Check this out…

I can’t stay, it’s the most dramatically wintery day we’ve had all through this freakishly warm, drama-free winter. I’ve squeegeed off the solar panels three times so far today. The batteries are actually in very good shape, but that’s because I’m not spending the day goofing around on the ‘pooter.

But I wanted to show you what showed up unexpectedly with Landlady yesterday evening…

Yup, that’s a cordless electric chainsaw. A B&D, which is compatible with all my other cordless tools and (more important) their batteries.

Wasn’t expecting that. The only other cordless electric chainsaw I ever saw was a Ryobi with a nicad battery, and so far these B&D tools have proven far (far, far) superior to those. So this one’s motor might have some serious power. The proof of its usefulness, as with the reciprocating saw, will be in its battery life. Don’t know how useful it’ll be for firewood but it ought to be the bee’s knees for brush cutting. Truth is I’d use my Husqvarna more often than I do if it weren’t such a hassle to bring it in and out of mothballs.

At first I didn’t know who sent the saw, it just showed up out of the blue. But it turned out to be a gift from Big Brother.

I’ve tested it for function and it works great, but I’ll need a weather break before I fill the oil rez and lay it across some wood. Film at eleven, or something.

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This is the kind of winter day I used to enjoy…

…snowy but not real cold. Just made for a book and a mocha by the window of your nice warm cabin.

To those who have helped the Gulch turn the corner from shivering under blankets in that corner to sitting comfortably in it, I raise my cup in grateful salute.

The electrical system, on the other hand, is not crazed with joy over all the gloomy overcast. The forecast says we’re settling in for a week of this, so I’m probably going to stay away from the ‘pooter and work on one of these piles of books instead.

The ladies have not yet forgiven me for all that crashing and cursing yesterday. But even in their world, all is pretty much well.

Here’s hoping you’re at least as well set for a succession of winter days.

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Welcome to the next chapter in our interesting times…

And part of me says…


But the sensible part of me says…


Also – because it just can’t be said too often – Hillary Clinton will never be president.


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For the record, I didn’t hang that door…

I recently laid down a bunch of new straw in Landlady’s Big Chickenhouse. Chickens love to scratch straw around looking for goodies, and 13 chickens can scratch a lot of straw. It’s not unusual for me to find it difficult to open the door, because of all the straw they’ve shoveled in front of it. Then I have to push.

Today I had to push. I wasn’t quite ready for the result…

The hens, of course, found this just the most horrifying thing that had ever happened. Technically I suppose it was the most horrifying thing that had ever happened, to them at least, but they treat all unforeseen events that way.

(sigh)And so there was nothing to do but take the boys home and come back with some tools. The doorframe, which was never very much in the first place, had of course just completely fallen apart so it took quite a while to fix. And it was cold, and my shoulder hurt, and I was in a growly mood…

And mostly the chickens huddled out in the farthest corner of their yard while all this was going on, waiting for the second act of the holocaust that would surely erase them all from the face of the earth. But toward the end, clearly quite against her better judgment, one of the ladies – bless her heart…

…decided she just couldn’t hold that egg in for one more minute. So she came in and found a nesting box, complaining all the while at the tumult and confusion. I’m supposed to run a more reputable establishment.

I did eventually get the door fixed.

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I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a gun so damned by faint praise…

This must be what gun writer hell is like. You’re being paid to say something nice about an absolute shit sandwich of a gun. Also, it’s SHOT Show so you’re on deadline. The result…

Shot Show: Kel-Tec Still at Max Capacity for PMR 30

Making a reliable .22 magnum semi-auto has always been a challenge in the industry. Doing so with a pistol is even more difficult. Kel-Tec has had the most successful design with their PMR 30.

Translation: The Kel-Tec PMR 30 is a jammamatic.

Kel-Tec is running at top production capacity of a thousand a month out the door.

You will never actually see one in your life.

Quite a few like the significant muzzle flash and blast.

Most people hate the muzzle flash and blast intensely.

…most reliability problems with the PMR 30 are with magazines. … Find a magazine or two that work with your PMR 30 and you are good to go.

Even if the pistol you purchased functions, the magazine that comes with it will not.

If the market slows down with a Trump administration, and less angst about legislation, we may see a 33 rd .22 LR offered by Kel-Tec.

We will never see a 33 rd .22 LR offered by Kel-Tec.

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The replacement is hardly guaranteed to be a big improvement, but still…

You’ve got to take your pleasures where you may.

Also, Hillary Clinton will never be president.

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Five in the morning as winter returns…

I haven’t slept well the past couple of nights, as this bum shoulder sometimes still keeps me awake. Finally gave up around five to find we’re enjoying the first cold night since I got back from the big city two weeks ago. Nights have been freakishly warm, often well above freezing, about the only thing good to come from all this wet weather. But this morning we’re in the low twenties, not all that cold by normal January standards but enough to turn the Lair’s yard into a sea of crystals.

And enough to turn the Lair into something that requires a coat for an hour…

I decided years ago that the unsung hero of the modern age is the humble thermostat. Still not as great as electricity or the flush toilet, but right up there among the biggies in the pantheon and yet never quite given its due. Having so recently returned from a city house for the first time in several years, I could not help but give praise this frosty morning to that comforting little gadget, which I hope to see again before too long.

The much improved Lair is shrugging off the cold ambient temp – and embracing the heat of the fire – much better than it has in the past, I’m happy to say.

I had to go outside before I could write this quick post, because for the past few nights I’ve been turning off the inverter before settling in with my book in the evening. It makes a startling difference in the morning voltage reading – so startling that at first I thought something might be going wrong with my inverter. But then I checked my records, for I went through the same thing last January, and found I’m getting the same readings. I can actually lose as much as 3 tenths of a volt over the course of a long winter night, just from parasitic draw from the inverter. The power draw from 12 volt LEDs is not negligible, exactly, but not comparable. The inverter is my second-biggest single power draw by a lot, (not counting momentary draws like power tools and the coffee grinder (PBUH)) topped only by this laptop. Which I arguably shouldn’t be running here in the dark, except it’s mine and I want to. Also we got enough sun yesterday for my new, improved solar panel array(s) to charge the batteries, and I’m hoping for a repeat performance today. This week was the first since installing the new panel rack that I’ve gone two days without the charge controllers hitting float – which is of course why I started turning the inverter off at night.

Ah, the incomparable joys of off-grid living. Later, maybe…

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Ghost has always sort of been a grumpy old man…

Now in his thirteenth year he’s just growing into the role. We went on the usual easy walky around the horseshoe turn in the wash to the north of the Lair. Toward the end Ghost saw a cottontail and gave ‘chase.’

Ghost was always by far the fastest of the dogs and loved to flaunt it. He could launch like a bullet from a gun and keep it up in a roostertail of sand and dust until he was out of sight. Those days are done. Now he thudded along in an old-man ‘run’ for maybe twenty yards and gradually gave it up as a bad idea. He was slowing down before the past year of easy living and much rich food; now he’s ready for his retirement on the lounge chair on the beach, and please bring him another mimosa while you’re up.

His first evening at the Lair nothing was right. The kneehole of the desk was too cold, I was sitting in the only decent chair, LB wasn’t exactly rupturing himself rolling out the welcome mat, and it was too cold and wet to go outside. He laid on the rug in the middle of the Lair and basically whined himself to sleep.

The second night we came down to cases. Ghost has never really given me a hard time about staying at the Lair a week at a time, but now he was feeling distinctly out of place. He sat giving me the big brown eyes, and I didn’t know exactly what he wanted – unless it was my reading chair, which he couldn’t have. Finally I got down on the floor with him and started nerfing his head, and (very unusual for him) that’s what he wanted.

At which point Little Bear, tolerant of everything except another dog taking what’s his, decided he had something to say. “Heeey hey hey. I’m the only blond-haired, blue-eyed baby in this family. What’s he even doing here? Didn’t he move out? You didn’t kick him out, you didn’t sell him for medical experiments, he just moved the hell down the road because he wanted to be the ‘only dog.’ Well, here’s a news flash: He’s not the only one who enjoys being the only dog. Let’s go back to that. Right now.”

Yeah, that’s a lot of syllables to distill from a few grunts and a howl, but LB’s an eloquent guy. Also, he physically inserted himself between me and Ghost and gave a shove.

Ghost began to retreat, but I reached across LB’s bulk and grabbed his scruff, then roughhoused with both of them until they lightened up and relaxed. And it turns out that really was what they both needed, because since they’ve both gotten along a little better.

Ghost and LB never really were big friends – and that was more Ghost’s doing than LB’s – but they got along because for better or worse they were packmates. They were used to each other. But that ended a year ago. Now Ghost is an occasional visitor, which as far as LB is concerned means he’s an interloper. He tolerates Ghost but not much more. Ghost is reaping what he sowed, and in that regard it’s hard to have a lot of sympathy. But here we all are, in a small space and it’s raining out, so let’s all just try to get along.

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Hey, kids! Wanna make a quick buck?

Get paid fighting against Trump!

Demand Protest is the largest private grassroots support organization in the United States. We pay people already politically motivated to fight for the things they believe. You were going to take action anyways, why not do so with us!

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PLEASE NOTE: You will be required to attend an in-person workshop and sign our standard non-disclosure agreement.

Hm. So, when Trump complained about ‘professional protesters,’ and the progs laughed at him for being paranoid…

ETA: Apparently a hoax.

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Good news, fellow dissidents!

A diverse group of lock-stepping progs clutching a flag (and kinda dragging it on the ground a little, there, guys,) hath declared it, and so it is true! Rejoice!

Michael Moore is in there, and he’s probably got a can of lighter fluid in that other hand…

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Thinking about the bedroom addition…

Long-time readers know that the Secret Lair is cunningly equipped with a sleeping loft accessible only by climbing a vertical 10′ ladder. Which ladder started looking like a very bad idea on the evening of the day Uncle Joel fell down went boom and messed up his rotator cuff good and proper. Still trying to recover from that.

The bedroom addition, which previously had been one of those “someday maybe before I die” projects, suddenly started to look like a good idea. An idea, perhaps, whose time had come.

Being a 12X16 microcabin, the Lair is a single room with a vestpocket bathroom and is not copiously equipped with reconfigurable wall space. In fact there is exactly one place in the whole building you could put a door to another theoretical room…

And that's right where the gun rack currently resides.

And that’s right where the gun rack currently resides.

There’s 37 inches between the woodstove wall tiles and the window frame, which is five inches more than required by a narrow pre-hung door. It’ll need some re-framing, but what the hell. It wouldn’t be the first time. If I knew what I was doing, I’d have done it all right in one take.

Fortunately, that little chunk of wall happens to reside right where I always intended to put the bedroom anyway…

Okay, so picture an eight-foot lean-to on concrete piers right where the woodshed currently is. (sigh) Of course this means I have to move the woodshed again

It’s eleven feet from the window frame to the rear corner of the cabin. Still haven’t decided if I’m going to use all that or just go the previously-intended eight feet, but it’s pretty much certain the front of the bedroom addition has to begin just to the right of the cabin’s west window. If I do use all the available space, and then come out eight feet wide, the path between the cabin and the drainage ditch starts to look pretty narrow but it does give me room for clothing storage. Eight by eight gets more nearly too small every time I think about it. A little easier to heat, though, and part of the plan is a room I can actually afford to heat at night when the temps get in the teens and below. Which I currently can’t safely do. So, small vented propane heater and an inner doorway with an actual door.

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Russian hackers sent me some sun.

They’re just trying to make me look inconsistent.

But now all I want to do is sit here and read. Bother.

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Private to Claire: I found your weather.

It’s in my yard and won’t go away. Please come get it or I’m taking it to the pound to be euthanized.

When I got up this morning I could see stars! I could see the moon! Maybe today I’d get some sun!

I know, right? Silly me. By walkie time I couldn’t have proven there was a sun in the sky and it’s gotten thicker since then. Everything’s wet.

I think I see fern spores germinating.

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Temp in the high thirties, ick dripping from every branch…

It’s another fine morning in the Pacific Northwet, which has magically been transported here to the southwest high desert for reasons probably having something to do with bad things I did in a previous life. Or this life, maybe.

I have a friend who claims to prefer the PNW to the desert. To each her own, I say, but must confess I don’t get it. If this keeps up my fingers are going to shrivel.

I can’t stay on, because yesterday we learned the limits of my ‘more is better’ philosophy regarding solar panels in thick overcast. More is better, but yesterday my more-than-doubled array just didn’t help at all. We’re almost a month past the solstice, but even so last night the battery voltage was so startlingly low I went out to the powershed and turned the inverter right off. Damned if that didn’t bring the indicated voltage up two tenths, too. It’s scary how much juice the inverter pulls even when it’s not doing anything useful.

Fortunately I was smart enough to acquire an older brother who’s smarter than I am. And through the wonders of his brain and wallet and some retrofitting, the Lair has 12 volt LED lighting in all the important corners even when the inverter’s not on.

Things are supposed to improve later continue crappy today, according to the revised forecast, but so right now I really shouldn’t be using the juice it takes to run this bitsy laptop.

Ghost has come to stay the week with us again…

…and Ghost has grown used to a substantially higher standard of living. Like eating fancy food twice a day, if you please. And you may recall, he has always been willing to point out my flaws in the hospitality management department. He’s helpful like that. Reminds me of being married.

This is the third day for my pot of pork/potatoes/peas soup, which this morning was thinking hard about turning unpleasant. So I warmed it and rehydrated it and gave it to the boys, and even Ghost found that acceptable.

LB, cleaning the pressure cooker for me, said he could get into this “breakfast” thing.

Don’t get used to it, LB. It took a lot to move you from ‘obese’ to merely ‘very large.’ We’re not going back there no matter how much you’ve got to starve and feel put upon.

Maybe more later, when we get some sun here in the sun-soaked desert. Maybe not, can’t say. Carry on.

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That’s no way to start a morning…

Washington State has come to the high desert. Cold. Wet. Drizzly. Foggy. Seriously? Oy.

AND I left the powershed door propped open all night, which was only annoying until I played back why I’d been in there last, and then I was horror-struck. “Did I leave that tub open? I think I left that tub open.”

I made a lovely pork, potato and pea soup last evening, using one of the chunks of frozen pork Landlady gave me in late summer and some dried split peas Big Brother had sent. The peas were in a burlap sack stored in a tub in the powershed, along with my new bag of rice, some lentils and chick peas I hope to never use, and #60 of flour which is half my deep-stored supply. I neglected to bring the sack of peas back to the powershed, which means I neglected to close that tub up tight.

Yeah, I made some mouse’s night.

Did it get into the chick peas or lentils, to which it would have been almost welcome? No, it did not. It tore open all three flour sacks. Mice don’t even like flour much, judging from evidence. This one was just sent by Uncle Murphy to rap my knuckles. At least it left my brand-new sack of brown rice alone. That shit’s expensive, and it was a gift from Ian.

(It occurs to me, as I go through that inventory in my head, that I should be nicer to people. They keep me eating.)

Fortunately the mouse didn’t really spoil much, just tore little holes in the bag looking for flour it didn’t hate. And of my two six-gallon flour buckets, one was half-full and the other completely empty. So in the cold and wet before dawn I was pouring flour into my buckets…and on the floor, and on my pants, and on my one clean hoodie…

Damn mice. Damn absent-mindedness.

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By the way…

I just thought of something. You see that trash can in the front of the Jeep trailer?

When I took that picture I was just back from the county dump, then the feed store. The last dump run – I just looked it up, because god help me I keep track of these things – was October 28.

Which means that in ten weeks I produced enough non-burnable or compostable garbage to fill one single garbage can. Reduce, re-use, recycle, baby.

In fact I ought to be the greatest guy a greenie ever met. I produce 100% of my electricity with solar – I don’t even own a generator. I irrigate plants (well, two plants) with my gray water. I’m a recycling god. Hell, I even have a live trap for varmints*.

Now. You think Al Gore would cause his countenance to shine upon the likes of me? Didn’t think so.

And all those years wearing earth tones, too…

*Once I catch the live critters I shoot them in the head, but I do use a live trap.

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So I hear on the Jeep’s radio…

…that parts of California are saying they’re pretty much done crying drought…

SNF road
No, problem, though. You need any more of my share, you just holler. I’m kind of digging this dry winter.

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At some point the nitrogen overwhelms the available carbon…

…or some such hippie chemistry. If you let your chicken yard ‘deep compost’ get too far out of hand, Al Gore sends a SWAT team or an air strike with napalm or some damn thing, I forget. One thing’s for sure, you start smelling manure.

What’s also sure is that the yard of the Fortress of Attitude needed digging out before I hurt my shoulder, and that was almost three months ago. So yesterday along with the usual pellets I bought two straw bales. One went to Landlady’s place, the other was for the Fortress. But first I had to dig out some of the compacted, moisture-saturated and only partly-rotted straw and manure already there, at least eight inches deep.

I took out four wheelbarrows worth and stirred up most of the rest before running out of steam, then brought in the new straw. At that point it’s time for the chickens to do some of the work themselves.

And they will, too. They love digging and looking for bugs. By this afternoon they’ll have all those flakes separated and flung everywhere. I’ll need to go in three or four times during the process to clean out their waterer.

These four remaining hens are one round tuit away from the butchering sink and the freezer. The pullets are fully on-line now as little egg-laying machines, and I’m out of excuses. If I put new hens in with old it causes nothing but trouble and these aren’t good for much anyway. So pretty soon Seymour’s going to get some new lady friends.

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But it’s a good kind of problem to have…


For the first time in two years I’m up to my ass in eggs. I’ve just been taking the ones the pullets crack, because they won’t keep, and I’ve still got more than I can use. Landlady is going to grit her teeth, pretending it’s a smile…

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The first cut is the deepest

Morning turned busier than intended; just as I got back from morning walkie and was about to start with bread baking, the phone rang. Neighbor D wanted to go to the dump, and move the Saturday trip to town to this morning.

As it happened that worked out well for me, because I have some stuff that could go to the dump and also need a bunch of chicken stuff, and both those things require the Jeep trailer. So that’s one trip with the trailer instead of two.

It did mean, though, that it was time for a certain new chore coat to lose its notional virginity…

Yeah, it’s just straw and dust. Beats right out. But it’s the first straw and dust, and the first one is the hardest.

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