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. 🙂





Full to the brim

22 08 2022

Have I mentioned the recent GREEN in Spring Creek Basin? Yes? Oh, good. … ‘Cuz it’s there. 🙂

Along with a little of this:

Two perspectives of Spring Creek, flowing with rainwater, the day before yesterday. The first image is directly as the road crosses the creekbed/arroyo; the second is just to the right – water flowing toward us. Interestingly, the road was dry to this point, but clearly it had rained in the northern and eastern (at least) regions of Spring Creek Basin. By this point, the major arroyos of the basin have converged (though there are still some that feed the creek’s westward drainage). The water was neither high (deep) nor terribly fast, but I didn’t cross. There are times to respect Mother Nature’s obstacles, and I deemed this to be one of those times.

Also a good bit of this:

This is the pond near the hill we call Flat Top. It’s rare to see it so full of water that it backs up so far to the right.

And this is the east-pocket pond, way back in the far eastern region of Spring Creek Basin, also full to the gills.

The pond pix were taken the day before those of Spring Creek running, which was the day after I got soaked going into the basin and getting caught in a lovely little drenching that did NOT go ’round. 😉

All the ponds are so excellently full; the above two are just examples.

So grateful. So very, very grateful.





The relief of full ponds in droughty desert

9 07 2022

A visual selection of newly full ponds in Spring Creek Basin:

Courtesy of Mother Nature! We’re grateful. 🙂





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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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! 🙂 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. 🙂

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. 🙂 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.)