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Building in the High Country

Posted by Ron Jones

Aug 20, 2015 10:24:00 AM

Summer at Mariposa Meadows has been interesting so far, to say the least.

WE FACE SOME unique challenges here, as well as some that are more universal to the building industry. The apparent victory in the beaver battles last fall has proven to be less than conclusive. After several months of ignoring the main irrigation gate, our furry friend recently mounted a new offensive and overwhelmed the previously invincible “beaver deceiver” by plugging the intake with large chunks of willow and aspen, followed by reams of grasses—all topped off by an impressive volume of thick mud.

Rest assured: we have not given up the fight. Each day, we return to the ditch bank to pry out all of the soggy materials and debris that were stuffed in the night before, always amazed at the industriousness of our adversary. We release the flow of water from the main stream through the decades-old, hand-dug ditches that distribute the cold, clear liquid over the many acres of meadow grasses and wild flowers—even though we know at this point that the beaver will be back under cover of darkness to start the process all over again.

Moose sightings have been frequent, as well. Cows with calves and at least two very impressive bulls—still in velvet as their gigantic racks of points and palmations grow bigger and heavier with each passing day—cruise the beaver ponds and thick brush, causing the occasional traffic jam on the forest road. Jeep-loads of astonished flatlanders take countless photos on their phones to send back home as proof of their high-country adventures.

A particularly wet spring and summer weather pattern have helped the meadows immensely, and the grasses are waist high in most places. As a bonus, all the moisture has helped mitigate the risk of wildfire, at least in the short term. Meanwhile, we have been consulting with the U.S. Forest Service and representatives of the USDA to develop a comprehensive conservation plan. We want them to help us to protect our natural resources and even improve the habitat for wildlife at Mariposa as we make gradual progress with our master plan and the individual projects we have undertaken there

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At the same time, we are experiencing some challenges that are not so unique to our area. The local economy has improved measurably from last summer, as indicated by the impressive increase in sales tax revenues over the same period last year. While this is great news for local government and the general population, it has had a predictable effect on the finite labor pool in such a small market. We are not insulated from the manpower shortages that are plaguing the homebuilding industry in every corner of the country. And like other builders, we are noticing longer lead times for certain materials.

As a result, our progress has been hampered, but we forge ahead at a more measured pace. Our hope is to have our current structures advanced far enough so that when the snows come again, we will have the option of continuing inside work at our discretion. The shorter days and access by snowmobile will present a new set of hurdles, but at least by then the beaver will be tucked away in his lodge for a while, and irrigating won’t be a concern until spring returns again.


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