Still trying to bore through that wall…

And in pursuit of that goal, this morning I took a reader’s advice and knocked together an a-frame to take the weight of the jackhammer.

And that helped a lot: I got quite a bit done before I ran out of steam. I’ll take another shot at it this afternoon when the shadow’s in my favor.

The hammer pretty clearly isn’t designed for working horizontally: You really have to lean into it to get the hammer to beat on the chisel. And even then the blade usually slides off what you’re trying to cut, and…

It’s still frustrating, but the a-frame helps a great deal. Still not sure what I’m going to find when I get past the concrete – and whether I’m going to be able to do anything about it. The well company that re-worked the plumbing last summer apparently neglected to provide a main shut-off valve, so when I find the leak it’s gonna come a gusher and I still don’t know if there’ll be room to work on it. Can’t dig it up, it must be ten feet down in loose sand. Last year I had to dig less than 2 feet to run some conduit up from the powershed, and that was memorably too much like work.

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Yesterday was the last day for the T&S gig…

…and I was going to celebrate by riding the ebike up there in the morning, but…

…Tobie insisted that the job required a dog. I worked so hard to get him to accept the Jeep that now I seldom have the heart to tell him no.

But I did sneak off by myself for the afternoon and very last run across the plateau and up the mesa…

…and of course there was no way the bike could help with that last part, so one more long hike to say hi (and also goodbye) to the dogs and then…

(sigh) all the slippery way back down to where I left the bike. It’s been almost two years since Big Brother sent me the RadRover and it has proven much more useful than I feared. But it still has limitations on hills.

And even though I haven’t been using it much in the past couple of weeks, what with the Monsoon wiping out all the dirt roads…

…we still passed 700 miles on the way home yesterday.

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“There’s something you don’t see every day, Tobie.”

Tobie and I were taking a nice long morning walkie in the wash downstream from the Lair, when an annoying buzzing began.

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Jackhammers is heavy.

When the pipe behind Ian’s block wall sprung a leak I went looking for Landlady’s hammer drill. Couldn’t find it anywhere. She said she brought it back to the city. So…

…Since we got Ian’s electrical working yesterday, I borrowed a neighbor’s electric jackhammer.

They’re heavy.

It’s not that I can’t pick it up, it’s not that heavy. It’s just that it keeps trying to pull my right shoulder, which hasn’t been the same since its dislocation almost exactly a year ago, out of its socket. This is how far I got before I gave up the first session. This is going to be a … process.

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Pear tree update…

Somebody keeps asking for a pear tree update.

It’s still pearing.

We’ll see how edible the fruit is. I’m just thrilled there’s fruit.

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Getting some of the damage repaired…

Ian’s place has been driving me crazy. First an external spigot that goes through a block wall springs a totally uncalled-for leak – and the only way to fix the leak is to knock a hole in said (filled, of course) block wall, which I have no capacity to do at all. Water gushes forth, floods the powershed: The only way to slow the loss is to unplug the (brand new, cripplingly expensive) water pump. That reduces the loss to a manageable trickle, though I have still lost my beautiful townie shower until I can bash through that wall and fix the leak.

THEN! THEN! Evening before last Tobie and I stopped in at Ian’s for a cold beer to find the fridge isn’t working. Nothing’s working. Nothing.

I waded into the powershed to find the inverter blinking happily away.

All indicators show totally charged batteries, all systems go except for this one red LED that shows an error but doesn’t tell me what the error is – and I never figured out the nested menus that would might reveal the deep dark secret because, seriously, this thing has hummed away contentedly in this dim concrete building for twelve solid years, without the slightest need for reading error codes.

I have a pretty solid theory – after all, twelve years of flawless performance, then after four days of hard rain the whole system goes SNAFU? Sure, I’m guessing total coincidence.

But I don’t know how to test my theory, let alone how to get things working again. This morning my good neighbor S, who installs off-grid electrical systems for a living, came over to help me with diagnosis. He navigated the menus until they disgorged an answer, which validated my theory: AC output shorted.

Now, this raises the obvious but apparently irrelevant question: Why wouldn’t a short circuit blow one of the Dome’s perfectly good circuit breakers? Don’t know.

But we could now start narrowing the field. I opened all the circuit breakers and S rebooted the inverter: No error message, and the AC outlet on the side of the box worked perfectly. I then started closing breakers – having to walk back and forth to communicate, because Ian’s Dome is a veritable Faraday cage and cell phones don’t work inside at all – until I found the one that triggered an error and shut down the AC output at the inverter. Then I opened that breaker and closed all the others – and hey presto everything that had ever worked before now worked again. Happily the shorted circuit is the big mystery at the rear of the Dome that nobody ever used because nobody ever figured it out way back when we gave up on it.

Now I can bring my frozen meat back from Landlady’s freezer and put a big fan in Ian’s powershed before everything mildews.

In other news, I may start being able to use the road again soon…

A (very expensive, no doubt) county road crew found its way to that crossing that’s had me isolated for the past week or more. Maybe soon it’ll be passible and I can stop using the Bumpy Road while the Jeep’s undercarriage still works.

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Gotta rethink this ‘hike up the mesa twice a day’ thing…

I went to bed at six last night because I was falling asleep in my chair. Fell right asleep and woke at first light with Tobie asking was I all right.

The one wash crossing between me and the main road network is still giant piles of churned-up mud and – to my surprise – still partially submerged. There must be more rain to the south than we’ve had in the past three days because that’s how long it’s been since we’ve had any local rain of any importance. That crossing should be dry and easy pickings for a jacked-up Jeep by now, no matter whether a grader has gone near it. But it’s not, and there’s a time of year when it makes no sense to risk getting stuck in the middle of a wash unless the stakes are much higher than they are now.

That means I leave the Jeep parked at Landlady’s place, because between Landlady’s place and T&S’s place there is one angry nasty mess of a steep rocky road but no washes to flood. I hike to and from Landlady’s morning and afternoon to get to the Jeep but that’s no thing, I normally do that anyway to take care of chickens. That’s not what’s got me bent over and hobbling like an old man: It’s that damned stairway to heaven.

And this morning that thought had me re-thinking this whole ‘their driveway is too washed out to be passible’ thing. I mean I have to get up there at least twice a day by any means necessary but for the past 4-5 days I’ve chosen the most difficult means available and it’s wearing me down. I’m only halfway through the gig.

I stood at the top of the driveway this morning and thought, if I can walk up it I ought to be able to drive up it, no? I mean…

…there’s only one spot that’s really badly washed out. Even that probably isn’t bad enough to high-center the Jeep. It just happens to be right at the bottom of the very steepest part of the driveway, where you really need to build some speed – just at the spot where you’re going to hit that washout and stress-test the hell out of your 20-year-old steering and suspension.

And if I lose traction or snap something off, backing all the way down that absurdly steep, narrow winding path would be an adventure worthy of hair-raising stories if it didn’t arise from an act of stupidity I’d want to keep strictly to myself.

And I absolutely need the Jeep to stay functioning through Sunday night, or I’ll have to fall back on taking the bicycle to T&S’s and that bike isn’t capable of dealing with the Bumpy Road. Walking the bike up and down the BR twice a day will add to my burdens threefold. If it weren’t for Tobie I’d be tempted to bring five days’ food and clothing and just stay in their guest quarters.

I’ll get it done, I always do. But I do believe I’m getting too old for this shit. I know for a fact the Jeep is.

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Looks like they rescued the road grader…

I got a phone call from a neighbor yesterday, warning me to avoid the wash crossing by the goat people at all costs. “There is no crossing. And pretty soon there’ll be no grader, because [redacted] got it good and stuck in the mud.”

This I had to see, but yesterday afternoon turned out to be not the time to go look. So this morning I took the Jeep across the wash at the cattle waterer and drove down the ridge. It turned out to be kind of a mistake, but not the disastrous kind.

There was a steep washout with lots of gooey mud just as promised, but the front of the grader wasn’t hanging over it. Somehow he/they managed to get it down the washout and across to the other side and at least somewhat out of danger.

Like an idiot (deep mud) I waded across to see the damage, if any, and it looks like the worst predictions have been rendered moot.

There’s a time to fix road damage and a time to relax and stay home until things dry out. This is a bit of wisdom our erstwhile POA prez did not know – among other important things like “how to use a road grader.” But at least it seems the grader’s actual destruction has been avoided. So he’s got that going for him.

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When they come from the northwest, they’re the worst.

Woke to clear skies for once but the forecast said it wouldn’t last. After Tobie’s early walkie and a quick breakfast I hiked to Landlady’s to pick up the Jeep, took the Bumpy Road to T&S’s and double-fed the animals in case I can’t come back in the afternoon. At the foot of their mesa stairs I saw low clouds of a sort we very rarely get here…

…and they were coming from altogether the wrong direction, and spreading fast. By the time I got back down the mesa it was clear this was no wisp of cloud…

And when I finally parked the Jeep and started to hike home, the clouds were horizon to horizon though not yet blotting out the sun.

It doesn’t usually storm in the morning during Monsoon but never say never. Seems tame enough at the moment but the ones that blow in from the norwest are the meanest if they break over you.

This has only been going on for two weeks and I’m already getting twitchy. The regular Monday trip to town has been called on account of lots and lots of mud.

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I thought that drooping target stand was undermined with water…

Nope. It was hit with a big rock.

Which apparently fell during the second of the past several days’ terrifying storms.

Normally at this part of Monsoon I can use the wash for a transport route even if the roads are impassible – which they are. But there are unpredictable parts of the wash so saturated with water…

…that they’ll try to pull the boots off the unwary. There’s no way I’m bringing the Jeep in here; we’ve had floods three of the past four evenings and any vehicle that gets stuck in the wash will stay in the wash. More soon: I had an uberpost planned but the weather is screwing with my internet connection and the pictures are moving slow.

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I have this conversation with myself every time I use my bike.

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Wouldn’t you know, a T&S gig at the height of monsoon.

That means twice a day up and across the plateau, then up T&S’s mesa. By whatever means necessary, because the animals don’t have a Plan B.

I decided to see what condition the wash crossings and the dirt road were in, because I already knew from this morning’s wanderings that the crossing near Landlady’s place was mildly washed out. I didn’t even make it off my own ridge: I hit a patch of quicksand on the dirt road that I just barely managed to back the Jeep out of in 4-wheel.

I could have gone around it easily enough but there was no point: The ridgetops are the easy part so I already knew everything I needed to know about the 6.5-mile long-way-around: It wasn’t passible. Continue reading

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Oboy. Big flood.

I lost all my alternate routes, and a favorite place.

That’s my driveway into the wash. Or it was. That semi-standing bush used to be several feet from the bank; Torso Boy and I made a u-turn around it on his thrice-a-day walkie. All gone now.

Last night it rained and rained and rained. And sometime after I went to bed the wash flooded, and this time it wrecked a lot of stuff. Continue reading

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The Official Bird of Joel’s Gulch…

Everybody’s favorite bird. 🙂

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Putting the silt to work

Rained hard last night. So this morning’s first chore was to dig out the front ditch again. Average spoil is five wheelbarrow-loads.

Normally I just pile it up out of the way, but this morning I found places where the ash had really flowed. Ash makes the worst mud I’ve ever encountered. Before I moved here I thought caliche was the worst mud. I was such a simple, naive child of nature… Continue reading

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Up on the Plateau…

Starting Friday I’ll be up and over the plateau twice a day for a week, taking care of T&S’s plants and animals while they’re away on a trip.

The plateau is miles away to the east of the Gulch. But this time of year, if we get a good wet monsoon, it intrudes on my life almost daily. Because it’s made of shale and can’t absorb much water…

And so when the storm cells storm down on the plateau, the water has to go somewhere else. And over who knows how much time, the plateau has carved its ‘somewhere else’ in no uncertain terms. This is where the flash floods start; they collect in the canyons and then come crashing down through the wash past the Lair violently, and often, when we get a wet monsoon. This is starting to look like the wettest monsoon we’ve seen in eight years. If this summer is anything like the summer of 2013 I’m going to get very sick of digging out my drainage ditches – and sick of wondering what new wonders the wash will come up with over and over to complicate my life.

On the other hand, some moisture in the soil would really be nice for a while.

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Tobie in Disgrace

Baking day, before it gets too hot.

While kneading dough I stepped back just a little and literally stepped on Tobie. One backs away from the counter carefully while preparing food because – well, big puppy. Of course he’s right behind you, anxiously awaiting any opportunity to assist with cleanup. But I mean this time I took half a step back and landed right on him. Because…

…Tobie had decided to very quietly sneak in and find out if raw flour is edible. But he didn’t get away with it, the crime was all over his face.

If we had a doghouse, Tobie would be in the doghouse.

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Damned silt…

If we’re going to have a wet monsoon this will be the story of my life for a couple of months…

The very first good storm that passed over the Lair caused both my drainage ditches to fill with silt. The ditch in front of the cabin is kind of a pain in the ass year-round for obvious reasons, and as long as the water running off from the gully turns right instead of fanning out over the yard and turning it into a sea of mud I’m inclined to let the damned thing fill in – and so far the ditch is still sufficient for that. But… Continue reading

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Even in the desert, flooding brings driftwood

I had intended to give firewood-gathering a rest during the hot months, but if this is going to be a wet monsoon I may as well take advantage of it.

The wash flooded its banks on Wednesday morning, then ran again during a heavy storm Friday evening. Yesterday afternoon Tobie and I ventured out to see what had changed after the second run: Not much, but there was some nice driftwood that will only go further downstream if this keeps up.

So this morning I decided to put the chain back on the Jeep and snatch some of it before it gets hot.

I have enough for a full woodshed already, since this wood won’t fill the space nearly as efficiently as cut-up pallets and old lumber does. But that only means my 6×8 woodshed probably isn’t big enough to supply all of any conceivable winter. So I expect to stack surplus at Landlady’s barn, some of which will be needed at her house anyway.

Tobie helped. He seems to have lost all his Jeep-related inhibitions in less than 2 months, and now gets positively butthurt when I leave him behind.

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Probably a grandchild of the bastards that ate Zoe…

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