Maybe not the best application for rope…

We had a nice neighborhood get-together at Ian’s range on Saturday…


…and that always leaves Uncle Joel with repairs and adjustments. Only had one broken chain on the gongs, and that chicken wire on the paper target rack has turned out to be a very good idea. But I did run into one unexpected problem…


The racks are set in concrete but the concrete is set in nothing but silt, and since the floods of 3 years ago the wash geometry has changed to where water can flow right to the bases of the racks.

Never used to happen, they were on a raised part of the wash but the raised part of the wash washed away. So, since a flood 2 years ago that knocked down one of my brand-new racks, I have tied them together and to the nearest juniper. Figured that would keep them from washing away entirely like my storebought shooting bench did in the ’17 flood.


But I didn’t account for the cumulative effect of bullet fragments rapidly departing from the metallic targets. They have worn nearly through the knots in both ropes.

Looks like if I make some chain loops there then tie the ropes to the loops, that should keep it from happening again. Anyway those rope are starting to get a little weathered and should be replaced entirely.

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What do you call that? A storm?

Storms have drama. Danger. At least a threat of property damage. This was just two days of sudden wet winter.


The forecast says no more clouds and that tomorrow will touch 60o. So say hello to mud. I just got back from my first walkie since Saturday. Not really happy about the footing on downgrades, but the Jeep appeared to be pretty much frozen solid and I decided to wait and let the sun take care of that.

Two days of zero sun had a measurable effect on the batteries…


But that will correct itself today.

The sky cleared overnight, so the outside temperature dipped just barely into the teens. That gave me an excuse to break out one of my favorite bits of winter kit for my trip to chicken chores.


I know I say it monotonously often this time of year but I always wanted one of these, throughout my adult life and for a good bit of childhood. Just never had the bucks. Nicest coat I ever owned, and I try to keep it nice. It was another reader gift, and this’ll be its fourth winter at the Lair.

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Wow, all of a sudden we have precip! Also, first fire.

All summer it rained one time with any real enthusiasm. This sudden spell of weather has hung on for more than 24 hours. It couldn’t really have snowed all night or we’d have more of a blanket – there’s not even an inch of snow on the ground – but it was snowing at twilight and it’s snowing now.


It got surprisingly cold yesterday, but the heavy clouds kept it from getting any colder overnight… Continue reading

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Putting the Lair into winter mode…

There’s almost nothing I hate more than the official start of winter here at the Secret Lair. Everything above it – and quite a few things below it – on the list of things I dislike involves physical pain.

Still…


It was nine in the morning and while the temperature in the main room was holding mostly steady, the bedroom temperature was still slowly falling. Chances of sunlight were looking slim. I might not want artificial heat today, but overnight would be a different matter. And that meant doing something I’d really rather put off … well, forever would be nice. Continue reading

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At first light, snow!

I woke up briefly to hard rain on the roof in the middle of the night. Temperature has dropped more than 20 degrees since Midnight, and…


Yesterday was blustery with in and out clouds, very typical “weather’s gonna change” weather, but rain has been so rare this summer it was hard to expect actual water from the sky. I took the precaution of rolling the Jeep’s windows up which should have guaranteed no precip, but you never know.

First snow of the season at the Lair! I haven’t even lit the bedroom heater, but it looks like it’s time.

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Got to play the Old Neighborhood Rifleman this morning…

This should prove how ubiquitous the AR15 has become – my very not ‘Tactical Tod’ neighbor got one. It needed zeroing but neither he nor I could figure out elevation adjustment on the MBUS ‘iron’ sights. I took it home with me promising to do a little Magpul research and then zero it for him, then he and I can go over the rifle’s care and feeding together. Fortunately the ‘research’ was easy since Ian was right there and I just asked him.

So this morning I took my portable target stand and toys to the wash and got it zeroed at 50 yards…


…and since he’s already convinced of the superiority of red dots, now I’ll do a little Holosun-related market research. Then I’ll invite myself over to his place and we’ll go over the controls and how to strip it for cleaning.

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Official Merch of the Citizens’ Republic of Elbonia

Ian came for a visit yesterday, and brought a fun gift…

Available here. The Republic of Elbonia became a FW running joke early this year with a theoretical question on one of Ian’s Q&A’s…


…and it kind of went on from there.

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The Lair has been invaded!

Must be migration season: I’ve had no less than five small birds blunder down the stovepipe in the past 24 hours. Two yesterday, and this morning I opened the stove when it was rustling only to find three at a time, which was completely unique. One was dead, one in fine shape that flew right out the open cabin door, and this tiny finchish thing…


…which is just healthy enough not to allow itself to be captured but too befuddled to take the hint of the open door. It’ll either find its way out or die. Not to be gross, but fortunately dead small birds don’t stink the place up. Also fortunately the flies are mostly gone so it’s okay to leave the door open for a while.

I really need a better stovepipe cap.

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Old farts…

So yesterday morning I met D&L to unload a pallet of alfalfa pellets for their horses. We have this down to a science by now; D and I do the hauling while L pulls the sacks off the pallet and brings them to the edge of the flatbed. But when I got there L said she had pulled something very painful in one of her legs and wouldn’t be participating in the festivities. So the two gimpy old men took turns up on the trailer and hauling sacks to the hayroom, and we both decided that the sacks seemed noticeably heavier this time than last.

Stopping for a breather, L told me about a joke birthday card he’d seen at the feed store: “There was this cartoon old man dressed like a cowboy, right? And a saddle was on the ground beside him. And the caption said, “I can’t remember if I lost a horse or found a saddle.” And I said, “I guess you’re not completely gone if you remember what that big leather thing is.”

The adventure scored me probably the last pallet of the season…


…which I brought to the Lair because I’d already brought my tools home.


I cut it up this morning, just before mothballing the generator – hopefully for the whole winter this time.


And it didn’t make much of an addition to the woodshed. Takes a lot of pallets to make a tier.

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Getting toward that time of year, I guess…

Some things get bagged up and taken to mouseproof storage. Some bags get taken out of mouseproof storage…

I assume all those people with those trendy ‘tiny houses‘ also have big storage units somewhere, because suburban closets are bigger than those things.

For your tiny house in the desert, you need something rodents can’t chew through. And you need to get into it every now and then, close the door, and make sure no light can enter through any cracks. I swear a mouse can enter any opening large enough to admit a photon.

Doesn’t have to be fancy. Doesn’t have to be big. Doesn’t have to be expensive…


…but it absolutely must keep seasonal stuff rodent-free or it’s of no use at all. This cast-off has worked for me for going on seven years – as long as I remembered to close the door all the way.

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Woodcutting is officially done.

I was in a race with the generator, because if it ran out of gas before I ran out of wood to be cut to stove lengths I’d not only have to add more – only to pour it out at the end of the job – but there’d be this big sweaty hassle getting it started again. With gas in the carb bowl, the Honda starts like a sweet dream. Empty, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to restart.

Anyway, I spent an hour and a half this morning finishing every scrap of wood in my pallet pile that wasn’t eaten through by termites…


…and it made a nice final pile in the trailer.

Another hour stacking, and there it is…


And I don’t know for sure what I’ll do for firewood next winter. Probably tune up the chainsaw and go back to juniper. But for this year, except for some side jobs like cleanup and Landlady’s wood, I’m done with woodcutting.

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Everything will kill you.

I had the coolest conversation with Landlady a week ago.

You know, I’m getting to a certain age. I feel it in my joints. Yeah, I know I’m not all that old, 60 is the new 50 and all that. But there’s another cliche: It ain’t the years, it’s the mileage. And brethren and sistren, I got a lot. Also collision damage. And let’s not forget the glaucoma that’ll make me blind at some point, because I never do.

And Landlady said something to the effect that it might be best for a guy like me to die earlier rather than later. I mean she wasn’t suggesting I keel over in the next month or two – I think she wasn’t – just that it would be best to live while you can happily live and then die, rather than spend a decade or two drooling in a wheelchair just to make numbers. I did not disagree.

The conversation started a very interesting line of reasoning, really. I went from young strong witless led-by-his-cock asshole straight to broken pussywhipped middle-aged asshole almost without noticing the transition. It was really quite unpleasant, as I think back on it. The change to throw-it-to-the-wind-and-see-what-happens half-old celibate asshole was more difficult. But not only did I survive it, I almost accidentally became the thing that young me thought he wanted to be.

And I’ve been that new/old thing for almost exactly 14 years, and it has brought me happiness. Seriously, I never expected or even asked for happiness. I only asked for quiet.

If I could have my quiet life forever, I’d do that. But we don’t get forever. And I was thinking thoughts along those lines when I saw the coolest thing

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Done with the Sawzall for the season.


Tomorrow or Tuesday I’ll cut and stack that pile, and we’ll see what we end up with.

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Being for the benefit of anyone who cares…

Here’s Oddball Girl in an unusually social moment.

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One step at a time.

I got a lot of woodcutting done yesterday but was super tired for the whole rest of the day which told me I was rushing a bit fast and asking to hurt myself again. So even though I rolled out of bed with all manner of grandiose plans to finish the whole thing today, over breakfast I decided ‘no, I’m not going near the woodlot today. Instead, I’ll do that little thing I promised Landlady.’

And that sent me back to the far innards of Ian’s Cave.


This summer got weird to the point where I honest don’t remember whether I wired this outlet and light this year or last. Either way, it was in preparation for the new water heater and softener, and guess what? It’s on the wrong side of Ian’s utility closet. So this morning, after putting myself on light duty for the day, I wandered over with my tool tote and corrected that.


A very simple job but I was still pleased with myself for how quick and easy it went. When I moved here I was very unsure of myself when it came to wiring things. Now poking steel tools into a breaker box is just part of a minor chore.

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Our little green-egg laying machine

We have one Araucana (or possibly Ameraucana, not sure) hen that came as an oddball with the dozen Leghorns Neighbor S bought two years ago. I call her Oddball Girl because she’s definitely the odd chicken out and spends a lot of time engaged in righteous self-imposed social distancing. And I forgot to take a picture of her for this post but what brought her to mind was this…


In her first year I was in favor of culling her, because she was always the one spazzing out and getting picked on by all the other hens. Generally those are more trouble than they’re worth. But in their second year all the Leghorns have been really stingy with their eggs for some reason neither S nor I can figure out – but Oddball Girl drops one per day, almost every day, always in the same spot.

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Almost done.

This unexpectedly turned into a good morning for woodcutting.


I got all the loose pallet parts and all the old lumber I collected from that cleanup gig chopped to stove lengths…


…and it made a surprising pile in the trailer. I didn’t expect it to go on so long but I needed to clear those last six pallets.


As of this morning, my minimum goal is reached. With so little to go before just finishing off all the wood in the lot, it would be stupid to stop now. I’ll end up with about four and a half full tiers, which is more than enough for five solid months of the worst winter I ever saw.

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Before enlightenment chop wood, haul garbage.

Sorry about the blank spot. It’s not that nothing’s going on, it’s just that the things that are going on are just like the things that went on before them.

I’ve been demolishing pallets and then chopping the pieces to stove lengths.


There’s only so much you can say about that, and I think I’ve probably said it all. The project will come to an end soon, if I stick with it, through a lack of pallets left to demolish. Rejoicing will be heard in the land.

I got a brief gig from some new part-time neighbors to clean up trash left from old neighbors. This was just a whole bunch of back-and-forth, then sorting through the trash for the good stuff. I could probably have scored a bunch of old fasteners, judging from what fell out of several (many) very heavy black plastic bags, but I decided early on that the effort and mess made wouldn’t be worth it. So I pulled out obviously useful stuff like old lumber and PVC and such, and consolidated the rest into one immensely heavy trip to the dump which I got out of my life yesterday.

Some of the haul, I gave away…


The pipe in particular went to the new neighbors who are basically camping on their land and constantly improving goat and chicken housing. Not sure what they’re about, but they indicated they could certainly make use of pipe no matter how long it had laid in the sun. They got the old solar power system and well working so they have water now, with a couple of 300 gallon tote tanks barely off the ground. So their supply is hardly more than a trickle but rigging waterers still beats the hell out of hauling buckets for goats.

Today I hoped to cut and stack wood in the morning and hang out in the afternoon. Now it looks like D&L want to go to the dollar store this morning and I do too, so I may have to postpone sloth. Or maybe not: The end of woodcutting really is in sight and I may give my back a break. Depends how I feel when I get to the woodlot. Which is where I’m going right now.

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With apologies to the Woodpile Report…


…I made pretty good progress today. Got all the loose stuff cut up, which made for three solid wheelbarrow loads.


Which, after stacking, brought the third new tier up over halfway. It’s a nice calm cool day and I’d go back to work with the Sawzall to make more loose stuff, except I picked up an unexpected hauling gig that I have to do instead. That gig will result in at least a little old lumber for the woodshed, so it’s all good.

Also, with my other hand I’ve almost finished the first new door bar…


Coming along very nicely. The limiting factor, to my surprise, is the battery life of the cordless belt sander I borrowed for the job. I can only work it a few minutes at a time, then have to give it two hours or more to cool off and recharge. So that job’s going slower than I expected, but it’s going.

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Learning to trust the instruments…

We had this discussion several years ago, I could probably find it if I cared to search long enough – every now and then the water supply system fails, it has found several ways to do it, and while I accept that Murphy will occasionally stick his finger in my soup I was very dissatisfied with the fact that my first clue was always the tank running completely dry. I wanted a warning. There’s 2500 gallons of water in that tank and the idea of a warning just didn’t seem unreasonable to me. But I couldn’t think of one on my own.

Which is why, when the float switch on the pump circuit failed a few years ago so that the pump wouldn’t automatically turn off, I considered it a good thing: It forced me to stop on my way past the tank a couple of times a week, climb up a ladder, and physically look inside the tank at the water level. My driveway goes right past it, it’s not out of my way. And when the level was low enough, I would walk to the pump house, not far, and manually turn the pump on. This worked for me, I’m already out and about a lot.

There was, as I said, blog discussion on the topic of better more elegant ways to determine the tank level than climbing a ladder, spinning the lid off, and looking inside. Maybe four years ago Big Brother sent me a gigantic pressure gauge on the theory that water level in the tank would affect pipe pressure slightly but significantly enough that it would show on a big enough gauge, a truly steampunk solution that appealed to me. It meant tearing out the undersink plumbing so I didn’t get around to installing it until I had to replace the faucet anyway, but it went into place in April 2019. And a little experimentation confirmed that the theory was sound in practice: The gauge does react – slightly but noticeably – to changes in tank level. This past summer I learned what the gauge would read when the tank was almost completely empty, as it was necessary to empty the tank for Ian’s water pump project. Good to know.

And last winter I found an unexpected add-on benefit of having the gauge so handy, since it will of course also react to freeze-related breaks in the Lair’s plumbing, something to which the Lair is prone. But for its primary purpose it wasn’t really all that useful because I was still in the habit of stopping at the top of the ridge, looking inside the tank, and manually switching the pump on or off as needed.

UNTIL this summer, when I learned to my surprise that the plumber who (sort of, long story) installed Ian’s water pump was apparently offended by my non-functional float switch and fixed it without telling me. It took me a while to relax to its sudden reappearance; I hadn’t asked for it and didn’t consider it a plus because I liked the “verify” part of trust but verify.

Which is a longwinded way of saying I’m kind of thrown back on accepting that I can verify a full tank by simply glancing at that big goofy gauge on my sink.

Sorry about the photo quality but max pressure is in the morning and the light is all wrong.


For some reason I never understood, the pressure is slightly temperature-sensitive and is highest first thing in the morning when everything is cool. It drops about a pound over the course of the day. But if it reads 19 1/2 pounds first thing in the morning or 18 1/2 later in the day, the tank is definitely full – and that’s all I need to know. I just have to relax and rely on physics, and I can stop climbing that damned shaky ladder every other day.

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