July 24, 2006

Wind Makes Water

In the Sandhills, wind makes water.

Beneath these sandy hills, there is a vast ocean of water. The Ogallala Aquifer. Windmills pump the water up for the cattle to drink. Several new windmills were put in on the ranch this summer. Drilling wells is relatively simple here, because there is water underneath us everywhere, sometimes only 20 feet below the surface. But each well needs a tank to hold the water - and building tanks is a bit more laborious.

I went out to help put a new tank in yesterday - the farthest well from the homeplace. It wasn't the hottest day, but there was hardly any breeze, and not a scrap of shade to be found, so there wasn't much relief. The first task was for the tractor: tearing out the old tank and clearing a spot for the new one.

Each thirty-foot tank comes in twelve sections. Each joint is positioned on a block, all of which are painstaking leveled, as it is important that the tank be level. The leveling process was actually pretty ingenious: using the fact that the water level in a hose of water will be of equal height on both ends, the height of each block was matched to a control height, using a clear hose of colored water. The tank sections were edged with a strip of super-sticky watertight goo and then loosely bolted together.

Once all twelve sections were in, the generator was fired up to power the drill. Once all the bolts were tight, we double-checked our levels and made a few adjustments.

Next, dirt was dumped in and smoothed out, to bring the ground level up to the bottom of the tank.

Bentonite was spread over the dirt floor of the tank. Bentonite helps expedite the formation of a mucky impermeable layer of slime. The overflow pipe was set in, so that water wouldn't spill over the edge and erode the 'bank' around the tank.

Then giant single sheet of plastic was laid down, to keep the water from disappearing down through the sand, until the Bentonite sludge forms.

And then the dirt started coming in - to keep the plastic from getting damaged by cattle tromping around in the tank. About six inches of sand was spread around and then more Bentonite was mixed in. Meanwhile, the tank was banked in all around with the loader-tractor.

Ta-Da! Time for a beer.

July 12, 2006

pretty lights

We really like pretty lights here in Cody. Christmas lights and fireworks. Both shows get a little bigger every year.
When I was a kid, Ronny, who owns the gas station, had the best fireworks in town. When people started coming over with their lawn chairs to see his show, he decided that we might as well join forces. In the early days, everyone would gather at dark behind the grocery store (which is now the fire hall), bringing whatever fireworks they had, and we would light them all off together.

Nowadays, there is a can in the gas station for donations to the fireworks. Everybody contributes to the fund and Ronny puts together the show. Everyone gathers in the park beforehand for a potluck picnic and then heads out to the football field for the fireworks. My parents' house is on the edge of town, right next to the football field, so we have a front row seat in our own yard. I heard that last year they even had the whole show choreographed to music on the local radio station.

A few years back, Ronny decided to start making some of his own fireworks. So far, so good, I'd say. There was only one 'oh shit' moment this year, when a bouquet of screaming red rockets launched into the air, except for the ONE rogue rocket that went straight into the crowd. No one was hurt, though the fire truck did drive around to make sure everything was alright.

A few highlights from this year's show:
Maybe not too spectacular in the scheme of things, but not bad for a village of 150 folks, in one of the darkest little spots of night on the globe.

July 11, 2006

Max the Minx

A new arrival on the ranch:

A little bobcat (or Minx, rather).

I heard him whining at my parents' house in town as we were leaving for our family reunion. So I put some food for him in the garage and told him if he stuck around til I got back, I'd take him out to the ranch with me. He was nowhere in sight when we returned...but then later that evening, mom and dad and adam showed up, with Max.

He and Gus went a few rounds that night and the next morning Max was nowhere to be found. I had heard him howling out in the trees in the middle of the night and figured he was gone for good. But then this morning he was outside whining for attention. He is pretty fierce, can definitely hold his own, but is absolutely starved for attention. Now I have two animals underfoot, following me everywhere...it is kind of cute.

July 04, 2006

13 days later

13 days, 20 iced coffees, one white sand Florida beach, one heck of a sunburn, and two grueling days of Greyhound busing later...

My tomatoes have taken root and are starting to look promising. My sweetpeas have emerged in the boxes at the front step. The mulberries are winding down, but still there are a few berries worth picking. The cats are wary of me again. The heat of the day is getting more intense. The grass I 'excavated' before I left, attempting to save it from suffocating under the piles of dirt leftover from all the trenching and construction, has made a glorious recovery.

Gus was uncharacteristically subdued when I got back on Saturday. Then the next day she started coughing. I could tell she was feeling pretty rough, so I sent her in with my folks and they took her to the vet. She as a lung infection. She can't run or swim until she's better, so she has to stay in town for a few more days. I miss her.

With Gus away, there have been a few more visitors about the place. I have seen the wild turkeys every morning, making their way through the yard, with a pause under the mulberry tree. Also, this morning while I was still in bed and before I had my glasses on, I saw a big yellow cat and thought for sure that I was finally seeing the bobcat. But then I saw his long tail and realized it was just a barn cat - a GIANT yellow tom cat. He walked across the yard with hyper-alertness, the sound of my taking a deep breath stopped him dead in his tracks.

And there have been a few other visitors as well - our cousin, his family, and a friend of his. It has been reinvigorating to have six kids running about the place. I've been doing my best to get them covered in dirt and mulberry stains and a few scrapes and bruises, for good measure. We carried an old tank to the edge of the yard, for them to swim in. And put together the old swing-set that was my mothers and then mine.
This is a really good place for children.