Tom Clyde: Thinking of winter |

Tom Clyde: Thinking of winter

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By Tom Clyde
Park Record columnist

I spent a few days this week working on the roof of one of the old buildings on the ranch. It's the same one I shored up last year. This year, I'm trying to replace the old metal roofing, or at least part of it.

That stuff has become very expensive, so I'm biting off about half of it this year and saving some for later. It's a very shallow pitch, which is really the cause of most of the building's problems. A steeper roof would slide better, meaning that the snow weight wouldn't snap the undersized framing.

The purlins, the strips of wood attached to the rafters that the sheets of roofing used to be attached to, were originally 1 by 6 boards. They may have been OK 80 years ago, but most of them have splintered or rotted where water has leaked through and soaked them.

They won't hold a screw anymore, so the wind is pulling the old roofing off and blowing it around the barnyard. Full hillbilly conditions.

A fat, slow and heat-stroked Labrador retriever, or a family of mountain lions

— the choice seems pretty clear.

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The building was designed to house the dairy herd, and in addition to providing milk, the 125 cows would produce enough heat to melt the snow off the roof. But they are long gone, and now the snow gets moved by shovel. That doesn't really work because the pieces or rusty old roofing are curled up at the corners and all the nail heads stick up and catch the shovel.

Anyway, it's a bunch of activity that I'm not used to. There's some acrobatics involved in moving around the roof, standing on only the magic points where the rotten purlins cross the solid rafters. If you step on the purlin in between the rafters, the odds are pretty good that it will break. The goal was to replace the rotten purlins with new 2 by 6s (which, as we learned from a recent class action lawsuit, actually measure 1 1/2 by 5 1/2). It's hotter than a stove up there, so I've been working on it for a few hours in the mornings, which is plenty for an old guy. I hurt all over.

The end result is that I've also been going to bed very early at night. Wednesday night, I was sound asleep when the noise of the cattle grazing in the pasture across the river woke me up at the unreasonable hour of about 9:30. They were very upset about something, mooing and bellowing. The next morning, while back on the roof, the owner of the cattle stopped by to say that they had broken through two fences and sort of ran amok. He spotted mountain lion tracks in the mud along the irrigation ditch. He said he had seen others, maybe a female with some cubs, in another field.

That explains a lot. The dog has been reluctant to go out. Deer have been hanging out in my yard, which they generally don't do because of the dog. A doe with twin fawns has been moving in and around the houses for about 10 days, even though there is plenty of food and water in more deer-appropriate places. Maybe the mountain lion isn't right in the front yard. A fat, slow and heat-stroked Labrador retriever, or a family of mountain lions — the choice seems pretty clear.

More than a week ago, my nephew noticed that there weren't any potgut squirrels out and about. The kids have a Frisbee golf course that covers 20 acres of prime potgut habitat, and he didn't see any. They hibernate early in the season, but usually the date is about Aug. 15 at my place. Having them gone in late July is odd. Unless somebody has been eating them like M&Ms. I suspect the disappearance of the potguts is a combination of mountain lions and coyotes, a very hot summer, and maybe they got fattened up enough to retire for the season. But they are gone, two weeks early.

Almost in rhythm with the potguts' departure is the conversation about skiing. It came up on a recent mountain bike ride. We were all practically sick with the heat, and from nowhere, ski season pops up in the conversation.

Separately from that, I started researching a new snowblower for the tractor.

There's one that mounts on the back of the tractor, but scoops the snow while going forward instead of backward. After last winter, the hours of backing up to blow the snow wore a little thin, and the heavy snow blew the bearings out of the 6-foot blower I've got.

The benefit of the front-pull set up over a front mounted blower is that I'd still have the front-end loader available. It's apparently very popular in Quebec — the YouTube demonstration videos are mostly in French.

Maybe it's the heat, but it's barely August and winter is on my mind.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.