Woulda Shoulda Coulda…

The snow has started right on schedule, probably inaugurating the three days of unpleasant weather promised by the weatherman.

Shame, too, because the past couple of days were very pleasant by January standards. And yesterday I really wanted to go out and shoot my pistol, which I haven’t been doing very much for reasons related to the obvious: Ammo and frickin’ winter. Continue reading

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Citizens, please remember to adjust your settings…

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Well, it’s going to have to get better than this…

Yesterday I casually said it wasn’t even cold enough to freeze the chicken water, and then I went out into the cold wet wind to meet a propane guy at a neighbor’s place. Two hours later I lurched back into the Lair frozen to the bone and desperate to get the fire going again.

This morning…well, at least so far the wind hasn’t come up.

Other than that it’s doing the same thing. And it’s after nine in the morning and the fire’s still going, because we have no sun and no apparent hope of sun. We got another dusting of snow overnight but other than that we haven’t had anything useful come of all these damned clouds. Didn’t get very cold overnight but that doesn’t mean you can’t work up a good chill if the wind comes up. Just generally miserable.

Which I guess, this being midwinter, is perfectly appropriate. We’ve had weeks of cold but clear – a few days of gloomy and moist shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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First moisture in like a month.

Woke to high wind, which is probably when this wet white stuff dropped. The sky looks like it has cleared except for a high haze, won’t know for sure till the sun comes up. But it’s shirtsleeve weather in the Lair after less than an hour from the woodstove, and that hasn’t happened since maybe November. Outside temp never got below 30, if you can believe it.

Glad it happened this morning and not yesterday, because changing truck tires in the rain is getting too close to misery for an old man.

I got a text from another neighbor yesterday afternoon, offering me what looks like a nice chair that might be a good replacement for the old recliner. I begged off till today because I had to go help unload and stack a whole bunch of hay at D&L’s, and wrestling furniture after that was not going to be a welcome chore. So we’ll do that little adventure later. This same guy tried to give me another chair a couple of years ago and I begged off because it was this great huge thing that would have taken over the Lair. So we’ll see if this one is coming home with me.

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If you’re a car…

…and you live a really long time, you might someday manage to look like this Datsun I saw while filling water bottles this morning.

It was ironically parked next to a Fiat so new…

…that at first I barely recognized it as a car.

ETA: Personal to that guy who left that screw on the road…

Thanks for everything you did to keep our morning unpredictable.

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Landlady uses more firewood than I do…

It was a cold weekend, and back when we built the Meadow House we didn’t know as much about the importance of using solar gain to advantage – plus her house is bigger than the Lair. So she keeps a fire going pretty much all day when she’s here.

I cut up the two pallets I acquired from helping D&L with their wood pellets, plus some 2X4s scrounged from pulling apart an old equipment stand…

…and it didn’t make a very impressive pile.


…it filled the woodbox more than halfway. I’ll top things off with a couple of wheelbarrows worth from my woodshed and we’ll be good till next time. Next winter we’ll likely be on a juniper diet again. Must admit I prefer old lumber, but you do what you gotta do.

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Situational Awareness: You need some, lady.

I couldn’t decide whether this was a ‘real’ deer or a pet. At the end I laughed till I choked.

Around here it would have been a dog pack or a mountain lion or something, and the video would have had a different ending.

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Two old men and a pallet of pellets…

Slowly and with much grunting and shuffling, moving sacks from here…

…to here.

Still not convinced pellet stoves were the best way to go, but what are you gonna do.

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Care packages – sort of “forward to the past…”

Landlady came up yesterday, intending to go back tomorrow after we finished the tiling on the shower at Ian’s Cave. And she brought a couple of unexpected care packages.

These were both in response to specific recent complaints on my part.

A month ago I burned holes in a pair of my new winter jeans with battery acid and had to wait a day or two to patch them, for enough sun to run my iron.

Reader Carl sent a low-tech solution to that problem, should I choose to apply it.

And just a few days before that some cold nights reminded me that the Jeep’s battery needed some help getting fully charged…

…and help came in the mail! How about that? It might require a bit of modification, same as my tire inflator did, because I don’t think the Jeep’s cigarette lighter works. But I have the parts to do that.

Thanks, guys!

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It works in clouds or sun, so that’s good…

So yesterday needed to be baking day, giving me a great chance to inaugurate the new oven – or maybe to find out why it wasn’t going to work for me. I did test it in the morning – as soon as the solar panels started to work, since I’d already decided using it at night would be a bad move. And wow…

…we came close to the inverter’s low voltage cutoff. But we didn’t quite make the inverter take its ball and bat and go home.

I intended to make bread in the morning – though not quite that early in the morning – but then I got a chance to go to town for chicken feed and gasoline…

…and while that was going on the wind really came up – and then black clouds rolled in…

So almost the moment I had dough ready for the oven, the solar power system wasn’t getting its usual bright desert sun. I started to curse, but then decided it was a perfect test. We know we don’t want to use the oven at night, that’s a given – but how much can I use it on gloomy days?


It was fine, really. And I like the way the loaves came out…

This morning I was rearranging the pots on the wall behind the stove, because the backsplash on this one is higher and the old arrangement wasn’t working…

…and I got a wild hair and decided that since the sun is bright today I should bake again. Not a crazy idea: I gave a loaf to S&L yesterday to thank them for their help, and there are more people going to be in the Gulch for this coming week, so more bread couldn’t go amiss, right?

And I must say – for reasons I don’t know enough to understand, the oven makes a difference in the quality of the bread.

I really like the way these last two bakes went. Much nicer than usual.

Also, it’s best to use the oven in full sun. Not essential, but best. In full sun the voltage bottoms out in the 12.5 range, rather than 12.2ish.

I really do need to dig out my killawatt and see how much amperage it’s pulling – but at least two sets of neighbors have the same sort of modern oven and just live with it. They both say it can be a problem but usually isn’t unless you’re a compulsive gauge-watcher like me.

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The good news is it’ll save on propane…

I got my new kitchen stove today!

Took much of the day to drive to the big town about 50 miles away and get it, but I got it. And except for the fact that they seem to have gone out of their way to make the propane conversion process as complicated as physically possible, swapping out the new stove for the old went a lot smoother than I feared. I even had the right gas pipe adapters, which … simply shocked me.

This stove has a feature I did not find welcome at all, and maybe I’m going to wish I’d done more research before buying…

…and at first I thought/hoped it was only there because there’s a lightbulb in the oven I don’t expect to use very much.

Then I saw that big heating element where the pilot flame is supposed to go. And when I got the whole thing in place and all the pieces attached and tested the oven for operation…

Ouch. So much for using it at night. I knew the stove burners had clickers, that didn’t bother me, but I didn’t think to research whether the oven had a pilot flame. I guess I can take heart that it doesn’t overamp my inverter, because that would really suck. At least it’s not on constantly while the oven is in use.

We’ll see how well this works over time – Plan B is going to be negotiating a swap with Ian, who has a working old-fashioned propane stove and a much bigger battery bank than I do. “Hey, Ian! Want a brand-new kitchen stove?” That would probably work, now that I think of it…

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Cases where evolution might be a bad thing…

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A Hebrew colloquialism roughly translated as “I am an idiot.” Commonly used in the Hebrew phrase “Amen and awoman,” meaning “Verily, I am an idiot.”

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Woodstove Maintenance 101: Ash Management

When I got my first real wood stove I was already mentally making plans for an emergency backup wood stove. This was because I had fallen prey to what was at the time a common misconception: Boxwood stoves always rust out on the bottom. Why they rusted out I did not know, but by then I was the sort who always poured out a libation for Murphy and I was prepared to just believe it and plan for it.

In fact the misconception wasn’t that it does happen but that it must always happen…

…because it’s really just a matter of poor maintenance. What happens is that people don’t clean out their stoves when they’re not being used, particularly during the wet season. Some water will certainly find its way down the stovepipe, and if it mixes with a pile of ash you may as well just take a grinder to your woodstove yourself. It’s exactly the same reason burn barrels always rot out where the water meets the ash pile on the bottom, though of course that’s always quicker. Continue reading

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Think it’s high enough?

I figured I wouldn’t have the hardware I needed to mount that new weather station Big Brother sent me, so I didn’t plan the job till tomorrow afternoon after the Monday water run. But first I had to figure out what I’d need, so yesterday I dragged home a length of old iron well pipe…

…and ensured that the mounting hardware that came with the weather station would work with the pipe, which it would. Rummaged around for some 1 1/2″ mounting clamps, and for a wonder I had some.

So this morning I put everything together according to the instructions in the unusually good manual and dragged the transmitter out past the woodshed to answer one big question… Continue reading

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Wouldn’t it be great…

…if the shitshow that is 2020 actually ended today and life started getting back to normal?

But now we’ve got a whole new stack of would-be masters who wouldn’t profit from that. So I’m expecting to wake up in the morning to more like something like this…

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Unexpected gift from Big Brother!

Neighbor D kindly made a special trip to the crappy little town nearest where we live for the sole purpose of letting me fill propane bottles.

And so now…

Both stations and all spares are full. For the moment: We’re moving into the genuinely cold part of winter, so this is going to be a thing for the next month or six weeks minimum. By mid-February I can usually start backing off refilling empties, since of course I don’t need them full in summer.

And it was a propitious moment to get a text from Big Brother saying I had an incoming package. I had no idea what it might be…

Hm. And then I had no idea whether this was going be a case of “Thanks!” or “um, thanks.” First, I am NOT putting a big metal pole on the Lair to overtop the roof: My stuff hasn’t been significantly hit by lightning in over five years now and I really prefer to keep that streak going. And also I really don’t want to have to dig yet another ditch for yet another run of conduit.

But it looks like it’s going to be more the first thing. Solar powered and wireless, this could be useful. I’m going to start working tomorrow to see if one of these big lengths of iron well pipe will work, whether I can mount it to the other side of the woodshed to get what passes for clean wind down in my hollow, how far will it transmit to the display, what hardware I need to score Monday, and probably et cetera. Thanks, Big Brother! Looks like fun.

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Got a 28 gauge?

You’re in business!

Seems kind of pricey, but I don’t recall ever pricing 28 gauge so what do I know.

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Just because I can, and I think it’s pretty…

This morning’s sunrise deserved a better lens, and a better photographer.

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…So God made a Jeep.

I knew from the moment I was vertical this morning it was going to be a beautiful day.

Near the end of December and/or the beginning of January is traditionally when we’ll get some truly cold weather dumped on us, though it can happen any time. It’s not real common to have such a pretty couple of days right after Christmas. But I’ll take it – and I didn’t want to take it in my traditional winter way of sitting around reading a book and being bored to tears.

I spent the morning futzing around doing chores…

…mostly hauling woodstove and burn barrel ashes to the ashpit, and generally cleaning up. I wanted to do something substantial outdoors this afternoon but nothing useful came to mind – I could go shooting, but you know. Ammo supplies are still present, but finite. Then I got to remembering… Continue reading

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