The problem with communally-held tools…

If “everybody” owns them, nobody owns them. Which means they don’t get maintained.

The Gulch has one really good ladder, and of course it does have an owner – Landlady bought it, Landlady owns it. But it gets used promiscuously at three different locations, and tends to stay wherever it landed last. So it spends a lot of time out in the weather, and doesn’t get cleaned or lubricated very often.

Despite in other ways being a veritable freedomista paradise, the Gulch is economically a sort of manorial system with me as the only resident villein. I pay my rent by finding ways to be useful. Also, since I’m here full-time I’m more likely to notice and have time to do the actual maintenance needed by things that spend too much time baking in the sun.

During building season I get more use out of Landlady’s ladder than anybody does, so it behooves me for more than one reason to keep it working. This isn’t the first – or for that matter the fifth – time it has gotten a lube job while visiting the Lair, but it occurred to me last week that the poor thing has never really been the same since what we might call the Summer of Stucco over at Ian’s Cave. Maybe, I reasoned, what it really needs is to get taken completely apart and cleaned of all that stucco on its sliding bits.

So that’s what we did this morning. I don’t know if it’ll fix everything that ails the ladder, but it can’t hurt. And it makes me feel better about things.

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A couple of tiny hermit lifehacks

When I started on the Lair’s bedroom addition last year a friend’s mother said she had some kid’s bedroom furniture that had been in her basement for a long time, and I could have them if I wanted. I wanted.

bedroom furniture
I literally sized the closet wall to accommodate the dimensions of the headboard and night stand. It worked out fairly well but, naturally, not perfect.

stand1 Continue reading

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The most popular spot in town…

(“LB, did somebody break in here and drool all over my laptop?”)

At one point there was actually a line at this thing, five cedar rats long. And I was at the front of the line!!!11! Because seriously, that last thing never happens.

Good thing I was doing all right for cash, because this morning put a serious dent in it. Between filling every single gasoline container I own, starting LB on a different (expensive!) brand of dog food, topping off the chicken feed barrel, buying some ammo and getting a prescription filled, I filled the Jeep and damn near emptied the wallet. But it’s all good. Thanks to Big Brother I ended up not paying out of my own pocket for last Friday’s eye doctor appointment OR the first round of my new and really expensive eyedrops, so I was in fact in pretty good shape for cash and as I always say, lots of stuff is better than lots of money.

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And now, a word from Little Bear

Hi, guys. Yeah, it’s me. Haven’t been on the keyboard since December, hope you’re all well. Dad went to town for the Monday water run, and I thought we could just take this time for a word about snackies.

Look, I’m just going to get to the meat (mmmm…what was I saying? Oh yeah!) the meat of the issue here, which is that I’d appreciate it if you’d stop raining on my parade, okay? I mean, thanks for the concern. Really. But I’m fine. So if you could just stop telling Dad he shouldn’t give me food. He’s already really bad about things like rat poison and chocolate and cooked chicken bones, like somehow those are bad things. Do you know how good they smell?

So anyway – thanks for the concern, I do appreciate it. But things are bad enough around here without you guys commenting and emailing and all but hollering over the fence that he should not give me part of his snackies. Okay? Thanks again. Bye.

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Just learned a new thing Little Bear will do…

I was sitting at the computer, munching on a bowl of raisins. LB had crept up behind me and was earnestly bathing me in “If you need help with that, I’m here for you” rays. I said, “I don’t think you’re gonna want this, buddy,” and put down the bowl with maybe a couple of dozen raisins left in it. He stuck his muzzle in, came up licking his lips and looking like maybe that wasn’t so desirable after all, seemed to think it over, and then…

Guess it shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve read (I don’t know how accurate this is, but it does have logical appeal) that one reason dogs won out over wolves in the “who gets to move in with humans and live long enough to get old” sweepstakes is that dogs can metabolize carbohydrates and wolves can’t*. Hence dogs, though often capable predators, are really adapted to be scavengers – they’re more like omnivores. Whatever humans can eat, dogs can eat.

And if they’re Little Bear, they’ll eat everything offered.

*Maybe related, I see evidence that coyotes also can’t. You often find scat that looks like a bunch of slimy juniper berries. For my first couple of years here I didn’t know what leaves scat like that. Finally a coyote hunter I know told me that coyotes do that. If they’re on the hunt but really hungry, they’ll eat juniper berries just to ease their empty stomachs. But they can’t digest them, so they shit them out intact.

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Farewell to Big Brother

He was going to pull out sometime this afternoon, having a appointment to meet a guy tomorrow in the big city about five hours away. Then the meeting got bumped up to this afternoon, and he decided to boogie. We were kind of done anyway: We agreed we should do it more often and not for quite so long.

One thing I’ve always liked about BB is that he’s not afraid of companionable silence. But no longer having a lot of experience with human company I kept feeling the need to fill the silence with stuff. It became uncomfortable. Yesterday afternoon he just went off to be by himself for a few hours, and I got some single-person stuff done.

Finally took half an hour and replaced the vents on the remaining two Jerry cans. Took a lesson from some things that could have gone better the first time, and the last two were done in less time than the first one took. Just in time, too, because I haven’t been this out of gas in years – there’s literally no gas in the place except what’s actually in the Jeep and generator tanks – and now I can top off tomorrow morning without spilling gas all over the back of D&L’s pickup.

(BTW: Private to the person who sent me that Honda generator – still transforming the way construction jobs get done around here. Just what I needed, really, and I didn’t know it till it happened.)

Speaking of power tools I was so pleased with myself over the way that the gas can vents went that I immediately proceeded to make a big mistake with the chop saws. The Lair now has two Official Chop Saws, one (the Makita that belonged to my father) is of far higher quality than the other but the blade is extremely dull. So I thought I’d swap blades on the two saws and then Jeep the Ryobi up to the pumphouse so it’ll be convenient to the woodlot. I was so invested in doing that chore that I never stopped to see if the two blades were even the same size. Which put the cherry on top of my foolishness in never reading the Makita’s manual, and I took the bladeguard off without ever asking if that were a wise thing to do. Not only was I not able to switch blades, I also spent nearly an hour trying to figure out how to put the spring-loaded guide back together. Ah, so.

But from there I did something easy…

I’ll be able to retire the stick I’ve kept in the back for years. Felt kind of stupid: New rear window lift supports are cheap on-line, and I never bothered to look. Took less time to install them than I’d have believed, too. Sometimes I put too much effort into finding work-arounds for things that break or go wrong.

Finally, speaking of things that turn out to be cheap (if not necessarily easy) to repair…

That is the new float switch kit for Ian’s water tank. I spent all winter leaving the well pump turned right off until the tank level was down enough to spend a whole day pumping it back up again, to minimize the overflowing caused by the tank’s failed float valve. Since I’m here alone it takes a long time to wash enough dishes, flush enough toilets and water enough chickens to half-empty a 2500-gallon tank. I actually considered not fixing the switch at all, since historically my first hint that something has gone wrong with the water system is an empty tank and with the switch broken I’m forced to remember to manually check the tank level from time to time.

But “leave it broken” just isn’t a good strategy, all things considered. So in the near future the tank will get a new switch.

Now all the folks are gone and I’m back to my silent place and (as usual) loving it. There are other little things I could be doing, but I think I’m going to declare this an afternoon of rest except for baking some bread.

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I do keep my promises.

Though when the promise comes due in the middle of winter, it might take me a while.

I promised that if the Patreon account crossed $100/mo, I’d put actual shock absorbers on all four corners of the Jeep.



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A quick word on dehydration…

Early on in each year’s building season I usually have a little encounter with dehydration, just to remind me that the issue doesn’t go away over the winter, it just sort of hibernates.

Doesn’t usually happen as early as April, though. This got me Thursday afternoon, after a very productive morning in which BB and I finished the new flashing on the east side of the Lair and fixed and resealed some winter damage on the siding.

The next task was supposed to be quite simple, just cut and apply inside molding around the back door. But suddenly I couldn’t get anything right – I wasn’t thinking straight and really shouldn’t have been around power saws, the sun dazzled me, I was achy and cranky and just generally stupid. You’d think I’d know what all those things are a sign of by now, wouldn’t you? Except it’s April, it’s not hot, it wasn’t even all that bright.

Dehydration is cumulative. I spent the whole day before holding a ladder and staring into the sky, getting a nice face sunburn. I was fine Wednesday and I was fine Thursday morning, but Thursday afternoon it all came home to roost. We finished the trim and I called a halt for the day, and after a couple hours’ sit-down and a lot of tea and water I was fine again.

Just nature’s way of reminding me – Hydrate, stupid.

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I’m not sure there’s a significant difference…

Seen this morning at a breakfast restaurant on the way to the big town about 50 miles away…


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Private to the Generous Reader who sent that nylon rope last year…

I’ve kept it in the Jeep’s gear bag, reasoning that if a need arose for a length of really kickass rope it would likely happen around the Jeep. But no need sufficiently urgent appeared, and I certainly wasn’t going to use it up in little slices for mundane uses. That’s what cheap hardware store rope is for, and this is a really nice piece of rope.

Last night it occurred to me, a sufficiently important use had emerged to cut a piece off that coil.

…keeping Big Brother (and me, of course, since it’s not a one-time use) from breaking our geriatric backs falling off a tumbling ladder.

Yes, we did the east side of the Secret Lair this morning, and step one was finding studs and planting big screw eyes into them for ladder tie-downs. I really don’t know why that notion never occurred to me before now.

And now we’re done with roof flashing. And we also fixed some wind and winter damage to the east side of the siding, which I had not yet noticed.

Tomorrow I’m going to the big town about 50 miles away (for the third time in a little over a week, which has to be some kind of record) for a scheduled eye doctor appointment. So I don’t know what the posting situation will be. But if I don’t post till tomorrow PM, that’s why.

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Yup. Three years and out for camo net.

Sorry, I had this all ready to go first thing this morning but my connection went away. Then we’ve been busy till now.

But yeah: The last windstorm (peak gusts 63 mph, which is a respectable gale) did the last of the bad thing to the camo netting on the chickens’ top cover.

Fortunately, a Generous Reader sent me a big section of new camo netting, and in the very nick of time.

So the part that needs good shade still has it. And thanks very much!

Actually I’m thinking seriously of retiring the Fortress of Attitude as a chicken yard and converting it into a dog kennel. LB’s urinary problems have returned – no, not bloody urine, but an urgency he never suffered from before. So much so that – just in time for Big Brother’s visit – he has had three indoor accidents this week alone. That never happened before, even when he was a puppy. I have him on another course of antibiotics, which he loves. But it may no longer be possible to leave him in the cabin when I’m not there. If I convert the chicken coop to a dog house and clean out all that straw, the Fortress would make a dandy dog run.

And truthfully, the whole concept of maintaining two separate flocks as redundancy in case of predator attack has not proven all that useful. Makes more sense to have one flock you only have to tend one time. So that’s on my mind. I’d still need the shade cover, even though I could stop worrying about hawks and owls.

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It’s a lovely thought. Something to live for.


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Front flashing done

For years I’ve been a little reluctant to post pics of the front of the Secret Lair, because of its rather comical shortcomings in the roof flashing department. Got tired of the “You’re supposed to have drip molding up there, you know” comments, well-deserved though they were.

Little did I imagine that those same pics were causing Big Brother, who has spent most of his life in hurricane country, downright mental anguish. He wasn’t interested in hearing “Yeah, but this is dry country.” Especially not after experiencing two days about as windy as it ever gets, and seeing the rather haphazard manner in which the roof panels are attached to the Lair he got more serious yet on the topic.

So guess how we spent the day?

Though maybe not the sort to dance on the edge just to show off, BB is much less prone to paralyzing acrophobia than I am. And that’s fortunate because today was Flashing Day. I’m proud to say one thing, though…

…he thought my idea of lag-bolting a strategically-placed handle on the cabin was so good, he spread it all across the front.

The drip molding took most of the morning, what with some modifications made necessary by the not-very-pretty condition of the upper edge of the roofing. Then he went back and bolted the windward side down and used up a bunch of caulking tubes.

So after this treatment, if the roof ever leaks I’m sure it’ll be so embarrassed it’ll keep the matter to itself. :)

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A beautiful day in the neighborhood…


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Dammit! That is precisely what I was trying to avoid…

I’ve carefully avoided wearing my new BDU trous during painting sessions, but forgot to switch to old boots before yesterday afternoon…

Ah, well. It does no real harm. It’s the principle of the thing, I suppose…

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Oh, things turned very very windy this morning…

Fortunately we were at a Tractor Supply yesterday, and I finally remembered to get a heavier-duty throwbolt latch for the chicken house door, one that can bolt right through the door instead of just adding new drywall screws for the wind to tear out. Sure enough when we got there (early!) this morning the door was wide open and all the hens were freaked out and hiding in the chicken yard. Fortunately once again no predators took the chance of trying for a free meal. Sure glad I had a second pair of hands, because the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t hold the door shut against it while marking and drilling for the bolts. But now that door finally has a serious bolt, and the wind will have to break it somewhere new.

The wind immediately canceled our original plan to do high work, finally finishing the roof flashing. No way anybody with any sense would want to work on a ladder today. Even the chore we chose required precautions…

Yeah, the clear plywood I stored all winter for use as the bedroom’s sliding door got warped. Maybe I can straighten it and maybe not, but not in time to make a door out of it this week. So we came back with an incredibly heavy sheet of … I dunno, something white and smooth over what looks like chipboard. Cut it to size in the howling gale, then moved the operation indoors.

The living room side of the door gets the cedar tongue-and-groove siding to match the living room…

…and the bedroom side is white for now but will turn green when the bedroom finally gets its second coat.

Neat, huh? And I’ve got some black handles that will match the hanging hardware, sort of.

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So you’re coming to take my guns? Okay, but here are my conditions…

coming to take2

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Photographic proof that Uncle Joel really does live in the middle of nowhere…

Spent a very great deal of time in the car today. And coming home, BB’s car presented me with proof that I have indeed ended up in my perfect promised land.


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“You should open packages when I send them, you know.”

So yesterday we got a lot done but couldn’t reach completion because neither of us knew how to miter an inside corner on crown molding. If I’d just bought a bunch of baseboard and used that at the ceiling we wouldn’t be having this problem.

Anyway, I spent part of yesterday evening researching how you do that, and determined that it really couldn’t be done with the chop saw I was using. It seems you need a saw that can cut 45o angles in both directions, and mine can only do it in one direction.

Fortunately, I have an emergency back-up saw.

This was my Dad’s old saw, which BB sent to me a couple of years ago. I plugged it in at the time to confirm that the motor ran, then stored it in Landlady’s barn and more-or-less forgot about it. Checked it this morning, and sure enough it should be capable of helping us finish the crown molding job. Brought it home.

There was a box wired to the housing…

I’d seen that at the time, of course. Didn’t open the box. I just figured “other stuff” meant spare parts or other paperwork. Didn’t give it much thought.

So I opened it this morning, in an idle moment while cooking breakfast for BB and myself…

“You really should open packages when I send them to you, you know,” he said with a shit-eating grin…

ETA: Crown molding success.


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In a follow-up communique, …

…a Dick’s Sporting Goods spokesperson announced that their entire remaining inventory of “assault weapons” had been lost in a tragic canoing accident.

Yeah, that would be funny. Instead, Dick’s went full dick.

After announcing policies that most gun owners saw as alienating, Dick’s Sporting Goods said it will go one step further and destroy its remaining inventory of firearms dubbed “assault weapons.”

A spokeswoman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the remaining inventory at the retailer’s Field & Streams stores will be destroyed and then recycled.

“We are in the process of destroying all firearms and accessories that are no longer for sale as a result of our February 28th policy change,” she said. “We are destroying the firearms in accordance with federal guidelines and regulations.”

What a bunch of dicks.

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