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July through September, 2012

Air Quality Alert!

The above picture is taken from a webcam not far above us. This has been a very hot, dry Summer and many fires are upwind of us. Even though we are not directly threatened by any fires, there are days when we are advised to stay indoors and avoid strenuous activity; people who did leave windows open had smoke detectors going off. The smoke is usually from fires hundreds of miles away, but we have had fires close enough to deposit ash on us. These conditions are comparable to what we experienced in September 2006. The smoke can last until snows of late Fall quench the fires. However, high temperatures are persisting (note the 84° temperature at 3:14PM – about 20° above average) so snow is not expected any time soon. The image below shows only the major fires contributing to our haze:

We took several multi-day trips this quarter: 3 days to Cody, WY; 16 days to CA for medical tests and family visits; 10 days to WY and WA to attend concerts and visit family. Including the 45 days we were on the road in Spring, we are now up to 74 days on the road for the year. In addition, we have had visitors for a total of more than 30 days.

We refer to the primitive road leading to the new shed as the “old road” because it predates our acquisition of the property and installation of the driveway. Continuing the shed construction, we had buried phone and electric cable run from the Carriage House to the shed via the old road, improved the old road to make it easier to keep open during the Winter and regraded the area around the shed to direct Spring run-off. These improvements include two culverts to help keep the road dry. The Summer has been so dry the main drive has not been compacted yet; the delay means we will be able to use the vibratory compactor on the new and improved old road— when and if it rains again.

There is little level space on our property; we have to create level spaces for buildings. The area around the “bone pile” is nearly level only because it was used to dump the excess from excavating level places for the Main House and Carriage House. Still, the Pole Shed is below grade at back and above grade at the entry, creating serious drainage problems. We installed a French drain system to make sure the area immediately around the Pole Shed drains properly.

In addition to spending a lot of time on the road, we have had many visitors this Summer. Visitors give us the opportunity to take in local attractions we otherwise never get to. This Summer we took advantage of a visitor as an excuse to take the scenic boat tour on the Missouri river through the Gates of the Mountains. In addition to the impressive scenery, there is plenty of wildlife from the wilderness area along the eastern edge of the river. Pictured here is an immature Bald Eagle.

The thing to note in this picture is the brownish tinge on many trees in the background. The mild Winter and Spring has resulted in the return of the Spruce Budworm; the budworm moth attacks our Douglas Fir in addition to Spruce. While the brown is unsightly, is it not yet to the level we saw in 2006. If the attack continues a few more years, we may start to see significant die-off of trees. On the other hand, the trees can recover quickly if the weather cooperates. The Spruce Budworm is not to be confused with the Pine Bark Beetle, which we also have and which can kill pine trees in a matter of months. However, we only have a few pines on our property.

Cousin Rhonda and her husband George visited from Oregon so we made a long day trip to Yellowstone, where we took the obligatory picture of Canary Spring. Not much has been changed here in the past few years but our past visits have documented the modifications needed to maintain the walkway: 2011, 2009, 2007, 2007, 2006, 2006, and 2005.

Although the trip down was smoky and we did actually see flames of one fire, the skies in Yellowstone were clear.

We all took the hike down Uncle Tom's Trail to view the lower falls from a lower and closer vantage point than most tourists get. There is usually a rainbow in the spray from the falls. This “hike” involves switchbacks and 328 stair steps adding up to 500 feet of vertical descent; the trail is at an altitude of 8,000 feet and flat-landers usually regret having made the trip as they trudge back up!

A special treat during our Yellowstone trip was spotting a herd of mountain goats as we headed out to go home. George was able to get this picture of a portion of the herd from the car as we crept by.


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