The Timber-Framed Cabin Project Continued (Part 10 - - Fall/Winter 2009-2010)

Seasons Come Seasons Go

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This page continues the story of the construction of a timberframe cabin in the Sierra Madre Mountains. This particular page covers fall and winter of 2009/2010. You can access the previous pages through the index of my timberframe cabin pages at and through the links on the sidebar.

Not Too Much to Photograph, But . . .

Here are some shots of the local wildlife in late September.

Pine Beetles

I've commented quite a bit on this site about the plague of pine beetles that has beset the forests around here. Most of the pines over a couple of inches in diameter have now been killed by the rampaging pine beetles. They lay their eggs under the bark of the tree and then the following year the young hatch and eat around the tree in the cambium (sp?) layer in which sap flows. This effectively girdles most trees and they then die, turning brown several months later. These beetles normally get killed off every few decades by a really cold winter. But there has been no such winter for over 40 years. Then there was a seven year draught during the first part of this decade. Healthy trees are in a position to survive minor attacks and can even fight off beetles trying to bore through the bark by overwhelming them with sap. But with a draught they have a much harder time. Hence an explosion of beetles which then speeds up the cycle in the next year. The second photo below shows some of the beetle kill looking East towards Elk Mountain down the Cow Creek Valley just from a rise on the other side of my creek in the National Forest.

I've also mentioned that I have a large lodgepole pine just south of the rear of the cabin and that I have been trying to keep it alive. I've cut out sections of bark that look like beetles have bored through to dislodge the eggs, and I've watered the tree again and again for the past two years. So far so good, but this year I'm not sure how successful I was. I did cut out a bit more bark where it looked to me that a beetle had been successful. And the first photo below, of a beetle caught by sap is some evidence that the tree defends itself. But we'll see next summer.

Another Quick Project

I made a quick trip by plane out in late September and did a bit of wrapping things up for winter. I also had time to install another light in the loft.

And in late October my colleague David Henderson and I drove up to the top of the road from which we showshoed down. There was somewhat over a foot of snow on the ground at the time, but we did get in a day of fishing in the North Platte River Wilderness. We didn't do too much photogenic at the cabin, but I did take one picture at night. That's the burn barrel in front sparking into the snow.

Looks like we've hit 3 feet of snow on November 18th ( according to the snow monitor ), but it is melting down some. That won't last. And now in early December we're getting some genuinely cold lows including one below ten below zero. If we could get a solid week like that we might kill off some pine beetles, at least locally.

Lou Ureneck Times Cabin Blog Update

It's now more than a year since Lou started the blog on the Times site and his cabin is nearly done. (In the interim he interviewed me at this times link .) He now has ambitions to add a barn and shop, even though his time blogging for the times is about over. So he's started a blog of his own to keep us updated. It is at . I've added a link to the other people's cabins page that you can get to via the sidebar menu. But obviously there's no need to click there since the links are here.

Meanwhile (New Years Day 2010) it is below zero in Lincoln with a couple of feet of snow on the ground, though it is packing down a bit. But we don't have any pine beetles that need to be kept down, so I could deal with a bit warmer weather here. Or if not that, I could be happy with a cabin visit soon. If it isn't any colder than here (and it currently is not) the scenery is better. But it is a long trip.

A March Trip

In mid-March I took a quick drive (and ski and showshoe) out to check on the condition of the cabin, since the snow monitor showed about 8 feet of snow and I was worried that the solar panel would be buried and crushed. I need not have worried, though there was plenty of snow as these photos show.

After two nights of using the stove, the chimney looks like it may weather the snow as well, though I never did get the snow to slide off the roof, even when it was clearly melting from underneath.

Inside things were quite cozy. I spent lots of time reading philosophy. The cabin was quite bright with all the snow outside. And the book, Bach and Harnish on linguistic communication was a good one. These photos show the snow out the front top window coming over the roof, and the stove with fire in it.

I had timed the trip to coincide with a trip up by my neighbor, Alfred. I showshoed up the hill about a mile or so to his place each evening for dinner. The photos show the view at dusk from his deck. And there is one of him filling his stove as well.

Sandhill Cranes

On the way home I drove thought the Great Platte River Basin, which lies along the Platte and which is an important stopping point for migratory birds. At this particular time, the sandhill cranes were passing through. About 500,000 of them. The photos below are actually from a week or so later when Jenny and I went back to get a closer look. The first two are evening shots; the rest are from the next morning.

There is a lot less water in this basin than there once was, and various folks are trying to use conservation easements and habitat improvements to counteract the effects of that. But it is getting somewhat politically controversial as various counties have opposed such measures for tax and other reasons.

Relatedly I've recently joined the board of my local Trout Unlimited chapter, TU710. TU is an organization devoted to preserving coldwater fisheries (not that this part of the Platte counts as one of those). I've put links in the sidebar to both the local and national websites for the organization.

The Snow Monitor Website Gets an upgrade!

Looks like there is more info and more ways to slice and dice it! The result looks like:

And on April 2nd it looks like we have 120 inches of snow. That's 10 feet which you already know. Last year the deepest I noted was 128 inches. Very soon this will drop by a foot or so, but then it may go back up since we have at least a month and maybe two of snow left.

Speaking of statistics, the last time I was up there a couple of weeks back I was able to check the thermometer which records indoor and outdoor highs and lows. This winter the lowest temperature this year was on December 3, 2009 when it got to -14.5 degrees fahrenheit at 8:01 am. The lowest indoor temperature was the next day at 9:22 am, when it reached -2.6 degrees inside the cabin. So the insulation, all inch and a half of it, isn't doing nothing. But of course without a heat source within the cabin it isn't going to get much warmer than outside. In the summer it works the other way around, which is pleasant in the daytime and just fine at night.

137 Inches of Snow in April/Feet Still Falling in May

So says the Old Battle Snow Monitor! 134 inches - that's more than 11 feet still - on April 8th.

And on May 20 with 112 inches on the ground at the snow monitor sensor we get this from the Saratoga Sun website :

"The Platte Valley is currently under a winter storm advisory that will stay in effect until 6 p.m. this evening. With two to three foot of snow expected in the mountains, the National Weather Service and Carbon County Emergency Manager John Zeiger..."

Somehow I figure that Battle Highway is going to open late.

We'll See

So I'm headed to the cabin to get it ready for summer. The road has now been open a few days and snow nearby at the Old Battle Snow Monitor had dropped to only 54 inches by yesterday. But apparently it just snowed because the monitor shows 55 inches today. Wish me luck!

More updates to come if I make it.

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