For the record it’s Plan C, so not a life-threatening loss. But still annoying.

The problem with heating with wood is that it’s a messy, constant, labor-intensive pain in the ass. Really. There’s a reason – not related to particulates or carbon credits – that American homes so rarely heat with wood. A heater you can just set and forget – preferably one with a thermostat – is a massive improvement on the design.

No, seriously. Think about it. I come down the ladder at oh-dark-thirty, pet Little Bear, start some coffee water, and – assuming I didn’t do all the preliminaries the night before – then I chop kindling, lay a fire, light tinder, and if all goes well half an hour later I might detect a slight rise in cabin temperature. Also, if like now the cabin isn’t really all that cold to begin with, around the time the fire finally starts making a difference it’s time to let it burn out.

Except for the cost and hassle of transporting propane from town, a propane heater is an improvement on this. And I do possess two of them: The big Mr. Heater I used in the Interim Lair, and this smaller version I inherited from J&H year before last…

The big one is currently stored elsewhere but the small one – along with half a dozen of these little “this won’t get you through the night” propane bottles which render the heater portable – normally resides in the powershed Just In Case. Yesterday I dragged it out and set it up, not because of any emergency but just because I wanted a little heat right now and not a lot of heat an hour from now. And because I could. Of course that meant expending one of those little propane bottles, which cost $4 apiece, which hurt my feelings but what the hell. It’s pretty clear we’re not going to have many life-threatening cold emergencies during the remainder of this winter.

Then this morning I came down the ladder, petted LB, noted that it was 50 degrees inside which is – damn it – on the cusp of cold enough to want some heat but not so cold you’re really in a fever to build a big roaring fire. And that little Heater Buddy was still sitting there, so I reached over from scratching somebody’s belly and fired it up. Cranked it to high. I figured I’d turn it down or off as soon as the thermometer said it was having an effect.

Probably I’ve never in life had that little heater set to High. When I tried to turn it down, I couldn’t. I physically could not do it. The valve handle is stuck on High. Maybe it’s just an inconveniently designed plastic tab on the handle. Maybe it’s a problem with the valve itself. If I put a wrench on it and crank, maybe that will break off the tab and fix the valve. Maybe it will complete the ruination of the valve.

I’ve been blown up in a propane fireball once. Once.

Hey, you know another problem with these little “this won’t get you through the night” camping bottles? No on/off valve. There’s nothing to do but let the heater burn till it runs out of gas, then see if I can take it apart enough to fix the handle or whatever else is wrong.

And that’s the advantage of heating with wood…

ETA: For the record, in case you cared, one of those little bottles will last an hour and 45 minutes in a Heater Buddy set on High.

ETAA: Fixed. Though I’m not quite sure what I did to fix it, which is always an unsatisfying sort of fix.

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And sometimes you prune…

There was trouble in Seymour’s love nest all day today, of a sort I’ve seen before. One hen just sort of goes nuts, and Seymour is involved. He apparently starts persecuting her, she starts spending the day inside the coop or flying into my face whenever I enter the yard as if looking for help.

I let it go the first time this happened and ended up with a hen so emaciated and sick the other hens started attacking her. I saw it happening this morning, let it slide to see what would happen, and by late this afternoon we definitely seemed to have a crisis on our hands. So I picked her up – she made no move to stay away from me – put her in a cage and took her back to the Big Chickenhouse. She’s been gone from the main flock less than a week and was getting along fine there, I have high hopes that she’ll fit back in without trouble.

It’s weird. The other three hens seem to get along with Seymour just fine.

At present my tentative plan is to collect a couple more from the main flock, maybe tomorrow, and introduce them together into the Fortress just so I’m not sending a single hen in there alone. Then I’ll move the one that works out least well back to the main flock. Comments?

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Headlines that make you say, “Dude. The crack pipe. Back away.”

This may actually need to be a TUAK feature for a while. There are clearly “journalists” out there who have lost what little of their minds they had previously retained.

Get a load of this:

Donald Trump’s Congressional Lackeys are Threatening Washington DC’s Gun Laws

Normally I don’t suggest you actually go read these things, but this particular piece in Newsweek is a laugh riot.

Opposed robustly by Congress, which, despite home rule, controls the District’s budget and governs many of the city’s operational functions, the laws managed to survive all but a single challenge concerning an individual’s right to own a handgun, which D.C. fought all the way to the Supreme Court, eventually losing in 2008.

Even so, the District of Columbia has laws enforcing—among other things—substantial waiting periods for gun purchases and effective safety features on all guns. It also prohibits ownership of assault weapons. And while gun violence does still plague the city—in 2015, 121 of D.C.’s 162 murders were committed with a firearm—the solution would seem to be harsher restrictions on gun ownership in adjacent states, not easier access to weapons in D.C.

Now Congress has decided to reassert its authority over the District, threatening to force D.C. to repeal its gun control laws. While the legislation hasn’t stopped gun violence in the city, it has kept it from raging as it did in the past.

Enjoy – unless you’re suffering a touchy stomach this morning, in which case you may want to give it a miss.

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In case we thought the Socialist Utopian was a dead breed…

Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to save the world: Facebook founder reveals his vision to ‘bring us together in a global community’ in 5,500 word manifesto

I haven’t attempted to read the “manifesto,” – or even seen it, there’s no link at the article – but from the hints given it appears that Socialist Utopians may have billions of dollars to play with and lots of grandiosity but they’re a bit shaky on “sense of history.” IOW, this one hasn’t learned anything since H. G. Wells took his shot at it over a century ago.

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Uh…no thanks, Achmed.


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I have British Socialist Author Fatigue Syndrome.

I just made that up, but I’m pretty sure that with the current administration in office I can get a big study grant to publicize it.

Friends of the Blog have sent me many books this winter (thank you very much)…

…including, alas, two late-period Arthur C. Clarke “collaborations.” And, possibly disoriented by that dreary slog, I recently took it into my addled head to read something by H. G. Wells which I finished last night after unloading all the guns and hiding all the edged weapons from myself.

It’s a book called “The World Set Free.” It was written in 1913 and contains a shockingly accurate prediction about how the fin de siècle world will end – which it did the very year of the book’s publication. He even gets the start of the war right – but then he predicts atomic weapons 30 years before they actually appeared. But hey! He predicted atomic weapons in 1913.

Of course like all people who considered themselves smart at the beginning of the 20th century, H. G. Wells was an outspoken socialist. As with A-bombs, he could predict them but he really didn’t have any idea what they would do. And boy, did he get that part wrong. Wells’ entire premise is that the rise of man is the story of his escape from the curse of bestial individualism. His future hails the coming of Utopia through scientific totalitarianism. I don’t actually know much about Wells – there’s an old writer joke about him, that he sold his birthright for a pot of message, and it shows in this book – but I gather he was a rather urban person…

…because he certainly spares no feelings among possible readers who might have different notions of how to live…

Already this system has abolished a distinctively rustic population throughout vast areas of the old world, where it has prevailed immemorially. That shy, unstimulated life of the lonely hovel, the narrow scandals and petty spites and persecutions of the small village, that hoarding, half inanimate existence away from books, thought, or social participation and in constant contact with cattle, pigs, poultry, and their excrement, is passing away out of human experience. In a little while it will be gone altogether. In the nineteenth century it had already ceased to be a necessary human state, and only the absence of any collective intelligence and an imagined need for tough and unintelligent soldiers and for a prolific class at a low level, prevented its systematic replacement at that time…

I never quite figured out what Wells thought his enlightened citizens were going to eat, but I do know “science” was very much involved.

I don’t feel like being ‘systematically replaced,’ so I guess I’ll go out now and wade in some poultry excrement. If Mr. Wells’ successors show up to uplift me, we can discuss it then. Until then, I’ll just go back to my hovel and my hoarding, half inanimate existence. F*ck you, Herbert.

As with turn of the century ‘anarchists,’ virtually all of whom were socialist, I try to give writers like Wells the benefit of the doubt because they had the excuse that socialism had never been tried on any meaningful scale. Later writers like Clarke don’t have that excuse and don’t get that pass. They like totalitarianism because they think they’re smart and so naturally assume they’ll be in charge. I’d wish them the curse of getting everything they want, except that the rest of us would have to get it, too.

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You know what I love?

I love the dawn of a sunny day in winter.

The sun breaks over the ridge behind me, to light the cliff before me. Soon the frost – and unfortunately the mud – will thaw…

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I almost admire the skill with which these people stand facts on their heads…

Take enough facts, stack them just right, turn them this way or that, maybe trim the corners a bit, and before long you have a huge untruth.


The False Promise That ‘Armed Citizenship’ Will Keep Women Safe

The premise here is that when a woman is assaulted, it’s frequently by somebody she knows. Okay, I’m told that’s true. If she shoots that person in self-defense, the cops/prosecutors/etc will gaze upon her case with a jaundiced, predatory eye. Also possibly true. Therefore, guns are bad. Uh…huh? No, really. That’s the logic. Much better for a woman to just let herself be assaulted.

Here’s another one:

The Surprising History Behind America’s Stand Your Ground Laws

This is an “interview” article about a woman who wrote a book proving that – you guessed it – guns are bad. The author makes some facile observations about the medieval development of English common law which may or may not be true, notes with alarm that the rule of household self-defense applied to “specifically white, male, property-owning citizens,” and through a series of logical gyrations comes to the shocking, unexpected conclusion that guns are bad. Or at least self-defense with guns is bad. And American self-defense with guns is really bad.

I think there’s a kind of alchemy of different power structures that conspired to turn the United States into a place that celebrated a particular kind of heroic, white, frontier ruggedness, and capacity to spread from sea to shining sea through manifest destiny.

White people with guns! And so you see guns are bad.

Hey, I just read this shit so you won’t have to.

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I need an app for distinguishing news from parody.

Seriously, I swear I did not make up the following headline…

Obama makes rest of us look bad with his effortless kitesurfing

In Wapo, of course. Not The Onion. No, I didn’t forget the link…

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Oh, get a load of this…

Husbands Are Deadlier Than Terrorists

Because guns, of course. The unbiased journalists at the New York Fishwrap strike again.

Last year Americans were less likely to be killed by Muslim terrorists than for being Muslim, according to Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina. The former is a risk of approximately one in six million; the latter, one in one million.

Above all, fear spouses: Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.

And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves.

I just don’t understand why hoi polloi don’t want these solons in charge any more…

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Did you ever see something in a movie and think, “I wonder if that would really work?”

It’s been a while since I had any of the bright paint I use on the metallic targets at Ian’s range. Without regular painting, they quickly fade into the background and can be hard for these old eyes to put sights on.

Normally I paint them bright orange, a color that works just fine. But a couple of weeks ago I was in the hardware looking at paint for the range, and I thought about that Matt Damon movie where they wanted a flag with a strongly contrasting color, and being on Mars at the time of course they chose…

Radiation Biohazard Flag from the Martian 2015 with Matt Damon
…bright green. And I thought, I wonder if that would work here? The dirt is mostly reddish, what green there is is pretty muted. I wonder if green would stand out as strongly as orange?

On the evidence…

…no, not really.

I ventured out on the first sunny day we’ve had since last week’s chicken slaughter. We’re promised full sun today and tomorrow, which the batteries really need, and maybe it will dry off a little of the mud. The mud is as bad as I’ve ever seen it; a person trying to use the roads without a 4X4 is just asking to visit a ditch or a gully or a cliff. Two days of sun might dry a little of it, but the weekend is supposed to be wet again. Nights are dipping just slightly below freezing, enough to bring some of the humidity down in impressive frost but it melts again the moment the sun touches it. Landlady’s due this weekend, and if she really comes we’ll have to ferry her in from the county road as has been such a common practice lately.

My big question, of course, after all those years of driving on bald tires was will the new tires help at all? I think on balance yes, they probably help a lot but when you’re sloshing around in mud halfway to the axles a half-inch of new tread is really gonna be of limited value. The big benefit of the new tires is that I don’t have to sweat every sharp rock the tread encounters. I’ve gotten very tentative about taking the Jeep certain places, because one torn tire and I’m done. I had no way of repairing the Jeep, I didn’t even have a plan for rescuing it. Now, with some decent tread, I have a little more maneuvering room.

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New Girlfriends Update

At Landlady’s place and at mine, we went two completely different ways in designing chicken accommodations. She has a large enclosure where the chickens prefer to spend most of their time, in which they eat and sleep and water and lay eggs. There’s a safe yard for them, and they use it, but mostly they stay indoors.

The Fortress of Attitude is a yard that contains a small coop for sleeping and egg laying.

And of course hens transplanted from Landlady’s place to the Fortress don’t at first get what that little building is about. So Saturday night at dusk Seymour – with increasing exasperation – tried to herd his hens up the ramp to their safe roosts, and they weren’t having any of it. They spent the night on the roof of the coop, since they like to roost high and the roof was the highest place they could reach.

Sunday night, right at dark, I went out and looked and there they were again. But now it had been raining all day, it was still raining, they were soaked and the temp was supposed to get down near freezing. So I picked them up one by one – and one of them demonstrated the ease with which a chicken can weaponize excrement – and put them inside.

The third night, last night, they slept inside without prompting. At first they laid their eggs in impromptu nests under the coop, but since yesterday they’ve figured out the nesting boxes…



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Oh dear. You know why you never hear of giant solar electric plants in the PNW?

Days like the last few, that’s why. I’ve had positive results on cloudy days with my newly-expanded solar panel array, but Sunday and yesterday it did no good at all. It was rain, rain, deep gloom interspersed with occasional drizzle. It’s mud to the ankles out there, and (oh, thank god the cattle have returned) it seems pretty darned disrespectful of those new and very expensive tires to drag them through all this mud and cow shit the very first thing…When I get big improvements like that, after years of nursing the old makeshifts along, I like to go out and admire them. Hell, I just got back from morning chores and I can’t even see them.

But relief is coming. A band of blue appeared on the northern horizon about an hour ago, no use to man or beast, and it appears to intend to march southward toward us. Already maybe a third of the sky is blue. Tomorrow and Thursday are supposed to be sunny. And that’s good, because I shut down the inverter yesterday afternoon and didn’t bother starting it up again except to write this post. I don’t ever remember the batteries being lower than they were first thing this morning.

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And that, friends, is why you need good neighbors.

It started raining yesterday in the early afternoon and didn’t stop all night long. This morning, still raining, the road was nearly impassible even for a capable 4X4. I considered this a good thing, because I have this superstition that cops won’t pull you over just to be pricks at the cost of getting wet, cold and muddy. It’s probably not a very reliable superstition, but I go with what I’ve got. Anyway there wasn’t any trouble so I guess I was right.

Got to the shop early, because I had arranged to meet D&L there and I wanted to have all the ducks in a row and swimming industriously before they arrived. They did arrive right on time, in a very muddy large Dodge pickup and exclaiming over how they’d barely made it. We did our shopping, they dropped me back off at the shop and headed back to the gulch.

Time passed. As the Jeep came down off the rack I felt my heartrate jump: Ten minutes on the road and I’d leave pavement, home free. But for those ten minutes I’d be vulnerable. I don’t do it often enough to relax about it, and every time I’m convinced there’ll be a flashing light in my rearview.

Time to settle the bill. Did you know that requesting 20 new lug nuts (the Jeep has always had an eclectic collection of lug nuts, requiring multiple wrenches) cost me an extra $50? I was a little shocked at that, but not half so shocked as when I tried to pay up and the guy said, “Oh, I don’t take plastic.”

Why did that surprise me? I really wonder. It shouldn’t have. The guy currently running this shop is, like, me in another ten years. He clearly thought I was dumb as a box of rocks for carrying a debit card around, and I have the feeling I barely escaped a lengthy lecture.

I said, “You know…you probably should have mentioned that when we talked over the job that first time.”

Well, now I was stuck. There I’d been waiting, all worked up, for something to go wrong and it happened before I could even pay my bill. S&L are out of state, J&H moved away, there was only one number I could call and I’d already imposed on them once today. I called D&L.

By wild coincidence they planned to come back into town anyway, having some banking business to do. I explained the problem, and L not only agreed to pick me up but also insisted on writing a check to the shop, letting me square it when we got to the bank. (This proved impossible due to my afore-hinted lack of Government-Approved Photo ID. But I got more than halfway there, and will finish the next time we go to town.)

The dirt hadn’t gotten anything but muddier in the four hours since I last visited, and the Jeep spent a lot of time sideways. I didn’t care: No sooner did I splash down into that goo than I felt my heartrate drop. Anyway I was convoying with D&L, who were slipping and sliding at least as much as I was, and between the two of us and a tow strap we were all going to get home sooner or later. Once out of town, we only had to worry about Ma Nature and she’s not half the bitch the State is.

What’s that? You want to see the new tires that one of you paid the lion’s share of? Sure thing!

There you go. Purdy, huh? 😉

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Oh, I hate this part…

I have to get an early start. The Jeep needs new tires, and the money’s in the account and the tires are (hopefully) waiting for me at the shop in town.

But I don’t normally drive the Jeep to town myself, for (to paraphrase Monty Python) a very real and legally binding reason. I know it’ll be all right. It’s not like ninjas are waiting for me at the border or anything for chrissake. But I don’t really believe it’ll be all right, and I won’t till I make it home unmolested by the Forces of Law and Order.

So. Here we go.

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A Terrifying Arsenal!

I did not make up the following headline – in a relatively major GB news site – and the accompanying photo doth truly accompany.

Ready? Go.

Terrifying arsenal of weapons among dozens seized in Met’s gun amnesty

Clearly, London has all its “gun violence” problems handled. 😉

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You may remember California senator Kevin de Leon

Surely if you’re a California shooter you know the name, for surely he is beloved of all California shooters

Turns out it’s only law-abiding Californians that de Leon can’t stand. He’s related to everybody else, and seems to regard them quite highly. In fact, he wants to remodel California laws to accommodate them.

Come on, #CalExit. When California is annexed by Mexico, thirty or forty picoseconds after secession, I will find myself suddenly getting enthusiastic about that wall idea. I’ve lived there, and I know right where America needs a wall.

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What the hell, why not? Sequels jumped the shark a long time ago anyway.

Introducing…Dog Wick!

They messed with the wrong dog.

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Well…except for that thing where I slaughtered all your girlfriends. That was kind of bad…

I’d like to say that Seymour has been a complete mensch through this whole sordid matter.

I’d like to say that, but why lie? Seymour has been a whiny baby through this whole sordid matter. He tried to stop me collecting his hens, and when that didn’t work he cowered in corners crying havoc. It’s not true that chickens have no memory. Chickens do have memory. It only relates to the things that terrify them, and it only lasts a few days, but memory is present.

So I’m not Seymour’s favorite sight just now, and particularly when I come into the chicken yard first thing in the morning bearing large, unfamiliar things.

Like a cage full of hens…


I expect he’ll get over it…

LATER: My experience with roosters has not been heart-warming. They range from violence-prone assholes to cannibalistic psychopaths you can’t kill quickly enough. We’ve only had two in the Gulch that were gentle and protective with the hens, and Seymour is definitely one of them. He had these four literally eating treats out of his beak within an hour.


Now once they figure out where the nesting boxes are, we’ll be golden. Until the next crisis.

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And I have to remind myself that this is where food comes from.

The process of transforming a chicken to “chicken” is one I don’t do often enough to get blasé about. Having raised and cared for each of these birds for years, it offends my inner SJW. I feel like a bad person. I put it off and rehearse excuses, which offends my inner mountain man. I feel like a wimp.

Finally I fall back on the ritual of meticulous preparation.


My immediate forebears and several contemporary relatives were Michigan rednecks, but I myself was a bookish little white boy from Detroit. So my experiences are spotty: I’ve buried hundreds of pounds of viscera from a highly illegal deer-slaughtering “factory” on my brother-in-law’s central Michigan farm, but I’ve never personally killed a deer. I recall a Thanksgiving when I was a little kid, when my father and his longtime friend Charlie Kittle decided to do the meal the traditional way – starting with a live turkey. I wanted to “help,” but my father wouldn’t even let me watch. This was something he and Uncle Charlie knew how to do, but he seemed to regard it as something to be hidden away. Of course he treated a lot of things like that. My father didn’t talk much, and never about his past or family.

Just do the deed, that’s all.

The bird fights me until she’s subdued, and then she becomes very passive – almost cooperative. They usually do that. Personally you’d have to kill me from a distance. But I’m not a chicken.

And that’s the violent part over with, followed by the icky part.

And that – I remind myself – is where food comes from. Having handled a thousand of these in supermarkets, once it’s a naked eviscerated carcass it magically stops being a gross violation of decency and just becomes “chicken.”

Does that seem right to you?

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