Archive for the ‘Life @ Moon Tree Ranch’ Category

New Years tree

The large snag in the center of this pic fell sometime between our new years visit of 2011 / 2012 and our visit back in April.  It was something I noticed as soon as we arrived.  Being in tune with your surroundings is something many folks miss.  A good example of this is the phase of the moon.  Ask any random person in the office or on the street and I think the far majority of them would not have a clue.  They would however be able to tell you who is on the current cover of  “People” magazine.  To me this is just sad.  When we live at the cabin we are always more in tune with nature.  I think some of this stems from having to go outside more, just like at home we go out to get firewood, but there we also go out to use the facilities  ( our sawdust composting toilet)  and to retrieve items from the cooler.  While most folk spend entire days sitting on the couch and stare dumbly at a TV.



A Void in our southern horizon.


Some possible firewood for the summer roundup.


The fallen tree was upwards of 2 feet in diameter at its base.  Its age is still a mystery, as well as how long it has stood silent and naked waiting for its turn to return to the earth and nourish the next generation of patriarchs.  This Ponderosa was one of a handful we have on our land.   In the southwest corner of our ranch we have the “Four elders”, who are still alive and going strong, as well as the “Moontree”  from which we named our ranch.

The four elders

The four elders on the horizon and 2 youngsters in the foreground.

When we trimmed some juniper on our driveway, I cut some cross sections of the limbs which were about the size of my wrist.  After looking over them with a magnifying glass  I was seeing close to 100 growth rings per inch, putting the age of these limbs at 100 to 150 years old.  The big Ponderosas may be 500 to 1000 years old or more.

When I was building the cabin Gil stopped by one day,  as he walked past our picnic table he picked up and handed me an arrow head.  He says he has found many near our land, and along the ridge of the bigger canyon nearby.  Our little canyon is about 40 to 50 feet deep as it exits our land, the nearby bigger canyon is close to 100 feet deep.   Thousands and thousands of years of erosion,  and perhaps thousands of fallen patriarchs.

In august of last year I took my girls back to my home state of Michigan and got to visit some of my old stomping grounds.  Some of the trees we planted in my old front yard are now quite big and no longer resemble the scrawny sticks I remember.  We also visited the Nature Center where I spent many summers as a camper and, later,  as a counselor.  We strolled through the beech maple forest of my youth and the forest had indeed changed.  The big trees were laying about while a new crop of younger trees were reaching for the canopy.



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I took the girls down to the cabin between Christmas and New Years.  I had a load of the Blue Stain pine T&G to install and we opted for a little quiet down time.  Tori stayed home and had some quiet time of her own.  She actually roughed it a bit, as we did,  because just before I left we discovered the water heater was leaking, and I had to shut it down….I replaced it on New Years Day when I got back ( but that will be another post in itself).

The Snowy driveway

My main goal of this trip was to add some more of the siding, In this case on the back wall.  I brought down (20) 12 foot lengths, some 1x for the closet wall end, and a few bits of the cove molding.  Another side project was the “speaker” shelf.  Here I joined some blue stain 1 x 6 into a shelf for holding the iPod speaker sound system in the dining / sleeping nook.

We got down to the cabin a bit after sunset and the cabin’s passive solar was once again doing its thing.  Temps were in the low teens, but it was a balmy 48 inside when we opened her up.

Sunsets at the ranch

Thursday morning I promptly got on the siding and was pretty pleased with my progress, Friday I combined some cove trim with the last of the siding and got a temporary shelf up on the new brackets I installed Thursday moring.  I was still adding some poly to the shelf so that did not get fully installed until just before we left.

Thursday morning...Maybelle resting in the truck

Siding start on the back wall

steady progress

Totally Cool Wood grain

We got a small hike in on Friday, despite the snow and Tasha’s crappy footwear, when will the Ex and a 12 year old learn that Fashion does not beat usability.

Taking a break hiking

Shoe drying in the middle of the night


Speaker Shelf taking shape

In addition to the siding and shelving and cove mold, I did cut in two more windows.  These are the pair that flank the chimney pipe and provide main level viewing to the north.  The blue tarp is still in place on the north wall, so the views are not quite there…but it looks better than storing all of my nails and bits in the old window  holes.  I have just one more window to instal in the loft.  To store the nails out of site and use up some of the small siding bits I boxed in the below the seating area  in the dining / sleeping nook.

Two new windows installed


seat bases boxed in


Miss Maybelle had a good time on our hike too.


Our sparkling snow dog




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Our version of Black Friday

As many of you may have known Tori and I had planned a trip to the cabin for Thanksgiving. Our original plan was to head out Wednesday after Tori got off work (with me running errands and packing on Wednesday afternoon).  Tori was not so keen on the 6 extra hours added on to a long day, and the fact that all of that drive would have been in the dark…as the driver I could have gone either way.  Considering the fact that the views on the way there are pretty darn nice and a good chunk of the country (most actually) would probably sell their grannies to the devil for the views we experience on a typical drive there.  We otp’d for leaving Thursday, on Thanksgiving itself.  Its been a few years since I have traveled ON Turkey day and was very pleased to see not much traffic at all.  We had our our “family” Thanksgiving on Sat. ( brothers, kids, cousins etc) and a “Mini”version with just Tori and my girls on Sunday of last.  With those obligations out of the way we were refugees to the open road…and open it was.

We  hoped to grab a bite to eat at the Subway in Leadville but they were closed as were a lot of places…we hit another one further down the road in Buena Vista ( they were open until 4).  The weather was dry and clear and we made some good time.

When we got to the cabin it was a just a bit past sunset, temps were chilly and dropping.  My digital temp gun was reading 26 on the surface of the deck, but INSIDE the cabin, the tile floor and granite wall behind the wood stove was reading 65.  The completely passive Solar Design of the cabin was functioning perfectly.  Last year we brought a “fire bag” (Newspaper and kindling in brown paper bag) for a quick start to the wood stove.  This year we did not bring one or need one.  I had brought the temp gun along just to do some evaluations on how the cabin was performing now that we have some siding on two walls and have “tightened” up the thermal envelope a bit.

In the past we have tended to fire up the wood stove prematurely and create a bit of a sauna in there.  Temp control was obtained by opening a few windows.  This time we used restraint and only had to do that a couple of times.  A couple of sticks burned around 9 and then again at 4 or 5 am was ideal.  In one of the early morning burns I used a lot a kindling and it got pretty hot…in the near complete darkness of a moonless weekend the exit elbow of the wood stove was glowing red.  When I saw that I cut back the inlet and fully damped the flue.  It’s nice to know that IF we did need the extra BTU’s the little Scandia 150 can go the distance with plenty of power to spare.

By the time Sunday rolled by we had our routine down pretty good ( Saturday Night we had -5) and our complete fire wood use for the weekend was about one” mail tub” worth.  We can go through that amount in 3 or 4 hours with the big wood stove back home.

My goals for the weekend were to install the Blue Stain T&G I brought down, install some of the tile trim, install Tyvek on the east and North sides of the cabin, some hardi trim and maybe a window or two…but in practice the weather was not 100% cooperative.  Friday we woke to fresh snow and a light breeze.  The weather did come around a little later so I did get the T&G up.  Keep in mind I’m cutting these 12′ lengths outside using the chop saw…which is run off the solar system.  When installing over dining area I had to tweak one of the wiring runs for the LED’s to get things lined up.  Tori and I were very pleased with this recent lot of wood. This batch was from a different supplier and I think it is a bit better…Not quite as “green” as the other stuff since it is kiln dried and coming from Montana ( the other wood was Colorado local and air dried)   I even had a few boards left to add some more to the upper parts of the South wall. What remains is 2/3 to 3/4 of the main ceiling…the wood part of the north wall and some minor bits in the loft and above the kitchen.  I just keep plugging away as money and time allow.  All of the corners will get some cove molding and the windows will continue to be trimmed in cedar.

New Blue Stain installed over "dinning / bed" area

The weather was even chillier and windy on Saturday so I I ended up just getting the tile boarder up around the black granite, the free border tiles were not suffcient to complete the “column” that would have mimicked the black stove pipe along the back wall. So plan “b” took over and I just outlined the main field.  I’ll have to cut away the excess backer board before the wood gets installed between the two un-installed window locations.

Border tile around black granite is new

On Sunday the weather was calm and clear and I got in some shooting too, I ran some rounds through the new Springfield Champion .45 Semi auto and got to run some longer distance shots with the Winchester 1873 rifle.  The GPS had the distance from in front of the cabin to the target log across the gully at about 220 feet.  With not much wind and the open steel sights I landed a good handful on paper.  That 1873 is still my favorite. Tori finally did a little herself and plinked a bit down in our canyon at our “mini range”.

The truck and woodshed Sunday Morning

Friday morning’s snow continued to melt through the weekend, with the result producing some nasty mud.  This was one of the messier trips at the cabin and a new “Punch list” item has been added to the list…and pushed up near the top.

Get Some Crushed Rock!

Our scraps of decking used as a walk way help but they come up far short in the “keep the mud out of the cabin department”.  Granted our tile floor is easy to sweep and our grout color was chosen to be the exact match of this mud on purpose…but the sticky messy shoes (with me forgetting my slippers was the pits).  I’ll look into getting some crushed rock delivered before my next trip…then we or should I say I, as if Tori and the girls will be man hauling  tons of rock,  can improve the paths and nearby areas out front.

More time and Money….as is always the case.  Progress is moving forward but a bit to slow for Tori…To that end she might kick in some funds to finance a “working trip just for me.  With no kids to care for and entertain, and with my simple solo needs…many things could happen in short order.

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A couple of days ago I posted a link on Facebook about a tiny house project that is here in Colorado as well as a post from this very blog about my cabin adventures over the 4th of July weekend.

I was surprised today to see that my former record of “views” for the day was shattered.  A new record was set at 751 .

Wordpress Site stats

Last year I posted a blog about Boulderites and how selfish (arrogant , entitlement rich, etc) they are.  These were based on my direct observations during a somewhat minor snowfall ( 2″)  I referred to that post via the Rag of the Daily Camera,  It had 351 views…and some chert responses….oh those Boulder folks can be a bit on the testy side….

Tiny houses seem to outweigh low IQ Boulderites by a 2 to 1 margin.  No surprise in my book but nice to see none the less.  Don’t get me wrong some Boulder folks are great, and In fact I worked at a couple of my Boulder Clients home’s there today.  Its just the attitude of some that ruin it for the rest.

The track back data from here (530 views) on the cabin post came from Facebook.  I was surprised that Facebook has such a following. Tomorrow I have some minor errand s to run up here in the Mountains and then I need to run the Girls back to the Ex for Turkey Day.  Tori and I will be heading out  to the cabin for the longish weekend.  I hope to get some more T&G siding up inside, as well as some more tile work, and hopefully some tyvek on the rest of the cabin.  The tarpaper I installed on the original build did not last with out siding on top.  Getting more Hardiplank is not in the budget for this trip.

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I’m kicking back on the couch after another fine Turkey diner.  Today’s was mine cooked in the dutch oven.  It has become our household favorite.  Yesterday we had a Turkey diner down at my brother’s in Denver.  His was more traditional with stuffing inside etc. At 19 pounds his beat mine by a bit.  My dutch oven is pretty big but a bird that big is just not going to fit.  I had a little trouble getting my 12 pounder inside.  Tori and I were the only ones eating it today, even though the girls are here…for some odd ball reason they have yet to fall in love with slow roasted turkeys.  Tori and I went super simple on the secondary fixin’s with some basic cornbread stove top stuffing.  I was able to prep the bird in about 5 min…slow roasted it all day and then about another 15 minute for cranberries with honey and the stuffing.  With it being that simple we may have to do this more often.

The bird came out looking just like last time as seen in this post.

I’ve spent the last few days tweaking the Bookcases I completed a couple of weeks ago.  It seems that the powder post beetles have been awakened by the warm temps in my clients home.  They never really came to life when I was working in the shop since it is so cold down there.  I think I have got the problem squared away with some borate treatments and some additional sealing with some CA.  I’ve got just a little touch up finishing to do.

Russian Olive Bookcase


Tori and I will be heading down to the cabin for the actual Thanksgiving break.  Life at the cabin will be thankful indeed.  I’ve got another dozen pieces of Blue Stain T&G and hope to get some tyvek up on the back of the cabin.  The front is looking pretty good since my painting over the 4th.  Has it really been that long?


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Last year our 4th of July trip to the cabin was filled…filled with laughter, voices, kids , dogs, etc.  This year MY trip to the cabin was also filled but in a different way.  It was filled with peace, solitude, silence and a bit  of work.  When I was down there with the girls for Memorial day I did get most of the siding up  (at least on two walls) Boulder lumber had a minor omission on my order so a number of the trim boards were MIA.  Before I went back down I ordered up the missing bits and some larger pieces to use on the facia.

Sat Morning

When I arrived at Moontree Friday evening, the air was hazy and a bit smokey due to the fires in the west and south.  Six hours in the saddle…ah behind the wheel…had me longing for a stretch and a bit of activity.  First on the list was to unload the truck and air out the cabin, once that was done an ice cold bevy was enjoyed with the chirp of the birds.

I had spend the last few weeks cleaning up our rental property after our illegal sublet tenant bailed.  With that project I ended up painting every room but the bath, and painted all of the exterior windows and doors.  I knew there would be a little painting work here to…but when you get to work on your own place the work part fades a bit.

Trim and facia up Primed front

Saturday I got the rest of the window trim / door trim up and even caulked a good bit of it.  Sunday I got the west and south facia up and added the drip edge to the west roof.  Sunday I did some priming and tile work.  I would have completed 100% of the cabins floor tile but ran out of adhesive with about 6 sq foot to go.  The bummer there was I had  1/2 a bucket more at home that I could have easily slipped into the truck.

Monday morning I got some painting done on the front, (one coat of color an door trim)

Dry fitting the tile

End of the weekend

Moon set...at Moontree Ranch

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Yes, its been awhile.  But life is busy, and I got a wee bit injured working on the cabin.  Nothing bloody or anything like that but…pain inducing none the less. After getting a good deal of the siding up, and even part of it painted with the first coat.  The grouting of the floor tile kicked my ass…well more specifically the moving of the cabinets with the granite slab on top kicked my back, which flared up my Sciatic.  Work commitments back here at home has not allowed for a full recovery by lounging about for days on end, as is the recommended recovery route.

Hardi plank Cement board siding

The siding install went well with the girls help by holding up one end when I was working with the longer pieces.  One of the challenges was not having all of the trim pieces, When I ordered up this round of siding Boulder Lumber only had 4 of the 12 delivered which was just a oversight. Doing the siding on the front of the cabin had me using short spacer pieces.  I hope to get the front trim pieces up when I’m back down for the 4th.

Waiting for more trim

Along the painting route we also got the back of the woodshed painted with some more $5 mis tint.  The place is slowly coming together.

For a bit of recreation I brought down my “newish” rifle.  A couple of months ago I picked up a Uberti 1873 lever action rifle in 45 Colt.  This was the second addition to my Cowboy action line up.

1873 lever action

I had the trigger lightened up from the 7 pounds or so the week before,  to about 3 1/2 pounds,  this was the first shooting with the modifications.  I offered the girls some $$$ per round if they wanted to give it a whirl, Sierra took one shot and did not like the kick, but Tasha was a regular Annie Oakley, with great on target aiming and  some decent cycling of the lever…she got better and actually shot more than me….needless to say I was very proud.

Crack shot Tasha

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Star Trails over the Cabin

The weather at the cabin over spring break was awesome…who needs to go to Mexico, or Florida when sunshine and warmth can be had nearby?  Tori said the weather back in Ned for the week was still “winter” and Mr. W.  did come by for an extended and intense visit.  While we were at the ranch the moon was rising quite late so it was a  good time to play with some more time-lapse and time-exposure photography.

After our evening meal and a bit of hanging out / or a Vid on the portable DVD,  the girls were pretty toasted …and went up to bed…I stayed up a couple of hours later on a few of the nights and played with  the D90 some.

This time-lapse was shot right off the deck…its only 7 seconds of video…but gives a sense of the beauty of the ranch’s starry nights.

The tear off of the tar paper yielded about 6 trash bags worth or debris.  Last year we would burn a few of the smaller pieces as “fire-starter”.  Being big and bulky this trash would have cost $12-16 worth back in Ned at the transfer station, since the pricing there is based on bags, not weight.  To save some money and not haven an overflowing truck on the way home we swung by the Taos Landfill site to unload… we got weighed…. then dropped some trash…and got weighed again.  Along with the tar paper the weeks regular trash and the old steps were also tossed, total cost $1.75.  Sweet.

We road tripped up through Ft. Garland in the hope to visit the Hermit…but just missed him. ….Not to worry….we now know the way there, so it will be an easier find next time.  Since I have been back home  these last couple of weeks I also noticed that Big Bear is posting again, You can follow both of these guys by clicking on their links at my blog roll to the right. “The Hermitage” for the Hermit and “Bear Ridge Project” for Big Bear.

We grabbed a bite at the local Pizza joint All Gone…and then headed to the dunes for another promised “special treat”.

“Gee dad, you’re so awesome to take us on week-long visit to the cabin, the hot springs and the dunes…and treat us to some great dinning out,  teach us how to shoot a rifle and go on great hikes and stuff…your the best dad ever”

While the girls never actually said this in as many words…I did “feel it” with their laughs, and hugs, and as always any time spent with them is pure fun. We had an awesome time at the dunes a few years ago, and this time is was just as fun.

Mother natures "Sand Box"

It was a bit after lunch, about 2 or 3 when we got there.  The weather was still warm but the afternoon breeze was starting to pick up.  We hiked in a ways and did some dune jumping and rolling…well…at least they did.  Rolling in the sand with the D90 is not high on my list, but I did get in some jumps.

Two steps up...one step back...this is like work.

With some of the descents…we heard the “singing sands”

Above the singing sand

When hiking west the girls asked how far in we were, I said ” Cairo is just around the next dune”….their geography is still a bit weak…so they kind of missed the humor.

The girls found snow buried here.

Evening Light

As the evening chill descends, we made our way back to the truck…the girls were pretty spent…as was I, but they were not looking at another 5 hour drive to get home…maybe a few hours till dark and then nap time.  We rolled into the drive  a bit after 11pm. A long day after a great week, unloading the truck can wait til tomorrow.

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Well its been another busy week.  I finished up a floor refinishing project for a client and posted some of the pics to my flickr account.  They can be viewed at the lower right margin.

Painting done!

Back to the cabin…With the wood shed painted…next on the list was to re-organize the shed a bit.  Our composting sawdust toilet has been used in the shed for the last few visits.  Part of the reason for this in not due to smell but the “privacy”, when Tori and I are there by ourselves we don’t mind each others use, but when 2 young girls are involved it’s a different story.  The closet type space inside, where we used it in the frigid winter, used to have a blanket around it, but now that part has been partially sided and that space being used for some out-of-the-way storage.  The Sawduster saw a move to the shed back when we were there last summer.  The toilet in the wood shed was sitting in front of some fire wood and was very close to the door…and for use… the door pretty much-needed to be open…which is not a problem since the view is five-star and the next nearest neighbor in that direction is at least 3-4 miles away.  The step up…was the problem even for me with my 6′ height, the girls really had an issue and I rigged a bit of step for them.  The better solution  was to clear out some lumber scraps and do a bit of firewood re-stacking.  This allowed the toilet to set a couple of feet further back into the shed and made its use a whole lot easier…and if the wind was blowing and you wanted to keep your tushie a little warmer…you could pull the door shut.

I had promised the girls a trip to the hot springs, down by the river for a bit more work around the place…this deal also involved more dining out in Taos.  The plan for the morning was swapping out the abused tar paper and upgrade with Tyvek.  With the girls help pulling nails and such we knocked in out in no time.  Sierra and I then rebuilt the steps to the deck…I still need to get one more piece of material for the bottom step, but it is a big improvement over the old stack of scraps.

West wall Tyvek up...new window flashing too

New stairs

Working in a remote area…with the nearest hardware store 35 miles away…and about an hours drive. I have come to realize Why and how certain things get built the way they do.  Your 80 or 90% complete and realize your missing something or do not have enough material…what do you do?  Stop and leave it not finished, or make some “design” or materials substitutions.  I noticed this last year when putting up some of the “soffit” on the shed…I had run out of 1 x and ending up ripping some ply scraps….to close it up.  The deck and our stairs were built from some left over materials from a clients project back in Colorado…so these were “free”.  Eventually these will be upgraded but for now they get the job done.

The hike down to the hot springs was nice, the weather was into the upper 60 or maybe even into the low 70’s…the water at in the hot springs was about 96…warm enough to feel great but not too hot either. We hit the geocache nearby that was MIA last time I was down there.  Dinner in Taos was Italian…spaghetti for gilrs…pizza for me.

Soaking at Manby

We finished up the day with some relaxing at the cabin….With all of the siding up…all of the Tyvek, up…rewiring and insulation completed…It was finally starting to feel like a Vacation…To bad we had to leave the next day.   The last trip report will  relate to our adventures on the drive back home.

South Tyvek up...ready to relax

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One of the mornings at the cabin we tried some simple baking.  The nights were chilly and just after sundown I would stoke up the wood stove.  Unlike our winter stays I did not need to continue to stoke it all night long, the night time temps were in the upper 20’s so by morning a chill had settled back into the cabin.  With the morning stoke I could do some simple cooking, and heat the water for coffee, with out having to fire up the gas stove.  By the time I had finished up my second cup of Joe, French press with chemicals (Chemicals are our house name for “French Vanilla creamer”) the cabin was toasty.  With out a fire the cabin would still get warm due to the  the sun being up and warming the interior via our passive solar design.

Baking muffins

Our baking experiment consisted of chocolate chi muffins baked in the dutchy.  I used the digital infrared Temp gun to ball park the start conditions, we were a little cooler than the “package” recommendations, but the results were still plenty edible.

Cooking the Bacon

Tuesday morning I got started with finishing up the last of the electrical work, I got the 120 V receps installed, the last  12 Volt  LED installed and I swapped out the 1000 watt inverter with the 2500 watt inverter.  The last of the electrical allowed me to finish up the insulation and start the south walls ‘s   T & G.  With the new inverter installed I got to use the chop saw run via Solar Power…a first at Moontree Ranch.

I got to the top of the picture window and dining window before running out of wood.  With the chop saw in action I knocked out the interior trim on the west window.  This was done in cedar, and looks good with the blue stain.

Cedar Trim on West window

The highlight of the day for the girls was the target shooting.  Last fall when my mom and dad came out for a visit, my dad gave me a .22 rifle with a 4x scope.  Tasha had enjoyed the archery in hers school’s PE class and this Rifle work was the next step.  We started out with paper plates at about 100 yards, but the girls were having a little trouble keeping  on the target.  Later we switched to about 50-60 yards , and used some ready made pistol targets.  After I sighted in the scope for that range they were getting pretty good results.  It was a hoot the see them having so much fun. It will take some time to work up to larger calibers and with the pistols but I think they had a great start.

Sierra with the rifle

We also got in a bit of  hike on Wednesday, a loop over to the main road in…a bit along the old Chili Line (old time RR grade) over some rock outcroppings on Gil’s land to the west of us and then back into our land via the SW corner.

Sierra on the high point of the hike.

The trees seen to the right of Sierra in the mid-horizon are on our land as we head up from the SW corner.

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