Sometimes I crave that legendary German engineering…

I have a love/hate relationship with primer tools.

This is my current go-to tool, an RCBS that works fine, really. Doesn’t need a whole set of individual case holders, which is a big plus. Gives you enough leverage that it’s not a hand exerciser but not so much you’re crushing primers. Eliminates that idiotic elevator thing Lee tools have that seats the primer sideways half the time. But it does have one very annoying design flaw – not a deal-breaker, just annoying…

Nobody paid attention to the approach angle on the tray, and several times per session two primers will bump into each other and clog the chute. And unless you’re paying close attention, you’ll find out about it when the tray is full but the chute is empty.

I like to watch history videos on YouTube sometimes, which means mid-20th century German weapons engineering is on my mind more often than really makes any sense. And after like the third time this happened to me while only priming 50 cases, I thought “Hugo Schmeisser would never have allowed this.” Germans: They got themselves into the most ridiculously unwinnable wars, but damned if they didn’t lose them with the coolest weapons on the field.

This is how bad the ammo situation is getting: I can’t say primers are worth their weight in gold because as far as I know no amount of gold could acquire any. At any other time if I accidentally dropped one – on a floor that’s practically paved with spent primers, mind you – I’d let it go. But…

…under these circumstances I had to at least give it a shot. And it was cause for a bit of celebration when I actually found the damn thing.

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How you know when you’re getting older – and possibly more prosperous…

No reason to light the fire…

…lit the fire anyway.

Hey, there was a time when morning fire was optional when indoor temp was in the 40’s, forbidden when it was in the 50’s. But that was more than 10 years ago and ‘cool’ seems like cold now.

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So you think I’m a bad man? No, I’m a pussycat. Let me introduce you…

I wasn’t expecting any particular controversy over yesterday’s post. I just noticed something on a package I thought worthy of mention, and then I mentioned it. But apparently I broke some peoples’ rules – I actually got an email from a long-time and valued reader who announced an intent to flounce off and darken my door no more. Probably there were others, I don’t know.

I wasn’t expecting that. It didn’t just surprise me, it depressed me. Happily, though, I happened to drop in on the Adaptive Curmudgeon, a little place on TUAK’s blogroll that I admit I don’t visit every day – and to my delight I found that he had resumed telling the tale of The Lesbian Activist Squirrels.

The Lesbian Squirrels is a serialized story, long since more than novel-length, which proceeds in fits and starts whenever the Curmudgeon’s muse shakes off her hangover enough to kick him in the pants and get him writing. It’s been going on for years and like most serialized stories the plot kind of wanders into the weeds to play with its toes from time to time, may even blunder drunk off a cliff and spend some time in ICU from time to time … But it’s always funny, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. And the one thing you can always count on it to be is never…



politically correct. Or anything remotely resembling politically correct. To quote the author…

…here’s a trigger warning: Anyone who clicks on a story with a ridiculous title like Attack of the Lesbian Activist Squirrels knows what they’re getting. If it’s too much for your delicate sensibilities, stay in your bubble and leave us adults alone.

And that made it a perfect antidote for yesterday’s mood, and I spent most of the afternoon re-reading it. And now I feel much better. Thought perhaps some of you might enjoy it as well, if you’re not already aware of it. Or it might shock you to your fainting couch, I don’t know, but it will certainly let you know that if you think I’m bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Okay, I officially don’t get the point of the mask thing now.

It’s Monday, and on Monday morning I go into town with D&L for water and groceries. And as it happened, I had a busy time scheduled…

…and as frequently usually happens, I got busy loading empty water bottles and gas cans into the Jeep, don’t forget your sunglasses/hat/shopping list/gun/wallet/keys, and went off without putting a mask in my pocket.

In the little town nearest where I live this makes zero social difference. Most of the people you’ll see in a store or on the street will be obscenely baring their faces to the world, exactly as if it’s a tiny desert town way the hell off the beaten path where there’s virtually no Wuhan Flu to catch. But my friends D and L have really drunk the Koolaid on this particular subject and it bugs them when I go maskless. So I really try to remember, just to keep peace with my neighbors who generously let me hitch at least one ride to town every week and have for several years now.

But I can be bugged too, you know. And this morning, to keep the vitally-important mask thing from cropping up in future, they kindly gave me a gift…

…to keep in the Jeep for when I forget.

No doubt in the name of legal CYA, whoever designed the package art carefully and prominently added the disclaimer “Non-Medical” to the box filled with these vitally important preventatives to a medical condition. This is nothing new, I’m aware that none of the colorful cloth masks people have taken to wearing over the past almost-a-year-now-goddammit have any real medical utility.

But this just kind of rubbed it in. It irritates me.

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Please don’t help. We’ve got trouble enough.

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Poor little thing…

Also, I really need a better chimney cap.

I just had my first indoor bird of the year, and it narrowly avoided being burned to death since it apparently escaped the woodstove between my opening the stove door and going to the kitchen counter for my blowtorch*.

I didn’t actually see the bird escape the stove, since the room was darker than the bird. But having started the fire and gotten my coffee water going I returned to the bedroom to find a half-dead but extremely agitated sparrow on the bed.

I gave it some time to settle down on a window, then easily gathered up the poor little thing and released it outdoors. They always seem to get a burst of new energy when you do that, and don’t hang around to chat.

*yes of course I keep a propane torch on the kitchen counter, don’t you?

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Haven’t needed to do that chore since I left Michigan!

…and I left Michigan like 23 years ago.

So overnight the sky cleared and it got good and cold, like mid-teens, which meant that the mud froze and I could go for a nice walkie.

For the first time in almost a week, that is. And it was a pretty truncated walkie, because I about froze my fingers and toes off even through good gloves and boots.

And along the way I kept running into broken branches blocking the path.

Sometimes juniper limbs die and fall but I don’t ever recall any single snowfall heavy enough to break them off. But we got one five days ago, and this is the first morning I’ve ventured out on foot since then. I learned my lesson about prosthetic legs and snow drifts a very long time ago. And of course I really passionately hate mud.

Okay, so the broken limbs had to go. And I had the perfect tool for dealing with them, too! One I hardly ever use…

Big Brother sent me this cordless chainsaw four or five years ago and I thought at the time it would be useless. But within its weight class it’s surprisingly good at cutting junipers. Trimming off broken branches is perfect for it. But it’s been in the powershed all winter and was far too cold to ever work, so on my way in from my walkie I brought it and a couple of lithium batteries inside to warm up.

And I just got back from clearing the paths, and didn’t even need the spare battery. Given how underpowered it is compared to a real chainsaw, I’m always surprised at how well it works.

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What a sloppy day…

I had to go to D&L’s this afternoon to take care of horses and dogs. Slip/sliding the whole way. The horses are staying in the barn, because…

…they’re not idiots.

This was one of the few days this winter where I had to relight the woodstove from time to time. Kept going out for another bucket of wood…

We never got the big windstorm we were promised, but it snowed on and off all day. Only a little sun. Temp never got very cold, but never out of the thirties. Just a nasty, sloppy day.

Forecast is for two more days of cold, but more sun. So unless we get a lot of wind, which I’m not really expecting, it should be easier to keep the cabin warm once the sun is up. Mud will probably freeze at night.

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Saw a funny on Babylon Bee this morning…

It would be funnier without the knowledge of how many people really are without power in freakishly cold weather…

I heard about this yesterday evening from a friend on a private chat forum*:

We’re on rotating blackouts, about 2.5 hours at a time with no power. Texas lost 30,000 MW of generation, and is limping along with 45,000 MW when customers would take 70,000 MW if it were available.

Wow, I didn’t know. I get so wrapped up in my own little bubble here at the Gulch, but Texas has snow all the way down to the Gulf coast! Single-digit temps in places where they probably don’t bother much with home heating infrastructure. Not just overnight, either, it’s been going on for days – and then the whole frickin’ state loses half its grid power! Yike.

Ironically, one part of the no-doubt complex reason they’re on rolling blackouts is … wait for it … sustainable power!

This story is all over the place – I picked a lefty source just ’cause I’m an insensitive cis white male…

Frozen wind turbines contribute to rolling power blackouts across Texas

“We are experiencing record-breaking electric demand due to the extreme cold temperatures that have gripped Texas,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a news release. “At the same time, we are dealing with higher-than-normal generation outages due to frozen wind turbines and limited natural gas supplies available to generating units.”

Okay, I don’t know why I’m surprised that CNN posts lousy articles; despite the headline that article barely mentions frozen turbines. Here’s one that’s more informative…

Frozen wind turbines hamper Texas power output, state’s electric grid operator says

Wind farms across the state generate up to a combined 25,100 megawatts of energy. But unusually moist winter conditions in West Texas brought on by the weekend’s freezing rain and historically low temperatures have iced many of those wind turbines to a halt.

As of Sunday morning, those iced turbines comprise 12,000 megawatts of Texas’ installed wind generation capacity, although those West Texas turbines don’t typically spin to their full generation capacity this time of year.

My point is: Wind generators suck. Don’t depend on them.

No, no, that was Precaffeinated Joel talking. Don’t listen to him. My point is that shit happens no matter where you are. Hundreds of thousands of people in places like Houston and Austin are freezing in the dark, when they thought they had no reason to ever fear that happening. A set of freak circumstances comes along, nobody’s fault but there they are. In the end your security is your responsibility. So take responsibility for it. Believe me when I tell you that freezing in the dark turns the minutes to hours.

If people are laughing at you for your ridiculous prepping hobby, you’re at least facing in the right direction. It doesn’t take the end of the world as we know it to make a backup generator and a kerosene heater** and some extra food and a spare way to cook it suddenly pay for themselves. Plan to be the person who saves the day when it all goes wrong.

*kids, ask your parents.

**that you know how to use…

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Sigh. It begins.

Just got back from the Monday morning water run. Sideways, mostly.

The bad news is that there’s still lots of snow to melt. The good news is we’re due for a great walloping windstorm this afternoon, which usually helps with the mud. The next bad news is it’s supposed to rain in the morning.

The only certainty is that the mud’s going to be epic. I’m staying in this afternoon, to the greatest extent practical.

While I was out I had to buy a new broom, because…

I broke the one I’ve had for over 10 years. Thought it would be easier to use that rather than a shovel to beat the underside of the chickens’ top cover yesterday. Didn’t consider whether the cheap handle would bear the repeated impacts. Oh well – I’ve kind of wanted a Jeep broom anyway…

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“One to three inches,” forsooth!

“One to three inches overnight,” the weatherman said. “No problem,” said I.

The weather has been quite mild since the last storm. Enough to spoil you, but if you have any sense at all not enough to suggest that maybe winter’s effectively over.

In fact I was quite pleased with myself, because the return of weather coincided with the knowledge that it had been a couple of months since I cleaned the stovepipe and generally serviced the woodstove area. So I spent an hour doing that yesterday, and was basically ready for whatever came. But I truly wasn’t expecting much.

I woke up before light, and what little I could see out the window suggested that it had certainly snowed. No surprise, it was right on schedule. And not supposed to be any big deal, right? I’ll just cocoon through it.

Uh huh.

Ten Inches of wet, heavy stuff. Ten Inches! You know what that means? Not only is it possibly the biggest single snowfall since I moved to the desert, which I don’t really remember but that would be cool, but there’s a disaster going on at the Chickenhouse! If it was fluffy powder there’d be no problem, but that much wet snow will destroy the chicken yard’s top cover! I have to get there right frickin’ now, and it’s probably already too late! (Many pics after the fold.) Continue reading

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Anti-Littering Joel and Parsimonious Joel have bad days…

Still feeling pretty good. My shoulder isn’t even mildly sore to the touch and I had no relapses yesterday, so it looks as though the Angel of Moderna passed me over. This time.

That, coupled with the knowledge that our unseasonable window of pleasant weather is likely coming to a whoa, had me out early for an extended off-road walkie this morning. When I actually plan to do that, or when I’m bringing something small and portable to the chickenhouse, I bring along a very handy shoulder bag.

Call it a hermit purse if you must. Unfortunately prior planning of my morning’s jaunt isn’t really one of my strong points when I’m only half coffied-up, and this morning the bag remained snug and warm on its hook beside the woodstove.

One reason I like to carry it in the boonies is that I really hate leaving trash behind. And there’s a surprising amount of wind-blown trash in the desert. Not “suburbs of Tucson” levels, but more than you’d think.

So I’m trudging along on a vague diagonal between two intersecting roads on a trajectory that will eventually bring me to a fence that will tell me exactly where I am, not really caring exactly where I am at the moment as long as I don’t wander too close to the wash where the gullies are uncomfortably deep, which would force me to backtrack. And I top a little rise, and off in the middle distance I see a glint that says soda can. I adjust my course toward it, and upon reaching it I spear it with my walking stick…

…and only then do I realize that having picked it up, I’m stuck with it and have no good way to carry it. In summer I’d crush it and put it in a cargo pocket but my winter jeans don’t have those. I really miss cargo pockets. So I end up finishing my walkie with a soda can ridiculously impaled on my cattle spear.

I’m not a complete luddite: One thing I like to do on walkies is listen to podcasts on my phone, pushed into my ear through a cheap bluetooth earpiece. I don’t like earbuds for the obvious reasons that the cord tangles on everything and I really need to be able to hear what’s going on around me. Yesterday the podcasts let me down halfway through my walkie and I ended up listening to the audio part of a YouTube video from 9-Hole Reviews on the Beretta Model 71, which is a .22 pistol that the Israeli – well, they were mostly just assassins – liked to use in the ’70’s to end the careers of people who really murderously didn’t like Israelis. And that got me to thinking I should drag out my own .22 pistol that morning. My supply of .44 ammo may be severely finite but I’m actually in pretty good shape for .22 and there was no reason not to go back into the desert after second coffee and burn through some with my Ruger on targets of opportunity.

When it came time to do that I topped off the magazines and was about to drop the rest of my current brick in my shoulder bag when Parsimonious Joel popped up and said, “Not so fast. Do you want a .22 shortage? Because this is how you get a .22 shortage.”

(Insert eye-rolling emoji here) Yeah – but that’s also how you get someone who can quickly hit what he’s shooting at. And I like being able to do that. Sheesh.

Parsimonious and Tactical Joels were about to have a serious row when Scrounger King Joel interceded. “Hey – remember that emergency stash that’s been in the powershed since the last big ammo drought?”

That’s all that was left of it yesterday morning, and you would not believe what these poor little cartridges have been through. Back in 2007 when I still worked at the saw shop I pulled the moldering remnants of a nearly-whole brick out of a pool of brackish water in the bed of a customer’s ATV. He didn’t want it, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away, and I actually broke apart nearly 400 corroded and stuck-together cartridges, cleaned off what I could and threw the rest away. To my surprise they worked, so I squirreled them away and forgot about them. That big drought that started in 2013 and went on for years caught me with my pants down, and even after running out of my supply of ‘real’ ammo that little tub of soaked and corroded ammo kept me lethal to pests till the drought lifted – though of course there wasn’t much practicing during that dark time.

I learned my lesson to the best of my broke-ass ability, and now even after nearly a year of the current drought I’m sitting pretty on five or six bricks of .22lr. Which Parsimonious Joel is determined I shall not use up on frivolities like necessary frickin’ practice. But he didn’t object strongly to my burning through the old soaked stuff. Which to my amazed pleasure all still fired.

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Moderna Vaccine, first jab: Not dead yet…

Just a progress report on one old guy’s experience with the first jab of the Moderna vaccine. I got it Tuesday just before noon with no immediate side effects. They told me up front the shoulder muscle they had injected it into was going to hurt – that started Tuesday evening and by the first full day I wouldn’t raise my arm over my shoulder without a really good reason. That lasted all Wednesday but significantly backed off overnight and Thursday wasn’t real bad. This morning it’s a little sore to the touch but isn’t impeding arm movement at all.

I slept normally Tuesday night but was very sleepy all Wednesday – I actually napped most of the morning. I woke to a bad headache, but two aspirin killed it. Then Wednesday night I couldn’t stay asleep. Except for that, I didn’t feel very bad Thursday until the afternoon when the headache returned and brought a friend. Again, aspirin helped. (The person who stuck me told me to avoid Ibuprofen and Tylenol, didn’t say anything about aspirin.) Last night I slept like a rock and felt well enough this morning to go for a full morning walkie. Completed that without regret, so I think I’m probably over the symptoms.

I’m supposed to get a second dose in a month but they wouldn’t make a definite appointment because the supply is so iffy. So I’ll see what happens when I call back the first week in March.

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The Jeep’s doing it to me again…

I’ve been smelling antifreeze for a couple of days. One of those things I keep meaning to come out and look at later, you know, and then completely forget about it until next time I detect the scent. This time I opened the hood right away…

…to find steam coming from a corner of the radiator core – the radiator I just replaced two years ago. Uncle Joel Annoyed.

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So yesterday I got the Covid jab. As I said a week ago, I didn’t impose on a neighbor to help me make a special trip to town, sit in a joyless room for half an hour waiting my turn and then let a total stranger stick me with a syringe full of rather dodgy liquid out of some abiding and paralyzing fear of a disease I’m very unlikely to contract. I did it to keep peace with … well, the aforementioned neighbor, actually. So I’m not guilt-stricken over that.

I’m not sure if this is an after-action report or a progress report: upon arrival I was handed a four-sheet memo containing a lengthy and daunting list of possible side effects. About the only thing they promised definitely wouldn’t happen is getting the disease as a result of the vaccine. They specifically did not promise that the vaccine would prevent the disease.

The lady with the needle promised with assurance that my shoulder would be sore today, and it assuredly is. In fact I can’t actually raise my left arm over my head, so now I have a matched set. That started last night and will presumably go away.

And I woke up this morning feeling – not sick exactly, but not good. Mostly just tired and blown-out. I had a bad headache but a couple of aspirin took care of that surprisingly well. Fortunately I didn’t have a lot to do this morning because around 9:30 I just went to bed and didn’t roll back out till noon for bread-making. Apparently that’s also pretty common. The fatigue, that is; not the bread making.

Unfortunately I have to go back in a month for another jab, and I’m really looking forward to that. The things I do for my friends…

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Hypercautious Chicken

So I decided to try something different today…

The Leghorns are all done with their protracted moult but we’re having, er, performance issues. I’ve spoken to them several times now about their overall objective of providing food for humans, and how that can be carried out in one of two ways but it’s really best for all concerned if we stick to egg-laying. So, you know … they should get back to egg laying.

So far my counseling sessions aren’t yielding the desired results. So I’m trying a different diet supplement, which comes in the form of a block about the size of a horse/cow mineral block. But when I cut away the plastic it turned out that the binding agent wasn’t all that and there was some spillage.

Of course the block is a new thing, and the ladies find new things absolutely horrifying. They really wanted back in the chickenhouse when I was done fooling around, but going back in meant crossing or at least coming near that horrific pile of spilled deliciousness that would obviously kill the first chicken to dare it. So we waited…

…until one brave soul took her life in her wing and dared to walk in, as far away from the horrifying pile of spilled seeds as possible…

And when she didn’t immediately die or burst into flame or anything of the sort, somebody else tried it. And took a peck…

…and not only didn’t die, but found it good. And then, inevitably, in order of boldness they clustered around the pile…

…and soon it will be gone.

And it won’t be long before somebody dares peck at the block. And I’m interested to learn how long it lasts after that – and whether a diet supplement will help them get their little egg factories into gear.

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Knife Sharpening: Sometimes overcomplicated works.

I have carried a secret shame throughout my life – I never was very good at sharpening knives. Couldn’t tell you how many stones and gizmos I went through in my youth, hoping to cut through (heh) a basic lack of knowledge and skill.

My move to the boonies at this particular time in history provided a combination of a serious need and an overabundance of information. Having spent more hours than I care to recall going through (oh, I’m going to go with hundreds of) YouTube videos on the subject, I finally distilled it all down to a knife-sharpening infrastructure that really does work for me. By which I mean that when I’m done, my knives are dangerous to be near rather than just barely sharp enough to not be embarrassing.

It’s probably more complex than it needs to be, but at this late stage in my life anything that works well is quite welcome. Basically, I gave up on all the stones and rods and gadgets. My knife-sharpening kit consists of…

A whole bunch of 1000-grit paper. A length of smooth stovewood. Some masking tape, a plastic cup, and an old syringe.

Yeah, I know all the old traditional methods would work as well, given what I have finally figured out about technique. Probably with passing years I’ll get back to them. But this works, and I’m so delighted to have finally landed on something that works that I’m reluctant to move away from it.

Finally – FINALLY! – after all these many years I can just frickin’ sharpen a knife.

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Speaking of predator tracks…

Bobcat. Very common, though again seldom seen when you’re on foot.

No danger to humans – probably even very small humans – but a good reason not to free-range your chickens.

They sometimes display housecat-like curiosity… 🙂

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In the Spring an old man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of bicycles.

It’s a pretty mid-winter day in the high desert. Mid-forties, a little windy for comfort but the second straight day of bright sun.

And I’m sick of winter. And when I’m sick of winter I think of getting my bike out of its dark storage in Ian’s powershed. I needed to puff some air into the Jeep’s tires…

…and so while I was at it I decided to do the same for the ebike.

For reasons I don’t understand but don’t question, the bike’s instructions say that when long-term storing the battery it shouldn’t be fully charged or fully discharged. So I didn’t top it off before putting it away for the winter and it’s only about half charged, but since I hope to get more use out of it soon I figured I’d plug it in on its timer this afternoon.

But first I took it for the two-mile round trip to chicken chores. And yeah – a little cool and windy for bicycles just yet. Still early February, Joel. Suck it up.

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And that’s why I carry a gun…

Beautiful morning for a nice long walkie. And I was trudging along, minding my own business, when I came upon some tracks that gave me pause…

That’s either a wolf or the biggest dog I’ve seen since Little Bear died. Check this out for perspective…

My knife blade is 3″, and claw to pad this guy’s paws are a little bigger than that. I would not want to meet him in a dark desert unless I knew he was a friend of mine. Super fresh, too. Like, this morning just before I got there.

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