Tag Archives: Dirt Works

Good Day @ Ragle Springs

 

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To complete our documentation of last week’s efforts to improve the availability of water for cattle, Terri Blanke stands beside the upper concrete box last Wednesday, one of many constructed by Earl McKee, Sr. and Lee Maloy in the 1930s when they packed cement and sand on mules from the Kaweah River, five miles and 2,500 feet in elevation away.

From the bottom, the upper box was plumbed to the lower box with 1½“ steel pipe too rusty and leaky to repair, rendering the lower box useless. In the 1990s, Earl McKee, Jr. and Chuck Fry constructed the pond below with dozers to collect all the leaks plus seasonal runoff. Dirt tank dry by the end of June for past two years, I installed the little galvanized trough last year to provide clean water by utilizing a hole in the side of the upper box.

While David Langton was mucking out the pond at Grapevine last Saturday, I plumbed the second concrete tank to the overflow of the little galvanized trough with 1 ¼“ PVC and galvanized riser. On Monday, while David was covering the PVC, he bumped the rock beside the galvanized trough with his backhoe’s outrigger, which moved the empty trough and snapped my PVC fill pipe. We plugged the flow from the upper box with a plastic bag and I went for hose at the corrals a mile below to syphon water into the galvanized trough rather than lose it, giving me time (2½ hours) to get to town for galvanized pipe replacements.

There wasn’t enough water stored in the little galvanized trough for the fourteen head of cows living at Ragle Springs, yet the little trough filled and overflowed at night. Assuming the lower box doesn’t leak as it fills, we will have enough water stored for the fourteen cows—a good day for all.

 

Dirt Works @ Railroad Spring

 

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We’ve been on David Langton’s list for well over a month as he moves ranch to ranch with his four-wheel drive backhoe improving stock water. Railroad Spring has been nearly dry for two years, with not enough water in the spring box to reach the pipe. Hand dug and constructed of concrete and rock with a disc blade lid, it’s provided good water since well-before my time with the exception of the droughts of 1938-39 (anecdotal) and 1976-77.

(Heavy equipment working at the 2,400-foot elevation 4-5 miles from the asphalt is always a clash of sensibilities for me.) In the photo, David has dug about three feet below the original spring box and gotten to a flowing crack in the hard rock, nearly an impossible task to reach with a pick and shovel. He’s trenching the pipeline we will install this morning to the troughs in the background, which will presumably overflow in a normal year to the dirt tank beyond them.

When the trench was completed, we measured the flow at 1½ gallons/minute, that if sustainable would amount to well over 4,000 gallons/day, however, as so often is the case, the flow subsided to about ¾ gallons/minute after about five hours. We intend to work around the original spring box some more before installing our new spring box and pipe. Meanwhile, we broke a little water loose at the Grapevine spring a 1/4 mile away, and mucked out enough silt to form a basin where the cows can water, previously preferring to drink the fresher water pooled in their hoof prints than the warm stale remnants at Railroad Pond. Open to two other pastures with water, my count at Railroad was 24 head of cows getting ready to calve.