Water catchment 2 – phase 2, day 5

26 11 2022

As previously announced, our newest water-catchment project is finished! Now we just need snow (which, according to the forecast, is coming Monday night/Tuesday). And to continue the theme of gratitude this Thanksgiving weekend, we couldn’t be more grateful!

Last Thursday (exactly a week before Thanksgiving), this was about all that remained to finish the roof: Garth Nelson and Daniel Chavez had a few more purlins to weld to the I-beams, and Mike Jensen and I had a few more propanel roof sheets to screw down to the purlins.

One reason I love to highlight these work projects our BLM guys do in Spring Creek Basin is, of course, to highlight the work they do for our mustangs. Another, related, big reason, is to highlight our partnership in doing so. … And because these three guys – Mike, Garth and Daniel – work as well or better together than any three people I know. It’s pretty amazing to be around their creativity and can-do attitudes. So my photographer’s heart was really stoked when a particular purlin required Garth (right) and Daniel to literally put their heads together to get it welded to the I-beam.

Again, you really can’t beat our “office” scenery.

The unmasking. 🙂

All three guys working together. 🙂 After we finished the roof, it was time to put the gutter up along the front of the structure!

When the gutter was in place all along the front of the structure and secured, we switched up our pairings: Mike and Garth got to work on measuring and cutting and gluing the pipes from holes drilled in the bottom of the gutter to each of the tanks, and Daniel and I worked to put more spacers and long screws through the gutter to the front beam (Daniel handled the measuring and drilling; I did the handing of spacers and screws … and photo documentation :)). I didn’t take a pic of those “spacers,” but they were about 6-inch long pieces of small-diameter metal tubing, through which the screws ran, the function of which was to keep the sides of the gutter from collapsing when the screws were run through the gutter.

Gotta make sure all the pieces fit together tightly!

I didn’t get Mike’s face in this one with Garth and Daniel because he was holding the part of the fitting inside the gutter while Garth tightens it at the underside of the gutter, but I still like this shot of all the guys working together. Mike and Garth were working from the northwest to the southeast side of the gutter and tanks, and after we got the gutter up with a minimum number of spacers and screws, Daniel and I were working back from southeast to northwest – this is where we met “in the middle.”

Measuring the pipes before gluing.

Great work in the foreground. Great scenery in the background. 🙂

Moving toward conclusion.

The gutter comes in pieces that overlap, so Mike and Garth caulked each seam as well as under the fittings for the pipes inside the gutter.

And they also used a spray-on sealant along the outer seams of the gutter pieces and to coat the outer parts of the pipes. That will help protect the PVC pipe as well as give it a little more help in absorbing the sun’s warming rays during the winter.

The green things seen in front of each tank are two pieces: One is a ring that goes around the top, exposed part of the culverts that protect the below-ground valves for each tank, and the other (see it leaning against the farthest tank?) is the lid to keep critters (like snakes) out of the holes.

One final piece to show you readers (in two pix):

Garth welded his name onto the top of one of the I-beams, and …

… Daniel welded “2022,” “TJ,” “MLJ” and “D. Chavez” into the southeast-end beam of the structure. 🙂 Last year, he welded “BLM 2021” into one of the end-facing pipes.

When we finished the new water catchment, before we left Spring Creek Basin, we went over to last year’s new catchment and welded that little walk-through gate to the pipe (see the post about the previous day of work). Until then, it was secured with wires and didn’t swing. Now, access is as easy as unchaining the gate and swinging it open. Panels like those pictured eventually will enclose the newest structure to keep the horses from rubbing on the tanks or messing with the culvert caps.

Best of all, this pic of Garth, Mike and Daniel shows some hard-working BLM guys who put a lot of thought and effort into ensuring that our mustangs have good water (quantity and quality) in Spring Creek Basin! With the addition of these two new water catchments in the last two years, our ability to store water that is clean (not salty or silty) and not subject to evaporation increases from 24,000 gallons (two 12,000-gallon tanks for each of the other two catchments) to 50,500 gallons!

This Thanksgiving weekend, especially, we are SO thankful. 🙂 Thanks to our amazing BLM partners for all they do for our mustangs!





Water catchment 2 – phase 2, day 4

21 11 2022

It’s finished!

In terms of pix and storytelling, that’s jumping the gun a bit, but I am so excited and proud of this project (as I am of all the projects we do in Spring Creek Basin for our mustangs), that it seemed appropriate to start with the best part of the news.

What follows – in this post and one more future post – are pix of the last two days of work that take this water-catchment project from nearly done to ready to catch snow and rain!

Early last week, Garth Nelson and Daniel Chavez sneaked out to the basin with the purlins needed to weld onto the I-beams and got started welding them into place. Wednesday – the day featured in these images – Mike Jensen and I joined them to start putting the propanel (metal) roof sheets into place and screwing them into place atop the purlins. Above, Mike puts the first screws in place to hold the first sheet down!

Garth and Mike align the front edges of the roof sheets – which will just overhang the gutter – and screw them into place while Daniel watches.

As the first roof sheets were laid down, Daniel and Garth returned to their partnership of setting the purlins in place and welding them to the I-beams.

Mike and I got the roof sheets up and screwed down pretty quickly and then would wait while Garth and Daniel methodically welded each purlin in place.

Mike had the yellow drill, and I had the red. … I was pretty fond of that little tool over the two days. 🙂 Note how the purlins face in different directions. Garth and Daniel did that on purpose. Because the purlins had some “bend” to them, they reasoned that alternating the directions of the purlins would increase stability. Mike and I, walking about and drilling on that roof, can attest to the stability!

The purlins met atop the I-beams, to which Daniel and Garth welded them.

As Daniel welded, Garth held his end of the purlin in place, and vice versa, as you can see a couple of pix above.

As always, the guys used their portable welder on the back of the truck. The propanel roof sheets were on the flatbed trailer, and Mike and would lift a few of those to the roof at a time, then climb back up on the roof (using their second truck as our “ladder”) and screw them down.

Closing in on the end of the roof!

I was happy to grab photos while Mike and I waited for Garth and Daniel to weld their purlins.

And we found ways to fill our time and stay busy. That little walk-through gate will eventually allow us to access the “interior” of the water catchment – under the roof – to do any maintenance or attend to valves at the tanks, etc. The panel “fencing” will go up later. How do you attach hinges to round steel pipe?

The welders weld the hinges to the pipe, of course!

And so the ends wouldn’t stick out to catch an unwary mustang, Mike sawed them off. 🙂 Always thinking about the horses, these guys!

This view is from up the hill, “behind” the water catchment, looking down the hill. You can juuuuust see the trough at far right behind Daniel.

And about here is where Wednesday’s work ended.

Our weather has been sunny and cold (teens) in the early mornings, followed by highs in the 40s or so – warm enough when you’re working! And among the benefits, remember: No gnats! 😉

As Paul Harvey used to say – at the end of the story – “the rest of the story” will be coming soon!





Water catchment – phase 2, day 2 (more)

14 11 2022

As promised a few days ago, here are some more pix of the work on the newest water catchment in Spring Creek Basin. 🙂

You won’t ever catch our BLM guys sitting down on the job! As I mentioned in the last post about the project, the guys started by setting up the laser level to mark the heights of the steel pipes that will hold the I-beams, which will support the purlins, which will be topped by the roof, which will catch the rain and snow to fill the tanks to water the mustangs! So here, Garth Nelson is setting the laser in a place where it will be high enough to shoot over the tops of the tanks so the pipes can all be marked. Not sitting down so much as getting the eyeball view!

While Garth set up the laser level, Daniel Chavez held the little doohickey that caught the laser at the right height at all the pipes and marked the appropriate levels.

Measure many times and many ways before the final cut, goes the saying? Garth and Mike Jensen also ran string lines to ensure the levels.

Most of the pipes required a fair bit to be cut off, but this one needed just a little sliver. … It also was the pipe that started to alert the guys that something was amiss with the blade(s) on their nifty little saw – and this pic of Daniel using it gives a little better glimpse of that tool.

For those of you interested in such things, here’s another angle of one of the guys’ favorite tools. The “blade” is a band that goes around those black wheels on the underside of the tool. Usually, it saws through heavy “stem pipe” almost like a hot knife through butter (a bit slower, but steel is, after all, steel!), but the first couple-few blades they tried – brand new out of the package – were just dulling the teeth on the blades within minutes. NOT working. That’s what led to the double-tool whammy of using the grinder tool as well as this tool – and then finding the blade that worked, which worked for all the rest of the pipes.

Using the tractor to carry the heavy I-beams to set atop the pipes.

While Daniel got started welding the first I-beam to the pipes in the middle of the catchment structure, Garth finished cutting the pipes to height/length.

The welding process fascinates me …!

The A-team!

Sparks flying – another good reason to wait till cooler weather for the completion of the project. 🙂

Garth holds the I-beam steady and level while Daniel makes the first weld to hold it in place.

Garth finished the welding on the last beam.

Working in Spring Creek Basin does have the perks of fabulous scenery. 🙂

Next up should be welding the purlins atop the I-beams!





Water catchment 2 – phase 2, day 1

6 11 2022

Well, we outlasted the summer heat, the gnats, the dust, the wind, the dust, the gnats, the heat, the dust (you get the picture), and it’s time to finish our second new water-catchment project for our mustangs of Spring Creek Basin!

Last week, after waiting out the drying roads and before the next round of moisture (soaking rain and big, fat flakes of snow that didn’t stick but added to the moisture), Mike Jensen, Garth Nelson and Daniel Chavez – our BLM range heroes! – came out with tools and supplies, and we got started on phase 2 to get the catchment finalized to take advantage of hoped-for winter snow.

If you need a quick refresher about our work to install the tanks and piping and trough, click on June 2022 over on the right under Archives, then scroll down to find the posts about that work.

It all starts with the first post (pipe) hole! Well, it really all starts with running a string (see the pink line across the tanks?) to dig the holes so the line of steel pipes – to support the roof structure – will be in a straight line. Garth (left) and Daniel are on the gas-powered augur (what a difference that makes to digging holes! especially as many as this project requires), and Mike supervises. He would later do the lion’s share of work with the post-hole digger (far left) and tamp bar when the augur wasn’t quite enough to break through the calcium layer of soil.

Moving right along. You can see by their bodies that Garth and Daniel are putting their weight and strength over the augur to dig deep into the soil.

This was the last hole across the front line of the tanks.

Have you noticed the black straps over the tops of the tanks? As you might remember, we had another good monsoon year (heck, we HAD monsoons again this year after *not* for a few years). After the tanks were in the ground (in June) – piped together at the bottom, the dirt covered back over – at least one of those big rains poured off the hill behind and above the tanks and ran across the not-so-settled dirt around them … and sort of UPROOTED at least two of the tanks – and broke at least one pipe connection! The BLM guys had to come back and fix that little issue (no pix of that because the designated photographer/documenter (that’s me) was on vacation in Wyoming at the time). The straps over the tanks – snugged to T-posts driven into the ground – were to hold them in place in case of another gully washer – which seems to have worked.

Mike checks the level of the pipe while Daniel finagles the concrete to straighten the tilt.

Right on the money! These pipes will be holding an immense weight to support the propanel roof sheets, so the guys filled all the holes with concrete to ensure the longevity of the pipes in our erosion-prone soil.

While Mike and Daniel were mixing and pouring the concrete, Garth was cutting the pipes into sections to place in the holes that the guys had dug with the augur. I went back and forth, lending a hand wherever needed and taking pix of the work (because all good work should be documented!).

The guys work together to shovel the concrete into one of the holes to stabilize one of the pipes.

Getting close to end end of hole-auguring on the back side (uphill side) of the tanks. Of note: The white on the far ridges, including McKenna Peak and Temple Butte, IS, in fact, snow. That seems at odds with the guys wearing T-shirts, but it was warmish until the wind picked up. And did I note that it wasn’t HOT, and there were no gnats and no dust?

Here, you can see the pipes that we’ve already placed – and concreted in place – that will serve as supports for the roof.

And then, as we were getting close to placing the last pipes, THIS happened: A couple of bands came down the hill from the northwest bowls (little “swales” in the northwestern part of Spring Creek Basin, above Spring Creek canyon) to drink at the pond in this area that I call the northwest valley. Why are we building a water catchment in an area that has a pond, you ask? Because, other than this year (of course), that pond only rarely has water in it, which meant that this area – usually dry – is a really GOOD location for a water catchment. And it has proved to be a good location – this year – for showing us that the horses will use this area – and graze it – when there’s water there to drink!

The guys used a couple of methods to ensure straightness of the posts (not just the straightness of each individual pipe but all of them related to all the others in lines up and across), including the string line (pink, tied to the short bit of rebar between Mike and Garth); measuring distance with a tape measure between the posts pictured, as well as those to the left, out of sight; and Daniel, shown here employing the eyeball method – sighting along the three pipes.

Mike and Garth level the pipe while the horses decide there’s not much to worry about and go on to the pond.

Peace on both sides, horse and human.

More of the same. I so loved that the horses, after their initial shock at seeing us at their watering hole, pretty quickly decided that we weren’t doing anything upsetting at all.

And the last pipe is in place!

It’s a good-size pond, and when it holds water, it holds a fair quantity!

Shortly after this, we were done with all the pipe placement and started cleaning up tools and supplies. The horses drank and wandered off to graze in the little valley. Even when the guys rumbled out in their trucks, the horses weren’t bothered. I stayed to take some pix. Before I left, two trucks with sightseers (importantly, not hunters (the end of today marks the end of the second rifle season … two more to go …)) drove up into the northwest valley. The horses had drifted and were grazing right along the road, but the visitors moved super slowly and respectfully, and the horses gave them a marvelous view for pictures right through their passenger-side windows!

We’ll continue work on the roof structure over the tanks as weather allows. Another moisture-bearing system is headed our way by Tuesday night. 🙂





Tribute to a public-lands servant

30 09 2022

Connie Clementson, manager of Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores, is retiring after 37 years of public-lands service. For the last 11 years, she has been the head of BLM public lands in Southwest Colorado. We first met her at the 2011 Spring Creek Basin roundup when she was still with the Forest Service and served here as the then-acting district ranger for the Dolores District of San Juan National Forest. We’re glad she was able to finish her three-plus decades of service here in our corner of Colorado.

Our herd manager, Mike Jensen, gets a lot of the well-deserved credit for our recent management accomplishments in Spring Creek Basin, and we know that’s because he has had the support of the top boss – Connie – and her confidence that he was making best decisions for our herd.

Monday, Tif Rodriguez, long-time advocate for Spring Creek Basin mustangs as well as for protecting rights and rights-of-way for horsemen and horse (and other pack stock such as mules) use on public lands, and I went to Tres Rios Field Office, where Joe Manning, assistant field office manager (who also has a lot to do with our confidence-inspiring herd management), had scheduled us into a rare gap in Connie’s last-week schedule. Daniel Chavez, range tech who works with Mike (and Garth Nelson), joined us in Mike’s absence (he was returning from a trip with his daughter).

We presented Connie with a photo of Spring Creek Basin mustangs and a letter from our Disappointment Valley Mustangs group (which includes Pat and Frank Amthor, David and Nancy Holmes, and Kathryn Wilder, in addition to me and Tif) in appreciation for her years of service – specifically here and especially for our mustangs. While we chatted, she reminded us that she said 11 years ago at the roundup that she didn’t ever want to do that again in Spring Creek Basin. And because of her 100 percent support of the PZP fertility-control program in the basin, we haven’t.

In the photo above, from right to left: Joe Manning, Connie Clementson, yours truly, Tif Rodriguez and Daniel Chavez.

We’re so grateful for Connie’s leadership and partnership these many years, and we wish all the best to Connie (and her family) during her well-earned retirement!