Our home range

17 10 2021

If you’re local – or even if you’re not local but will be in the area – please join us from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum, a couple of miles outside Dolores, Colorado, for an event to celebrate the yearlong exhibit of Colorado’s mustangs and the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. (Click on that “flyer-final” link above to see the PDF of the announcement.)

If you go: Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson will give an introductory presentation and be there to answer questions. You’ll get to meet adopted Spring Creek Basin mustangs Whisper and Skipper (also featured in the exhibit on the panel of adopters and in the short film) with their humans, Tif Rodriguez and Keith Bean. In addition to providing the opportunity to meet these stellar ambassadors of Spring Creek Basin, Tif and Keith will talk about their adoption experiences and give tips about how to adopt a mustang. Kathryn Wilder will read excerpts from her book “Desert Chrome: Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West.” Books won’t be available for sale at the event, but her tantalizing readings will leave you wanting information on how to purchase “Desert Chrome,” which she will happily provide. Visitors also can sign up to go through the exhibit in the museum with me and learn more about Colorado’s wild horses.

Hope to see a lot of mustang folks there!





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.)





Water catchment: phase 4.5

14 07 2021

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

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

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

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

WIN!

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel got to work with the zz-zz.

And Garth got to work with the zz-zz.

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

This is basically at the southwestern corner looking northeastish.

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

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

An even bigger view … from near our previous lunch spot. 🙂

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

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

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





Water catchment: phase 4

12 07 2021

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

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

So Daniel got to welding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Water catchment: phase 3

6 07 2021

To catch you up, dear readers, this is where we last left off in the ongoing project that is Spring Creek Basin’s newest water catchment for the mustangs:

None of the purlins had been welded to the steel pipes yet in the photo above, but you can see the front three purlins resting atop the pipes (left side, which is the downhill side). It looks a lot different now, in reality, because in reality, if not in blog-time, we’re up to phase 4 now.

Here, Garth and Daniel are about to turn the first purlin on its edge to start welding it in place across the front of the roof structure. Eventually, the gutter will run along the length of it.

Daniel is the range department’s chief welder (!), and both he and Garth did welding on the purlins – one at each end – which made the project go a lot faster.

No pic of any work in the basin would be complete without two of our most iconic landmarks: McKenna Peak and Temple Butte. Fortunately, this location has great views.

Garth welded the third purlin into place across the front of the roof structure, and then it was weld, weld, weld, all the way up the east section of the roof structure!

How’d they get those heavy steel purlins up there anyway?

A little like this …

… and a bit more like this. 🙂

Once they got the first line of purlins up, we got into a rhythm, and they got the rest (on the east end) welded pretty quickly. Their measurements of where they placed all the steel pipes was spot on. I was impressed. 🙂

And pretty soon, it was looking like this!

Here’s a bit wider view. This east end has all the purlins welded now (in reality-time), and the middle section (over the two middle tanks) has a few purlins welded across. This east end also now has all the propanel (metal) sheets in place and screwed down. The guys needed more purlins and maybe more propanel sheets, which they get in Durango. The Durango supplier was out (it’s that steel-is-limited thing), so they were going to get more this week and come back out. With the mercury creeping higher again, please say a prayer and give a wish for clouds for our hard-working BLM guys!