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June, 2007

Going Green?

Some good news this year is that the Spruce Budworm infestation that damaged trees badly last year appears to have died out. No-one knows why; perhaps the alternation of warm spells and snow in late May and early June fooled the moths and did them in before they could deposit eggs. The trees still have the healthy green glow of new growth and we are hoping this continues. Word around the canyon is that no-one is seeing moths or larva and the new growth needles are hardening so won't be susceptible to attack. Some people paid $40 per acre to aerial spray their trees with bacteria in early June, but the spraying company waited weeks for the pest to appear. These people won't get their money back – spraying proceeded on June 26. We opted not to spray; with 100 acres of trees surrounded by thousands of acres of trees that will not be sprayed, a $4,000 recurring expense seemed like a poor investment. Instead, we and a number of others have decided to have loggers thin out our trees to make a healthier forest that will be better able to withstand these and other attacks for years to come.

Spring and Summer are the time of year to start worrying about weeds. Over the past several years, we have released insects on several weed sites. It will take 5 to 10 years to determine if the insects are having the desired effect. Meanwhile, we will monitor the sites each year about this time.

The fire suppression system is now operational, except for a connection to the phone line. We'll probably not make that connection until the house is closer to completion because there are likely to be many false alarms during construction. There is a loud alarm and strobe light that will alert us if the system is activated.

June 5th was a busy day: Masons were getting set up, laborers were digging out the Garage roof, painters were working on the inside and out, garage doors were being installed. Missing from the picture is the stucco crew; they have been on a 2 week "vacation". This was mostly due to the weather, but they have missed several very nice days and the weather is turning bad again, with winter storm warnings above 6,000 feet. Good thing they started early – perhaps they will finish on time!

Pauline arrived back the afternoon of June 6 after a 5 week stay in Southern California for the birth of our first granddaughter. That night, it snowed 200 feet above us. All we got was lots of very cold rain; that put a stop to all outside work, but the masons concentrated on the fireplace (see left) and interior painting continued.

The finish carpenters started on June 11th. By lunch time, they had organized a work space, set up their tools and started installing the tongue and groove ceiling in the Great Room (see right). They finished that before the week was out and started installing doors. The painters finished with the upstairs – at least until they return to repair the inevitable dings that will happen as work continues.

The stucco crew finally showed up on June 12 – after a 3 week absence. They worked on the 12th and 13th, but left at lunch time on the 14th when there was a short sprinkle. They supposedly work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday, so they did not come on Friday the 15th. Monday the 18th was a fine day, but they could not work because they were waiting for stucco mix to be delivered from Butte (one wonders why the amount of mix needed could not be predicted to avoid this). After that, one person has been showing up; apparently his coworker was fired. This lone workman has managed to keep stucco off the critical path so far.

At the end of March, a Mountain Bluebird kept flitting about the house as if challenging his reflection in the windows. Since that time, he has found a mate and set up housekeeping atop one of the timbers at the West end of the house. Now he is the proud father of 5 chicks. The nest location is under the roof between rafters, and seems uncharacteristic of the usual type of cavity they prefer. The painters have applied finish all around the nest, which does not appear to have disturbed the parents or the chicks. The parents were a little worried when Gary took the picture at left, but quickly appeared with food once he was done. We hope the chicks will leave the nest in 2-3 weeks. Next year, we will put out nesting boxes to discourage them from using the timbers.

Tile setter Brian has been busy the past couple of weeks getting ready to put tile in the Master Bath and Guest Bath. At right, he is figuring out how to position the heating mats (green mesh) under the tile so our tootsies won't get cold on those Winter mornings. In the background, workmen are figuring out the glass requirements for the shower.

Unfortunately, the Garage roof leaked. After some experimentation, we were confident of what the problem was. It appears that the membrane was not installed correctly. A trench had to be dug to expose the suspect area and new membrane installed to cover the leak. We then filled the trench with gravel and covered it with a plastic "valley" so water would not collect next to that area. Since Gary had originally suggested that the membrane needed to be extended over the suspect area, he told our general contractor that he and the subcontractor can argue about which of them will pay for the do-over.

Be sure to check out the Main House Progress

Parting Shot 1
Water Quality Workshop at Mandeville Creek

Since Place Creek runs through our property and empties to Bridger Creek, Gary participated in a water quality monitoring workshop on June 1st and 2nd with several other Bridger Canyon residents. Fortunately, this was between the winter storm warnings of May 29 and June 5 so the weather was quite pleasant. In this picture, we are on a field trip to Mandeville Creek on the Montana State University campus to practice some of the measurements we should be taking for our own quality assessment projects. During the biology session, Gary found 5 leeches in this stream – Eeww!

In spite of the low snow pack, recent rains have helped soil moisture and Place Creek is flowing at a high rate. The sound it makes is audible at the Carriage House and is quite relaxing. Click here to see and hear Place Creek near where it flows onto our property at the North (2.9MB movie).

Parting Shot 2

There are Grizzlies near us in Bridger Canyon!

Kendal and boyfriend Andrew visited this month, so we stopped by Grizzly Encounter (about 10 miles from us) to see what it is like. They rescue bears that would otherwise be destroyed and keep them in a reasonably natural habitat. Kendal was able to get a nice unobstructed picture from the viewing area. In addition to Grizzlies, we were treated to a sighting of a porcupine on the driveway as we returned from a late meal in town. He ambled slowly out of our way; obviously these animals believe they have nothing to fear. We're hoping that the dogs do not run into one.

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