A little bit of perfection

20 08 2022

Bands taking advantage of good grass and good, clean water at Spring Creek Basin’s main/original water catchment (tank at far left, trough just a bit to the right of it).

This is looking basically northwest … rain falling over Utah’s La Sal Mountains and monsoon clouds shading part of lower Disappointment Valley. There’s a hint of green in them thar hills … and for that, we are grateful beyond words.





Water catchment 2: Phase 1, day 4

17 06 2022

Yesterday was toasty. I never did see triple digits, but on my way out of the basin, the temp was a solid 99 degrees. We felt the heat, but until I *saw* it, I wasn’t quite feeling it the way I did after my poor brain recognized the numbers. The gnats were, well, the same: bad.

We got right to work finishing up the plumbing bits. Above, Mike is shoveling dirt around the vertical culvert we put in over the valve at the trough. The brown pipes are steel pieces like we used for the roof structure last year; they’re meant to protect the culvert (which will have a lid) from the horses messing with it. Daniel is on the mini excavator, filling the trench that holds the “flexible line” from the tanks.

Meanwhile, Garth was up at the end tank, measuring and cutting out the “mouse holes” in the bottom of the last culvert to accommodate the valve and pipe. We cut and placed the other culverts over the other tank valves the day before.

This is what it looked like before filling (we had shoveled dirt into the hole around each of the culverts to hold them in place before Daniel started filling with the machine). Look at the line-up! Like we had run a plumb line to make them straight. … We didn’t. There was some measuring and a lotta eye-balling. … Mike, Garth and Daniel have the know-how for this kind of thing, for sure. 🙂

Let the filling commence!

While Daniel was filling and Mike was shoveling, Garth installed a nifty little critter ladder in the trough down the hill. How cool is it! The metal tabs are bent over the edge of the trough, then screwed into the lip to hold it in place. Then he sawed off the ends so they don’t pose sharp-edge hazards. At the end of the day, we also installed one of these in last year’s catchment trough – very handy now that we have water in that one!

More filling of the hole around the tanks. …

Looking good, right?

Admiring their job well done!

This phase of our new water-catchment project went pretty quickly, which I’m sure is a relief to us all, given the heat and gnatty hordes (!). This fall, we’ll get to work on the roof structure, complete with gutter, and start catching some rain. … Speaking of rain, we’re on day 55 (today) *without* rain.

That’s the dry news; the good news is that the forecast is looking promising, starting with possible storms later today. … Lightning, we can do WITHOUT. Rain … BRING IT ON!!!!!

Thanks hugely to our awesome BLM team: Mike, Garth and Daniel!





Water catchment 2: Phase 1, day 3

16 06 2022

Partnership is the name of the game with our wonderful BLM guys: Mike Jensen, Garth Nelson and Daniel Chavez. We got a lot done on the water-catchment project yesterday, and there are a lot of pix; let’s get to it!

The above was the first tank to go in the hole dug the day before by Garth. Daniel was back with us, which was a good thing; we needed lotsa muscle.

Pretty soon, things were looking like this at the site.

Then the guys got right to work installing the valves to each tank. (What the heck is Mike doing, you ask? Did I mention yesterday that the gnats were out? Yours truly wore my handy-dandy head net, and I helpfully provided some bug spray for all three delicious-to-gnats BLM’ers (reapplyment was necessary frequently). Garth and Daniel made the extraordinary scientific discovery that plumbing primer and glue is most excellent gnat bait.)

Some extra tweaking and digging out and fine-tuning of the space was necessary (which gives you readers another fine view!). To repeat from yesterday, this catchment features five 2,500-gallon tanks, compared with the four 3,500-gallon tanks in last year’s project. They’re a couple of feet shorter (so the hole doesn’t have to be quite as deep (and we bury them to help keep the water inside from freezing during the winter)), and the walls/plastic is a bit thicker, so they’re a bit more sturdy.

Once again, as with last year’s project, we used lengths of culvert to protect the valves at the base of each tank. The hole will be filled in around the tanks tomorrow, and with these culverts – set vertically – we’ll still be able to access each valve. While Mike and I cut out holes at the base of each for the valves and pipe that links each of the tanks, Garth and Daniel …

… got busy gluing all the valves to the pipe that will link them each and thus allow water to run down the hill to the trough.

Here’s a view of the culverts in place over the valves for each tank.

Then the guys moved right into digging the trench from the end tank down the hill to the trough spot. Garth is carrying the 100-foot length of “flexible line” (that’s a technical term meaning I don’t have a clue what it’s actually called) that will run from the tanks to the trough.

This pic, just because I like seeing all three of our guys in their element: doing what they do for the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin. 🙂

Overall view of the project site: Daniel has dug the length of the trench, and he was leveling out the spot for the trough. At farthest right, you can see the end of the flexible line sticking up from the trench. That will tie into another couple of sections of PVC pipe, from horizontal through an “elbow” to a vertical piece to come up into the trough from the bottom (see the little white bit at the right side of the overturned trough?).

Checking the level of the trough, which is acting like a giant reflector to put light on Daniel’s and Mike’s faces under their ball caps (as a photographer, I appreciated that very much!).

We got the trough set and piped/connected, and here, Daniel is covering the line and part of the trench while Mike stands by to do some shovel work. Today, we’ll set another length of culvert over the valve just barely visible and attach that flexible line to the tanks above.

We got a lot done yesterday!

Today will see the end of this phase of work, and then we’ll wait out the very hot months and build the roof structure over the tanks this fall. We’re tough, but the forecast calls for a high temp of 98 degrees. Yesterday, the forecast was for a high of 88, and it was 94 when I drove out of the basin. Following that mathematical formula, we could exceed 100 degrees today? Yeah – it’s a good idea to wait to work on welding steel pipes and steel purlins and a metal roof. 🙂

In relative-news updates: The water trough at last year’s new catchment has been turned on, and we’re waiting for the ponies to find it. They haven’t yet, but at least a few bands are in the rough vicinity.





Water catchment 2: Phase 1, day 2

15 06 2022

We had a huge relief from the smoke yesterday, and the gale-force winds dropped to merely breezes … which gave the gnats license to descend. (Note Mike’s hand at his neck, below his ear. Gnats are no joke, folks, and they are out. I highly recommend head nets.)

Daniel had to help his wife with their sick baby, so Garth brought out two more water tanks, and Mike and I delivered two more that Garth had brought a week ago to a site nearby for easier transport (the flatbed carries two at a time). They’ll bring the fifth today. This year, the catchment will be built with five 2,500-gallon tanks, compared with the four 3,500-gallon tanks we used last year. These are a bit thicker-walled, and they’re shorter (8 feet tall compared with 10 feet tall), meaning the hole for them doesn’t have to be as deep.

In the pic above, Garth is checking for uniform depth across the bottom of the hole with a laser level so the tanks will have a level base. As before, the tanks, with a roof to be built over their tops, are on high ground, and water will run downhill with gravity to the trough, to be maintained with a float.

Note Mike, still brushing at gnats. 🙂 This time, Garth dug one big hole to accommodate both the tanks and the plumbing (instead of doing one hole for the tanks and then a parallel trench for the pipe to connect the pipes from each tank, as they did for the first catchment of this design, last year). Again, the tanks will be buried about half deep to prevent the water inside from freezing during the winter months.

This catchment is in the far northwestern corner of Spring Creek Basin, which boasts a tremendous and far-reaching view.

Digging and leveling and digging and leveling were the big missions of the day.

For the fine work of filling here and digging there, Mike wielded the shovel while Garth manned the mini excavator.

For those of you wondering just how Garth was going to get that machine out of that hole, there’s a little bit of a ramp that he left under the digger (bucket?). 🙂 Here, he was extending it a bit after we measured the length of the hole to ensure it would hold the five tanks. Two tanks are on the ground behind him, and before we left for the day, we unloaded the two from the flatbed.

More to come!





12 from 2021

31 12 2021

Another year comes to a close. Another year is poised to begin. The older I get, the more I wonder about endings and beginnings, and our perspectives about where we are in the middle.

That maudlin attitude aside (!), it’s a pretty good time to roll out some favorite images and a little explanation that goes along with them. Because, collectively, who doesn’t need a little more time at the computer (or phone or tablet) to look at a few more images from this little blue marble-in-space that we’re supremely fortunate to call home? 🙂 I’m kidding about that, of course, and I hope you all enjoy the extra offerings of Spring Creek Basin wild ones!

As I typed for a similar post last year: What follows is one photo for each month of the last year. Some have been on the blog previously; others have not. Onward.

January

In the year’s first month, we had snow to cover the basin with blessed white, also known as frozen gold in our neck of the drought-stricken woods. I found Hayden’s band back in the east pocket, calm as fuzzy, fully winterized mustangs can be. My presence wasn’t any deterrent from the serious business of looking for tasty bits as the snowflakes covered us all.

*****

February

I don’t think Hollywood thinks he’s a comedian as much as *I* think he has the potential to be! Wild stallions, after all, are very serious about the business of survival and protecting their families. This particular day in the basin brought several inches of snow, and I was on snowshoes. Fortunately, it was months before I would roll my ankle because the hike out to his band, which wouldn’t have caused a sweat in dry conditions, was about as difficult and wearying as any I’ve ever done. It was worth it (of course) to see the horses looking good and finding edibles … even if they did sometimes come up looking as though they’d been snorkeling.

*****

March

In March, this little cutie was the first arrival of the year to grace the herd. He’s sire Corazon’s mini me and growing up just as handsome. The band was keeping to one area so the little one didn’t have to go far on those wobbly legs, and I was able to sit with them and observe respectfully. Mama seems pretty proud of her little one, and she took to motherhood like a natural (of course she did!).

*****

April

In April, we welcomed baby No. 2, and she was big and feisty right from the get-go! Most readers know that we use fertility-control vaccine PZP in Spring Creek Basin, and it is THE reason we haven’t had a roundup in 10-plus years. I read an article this fall in which a person was quoted as saying that because of PZP, our herd would be extinct in 10 years. … Well, probably, that person hadn’t seen this little darling, or any of our other foals (or other young horses, or maybe even any other-age horse!). And it’s too bad that they’d rather have roundups. For my part, to see more of THIS (which is to say, healthy foals that grow up to be wild and free mustangs) and fewer roundups, I’ll stick with PZP, thanks!

*****

May

We didn’t have as many wildflowers as we’ve had some other years because of our ongoing drought (we were still in the “exceptional” category at that point in the year; that’s the worst category), but we had a few spots of color to brighten the desert. Bursts of color and the shedding of shaggy coats lets us know winter is in our rearview … but it also heralds anxiety and sky-watching (for clouds, particularly dark ones).

*****

June

“Drought?!” you may be asking yourself. “What the heck is she talking about? Look at that grass!” And it WAS good in June (and then later, after the monsoons finally found us) … before it got hot(ter) and dry(er), and the grasses withered and shrank and turned crunchy underhoof and -foot. This day, pictured, was one of the loveliest days and memories with a little group of young bachelor stallions, recently on their own for the first time. Look at those shiny, slick coats! In the northwestern part of the basin, a mustang (and a human) can see for … well, a pretty long way! To know that our mustangs can roam almost all the land pictured (not the very farthest, pinon-juniper covered hills and ridges), it’s worth everything. … Everything.

*****

July

This little treasure graced us just as the monsoon rains did this summer. With soaring birds on each shoulder, she zoomed right into our hearts from first glance. It had been several years (I’d lost track) since we had an actual monsoon weather pattern over Disappointment Valley, and in the midst of our excruciating drought (that might be a “better” term than “exceptional”), more welcome than I can even express. Those rains set us up for a less-anxious autumn than we would otherwise have had.

*****

August

If you read any of the blog this past year, surely you caught at least a glimpse of one of the posts about the new water catchment our excellent BLM guys built in Spring Creek Basin this summer. We started it at the end of April, I think, and finished by the end of August. Lots of hot, hot, HOT welding work with heavy steel posts and purlins and reflective metal roof sheets. The new catchment gives us the potential to catch and store 14,000 gallons of fresh rainwater and snowmelt for the mustangs in the northern-ish part of the basin. While we were still in the building phase, a few bands of mustangs occasionally meandered through the area to check things out. The image above came together as three of our most perfect grey girls turned to look just as the sun was setting. On the left, our venerable Houdini is most likely in her third decade of life – wild and free on the range where she was born (and birthed many babies).

*****

September

Another big milestone of 2021 happened in September, when we welcomed three young mares from Sand Wash Basin to Spring Creek Basin. Because Spring Creek Basin is small (almost 22,000 acres) and the herd correspondingly small, we periodically introduce mustangs from other herds to contribute to its genetic viability. The grey-and-white pinto stallion was the first to greet the girls, and he had them for their first week and a half here. Then his uncle, the grey stallion, acquired the mares, and they’re happily (so I like to think) with him still. The youngster is hanging out with another young bachelor and a veteran stallion. He’ll have more many chances to win more mares!

*****

October

This beautiful girl is a daughter of Storm-my-love. After growing up in the best of bands, she finally left daddy’s band this fall and joined another stallion and his mare, where – interestingly – she has taken on a bit of a lookout/protector role. She’s much more interested in the goings-on than the very sedate stallion and his low-key mare. Maybe it’s a bit less energy than her natal band, but I think she is enjoying her new family.

*****

November

Our little spotted girl with her daddy, curiously watching a nearby band near a wonderfully full pond. I love to see babies with their steadfast sires, and I love to see ponds with water, rippling gently at the shore. Some of our ponds have even had mallard ducks on them this autumn. Starting the year with dry ponds was awfully awful; finishing the year with water (or even ice) is such an enormous relief.

*****

December

Readers will remember this image of our fabulous elder lady, Houdini, because it wasn’t all that long ago that I took it and posted it here on the blog! She should have full immunity as an ambassador, but I don’t think she would like that title because, truth be known, she really doesn’t like or trust humans all that much. Who can blame her? Though her last 10 years (have to) have been the most peaceful of her life. And to have been part of that … ? Well, I can’t begin to tell you all how happy I am to have played a part in *that*. What better life for a wild horse than to live it fully IN THE WILD?

*****

Bonus

Because, as always, who doesn’t love bonus content? Readers also know how I adore backlighting. … Why? Please see above. 🙂 We did have some wildfire smoke in our skies this year, again. And we had a lot of love and family. If it started relatively dry, and Mother Nature made us wait, anxiously, for moisture, she did come through rather well this summer. Then we had a very dry autumn, and winter didn’t make a very auspicious start. But the last few days, we’ve had a nice little contribution from the heavens: Rain in some areas, a rather large amount of snow in other areas! All of it begs the question: Are we at the start or end or in the middle of our weather year? 🙂 We hope more is to come; it’s all a cycle, after all!

*****

Thank you all so much for following our Spring Creek Basin mustangs this year! Many quarters of this ol’ world endure so much violence and strife and endless struggles that threaten to tear apart people and wild things alike. The very planet is threatened as never before. Observing and acknowledging the beauty of our home rock in the universe has to be a foundation of working to preserve it for all those here and those to come. Just as we strive here to continue our mustangs’ peaceful existence, surely it will take all of us, working together, to preserve life FOR us all.

Peace on Earth, goodwill toward humans and animals and plants alike.
We are not alone (no matter how hermitlike we may favor being).
Here’s to 2022 being a year more steeped in love than hate, more in peace than violence. Here’s to the power of wild and the healing qualities all around us.





More mares … and a stallion

18 09 2021

From left: Dundee, Rowan and Aiyanna. A little golden girl bookended by two dun girls – one with awesome spots! Not only is Aiyanna now our only dun pinto, she’s the only pinto in Spring Creek Basin with all solid legs. Raven, our black-and-white girl from Sand Wash Basin in 2008, has one stocking. 🙂 All our homebred pinto ponies have white legs.

The Sunday after their release into Spring Creek Basin, I looked low and high, down and up, forth and back and forth again and all around for those girls. But though I saw most of the Spring Creek Basin mustangs, for the life of me, I couldn’t spot even a swishing tail or flicking ear of the new girls. My hunch was that they found a sheltered swale and hunkered down for the day and took long naps punctuated by contented grazing and deep swallows of good pond water.

Monday morning, I was in the basin shortly after sunrise, and voila! Not only were the mares right in sight, they were with a young stallion. A young stallion who had been, the night before, with his family a few miles to the south.

Even if I hadn’t known that, by the swirling movement of the horses, it was clear that introductions had been made later that night or even just a bit earlier that morning. His family was a bit split – his uncle, in particular, seemed perturbed that the young prince and not himself was the one to win the mares – and there was another family just up the hill from them, who also had been miles away the night before.

Here, the bands are going to water at Spring Creek Basin’s original/main water catchment. In the low-center of the pic are the two long, heavy-plastic aprons (inside a high fence) that catch rainwater and snow and funnel it downhill to the tank at lower left. Out of sight in this pic, farther left, is the trough. Just above the line of horses you can see at lower right, see the other, farther line of horses? That’s the other family that was nearby. When the scuffling started, they headed for the hills (Flat Top is just out of sight to the right) and another pond.

Two *other* bands were above me on the hill when I first spotted the new girls and stopped to watch, and we hung out together to watch the action unfurling below. Before long, they went back to grazing, and when the new girls and their semi-blended new family(s) dropped out of sight over the edge of the ridge east of the catchment aprons, I continued on to see where they were going.

As it turned out, they went south, and with my ankle situation, it was too much for me to follow on foot, so I went back out and around … thinking that, to see the new girls in their new home, with their new stallion, I’d by-gosh make the fairly short hike up the hill above the county road. As it turned out, they’d very thoughtfully and politely come down to within easy viewing of that road. 🙂

So polite, these girls! Could they have paused for a nap in a more delightful setting than one with sunflowers blooming like sunshine all around them?! … You can just see the belly of their new boy beyond Dundee.

Another introduction is in order … for you readers to young Flash, the splashy grey-and-white pinto stallion at left. He’s a Spring Creek Basin native, and he’s the one who’s been keeping company with and stepping out with the young mares from Sand Wash Basin these past few days.

He’s the same age as Dundee, and so far, the association is working well for all concerned. 🙂

I haven’t seen the girls drinking at the pond above which we welcomed them to Spring Creek Basin … but they’ve most definitely found the main water catchment. 🙂 Water bar with a view! Hard to beat that!





A welcome gift

17 09 2021

Our BLM’ers are nothing if not thoughtful (and awesome). … And shy of the camera, I suspect. 🙂

AFTER they’d been in the basin to finish the new-water-catchment project by installing the trough and fencing around the tank/roof structure, Garth Nelson (rangeland management specialist) emailed to say, “Surprise! Happy late birthday!” (Yes, it’s true, in the midst of the tornado-whirlwind, I celebrated a birthday. :))

He went on in his email:

“Daniel and I wanted to surprise you with the trough installation at the catchment. Attached are some pictures for you to enjoy. We filled up the trough about halfway and then left the valve turned off to conserve water for a dryer time. We do have plans for a shade cover but must wait until October to purchase materials. Happy Birthday!!!!!!!”

No girl has ever gotten a better birthday present – unless it was getting to see my folks and brother … or the gift of three beautiful and wild, lovely mustang mares! – than water for said mustangs in a parched desert range that had the great, good fortune of receiving rain not so long ago. 🙂

The tank/roof structure is behind our right shoulder in this view.

Both the trough and the float (the cylindrical thing resting on the water in the trough) are unlike any I’ve ever seen before, but cool, huh? The horses of any given band will be able to spread out along it to drink. The three pipes at right protect the lid to the culvert section to the valve, below ground to protect it from freezing.

Doesn’t Daniel’s shirt match that brilliant Colorado sky perfectly?!

If this BLM thing doesn’t work out for Garth, I’d say he has a future in photography. He definitely seems to have learned the most important rule: The photographer gets to stay out of the pix. 😉

THANK YOU, GARTH AND DANIEL, for finishing ‘er up! And Mike and Jim, who also worked on the project – water for mustangs in the desert. 🙂





Water from fire

19 08 2021

In remote Disappointment Valley, partnerships not only are valuable, they can be life-saving.

Our Spring Creek Basin mustangs got a boost in the water department from three different “departments” of wildfire-fighting crews recently. They had water left over from fighting a small fire (thank you!), and they very graciously offered the remaining water in two engines to the horses, pumping about 900 gallons of water onto one of the aprons at the main catchment.

On behalf of our mustangs, thank you VERY MUCH for your firefighting and for the gift of water for our mustangs!

From Cortez Fire Protection District: Matt and Brad.

From the Angelina, Sabine and Davy Crockett national forests and National Forests and Grasslands in Texas: Paul, Aurora, Danny, James and Jonesy – and Tracy (sp?), who’s working here as a dispatcher. They’re “on loan” to the Forest Service here in Colorado (Dolores Public Lands Office), replacing the previous crew (hi also to Matt, David and Marie!). Their connection is a firefighter named Bear, who came with a small crew to tackle a small fire I reported a few years ago. Bear now is serving in Texas with the U.S. Forest Service. Small world!

From the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control: Chris, Jim and Cory.

Big shout out to all of these fine men and women who work long hours in back-of-beyond places. … I bet they don’t often get to see (and help!) wild horses while out on assignment! Thank you, thank you, thank you … from all of us who love the mustangs!





Anticipatory gathering

6 08 2021

Who’s ready for the new catchment?

All of us, apparently! 🙂

They have a pond with water (!) fairly close to this location (as the mustang trots), but it was still pretty awesome to see a few bands gathered in wildcat valley very close to the new catchment. Mike Jensen has ordered trough floats, and when they come in, he and the guys will bring a trough and float to our location to install, and then our new catchment will be *fully operational*!





Water catchment: phase 4.9

26 07 2021

Do you suppose we’ll get to phase 5 soon!? … I think so. 🙂 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. 🙂

Wow, wowza and zowie Marie. 🙂 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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!