Water catchment: phase 2, part 2

9 06 2021

This was a short day because of the concrete in the post holes. It has to set/cure before more work can be done. Our part of the world is heating up, one of the guys will be on fire detail, and another person will be on vacation, and there’s monitoring to do on a lotta range – not just Spring Creek Basin.

So without further ado, let’s continue with the last bit of work that happened in the basin a week ago.

More measuring had to happen to ensure that the structure will be “square” in its rectangular layout. I can’t remember the dimensions, but there’s going to be a lot of roof space on which to catch rain and snow!

Also the inner measurements had to be taken.

Then more drilling and more cutting. …

And more concrete pouring (and Jim was back from his weed spraying).

We did have a bit of excitement when the augur got stuck in the hole. They used the section of steel pipe to try to leverage it out of the hole, and even I lent my muscles to the task (now THAT would have been a pic – all five of us heaving on the augur, which was stuck fast in the hole). in the end, they had to dig it out from where it had gotten stuck on rocks.

While the guys continued to set posts and pour concrete, they acquired a bit of an audience. Do you see them?

How ’bout now? 🙂

The posts are in. Next, the purlins have to be welded in place to complete the structure for the roof panels. As it happens, I’ll document it!





Water catchment: phase 2, part 1

8 06 2021

Our range guys were back in Spring Creek Basin last week for some more work on the water-catchment project, this time, to start on the support structure for the roof that will eventually go over the tanks to catch rain and snow (no snow for a while … we have a few 100-plus-degree days on tap!).

I took at least one billion and one half pix (if you know me, you know that’s really not a ginormous exaggeration), so while I’ll try to keep the images to a minimum, I’m also so proud of our guys and this project that I want to highlight it. That said, I’m going to stretch the post into two days.

The day started with measuring. When you’re this far out from Ace Depot Lowe’s Improvement Store (aka *civilization*), you measure LOTS and then cut confidently (if you’re our dream team; if you’re me, you rely on your dream team!). First, they set rebar stakes and ran strings and measured up and down and side to side and in between so they could start with a square-angled rectangle frame to then be able to augur holes for the steel-pipe posts.

Garth and Mike – the young guys – watch Mike dig out the hole they just drilled with the augur. The dirt is soft and dry, and the (dreaded) post-hole digger wasn’t a whole heckuva lotta help.

The first pipe is in!

Daniel has a well-known aversion to working in gloves. … But those pipes were HOT. I helped carry a few of them, WITH gloves, and my gloves were only barely a protection against the heat from that steel.

The guys were all in love with THIS particular tool – a battery-powered band saw. It cut through that steel pipe … if not like butter, pretty darn well.

They brought a supply of water to mix with cement to make concrete to pour in the holes to hold the pipes (at least partly because the soil is so dry and soft and crumbly).

This little tool, a magnetic level, turned out to be one of the main tools of the day and was used to ensure all the pipes were straight.

Glop! They put two bags worth of concrete in each hole to hold the pipes.

Jim was in the basin, too, and he was out spraying weeds along the roads and some of the ponds, so I got to be in charge of pole leveling duty for a bit.

And of course, we had some fun. 🙂





Showoff

5 06 2021

Thanks to Raven for helping to show off the water tanks that are the first part of Spring Creek Basin’s newest water-catchment project!





‘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 “Home 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. 🙂

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! 🙂

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 … !





Water catchment: phase 1, day 3

2 06 2021

The third day of the water-catchment build story finds us back in Spring Creek Basin with the full team. Daniel used the excavator to widen the holes for the tanks, and the other guys used shoves and rakes to clean out the crumbly bits (into the excavator’s bucket). Then the holes were primed – literally – for the dumping and aligning of the tanks.

Let’s get to work!

Daniel had already combined the two middle holes to one and is cleaning out more dirt, and Jim checked the depth.

Mike and Jim took a quick check of the depth of the hole (and this image gives readers a better look at the ingress/egress ramp).

Mike and Jim had to get in the hole to do some finesse digging of the sandy dirt crumblies. By this time, the dirt was approaching the consistency of powder. (I’m not sure whether I’ve ever mentioned on this blog, but it’s dry out there … !)

In addition to cleaning out the holes, Mike and Garth checked the level of the bottom to make sure it was prepared for the tanks to sit level right when they went in the holes.

Lots of dust is created by powdery dirt when a 3,500-gallon water tank drops over the edge after four brawny guys push it into a hole! Don’t worry, the tank won’t sit like that. This is a capture of a split second before the tank rocked back to flat on its base.

While Garth took over the controls of the excavator, Daniel and Jim were in the hole to do some fine digging.

The guys had to roll the tanks from where we’d off-loaded them from the flatbed to the edge of the hole, then maneuver them to topple into the hole (this is the middle hole, with one tank already in it), in a controlled manner so the valves faced forward.

More fine work from Mike, Garth and Jim. …

This is one of my favorite pix of the whole project so far. All our BLM guys, working together for the benefit of our Spring Creek Basin mustangs. 🙂 Priceless.

When the tanks were all placed in the ground, it was time to dig the trench for the pipe.

Daniel and Jim were all over the putting together of the valves for each of the tanks. Those went in place by the end of the day …

… helped by Mike, using (I think) Daniel’s grandpa’s aluminum wrench!

Thursday: last work day (because of Friday’s rain), on which the pipes were attached to the valves, and each other, and down to the eventual location of the trough.





Water catchment: phase 1, day 2

1 06 2021

If you missed yesterday’s post, a brief recap: I’m telling the story of the first phase of the building of the first of Spring Creek Basin’s two new water catchments. In this first phase, don’t think building UP so much as digging DOWN (the up-ness will come in phase 2). There were some holes to dig before the pretty stuff – the water tanks – could be placed, and the tanks had to be placed before the moisture-gathering roof can be built.

Day 2 started with more digging of the holes. Though they measured side to side and other side to other side, to contain the roundness of the big tanks, because of the crumbliness (that’s a highly technical term in the world of dirt-hole digging) of the dry dirt, they really had to overdig, and the middle two holes eventually became one rectangular hole. Daniel is at the controls of the mini-ex, and Jim has the laser level “stick.” (For the first half of this day, Mike was meeting another group at another range site, and Garth had the day off to attend the graduation of his kindergartner!)

In the afternoon, Mike arrived with Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson and BLM employee Whitney Carnahan (I knew her when she was a seasonal and don’t know her married name) to show off and explain the project. Daniel and Jim were just about to use the excavator to pick up the first water tank and lower it into the first hole.

Daniel and Jim finagled a way to strap the tank through the holes in the top in order to lift it with the excavator. Destination: hole in the foreground.

Once again, we had Jim in the hole (inside joke) while he steadied the tank and Mike directed Daniel. Jim’s left hand is on the lower valve opening, and straight above that is the top valve opening. There’s a much bigger hole on top of the tank (which has a screw-top lid), and those were the holes the guys used to run the strap through and lift the big bugger. Those valves also had to “face front” to align with the pipe-’em-all-together pipe that would run across the “front” of the tanks, then down to the trough.

Because of the off-center location of the top holes, though, it was hard to get the trough quite settled in the hole.

This was kinda when they realized the holes needed to be a wee bit bigger to accommodate the dirt crumbliness. I also want to point out Daniel at lower right: he dug little entrance/exit ramps into the holes for easy(er) access. As it turned out, he ended up digging the holes out a fair bit bigger for really good access, which they needed in order to align the tanks with the valve holes in the right spots after they dropped the tanks into the holes.

Tomorrow (which is to say that day’s tomorrow), they used the UTV to drag out the tank to enlarge the hole (along with the other holes) and commenced the dropping of the tanks!





Water catchment: phase 1, day 1

31 05 2021

First, let me refresh your collective memories:

Last year, Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area herd manager (and all-around great guy) Mike Jensen put the finishing touches on the new, updated herd management area plan (updated from 1994!) that he worked on for two years. If you follow that time-machine link back to July 2020, you’ll see that Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson’s decision included eight items. No. 8 was to authorize “additional new water developments for improving wild horse distribution across the HMA.”

We had hoped to start the first catchment last fall, but Mother Nature had other ideas for the week Mike had rented the machine to do the digging. And as winter approached, the project got pushed to this spring.

Fast forward to this spring (which was two weeks ago!), our BLM dream-range-team of Mike, Garth Nelson (also a rangeland management specialist), Daniel Chavez (range tech) and seasonal weed sprayer Jim Cisco broke ground on phase 1 of the first of two new water catchments in Spring Creek Basin.

This week on the blog will be devoted to the progression of the project. So today’s photos depict that Monday’s work; Tuesday’s post will depict that Tuesday’s work, etc.

On to the dirt work!

Daniel, the youngest of our range team, ran the mini excavator to dig holes for four 3,500-gallon poly (heavy plastic) water tanks while Mike and Garth used an augur to drill holes for the support posts for the roof system that will go over the tanks to catch rainwater and snow.

While the digging was under way, Jim readied the laser level in order to ensure the holes are all at the same depth. Then he used it to measure the run down to the eventual location of the water trough. That laser level got a workout (as did Jim) during the week. Garth would give Daniel breaks from running the mini-ex. Like Daniel said, it was a bit dizzying to scoop (to dig) and swing (to deposit). Here’s a sad thing: They dug down about 4 feet to bury the tanks about halfway, and the dirt is dry, dry, dry, all the way down.

Here’s a closeup of Garth and Mike using an augur to drill holes for the support posts for the roof over the tanks.

As it turned out, they decided on different locations for the posts to stand, but these first holes gave us the straight line on which to align the tank holes. Another sad note: Garth later used a post-hole digger to clean out the holes … and the dirt was SO dry, it all just slid right out of the digger’s “jaws.” (Also of note, of all tools in existence, I despise post-hole diggers the most!)

Did I mention the laser level? They used it to ensure that all the tanks were buried to the same depth and were level, and they also had to make sure there was enough “drop” down the slope (which doesn’t look like much of a slope, does it?) so gravity will do the work of allowing water to flow from the tanks (even when the water level is low) to the trough. As with our other two troughs, there will be a float to keep the water level constant. And the guys also will add an evaporation cover. In the pic is Jim, master of the laser level.

Zoom in on this pic. See Mike? See Mike smiling? He’s measuring out the distance from the tanks to the trough location. Mike is always smiling! 🙂

Mark it! This will be the basic location of the trough, and this perspective is looking back up toward the tanks. You can see the first one that we delivered on the flatbed trailer behind it. Also, see the white thing behind the truck cab? That’s a 200-gallon water tank (the truck is Jim’s weed-spraying rig), and the guys filled it with water each day before they left Dolores, and each day, we emptied it to one of the aprons at the main (and original) catchment, for a total of 800 gallons! (Friday, Ma Nature graced us with rain, so there was no work that day, and she provided the water!)

Tomorrow: A bit more digging, a bit more leveling, and the holes will be ready for the tanks!

**********

Also today, Memorial Day, we remember all those members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died in service to their country. Though they did not make it home to family and loved ones, their service and sacrifice cannot be forgotten by those of us *at* home, for whom they fought and died.





Teamwork

30 05 2021

I love this pic of our guys working together to push a water tank into a hole dug last week in Spring Creek Basin!

This was part of phase one of the first of two new water-catchment projects for the mustangs: digging holes for tanks, digging trenches for pipes, placing the tanks in the holes, placing and putting together the valves and pipes in the trenches (including down to the eventual trough). Next up: auguring holes and setting the supports for the roof over the tanks that will funnel rain and snow. (I really do have hopes of doing at least a brief post about phase one …!)

Left to right above: Mike Jensen, Garth Nelson, Daniel Chavez and Jim Cisco – excellent BLM’ers all!





It’s for them

26 05 2021

It’s all for them.