the propanel sheets to the roof structure.

The last time I’d seen it, when Garth Nelson and Jim Cisco were out to attach the gutter and install three of four pipes, the roof covered half the structure. Because of rain in our forecast, they wanted to get the gutter installed so we could start catching SOME water.

Sure is shady under there! And think of that whole span of rain-catching marvelousness!

Just the end tank has to be piped, then the trough installed (the pipe to its destination is already in the ground) and the structure fenced to keep curious ponies from rubbing on tanks and posts and pawing at lids.

And what the heck is this, you ask?! It might be the strangest, most mind-bending pic I’ve ever posted on this blog. That’s a reflection – in WATER – of me gripping tightly my cellphone at the open lid on TOP of one of the water tanks. See it now? Even standing on the valve cover, I couldn’t quite see into the dark depths. Although I turned on the “flashlight” of my phone, I’m not sure it worked very well; you can see what you *can* see only by virtue of a little Photoshope lightening of shadows. But when I looked at my phone, I knew by the “white dot” – the reflection – that there was water TO reflect my phone and the lid and the metal roof above: I knew there was WATER. πŸ™‚

Wow, wowza and zowie Marie. πŸ™‚ That itself was worth a little dance (and it’s a good thing no ponies or humans were around to witness!).

And YES! We got our biggest rain to date later that evening. Perfect timing, guys. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





Water catchment: phase 4.75

18 07 2021

Sooner than I thought it would happen, Garth Nelson emailed me early in the morning last week and said he and Jim Cisco were coming out to install the gutter across the front of the catchment structure!

They beat me to the basin, and this was happening when I got there!

The propanel roof sheets are just halfway across, but with rain in this past week’s forecast – for later in the week at the time – Garth decided that it was a priority to get the gutter in place.

The ends of the pipes supporting the whole structure had to be cut a bit to make room for the gutter pieces, which were built/formed/constructed by a local business in Cortez. The guys did NOT bring that cool battery-powered band saw with which they were all completely in love, so Jim (pictured) and Garth had to make do with the ol’ sawzall. It worked; it just took longer (and went through a few blades).

Level says perfect!

Garth put a couple of beads of caulk between each new section of gutter.

Jim and Garth drilled holes at intervals in order to then run long screws to attach the gutters to the steel purlins.

And these little metal cylinders (held by Garth) acted as spacers to keep the gutters a uniform width.

They had to cut the ends of each of the steel pipes (four) to enable the gutter to be flush to the purlins.

And then with their great and amazing strength, they were able to break off the ends. πŸ™‚

In no time (it seemed to me), they were down (up!) to the last gutter piece!

When the gutter pieces were attached all along the front of the catchment, it was time to install the pipes from the gutter to the tanks. Holes had to be drilled above each tank to put the pieces in the gutter to attach the pipes.

A little vertical …

… and a little horizontal! (These pieces actually slope a bit. :))

And it looked like this! These are the first two tanks, piped. Jim is tightening the fitting in the bottom of the gutter.

Here are three of the four tanks piped, and you can see the valve-culvert lids in place.

Then … things got really exciting. Jim drove out to the basin in his weed-spraying rig, which has the 200-gallon water tank on it. When the gutter was in place and the pipes were installed, he pulled up alongside the eastern end of the structure and started pumping water up to the top of the roof.

And this happened:

And you know what I did: I bawled like a happy baby. πŸ™‚

Garth marked a few places that were leaking, to be recaulked.

Overall, it worked well, and I WISH that I could attach a recording of the SOUND of water trickling through the pipes and swirling into the tanks.

This all happened Monday, and early, early Wednesday morning, it rained. Again Wednesday night, it rained. πŸ™‚

Now, we just have to finish the installation of the propanel sheets across the rest of the roof, pipe the fourth tank and install the trough (I think). Our very big project is very nearly complete!





Special update

14 07 2021

This screen capture from my Kindle showing the rain all over our wonderful (and parched) Southwest Colorado region stands alone and is worthy in itself of relief and rejoicing. πŸ™‚ But, even as the post immediately below this one claimed to be updated as to the new catchment project, as of Monday afternoon (I drafted and scheduled it on Sunday), it was already outdated again. πŸ™‚

So – spoiler alert – Garth Nelson and Jim Cisco came Monday and installed the gutter pieces all across the front of the new catchment and installed pipes to three of the four tanks, AND tested it with 200 gallons of water pumped up and sprayed over the roof (which now covers more than half the structure). Daniel Chavez and his wife, Destiny, had their baby (!), and Mike Jensen is engaged in less interesting but also important office work, and Garth wanted to get the gutter in place to start catching water and storing it before he heads north for a couple of weeks on a fire detail. … !!! Can you say perfect timing?!

So this morning, when I awoke to the musical and wonderful and what-the-heck-is-that-strange-noise sound of rain on my firewood box roof (also propanel, interestingly enough), I. Was. STOKED! πŸ™‚ I’ve already cried to see the water flowing into the gutter from the water Garth and Jim sprayed up on the roof – and you’ll see it, too, when I can get the post composed – and this … well, let me just say there might have been some more moisture this morning, flowing inside the house. πŸ™‚

Huge thanks again to all our BLM folks, for the roles they’ve played in every step of this process … to catch rainwater for our mustangs. πŸ™‚ And thanks, of course, to Mother Nature, for the RAIN. Such a blessed relief!

(P.S. Spring Creek Basin is a bit eastish of the pin in the map above. And at 7:38 a.m. Colorado time, the sprinkles are only now slowing. It’s been raining since well before light.)





Water catchment: phase 4.5

14 07 2021

With this post, the blog and reality are caught up and meshed!

The guys showed up with the flatbed full of purlins – the last purlins required to weld to the roof structure on which to screw down the propanel sheets – and backed it right into the last section.

It was hot. Already. But they still had welding to do, which meant leather and Nomex and helmets for safety. Which meant – did I mention already? – hot.

Bonus: Backing the flatbed in under the structure meant that the purlins were close to where the guys hefted them into place on the steel pipes, and I had a higher vantage from which to take documentary photos. πŸ™‚ AND – on which to help hold the purlins steady (with my great and amazing strength!) while the guys welded them into place on either end. I’m tall, but I found it helpful to use one of the readily available rocks around to stand on for a couple extra inches to hold each of the purlins. The flatbed gave me a couple of extra FEET.

WIN!

You’ve seen the guys weld in multiple previous posts, so with this pic, fast forward a bit: All the purlins are welded in place across the whole roof structure! … So what the heck are those BLM’ers doing now?!

The last/top purlin is to Garth’s right. The pipe Daniel’s working on is the west-end pipe of the roof structure. (Note: There’s currently a fair amount of “extra,” which means that we can add purlins and propanel in the future for an even bigger roof surface.) Whatever they’re doing, it has the undivided attention of all three of us!

Our guys are craftsmen, and they’re rightly proud of their work. So Daniel “signed” it in beads of weld. πŸ™‚ That’s Garth in the pic, “chipping” the welds flat.

And he put the year on it, too. Forget the trials of 2020; 2021 is the year we’ll remember as the origin of the basin’s third water catchment for the mustangs.

We’ve thrown around a couple of name ideas for this particular catchment. It’s in the eastern end of wildcat valley (my name), beyond what we call wildcat spring. Wildcat catchment? With the new shade from the propanel, we were able to eat lunch right there – instead of up the hill under a tree. The whole structure is kind of a box. Lunchbox catchment? But I think we might have a winner here: BLM’ers marching, leading lines across the foreground … Abbey Road catchment, anyone? πŸ™‚ (Hey, we do like to laugh!)

Daniel got to work with the zz-zz.

And Garth got to work with the zz-zz.

Now I want to take you on a bit of a walk around the project, so you can see it from multiple directions.

This is basically at the southwestern corner looking northeastish.

Looking a bit more eastish. The road is just to my left.

Here, the road is just below me (you can see it at lower left … and as it continues on around the loop right in the center of the pic), and we’re looking southeastish toward McKenna Peak and Temple Butte.

An even bigger view … from near our previous lunch spot. πŸ™‚

And this is looking back to the southish (ever so slightly southwestish). That’s Filly Peak in the background, and if you know where to look, you can see the top of the tank at the main, original water catchment in Spring Creek Basin. πŸ™‚

Did I mention that it was hot? There might be some clouds over the horizons in these pix, but that didn’t mean any of those clouds were over our heads, over the basin. Hopefully, Mother Nature will take some pity on us before the next work day.

With that, we’re all caught up, and the blog reflects reality. Next steps: Finishing the propanel across the rest of the roof structure and installing the gutter across the front and the pipes from it to the tanks!





Water catchment: phase 4

12 07 2021

We’re now up to about phase 4 on the basin’s newest water-catchment project, though the phases are sort of, kind of starting to overlap a bit. It’s a big project! And my blogging is slightly behind our actual work, which is ongoing (it is hotter ‘n hell out there, I’m not kidding … last weekend, the mercury hit at least 104 in lower Disappointment Valley, which didn’t even set a record in the state of Colorado (because it was even hotter elsewhere, and other records WERE broken)).

On this day, Garth Nelson and Daniel Chavez, two of our BLM’ers-extraordinaire, welded the purlins in place that they’d previously brought out to the site. They wanted to make sure that the roof structure is super-solid and secure, so they welded them at fairly close intervals. This will come as a shock to … absolutely no one: It gets windy out here! The roof needs to be uber tight.

So Daniel got to welding.

And Garth got to welding. (By the way, for those worried about fire danger, the ground below the whole structure still is very much dirt. We are VERY aware of potential fire risk.)

Here’s an overview of where we were in the building process. It’s a bit hard to see from this perspective (and I’ve been trying to take pix from various perspectives!), but they’re just finishing the purlins across the middle section of the roof section. That’s the longest span – across the two middle tanks. West is behind Garth, and that part is done *now* … but at the time of this work day, they still had to get the remaining purlins from Durango (steel shortages affect everyone!).

In a project like this, there are loads of leading lines …

… and graphic lines! And it’s fun to take advantage of those arty bits, even in a serious project like this one. πŸ™‚ Behind Garth there, you can see the third/western section of the roof structure, which got “purlin’d” another day (that post is coming!).

When Garth and Daniel got the middle section of purlins welded, they started on the ROOF! These are the propanel (metal) sheets that will catch the rain and snow and convert it to drinkable water for the mustangs (via the gutter and pipes and other pipes and trough and float (!)). Exciting stuff!

Now, I have to tell you one of the most interesting things that I did NOT photograph about the getting of the propanel sheets to the basin. The day Daniel hauled out the pile of sheets (they’re 25 feet long from the top (right side of the pic) to where Garth is measuring in the pic above), he got stymied at the first Spring Creek crossing in Spring Creek Basin (which is probably about six-ish miles from the main county road). Why, you ask?

BECAUSE SPRING CREEK WAS RUNNING WITH WATER!!!!!!!!!!! πŸ™‚ It rained in the eastern part of the basin, and the creek arroyo ran for a little while.

So on this day, after the purlins were welded in place, we went back to get the propanel sheets and take them to the catchment site. Right before lunch. Perfect. πŸ™‚ (Also interesting note: Until we got the propanel sheets in place, which provided shade, our lunch spot was a short distance away, across the road and up a little slope under a lovely juniper tree. On our last work day, when it was almost a billion degrees, we lunched in the shade of the roof structure. :))

The first sheet, of course, was important to get screwed down straight on the frame to the steel purlins.

See those round green pieces? Those are going to be the lids for the black culvert pieces in front of each tank, at the bottom of which are the valves. The guys, those master welders, even made me a custom “key” so I can turn the valves on and off without crawling down on my belly to stick my arm down into the spider holes (they’re too deep for that anyway!). (I’ll get a pic of that key later.) The thicker green part will be a “riser” to go over the culvert, and the lid (with the white ring) will screw down on top. What are the silver “sticks” sticking up out of the culvert? Those are “drip edge” pieces of thin aluminum that will go all along the front line of purlins, under the propanel sheets. On another project like this that the guys have built, they found that rain water would sometimes just splash over/under the edge, missing the gutter. They installed these, and voila – problem solved. So we’re putting these edges under the propanel as we go along.

Interesting factoid: There’s still a bit of “bounce” to the roof, so being up there and walking around – staying on the purlins – was a little like walking on a trampoline. Daniel’s best quote from the entire project (thus far): “Now we know the roof can support 300 pounds of dude.” πŸ™‚ And they’ve said that about an inch of rain on this span of roof will put about 1,000 gallons of water in the tanks. There’s a particular formula – don’t ask me because I am NOT a math person – but Daniel and Garth ARE super smart dudes, and if they say it, I believe them! (Now we just need a whole gosh-darned inch of rain! … Wait … after the gutter is installed and piped to the tanks!)

And the water test. Yep! (Bonus, you can see the silver drip edge here, too.) You just have to imagine the gutter at this point… !

With a sky like that, I tried to get the guys to do their best Superman impressions. … They were too shy for that, but they’re still super heroes to me – and to the mustangs! πŸ™‚

On this particular day, we SUPER lucked out with the cloud cover and breeze that kept things relatively cool (OK, at least not HOT). With the two of them up there, zz-zzing the screws that fastened the propanel to the purlins beneath, it went pretty quickly.

Teamwork. πŸ™‚ Another of my favorite pix of the project! And that pole sticking out in the foreground of the pic marks the eastern third of the roof, which means that on just the first day of roof-attachment, they got a third of the panels in place.

Lest you all think it’s all work and no fun, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. πŸ™‚ Laughter is a big part of our camaraderie. I’m not totally sure what Daniel was doing here – I think the edge of the propanel sheet was just barely on enough of the purlin edge for Garth to tap a screw into, and the purlins, though welded, still have some give to them (hence the trampoline effect mentioned earlier), so he’s using his great and amazing strength (!) to pull the end (top) purlin closer to help Garth with the attachment.

The next day we worked in the basin (which was this past week) was crazy hot, but the guys showed up smiling, as always, and we got the rest of the purlins welded, and now the roof is just more than half covered in propanel sheets. Depending on continuing heat (the forecast shows some relief coming …) and availability, work will continue on the propanel attachment and getting the gutter in place and piped to the tops of the tanks.

One more little tidbit: I arrived first the last day we worked because the guys had to go to Durango to get the remaining purlins (to be welded) – from Dolores – and then all the way back out to Disappointment Valley. A band of horses was at the far east end of the little “mini valley” in this part of Spring Creek Basin, and their hoofprints were on the road, which is just, maybe, 50 yards from the catchment. … And not only there, but some brave pony or ponies came within about 10 yards of the eastern end of the structure. Eventually, we’re going to put up a fence around the structure so the horses won’t rub on things and chew on things, but they’re curious! … Gettin’ closer with each work day. πŸ™‚





Beloved horizon

2 07 2021

Just about everything is shown in this one pic – just about everything I love: Mustang (and there are more in the yonder) and that horizon that always lets me know I’m home after any amount of time away.

As always, I wonder what the horse sees/thinks as he looks out on that view, those places he knows intimately as a true, wild resident of that vast, wild land.





Top of my world

15 06 2021
Upper Disappointment Valley from Dawson Draw Road.

From high on the south side of Disappointment Valley, this is part of the amazing view looking eastish. Lone Cone is the prominent lone (!) peak in the far center background. Brumley Point and Temple Butte are visible at left.

Upper Disappointment Valley and beyond from Dawson Draw Road. Lone Cone and Groundhog Mountain visible

Layers and layers and layers of magnificence. Disappointment Road is visible in the middle distance and at far right. San Miguel Mountains in the center distance, and Groundhog Mountain slightly nearer to the right.

Spring Creek Basin from Dawson Draw Road above Disappointment Valley

And looking down into my heart’s own home ground: Spring Creek Basin. Round Top and Knife Edge are visible from here … and all the millions of other unnamed (or named only by me) places I traverse in my travels to see the mustangs. There actually are horses in this pic, though I’m not sure they show up in this very long and very far cellphone view. πŸ™‚ Do they need to? The magic of knowing they’re there is enough.





The bow without the rain

7 06 2021

You actually can have a rainbow without rain (where you want it).

Our lack is the boon of our friends up-valley and up-country.

**********

Reminder: Kat Wilder will be reading from her book “Desert Chrome” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sherbino Theater in Ridgway, Colorado. Ten-dollar tickets are required. Please join us if you’re in the area!





‘Home on the Range’

4 06 2021

“Managing Wild Horses on Colorado’s Public Lands”

On the heels of this week’s feel-good good-news stories, here’s another one to end your week on a high: Through the end of the year, Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum (formerly called Anasazi Heritage Center) will host β€œHome on the Range: Managing Wild Horses on Colorado’s Public Lands,” an exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Images and information about Colorado’s three herd management areas (Spring Creek Basin, Sand Wash Basin and Piceance-East Douglas) and one wild horse range (Little Book Cliffs) are included in the exhibit, as well as an adopters corner, which highlights a few awesome adopters of some of Spring Creek Basin’s awesome mustangs with a poster and short video. (Thank you to Tif Rodriguez and Whisper, Keith Bean and Skipper, Alice Billings and Liberty, Steve and Teresa Irick and Breeze and Sage, and Olivia Winter Holm and Ellie!)

The exhibit is a collaboration between CANM (Bridget Ambler), our local Tres Rios Field Office (Mike Jensen and Connie Clementson) and Colorado BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program (Ben Smith and Eric Coulter). I can’t begin to describe how incredible it looks. I walked through the doors, stopped dead in my tracks and burst into happy tears! The poor CANM employee who showed me in waited ever-so-politely for me to regain my senses (it took a little while). It’s THAT beautiful!

The center/museum is located on Colorado Highway 184 above the town of Dolores and McPhee Reservoir. If you’re in Southwest Colorado this year, please stop by to view the exhibit and the rest of the museum for a glimpse of ancient life here on the Colorado Plateau!

Below is a selection of photos of the exhibit. Really, it’s best viewed in person!

If you know me, you know that I’m the biggest emotional softie when it comes to my mustangs. Therefore, it will surprise none of you to read that when I drove up the road to the parking area below the building and saw handsome Hollywood and his beautiful mares, that was the first burst-into-tears event of the visit. Notice also the vertical sign on the side of the building in the background – also Hollywood. (Really, this guy should have his own star on a walk of fame!)

This was the next – and biggest – burst-into-tears moment: when I first walked into the exhibit hall and saw all those beautiful mustang faces. At right: Sand Wash Basin mustangs. In the background: Little Book Cliffs mustangs. At farthest left: Spring Creek Basin mustangs (the pic they used on the outside banner). Piceance-East Douglas mustang fans, don’t worry; your ponies are around the Sand Wash Basin wall. And the little section out of frame to the far left is the rest of the Spring Creek Basin area.

Right around the corner from the doors into the exhibit hall, the adopters are featured. Belatedly, I realized the mistake about Steve’s and Teresa’s mustangs: They’re both geldings. But I love the photos and quotes from everyone! These people all recognize the beauty and value of America’s mustangs (particularly our Spring Creek Basin mustangs), and I’m so glad BLM wanted to highlight their horses and parts of their stories. (The mustangs were adopted in 2005, 2007 and 2011.)

The exhibit also pays tribute to Colorado’s mustang advocacy groups – at least one for each herd in the state! Our mustangs are blessed to have people involved in every aspect of their observation and management (of course, we advocates know that WE are the blessed ones!).

No exhibit of mustang management in Colorado would be complete without a display of some of the tools of our fertility-control trade (on the wall across from this is an info-graphic panel about fertility control). We use CO2-powered darting rifles in Sand Wash Basin and in Spring Creek Basin, and they use .22-type rifles to dart in Little Book Cliffs. At upper left is a teeny branding tool for foals. Hopefully coming soon is a darting program in Piceance-East Douglas; all the pieces are being put in place.

Let’s see some pix of the pix (they are beautifully printed on canvas; each of them will go to the respective offices (Tres Rios, Grand Junction, White River and Little Snake) when the exhibit closes at the end of the year):

One of the walls of Piceance-East Douglas beauties.

A cozy corner of Little Book Cliffs mustangs with some of the astounding scenery shown. Part of Little Book Cliffs also is a wilderness study area (like McKenna Peak in Spring Creek Basin).

Some lovelies of Sand Wash Basin.

And of course, my most-beloved Spring Creek Basin wildies.

Deep, heartfelt gratitude to Bridget and Mike and everyone who conceived of and then brought this exhibit to reality. It didn’t open in January as planned because, you know, Covid, but it’s been open since mid-April and will be open the rest of the year (check the link at top of the page for visitor center/museum hours). (As of this writing, they’re following safety protocols with limited capacity in the building and social distancing.)

If you’re coming to or through Southwest Colorado in 2021, please, please, pretty-pretty please make a stop at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum and take time to walk through, and/or sit, and very most definitely enjoy this exhibit of some of the mustangs that call Colorado home. We are SO proud of our mustangs!





Water catchment: phase 1, day 4

3 06 2021

This was the last day of work a couple of days ago because – wonder of wonders! – we got nearly a full day of drizzle that Friday. To catch you up, the tanks are now installed, and the trenches mostly dug, so the guys put together the pipes from the tanks to a main line, then connected that line to a line down to the location where the trough will be located.

The guys brought a length of heavy-duty plastic culvert, and Daniel and I cut it in 4.5-foot lengths to serve as valve protectors. He also cut little “mouse holes” so the pipe could sit down on the dirt over the valve and pipe.

See how it goes? The dirt around the tanks then was filled to just below the top of the culvert section, and Daniel will construct lids so no critters fall in (remember snakey?).

There’s Jim with the tools of the piping trade: primer and glue and the sawzall for cutting lengths of PVC pipe.

See how it’s all going together? Culverts like that seen at the end tank will go over the rest of the tanks, too.

Mike and Daniel then talked about how to attach the black hose (not as supple as a garden hose, bendier than the PVC). That’s the one that will run from the end of the pipe – which comes straight out of the tank at my immediate right and is immediately below me – down the slope to the eventual trough.

Daniel and Jim attached the black hose and tightened it with clamps while Mike supervised.

It should be noted that it was EXTRAORDINARILY WINDY that day, and the dust and dirt and sand and silt was in the glue and primer. Hopefully that will just make the “welds” extra sticky (!?).

Here we are looking down the slope (it doesn’t look like much, does it?) along the trench from the tanks (behind me) to the location of the trough. The last piece of culvert will help protect the pipe and fittings as it comes up out of the ground … from, you know, freezing weather … curious mustangs … that kind of thing. πŸ™‚

Mike and Garth had their coordinated shoveling in sync to fill in the trench over the pipe from the tanks. You can see a bit of the dust from the wind, as well as the culverts in place over each valve at each tank.

Now all four of our guys – Mike at left, Jim and Garth at right and Daniel on the excavator – are working to cover the pipe trench (this is looking back up the slope from the trough location to the tanks) and the holes where the tanks sit.

The tanks and their valve-protector culverts in place, still to be filled with dirt.

Get to shovelin’, Daniel! πŸ™‚

Garth was back on the excavator to push dirt over the pipe trench and into the tank holes. They had to be careful not to crumple the plastic tanks. By this time of working at the site, the dirt was sooooo powdery.

And *just like that* (!), the guys were almost done with phase 1 of the newest water-catchment project in Spring Creek Basin! I want to be sure to mention that all the trenches and holes were covered before they left. They did some more smoothing of the dirt Monday when they returned to retrieve the excavator.

Just a few days later, the first band of horses was checking things out:

There’s no water yet, ponies, but soon!

The next phase will be the construction of the roof structure over the tanks.

Huge thanks to Mike Jensen (our most excellent herd manager), Garth Nelson, Daniel Chavez and Jim Cisco for all their work! We really do have the BLM’s best here in Disappointment Valley! The sun was bright, the wind was strong, but the gnats were blown away (!). Phase 2 will be a little toastier … !