Visiting the babies…

0705151333The new pullets are still doing well, growing and peeping and making a horrid mess. I think they’ll probably be out of that basket in another week or two, so I’m going to need to rig something different for them. In which they will make a horrible mess. I genuinely didn’t think of that, but live and learn. I don’t know how long it takes for these things to feather out, where they don’t need their temperature watched every second, but they’re sure not doing it yet.

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High Anxiety, it’s you (contributors) that I blame…

Light overcast but no sign of morning rain so far, so my evil plan can come to fruition…0705150816With the help of a long roller pole I can do the upper part of the Lair’s front wall with only one move of the scaffold. So, the weather being perfect and yours truly having a deep and abiding desire to get this part the hell over with, we’re doing both coats in the same morning. And then we’ll say no more about it.

ETA: Introducing the new, improved Secret Lair, ready for trim paint.0705151100


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This post brought to you by the official insect of Joel’s Gulch…

Never, never do this.
These guys tend to show up whenever you work with open water. Fortunately they’re about as aggressive as cottontails, but I’m careful never to put that to the test by seeking to piss one off.

Shelob buys it:

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An Updated American Tune…

I wish I had half this lady’s talent for snark.

Oh, beautiful for drone-filled skies
A tax code so arcane!
A voting class on their fat ass
From Houston to Fort Wayne!
America! America!
You voted stuff for free
You made your bed, ye overfed
Go watch some more TV!

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Gettin’ it done between t-storms

The walls were too wet to paint when I came out this morning, so I figured I’d better dig for a while.0704150943The little gully that empties into my front yard just needs some help encouraging the water to turn right. I’ve got about half the approach dug out, then I’ll need to go deeper and wider at the elbow. Once the water is headed away from my porch I don’t really care what it does. I dig this thing out every year at this time, and then between flood-borne silt and laundry water it gradually fills back in.

But by the time I’d gotten this far I was getting some sun, which quickly dried the plywood on the east side of the house. So I set up the ladder and scaffold and got to work on the main project of the day.0704150939First coat done on the east side! The Lair is starting to look like somebody’s – a better class of somebody’s – house!0704150940That only leaves the front to do, and then I’ll get to work on trim. But by 9:30 the clouds were already turning black and booming, so I needed to clean up and get things squared away. You do not want the rain beating on wet paint, for reasons I hope are fairly obvious. Today was actually predicted to be rainy all day, so I’m pleasantly surprised to have gotten as much painting in as I did.

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That “Oh, Shit!” Moment…

Once in a while the desert chooses a propitious moment to remind you that it can kill you any old time it wants.

Went to town this morning to buy paint. Stopped at the convenience store on the way out for some ecig fluid and a bottle of Southern Comfort. I used to drink a very great deal; now not nearly so much, but once in a while it seems appropriate.

This afternoon after the sun reached a certain point where I could work on the Lair’s east wall without the sun in my eyes, I got back to painting. That went well enough until I saw the black clouds building. Oh, we’re definitely into Monsoon now, and I should have been able to count on another week or two. So I put things away, laid the ladder down so as not to tempt lightning, called the dogs and we went and did our evening chores a bit early.

And like the storm a couple of evenings ago, this one couldn’t seem to make up its damn mind. But around six in the evening as I sat in my sittin’ and thinkin’ chair and the level in the bottle had reached the labels, I happened to look out the window at the front of the lair just in time to get strobed by a big, fat, straight bolt of lightning that landed somewhere just behind the cliff on the other side of the wash. I’m pretty sure there was a lovely shadow of my big-eared head cast on the pans hung from the Lair’s south interior wall, though I can’t testify to it. I was too busy staring wide-eyed and looking at afterimages.

I did the reflexive counting…”One. T…”


Ghost immediately headed for safety in the desk’s kneehole. LB got up and moved, leaving a little pee spot where he had been laying. I didn’t reproach him.

As if it was a prearranged signal, the rain started. By Monsoon standards it really wasn’t much of a rain. We got more two days ago. But for the next forty-five minutes there was no second when it wasn’t thundering. Fortunately it started to the north, and these things tend to move north. We’ve had far worse. We will have far worse.

But these are my most atavistic moments. Usually the desert is a very placid place to live, as long as you remember that everything that doesn’t have spikes has venom, except for the things that have both. But once in a while it does seem as though the desert remembers that it can kill me any time it wants, and that it’s thinking it over.

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“Muad’Dib, your plan worked!”

Okay, a number of commenters suggested that I rig the live trap with only one side open, and although it clearly isn’t supposed to work that way it turned out it’s possible with just a little non-destructive rod-flexing.

So I set it up so, with a piece of bread tied with string to the closed end and then slathered thick with peanut butter. Hell, LB wanted into the trap.0702151125And nothing happened. Yesterday the little bastard got into the powershed while all that stuff was going on in the morning. All afternoon he ignored the trap. On the theory that maybe he was still in there, I moved the trap into the powershed overnight. That didn’t work.

This morning I moved it to the pallet under the junk, where the squirrels have been living. And a little after 7:30 there was an unholy racket…
0703150741People, this is one mightily pissed-off squirrel. I’m going to take him elsewhere before “releasing” him, just so his angry ghost doesn’t haunt the place.

But for the record let it be said that you really can do this. Lock down one side of the trap and put the bait all the way to the closed side, and the victim has no choice but to completely enter the cage. Then he will inevitably trip the trigger and we’re done here.

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My god. This is your tax dollars at work, America.

If I get invited to a July 4 BBQ (won’t happen) and I meet a person who has taken this advice, I will kick him or her right in the knee and flounce my outraged ass right home.

Tips for Talking to Your Family about the Affordable Care Act this Fourth of July

This Fourth of July, families across the nation will gather around hot dogs (or their favorite vegetarian alternative) and potato salad to spend some quality time together, watch fireworks and reflect on the holiday’s meaning. But as much as we love our families – and we do, seriously –we don’t always agree when it comes to current events, like last week’s Supreme Court decision upholding tax credits that help make insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more affordable for millions of people.

Misinformation about the ACA is everywhere, and there’s been a lot of money spent to spread that misinformation – as much as half a billion dollars in ads, according to one 2014 estimate. Not surprisingly, many Americans still don’t know how changes the law made to insurance and the health care system can help improve their lives.

You should be prepared when Aunt Janine says something like, “Obamacare hasn’t helped anyone!” So here are a few points to remember during this long holiday weekend:

And then there are scripts, I kid you not, actual press conference prep talking points for the following:

Situation: Uncle Ted claims Obamacare is a train wreck and has cost jobs.

Situation: Your brother has a great idea for a start-up, but he’s afraid to lose benefits when he leaves his current job.

Situation: Before reaching for another burger, your uncle mentions he’s been meaning to get a blood pressure screening he’s been putting off.

Situation: Your younger cousin is about to graduate from college. She’s found a great internship that could really help her career, but it doesn’t offer any benefits.

The government spent your money doing this. Serious money, by your standards or mine. Some lower-level manager decreed that it should be brought into being. Some writer wrote it*. It was staffed to death at a catered 4-hour editorial meeting. Some IT geek – well, more likely a bloated team of IT geeks – posted it. Everybody agreed it was just the best idea EVAR. Because after all Pajama Boy had led the way…onesiememe…and you can’t argue with success like that.

Serious money. All in the (please dear god misguided) belief that if they keep lying loud enough and often enough, they can somehow change the very fabric of reality and this pig will pull out of its nosedive and fly before it augers in. Or at least that they can convince enough people that it will long enough for them to get to retirement and that awesome pension before the torches and pitchforks arrive in the hands of the starving, emaciated, disease-ridden masses.

*And let me say as someone who has written ad copy and advocacy articles (and articles that were really ad copy): If I had shown up at my manager’s office door with this appalling drivel he’d have booted me to the parking lot personally.

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Turns out I don’t have enough paint to finish the walls. Guy said two gallons would cover 600 sq. ft. so I bought three. I’m less than halfway through and more than halfway out of paint. Good news is I think I can get a ride to town tomorrow morning, so I won’t lose the whole weekend. Bad news is that means I can’t paint in the morning cool. I’m racing the (early, of course) Monsoon now.

Here’s another crappy picture. It’s really greener than this to my eye and looks (can I still say this?) kind of gay.0702151301Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And anyway it will promptly fade to some entirely unanticipated shade.

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Okay, so that happened…

I’m such a jerk. The part of this that most bothers me is that my oldest sibling actually hopped into a car and drove the length of the country to my father’s bedside. The thought of doing that never once crossed my mind, and probably wouldn’t have even if it had been possible.

While I was painting the Lair, the following email arrived:

Joel, it happened last night. [Oldest sibling] arrived from [name of state] just a couple of hours before the event.

After his hip surgery, dad never recovered. He was never able to get out of bed by himself, and never recovered his balance despite regular physical therapy. He would get sick for days, and then rally and seem to improve. But looking back over the last few weeks, it’s clear that his general trajectory was always downhill. I had become clear that he was never coming home, because [personal stuff]. So the best future we could realistically hope for dad was exactly what nobody wants, long term care.

Even that turned out to be impossible. Starting about last Friday, Dad had become very confused. Then came the fall from bed, and you know the rest of the story. The fall is a terrible shame, but it probably saved him a few weeks of misery.

He died calmly and without pain.

You have received some good advice from your readers. You can’t change your past, but you are under no obligation to relive it. So save the parts of your past that you like, and then let loose of the remaining garbage.

Yeah. Older Brother reads the blog.

Dying at 97 is a miracle, not a tragedy. And he actually kept his marbles for all but the very last part of the trip. He didn’t have a very happy life for much of it, bad things happened to him repeatedly and he never displayed a lot of adaptability, and Teenage Joel kind of held that against him – which Adult Joel knows is unfair as hell. Especially in light of my own record on that score.

I’m happy my brother was there, and also kind of sad it all landed on him. He’s, like, the only really nurturing member of the family and I’ve often thought he deserved a better one than he got. Never mentioned it, but when I got all blown up back in 1972 he about made himself sick taking care of me and that went on for months.

And then there’s my daughter – I never even introduced her to her grandfather, but she made the effort to get to know him herself and now she’s taking this harder than I am.

So that happened, and surviving members of the family rallied around, and I’m a hermit in the desert and I’m going to go tend the chickens and then have a late breakfast.

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If you’ve put in four hours’ work before ten…

…that’s a good morning.

No good pix, because the walls are still in shadow. But I started the painting today.0702150948


0702150802I picture the Lair slowly disappearing into its background…

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Scott Adams has clearly never lived off-grid…

dt150630dt150701Last night we had one of those T-storms that spend hours building. You don’t know where it’s going to hit but somebody’s going to get blasted and you hope they have really good lightning protection. And that it’s not you.

When the rain finally came the wind pushed it in so many directions I finally ended up closing all the Lair’s windows, and then I started getting spray from the loft’s vent windows. Not enough rain to send the gullies flowing, but enough to remind me I haven’t dug out the drain ditches yet.

Sigh – so Monsoon catches me with my pants down yet again. I can paint while it’s cool, or I can dig ditches. I won’t be sitting around staring at sticks, that’s pretty much sure. The real question is whether I dare have some coffee first.

By ‘Dilbert goes off the grid’ Adams apparently meant ‘Dilbert sits in a field and stares at a stick.’ And yeah, it’s a comic strip. Don’t read too much into it, Joel. But for the record you usually stay too busy to worry much about boredom.

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Came home this afternoon to an email from my older brother…

Dad has gone downhill rapidly the last few days. We had a long and weird Sunday after he fell out of bed at the rehab facility. He was transferred to an ER (the one you know all too well), and then a trauma center, and then back to the rehab facility. Anyhow, he has become mostly unresponsive since then, and isn’t eating or drinking. It’s a classic “shutdown” situation, so we transferred him to an excellent Hospice facility today. His condition was such that a decision we have been dreading was actually a no-brainer. So now he is quiet and comfortable and watched over 24/7.

So it appears that you and I will be orphans in a few days.

I knew about what happened Sunday from a phone call I got from Ari-the-Husband, so this came as no surprise.

I had a complicated and sometimes strained relationship with my father, relating directly to my complicated and usually strained childhood which was a hell of a long time ago. And over the past few days I wrote a long and positively teen-age piece on the subject which I’m definitely not going to post. I keep telling myself I’ve let certain things go – it’s well past time to actually do that.

Enough. Everything I write and delete on this subject is defensive and all about me. I don’t know what to say. He’s 97 years old. How do normal people handle things like this?

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On the success rate of the new squirrel trap…

The second squirrel has apparently learned not to get all the way inside, so the door can’t latch down on it. It doesn’t always get the bait, but the trap never gets it.

This morning I lay in bed thinking I may end up taking the screen out of the window, setting out a plate of chicken pellets a la Wile E. Coyote, and waiting to snipe it from inside the Lair. It might actually come to that.

Gad, that thing was expensive.

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Morning Chores

This being the first of the month I made my rounds of the powersheds under my protection, topping off batteries with distilled water.

First stop, since his shed gets the hottest the fastest, was Former Neighbor J. I went armed for rabbit, as I usually do, but saw none. What I did see, right at the ramp to the powershed, was the biggest kingsnake* of the year.0701150718I didn’t ask him to stretch out for my tape measure, but I’d put him at about five feet. Now, some modicum of snake identification is important in the desert, but they make it easy for us: Rattles Bad, No Rattles Good. It’s bad luck to kill a kingsnake.

Curiously, just a while later I saw a small one in my own yard, booking like hell to get under the siding stack.

While at Landlady’s, of course I went to visit the chicks. Where my education continued apace.
0701150822First the good news, they seem to be doing fine. No death, no lethargy, no slimy butts. The bad news: five baby chicks can empty a feeder as you watch. They’re worse than Mexican Jays. I found the contents in a mound on the floor under the table. They also foul their water with abandon, but I expected that. They’re chickens. And who knew how badly they can stink up a brooder in less than two days? They’re tiny baby chicks, and each seems to have shit at least her own weight in slime on the floor.

So I swept up the mess and put a cardboard box under the table. Then I spread straw in the brooder to deal with the chicken shit. Being chickens, they naturally freaked right out and attempted to kill themselves squeezing through the bars of the brooder. But they settled right down once I picked them up and set them on the straw. Truth is they seemed to find it an immediate improvement. Live and learn, I guess.

*There’s some confusion as to the precise taxonomic nomenclature of these snakes, to be honest. Some call them gopher snakes and some call them bull snakes.

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What happens when you run out of other people’s money…

or, “Can I have Greece, once it’s been emptied of people?”

ATHENS — Retirees throughout Greece mobbed banks as they tried to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in pension payments on Wednesday, as the country teetered on the brink of economic collapse hours after an international bailout expired.

Emotions ran high outside a Piraeus Bank branch in downtown Athens as some 60 customers jostled impatiently after waiting for hours in the sweltering sun.

“This is humiliating,” said Athanasios, an 80-year-old former army officer. “I used to receive a monthly pension of 1,500 euros and now I have to line up for hours to receive 120? This is unfair.”

So for years and years the Greek economy seems to have consisted of everybody working for the government*, which paid them with truckloads of money from Germany**.

Then the Germans stopped putting money in the trucks. And surprise! The ATM machines didn’t fill themselves. No, seriously, this came as a surprise.

*Briefly. They retire on full pensions at approximately 12 years old and spend the rest of their lives sitting around coffee houses and bitching.

**This might be slightly simplified, but nobody ever came to Uncle Joel for economics advice. And yet, somehow, I still manage to know more about it than a commie.

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0630151239The live-trap has been tripped three times so far today, with no prisoners taken. So I tried something different, having just finished baking bread. Less than half an hour later my foe managed to snag the bread without tripping the trap.

I am impressed.

As will my opponent be, when he learns the hard way that I possess…string.

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This is clear asteroidophobia

I suppose these puny lifeforms think they get all the rights? Probably won’t be happy until we all burn up in their abusive atmosphere, will they? AIA* Is Rape!

Yes, when I heard about “Asteroid Day,” I thought at last humans were preparing to finally give asteroids some of the respect they have so long been denied. With all their “mineable metals” this and their “extinction event” that, it’s as though the only thing humans ever think about is how useful or threatening asteroids can be! How objectifying! How triggering! Why, it makes me want to slam right down into one of their pathetic shallow seas and…

(Ahem) So naturally, when I heard of this hostile, bogus ‘Asteroid Day,’ for just that one moment I imagined that they were reaching out one of their pasty, meat-based manipulators to look for a little common ground. Hah! I should have known.

Asteroid Day is a global awareness movement where people from around the world come together to learn about asteroids and what we can do to protect our planet, our families, communities, and future generations. Asteroid Day will be held on the anniversary of the 1908 Siberian Tunguska event, the largest asteroid impact on Earth in recent history.

Is that all you humans care about? Your pathetic ‘planet, families, communities and generations?’ At least you get generations. There’s only one each of the poor asteroids, you know. And Tunguska? You had to bring that up? What about the asteroid? How do you think it felt, just before it exploded in your atmosphere – which got in its way, I’d remind you, it’s not as though asteroids can swerve – and now you time your hostile little commemoration as if it were the asteroid’s fault!

This is so offensive.

*Asteroid In Atmosphere

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Poultry and livestock, livestock and poultry…

The past several days have been free of Other People’s Cattle, a blessed state which ended abruptly yesterday morning. Before going to town I had to dismount Ian’s big propane tank and load it into the trailer, and this time of year it’s rather a struggle to get the trailer through the wash because the sand is too deep and loose. It gets harder still when you round a corner to meet a herd of cattle being driven right toward you. Here we go again.

The timing was fortunate, really, because I didn’t have the boys with me which meant they were safely locked in the cabin while a herd of delicious-looking cattle went by followed by a couple of delicious-looking horses. So that was good. But it does mean that once again Landlady’s corner is inundated with ugly, stupid cattle…0630150730

0630150710I went out fairly early this morning because I wanted to relocate Selma to the Big Chickenhouse with the Brahmas.0630150713I drove her there really slowly, but a trailer ride can’t possibly be pleasant for a chicken. By the time we arrived she was pretty much in a “kill me now and get it over with” state. But she perked right up after we stopped.0630150726I like to think I’m at least theoretically capable of learning from past mistakes. So this time she’ll be spending a couple of days in her cage. First thing she got to meet her old (and extremely abusive) coopmate Agnes. Agnes got a much ruder introduction to the Brahmas last year, and while the resulting donnybrook was entertaining as hell to watch it really wasn’t the right way to go about things. She has mellowed out amazingly since finally being accepted into the Brahma flock.0630150727aOf course Mayor Quimby considers himself deserving of a veto over this whole plan. We’ll see how it goes. Like Agnes, Selma probably still has a year or two of usefulness left in her. Tempting as it is to just use the hatchet on troublesome hens, a dead bird lays no eggs. So sometimes I have to make accommodations. Agnes barely escaped the hatchet herself last year, and now she’s doing fine.

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New Arrivals at the Gulch!

I’ve been hoping all season to get some new Rhode Island Red pullets, but the chicks at the local feed store are strictly first-come-first-served and I always missed out. Finally this past Sunday I talked with Landlady about having her score me some next spring, since it’s getting rather late now.

Then the very next day, the feed store had a crapton of sexed RIR pullets. So I bought five at $3 apiece.
0630150715Since I simply don’t have the electricity to keep them warm, I set them up a brooder in Landlady’s barn. This isn’t ideal since I can only check on them a couple times a day but at least it’s secure from likely predators. Gets down into the high seventies at night, which isn’t good, but a large CFL does provide some heat. And it’s toasty in there during the day. They’ll be fine there for their first week or two until they feather out.0630150716I’ve been raising chickens for a few years now, and so far it has proven quite a bit easier than I feared. Never raised them from chicks, though, and I worry about my (as usual) rather improvised infrastructure. But they got through their first night quite well.0630150718

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