Prairie to Pasture to Parkland

Well not quite parkland, probably never, but I had a hankering to get some tanbark down around the trees and see how much floats-off during the winter. With an initial load of twelve bags for two trees (6-each) and results that appealed, I got up early this morning and went to Home Depot for another sixteen bags for the larger (and smallest) trees. I spread the bark with an eighteen inch gap around at the trunk (conveniently the width of my steel rake), and stomped-around in a circle to make a four-inch deep apron. Or thereabouts.
The big oak I’m leaving alone because it get’s the most wet under there.




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Fieldwork: the drain

Since it’s vastly cooler now and still very dry, I decided to take a look at the shambles on the fence-line where my neighbor’s pond-overflow meets my field. Somebody at sometime – over ten years ago – had created some kind of catch-basin, and it had fallen into disrepair. A semi-circle of terrace block is stacked-up around a pile of river-rocks, with a pathetic layer of dirty old landscape fabric stretched across in an attempt to keep out debris. The corners and edges of a blue tarp peek-out from beneath the terrace block, evidence of some kind of “pool liner” to contain the water in the basin. I called it “the Hydraulic Impediment,” because it didn’t seem as useful as it portended, while jutting into the path of the mower.
During last year’s exceptional rain the overflow was pumping madly and water was going everywhere, so its utility was in question, and now that it was dry as a bone I was curious as to what the hell was going on under that pile of rocks and dirt and crap. Also I figured there woulds be no watery muck to contend with, or critters – and I need the exercise.
So I moved the terrace-blocks aside and laid out a tarp, and we set to tossing the big rocks into a pile on the tarp while loading a bucket with the small rocks and creating another pile. I want to put the small rocks back on top of the big ones to help act as a natural filter instead of using yard-cloth as a screen.
All the dirt and debris on the ground-cloth got rolled up and piled off to another side, and it wasn’t long before we uncovered the big old 8-inch drain-end that was blocked by the tarp and some large rocks. Hmmm…this must lead to the big steel pipe that runs beneath the whole field and drains out into the creek where the cattle water. The big tarp covering the face of the drain must not have worked so well and the little Y-cleanout would not be enough as a top-flow drain.
There is a fresh tarp to replace the torn and tatty one as a pool-liner – this time brown. Also I decided I wanted an extension into the catch-basin that would better collect water and yet (hopefully) prevent debris once the water percolates down through the large stones. Home Depot doesn’t have anything pipe-wise that is this big (but they did have a little 4-inch slotted cover for the cleanout), so I went looking with the big-boy suppliers.
Ferguson had nothing less than 20-feet and the Fruit-growers Association didn’t have anything this big in diameter, but at another place (where they only had 20-foot sections) I got lucky because an older gent was returning some grates and covers from a job, and I took a look at the square cover and it measured out OK. I figured I could re-purpose the square plastic lid ($40) using safety wire of something.
So back to to my local irrigation and landscape materials company for a 10-foot (minimum-length) section of 8-inch drain-pipe – corrugated on the outside but smooth on the inside ($27). I got out the Sawzall and made a 5-foot section, spray-painted gold on one side so I would know which side went up and besides, this IS “Gold Country” after all! To perforate the bottom I drilled five rows of 3/8″ holes down the length in each “rib” – 300 in all, and then in between the ribs four more rows of 1/4″ holes so another 240 holes…and only once had to change the drill battery.
I may need to anchor-down the extension so it won’t float! Might tie some wire around a couple of the big river-rocks to act as weights on either side of the tube. Still have a bunch of digging-out to make a channel for this extension thing… Exercise!

Rocks on the embankment, un-bedbugs downtown…

To mal-a-phrase a Rolling Stones song. I got crawling under the deck weeding, and spread a bunch of salt hoping to provide a desultory environment for mosquitoes that were hiding in the damp, and also prevent further weed growth. Meanwhile a new load of rock arrived yesterday, procured by yours truly from the Low Granite Outcropping – which has a surfeit of stones – and I got my exercise carrying them up and embedding two complimentary rows across the other side of The Embankment. They are substantial rocks of a good size to impress, and hopefully act as good soldiers in the war of erosion-control. And my back feels it, but so do my empowered muscles.
Meanwhile a couple thousand .22LR are on order before the end-of-December window closes in California, and I have received 500-each of Starline .44-40 brass, laser-cast Oregon Trail .427 bullets, and 5lbs of Trail Boss powder for reloading – and a shellplate for the big Hornady progressive press. If that doesn’t work I’ll go back to the single-stage.

Rockin’ the Embankment

The heat has broken and cooler weather has arrived – this week anyhow. The morning dawned cloudy and in the 50’s, low and chilly compared to last month’s overnight average of mid 70’s or more. And in advance of the next Monsoon we have been laying-up stones on the embankment. Some of the bigger ones weigh a good 80-lbs or more.
Perhaps this can ease the runoff and sluicing mud that ran down the embankment last year off my neighbor’s driveway in the Great Seasonal Deluge of Global Warming. Since we have one home with a surfeit of rocks, that is from-where we have been able to contribute. Meanwhile the “Wayne’s Silver” California fuchsia has thrived over the summer and the hummingbirds love it. Towards the middle is the remaining stump from the 14-foot high now dead butterfly bush, and about where the cascade emerges.

Click for Pan-O-Rama-Vision

Heat

We have been enjoying temperatures in excess of 100°+ Fahrenheit for the last few days/weeks (107° yesterday), and I have come to learn that has something to do with tomato production:

When days hit 85°F to 90°F and nights hover above 75°F, tomato flowers often fail to pollinate, then drop — which in turn puts new fruit production on hold. The longer the heat lasts, the longer those tomato flowers will continue to hit the pause button. In short, hot weather can delay your tomato crop.

…and I have also learned something about “Determinate” and “Indeterminate” tomatoes. Indeterminate tomatoes grow out of control unless you prune them, and I have Indeterminate ones, so the giant tomato cage I made from a 4×8 section of screen fencing, cut and bent into a square, is a good thing except that I didn’t prune anything. And now the San Marinzano’s have grown up and out of it, and being that are kind of a one-shot tomato – they fruit-up and the plant dies – and with the heat the plant is now brown and crispy. Buh-bye! Anyhow we got a couple colanders of fruit off them and made some sauce, and that is what they are for.
Meanwhile the indeterminate cherry tomato plant has spread out to cover most of the planter-bed, and the small cage that “housed” it is invisible underneath the tangled and twisted vines – and it’s still producing so it’s a hot-climate pant. Maybe next year I’ll try a Determinate plant and get a second-season of growth and fruit (after a second planting), instead of having this wild and wooly, raggedy tangle of vine hanging about all summer long.
Meanwhile this morning dawned with a pink cast to the sky as the sun rose, still a warm 80° at 6:00AM with night time temps barely breaking into the upper 70’s, but the promise of cooler days ahead. Happy Labor Day and God Bless and keep-safe the people of the Hurricane, in Texas and the Gulf Coast.

Git ‘er Done

So…a yard of 1-1/2″ “natural” is just $42.90 with tax and everything.

Cool, and across the street the guys are getting a palette of “tan cinder natural” terrace-block, of which 40 will be mine at a buck-eight a piece, two courses to make a 5-foot diameter circle.

Still, the first half-yard load of rock sunk the shocks on the truck, and the second half-yard bucket dropped it onto the rails practically and the tires were bulging.

And an incredible amount of dust accompanies the rock.

So I drove real slowly, and good thing it was only about a mile. Rock AND ROLL!

Nice day, only about 100 today, nice bit of workout. Who needs a goddamn gym when you have rocks and nature?

Hole is full. Now to make a “wishing well” with a tin roof, just to keep the leaves and dirt out.

Prairie Archaeology

Saturday I continued to dig with the idea that I would level the bottom of the pit at the height of the “alluvial gravels” from whence I believed the spring to sprung.

As I made another wagon-load of dirt, I came upon a large and heavy rock. Interesting, let’s keep going. A few more large nails and then the remains of a ceramic a light socket.

All kinds of weird things fall into the well, I thought to myself…

Down in the middle of the gravels was a fist-size rock that was wet on the bottom when I pulled it out.

Then I hit a larger object that was not of natural origin, and more gravel, and then more and more as I chased my way to the bottom of it and revealed an old terra-cotta pipe.

What?

Was this an early attempt to harvest the spring water? And so I kept digging, leaving myself a ledge about eighteen inches down so I could step-up.

It’s easy to dig yourself into a hole that’s had to exit, and I was already throwing shovel-dirt at shoulder height.

Deciding to err on the side of caution and Science, I got out of the hole and went back up to the garage to get my Marshalltown archaeology trowel and continue what had now become an excavation.

What was revealed was a short length of four-inch clay pipe, and another larger one coming into it that was about eight inches, and a third four-inch pipe at right angles.

I managed to get the short length of 4″ pipe out intact, and it was about half-full with gravel.

Above the short section where the rest of it continued, you can see a layer of fine gravel packed on top, then dirt and sod at the surface level.

The larger eight-inch section one broke apart lifting it out, and it was heavy with sediment.

It appears my “spring” is really an old drain of some sort, going from a large diameter down to a smaller – and with a side-pipe going off into the distance.

It’s coming from who-knows-where and going to who-knows-what – but with the break in the old joints and the pipes silted-up, water arises forth still.

What is (still) feeding it, or rather how is it still getting moisture to it? When did they stop using clay pipe for this sport of thing, back in the 40’s?

Still have to finish this off somehow, so the circle of block might become a little taller, and maybe I’ll just fill-in the hole with medium-sized rock then a foot or so of gravel on top, so it can still bubble up water and keep the birds and wildlife happy.

Hot Cowboy Action

We’ve been having rather warm weather, and on Sunday my first match went fine as it was only about 90° out in the morning.

I had to leave early to meet my Aunt and Uncle who were coming-up this way, and who we had invited to stop-by anytime for lunch — so I missed the last stage (“The Last Stage to Tombstone!”), which was two Drifters and a vulture in a Nevada sweep. Or something.

As you might imagine, I’m one of the younger contestants, but it’s a hoot to clang steel and change arms, from the pistol to the rifle to the shotgun.

I need another .44-40 single action because trying to run the ammo-combination of .45 Long Colt AND .44-40 is a handful at the loading table.


 
The emblem on my campaign hat is for 4th Infantry Regiment, F Company – but also known otherwise in the modern army as 4-F which brings a slightly different connotation.

 
 

Meanwhile back at the ranch. . .’hunnerd degrees plus.

I wanted to get to the bottom of the spring-situation, so digging commenced on a day that was just about 103° with no shade – but there was a bit of a breeze and I had several water bottles.

I have decided to surround the spring with a low manufactured stone curb, so as not to drop a wheel into it when things get wet.

The circle will be about five feet across so with circumference = π x diameter, I’m at 15 feet of rock needed or something like that.

I hitched-up the wagon to the John Deere and headed out into the pasture. Three loads later – about two yards (?) of soft dirt were removed and the hole-bottom leveled.
I dumped the dirt in the low spot by the fence where the water runs-through in the rainy season.  I can plant grass on it.
I basically stopped when I started to hit alluvial gravels in the center, and the circle was about a foot and a half deep.
The dirt was moist and stuck together, whereas elsewhere in the field the ground is nearly rock-hard, so there something down there.  Also found a horseshoe.

UPDATE: More hot Cowboy Action!

Around the Homestead

Just in time for 4th of July I got the screen-doors hung at the Ranch, allowing some evening cooling to take place and cross ventilation.

 

 

 

 

The temperatures plummeted from running about 105°-108° the past week-end, down into the upper 80’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Independence Day we grilled Tequila-Lime chicken thighs that had been marinating a day, then enjoyed the relatively mild weather out on the deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And today I fixed the fan that was going “screee-ting….screee-ting,” at the Low Granite Outcropping, forcing the use of a higher than desired fan-speed. 

 

And early in the morning trimmed back the shrubbery along the long driveway at the Ranch that was scraping up against the truck.

Heat’s coming back so I got that done in the morning.

Breakout on the Western Front


The Western Wall of the Siegfried Line could not withstand the powerful Ariens-Attack, and we made breakthrough around 9:40AM yesterday, crushing the enemy in a widening swath. Further efforts will be deployed shortly, LTO – Local Theater Time. Socks-on!
Meanwhile up on the Embankment silver ground foliage and connecting drip-lines went into place over the weekend.
Looks like I need some more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE (and Local Color):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seen up in Pollock at the old Pony Express restaurant.